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Sunday, January 29, 2012
The Way of the Gun
- “One Hour” Dashiell Hammett
In the world of the City, it was opined over a century ago that “Forces beyond Man’s kin make the wizard, but with his own hand Man makes the gun, and so makes himself the Wizard’s equal.” Firearms represent the triumph of scientific arts like alchemy over the arcane; A triumph which has shaped the modern world.
The oldest firearms utilized the chemical explosive now called black powder. Given these older weapons were made by individual smiths rather than factories, they are more likely to bear enchantments. There are still matchlock and flintlock weapons in use by adventurers for this reason. The Dwergen-made wonderbuss is an example of such a weapon.
Historical sources attest to another (rarer) explosive called red powder, which is now lost. This rust-colored explosive was a closely guarded secret of a cabal of alchemists. (This group is supposed to have been called the Brethren of Steropes and resided in a mobile flying monastery always hidden behind a thunderhead--or so legends say). The compound was activated by exposure to light. It was used in guns of a wheellock mechanism where the striking of two crystals caused a small flash of light. It was also used in ceramic grenades and even in “time delayed” explosives that were placed at night, to go off with the coming dawn.
The modern form of gunpowder is a so-called “smokeless propellant” as it produces negligible smoke compared to the older compounds. It’s made from the alchemical fixation of “smokeless fire,” the same para-elemental substance (airy fire) of which jinn are composed. Modern, mass-produced guns are seldom enchanted--not purposefully, at least--but being close to death and strife sometimes leaves an arcane imprint. Adventurers and special government agents do sometimes use custom ammunition of a magical material or mundane bullets enchanted for a specific effect.
The City has stricter gun control laws many localities in the Union--at least nominally. Ownership or carry of any firearm small enough to conceal requires a license. These are issued by the police department (and usually require a bribe or a friendly contact to acquire, in addition to the licensing fee). Loaded long arms are illegal to carry (and even carrying unloaded ones will invite police involvement unless one can convince them one is on the way to a shooting range or to a hunt), but their ownership is not restricted.
In the Union overall, cities and towns closer to the wilderness or to uncleared caves or ruins have fewer restrictions than safer areas.