This skill is only available as a skill of the Alchemist Trade. This sub-skill adds the concocting and distilling of flammable and combustible substances such as Greekfire, aqua vitæ, flashpots and flash-bombs, smoke-bombs and smudge-pots, and stink-pots to the Alchemist’s portfolio of knowledge. Like many of the other Alchemist substances, the strength, virulence, or potential for damage in some cases, of these substances is measured in Levels of Potence, or just Potence (POT). Like any minstrel choosing which song to play, the Alchemist is able to choose the POT of the substance he is attempting, setting the basis for the DV. The higher the POT, the more expensive the exercise, and the greater the loss in time and ruined materials if the Alchemist should fail.
Greekfire is a sticky substance, a thick oil-based flammable made from naphtha and limestone, that is hurled at an opponent to splash across and around him after being lit, used a great deal by the Greeks in their naval battles and in sieges (hence its name), also dumped down the outside of castle walls upon encroaching armies and hurled in casks by catapult into the baileys of castles by the besiegers. Greek fife will stick to all that it touches, much like hot pitch. A solid splash of it will bum for (POT) points of damage immediately and again every 5th Pulse afterwards until it has burned out. It cannot be washed away. Greek fire. Naphtha’s sticky, quick-spreading flames can only be extinguished by sand, vinegar or urine.
Greekfire burns for (POT x 4) minutes, times the number of cups if it is being held in some sort of vessel while burning. After the (POT x 4) minutes have passed, so long as the flames haven’t found any other fuel to ignite and spread to, the damage inflicted by the Greekfire drops by 1 at the beginning of every minute following. When the damage being inflicted is reduced to zero (0), the fire dies out.
For example, POT 10 Greekfire inflicts 10 points of damage and the same again every 5th Pulse for 40 minutes (POT I0 x 4 = 40 minutes), long after any battle has been concluded. If it hasn’t found any other fuel to burn in those 40 minutes, the damage declines; 9 points every 5th Pulse in the first minute, 8 in the second, 7 in the third, and so on to 1 point every 5th Pulse through the ninth minute, after which it gutters out.
Aqua vitæ is basically alcohol distilled from fruits and grains, but for the purposes of the game will also include kerosene and other flammable sapwood distillates. These will burn a bit hotter than the Greekfire, but they will also burn up faster. A solid dousing with kerosene or alcohol will burn for (POT) points of damage immediately and again every 5th Pulse afterwards until it has burned out.
Aqua vitæ only burns for (POT) minutes, however (x number of cups, if burning in a vessel). Alcohols can be distilled from nearly any vegetable matter. See the description of brewing and winemaking in the Cook skill (pg _) for a description of the base yields the character must work with in common fermented beverages. These liquids burn very rapidly, so that the damage inflicted begins to drop after the first (POT) CS’s, dropping by 1 point every 1 CS. When the damage is reduced to 1 point, it remains at that stage until the (POT-minute) duration expires and it burns out.
For example, POT10 aqua vitae inflicts 10 points of damage and then again every 5th Pulse for the first 10 CS’s (1 minute & 4 CS’s), after which the damage declines to 9 points for 1 CS, 8 points, 7 points, then 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and then 1 point, at which amount it continues until it has burned for 10 full minutes, after which it burns out.
The materials for making Greekfire cost 2d. per cup + (lfg. per 4 points of POT) per cup. The costs for making aqua vitæ depend on the materials used (grain, fruit, sapwood), according to the best market price the character can find, unless the character raises or forages his own materials.
- IF applied to some combustible substance like cloth, paper, parchment, wood, or the like, the GM the rules for fires apply in judging the rate at which the fire grows, instead, and how far the fire burn, especially in the case of exposed wood objects or surfaces.
Fire was one of the greatest and most feared dangers of the period for which the people kept sand and water buckets handy by all necessary fires and hooks for pulling burning thatching down, and other similar preparations so that the actual numbers of structure fires causing widespread damage to a medieval city was on average about once every 50 years or so. To set a fire was a felony punishable by death.
Flasbpots create a dazzling flash of brilliant, sparkling fire with no real duration (burns out before the end of the CS in which lit off) which inflicts a (POT) Glare or Blindness penalty on all those caught unawares looking in its direction when it goes off. Unless they are aware of the nature of the danger and see the pot being lit, all in the vicinity are assumed to be Surprised by it and subject to its full effects. Who is facing the pot can be established by stretching a string from the location of the pot to each character’s figure or marker in the vicinity on the tactical display. Obviously, those located behind curtains, pillars, or other barriers, around comers, or the like on that Pulse will not be affected.
The Glare/Blindness penalty declines by half at the end of every CS until doing so no longer provides a result that rounds to a whole number.
- IF the line drawn between the pot and the victim hits him in either Side, the effective POT of the penalty is halved.
- IF the line drawn between pot and victim hits him in either Rear Flank, the POT of the effect is cut to 1/4th.
Those aware of the nature of the danger who see the pot being lit are given a Dodge check on d100 vs. the AGL of the person lighting the pot to attempt to turn away, dive for cover, or otherwise shield their faces. This can either save them from the effects entirely, if made, or reduce the POT penalty to 1/4th.
Flash-bombs have the same general effect as flash-pots, except that their effective POT is only 1/2 that chosen by the player when the full value is used to determine the DV for making. The player should keep this in mind, to balance his chances of success against the effect of the bomb(s) he makes.
Flash-bombs fit in the palm of the hand, however, may be used only once, and do not need to be lit. They have a hard shell which, when cracked, lets air in to ignite the core material. Thus, they must be thrown down on or against a hard surface to work, and those carrying them must take care not to accidentally drop them or crush them.
- IF a flashpot or bomb is used in a setting subject to Gloom penalties, the effective POT of the flash is increased by the degree of contrast of the flash, the POT of the prevailing Gloom to which the area is subject is added to the effective POT of the flash.
Any standing over a flashpot or bomb when it is lit, regardless of whether by design as a trap or by casual accident, suffers (POT ÷ 4) points of damage from the fire, minus 1 point per foot he is beyond (POT ÷ 4) feet above it. Because the flames are basically directed by the pot, the same applies to those beside but the distances are measured in inches. For flashbombs, the flash is defined as filling a sphere or hemisphere (POT ÷ 4) feet in diameter, damage inflicted by contact being reduced by 1 point per foot that each victim lies beyond that. Any combustibles exposed to the flash are ignited normally, to be administered according to the situation and fire and fire damage rules (GM’s discretion).
Smudge-pots create a cloud of thick smoke either pale or charcoal dark (colors cost extra, see GM) that begin with a radius of 1 yard and gain 1 yard in radius per CS until it reaches its maximum of (POT) yards radius.
The GM can determine how much of a building’s interior is filled by that quantity mathematically by using rough figures to estimate, or guess-timate, volume at his own discretion.
Within the cloud of smoke or for those attempting to see through/past it, all suffer a (POT)-point Gloom penalty, which lasts until the smoke slowly disperses and subsides to the ground. Those caught within the smoke also have to deal with the difficulty it causes in breathing. This is treated effectively the same as being trapped underwater. Before being engulfed, each character has a chance to grab a breath to sustain him for a time (see Swimmer skill). Breathing in the smoke causes the character to choke and start to suffocate as surely as if he had just tried to breathe in a mouthful of water.
Smoke-bombs have the same general effect, except on a smaller scale, and their effective POT is only 1/2 that chosen by the player when the full value is used to determine the DV for making, in the same manner as flash-bombs, previously. The player should keep this in mind, to balance his chances of success against the effect of the bomb(s) he makes.
The Gloom penalty provided by the smoke-bomb is determined by POT in the same manner as a true smudge-pot, but it only fills an area roughly 3ft. + (1 per 4 points of POT) in radius, and lasts for only (POT) CS’s, after which it decline by 10ft. in diameter per CS.
Like flash bombs, these also fit in the palm of the hand and may be used only once, and do not need to be lit. They too have a hard shell which, when cracked, lets air in to ignite the core material. Thus, they must be thrown down on or against a hard surface to work, and those carrying them must take care not to accidentally drop or crush them.
- IF a smudge-pots or smoke-bomb is used in a setting subject to Gloom penalties, the effective POT of the smoke is enhanced by the already Gloomy conditions. The Gloom penalty is added to the effective POT of the smoke. Under very bright, Glare-saturated conditions, the POT of the Gloom created by smudge-pots or smoke-bombs is increased by the degree of contrast with the Glare, the POT of the prevailing Glare to which the area is subject is added to the effective POT of the smudge-pot or smoke-induced Gloom.
Making colored smoke bombs or smudgepots increases the cost for making them, but how much depends on the color. Reds cost five times as much as normal, greens three times as much. Yellows and blues cost 1.5 to 2.5 times as much, the more the color is tinted with red or green, the higher the cost. These costs assume a brilliant color saturation. Cost increases may be reduced by as much as half when making paler, pastel-colored smokes. For the GM’s own convenience and sanity, the degrees or shades of color should be defined in 1/4th’s, Slight up to 1/4th full color saturation reducing the increase in cost to half normal. The GM can dicker with his players over this or not, at his own discretion.
Smudgepots and stinkpots smolder as opposed to burning with an open flame. For these to ignite any adjacent combustibles, those combustibles must actually lie in contact with the heat of the smoldering pot itself, or be draped directly across the open mouth of the pot.
Stink pots are nasty little pots of burning sulphur or quicklime usually hurled by fustibal in battle, commonly used to demoralize and incapacitate foes, appearing on the Weapon Gear roster in Appendix D.2. These pots produce a wretched, stomach-turning stench so pervasively pungent that all characters entering the AoE must make a P-RES check vs. the POT of its effects.
The AoE of the pot’s effect starts with a radius of 10 feet and gains 10 feet in radius per CS until it reaches its maximum of (POT) yards in radius. When a stinkpot is broken in battle, some sort of marker should be placed on that spot that cannot be confused with any other (in case the characters are being represented with markers rather than figures), and the radius also noted so it can be amended with the passage of time as it grows.
- IF the P-RES check is failed, the character is forced to leave the AoE by the swiftest means at his disposal, and suffer a (stink-pot POT) penalty to their AV’s due to his tearing eyes and queasy, even rebellious, belly until he gets there. He must also make another P-RES check.
- IF this check is failed, the character must choke and wretch in place, effectively incapacitated for (POT – CND att. mod.) actions excepting only movement. The period of retching cannot be ended or shortened by leaving the AoE.
- IF the character cannot drag himself out of the AoE by the time the period of retching is done, he must make another P-RES check to see if this reaction continues for another (POT – CND att. mod.) actions. The first only bends the character over double; two in a row brings a character to his knees, forcing him to crawl when he would move. After the victims have emptied their bellies, there are always dry heaves.
- IF the P-RES check is made, the character is able to stand his ground and control his reaction, but he still suffers 1/4th the penalty as long as he remains in the AoE. Every (CND – POT) CS’s, minimum 1, those successful in their P-RES checks who also remain within the AoE must make a new check, with the effects of failure occurring as described above.
- IF a victim is trapped within the AoE and doesn’t retch or is able to stop, he requires another P-RES check every (CND – POT) CS’s to see if he starts (again). He is spared the effects of the pot only if he is rendered unconscious.
The full POT is only used as the DV for the P-RES checks above when the victim is located in the inner half of the AoE. From that point to 3/4th’s radius the DV is halved. From that point to the full extent of the radius the DV drops to 1/4th.
All pots must be lit with an open flame, though smoldering punks may be used as a sort of delayed fuse of random (2d10 Initiative phases) in duration.
This skill also encompasses the knowledge of the chandler in the ability to prepare pitch and wax for the proper manufacture of common torches and fine flambeaux, and the proper preparation of charcoal from wood. Each standard torch consumes c. 1 cup of pitch or resin, burning for about (1 per 4 points POT) hours. Each standard flambeaux require 4lb’s of wax and burns for about 8 hours.
In addition, if the GM allows, the character also has knowledge for coking coal so it can be burned more cleanly. Coking coal is simply a matter of pre-heating the coal in a closed furnace (a cone-like heap of coal covered with earth with vents at the base and apex, or a bee-hive shaped brick furnace) without allowing it enough air to actually burn. This rids it of the sulphur and other impurities. This leaves the grayish-black porous body of the coal to burn cleanly and also reduces its weight by 35%.
Historically, the procedure for coking coal to make it release its sulphur and other impurities was discovered in the early 1600’s. When the coal was burned raw it caused such a great and horrid stink that the commons were much up in arms over it.
The materials for making flash-pots and flash bombs cost 1d. 3fg. + (ld. per 4 points of POT) each.
The materials for making smudge-pots and smoke bombs cost 6d. + (1fg. per 4 points of POT) each.
The materials for making stinkpots cost 4d. + (1hp. per 4 points of POT) each.
All pot-devices (flash-, smudge-, stink-) is roughly 6-8in. in diameter and weigh approximately 0.75Ib’s, and all bombs is 2-3in’s in diameter and weigh c. 0.25Ib’s.
The att. mod. for the use of this skill is based on the character’s AWA and CRD scores.
The greater the number of pots, bombs, or quantity of flammable liquids the Alchemist attempts to make in a single exercise of this skill, the higher the DV, and the higher the cost of failure in ruined materials.
The base DV for making any of these substances is equal to the POT of the substance or item being made.
The DV should then be modified according to quantity he wishes to make in one batch, whether it be cups, pots or bombs. The more he tries to make at once, the more difficult the procedures is.
The modifier to the DV is Progressive based on the quantity made, per unit.
As long as he is making all with the same POT, smudge-pots and smoke-bombs may be made together in batches at the same time, or flash-pots and flash-bombs.
If any of the same type of item are to have a different POT, they require a separate task be performed and resolution roll to determine success.
For purposes of determining the time required to make any of these substances or items, the total DV for the exercise of skill, for making the entire batch of whatever substance or items is counted in hours.
From this is subtracted the Alchemist’s trade SL and CRD att. mod. in hours.