Hello, everyone. This is my first post on the forums.
First, I'm sure that there's been discussion of bringing stupidworld tech into Erfworld. This is not about how Parson should make guns and they would win the game for him forever without effort. Guns are certainly a major topic for discussion, but no doubt they've been discussed before. If this topic has been discussed to death I do apologize.
Rather than that, I find it a fun thought experiment to try and figure out how one could build modern technology in Erfworld. The curious restrictions of the game world actually render many things we take for granted impossible in terms of manufacture, which makes it fun to think about. It may be that the author doesn't want anything to do with mass-production basic guns or other stupidworld tech, and hey, that's fine. This is simply having fun trying to figure out what you even COULD make in Erfworld.
However, erfworld is definitely NOT a medieval stasis type of world. They have things like guns, like Ace's laser pistol. They obviously understand the concept, but Erfworld doesn't naturally spawn, say, musketmen.
To be honest, although it would probably be trivial to manufacture simple hand cannons for basically anyone (Turn to a twoll and say, give me a metal tube with one end blocked off, one end with a small hole here, and some little metal balls) and more complex ones for people who know a bit about early firearms, gunpowder isn't so trivial.
For instance, everyone knows that gunpowder has three primary ingredients. Charcoal, Saltpeter, and Sulfur. Could you get any of them in Erfworld? Maaaaybe.
Saltpeter is easily collected; you need Urine compost/manure and hay, and those things obviously exist in Erfworld (There are more efficient methods using materials they'd also have, but that's just a basic example). It takes time, but you could collect it - provided that saltpeter actually forms like it does on stupidworld.
Charcoal - the remains of properly slow-burned trees. With the fire rules of Erfworld, could you even make it? Maybe not.
Sulfur - does it even exist naturally in Erfworld? No indication has been given that there's a lot of actual variation in the composition of the minerals in the soil in Erfworld.
So simply put, actual firearms may be impossible. If you COULD make them, they aren't necessarily a game winner, either. Twolls are unlikely to grasp the complicated design of something like an AK-47, nor is someone like Parson likely to have those schematics memorized.
However, there is a pretty simple alternative to an actual firearm that Erfworld has all the resources to make. An air rifle.
Far from harmless pellet guns, there are numerous examples of military air rifles that were, in certain respects, vastly superior to the muskets of the time. For instance, the famous Austrian air rifle, the Windbüchse (AKA the Giradoni Air Rifle) could fire up to 30 shots without reloading, made no sound, produced no gunpowder smoke or flash. They were, in effect, amazing sniper weapons.
I wouldn't want to reproduce that particular one. Air rifles in general had a number of problems - largely stemming from manufacturing limitations. You simply couldn't make enough air reservoirs to replace the ones that broke. They were also pretty delicate and complex; your average soldier then had to be well trained in their use beyond 'point that end at the enemy'. Compared to conventional rifles, they had too many issues to become the dominant weapon out there.
In all truth, you don't need one like that. What you really need is a very basic, rugged design, similar to the very first air rifles. There are no guns to compete with, just bows. And you aren't really competing with bows, but I'll go into uses in a minute.
What you really need is a very simple metal tube with a spring piston design. Basically you have a spring that pushes a piston that compresses air, and then you use that compressed air to fire the weapon. That's an oversimplification, but at its core, an air rifle isn't very complex. A blowgun works on the same principles. The most complex part comes from the spring pump, and that can be shown to twolls (assuming they can't read) in a very simple manner through pictures - something Parson can do is draw. You really don't need them to be very bright to make them. You'll need the trigger mechanism, the pump, and a means of loading. Through trial and error, even if you don't have schematics in front of you, someone with basic knowledge should be able to make a simple air rifle. From there it's a process of refinement.
Of course, a simple one-shot air rifle doesn't win any battles on its own. That's why you stick a bayonet on one end, make the other end a club, and mass produce them. Once twolls understand how to make them, the main limit on them is how much they can fabricate at once. How much can a twoll fabricate in a day? I honestly don't recall a concrete answer in the webcomic itself. But assume a twoll could manufacture even just one air rifle a turn, and you have a dozen twolls. In a few turns, you could outfit a small unit. If twolls could manufacture two or three a turn and you have a dozen twolls, then it's only a short time before you can arm a regiment.
The important thing to remember is that these don't replace archers. They aren't competing with archers. They are, in effect, replacing stabbers.
A rifle with a bayonet is effectively a spear and a club combined. A less than spectacular spear, but an effective one. With some basic training (because these are very simple air rifles) covering loading, aiming, and firing, you could effectively give every single stabber a single ranged attack with potentially decent range before every engagement. It also gives them limited anti-air capability. Expert units could work as snipers.
But what about the delicate nature of the air rifle, you might ask? It's largely irrelevant. If it breaks, it's still effectively a spear - leaving you with exactly the same type of unit you would have had anyway; a stabber. They don't need to fix anything, either. If it breaks or needs repair, you just take a twoll with the unit and have the men pass the weapons over to them. The abstractions of erfworld mean that twolls can just skip a lot of the development hurdles of real life air rifles provided you can explain the concepts to them.
Would this instantly win everything forever and invalidate all the other units? Not even close. It would, however, present a solid general advantage to the army that got it for a good while, until the technology was figured out by another side with fabrication ability. Erfworld has magical defenses for high level warlords, and this arguably wouldn't be better than a skilled bowman. Also because of the primitive level of the weapon, it's not simply going to overpower everything. While powerful air rifles were used to hunt wild boar, it's questionable if they could hurt, say, dwagons, and the air rifle created through these methods could kill other stabbers. A kill done with no risk to a soldier is a good kill.
In practical terms, this isn't a method that dissimilar from that used by the ancient Romans and numerous others. They'd take multiple javelins into battle, throw several before engaging, and then could use leftovers as spears if necessary. The difference is that an air rifle round can't be picked up and thrown back (though the Romans designed their to break on impact), is possibly more deadly than a javelin, is easier to carry than three or four javelins and has greater range. Other ancient alternatives were giving your spearmen slings or similar weapons. An actual spearman who is JUST a person with a spear is a poorly used spearman. Were I in Parson's shoes, I'd immediately have throwing axes, throwing darts, javelins or practically ANY ranged weapon given to stabbers so they could engage at range before they engage up close.
Leaving firearms aside, I've considered some other things. For instance, electricity. It takes nothing other than copper and a magnet to make electricity, but why would you bother? What COULD you make in Erfworld that requires electricity? A motor? Good luck explaining the more complicated mechanical things to twolls. But assuming you did, what would you even do with it? Flashy and thematically inappropriate Tesla coil weapons? Believe it or not, lightning guns CAN be created
, but the technology required to create one is a bit beyond what even a rather smart person could come up with in Erfworld (as it involves using lasers), and may not even work if the laws of physics are sufficiently different. Outside of someone like Ace making a one-off weapon like that, I doubt they could be mass-produced.
A waterwheel? What would you need it for? Because so much of the logistics of Erfworld are abstracted, you don't actually have to manually grind grain. Perhaps you could get a boost to ration popping if you attached one to one of the 'ghost buildings', and that would be a fun experiment, but that's iffy.
Probably the most promising one is a train. But it hinges on a question - does water boil in Erfworld? I don't recall ever seeing it boil in the webcomic, and the laws of thermodynamics in Erfworld are... different than ours, obviously. For instance, Parson could stand next to a lake of Lava without getting cooked alive from the heat rising from it. The lava is permanent. It's still hot enough to melt steel, as seen from the sword, but heat doesn't seem to work the way it does on stupidworld. Let's assume water does boil, though.
A train is fairly simple at its core. It's a metal box with wheels on the bottom, and it moves via steam engine. Steam engines are fairly simple and don't have a ton of parts. Even if a twoll doesn't understand all the parts, they don't need to as long as you know what needs to go where. Basically you boil water and use the power to turn a wheel. (It's a bit more complex than that, but that IS the basic concept.)
But again, the questions arise. Is there coal on erfworld? If not, will wood burn in the right way, boil water, and produce the power needed? Maybe?
One alternative I considered is a bit minecraft inspired. If the lava works nothing like real lava but is still hot, maybe it could be used as an effectively infinite source of heat to power a steam engine. The main issue would be transport - I assume metal buckets wouldn't cut it in Erfworld. But a caster could probably make something. You'd still have to produce the rails - another hurdle - and make sure your train had sufficient power to move faster than a snail's pace.
If you did have a train network, it would probably fix a lot of the problems of a large empire. While you don't have to move resources a lot, you CAN move troops in massive numbers very quickly. Even assuming that the rules set up a limit to the number of hexes a train can travel, you just set up a relay system like Parson did with the dwagons. Whereas dwagons are fast for a single warlord, trains would be fast for moving massive numbers of troops. It would mean that you no longer have to worry too much about having your garrisons at full strength all the time, or someone hopping into lightly defended interior cities, wrecking a bunch of them, and being able to rest in your territory for a turn or two without you able to respond. A successful train-network would basically mean your troops could be anywhere within a turn, still with full move.
As an addendum to all the above: Even if you don't personally understand how to make all that, you just need someone who is the erfworld equivalent of a mechanical engineer (maybe someone like Ace) to look at the concept and draw up the schematics. Provided that you understand how and why the things work, they may be able to reproduce it (even if it's not exactly the same as the equivalent on stupidworld.)
I think the main reason things like this have never come up - aside from the narrative fun of the setting itself and the showcasing the interesting rules that govern Erfworld - is that Parson is a gamer. Which is to say, he wants to figure out the rules of the world and exploit loopholes, flaws, and powerful constructs with the resources of the world he's given, rather than figure it out himself. He probably doesn't want to invent new weapons and items like an air gun to replace stabbers or a train network running on lava. I think he mostly wants to exploit the already existing units and rules in clever and inventive ways, rather than inventing new things. Frankly, that's cool. But I do enjoy the thought of what one could make in Erfworld with proper time and prep.
So, what ideas do all of you have for what you could build in Erfworld? It doesn't really need to be useful. I'm more curious about how one could get around the abstraction-caused restrictions and strange physics of the setting to build stuff than whether it's useful. And again, my apologies if this has been discussed to death.