Black powder

From PathfinderWiki
Black powder
(Alchemical item)

Alchemical reagent
Source: Alchemy Manual, pg(s). IFC (1E)
Guns & Gears, pg(s). 169 (2E)

Black powder, also called gunpowder, is an explosively volatile alchemical substance. First formulated in the historical Yinxing empire of Tian Xia,1 it is the main component in fireworks and other explosives, and a propellant of firearm and cannon ammunition such as bullets and cannon balls.1234


Legends hold that black powder was first known by dragons of Tian Xia, with whom the first alchemists to develop it negotiated for its secrets. Imperial Lung Wa held a monopoly on black powder until acquiescing to trade requests from Vudra, to whom Lung Wa granted a less powerful formula to avoid providing a rival with a threatening technology.5

However, this lesser Vudran formula was also more stable and thus more conducive to long-distance trade; Tian attempts at transporting its potent black powder tended to explode in transit. Combined with Vudra's relative willingness to trade the powder with other nations, black powder spread to more of Golarion, most notably the Kulenett dwarves of Garund.5

The Kulenett carefully brought several kegs of Vudran black powder through the war-torn lands between Geb and Nex to their kin in Dongun Hold, where they intended to use it as a preservative and seasoning for food stores before the Hold permanently closed to the surface. While in seclusion, the dwarves found and refined the powder's explosive properties to the same strength as Tian Xia's potency, then employed it in mining and defensive traps before developing their first firearms.6

As an explosive

Black powder is volatile enough to be detonated by exposure to fire and electricity.2 It is effective only while dry; moisture can make it inert.4

On Golarion

A goblin lights the fuse on fireworks.

Black powder usage is geographically limited, but when it appears it is often part of a technological movement.6

In Tian Xia, Goka, Ling Shen, Po Li, and Quain continue to develop technologies that use black powder. In the Inner Sea region, Alkenstar leads development of black powder firearms and technology. Slayers of undead creatures in Ustalav have pioneered the use of firearms made in or derived from Alkenstar's in Avistan, where the ability to project anathematic silver at a safe distance is particularly valued. The Motaku Isle Ironworks in the Shackles creates knock-off models of ill-gotten Alkenstari black powder armaments.6

Fireworks developed or used in Tian Xia, Varisia,7 and elsewhere use black powder as a propellant. Goblins have a particular fondness for such devices.8

Black powder is much less common in Arcadia, where firearms instead use more stable forms of magic or compressed air.6

In firearms

A dose of black powder is enough to fire a bullet from a typical firearm. In the Inner Sea region, a dose can cost as little as 1 copper piece. Common quantities for transportation are 500-dose powder horns and 5,000-dose powder kegs.4

Black powder firearms either use cartridges that combine the propellant with the bullet and wadding, or require the powder to be loaded manually along with loose shot.49

In alchemy

Some alchemical recipes use a purified form of black powder. The price of one dose for alchemical use can cost 10 gold pieces. As an alchemical power component it is associated with boosting the effectiveness of evocation spells.3

As a creature

Gunpowder oozes are dangerous mixtures of black powder and wild magic that live predominantly in the Mana Wastes.10

In cuisine

Black powder has preservative qualities in food and a peppery flavor, and was once used by traders from Casmaron and Vudra in emergencies or if the powder itself was likely to be spoiled. Its use in cuisine has declined alongside the rise of firearms and explosives, which has increased the demand and costs to an impractical degree.11


Paizo published a major work on firearms titled Guns & Gears in which the usage and history of black powder on Golarion feature prominently throughout.

  1. 1.0 1.1 Michael Sayre, et al. “5: The Rotating Gear” in Guns & Gears, 220–221. Paizo Inc., 2021
  2. 2.0 2.1 James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 292. Paizo Inc., 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jason Nelson, et al. Alchemy Manual, inside front cover. Paizo Inc., 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Michael Sayre, et al. “4: Guns Equipment” in Guns & Gears, 169. Paizo Inc., 2021
  5. 5.0 5.1 Michael Sayre, et al. “4: Guns Equipment” in Guns & Gears, 147. Paizo Inc., 2021
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Michael Sayre, et al. “4: Guns Equipment” in Guns & Gears, 148. Paizo Inc., 2021
  7. Jason Nelson, et al. Thuvian Wish Alchemy” in Alchemy Manual, 28. Paizo Inc., 2014
  8. Richard Pett. We Be Goblins!, 3. Paizo Inc., 2011
  9. Michael Sayre, et al. “4: Guns Equipment” in Guns & Gears, 150. Paizo Inc., 2021
  10. Patrick Renie. “Appendix 2: New Monsters” in Wardens of the Reborn Forge, 63. Paizo Inc., 2013
  11. Michael Sayre, et al. “4: Guns Equipment” in Guns & Gears, 149. Paizo Inc., 2021

External links

  • Gunpowder (real-world substance) on Wikipedia