The Hurt Locker: Forging in the Dungeon, Part I

Guest Post by S. A. Fisher

The Artificer template in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy: Sages serves as the dungeon delving party’s engineer – it’s his job to use technology to overcome the party’s challenges. The ironmonger is a specific type of engineer detailed in this post. His most potent weapon for this purpose is his use of Gizmos and Quick Gadgeteer, which can be used to produce the necessary smithing equipment (below).

A Word on Skills
The GURPS skill for working iron and steel is Smith (Iron), but that’s not where it end. In GURPS the skill for making weapons and armor is Armoury (Body Armor) and Armoury (Melee Weapons), which default to Smith (Iron) at -3. The skill for making tools and machine parts is Machinist, and for ironmongers who want to smelt iron into steel, Metallurgy is the skill to use. Also it is safe to allow Armoury a -3 default to the non-Armoury craft skills such as Carpentry to make bows, Leatherworking -3 for whips or leather armor, etc.

These skills are important and should be considered primary skills in the Artificer template, instead of Engineer (Gadgets).

The Backpack Toolkit
The backpack toolkit in Dungeon Fantasy 1 includes several small portable items that form the basic tools of the Smith skill. The ironmonger may want to forego buying, and carrying, an expensive tool kit and simply buy a couple of the heavy items, below, to save money. He then can use Quick Gadgeteer or Gizmos to make up the difference, building tools on the spot! The full kit includes:

Anvil: traditionally this was hammered into a large stump, a block of wood, etc. It’s simply a large chunk of iron about the size of a big sledgehammer head, with a long shank extending below it perhaps a foot or more in length. It is flat on top, and round or beak shaped. To use it, the smith takes out the stake anvil, pounds it into the stump, and he’s ready to forge. A small stake anvil might weigh 5 lbs., which larger ones as much as 15-20 lbs. A typical portable one is $60 and 10 lbs. It’s generally not eligible for use as a Gizmo.

Hold Downs:
This is a spring steel c-clamp which attaches to the anvil and the iron work the smith needs to keep steady while he smacks. Referred to as the smith’s “third hand” or “assistant” they are mighty useful. Hold downs the right size for a stake anvil are about 2 lbs., and good for use as Gizmo.

Tongs: these are large pliers capable of holding the hot metal piece being forged. A real blacksmith shop will have dozens, perhaps hundreds, of tongs for very type of metal shape and size. A portable smithy will have to make do with just one or two sets of tongs, perhaps with jaws that can be fitted with accessories. At 2 lbs. these are good for Gizmos.

Formers: These are chunks of iron that have been cast or forged into useful shapes, such as a hollowed out space for a spoon, ladle, etc. Red hot metal is placed into the form and hammered until it takes on the shape. A few common formers can save the smith a lot of time, energy, and fuel. Big “swage blocks” weigh over 100 pounds and have dozens of formers cast into them, but small ones, even pocket sized, are also common. At only 1 lb. each these are good for Gizmos.

Hammers: Like tongs, the proper smith will have a dozen or so different hammers. But a portable smith may have to get by with one. A 2-3 lb. sledge, $30, is a common size for an all-around blacksmith hammer. A generous GM might let a Gizmos stand in for a hammer, if necessary.

Hot Cut-Off: this is wedge-shaped tool, with a hardened cutting edge and shank. The shank fits into the anvil and the sharp wedge end is used to cut hot iron. Simply place the bright orange heated iron over the edge where you want it cut and then tap it with a hammer (carefully!) until it’s cut halfway through. Next, grab the metal with tongs and wiggle it back and forth until it breaks. 0.5 lbs. Good for a Gizmo.

Files, chisels, and punches: Files are used to shape metal and come in versions which are coarse, fine, long, short, etc. Punches are used to make holes in hot metal. Chisels come in a variety of lengths and sizes and can cut hot or cold metal. Each is 0.25 to 1 lb. and are good for use as Gizmo.

Quench bucket: A smith needs something to cool the metal in, and for tempering a blade. A wooden bucket is very handy for this purpose ($15, 4 lbs.) but a water-filled helmet, a flowing fountain, spring, or just a hole in the ground filled with water will work.

Treadle Grinder: This is a small grinding wheel which can be attached to a post, stump, table top, etc. It has a hand crank, but it can be attached to a leather belt and a simple foot pedal, too. The smith turns the grinding wheel and it shapes and polishes metal. In a proper shop this would be a big wheel, perhaps pedaled by an assistant or powered by a water wheel, but a portable version like this is handier for an adventuring ironmonger. $10, 8 lbs.

The Fuel
The ironmonger needs a fuel source to produce heat. The very best fuel for Dungeon Fantasy ironmongers is the Essential Fuel version of coal (assume the coal used this way is being used in a machine – the forge!). It costs $1 a pound and burns for 10 times as long as normal coal; 1 pound lasts for two hours of forging. The next best fuel for ironmongers is the Essential Fuel version of charcoal. It costs $1 a pound and burns for 10 times as long as normal charcoal; 1 pound lasts for an hour of forging.

Normal coal can be found inside caves and dungeons, or simply lying on the ground; a small makeshift forge will use about 5 pounds of coal an hour. It costs $0.50 a pound. Normal charcoal is $5 per bushel (20 pound), but each bushel lasts only an hour on a makeshift forge. Of course, if a wizard is in the party, perhaps the ironmonger can convince him to cast Essential Fuel on this normal fuel!

If no wizard is available, the ironmonger can make charcoal from any wood items in the dungeon (furniture, a door, etc.), or from wood in the wilderness, etc. The simplest method to make charcoal is to dig a deep hole in the ground, start a good hot campfire inside it, then fill the hole with wood. Carefully cover the hole with dirt and let it burn. This will produce a lot of gasses and smoke as it “cooks” the water out of the wood, leaving behind pure carbon. The next day simply dig out the charcoal. This will yield charcoal equal to about 1/4 the weight of the wood “cooked” in the hole. This does produce a lot of smoke, though, and might draw unwanted attention. Charcoal making can be a source of income if the ironmonger is in town, or something to do to pass the time when the party is recovering from injuries, etc.

Stay tuned for Part II! If you haven’t seen the Dungeon Fantasy Kickstarter go check it out.
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One Comment

  1. Never before has a post been so… metal 🙂 *Puts on shades and then dips before the incoming tomatoes reach their terminal arcs*

    But for real, anyone else totally want to play a dwarven iron smith named Ironmonger now?

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