What is the Tech Level
When dealing with Fantasy Steampunk in a D&D world, it can be confusing to see where the line is drawn on what tech is available and how it works. So I figured an overview would be in order.
What is the Tech Level?
Well, it is pretty standard for Steampunk. No electric, although people are theorizing diesel at this point and some mad mages think electrical is possible. But for the common populace coal fire and steam rules the day. For those with means elegant clockworks are available. And the height of technology is the use of Mithral to replace coal. So there are clockwork devices, large coal and steam ones and most magic tech that is portable runs on Mithral or clockwork.
How Does the Tech work?
Well coal and steam just like coal and steam. Clunky, dirty but powerful. Clockwork is also standard and as you would think. So what we really need to look at is Mithral. The Dwarves, Humans and Gnomes came up with a device, called a Arcane Synthesis Chamber. They can be made by mages, some clerics or dwarven rune smiths and can be big or small. Their purpose is to make the mechanism for Steam tech portable and just as powerful. The Chamber destroys specially prepared Mithral and converts it to energy. One ounce of Mithral is equal to nearly a ton of coal. So the chambers can be fairly small. Large ones are unheard of except as personal projects or personal commission because that kind of energy is just insanely dangerous.
What is leftover is a kind of magical glowing substance collected by the chamber that gets returned to the mages guild or any approved handler of it. Each nation has approved makers of the chambers all overseen by guild based in Geoff, where the technology was made by Dwarves, Humans, Gnomes and some Elves. Although the Elves do not advertize their role. The Guild: The Arcane Fire; is headed by a council of craftsmen and they have iron clad contracts with each governments that were made at the start of the era to prevent them holding the technology over the heads of nations.
Silver is the main conductor of Mithral so silver mines are booming, as are Coal and Mithral ones.
What are some examples of Tech?There are guns. Reloading is either by hand after each shot, proficiency reduces the time. Or most guns have a chamber like an air cartridge in the handle that is powered by a spell scribed into the chamber that uses and Arcane loading spell to take the components from the shooter and load the gun magically. Each Chamber cartridge holds about 50 uses of the spell. Gunpowder is made by mages, some clerics and alchemists. Anyone who makes Powder is certified by the Blackpowder Guild. Anyone who works with Mithral is certified by the Arcane Fire.
There are mechanical work beings that are huge and coal fired. As a nod to the Iron Kingdoms lets call them Jacks. There are also clockwork servitors and more delicate machine beings. Mages had golem magic but that is expensive and powerful. So a toned down version of the spell is used to create a rudimentary brain to house in a mechanical husk. The brain can take orders from people it recognizes as in authority. There is a movement that says these work golems are sentient. Mages laugh at the thought. But some of the smaller creations…butlers, maids, skilled workers have a more evolved brain and those that run on an Arcane Synthesis Chamber…exhibit odd traits that hint at a personality.
There are horse drawn carriages because it is easier and cheaper. But there are the beginnings of gearwork and coal street cars in large cities that run on local lines. There are trains starting. There are Bicycles and some have experimented with adding crank gearwork or Arcane Chambers to them. With varying results.
There are delicate clockworks for watches, jewelry boxes and other such things. And some have looked at combining clockworks and pressurized air pumped under pressure by Steam…to create dart weapons, explosive devices and demolition hammers.
There are gaslights as well as a bio-luminescent fungus from the underdark used to light areas where there is gas build ups like factories, coal and other mines.
Just about any grear/magic coal/magic or scribed Synthesis Chamber is possible to create Steampunk themed devices; with DM approval.