I was pondering some ideas about worldbuilding when I happened upon an interesting article about tin pieces. The idea I liked the most was the advent of tin weapons that could only be used as clubs, but would require regular maintenance to keep from becoming "grey". The premise was that the stages of metallurgy in human history had changed. Basically, because copper was more rare than tin, the Bronze Age never happened. Tin was used only to make blunt weapons, but the discovery of rare copper allowed for pewter leading to a Pewter Age before the final Iron Age. The concept is brilliant.
Turns out that tin or pewter weapons of any kind are extremely impractical, so I set out to look for metals that could have supplanted the Bronze Age had it been more plentiful.
This turned out to be harder than I thought for reasons that I won't elaborate much about here. Suffice it to say that regardless of rarity, there really isn't a good substitute metal for copper. There also isn't a good alloy that could have been generated by ancient mankind due to the temperatures and equipment required.
I thought that maybe I could invent such a metal, but that felt like reinventing the wheel; mithral already exists in the larger D&D world.
So, I'll keep mithral for now, but just say that the elves entered a mithral age after their iron age. Elves control the mining, extraction and purification of it. No big deal.
But for humans, I then discovered a wikipedia entry on sintering. It's not making alloys like our ancestor combined tin and copper to make bronze, it more like making a ceramic material. You take a metal with a high melting point and grind it into a powder and then place it in a liquid form of a metal with a lower melting point. It is basically how tungsten carbide and tungsten steels are made.
Now, I couldn't use the real metal tungsten. Tungsten interferes with the purification and/or smelting of tin. But if my imaginary metal was similar, it could provide something plausible enough. Some forms of tungsten are more common in meteorites, so I can have an area of the world that has a large deposit of this metal from a meteorite, though it also occurs naturally elsewhere on the planet. (Based on xkcd, though, maybe it's just a place that has a bunch of the stuff.)
So our imaginary metal, when sintered with tin and later bronze creates a tough, durable weapons-grade metal. However, there are a few issues that limit its usage:
- It has to be molded, not forged, due to how it is made.
- It is really heavy thanks to tin being the main ingredient. Adding copper helps some, but it is still almost three times as dense as granite rock.
It can't be used to make swords, but it can make some wicked clubs. True, these clubs are made in a fashion similar to cast iron implements, but big, heavy clubs that can be manufactured en masse? You can see why the ancient humans in this world favoring our sintered metal.
Why do clerics use blunt weapons? They hold on to the ancient ways to predate the working of iron and steel, possibly even the advent of magic itself. Their ancient artifacts are made of this metal and they quest into the world searching for more artifacts of the ancients.
With that said, let's add some interesting elements to make clerics more interesting.
Let's say that this metal can also be used to make chainmail that protects better than regular chainmail. It can be the equivalent of plate mail. Yet, due to its weight, this chainmail has the disadvantage of weighing slightly more than steel plate mail. The cleric has a practical reason for wearing it (just like plate) and a drawback that makes sense for cleric characters (they can carry less possessions).
One thing in all my settings is that everyone can use a sling. They are everywhere, especially useful for wilderness areas and hexcrawling. Since lead was used in ancient times to make sling bullets, let give our clerics access to sling bullets made from our mystery metal. To make things interesting, sling bullets of this metal do 1d6 damage instead of 1d4. Not only does it give Clerics a weapon that does 1d6 damage at a distance, but making Clerics the source of this metal gives them a non-medical reason for a party to have them around.
A bit further out, we could also say that the potters and ceramic workers in a few places developed a wedge type weapon similar to a hand axe. It only does 1d6 damage, but it has an edge along one side to allow for cutting. Heck, a Cleric might have cutlery for eating that looks like this in miniature form. Since I gravitate to S&W and other older games, the fact that a Cleric has a bladed weapon is not that big a deal.
Anyway, I imagine this mystery metal makes temple special places. Instead of in-house smiths hired from the community that make weapons and implements for their warrior-priests, a temple has sinterers that use ancient techniques to craft and mold the tools of the faithful.
What do I call this mystery metal? For now, I'll call it Canavar. The Cleric's mace, a Canayara. The armor, Canavar Mail. The odd wedge/hand-axe? A Balta. Heck, I will probably just call Clerics from this area of my game world the Canavari.
I understand that Canavar is a word that means wolf. The original name for Tungsten, Wolframite, means means wolf cream. This association with the wolf can figure into the mythologies of the various temples or even lend itself the lycanthrope priests. I'll explore more on that later.