|A heavy thunder jug on a naval mount.|
The Martians, like eighteenth century Earthmen, developed short smoothbore cannon that fire heavy shot for their weight. These cannon can throw their projectile only a short distance, but it arrives with shattering impact. On Earth these weapons gained fame as "carronades." On Mars they are known as "thunder jugs."
Thunder jugs have never enjoyed the widespread acceptance of their terrestrial counterparts . Short cannons can never match the range, accuracy or penetrating power of their longer bored cousins. At most ranges they are inferior to them. if however a ship armed with long guns can be lured into carronade range, the short guns will quickly decimate it. Light-weight weapons mean more bangs for the ton, with more hits. Since each hit has the same chance of causing damage, the more hits the better. The average damage value (DV) per ton of weapons and rate of fire per DV are also higher with thunder jugs, giving a ship armed with a larger number (but identical weight) of them the ability to batter a long-gunned opponent to splinters.
|The light thunder jug behind a bulkhead.|
Short cannons appeal most to armed ships whose primary business is not warmaking. The small crew sizes and simplicity of operation of thunder jugs means that a merchant skipper can hire less crew and waste less time in training. This, coupled with their range and penetrating power limitations, have meant that historically that thunder jugs have most often been met with aboard armed merchant kites that are interested in defense. Most kites mount but a few jugs. However, some Warm Winds-class ships have been seen with up to ten of the heavy thunder jugs on each broadside. The small size of the weapons also make them easy to conceal. More than one pirate has been obliterated by a hail of carronade shot as it came alongside what it thought was easy prey. To players this will mean that a Martian merchant kite will be able to carry impressive short range fire power, enough to fend off machine gun armed European privateers. The next encounter your players have with a Warm Winds out of Crocea might be more bloody than anticipated. A broadside of grapeshot from a battery of thunder jugs is enough to make even the heartiest of Red Captains consider a safer occupation.
Martian Thunder Jugs
About the Author
Terry Sofian describes himself as a generalist in a world of specialists. He has worked as a genetic engineer, in disaster preparedness and homeland security management, and in health, safety and environmental compliance for hospitals, nuclear waste cleanup sites and numerous industry clients. He has had a novella, Blackwater Ghosts, published in Weird Tales and several non-fiction pieces in The Coast Artillery Journal and Warship International. His current projects include the Steampunk/Victorian Science Fiction setting of Stars of Empire, also known as Hive, Queen and Country. Using Black Pigeon Press' incredibly adaptable Hacktastic game engine allows players to adventure in an altered Victorian era, facing threats from both Earth and Off-World. He lives in the Midwest with his amazing wife Shannon and has an extremely bright daughter Kelly.
by Terry Sofian, ©1993; this article originally appeared in Transactions of the Royal Martian Geographical Society, Vol. 1, No. 7. It is used here with the author's permission.