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A Beginner's Guide to Forging

So you think you have what it takes to work in the forge, do you? Well, we'll find out soon enough, I'm sure. There's more to crafting the finest armors and weapons than most people realize. It takes strength, stamina, and above all else, experience. Not only are the finest smiths in the land expected to have the constitution of an ox and the strength of a bear, but they need a solid base understanding of the various aspects of mechanical lore, as well as extensive familiarity with the various weapons and armors they hope to create. If you thought the constitution of an ox meant you could get away with the brains of an ox as well, you were sorely mistaken.

Before you can begin forging, you'll need to find a forge. While every province has at least one, not all forges are open to just any aspiring young apprentice. Some forges accept only estate holders, for example, while others may only accept members of certain guilds. You may need to explore or ask around to find a forge that is willing to let you use their equipment.

steelLet's assume for a moment you've found a forge. Straight to work, right? Well, not exactly. First you'll need to purchase supplies. Each forge has a good supply of various metals and charcoal for sale. What metals should you use, and how much will you need? That, my friend, is something you'll need to learn from an experienced smith, or figure out for yourself. I'll give you a simple starting point later in this lecture -- the rest is up to you. For now, all you need to know is that each metal has its own unique qualities and density, and you'll want to take some time to become familiar with each through experimentation or questioning experienced forgers. Charcoal is a special case, as it is used to make steel from iron. More on that later.

Once you have your basic materials such as iron and charcoal, you'll need to melt them down and pour them into a mold. To do this, you need to find the foundry. You'll know you are in the right place when you see a large cauldron over a fire, surrounded by molds. We'll go through the foundry process step by step, so pay close attention.

The first thing you'll want to do is get a very hot fire blazing. A smoldering fire simply won't be hot enough to melt the metals you'll be working with, so grab some coal (GET COAL) from the coal pile and stoke the fire with it. One scoop of coal won't last long, however, so you may want to add several shovelfuls before proceeding to the next step. Once you have stoked the fire with a good supply of coal, you'll need to work the bellows (PULL BELLOW) to provide the fire with more oxygen, to heat it even further. Continue pulling the bellows until you have a brilliant fire. This can be extremely tiring work, so you may need to stop periodically and cool yourself down with water from the bucket provided (SPLASH WATER), or rest a while. Just keep in mind that while you rest, the coal is burning down. Stamina of an ox, remember?

Once the fire is brilliant and you've had a moment to catch your breath, it's time to melt down your metals. For example, let's assume you want to make a simple steel ingot for use in forging a dagger. For this demonstration's purposes, put a bar of iron in the cauldron (PUT IRON IN CAULDRON), and then put a piece of charcoal in the cauldron (PUT CHARCOAL IN CAULDRON) along with it. The iron is the base metal, and adding the charcoal will make steel. Something to note is that not all charcoal is the same -- some shops will sell larger pieces you can BREAK down into smaller pieces, while others do not. Both work, but be aware that the results of using a larger piece may be different from using a smaller piece. In any case, once you have the iron bar and charcoal in the cauldron, PUSH CAULDRON over the fire.

At this stage, or at any point during the forging process, SPLASH WATER on yourself if you are getting tired. Believe me, you'll probably be doing this a lot. LOOK IN CAULDRON periodically to see if the bar and the charcoal have melted. Once they have, pull the cauldron (PULL CAULDRON) off the fire and stir the contents (STIR CAULDRON). Depending on what you put in the cauldron, there is a chance that you may need to stir more than once, so look again before you try to pour the mix out. At all times be aware of the state of your fire -- if it starts to go down, add more charcoal and pull the bellows a few more times. If your melted mixture cools too much while in the cauldron, you may end up with something unsuitable for use.

Once the mixture is stirred thoroughly, you can either add more metals if you need more, or pour the cauldron in the moldof your choice; do be sure to specify whether you want the wire, plate, or the ingot mold (POUR CAULDRON IN [WIRE|PLATE|INGOT] MOLD). Since we are working on a steel dagger in this example, we'll use the ingot mold, which is for weapons. For those of you hoping to make fine armors, the chain mold is for chain armors, and the plate mold is for plate armor. One bar of iron and one piece of charcoal should be plenty of steel to make a simple dagger, although the mix may not be the best quality -- mixes are carefully guarded secrets by master smiths, so you'll either need to come up with your own ideal mixtures through trial and error, or you'll need to find a friendly smith willing to share a few of his favorite mixes. Should you need more steel than what we used in this example, you can and should keep adding metals and charcoal to the cauldron a little at a time until you have sufficient materials for your final project. Note that while I'm using steel in this example, you can also create alloys or even bronze weapons. Play around with metal mixtures long enough and you'll learn what type of metals work best for what you are trying to make.

Once the molten metal is in the mold, there's nothing to do but wait, unless you intend to make more wires, plates, or ingots, which you can certainly do while the fire is still hot and you are waiting for your first ingot to cool. Inspect the ingot periodically (LOOK INGOT), and you'll be able to tell when it's cool enough to handle. When it's ready, pick it up and head for the forge itself, which is usually in another room. You'll know you are in the right place when you see a forge, an anvil, and yet another bucket of water.

Place your ingot on the forge to reheat it enough to pound. You don't want to melt the metal this time, only get it to a nice white hot glow. Once it's sufficiently heated, get the white hot ingot (GET INGOT) and put it on the anvil (PUT INGOT ON ANVIL). Now the real work begins. You need to decide what you want to make first. If you aren't sure what you want to make, sometimes it helps to pound away once for a bit of inspiration (POUND [INGOT|CHAIN|PLATE]). Once you have decided, hammer the ingot into whatever it is you want to make -- in this case a dagger (POUND INGOT ON ANVIL INTO DAGGER). Now if you are a good strong smith, you shouldn't find this too terribly taxing, but most people will find that pounding takes both a great deal of exertion and time until they build up their stamina and strength. If you don't know enough about the principles of Mechanical Lore, you may also find yourself doing more harm than good, or even breaking the ingot, especially if the ingot gets too cool. Keep an eye on that ingot, and if it starts to cool too much, put it back on the forge to reheat it.

Depending on your physical condition, pounding may take a while, and you may need to rest regularly. Once you are done, however, you'll have one of two things -- a nice dagger blade, or pieces of broken steel. Assuming you made it through in one piece, take the blade (GET BLADE) and cool it in the water (PUT BLADE IN WATER). The same basic principle holds true for armor -- pound until it is done, and then put it in the water to cool it. Should your ingot break, get the pieces and put them in the water as well. You can remelt them in the foundry and try again if you wish.

You may have a blade, but you aren't finished yet. Back in the forge shop, you can purchase hilts. You'll need to buy a hilt and attach it to the blade (PUT HILT ON BLADE) to finish the dagger. Congratulations! You've finished your first weapon. Armor is a bit different. Obviously, you don't put a hilt on armor. Instead, you need to fit your armor (FIT ARMOR) to finish it up.

What else is there to be said about forging? There are a few other things you can do to improve your weapons and armor before you do the final steps of fitting or hilting. For armor, you have additional options to fit the armor even better, while weaponsmiths can attempt to grind their blades to improve their qualities. These enhancements are available to all forgers, but only those with the best understanding of the principles involved are going to be able to do it well. If you wish to know more about these advanced options, seek out an experienced smith, or experiment with them yourself.

If you are still here after all that, you may just have what it takes to be a master smith after all. A few last comments before you rush off to begin your career as a smith. I mentioned repeatedly that knowledge of mechanical lore is essential. However, it is also important that you have more than a passing familiarity with the type of item you wish to make. If you want to make a dagger, you should in the very least be familiar with daggers and their use, and it doesn't hurt to have extensive knowledge in all types of blades. The same principle holds true for armor -- if you want to make the finest heavy plate, you need an intimate understanding of how heavy plate fits, and you'll also want to be fairly familiar with the lighter variations as well. Knowledge of weapons and armor isn't strictly essential, but the end results will directly reflect your understanding (or lack thereof) of the items you craft.

 


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