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I'm working on a small personal project. I've hit a bit of a roadblock though, that being the question why someone would bother inventing blackpowder in my world.

Blackpowder isn't something that was bound to be stumbled on by fate, as most of its discoveries I've heard about have been accidental, such as it being a byproduct of Chinese alchemists making medicine. In this world, there is no China (or similar power), philosophical alchemy never took off on the same level, and, while the world has recently industrialized, due to the previously mentioned lack of alchemists, there's a near comical lack of basic chemical knowledge among these people. Not to mention that this world's easy access materials have already been mined, either by long dead ancient humans or the modern nations with (mostly) late 19th century technologies.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe it's a matter of terminology, but "stumbling upon" is not a "reason for inventing" something. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jan 28 at 6:42
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    $\begingroup$ "Alchemy never took off on the same levels": You probably have an incorrect notion of what alchemy was. Yes, some few alchemists were looking for a means of transmuting lead into gold. No, most of them did not. Do you really mean that this world did not have leather tanning, alcohol distilling, cosmetic manufacturing, ink, soap, aquaforte engraving, gilding, silvering, and so on and so on? If so, then how did they manage to industrialize? (And those easy access materials which had been mined -- all it means that they are now even easier to access, being on the surface.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 28 at 7:18
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP When I said alchemy, I meant the philosophical variant. Philosopher's stone and such. I'll go ahead and update it to prevent any further confusion. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. $\endgroup$
    – Preott
    Jan 28 at 7:28
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    $\begingroup$ ... See for example the wonderful life of Paracelsus for what an alchemist really did. And see the life of Georgius Agricola for what a pre-modern mineralogist did. You really cannot have industrialization without a lot of basic, unscientific, unsystematic, purely empirical but nevertheless ample knowledge of chemistry. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 28 at 7:29
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    $\begingroup$ Those alchemical mystics did not invent gunpowder. As far as I know, they did not do anything practical to progress the knowledge. (Those mystical works of philosophical alchemists are really really hard to interpret. Nobody is even sure that they were trying to convey anything practical.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 28 at 8:16

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While you state that mystical alchemy is not widespread you did seem to imply that some sort of (industrial) (al)chemistry exists.

Now, blackpowder is a mix of 3 substances:

Carbon (charcoal), Potassium nitrate and sulfur.

All those uses are related to food and avoidance of spoilage or curing the effects of spoilage, so it is not impossible that somebody was experimenting in order to maybe find a better cure against food poison or better disinfection methods for kegs (sulfur was burned in kegs), and by chance discovered blackpowder.

Your job, as a storyteller, is to figure out what that motivation was and how the discovery happened.

If you look at the blackpowder entry on Wikipedia you'll find the following quote:

Gunpowder is one of the Four Great Inventions of China. Originally developed by the Taoists for medicinal purposes, it was first used for warfare around 904 AD.

So, the idea of it being the byproduct of some medicinal experiment is not that farfetched.

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The devil's hearth.

The cosmetics industry, perfume, makeup etc. invited trade of interesting raw-materials and concoctions from all-over the lands, thus the incentive for experimentation - and no-doubt the rise of snake-oil salesman of medicines and youthifying ointments for the rich......

And....

Houses need heating in winter. It's not always convenient to light a fire as there aren't always boy-scouts or girl-guides to rub (sticks) together to start one. Thus the invention of the match.

There was commercial pressure to create an affordable and simple way to light a fire, without fiddling about with the above or dipping chemicals in other dangerous and corrosive chemicals (as we did in the early 1800s).

Lucifers were among the first successful matches, comprising antimony sulphide and potassium chlorate, bound with gum and tipped with sulphur. Just occasionally they would explode when struck, thus the thought of explosions by this means arises ===> Gunpowder. Albeit pink/yellow, not black.

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    $\begingroup$ Ugh, the standard normal way to start a fire was with a fire striker, flint and kindling. Nobody made fire by rubbing sticks in Europe and most of Asia since a very very long time ago. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 28 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ Fair enough, but that was more of a yarn to draw the reader in. Obviously didn't work. @AlexP $\endgroup$ Jan 28 at 8:14

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