Nuclear Beasts Blog
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Weapons of Mass Destruction
High Beasts have one principal advantage over Low... hands. But the extent of that advantage depends heavily on what sort of tools are available. In combat, a spear probably isn't as useful as a bow and the effectiveness of a bow pales before an assault rifle. A Low Beast may be able to work a calculator with his claws, it'll just be slower and more awkward than normal. They aren't going to be able to use a sword.
So, the big advantage of High Beasts is that they can generally use better equipment than Low Beasts can. They can get guns, armor and electronic devices that are much more difficult for Low Beasts to use. This is really difficult to balance with game rules... in fact, I'd argue that it's impossible. If the GM's campaign is set in the western lands where it's rare for any Beast to have a weapon more sophisticated than a bow and arrow, then Low Beasts will be competitive and may even be better (they get some bonuses to make up for their lack of hands). If the campaign assumes that the Beasts are all heavy-weapons specialists working in the League and they call get ancient combat armor and assault rifles, well... Low Beasts had better stick to non-combat roles.
So it's generally up to the GM to provide balance, and that balance may well shift. If the party finds a powerful laser rifle, whoever gets it suddenly becomes a lot more effective... and when it breaks or gets sold/stolen, well, they're back where they were before-hand. At character creation, this is balanced out by charging extra points for unusually good equipment. But once play starts, it's a bit much to insist that someone who finds a working computer should be docked extra XP to "balance" them with the other PCs.
But, that said, what sort of high tech super-weapons are available?
Assault Rifles are the traditional uber-weapon. They work at range and can deal out an extraordinary amount of damage in very short order. But they eat up bullets like crazy when they do it. Grenade launchers are attached to some of them, which makes them even more devestating, but grenades are even rarer than appropriate rifle rounds.
Pulse Lasers are a somewhat futuristic weapon. An enormous amount of electricity gets used up when it fires, producing a very powerful laser beam for about a nanosecond. The beam is, of course, completely invisible and far too fast to see in any case. The gun produces a loud hum, but compared to most firearms it's effectively silent and can be recharged from any sufficiently powerful generator. Producing negligible recoil, pulse lasers are easier to aim than normal firearms but they are extremely expensive and can overheat if not allowed to cool off between shots. Pulse lasers were mainly a toy of the rich. Most of them are broken now, but a repaired one is worth a great deal to any community that has the ability to recharge it.
Continuous Lasers are larger (most are bipod or tripod mounted), more powerful, and project a steady beam instead. These are devestating weapons against "soft" targets and are extremely precise. Called "Laser Lances" by the military, a lance could carve a hole in the side of a building or cut down an entire squadron of infantry in a few moments. Military models came with special goggles that allowed the user to actually see the beam (actually, not the laser itself, but a special targetting beam being projected solely for the benefit of the user). That greatly increased the ease of aiming them in combat situations and made precise cuts more practical. They consume an enormous amount of power, however, and thus were usually used to defend bases (which had their own generators) instead of being used out in the field where its charge would be quickly exhausted.
Machine Guns are basically just a larger, bipod or tripod mounted version of the traditional automatic rifle. Devestating against infantry but still somewhat portable, their big limit is generally ammunition.
Railguns have probably the best armor penetration of any heavy weapon. Ammo is also dirt cheap, consisting of little more than tiny metal balls, much like B.B. rounds. It's the power consumption that makes them expensive to use. Even in places like Zuba City, they generally can't produce enough power to run an ancient railgun. They also require a special, reinforced, firing base (which is quite heavy itself and has several moving parts) to absorb the recoil.
Nukes are pretty much unknown. Oh, a few military bases may have them, but the Beasts don't have any and only the best scholars would even recognize one if they saw it.
Microgrenade Launchers are more powerful and sophisticated than assault rifles, but also heavier and much more expensive. They shoot comparatively small microgrenades that are shaped much like heavy machinegun rounds and loaded much the same way. These shells explode either on impact, or upon travelling a certain distance, which can be set by using the built-in targetting computer. They are devestating at clearing urban areas, where the shell can be set to explode just as soon as it reaches a certain point... say just past the wall that the target is using as cover. A wide variety of microgrenades were made, ranging from incindiaries to shrapnel to stun grenades for taking prisoners alive. Most launchers are tripod-mounted affairs, but handheld models were used instead of traditional grenade launchers in many assault teams. The blast radius of each microgrenade is smaller than that of a traditional grenade, but the ability to fire grenades in a 3-round burst or to set the exact distance to be travelled more than made up for it.
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