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Plasma Pistol

 Post subject: Plasma Pistol
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 1:16 am 
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I put this in here as it's mainly a 40K background and theoretical [pseudo] science issue.

So plasma pistols shoot plasma. Possibly in a beam, possibly in bolts. That's not really important. They're supposedly really rare and may or may not be out of production, and they may or may not blow up regularly, destroying themselves and killing or seriously injuring the operator. But everyone has them is sufficient quantities, so their alleged scarcity is irrelevant.
What I'm concerned with are the operational considerations and tactical application, described in real-world, accountable, coherent terms.

Within a formally structured army of the Imperium, what part does the plasma pistol play? How is it put to use? What tactical role does it fulfil? What analogues exist within modern day armed forces, or how would plasma pistols be employed if they did exist in this day and age?
Modern infantry and Imperial Guard infantry have automatic rifles as their primary weapons, with machineguns, heavy machineguns, grenade launchers, flamethrowers and anti-tank weapons deployed in smaller numbers, for dealing with specific situations and targets. For what purpose would plasma pistols be issued?

With the performance characteristics of a plasma pistol, what you have is an extremely powerful short ranged weapon, in pistol form, capable of automatic fire in some interpretations. Strength 6 in 2nd edition, strength 7 in 3rd and 4th edition, which to me is at the very least equivalent to a 40mm cannon firing a HEAT round. A battle cannon and a krak missile are only 1 point of strength higher in 4th edition.
So accepting that the pistol is that powerful, how the heck can you use it as a pistol? If it has the destructive energy of a light artillery piece firing out one end, then it has the recoil energy of a light artillery piece kicking in the opposite direction. Made worse by the fact that it's a pistol, and has very minimal mass to absorb the recoil.
But plasma pistols are usually depicted being fired with one hand, and I've never read any background information on them that described their recoil, so presumably it's not worthy of mention.
The only explanation for how this is possible that I can think of, is that plasma pistols incorporate some kind of active recoil compensator. But that in and of itself would be very worthy of mention in any description.
And if you can minimise the recoil on a handheld artillery piece, why not do the same on much larger weapons?

I bring this up because I was going through the weapon stat. entries in a 40K role-playing mod., and adding notes as background text (I'll post the file if anyone is interested) in the aforementioned real-world, accountable, coherent terms, and I pretty much drew a blank when it came to the plasma pistol. I'm sure there will be many other anomalous weapons as I progress.
Through different calibres of auto-pistols, then las-pistols, and on to bolt pistols, the weapons all fit onto a fairly logical application, give or take. Though bolt pistols pretty much break things if you take a literal interpretation of how they're portrayed in 40K.

Thoughts?

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:42 am 
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A hand held M203. Set to fry instead of boom.
Good against light vehicles and infantry alike.
A hand-cannon, pretty much.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2007 4:15 pm 
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Hooray! 57 views, 1 reply. :P
A 40mm grenade launcher, or more specifically one of the multi-shot revolving type, are the most obvious analogues. But they're a lot bigger than a pistol, have a lot of recoil, and a HEAT warhead will only penetrate about 51mm of RHAe. At present, they're issued to specialists in specialist units.
Also, a direct 40K analogue of the modern day grenade launcher would be the 40K grenade launcher.
I guess a plasma pistol really only makes sense in the 40K context, where recoil doesn't exist, and a short ranged incredibly powerful anti-armour weapon you can carry in a holster and fire with one hand is invaluable for dealing with huge multi-limbed aliens and squads of power armoured giants.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:55 pm 
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Exactly, it's a sci-fi weapon, designed for a tactical niche that only exists in sci-fi. Namely, close-range armour-busting for those really tough enemies when they're in your face.

Or you're getting in theirs...

You won't be able to find a modern-day analogue, because there is no modern-day situation that would compare.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:15 pm 
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This is what I ended up with:

Plasma Gun, 80 points: Encumberment 5/8, Re-load 12x3, Rapid Fire Explosive 1/3, SFSH 7, ExR 2, 0-6” +2 / 24+5D6, 6-12” +1 / 22+5D6, 12-18” / 20+5D6, 18-24” / 18+5D6, 24-30” / 16+5D6, 30-36” –2 / 14+5D6, 36-42” –4 / 12+5D6, 42-48” –6 / 10+5D6.
1” blast ½ fixed +3D6, 2” blast ¼ fixed +3D6.
Ammo 15 points per fuel cell, Encumberment .75.
Plasma heat build up: every shot fired (ammunition point expended) accumulates 2 points of heat, every full turn in which the weapon is not fired dissipates 1 point of heat. The weapon may not be fired when it has 5 or more points of heat built up.
Notes: Exceedingly popular squad-level support weapons throughout all armed forces of the Imperium, plasma guns provide what amounts to highly mobile rapid firing direct fire artillery support. This level of destructive power is made possible by sophisticated miniaturised active recoil compensation components and an internal magnetic containment field that holds, and then channels the plasma reaction into a linear blast, the destructive projectile looking much like a bolt of lightning with accompanying thunder clap. Despite the weapon’s sophistication, the amount of residual heat generated prevents prolonged firing - no more than three shots in rapid succession - as heat accumulates much faster than it can be actively purged. The firing cycle is locked until the temperature is lowered to an operational level. A plasma gun’s cell of ammunition contains both the fuel required for the plasma reaction, and a power cell to provide the electricity to run the essential compensation, containment, and heat sink functions.

Plasma Pistol, 50 points: Encumberment 3/4, Re-load 12x3, Rapid Fire Explosive 1/3, SFSH 7, ExR 2, 0-6” +2 / 20+5D6, 6-12” +1 / 18+5D6, 12-18” / 16+5D6, 18-24” –2 / 14+5D6, 24-30” –4 / 12+5D6, 30-36” –6 / 10+5D6.
1” blast ½ fixed +3D6, 2” blast ¼ fixed +3D6.
Ammo 12 points per small fuel cell, Encumberment .5.
Plasma heat build up: every shot fired (ammunition point expended) accumulates 2 points of heat, every full turn in which the weapon is not fired dissipates 1 point of heat. The weapon may not be fired when it has 5 or more points of heat built up.
Notes: The most powerful of pistol weapons, its terminal effects are comparable to a light artillery piece, though short ranged. It operates on the same principles as the larger plasma gun, relying on numerous subsystems powered by the ammunition’s integral power cell to channel the plasma reaction and alleviate recoil and heat. Often employed by specialists in assault squads in place of the bulkier plasma gun, though only in the most well funded and privileged armies.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 1:45 am 
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Wow, that's neat! Do you have more stuff like that? Share!
Really cool fluff there. I see a couple of problems though.
Aren't you going a little overboard comparing the Plasma Pistol to an artillery piece? Notice that, although it's Strength is in fact only two points lower than that of an autocannon or MBT gun, it only inflicts 1 wound, compared to 1D10 for the Auto- and 2D6 for a Battlecannon. You sure can't blow up a tank with it (at least not in 2 / 5ed) without going into h-t-h and aiming for the tracks. I always thought that Damage should somehow figure into assessing a weapon’s power, instead of going by Strength only. But that’s just me.
And I’m a little troubled by the recoil thing. It is certainly an important thing to take note of. But I somehow always imagined that plasma weapons of all things wouldn’t have much of a recoil. As I see it, the damage is not caused by the impact of the plasma bolt, rather by the properties of the plasma itself (super-heated, heart-of-the-sun stuff, instantly incinerating, melting and vaporizing matter at the point of impact). The plasma has to be propelled out of the barrel, the faster the better (to minimize the time between trigger pull and impact for both accuracy – less time for the target to dodge - and damage – it would start to disperse as soon as it left the barrel). But as it is “only” a fart of super-charged gas it has a negligible mass that does not produce a lot of recoil. Sure, if we make it go very fast even negligible mass will create noticeable recoil, but I never imagined it to be worse than a normal automatic pistol / assault rifle depending on model. Or am I grossly misunderstanding something here? Maybe the recoil is produced by the internal mechanism used to create the plasma in the first place, like in that “real” laser rifle project that circulated some time ago? (A laser in itself, even a weapon-grade one, does not have any noticeable recoil – my physics major pal could explain why – but that doesn’t mean that the machine making it can’t have any :D ).

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 2:18 pm 
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Sure, I'll post the file... a bit later... I'm now stuck on needle weapons. I don't think any amount of hand waving is going to reconcile 'deadly laser' with 'silent'. I may just have to add editor's comments: note to reader - does not compute!

I did specify a light artillery piece, and used the specific example of a 40mm cannon firing a HEAT warhead. But let's assume a strength 8 battle cannon equates to a modern 120mm L44 tank gun. Relative to that, I think the older 105mm tank guns would correspond to strength 7, the same as a 2nd edition plasma gun, or all 3rd/4th edition plasma weapons.

I agree that multiple damage should also be an indicator of overall power (along with blast and save modifier), but in 2nd edition it's so arbitrary that it's hard to take seriously, and in 3rd/4th edition, it's completely removed. I think a lot of weapons in 2nd edition that didn't inflict multiple damage, should have. And a lot that did, should have inflicted more damage. Melta-guns for example. They're supposed to be anti-armour weapons, but to kill any vehicle tougher than a bike you have to get into close combat.

As far as I understand recoil, if energy is flying in one direction, it is at least trying to fly in the opposite direction as well. There are a few ways around it, but I think you can only redirect it rather than negate it.
The exact consistency of a plasma gun's projectile isn't defined, so that rules out any really in-depth analysis.
While I imagine the recoil energy of a plasma gun shot would be somewhat lower than the recoil energy for a kinetic energy projectile delivering the same energy, due to the plasma projectile storing its energy to release destructively on impact more like a chemical warhead, and the reaction of firing being delivered as a greater quantity of heat and a lesser quantity of direct kinetic energy, I still think there is going to be huge amounts of kinetic energy left to make the weapon kick.
I'm open to being educated on the subject, but otherwise I have great difficulty believing that a rifle or pistol platform could deliver what is likely well over 100,000 joules of energy at a velocity of over 1000 metres per second, without it having a significant impact on that launch platform.
I'd say that it couldn't just be a fart of super-charged gas with negligible mass, I'd say that for it to have the destructive effect it has, it would have to be a monstrous all-mighty deafening flatulent eruption of super-charged gas. :P
Reading the 40K background information and seeing how plasma weapons are depicted, for over a decade, I also imagined they wouldn't have recoil any more significant than a pistol or rifle. But when I came to actually describe their operational and tactical considerations accountably, I realised that as far as I understand things, they'd need something extra to deal with the huge amount of recoil they would be producing.

By the way, in the weapon descriptions, the two numbers following Encumberment, separated by a /, are the difficulty of use or recoil of the weapon, the second the weight in kilograms. 5 means a plasma gun is not an easy or pleasant weapon to use for the average human soldier.
A Space Marine's bolt gun weighs 18 kilograms and isn't really worth an average human soldier's time to try and fire.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:04 am 
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Yeah, I can see where you're coming from with the artillery piece comparison. And I do agree that the multiple damage of various weapons is often screwed.

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As far as I understand recoil, if energy is flying in one direction, it is at least trying to fly in the opposite direction as well. There are a few ways around it, but I think you can only redirect it rather than negate it.

Huh. The way I always understood recoil, I thought it comes solely (or so close to solely as to make no real difference) from propelling mass. Like, the gunpowder explodes and pushes the bullet out the barrel, but at the same time pushes back at the gun with the same force it takes to propel the bullet of given mass at given speed (the action-reaction thing - if you push mass it is pushing you back with the same force you are exerting on it, or some such). And in magnetic weapons the force is transferred both ways through the magnetic field. I may be completely wrong of course. :D But going by that understanding of recoil, I was certain a plasma weapon wouldn't have much of it. I am certain (certain enough to bet my arm on it, but not my head :D ) that plasma is a very real and defined thing, namely super-heated gas. And gas has little mass (I'm a poet and I don't know it :D ), so pushing it forward doesn't create much recoil. I am further certain (with the same arm/head caveat) that all (or as close to all yadda, yadda :) ) the destructive energy from a plasma hit comes from the properties of the plasma (hot, hot, hot!), the kinetic energy makes little difference (tiny mass, tiny kinetic energy - adjusted for speed of course - or at least that's what I always thought). Again, I might very well just be talking out of my ass here. But that just how I always understood those things. Highschool physics education, the Discovery Channel and Wikipedia are a dangerous combination indeed :D

BTW, I just had a thought. The properties of plasma may be the key to understanding the inconsistently low Save Mod. of plasma weapons in 40K. Yes, you heard me right - the blokes at GW may have really used some actual real-world knowledge in making up their stuff :D If a plasma bolt is indeed a globule of gas, with corresponding tiny mass and kinetic energy, then it would not have very good armor piercing properties. Sure, it would burn (more like instantly boil and vaporize) the armor to some depth. But being gas and not a solid object, the plasma does not stay coherent after impact (actually, it would not stay coherent just as soon as it left the barrel - that's why its launching speed is so important: it has to reach the target before it disperses into thin air). It would not penetrate deep. Instead it would "splash" over a wider area, causing superficial damage. Well, relatively superficial. A poor IG grunt in flak would have his armor burned off and suffer terrible third-degree burns and probably die of shock alone even if not enough of his flesh would be vaporized with the hit to damage something important. But an SM hunk with a much thicker armor layer could fare much better - if he's lucky the plasma would not reach his actual body, instead sending half his armor thickness at the area of impact up in smoke. All of the above is completely wrong, of course, if the plasma bolt can vaporize stuff before it faster than it dissipates - which is a definite possibility, what with it supposedly being star-hot and all.

As to the "deadly laser" and "silent" thing... Maybe the laser is not really al that deadly in itself? It's supposed to be a sniper rifle after all. Maybe the stats assume the shooter is hitting the target in the eye or something. That way the laser could be weak enough not to heat up the air enough to produce sound, but still strong powerful enough to penetrate into the brain and kill the target... No, screw that. It could work for the rifle I think, but that still leaves us with the pistol... I have no good idea how to deal with it. Unless... Do x-rays produce heat? Maybe it's an x-ray laser? They have those in David Weber's "Honor Harrington" series. That would also deal with the flash suppression issue, as x-rays are invisible. Is an x-ray laser even possible?

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 2:42 am 
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It's not the actual laser itself that you see - it is the effect of the laser on the air it is passing through.

As the laser beam passes through atmosphere, some of the light will collide with gas particles. This will cause those particles to jump to a much higher energy level, then settle back down to their normal level, releasing light. This is called fluorescing.

This fluorescing is what you would actually see - not the laser itself. It is called a DEW line, for Direct Energy Weapon.

In space, where there is no/minimal matter to interact with, you would not actually see the laser. Unless it went straight into your eye, in which case it would be the last thing you saw, ever.

Likewise, a battlefield laser would superheat the air it passed through, causing it to expand at an incredible speed, then collapse back after the beam had passed. This would create a sharp, whip-like crack, a micro-sonic-boom of sorts.

Once again, in space there would be no sound. All the sci-fi movies ever made which have these pretty beams of laser light with their high-pitched squeal are pure artistic license. A real laser battle in space would be silent and invisible - until the beam made contact with the target.

For the needle rifle to be silent, the laser would have to be low-powered enough that there would be no super-rapid expansion. Or, at least very little.

I personally have never liked the 40k2 description of the needle rifle. At least in Necromunda they state that the damage from the needle rifle comes from the toxic dart. Needle rifles should be completely ineffectual against anything inorganic.

A laser is not a subtle weapon. And it is certainly not a good sniper weapon - every shot would literally point straight back at your position.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 11:33 am 
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Kathara Khan wrote:
Like, the gunpowder explodes and pushes the bullet out the barrel, but at the same time pushes back at the gun with the same force it takes to propel the bullet of given mass at given speed (the action-reaction thing - if you push mass it is pushing you back with the same force you are exerting on it, or some such).

Yeah, that's basically what I meant. Fire a shotgun loaded with rock salt, which weighs next to nothing, and it produces next to no recoil. Fire a shotgun loaded with a 30 gram slug, and it will kick really hard.
It's also why, despite popular misconception, rail/coil guns do have recoil. A heck of a lot of recoil if you're firing a significant projectile at ridiculous velocities.

So the reason I think a plasma gun would have significant recoil, is that if it's as powerful as it is, its projectile has to be more substantial than a mere puff of ionised gas.
Plasma is indeed very real and is used the world over in an anti-armour weapons. HEAT warheads create an incredibly powerful jet of plasma when they detonate, which bores through armour. Though if detonated and fired through the air, the jet will be ineffective against armour beyond a range of a couple metres.
Since that jet of plasma was formerly the [usually] copper lining of the shaped charge in the HEAT warhead, propelled at hypersonic speed, I reckon it probably would have significant mass. I'm not sure what's lost or gained by the copper during the conversion to plasma, but I guess the plasma jet would still have comparable mass to the liner.

So for plasma to be an effective weapon, I guess you need a lot of it, or it needs to be compressed, or it needs to be very focussed, etc.

Also, while plasma may be very hot, I imagine a brief fart of plasma would lack the necessary thermal energy to inflict significant damage. Sparks that fly off a grinding wheel while it grinds steel are extremely hot, but since thy have such small mass, they don't hold enough thermal energy to ignite clothing or burn skin. Or often, even enough to ignite an open container of petrol.
I think this is pretty much what you point out in reasoning low save modifiers for plasma weapons in 2nd edition.
I agree with what you said, and I suppose it's possible they had another bout of real-world knowledge when they made 3rd/4th edition plasma weapons the ultimate in armour save negation. Perhaps they realised HEAT warheads use plasma jets and adapted accordingly.

If the laser component of a needle rifle is powerful enough to warrant a -1 save modifier, then it's definitely powerful enough to be deadly and so make all the associated lights and sounds.
I gave needle weapons two firing modes. One where only the laser component is fired, which is comparable to the power of a las-gun. And another mode where the toxic projectile is launched with the laser, which is much shorter ranged and inflicts a lot less damage, but may deliver the projectile into the target.
In the second mode of fire, the laser isn't as powerful, but I think it is still going to far from silent. And there are definitely far better ways to quietly launch a solid projectile at a target.
Again, it's the sort of operational characteristic that only makes sense in the 40K setting, where somehow, plinking a little toxic crystal from a rifle to kill a target is more desirable, and often more effective, than just shooting a hole in the target with a proper sniper rifle that will kill reliably from over a kilometre away.

Cykotek, the needle components of needle weapons were completely ineffectual against inorganic targets, and Tyranids, in 2nd edition 40K. And if the laser component's strength 3 couldn't wound the target, then it was totally immune.

X-ray lasers are possible, and may well exist, though they should more correctly be called xasers. Ronald Ray-gun wanted to build one for his star wars program. Being of a much higher wavelength than light on the electromagnetic spectrum, and inherently dangerous, I reckon xasers probably would produce heat.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 3:02 am 
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Quote:
It's also why, despite popular misconception, rail/coil guns do have recoil. A heck of a lot of recoil if you're firing a significant projectile at ridiculous velocities.

Yeah, I remember how disappointed I was when I found that out :D

Quote:
Since that jet of plasma was formerly the [usually] copper lining of the shaped charge in the HEAT warhead, propelled at hypersonic speed, I reckon it probably would have significant mass. I'm not sure what's lost or gained by the copper during the conversion to plasma, but I guess the plasma jet would still have comparable mass to the liner.

Hm, you have a good point there. But how heavy it the liner exactly? And would a plasma bolt from a rifle be equivalent to the same size liner? I would think it would be much smaller. But then, I’m still thinking of the plasma gun as the very powerful, but not outright tank busting weapon it is in 2ed.
Wiki on plasma rifles is helpful, if you have enough trust in what it says, about ways of and difficulties in launching plasma. Recoil is never mentioned there, but I admit that it's not a strong case for its inexistence. It just doesn't fit into my head, that a plasma beam or bolt could be anything else but pure plasma, and so have significant recoil (too little mass, bla, bla). Unless we decide to make plasma weapons simply railguns firing miniaturized HEAT rounds (of the top of my head, a mini-HEAT round would be possible, you'll just need an explosive advanced enough). Which wouldn't be that bad an idea, but maybe not for 40K. Certainly, the fact that something doesn't fit in my head is absolutely no proof of it not being possible :D
And the difference between 2 and 3/4ed plasma weapons may come from them having switched their vision of them from firing plasma bolts (which would work the way I described in the earlier post) to plasma beams (more like you imagine them I think, continuous beam, penetrates deep, excellent for armor busting).

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Sparks that fly off a grinding wheel while it grinds steel are extremely hot, but since thy have such small mass, they don't hold enough thermal energy to ignite clothing or burn skin.

But they're no plasma. A plasma bolt, as light as it would be, would have more mass than a spark, and have temperatures of up to 10 to the 8 degree Kelvin. Going on gut feeling alone I would say that's more than enough to set anything afire with even the briefest contact. But gut feeling and physics do not always go in hand :D

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Being of a much higher wavelength than light on the electromagnetic spectrum, and inherently dangerous, I reckon xasers probably would produce heat.

Right, so they would boom. But they would at least still be invisible, right? Unless they were hot enough to turn air along their path into plasma (Wiki says that's possible), which would then be visible. The problem as I see it, we (more specifically me) don't know exactly how powerful a laser would have to be to kill a man and, more importantly, if a laser of such power would be powerful enough to cause a lot of noise or glow even despite being tuned to an invisible light frequency. But common sense would indicate that's very likely. I'll try to educate myself some more on the subject, but the sources available to me are not exactly the most trustworthy.

Okey, I'll stop here for a little digression - an explanation of how my head works, so you can understand why I'm often so infuriatingly hard to convince of things that seem common sense to you. We seem to have a slight difference in opinion on how plasma (and to a lesser degree laser) weapons would work. My reluctance to agree with you on some points comes from a personality flaw I possess. I like realism quite a lot, but if an idea seems cool enough to me (and plasma weapons certainly do) I'm more often than not ready to turn a blind eye to all but the (again subjectively) most outrageous reality check failures the idea suffers (like sound in a vacuum or recoilless railguns), in the name of coolness (another good example of this are giant robots). So, if I write a SF universe, I would, more often than not, go more the space opera route and allow silent and invisible laser sniper rifles, recoilless plasma guns and similar silliness, because they call to the "romantic" in me, if you know what I mean. Especially as there is somewhat of a shortage of hard data on how they would perform in the real world (at least hard data from sources I would absolutely trust). You, on the other hand, always seem to go for as much realism as possible (at least that's what I gather from reading your posts), often ridiculing the tiniest slip into silliness and squeezing a SF universe out for the last drop of accountability and realism until it screams for mercy :D I must say I often enjoy the merciless “this is stupid” analyses you inflict on 40K, even if I don’t always agree. If nothing else, they are good food for thought. So you see, we have a personality conflict. But there is no reason to make it a personal one I hope. I'm certainly enjoying the discussion so far.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 7:42 am 
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I have reconciled 'deadly laser' with 'silent' by removing the 'deadly laser' part. :D


Needle Pistol, 15 points: Encumberment 2, Moving Modifier –2, Re-load 10/45x2 *, Spread *, SFSH 5, Close Combat, 0-6” +2 / 3+3D6, 6-12” +1 / 2+3D6, 12-18” –1 / 1+3D6, 18-24” –3 / 3D6.
Low Power: Spread *, SFSH 1, Close Combat, Low Velocity, 0-6” +2 / 1+3D6, 6-12” +1 / 3D6, 12-18” –1 / 1+2D6, 18-24” –3 / 2D6. Each shot fired on Low Power uses half a normal ammunition point from an ISPP cell.
Ammo 3 points per 10 shot projectile vial, Encumberment .25 per 2, ISPP cell, 45 individual shots, 2 points per 1, Encumberment .25 per 2.
6 points per ISPP (3 cells), Encumberment .5.
A Needle Pistol may be fired when its projectile vial is empty/not loaded, or set to fire without launching a projectile.
If a target takes any damage from a Needle Pistol while it is loaded with a full or partially full projectile vial, and set to fire projectiles, they are treated as being doped as per the rules for Dart & Bolt Launchers.
* Re-load 10/45x2; after 10 shots, the weapon must be re-loaded with another projectile vial as 2 Additional actions. After 45 shots have been made, the ISPP cell must be re-loaded as 2 Additional actions.
Notes: A weapon of convoluted design and dubious tactical utility, it resembles a bulky las-pistol. The needle pistol is most commonly used as a less-lethal method of incapacitating a target, and conversely as a discreet tool of assassination. It may be fired with comparable performance to a las-pistol, or it may be switched to fire a crystallised sliver of fast-acting toxin or sedative into a target, propelled relatively silently by laser ablation acting on the base of the crystal dart, the reaction contained within the barrel, and muffled at the muzzle by a sound suppressor. The solid projectile is propelled at a sub-sonic velocity, but still has more than enough energy to kill a human target with a carelessly, or carefully, placed shot.



So when firing needles, the laser is used to propel the projectile, but never actually leaves the barrel.

With a plasma weapon, I think the amount of mass in the projectile is going to be closely related to the amount of energy it has, or how hard it hits. So a plasma weapon that hits hard is going to be launching more mass than a weaker weapon.
If a plasma weapon has a practical range and the destructive effect of a 500 gram HEAT warhead, I think the mass of the plasma it is shooting is more likely to be significant, rather than insignificant.

A note on super-hot-ness.
As I understand it, to inflict damage, simply being really hot isn't enough. The heat has to be sustained and transferred, and I don't think something with negligible mass could do a very good job of sustaining or transferring heat.

I've heard of experiments showing x-rays to be visible to the human eye, under low-light conditions. So I think it's likely that an intense, deadly, focussed beam of x-rays would be even more visible.
The exact calibration and output and all the other technical stuff that would result in a laser weapon with performance that would closely resemble that of an assault rifle (a las-gun), is beyond my knowledge as well. So I'm operating on the assumption that if it has effects comparable to an assault rifle, then it may well have side-effects comparable to an assault rifle as well. I think it's a safer assumption to make, than assuming that a laser rifle or plasma gun wouldn't have at least some associated side-effects.
So yeah, I think we agree. Side-effects are very likely. :D

As an explanation of my methodology, I'm holding things to this degree of reason and accountability simply because this is my work. There is no shortage of supposed Science-Fiction creators going about their business (and getting paid for it) seemingly oblivious to the wealth of human knowledge accumulated throughout recorded history, completely ignorant to the known facts of the real world - which I complain about endlessly. And simply put, I don't want to be a hypocrite. :P
So even when dealing with someone else's work, like the 40K universe, with its well-known flagrant disregard for the laws of physics, I have to try and meet at least half way when reconciling the established material with reason and accountability.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 1:47 am 
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Once again, a great piece of fluff for the Needler.

Quote:
With a plasma weapon, I think the amount of mass in the projectile is going to be closely related to the amount of energy it has, or how hard it hits. So a plasma weapon that hits hard is going to be launching more mass than a weaker weapon.
If a plasma weapon has a practical range and the destructive effect of a 500 gram HEAT warhead, I think the mass of the plasma it is shooting is more likely to be significant, rather than insignificant.

A note on super-hot-ness.
As I understand it, to inflict damage, simply being really hot isn't enough. The heat has to be sustained and transferred, and I don't think something with negligible mass could do a very good job of sustaining or transferring heat.

One learns something new every day. Well, that clinches it – you convinced me. Now, that I’ve had time and opportunity to “sleep on” the issue, I have no choice but to agree with you – plasma weapons do have recoil, it’s the only logical conclusion. Actually, I must say I don’t feel as bad about it as I thought I would. I would still insist that plasma pistols and rifles of the power level that I prefer to think of them as having would not need recoil compensation, but they would have noticeable recoil nonetheless, certainly bad enough that it would have to be taken into account when firing them. But more powerful, potentially tank-busting plasma guns would indeed kick so hard they’d need compensators to be worth for an unaugmented human to even bother picking up. I’d just prefer, in the WH40K context at least, for the plasmas to be powerful hero-killing guns but leave the tank-busting to meltas (for which they’d have to be modified from the current stats – I rather like the 3/4ed solution of +D6 damage at close range). But that’s a matter of personal preference.

Quote:
So even when dealing with someone else's work, like the 40K universe, with its well-known flagrant disregard for the laws of physics, I have to try and meet at least half way when reconciling the established material with reason and accountability.

Meeting halfway is good. But then, I’m naïve and actually believe in the existence of a “good” compromise – one from which both sides walk away feeling happy for the part they gained, rather than pissed off about the part they had to give up. :D Like I said, if I get to have my way I go more for “shiny” rather than “realistic”, but your approach has its own, different but not smaller, appeal. On reflection I don’t really feel like plasma and needle weapons as presented above have lost any of their coolnes factor by making more sense, just the opposite in fact. Well, I’d still prefer my lasers both deadly and silent, but you don’t always get what you want, right? What you describe works well and has the advantage of actually being realistic and making sense, for those who like such things. :P

So, I think we have a consensus (or at least something in the shape of one). I’ll hold you to your word of sometime posting the entire weapons file.

Right, maybe I’ll shut up now and allow somebody else to speak their mind, if anybody is still interested after seeing me prattle on and on. Damn, but I really talk to much. :(

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 4:33 am 
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One of the best explanations I've read for the viability of laser personal weapons in a sci-fi world went thusly (paraphrased):

The laser weapon is designed to fire an extremely powerful lase for an extremely short interval. The tremendous energy would cause explosive vapourisation on the target, and it is this explosive effect which would do the damage, causing a form of hydrostatic shock on a living thing, and sending shockwaves through inorganic material.

This would be accomplished by powering the lase with a high-power, rapid-discharge power storage device that was subsequently recharged from a more stable, but slower discharge, battery pack.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 5:02 am 
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I like that explanation. I think most people envision laser weapons instantly burning neat holes through things or slicing them in half. But realistically, to get such neat effects you'd need a lower power and a long dwell time. A laser powerful enough to instantly pierce a human, especially one wearing armour, is going to be quite messy on impact, explosively vaporising the matter it impacts with.

Something else I'd be interested to see more information on is radiation pressure, and the sort of forces that would be at work in a personal laser rifle, to determine the type and quantity of felt recoil, if anything significant.

I think my approach aims for both 'shiny' and 'realistic'. The two need not be mutually exclusive. Regardless of anything else, if something makes sense, it is inherently cooler than something that doesn't.

I'll post the file when (or perhaps if :P) I get through adding notes to all the basic weapons.

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The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity.
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