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Upgrading "traditional" hand weapons?


I would first like to begin by saying that I have been out of the Traveller scene since the mid 80's. I dropped out because of lack of interest with my other friends. I continued to game through most of collage until the early 90's. After graduating, I stopped altogether. Three years ago I became friends with a group of guys that were gamers and began to play again. Three months ago I discovered with some delight that Traveller was alive and kicking. I purchased most of the GURPS system of Traveller, and have repurchased many of the older CT stuff from ebay. I will probably pick up the second printing of T20 in when it is released this September. Mega Traveller, The New Era, and T4 were all completely new to me. I am not familiar with these other versions of Traveller, so forgive me if this post sounds like old news. In GURPS version of Traveller, the concept of gigantic clumsy ship computers growing in size as capacity and tech level increased had been "fixed" from the 70's technological era that Traveller was born from. However, personal weapons hadn't changed much at all. I am currently preparing to restart my Traveller Campaign due to launch January 2004. I do not intend to use classic Traveller weapons for the "standard" tech level of 12 (10 in GURPS). My reasoning does not fly in the face of traditional "hard science" concepts so prevalent in the Traveller universe, but actually reinforces the notion.
If a Car Phone morphed from a large clumsy heavy box in the early 80's, into a ultra thin digital phone with 10 times the capacity and range, with all the bells and whistles like internet and digital photography, within only 20 years, how can a laser rifle maintain the same huge battery pack the size of a backpack over hundreds or even thousands of years?
I think it is because of some sacred untouchable elements of the game that are still stuck in 70's technology. The "typical" laser weapon with an extension cord to a backpack will still exist in my version of the Traveller universe, but only at the tech level where it was first developed, 8 or 9. Anything after that, and the size of the power pack "battery" will dramatically decrease. This is the my idea of reduction in size of the power pack.
Backpack (100 shots) to hip pack (100 shots) to belt pack (40 shots) to large clip in front of trigger guard (10 shots) and finally to standard clip inside the pistol grip (20 shots) at "standard tech level" 12/10.
The same can be said for plasma guns. The typical Imperial Marine with PGMP's and FGMP's with their devastating exploding burst of energy will still be in play. But those are like vehicle weapons, only used with Battle dress. Smaller versions with much less damage will appear in my campaign. Because the mechanics of the weapon force plasma down a tight magnetic beam, the range will be very limited, say 50 meters for hand guns, and 100 meters for long guns. Those are the absolute limits that the "magnetic bubble" constraining the plasma can be maintained. At that extream range, the plasma will then discharge into a puff of energy. Anything in the hex will take 1/4 damage. Damage will be only slightly higher than laser weapons, but range will very short in comparison. The power cell "battery" will fit inside the grip and be virtually identical to a laser, but the fuel cell (used to create the plasma) will be a separate "clip". This could attached horizontally under the barrel, like a pump shot gun, or hang down in front of the trigger guard like another large clip. A typical plasma hand gun will be able to discharge 10 shots before both "clips" need to be replaced. A long gun may have up to 20 shots with only a slight increase in damage over the hand gun. These weapons will provide a "mid range" energy weapon between the good old fashioned laser and the devastating Marine weapons.

Ships weapons.
What happened to pulse lasers on ships? Is it only GURPS that dropped them?
If a marine can blast troops with a PGMP or FGMP on the surface of any world, why can't larger versions work as ships weaponry in the vacuum of space?
Are plasma or fusion cannons part of other Traveller game systems?

Anyway, this post is long enough.
I would really appreciate any input positive or negative. If anybody has any good ideas they have used in the past or if some of these other Traveller game systems have already addressed this question, please let me know.
Thanks in advance for any and all input.
It's good to be back among Traveller fans.
Jak Naz
Welcome back to Traveller. I only just got back myself, well, recently, anyway. The "advancement of technology" issue is alive and kicking. Go to it! You have lots of people who think like you, and you will find plenty of people to argue with. My 0.02Cr on the issue of handheld weapons: I note that the lethality of weapons used by MOST criminals in the US basically stopped increasing with the tommy gun used in the 1920s. Though more criminals have guns now, a .45 caliber submachinegun is as deadly or more so than the assault rifles used today (though it's got a shorter range and is less user friendly in many ways).

I think that in similar fashion, Traveller assumes that the lethality of non-military weapons will "max out" at a certain point.
Yes, welcome back to Traveller :D

I think you'll find a lot of to-and-froing on these boards about what will happen to this, or that in the future. Some will diagree with you, some will agree. But definitely bring the subjects up.

IMTU, we tend not to use lasers much, other than on ships weaponry. Our thinking is along the lines that a bullet will kill you just as good as a laser bolt. And laser guns can be ruined by an EMP device. :(

As for developments etc... of all the weapons I've fired, I still count the best/sturdiest and just plain kick-buttiest to be the MkIII Lee Enfield .303 rifle, which dates back to the Boar War of the late 19th Century.....

Don't know if this helps at all, but its my .02ImpCr.. ;)
Just my 0.02 CR....

Projectiles beat out lasers, in most cases. Why? a slug isn't stopped by a bit of smoke or an anti-laser aerosol. Lasers can't usually(1) manage autofire. Lasers are big and clunky (something you address). Lasers are probably more fragile. They also are degraded by atmosphere. They do come with accuracy pluses, good zero-G performance, good zero-P performance as long as the weapon is designed for the temperatures involved, and inbuilt 'target pointer'. Most of us prefer gauss rifles, shotguns, and gauss pistols to lasers. Lasers also can be stopped by tinfoil thin reflec, whereas to stop a gauss rifle round, you need to wear some bulky armour.

Plasma guns and Fusion guns are nice, but very indiscriminate. Not useful around civilians or poorly armoured friendlies even. They also probably are a bear to cart about if you don't have Battle Dress.

Modernization of traveller small arms would come with more types of ammo, sights, and some more advanced features (for things like slug throwers) such as Glock style trigger safeties, MetalStorm like multi-barrell high-rate or variable ammo type weapons, on board mini-GLs, etc. (Who fixes a grenade onto the end of a rifle today?)

X-ray lasers might be okay as they are unlikely to be stopped by smoke, though reflec is still a problem. But for most applications, a good slug is still an adventurer's best friend.
I'm going to base my comments on the following:
Fire, Fusion, and Steel, 1st Edition (for TNE) and 3G3 (Guns, Guns, Guns). FFS was based partly on 3G3, which is the premiere tool for designing realistic weapons. Here's a link for more info:


I used to have one of each of these, but they are MIA, and I'm looking at getting replacments. My FF&S book was worn out anyway. My 3G3 book was lost a long time ago.

Anyway, each kind of weapon has its advantages and disadvantages. "Pulse" and "Beam" lasers were dumped because there's really no sense in trying to differentiate them. You can keep your beam on something, but it's going to do a LOT less damage, and probably none at all, compared to a pulse of energy. Rapid-fire pulse weapons chew up so much energy that you simply can't power them! So a middle ground had to be reached.

TNE lasers have a low rate of fire. They charge, until they get to a specified energy level (measured in Mj (megajoules)) and then they fire. The standard laser ROF was about once every 3 minutes, but you could make them fire every 18 seconds if you were willing to risk them overheating and self-destructing.

You could then spend a LOT of space and money to get even higher ROFs, as high as you'd like, but for every doubling of ROF, you have to double the size of the laser, so it would stay cool. This meant that for really high ROFs, like once a second or even 1000 times a second, you had to live with really lousy output levels OR really huge lasers. An interesting tradeoff.

The initial release of FFS saw plasma and fusion weapons ghastily overpriced and underpowered. A Challenge article (in #76?) revised this, making plasma and fusion weapons worth something. BUT, they are not really space-based weapons. They diffuse in a hurry, and even a 500 Mj weapon (truly enormous) wouldn't have a range more than a few dozen km, IIRC.

Using these thigns on spacecraft has NEVER been a good idea in ANY edition of Traveller, as far as I know. Blast radius, coupled with good change to hole the hull, and I think you'd find out real quick why it was a bad idea.

Pound for pound of weapon, CPR guns (the kind popular today) are the smallest and most efficient. You can pack a hellacious whollop into a bullet, and your gun doesn't have to be all that big to do it. An equivalent Gauss weapon would be at least twice as big. (Strangely, tiny, sub-sonic gauss weapons are capable of being REAL small, even better than CPR guns in this regard, but that's just a weapon that does 1 or 2 points of damage.)

There are so many designs of CPR guns, and adding ETC to one can make it quite powerful. Unfortunately, the design system of FFS couldn't handle extremely high-powered weapons very well, in my opinion. It didn't mesh well at al with the small caliber "guns", those things that were 20 mm or bigger. (A 20mm rifle and a 20mm gun had radically different stats.)

CPR guns have a maximum bullet velocity of about 1500 m/s. You have to lead a target with them pretty far if they're fast.

Gauss gun slugs can go up to 6000 m/s, which means you don't have to lead the target as much. Maximum effective range is still limited by human capability, though.

A laser makes a wonderful Anti-personnel weapon, if they're not armored. Forget it if they are. No need to lead for these things. Spacecraft lasers are big enough (a lot of Mj's) that they are very good at getting through armor, and for thick armor, a 100 Mj laser does a better job than a 100 Mj particle accelerator.

Plasma (and fusion) require a lot of support equipment. They're HOT, baby! You can't fire them very frequently, maybe once a round, and they're big. Their stats are oriented toward anti-vehicle, and because TNE seems in my opinion to have screwed up by trying to make a seperate system for vehicle and personnel combat, it's hard to see what a plasma gun can really do. Plasma travels at about 8000 m/s, by the way, meaning even less lead time for targets.

Particle accelerators, in FFS1, had no listed bottom limits. You could theoretically design one into a rifle, but why waste your time? They won't do anything at that size. PAWS need to be huge to do anything. Even bays were useless until TL-14 or so, and even then, why not just make it spinal and go ahead and penetrate enemy armor? Meson Guns used almost the exact same design scheme, but you know what THEY'RE good for. Higher tech weapons (Disintigrators, Jump projectors, Jump Dampers) aren't covered.

Nuclear Dampers are handled differently, to a degree. You have area-effect devices, and short range beams.

Well, your original question about gun sizes getting to be 1000 times smaller doesn't really hold water. There's only so much energy you can pack into a small space. If you're going to hold Plasma cartridges, that's about 1-4 Mj apiece you're holding, and do you have any idea what happens to YOU if some one shoots one? That's right, you make a BIG boom! And the crater you leave behind won't have even a trace of the look that was on your face when you saw that HE round come in and hit you at just the wrong time.

FFS allows for higher TLs to give us more powerful sources of power, but unless you've at least looked at non classic Traveller, you'll have little idea about this progression of energy generation.

Having a ton of energy is onething, but surviving shooting it off at someone else is something else! FFS unfortunately didn't stipulate better weapons materials, but you're not going to get a big improvement over steel anyway. Getting rid of all the waste heat you generate is not something to sneeze at.

In short, weapons are not going to get too much smaller over time. Yes, smaller, but not a lot. Say maybe half the sizes you can see today, or put another way, twice as powerful for the same size. Guns will also always have to conform to human limitations. Hands, ability to hold them and aim them accurately... longer weapons allow for more accuracy, if you can't use an aiming laser or such, because it would give away your position.
A big advantage of the lasers is the fact that their powerpacks can be recharged. This will make resupply of the troops easier (from a military point of view). This may not matter much for PC:s, but when you manage supply for an large military unit, transport is always limited.
A big advantage of the lasers is the fact that their powerpacks can be recharged.
This may not matter much for PC:s, but when you manage supply for an large military unit, transport is always limited.
That's an excellent point MK. Yeah, that got me really thinking. Especially if you consider the long times in jump, it'd make re-supply a real bummer (unless you can get a local supplier)...
This is a great topic, and one I've wrestled with for years. I finally made my peace with the way things work in the game for a few reasons:

1) There are finite limits on what you can do, even by TL15, regarding battery packs, optics, etc.

2) As a GM, I need to have some way to penalize characters for carrying their BFG-9000 around. I don't want my players lugging a laser rifle that does a buttload of damage into every situation. I enforce this with legal hassles and bulk. If my laser rifles go from 10Kg to 4Kg with no battery pack, the character is much more likely to ignore the law and just carry a laser rifle under his coat. I want this to be a very poor option. Players are like small children; you have to constantly teach them right from wrong or they will go terribly, tragically wrong.

Now, that said, you can justify smaller energy weapons in a lot of ways. One way not mentioned is to do away with the battery completely. Use a chemical round to generate the pulse. A small cartridge just like in a slug thrower fires, and a small power unit converts the heat and pressure of the discharge into electricity, which is in turn converted into your laser pulse. Suddenly, you've got a laser weapon that takes a regular old magazine, just like your ACR. Make it as small as you want.
I rember how down everyone was on Chemical lasers when the first came out in traveller, Now the Air Force is building a 767 contained one to shoot missle with.
I think that would be one of the best ways to up grade tradional weapons. Up grade the ammo. What about a snub pistol that fires 10mm rockets, you could shoot around corners, all kinds of things, and you could make the ammo backward compatible. take the tl 15 ammo to a tl 9 world and make a killing....
I've done some T20 stuff.

Batteries do get smaller and more powerful at a higher TL. I've based my laser weapons on the design sequence rules that show TL14 batteries as being 1/10 the size of similar power TL9 batteries. It simply doesn't make sense for man-portable lasers to be introduced at TL8 and reach their peak at TL12 when every other electronic device gets smaller and more powerful at higher TLs. Lasers are just a bunch of electronic components, and will improve as batteries and other components get smaller. I've done some other weapons also, and I've always tried to keep game balance in mind with my designs.

Keeping laser weapons primitive in design makes no more sense than saying that firearms reached their peak with the introduction of flintlock muskets.

Lasers are just a bunch of electronic components, and will improve as batteries and other components get smaller
Not to mention the new methods of generating lasers. or simply storing the light energy. Why should TL 15/16 lasers still be DEI, They already mention Chemical Laser Cartridges, or some form of Suspended Light to store light energy.
What about Smart weapons, Micro rockets for example, employ a remote target designator,drones or maybe even a simple baseball sized object that can be thrown to give a remote veiw of and area and shoot around corners, What about being able to shoot lasers around a corner maybe some Gravity Bombs
How about counter measures? Some examples might include: anti laser aerosols, counter EM fogs, fiber optic armor, RF jaming to hinder smart weapons.
Reflec Armor will certainly be more common if lasers are used by more people.

The design rules in just about all versions of Traveller show that batteries improve at higher Tech Levels. Why anyone would think that TL9 battery packs were the ultimate in battery technology for laser weapons is beyond me. In some versions, you can make a fusion power pack smaller than the TL9 batteries that puts out more energy than they do.


I've noticed that too. I guess you could make the arguement that the backpack is needed to vent waste heat, but still what about CLC's or Suspened Lighht Lasers? If you extend this idea you can have all kinds of weapons that fire a pregenerate charge, For instance a Suspended Plasma Gun. It has Rounds that have a plasma charge supsened in them.
What IS a "suspended light" laser? From the sound of it, I would expect that, you fire a laser into a contraption that captures the beam, and then you let it out a little at a time as you need it, kind of like it's a battery.

If that's the case, it won't work unless there is some kind of superconductive coil for light, something that prevents loss. Even a 99% reflective mirror (IIRC the best mirror is a little less than that), or a 99.9999% mirror (1 ppm loss) is going to lose its "charge" in a hurry, like within a second or so.

If your container was a foot long, it would take about 1 millisecond to lose the "charge". Light travels about a foot per nanosecond, that times 1,000,000 is still 1/1000th of a second. (It would be a bit longer, of course, but I didn't feel like doing a whole progression. Nonetheless, a second later, your beam is lost.)

I kind of like the TNE way of doing the cartridges; you simply choose an EPG/HPG of the appropriate type. Want a fusion blast? Choose the fusion cartridge, because the plasma cartridge isn't going to get hot enough. Want a laser? Any of them will do, but CLCs will do the job more efficiently (smaller cartridge for a given blast).

Only thing I'm not so sure about is power storage density. It seems to me that an HPG (Well, I think of them as ANYthing that stores power, from simple capacitor to superconductive coil to flywheel) should hold more power than it does. Maybe there's a game balance issue, but I think the idea of having a superconductive loop to power your laser gun is pretty attractive. No moving parts (no maintenance), very low heat waste, no noise, and there's no limit to charge and discharge rates (except the gear you hook up to it). Need a massive discharge? No problem. And it doesn't wear out from odd use either.

The idea works well on spacecraft as well. Build your weapons to fire at high rates, give them plant power to fire at basic rates, and then give them enough battery or HPG power to fire at the high rate for a couple turns of combat. You're likely to survive only a couple turns anyway, so why waste all that space with a giant reactor? You'd use something rechargeable because using EPGs would give you an ammo-expenditure to worry about, and that wastes space and requires resupply, whereas a loop simply needs to be recharged when not in battle, or can be charged up right before one if you know it's coming and you don't want to have a full-juice capacitor sitting, waiting to get tagged by some stray piece of space junk.

The question of new techniques is a good one. Some one mentions seeker warheads and EW (Electronic Warfare), and when it comes down to it, we cannot add too much of this kind of stuff, because it takes away from what Traveller is: modern world set in the future. Traveller is simple and appealing because it is reachable by the masses. Add too much crap, and it turns into D&D. What's to stop some one from using a stealth missile with a NMR seeker to home in on your tooth filling? How do you protect yourself from all that stuff out there?

A D&D GM can wave his hand and say some wizard some where does whatever the GM needs to have happen. Traveller requires the GM to at least use concepts that are readily understandable to real life people, and DOESN'T require you to read 50 books' worth of magic spells and monsters and prestige classes and all that crap just to know what's going on in one session. But if you add superweapons, then there's ALWAYS some way a GM can wave his hand and let any random stupid thing happen, and requires the player to be thoroughly familiar with the game world before he can really play a single session.

Think of it this way: You're playing some game you've never played before, like Attack! , and the person explaining it to you just expects you to take your turn, and barely takes the time to tell you what you can and can't do, and doesn't let you read the rulebook. How do you get a feel for the game? How do you win? How do you avoid getting clobbered by some non-obvious rule?

Now, I'm not saying D&D (or Traveller) GMs intentionally prevent you from learning the rules, I'm simply saying that there are way too many for the casual gamer to learn, and until he becomes something of a zealot himself, he's never going to spend the weeks required to get the firm grasp on how to play well. He's constantly going to have evil players and nasty GMs screw his character. Sure, he'll learn, but is he really going to want to play again? And if you're too nice, isn't he going to think it's a boring game?

Well, that's beside the point. The point is, don't bog down the rules too much by throwing in nano-D, extra-mobile seeker pistol bullets, sub-C projectiles, and excessive cyberizations. Keep the world familiar, and also keep as many "natural laws" as you can so you can remain compatible with the future when it changes. Leave the gearheading to the gearheads, behind the scenes. Don't make casual gamers deal with all that crap.
It could work. read and article in Popular mechanics about someone using a crystal to slow light to 127 MPH.
Chemical... hmmm. Now that's a great idea! Outside the shear/pure physics to mathematically prove the science could work in a sci-fi setting, it could be a great expression of how "blasters" work. If you watch The Empire Strikes Back", there are several scenes on the cloud city, and again on the jungle moon, that you can actually see empty shells ejecting from the hero's plasters. This was probably an oversight on editing, but imagine a single cartridge with enough chemicals to create both the tracking laser, and plasma bolt, while a "battery" in the grip provides the energy for the magnetic field to focus and contain the plasma. Once the shot has been fired, the spent cartage is ejected...
hmmm.... very interesting...
Thanks for all the input.
Now back to my job... :-(