Roleplayer #23, May 1991

"Lasers? We don't need no stinkin' lasers!"

Ultra-Tech Slugthrowers for GURPS Cyberpunk and Space Campaigns

by C.J. Carella

Will lasers rule tomorrow's battlefield? Maybe . . . and maybe not. Described below are some projectile weapons and ammunition for futuristic campaigns. Some of them are found in science fiction, while others represent current military research. These weapons will add variety to a Cyberpunk or militaristic Space campaign. They can also form the basis for a game world where beam weapons are rare or non-existent.

TL7: Assault Rifles of Tomorrow

As the century draws to a close, several new assault rifles are on the drawing boards of military researchers. Outlined below are two existing prototypes of Advanced Combat Rifles (ACRs) currently under evaluation by the U.S. Army and NATO. Other ACR models include a M-16 variant that fires duplex ammunition (see below). These guns may be used in a Cyberpunk or Autoduel campaign set in the near future. By then, the underworld might have access to those "outdated" weapons.

Duplex Cartridge: Colt ACR

This descendant of the M-16 adds few innovations, concentrating instead on improving existing designs. It does use a novel round, the Duplex Cartridge (see below). The goal of its designers was to double the performance of the old M-16 rifle. The end result is a more accurate and reliable rifle that does not differ much from its predecessor.

This weapon can also use standard 5.56mm ammo, as per already-published stats.

Caseless Gun: The G-11

The G-11 is manufactured by Heckler & Koch. It was developed during the 1980s, and may become the new weapon of Western armies. It is designed to greatly increase hit probability, and to be used as an all-purpose weapon that can serve as an assault rifle, a submachinegun and even a light machine gun.

The rifle uses a caseless round (see p. UT17), which eliminates the need for an ejection port and makes the gun less likely to malfunction. The G-11 has three different firing modes. Besides the standard semi-auto and full auto settings, the rifle can fire a three-round burst at an extremely high rate (2,200 rounds per minute – a RoF of 36!). All three shots leave the gun before the user feels the recoil. For gaming purposes, treat this setting as a normal burst (see p. B120), with two differences. Add 3 to the attacker's skill to determine the number of hits in the burst, and there is no "automatic fire" recoil penalty for the shots within the burst. However, the recoil is still there! If the shooter fires more than one of these bursts per second, recoil penalty is doubled for successive burst. For the G-11, for instance, the first burst has no recoil penalty, the second burst has a -2, and the third has a -4.

This setting does not allow the user to "hose" targets, however (see Aiming for Successive Groups and Area Effect, p. B121). The gun can fire three bursts per turn in this setting.

Additionally, the G-11 has an integral scope, with a 3.5× magnification (+1 Accuracy for aimed shots, +3 for aimed and braced shots) for targets beyond 300 yards. The gun has a length of less than 30 inches, making it as compact as a submachinegun.

Flechette Rifle: Steyr ACR

This Austrian weapon uses saboted flechettes instead of normal ammunition (see below). Unlike most TL7 assault rifles, it does not have automatic-fire capability; instead, it fires either single shots or three-round bursts, as described for the G-11, above. The Steyr still uses normal cartridges, with a bullpup configuration that keeps the gun's length at about 30 inches.

Note that this is not the same weapon as the Steyr AUG, and ammunition is not interchangeable.

TL7-8: Exotic Ammunition

GURPS Ultra-Tech describes some types of ammunition for the slugthrowers of the future. Other ammo types will include:

Flechette Rounds: this TL7 bullet is a very thin dart encased in a sabot roughly the shape of a normal rifle round. This "flechette" should not be confused with TL8+ Flechette Guns (see below). When fired, the sabot is discarded and the dart is launched at higher velocities than normal ammunition. This round has good range and penetration. TL7 guns with flechette rounds do +1 damage for every two dice of normal damage; halve the DR of any target. After armor is penetrated, a flechette round does half damage.

Multiple Projectile Rounds: Some military gun manufacturers are currently experimenting with duplex cartridges, rifle rounds that have two slugs in them. They have occasionally been available for military rifles since the 1960s; the U.S. issued 7.62mm duplex cartridges in Viet Nam, but they have always been rare. Exotic three-slug ammunition is already being sold for revolvers.

Duplex cartridges do -1d damage but double the RoF of an assault rifle. Single shots are treated like a two-round burst; the attacker is at +1 to skill to determine the number of rounds that hit. At TL7, reduce the Malfunction number of the gun by 1, unless the rifle has been purposely designed to work with this type of round (like the Colt ACR, above). Halve the ½D and maximum ranges. Duplex cartridges, when available, will probably be Legality Class 1 or 0.

Three-projectile bullets are available for most revolver rounds at TL7; at TL8 there may be three-round cartridges for most types of pistols and submachine guns. Each slug does half the damage of a normal bullet (rounded down), and has 1/3 of the normal range for that gun. Single shots are treated like a 3-round burst, at +1 to user skill for number of hits. For automatic weapons, RoF is tripled, but the Malf. number is reduced by 2.

Ramjet Rounds (TL8): This is a bullet round that turns into a mini-rocket in midair, giving much greater range and penetration. Unlike Gyrocs (see p. UT20), a ramjet bullet cannot carry a payload. The ramjet is a bullet filled with solid rocket fuel, with an air vent up front. When the round is fired, air is forced into the vent, igniting the rocket fuel and propelling the round much faster than conventional cartridges.

A ramjet bullet is a special Armor Piercing Round. It does 1.5 times the damage of a conventional AP bullet at TL8 (for instance, a ramjet carbine round would do 9d + 9(2) damage). Damage is halved after penetrating armor. All the gun's ranges are increased by 50%. The round must travel 2 yards before the rocket fuel is ignited. Ramjet bullets are Legality Class 0.

Flechette Guns (TL8+)

These weapons fire shotgun-like cartridges; instead of pellets, however, the cartridges are loaded with tiny darts. They are most commonly used in space installations. While a bullet or laser might punch a hole in an outer wall, risking explosive decompression, flechettes are not likely to penetrate a solid target. They are also very effective against Kevlar and Monocrys armor. All flechettes have Legality Class 1; in space stations, they may be less (or more) restricted.

At TL8, flechette guns do 5d impaling; DR protects separately against each die. They are at +1 to hit. Military versions have an automatic setting; civilian weapons are semiauto only, and are Legality Class 2. They may use either chemical propellants or Gauss magnetic propulsion. A flechette cartridge is also available for TL8 grenade launchers, for use as a short-range anti-personnel round. It does 6d impaling.

At TL9, all flechette guns are magnetically propelled. They fire high-density, high speed darts with better armor penetration. Their rounds do 10d impaling; DR protects separately against each two dice. The grenade launcher round does 12d + 6, in effect six attacks doing 2d +1 each. Flechette machine-guns are often used as an anti-missile system; it is computer-operated and fires the same round as the grenade launcher, at very high rates of fire (RoF of 40+). Occasionally, the machinegun is used for antipersonnel purposes. Repressive societies often mount them in anti-riot units; against unarmored civilians it is a devastating weapon, while doing minimal property damage.

At TL10, hypervelocity flechettes do 16d+16; damage is applied against DR in four groups of 4d+4. Furthermore, DR is halved against each attack. Machine-guns do 5d+5 (2) impaling; that's the damage of each individual dart. RoF is 100+, and is almost exclusively used for point defense.

Hypervelocity Guns (TL10)

At TL10, magnetic acceleration allows hand-held weapons to shoot projectiles at almost relativistic speeds. At those velocities, even a relatively small projectile has both great penetration and damage. The speed that allows these weapons to defeat heavy armor also cause massive hydrostatic shock in human beings. The results are not pretty.

These weapons fire small missiles; thus, they can hold large amounts of ammunition. Even heavy ordnance weapons like portable railguns carry as many shots as a TL7 assault rifle. Hypervelocity guns can hold their own against most beam weapons, and are not affected by the countermeasures that work against lasers. The fact that they do not use chemical propellants makes them immune to chemscanners.

Crystal Guns: This civilian weapon is designed to insure maximum lethality on unarmored humans or animals while keeping penetration of walls and armored personnel to a minimum. They are popular aboard starships. Crystal guns (crysguns for short) fire magnetized crystal beads at hypersonic speeds. The beads do massive damage to human flesh – a torso shot is almost always lethal; limb shots usually cripple the target. The beads do 8d damage; damage is multiplied by 2.5. The DR of any armor is multiplied by 2 against this weapon. Furthermore, the beads will not penetrate any target with rigid armor greater than DR 20, or any solid wall with more than 3 DR; the glass bead shatters against those targets, doing 1d-4 cutting to any person within 2 yards of impact. Crystal guns are legality Class 2. Automatic versions exist; they have RoF 12 and legality Class 1.

HV-Guns: Hypervelocity guns fire metal slugs at enormous speeds. They offer almost as much penetration as a solid burst from an X-ray rifle. HV-guns come in two sizes; both do the same amount of damage. HV machine pistols are assigned to pilots, vehicle crews and officers; these guns are as easy to conceal as a TL7 heavy pistol (-1 to Holdout), which also makes them the preferred weapon of assassins and Special Ops soldiers. HV rifles have greater range, rate of fire, and ammo capacity. HV guns do 2d × 8 (2) damage.

If the gun penetrates a metal wall (the side of an armored car, for instance), it will cause fragmentation when it comes out, due to its high speed: 1d-2 cutting in a 3-yard radius. Inside a vehicle, this fragmentation can damage systems and injure the crew.

Portable Railgun: Portable railguns (R-guns for short) are anti-vehicle weapons. R-guns are kinetic-kill weapons that fire a dense 15mm metal ball. This round does 5d x 10 (2) damage. When penetrating a metal obstacle, the R-gun will cause fragments to fly around a 10-yard area, doing 2d cutting damage.

Raygun Control

The weapon descriptions from Space and Ultra-Tech assume that after TL9 beam weapons will become the pre-dominant and eventually the only type of small arm available. But this need not be the case. GMs may wish to deviate from the traditional "ray-gun" view of future weaponry, and some fictional backgrounds also disregard lasers and stay with the tried-and-true missile weapon. From the thrown stone to the ICBM, an object propelled with lethal intent still remains the ranged weapon of choice.

There are plenty of reasons for the unavailability of man-portable beam weapons at any tech level. At TL7, lasers exist, but the energy requirements for a beam that will wound or kill a man at a distance are so enormous that an antipersonnel weapon could only be mounted in a large vehicle – and it would still be less effective than a light machine gun.

Suppose that it proves impossible to power hand beam-weapons. Either power sources are too unstable or vulnerable (who wants a pocket antimatter generator to go critical while you are holding it?), or they are too massive. lasers and particle beams could still be used as anti-missile measures, for anti-satellite weaponry, or in large starships. Beam weapons may also be present among artillery weapons, but even if the problems above did not exist, they would never completely replace missiles or even cannon; beam weapons have too straight a trajectory to hit anything beyond the horizon. On a planet, that is too short a distance; missiles with mass and low velocity (so they can follow the planetary curvature instead of shooting into space) will still be necessary.

Even if beamed power is available, that would mean having all or most of the weapons of an infantry unit depend on a distant generator, one that can break down, or even worse, that can be targeted and destroyed by the enemy. Military strategists will probably not like that risk.

Alternatively, the GM might wish to populate the galaxy with varied star-spanning civilizations with different weaponry. Maybe the Kronin have developed laser weapons, but the Terran Federation's marines rely on hypervelocity rifles and portable railguns, or vice versa. If slugthrowers can keep up with beam weapons in terms of lethality, efficiency and reliability, someone will be using them.


Advanced Assault Rifles

Colt ACRVer.Cr.4d11122502,0001024*309-11,00017
Steyr ACRVer.Cr.4d+4(2)11116004,00098249-12,00017

Flechette Guns

TL8 F-gunCrit.Imp.5d10875350105*1211-21,00018
TL9 F-gunVer.Imp.10d10101005001082010-21,20019
TL10 F-gunVer.Imp.16d+169111256501082510-11,200110

Hypervelocity Guns

Crystal GunVer.Spl.8d983001,0003-320/C801,500210
HV-PistolVer.Cr.2d × 8(2)9111,0003,000312100/C902,000110
HV-RifleVer.Cr.2d × 8(2)10122,0005,0001016200/D903,000110
R-gunVer.Cr.5d × 10(2)13153,50010,00015-320/D11-110,000010

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