Energy Weapons

This article will set forth a description of what energy weapons are in use in Rift's Earth, how they work and what effects they create. It makes no attempt at repeating existing game mechanics, as those can be found in the Savage Rifts core rulebooks, except insofar as those mechanics have been altered for Tulcor's Savage Rifts.
 
The different kinds of energy weapons are:
  • Laser - Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. The operation of a laser is perfectly silent. Since the trigger of a laser usually provides a constant resistance followed by a hitch and then no resistance, the wielder gets positive feedback when it fires. There is usually a click sound associated with the operation of the trigger. High quality lasers like those made by Wilks have silent triggers. High quality e-clips do not make any sound when they discharge either, although cheaper e-clips do emit a sound like a capacitor discharging under a pillow. Most laser weapons use infrared light and are thus invisible to the naked eye. Because the beams are invisible and silent, hand-held laser weapons are usually equipped with infrared sights so the shooter gets confirmation that the weapon did actually fire. The highest quality sights use a holographic style display to hold an afterimage of the laser beam for a fraction of a second. This afterimage serves the purpose of a "tracer" and permits the shooter to more accurately adjust aim for subsequent shots.
  • Particle Beam - A particle beam is similar in design to a railgun, except instead of firing solid projectiles that damage due to kinetic energy, it fires a mass of atoms at high speed that penetrate the molecular structure of the target and tear it apart, superheating it at the same time. While the particles it shoots are neutrally charged when they leave the gun, they are positively charged in the barrel. These positevely charged particles are focused and propelled by electromagnetic energy just like a rail gun and then reunited with their stripped electrons before leaving the muzzle. This is the same design as a supercollider. This ionization and de-ionization of the hydrogen nuclei within the weapon creates an irrepressible zapping sound like a bug zapper. The sound of the impact of a particle beam with a target is not unlike the sound of jamming a stick or shovel deep into wet sand.
    In order to accomplish the extreme velocity and kinetic energy of the particles, the 'railgun' portion of the barrel needs to be as long as possible. This is accomplished by coiling barrel, which enables the weapons to remain portable and compact while still maximizing the barrel length, Such an option is not possible for a normal slug-throwing railgun, but is perfectly workable for a particle accelerator like this. Every manufacturer accomplishes this coiling its own way. Some coil the barrel like a helix or a spring while others coil the barrel in a spool. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.
  • Ion - An ion gun is a special kind of Particle Beam that warrants its own separate category. Like a standard Particle Beam weapon, an Ion gun strips electrons from atoms and accelerates them like a rail gun towards the target. However, rather than combining the positive charged particles with the negative charged particles at the muzzle to create a stream of neutral charged particles like a Particle Beam does, an Ion gun shoots all the ionized particles at the target in their ionized state. First they shoot out a short but massive burst of the electrons in a directional beam, followed immediately by a short but massive burst of the stripped atoms. The ionized particles interact with, ionize and collide with atmospheric particles in the air around them as they force their way through, diminishing the number that make it to the target. These interactions also limit the effective range of an ion gun and make for a very loud "ZOT" zapping sound as millions of electrons are torn from their host molecules in the air. It also tends to look like a lightning bolt. The substance of the target is literally disintegrated at the atomic level when hit, starting with the outermost layer, and becomes a dust. The impact of an ion beam sounds like a loud "wah!" This dense cloud of disintegrated atomic matter obscures the target surface and prevents ion weapons from penetrating deeply and causing more damage. Because of this, a tightly focused beam just wastes energy. To counter this, ion guns are typically designed to spread their particles across a larger surface area of the target in a shorter amount of time compared to other energy weapons that concentrate their beams on a single point for maximum penetration. This spread out effect coupled with its short range and loud retort lead to ion guns being called the "shotgun of energy weapons."
  • Plasma Ejector - Another special kind of Particle Beam that warrants its own category. Almost identical to a Particle Beam, it ionizes atoms and propels them as a rail gun would, then reunites the charge atoms with their electrons before exiting the barrel. But unlike a Particle Beam, rather than using energy to accelerate the particles to near-light speed, it instead uses it to superheat both the ionized particles and their stripped electrons. When they are reunited at the muzzle these superheated particles are at thermal equilibrium, forming a Hot Thermal Plasma instead of recombining to form neutral atoms. This hot thermal plasma is ejected at speeds slower than even a gunpowder bullet. This makes a Plasma Ejector shorter range than most conventional weapons and adapting to its more elevated ballistic path requires training, but the cohesive mass of plasma plows through the atmospheric particles that so limit a standard particle beam. The mass of cosmically hot particles causes tremendous destruction and will usually ignite whatever it hits. While the projectile itself is invisible (except in the infrared and x-ray spectra) it does leave a glowing trail of cooling particles behind it as it travels. (This trail has a rainbow sparkle character to it caused by the reduction of energy states of the various molecules that cool after it passes. Look up spectroscopy for more information on this phenomenon). A plasma ejector makes almost the same bug zapper sound as a Particle Beam weapon (a little bit more zaz than zap) and the sound of pop-rocks all along the projectile's path. The plasma makes a satisfying "PASH!" when it hits the target, followed by the equally satisfying sizzle of flammable materials burning.

Utility

The following factors affect energy weapons:
  • A Laser's effectivity is noticeably reduced in very high humidy or visually restriced atmospheres. Anything that produces a fog-like effect reduces a laser's range and damage to 1/2. Anything that eliminates the transmission of light to create a "dark" effect or eliminates visibility in the infrared spectrum will render a laser totally ineffective.
  • Particle beams rely on the kinetic energy of their particles to cause damage. But since the particles are so miniscule, they can be scattered by particles in the air just like billiard balls. Dust-storms and thick particulate smoke will reduce range and damage of particle beams by 1/2.
  • An Ion weapon uses a (non-damaging) laser to create an ionized path to the target. This laser fires a millisecond prior to the expulsion of electrons from the gun. As a result, an ion weapon is also affected by atmoshperic and visual obstructions, just not as drastically as a laser weapon. An ion gun firing without the benefit of this ionizing laser or with a 'totally ineffective' ionizing laser(as defined above under Laser weapon restrictions) will reduce its range and damage by 1/2.
  • Of all the energy weapons discussed, only the Plasma Ejector suffers from recoil effects.
Access & Availability
Lasers are relatively common in most high-tech areas and organizations and many manufacturers make lasers. Wilk's is known for making superlative laser weapons.   Particle beams (including Ion and Plasma) require more advanced manufacturing facilities. Only The Coalition States (including Quebec), and Northern Gun have the know-how to make them in North America. As a result their rarity and cost increase exponentially the farther from those two areas one travels.
Complexity
The use of Laser-reflective armor by Glitter Boys is something the The Coalition States have been working to counter. In response, they have resurrected a branch of research from the Golden Age of Man called a phase-conjugate laser system, or PC Laser. A PC Laser employs a "finder" or "guide" laser illuminating the target. Any mirror-like points on the target reflect light that is sensed by the weapon's primary amplifier. The weapon then amplifies inverted waves, in a positive feedback loop, destroying the target's mirrored regions by basically evaporating them. The entire process occurs in just fractions of a second. Obviously, the destruction and penetration of a mirror surface only occurs where the laser actually hits it and the possibility of it hitting the exact same spot again is nearly impossible in a combat setting, so regular lasers would still suffer all the same damage reduction as usual when firing at the same target. These PC lasers get their name from their phase conjugate mirror, or PCM, which is comprised of a combination of special man-made chemicals. It is this PCM that inverts the waves and sends them back to the target. It is also the PCM that makes these weapons so expensive and restricted. [Note: In a brilliant move of disinformation, the Coalition calls these "variable frequency lasers" instead of phase conjugate Lasers. And while they do technically emit varying frequencies of laser light, it is not the selection of a "correct" frequency that causes them to work as they advertise. This is a minor difference, but a difference that could potentially derail any counter-counter measures for a very long time.]


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