Friday, May 7, 2010

The Ubiquitous Laser Cannon

I understand that Star Wars is a 'Space Opera', not hard science fiction. In fact, that's why I love it so much. I also understand that the RPG rules for Star Wars are an extension of this philosophy of drama and excitement over the cold hard laws of physics. But even in my opera, I like to inject a little bit of 'realism' in my dramatic license.

One case in point is the term 'laser cannon' as it refers to the weapons carried by various starfighters and ships. Almost all ships carry these—usually linked in groups of two to four. And for the most part (even in West Ends world of wacky stats), they always did about the same damage, no matter what ship they were on. Dual laser cannons did 5D, Quad did 6D. On the surface, at least, it seemed to make sense.

And then I muddled right into the middle of it with my size-comparison 'study'. The illustration included in this post represents a rough approximation of the sizes of the various Rebel starfighters to eachother. The green circles indicate the various mounted laser cannons. You will notice a rather significant size difference in the various representations of these laser cannons—especially in the X-Wing (with significantly larger cannons—fig. A) and the A-Wing (with significantly smaller—fig. B). I know some of this can be explained away as being different models or configurations—but I just plain don't buy that one of the X-Wing's cannons does the same amount of damage as one of the A-Wing's.

Also problematic is the fact that the B-Wing's primary laser cannon (the lower of the guns in the circle—fig. D), is supposed to do 7D damage—more damage with just one canon than all four of the X-Wing's guns firing in concert. I suppose I could just shrug all of this off, but remember, I AM a geek, and I do tend to get anal(hyphen)retentive from time to time.

There are a couple of extenuating factors in all of this that could 'explain away' some of the apparent discrepancies. The first of these is that in the A-Wing, Y-Wing and B-Wing, a good portion of the laser cannon's functional hardware could be housed within the skin of the craft (this is shown to be the case with the Y-Wing at least, in the 'incredible cross-sections' books). Why couldn't the A-Wing have something similar- its 'power core' housed inside the craft, with the small barrels only being part of the whole. Same with the B-Wing and its heavy gun. Another fact could simply be more advanced materials. The A-Wing's guns are more compact, but offer the same punch—but maybe they're twice as expensive as the simpler Y-Wing lasers. In any case, there are things I've considered when revamping the stats.

What I have come up with thus far is still in a bit of flux (as of this post), but seems to be working a little better (for me at least):

The X-Wing's laser cannons get bumped up to being HEAVY laser cannons. Firing in concert, they would do 7D damage now instead of 6D.

The Y-Wing, with most of its cannons housed under its cowling, would have dual HEAVY cannons instead of the regular ones, thus giving it a 6D punch instead of 5D. The smaller twin-cannon (ion) over the cockpit remains unchanged.

The A-Wing's teeny lasers are classified as standard 5D Damage, partially because they are more modern designs, partially because some of their machinery is housed under the fighter's cowling—thus the cannon we see is just the 'tip'.

The B-Wing is the biggest change, requiring, in my opinion, a complete revamp. It's original energy-weapon loadout consisted of three fire-linked ion cannons (one on each wingtip, one in the gun-pod at the tip of its 'wing'), one heavy laser cannon (in the gun-pod) and a few chin-mounted blaster cannons (under the cockpit).

My proposed B-Wing revamp gives it three fire-linked HEAVY laser cannons (with a combined damage of 6D+2), three fire-linked ion cannons (the smaller weapons that seem to exist alongside the wingtip cannons), and two LASER cannons mounted under the chin (though the latter seem kind of pointless—still, those DO look like guns under the chin, so...).

Anyway, that's where I am at the moment with this particular madness. What do you think?


  1. I have issues with the entire design of the B-Wing. All of the other fighters' stats are relevant to their roles:

    The Y-Wing (a bomber) is slow with heavy armor and decent shields, and lots of firepower, especially for its time.

    The X-Wing, which is the multi-role fighter, is a good mix: Good armor and shields, good firepower, decent speed, but not incredible at anything. It's just a good, all-around fighter that can do whatever needs to be done reasonably well. Yes, its firepower is comparable to the Y-Wing's, but the Y-Wing is an older ship, and was nearing obsoletion even in Ep. IV.

    The A-Wing is the first interceptor we see, and it's good at it. Very fast, highly maneuverable, ok firepower, light hull and shields... It's a cockpit and a couple of laser cannons strapped to two really big engines, just like an interceptor should be.

    Enter the B-Wing, which is supposed to be a bomber-type ship. It's slow, alright, and has the maneuverability of a brick. But the hull is pathetically weak in contrast to its lack of ability to avoid being hit, and the shields aren't much better. Add on top of that the weapon suite: One pilot, four different sets of weapons that he has to juggle (with the main laser cannons and the chin guns being totally redundant and unnecessary), while desperately attempting to avoid being blown out of the sky in his sluggish, paper-thin-hulled ship. I'm sure most of this is WEG's infamous lack of coherency in creating stats for... well, everything. But what they came up with for the B-Wing makes it pretty useless. Yes, it's got a lot of firepower, but that doesn't do any good if you don't survive long enough to use it. At the very least it needs a thicker hull and better shields. It definitely doesn't need the chin guns under the cockpit, and I also question the need for it to have ion cannons. The job of the B-wing is to blow big, gaping holes in the hulls of capital ships, not to disable smaller ships that it has no hope of keeping up with anyway. You could make an argument that it might be called in to disable freighters or what have you, which tend to be slower and less maneuverable than even our B-Wing, but that's something of an edge case that I don't think warrants influence in the design of an entire line of ships. If a B-Wing can hit a ship with its ion cannons, there's a good chance any capital ships in the area can hit them with a tractor beam just as easily. I say drop the ions and the chin blasters, use that space and power for better shields, and thicken up the hull so it can survive a run and return to base successfully. Then you'd have a workable design.

  2. So, Steve...tell us how you REALLY feel about the B-Wing? ;) Yeah, it is a a little bit of bantha poo-doo, aint it? I am going to revamp it a little, as I said. To at least make it functional. I did a whole post on this bugger a while back- but to reiterate the main point from that:

    It isn't that I don't feel that the good guys can do no wrong. It isn't that I don't think rebel techs could come up with bad ideas or a ship that just doesn't work. Lord knows governments around the world have turned out crappy designs. The difference here is, the Rebellion has VERY limited resources. So if they did design something that was crap, they simply couldn't afford to 'make it anyway'. It isn't as though anyone was making a profit on building B-Wings. The fact that they were produced and used seems to suggest they were of value. In fact, in my re-design, I intend to make them as they were envisioned, able to take and dish out substantial punishment. Their performance is going to be high—but at the cost of being a nightmare to maintain (there always has to be a trade off on these kind of things).