Monday, January 10, 2011

Some Thoughts on Blasters

In rounding up photos of the various Star Wars blasters for my weapon/gear sourcebook, I've noticed something that has always kind-of been at the back of my mind, but I've never really dealt with in a game setting. It seems to me that in Star Wars, almost all blasters- even down to some of the tiniest hand-held ones (like the Scout-Trooper blaster), have scopes. While I realize this was probably just done to make them look more 'sci-fi' as props, it leaves open the question as to what the 'in-universe' reason for these scopes are.

To me, it seems to suggest that blasters- no matter what their size, have a much longer range than slug-throwing 'real world' counterparts- at least when it comes to pistols. The scopes are there to allow the shooter to aim at distant targets.

Now, that having been said, I can't think of too many firefights in my own RP campaign that took place at long range. But even so, I think that I am going to reflect this longer range in the game statistics for blaster weapons. It is yet another reason that they are superior to slug-throwers.

And when considering range, it also got me thinking about blaster bolts themselves. Do they 'drop' over distance? If not, how would they 'stop'? They can't just keep going forever. Not being the least bit interested in real physics (which would probably disprove the functionality of blasters anyway), I have decided that in my game, blaster bolts do not 'drop' over distance- rather, they fly on a completely flat trajectory and when they reach their maximum range, they simply dissipate- the bolt breaks up and disappears. I think this is a more 'plausible' explanation (and yes, I realize the irony of applying plausible to something completely fictional)- because blasters seem to fire 'bolts' of plasma, not laser beams. A laser would dissipate over distance as well, though it would likely take the form of a reduction in damage the further the firer was from his target. At close range, it might burn through something, but at extreme range it might just give them a nasty blister. Perhaps this is why laser weaponry is not seen in star wars, in favor of blasters? It's one explanation, anyway.

Anyway, just some musings.


  1. Blasters are definitely not lasers. In the movies, they have recoil, which a laser would not. I like the plasma bolt explanation. Steady energy until it reaches end of life, then it decays quickly or something like that. Sounds good.

    Also, a scope on a blaster would be more useful than on a slug thrower. With the bolt's flat trajectory as you were saying, there's no need to compensate for drop or wind or anything else that affects a physical bullet, which means a person doesn't have to be an expert sniper to really make a scope useful over long range. If it's sighted in at 25 yards, it's sighted in at 1000 yards or whatever the range of the weapon is.

  2. Oh, also the plasma bolt explanation gives a longer barrel more accuracy, just like in a rifle - except instead of rifling, the blaster's barrel would have magnetic coils or something to make sure the bolt's trajectory was right on. Longer barrel, more coils, better accuracy at long range.

    That could be an explanation for the bolt not going on forever. As the bolt flies, it 'spreads' a bit. Eventually this spreading causes it to lose cohesion, then it 'falls apart' and dissipates, like you suggested. Longer barrels could make the bolt hold together longer, thus increasing range.

    OK, I'm going to stop now, before my ears start growing points. Dang it! Too late!

  3. My old gaming group and I brought in a very large range of firearms, primarily due to a friend who absolutely loved firearms. While we did have some that had awesome damage output, we also tried to keep them toned down compared to "Galactic Standards." The blaster was the norm and was the advancement over bullets and such. I have to agree that a blaster would benefit from a scope far more than a slugthrower. Our homebrew stats made a blaster's range almost triple to what a slugthrower was.

    Just my two cents.

  4. Yeah, in working out a unified set of stats for weapons (as opposed to the mish-mash you get in the various Star Wars RPG supplements), I have tried to keep in mind that blasters ARE the norm, and that there should be a reason why that is so. Therefore, I'm trying to make it so weapons have a trade off. There are heavy projectile weapons which do more damage than a typical blaster, but have the restriction of limited ammo (compared to blasters) and, of course, limited penetration of armor (when using non-armor-piercing rounds). To my mind, at least, all these small detriments really keep projectile weapons 'in their place' in the Star Wars galaxy. They may be fun for PCs or NPCs as specialty things, but overall, there is a reason they aren't used when blasters are more readily available.