Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top 10 Star Wars Super-Weapons

The ‘super-weapon’ is a core aspect of the Star Wars saga. The Death Star is one of the most memorable visual icons of the series. But the Death Star wasn’t the only super weapon to exist in the Star Wars universe. Below are some of my personal ‘favorites’.

10. Shawken Device

Introduced in the Marvel Star Wars comics, this superweapon appears on this list because of the sheer scope of its intended purpose. Built by a nihilistic scientist on the remote world of Shawken, the device was intended to destroy not just a planet or even a solar system- but rather, the entire Universe. It would theoretically accomplish this by detonating a planet in a way that sent fragments of it racing through hyperspace which would in turn strike and detonate other planets in a similar manner. The chain reaction would (again theoretically) destroy all matter in the universe.

Okay, so it’s a little far-fetched, even for ‘super science’, but you have to admire the creators for turning the dial up to 11. That alone earns it a place on this list.

9. Stone Mites

Another introduction of the Star Wars Marvel comics. Stone Mites are small (bug-sized) artificially created organisms that can devour just about anything—stone, metal, organic matter, you name it. According to the comics, they were created as a biological weapon during the clone wars. It was never made clear just who created them, though. Evidently some managed to escape ‘to the wild’, however.

I always found the idea of an unstoppable swarm of bugs that can eat EVERYthing, to be very creepy. Yeah, they may not have the ‘flash’ of other super-weapons, but their horror potential is off the charts.

8. World Devastator

Introduced in the Dark Empire comics series, the World Devastator may lack the cataclysmic ‘flash’ of other superweapons, but it is terrifying in its own right. A World Devastator is actually a huge and heavily automated starship capable of interstellar flight and atmospheric operations. Vessels of this type are deployed on enemy worlds where they utilize a gigantic plasma furnace to vaporize huge swathes of a planet’s surface (including cities, mountains, etc.). It takes the raw materials generated by this and funnels them into interior, automated factories. These factories in turn churn out war materiel and in fact add onto the world-devastator itself- making it larger, more well armed, etc. That is the true horror of these weapons. Even as they destroy their enemy, they become stronger.

A lot of folks may have a problem with the Dark Empire comic series (I know I have a few gripes), but the idea of the Devastators is pretty solid in my opinion- and quite a bit different than the typical “it blow up planets” gimmick used in so many other super weapons.

7. Gravatic Polarization Beam

Introduced in the excellent Rogue Squadron comic book series, the Gravatic Polarization beam was developed by a university professor as a way to ‘relocate’ land on a planet (essentially, it would re-structure/destroy matter on an atomic level). The Empire, of course, wanted the device to use as a weapon. Unfortunately for them, the ship assigned to ‘acquire’ the beam was vaporized when the beam was ‘detonated’ and created a hyperspace wormhole. Ouch.

The GPB ranks relatively low on this list because its true potential was never really explored. Could it have wrought havoc on a planetary scale? It certainly seems so- to say nothing of the fact that it could evidently be just as devastating when used in space.

6. Orbital Nightcloak

The concept of this device was first introduced in the Star Wars role playing game- specifically in the Imperial Sourcebook. Here we have a particularly devious kind of weapon. Again, it doesn’t destroy a world outright, rather, the Nightcloak’s series of orbital stations project an energy field that can completely block solar radiation from reaching a planet- blot out the sun itself. This would, of course, completely disrupt a planet’s biosphere and could, in time destroy most life on it.

There is also a ‘reverse’ version of the nightcloak that intensifies the sunlight reaching a planet- with the result you would expect (raising the temperature, destroying the ecosystem, etc.)

I like the Nightcloak again because it isn’t based on outright destruction. I can see it used as a siege weapon, slowly impressing upon a planetary population that resistance is futile- even if they HAVE a planetary shield, the whole ‘no sun’ (or too much sun) thing is going to be a problem for most worlds.

5. Two-Wave Gravshock Device

This is another weapon introduced in the Star Wars RPG Imperial Sourcebook. Here it is presented as an energy projector housed in the shell of a massive ‘Torpedo Sphere’ warship. It could manipulate planetary gravity to cause earthquakes and the like- from merely toppling a city to cracking an entire continent.

The gravshock device is another truly terrifying weapon, but it was never completely spelled out whether or not it could be used on a planet that was defended by a planetary shield. If not, then it seems somewhat superfluous. I mean, if you had to knock out the shield first, then it would seem that you could use conventional orbital bombardment just as easily as you could a device that causes earthquakes. That aside, the effectiveness of the device as a weapon of terror- hanging (literally) over the head of a subjugated world- would be immense.

4. Galaxy Gun

Though it was introduced in the crappy Dark Empire II comic book series, the Galaxy Gun has some merit in and of itself. The gun itself is a massive space platform centered around an accelerator ‘barrel’ that fires huge (cruiser-sized) particle disintegrator warheads through hyperspace to hit star systems (theoretically) anywhere in the Galaxy. The warheads themselves were difficult to detect until nearing their target and were even capable of defending themselves while on final approach. A target struck would ignite in a nuclear chain reaction- which was perpetuated into previously inert materials, causing complete destruction. The yield of the weapon could be set to destroy an entire planet, or merely a continent thereupon.

I have a love-hate relationship with this weapon. I like the general concept of it, but the execution just leaves a lot to be desired. For instance, why even BUILD a ‘gun’ to fire these particle disintegrator warheads if they only travel at ‘normal’ (albeit fast) hyperspace speeds. Why not just convert existing cruisers into flying bombs. For that matter, why not just DROP them from an even bigger ship. The ‘gun’ itself seems to make no sense in this regard. What would make more sense (and this is the reasoning I used in my own campaign) is that the gun fired its ‘shells’ at speeds exceeding typical hyperdrives- and that it was this speed COMBINED with a specialized warhead that caused the destruction- not just the warhead itself: i.e. the shell would still be going at trans-hyperdrive speed when it hit a planet, thus causing the aforementioned ‘chain reaction’ of destruction.

3. Mass Shadow Generator

This superweapon was introduced in the video game Knights of the Old Republic II. Here it is presented as the weapon that ended the Mandalorian wars when it was detonated on the planet Malachor, completely devastating the world and the fleets in orbit of it. The MSG functions by intensifying the gravatic pull of its target- in this case causing Malachor to ‘implode’ and draw the ships nearby into a ‘gravity vortex’ that crushed them and/or tore them to pieces.

This weapon seems very similar in function to the aforementioned Two-Wave Gravshock device. Since the MSG pre-dates the gravshock then I guess it would be more like the gravshock was an attempt to re-create the MSG. For me, the MSG wins out due to the fact that it’s destructive effects continue out into the orbit of the planet it is used upon- plus, it has all that ‘mythic’ background of bringing a cataclysmic war to an end.

2. “Suncrusher” Resonance Torpedo

The Jedi Academy series of novels is where this weapon system originated. The “Suncrusher” name is actually a reference to a nigh-invulnerable starship designed to deliver resonance torpedoes- weapons capable of causing a sun to go nova and destroy an entire solar system.

I HATED the concept of the Suncrusher starship. It was completely ridiculous. I don’t care HOW resilient you make a starship hull, the idea that anything INSIDE of it could survive the physical forces of an exploding sun is stupid. To say nothing of the fact that the ship MUST have had weak points it in- like.. oh, the engine thruster ports? The window? Not ALL of these could be completely invulnerable like the rest of the ship. Unless they were made of solid MacGuffium. Must be. In ANY case, the Resonance torpedos are the really terrifying part of the weapon, and in my OWN RPG universe THEY are the ‘suncrusher’ not the ship. How terrifying is the whole idea of being able to destroy an entire solar system. Pretty scary if you ask me, hence the presence of the “Suncrusher” here near the top of the list.

1. Death Star

It may not be able to destroy an entire star system (at least not all at once), but you have to admire the sheer magnitude of this weapon system. Heck, the Death Star could level a planet with its CONVENTIONAL weapon systems or the armada of TIE fighters it carries, let alone using its superlaser. At full power, it is easily a match for entire fleets of enemy ships in addition to being able to menace a planet. In short, it doesn’t just dish out damage, it can take it, too. Of course, there is that pesky problem of the thermal exhaust port. But that’s only two-meters wide. What are the odds of someone hitting that? Ahem.

Honorable Mention:

While the above are my favorite super weapons, there are a few others that I like that didn’t quite make the cut (for various reasons) these are:

The Ion Ring

This was actually introduced in a Star Wars comic strip (The Second Kessel Run). Originally designed as an aid in terraforming, the Ion Ring was an orbital platform that could affect planetary weather systems. Of course this original purpose was perverted by the Empire, turning the device into a weapon capable of wreaking destruction via violent weather systems.

The Ion Ring is a novel approach to planetary-level destruction. It isn’t just blowing things up, and hey, it’s actually rather ‘eco-friendly’. I mean, you could use it to destroy entire civilizations and still have a world that is at least somewhat habitable afterwards.

Omega Frost

I include this here because the name is both menacing and giggle-worthy. Introduced in the Marvel comics series, Omega Frost consists of two energy pylons that generate a field of intense cold between them- cold enough to destroy just about anything that passes between.

This didn’t make the list primarily because I don’t know exactly how this would work in the already freezing and arid void of outer space. Somehow, I don’t think it would encase ships in blocks of ice (complete with icicles dangling from them) like it showed in the comics. Yeah. And also, it is somewhat difficult to deploy. You can’t FIRE it at someone, you have to somehow trick your enemy into flying between the pylons. Not really practical in a lot of situations.

Star Forge

This was introduced in the Knights of the Old Republic video game. Though officially classified as a super weapon, I would argue against this. The Star Forge isn’t a weapon so much as a huge factory. I mean, it doesn’t move anywhere, it can’t fire giant beams or destroy anything directly (except with its defensive cannons). So, yeah. Not a ‘super weapon’ in my book. Plus, it was never really explained how the heck it created all those ships (and other weapons). Okay, I’ll buy that it was powered by dark force energy (or some such). Sure. But…you can’t make ships out of thin air. I mean, it has to have the materials necessary to do so— not just the energy. So, were the Sith ‘feeding’ it raw materials? Seems like they’d have to, but… well, you can see why I didn’t include it. Too many questions and not enough ‘bang’.

Magnetic Bombard

Another invention of West End games, the Magnetic Bombard is a torpedo-like device that, upon detonation, release a powerful electromagnetic pulse capable of shorting out all manner of unshielded electrical devices.

The reason this didn’t make the list-proper is because I can see a lot of ways to resist the effects of a weapon like this. First of all, as a torpedo, it can be intercepted before detonation. Secondly, they have only a limited area of effect, so many would need to be used in order to ‘reduce’ a target planet. And finally, I would imagine that many systems (especially important military/defensive weapons/installations) would have shielding to protect against just such an attack.

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