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tkdguy

Swords in science fiction -- why?

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I imagine Traveller marines using cutlasses or machetes instead of medieval swords. They'd be more practical in cramped quarters.

 

But while we're on the subject, how would you stat up a monomolecular sword or a 40K power sword? I was thinking of using the energy blade write-up in HERO 5th (I never upgraded to 6th), except it would be HKA instead of RKA.

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Not sure about the production costs, but a few Google searches show swords (real swords, not those crappy wallhangers) being more expensive than guns on average.

 

That's because a sword isn't a tool with broad demand creating high production levels, its a specialty collector's item and people will pay a premium price.  It does not cost all that much to put out a sword, just a lot of skill and some equipment (and nice steel).  In a culture where people buy and sell a lot of swords, the price drops much closer to production cost because the supply increases greatly to match the demand.

 

Even if the blade has super zowie tech going into it, that's going to be less zowie than the guns and still cheaper to produce.

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But there's more to the "cost" of a weapon than its manufacturing.  There's also the training and skill needed to use it.  When firearms were first invented, they weren't very good - they often misfired, and they were slow to reload, and they were certainly expensive to make.  Nonetheless, they still caught on very quickly.  Even though swords and bows and arrows were "better" in many ways, guns were so much easier to use.  Just point and shoot.  Very little strength required, relative to a sword or bow.  And when you want to raise an army, sufficiently skilled personnel is a lot more expensive than weapons.  Anyone with two functioning hands and reasonably good eyesight can fire a rifle with a decent level of effectiveness.

 

Why are there swords in science fiction?  Because many science fiction writers are really writing fantasy.  Just cross out the word "monster" and put in "alien".  Replace "distant kingdom" with "distant planet".  Instead of "evil magic curse on the world", say "planet-destroying weapon" or "doomsday device".  And keep the swords, even if you have to rename them.

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The use of hand weapons would naturally increase in the absence of ranged weaponry. As an example, on the space station Babylon 5, possession of firearms was absolutely prohibited, and the PPG energy weapons (which have very low penetrating power, making them usable in a dangerous/delicate environment) are seriously restricted - even the Ambassadors couldn't legally own one.

But notably, the actual weapons in use seem to be primarily knives. The only exceptions were Michael York's character for one episode, Londo Mollari (who was noted as being in duelling society) and a Narn bodyguard who followed a specific and unusual honour code. Oh, and the Rangers, but they used staves, not swords.

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The long and the short of it.

 

If you like swords you will be able to find all kinds of arguments to support them.

 

If you do not you will be able to find all kinds of arguments to prove them a bad idea.

 

In the end you will go with what you like.

 

P.S.  I think swords are cool have them in my Scifi games :tonguewav

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On August 9, 2019 at 4:44 PM, tkdguy said:

I'm not averse to having a power sword similar to that of the 40K power swords.  I had a similar idea. But again, would it fit in my campaign.

 

Chainswords, Dude.  Chainswords. :D

 

I have no idea where they came from-- I first discovered them in a Halloween store a few years ago, but for sheer coolness and "I want to cause you as much close-up, look-each-other-in-the-eyes-while-you-die physical agony as is humanly possible---   well then I have to say the chainsword is the way to go.  :D

 

 

 

 

On August 9, 2019 at 4:44 PM, tkdguy said:

 

My offer of posting my ideas still stands. We can make it a shared world project if there's any interest.

 

 

And we're still waiting!   ;)

 

 

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On August 10, 2019 at 3:32 PM, Scott Ruggels said:

I am not  a fan of swords on starships.  Axes might work better, but I would prefer short barreld shotguns. Tiny  pellets dont do much past the walls, but do a number on unarmored flesh. armoured flesh means switching to slug rounds with shaped charges, XD

 

 

(Not a fan of the "Rule of Cool")

 

 

I dispute your last comment, Sir!

 

Starting from the mid-eighties, really, short barreled shotguns have been one of the staples of the Rule of Cool.  Damn, look at video games even as late as Doom, Duke Nukem (Time to Kill being a wonderful example), and Tomb Raider where you could-- for reasons that deny all understanding of ballistics-- deliver more damage with a shotgun shell than you could with just about any other gun in the game.  There were auto fire weapons that didn't deliver damage like those things.  Why?  Because short-barelled shotguns were _cool_!

 

;)

 

 

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1 hour ago, Duke Bushido said:

Chainswords, Dude.  Chainswords. :D

 

I have no idea where they came from-- I first discovered them in a Halloween store a few years ago, but for sheer coolness and "I want to cause you as much close-up, look-each-other-in-the-eyes-while-you-die physical agony as is humanly possible---   well then I have to say the chainsword is the way to go.

 

First place I ever encountered the chainsword concept was in Doctor Who comics. It was the trademark weapon for Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer, who first appeared in 1980.

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On 8/11/2019 at 12:26 PM, Spence said:

The long and the short of it.

 

If you like swords you will be able to find all kinds of arguments to support them.

 

If you do not you will be able to find all kinds of arguments to prove them a bad idea.

 

In the end you will go with what you like.

 

P.S.  I think swords are cool have them in my Scifi games :tonguewav

 

I think swords are cool too. I have practiced with both Western and Eastern sword arts, although I am by no means a master. However, I don't think swords are appropriate in every scifi game. Science fantasy, sword & planet: of course. Hard science: not so much.

 

On 8/11/2019 at 5:30 PM, Duke Bushido said:

 

Chainswords, Dude.  Chainswords. :D

 

I have no idea where they came from-- I first discovered them in a Halloween store a few years ago, but for sheer coolness and "I want to cause you as much close-up, look-each-other-in-the-eyes-while-you-die physical agony as is humanly possible---   well then I have to say the chainsword is the way to go.  :D

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we're still waiting!   ;)

 

 

 

Chain swords work. I think they have power swords there, as well as in Halo. As for the shared world offer, I didn't get any responses, so I thought there wasn't any interest. Maybe I'll post my ideas soon.

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2 hours ago, tkdguy said:

 

I think swords are cool too. I have practiced with both Western and Eastern sword arts, although I am by no means a master. However, I don't think swords are appropriate in every scifi game. Science fantasy, sowrd & planet: of course. Hard science: not so much.

 

I do think on thing people get wrong is internal damage that can occur from firearms inside a ship. It is not the hull or the possibility of loss of atmosphere that will be the danger.  It is the damage that can occur to the avionics and life support gear.  There are only so many spare parts available and only so much repair capability and a ship underway will have even more constraints.   A shotgun blast to a critical electronics bay or life support equipment bay could be catastrophic.  Not just cards or modules, but if you severely damage the main-boards you could be in trouble if you can't just pop the hatch.  

 

I've worked on non-commercial aircraft for years and have had to repair the results of a fire in an equipment bay before.  The boxes are the easy part, the wiring harnesses and rack equipment is the nightmare.  I can imagine trying to do the same while the air is fouling, it is not a pretty thought.

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12 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

 

First place I ever encountered the chainsword concept was in Doctor Who comics. It was the trademark weapon for Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer, who first appeared in 1980.

 

9 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

Warhammer 40k is the origin of the Chainsword, as far as I can tell.  That's where I first saw them, at least.

 

Abslom Daak predates the first edition of Warhammer 40k by about seven years.

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On 8/10/2019 at 3:04 PM, tkdguy said:

The problem with the Rule of Cool is that it's subjective. What's cool for me may not be cool for you. This includes having swords in science fiction. Therefore, I need another reason to include them. The starship systems argument works for me, but what if the characters use teleportation devices instead?

 

Well, one idea as to why they would be used on a starship could be that the power plant, maneuver drive and/or FTL drive causes some kind of damping field that prevents energy weapons from functioning.

 

You might can handwave that to include gunpowder weapons by positing something akin to the realm of Amber in the Chronicles of Amber books where gunpowder didn't work in Amber. Maybe the exotic field generated by the power plant/drives has a similar effect. You could even use that as a plot hook so the characters can try to discover something similar to what (a rouge, IIRC) Corwin found in the Amber books that works like gunpowder even in those fields.

 

Lee

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1 hour ago, Lord Liaden said:

 

 

Abslom Daak predates the first edition of Warhammer 40k by about seven years.

 

 

Which suggests that the Britsare some kind os sick and twisted, given the chance to be creative.  :lol:

 

(and that they totally understand how to go from "cool" to "coolest") 

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The Catavalans, an alien race from the official Hero Universe, are a prime example of a cultural perspective which supports the use of swords in a sci-fi setting. Take for example, this passage from Champions Beyond p. 265: Society on Cataval has followed the same pattern for a very long time, since Catavalan longevity gives them a strong streak of conservatism and reliance on tradition... The Catavalans have technology that’s more advanced than Humanity’s (such as slow FTL ships), but with many curious survivals of earlier technology; Catavalans don’t adopt new tech if an older method serves them well. They use steam power where most other civilizations use internal combustion or gas turbines, their soldiers fight with swords as well as energy guns, and they keep records on paper as much as on electronic storage media. Other species often find it frustrating to deal with them because of this; “Catavalan paperwork” has become a galactic slang term for “pointless procedures caused by backward thinking or practices.”
 

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11 hours ago, Lee said:

 

You might can handwave that to include gunpowder weapons by positing something akin to the realm of Amber in the Chronicles of Amber books where gunpowder didn't work in Amber. Maybe the exotic field generated by the power plant/drives has a similar effect. You could even use that as a plot hook so the characters can try to discover something similar to what (a rouge, IIRC) Corwin found in the Amber books that works like gunpowder even in those fields.

 

 

When I don't want gunpowder weapons, I change the physics of the universe so that no matter the ratios of charcoal, saltpeter, and sulfur that you try, there's never an explosive reaction.

 

That takes a lot of the steam out of fantasy players who want to "invent" gunpowder and introduce modern weapons into inappropriate settings.

 

I start by telling them as a GM that it isn't going to work. After that, if they want to pour all their money down a rathole looking for things which will create an explosive force, I'll let them spend as much money on it as they want and dig through endless piles of dung if that's what makes them happy.

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14 hours ago, archer said:

When I don't want gunpowder weapons, I change the physics of the universe so that no matter the ratios of charcoal, saltpeter, and sulfur that you try, there's never an explosive reaction.

 

Precisely my point. The drive fields alter things such that energy weapons, gunpowder weapons, or any other weapons you might like as a GM won't function aboard a ship. Thus, the need for swords and other such things shipboard.

 

Another idea would be to posit the idea of it's the artificial gravity field generators that cause the issue. In either case, there's an added complication when the fields get shut off (i.e. damage, someone hits "the big red switch", etc.). Suddenly, those weapons now work, but in an environment where their recoil (for the gunpowder weapons at least) makes the situation more interesting.

 

Lee 

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On 8/12/2019 at 4:24 PM, Lord Liaden said:

The Catavalans, an alien race from the official Hero Universe, are a prime example of a cultural perspective which supports the use of swords in a sci-fi setting. Take for example, this passage from Champions Beyond p. 265: Society on Cataval has followed the same pattern for a very long time, since Catavalan longevity gives them a strong streak of conservatism and reliance on tradition... The Catavalans have technology that’s more advanced than Humanity’s (such as slow FTL ships), but with many curious survivals of earlier technology; Catavalans don’t adopt new tech if an older method serves them well. They use steam power where most other civilizations use internal combustion or gas turbines, their soldiers fight with swords as well as energy guns, and they keep records on paper as much as on electronic storage media. Other species often find it frustrating to deal with them because of this; “Catavalan paperwork” has become a galactic slang term for “pointless procedures caused by backward thinking or practices.”
 

 

The Catavalans sound interesting. Where can I find more info on them?

 

Edit: Do you mean these guys?

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29 minutes ago, tkdguy said:

 

The Catavalans sound interesting. Where can I find more info on them?

 

Champions Beyond has a few paragraphs about them. Terran Empire provides a moderate amount of additional details, although some of those apply to the future of the official Hero Universe timeline.

 

As humanoid sci-fi races go, I find them pretty distinctive.

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Changing physics to remove chemical weapons is kinda dumb because we need to survive in the same environment with our exchange of oxygen, nutrition and hydration. Talk to someone who was worked with the fire department, it’s difficult to have things not burn. 

 

Oh and and anyone who has watched The Expanse, or played Traveller, knows enough to suck up the internal atmosphere to minimize fire damage, and reduce the chance of explosive decompression if a compartment is breached. Also ships built in space may not need the sort of weight saving that aircraft or ground to orbit craft need, so Incould see more defense, or even tunneling and balancing an iron rich asteroid, sticking drives on the end and calling it Martha. 

 

(I don’t do space romance, or comic book sci-fi). 

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1 minute ago, Scott Ruggels said:

Changing physics to remove chemical weapons is kinda dumb because we need to survive in the same environment with our exchange of oxygen, nutrition and hydration. Talk to someone who was worked with the fire department, it’s difficult to have things not burn.

 

It's a little more difficult to make things explode in a controlled fashion, though. ;)

 

The "laws" of physics are still being worked out. There's a lot happening in our universe that we can't yet explain. And "hard" sci-fi can't even deal with interstellar travel within a human lifetime -- the science allowing for that convention is unproven theories at best.

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On 8/10/2019 at 6:53 PM, tkdguy said:

But while we're on the subject, how would you stat up a monomolecular sword or a 40K power sword? I was thinking of using the energy blade write-up in HERO 5th (I never upgraded to 6th), except it would be HKA instead of RKA.

 

For a monomolecular sword, I'd be tempted to stat it up as a NND attack as that stuff is supposed to be able to cut through (almost) anything. The defense could be a force field of some kind.

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