Tag Archives: gurps

Hello :) I asked this question of fuckyeahcharacterdevelopment, and they forwarded me to you, so I hope you can help me. Would you be able to point me in the direction of any resources regarding weapon recoil, specifically relating to laser weapons? I know they’re not a thing yet, but this is for a sci-fi novel in which they will be and i just wanted to know whether a laser gun might recoil like a normal one, particularly since said gun is also part of a robotic arm (much like Iron Man’s hands).

No. At least not unless the setting is getting creative with the term laser. Recoil is just Newtonian physics at work. Specifically Newton’s third law, that’s “for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.”

You have a chunk of metal you want to accelerate to hypersonic speeds, and an explosive package to do it. When you pull the trigger, the recoil you feel is the reaction to accelerating the mass of the bullet.

A laser is just a focused beam of light. Newton doesn’t apply (at least not to a degree that your character will be able to experience.) Just point and burn. You can experience this not happening personally with one of those impulse buy laser pointers… or a flashlight.

The only way you’d end up with recoil on a laser weapon is if it’s not actually a laser, or if there are some heavy moving parts in the weapon, which would be a serious design flaw.

Okay, a couple major caveat on the following. One, I’m not an expert on physics. Two, as you said, lasers don’t exist as anti-personnel weapons yet, so, some of this could be a little off:

If your characters are wanting to vaporize someone with lasers, the result is going to be messy. Just think of the last thing you exploded something in the microwave, and apply that to a person. (Star Trek’s Phasers use technobabble to avoid painting the walls in gore every time they shoot someone.)

Depending on the weapon’s power output, this could apply to all laser wounds. Ballistic firearms work by disrupting the victim with kinetic force; this is impossible with a laser weapon. Lasers can project radiation as heat, but they can’t create a physical impact, the beam itself is still just light. So the laser could, literally, cook the victim in their own juices. If the laser is heating the victim enough to cause steam to erupt (which is plausible) you could see massive tissue disruption from superheated organs exploding. Fallout and Fallout 2 used laser weapons as a cutting beam (with some of the in game text and the death animations), so that’s a slightly less gruesome option.

Finally, the biggest issue with lasers as weapons has been power. It takes a lot of juice to superheat an object using a laser. So, how your setting has solved that issue might affect a lot of this.

For future reference: any Roleplaying game that has an optional sci-fi component or a tech level system should have some info to get you started. GURPS Ultra Tech is a good quick source of information (it also has some information on wide array of future technology).

A lot of old sci-fi themed strategy games talked about the implications of advancing weapon technology. I want to say Alpha Centauri or the original X-Com was where I first came across the no-recoil bit about lasers.

If you can find it, White Wolf’s Trinity setting might have some useful ideas for you. Not about lasers, but, in creating a sci-fi setting in general.


Hi again! Thanks for your previous answer–it helped very much, and I still love your blog. Today I’d like to ask about futuristic weapons. I like writing sci-fi, and I try to look at history and how weapons and fighting have evolved (I try to keep space swords out, even though they’re cool as fuck). I was wondering if you had any input towards futuristic weapons/fighting/combat, both widespread (war-like conditions) and mono y mono or similar. Thank you times a billion!

Honestly, with this, I’d say dig into existing settings and see what they’ve used.

Warhammer 40k comes to mind. The setting dials itself up to parody, but a lot of it underlying logic is actually surprisingly well thought out, and there are a lot of bits you can take inspiration from.

The quality of the tie-in books waffles pretty wildly between completely unreadable and some of the best tie-in fiction I’ve ever read. The Caiaphas Cain novels (by Sandy Mitchell) are a pretty good introduction to the setting, and should give you some ideas. I’m not a huge fan, but Dan Abnettt’s Eisenhorn novels are also a good look at the setting, though you might need to do some outside referencing on a 40k wiki.

The tabletop game itself is expensive as hell to get into, but, you should be able to find some of the army codices cheaply in used bookstores. Those should give you some ideas of what you could outfit your characters with.

As a bonus, 40k does have some fairly good justifications for melee weapons in a distant future setting. That said it is supposed to be a Dark Age fantasy world in space. And there’s a lot of material you’ll probably want to filter out; it IS still a fantasy setting, psykers are Mages, Eldar are Elves, Necrons are Undead, Daemons are demons, and Orks are… well, Orcs. But it could still be useful for giving you ideas.

I’d also recommend looking at GURPS. GURPS isn’t a conventional RPG, so much as it’s a toolbox for the GM, and while I’ve never been a fan of the system itself, the research that goes into the average GURPS book, makes them invaluable research tools. I’m not sure if Space, Ultra-Tech, or High-Tech is the book most suited to what you’re doing, but if you can find any of those used, you’ll should have some top notch material to work with.