Buckling your Swash: High-Tech Weapons for Hand to Hand Combat
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2021 issue.
Personal hand-to-hand weapons have long held a place in Traveller. From a Marine’s Cutlass, to many skills for a modest variety of weapons. Other than the anomaly of high-law words where you can carry a cleaver, but not a gun, they are seldom used by players and referees. The reason is quite simply that they are quickly outclassed by readily available high-tech weapons and armor.
Yet we cling to visions of these weapons for both romantic and thematic reasons. Is an officer not defined by their sword? Is a pirate as menacing without a cutlass? Could that old family heirloom be more useful than ceremonial? Should not scouts be chased across the tundra by restless natives with spears?
For referees who desire to “fix” this omission, and add some swashbuckling romance to their games, this article provides suggestions and rules on how to make hand to hand combat, and weapons, a larger part of a Traveller setting.
The focus of this article is the role and role-playing potential of enhanced weapons, to make it as broadly applicable as possible. The statistics presented here are with reference to the MegaTraveller edition, but they should be readily adaptable to other systems.
Do You Want to Blow Us into Space?
It would be an act of extreme desperation for someone to fire a high-penetration weapon in a pressurized vehicle like a modern plane, submarine or spaceship. Any rapid depressurization is not going to be good for its structural integrity and poses a danger to everyone probably far greater than what you might have cause to shoot at.
Well, maybe far future spaceships are made of sterner stuff? True, even modern submarines have tough hulls. But very unlucky shots can still cause catastrophic damage. Not to mention that large number of critical and fragile instruments (and people) are still inside that hull and may suffer from direct fire or ricochets. And given the rate of fire for most firefights in a game, even a small chance is not insignificant.
Whatever way you cut it, if a referee desires it, it is not hard to make it part of your setting that the conventional wisdom is that firing high-penetration projectile weapons in a space ship, space station, or other pressurized habitat is an act of desperation or terrorism. If that is taken as an accepted fact, then how are hostilities advanced in such an environment? Why through personal hand-to-hand attack, of course!
Materials to Consider
So, we can hand wave reasons that you can’t shoot big guns in spaceships. But that doesn’t apply to the other side: high tech armor. With much of the armor provided by the rules, your average cleaver will just bounce off, making for extremely ineffectual slap fighting. The problem here is that the standard issue melee weapons are grounded in the medieval technologies they originate from. In a high-tech setting, there are alternative high-tech materials they can be made from that give them a bit more bite.
Hullmetal: There are a wide variety of materials in the ship design charts for increasingly tough shells for ships. With that sort of established material science, we can assume similar materials for making the blades of weapons stronger, sharper, and more durable. Weapons made of hullmetal will generally have an extra 2-3 points of penetration, sometimes an additional block, and usually at least one extra damage dice. Hullmetal weapons cost 10× the price of regular weapons and are available at TL9 and higher.
Vibroblades: A step up from high tech materials, is adding hypersonic vibration to the cutting surface. This has the effect of sawing back and forth at high velocity, increasing the cutting power. Weapons with hyper-vibrating blades add a point of penetration and damage. Their block does not increase, although if a mishap is rolled against an opponent blocking with a weapon mainly composed of a vibrating blade (e.g. a sword, rather than a spear) the damage from the mishap is applied to the attacking weapon. Vibro-weapons cost 15× the price of regular weapons and are available at TL11 and higher.
Electrowhip: Many weapons may also be electrified. A capacitor is engineered into the hilt, haft or grip which is discharged upon a successful strike. This does not increase penetration but does deal an extra dice of damage. Unless designed to be used in combination with powered armor, there are generally limited charges. Electrifying a weapon increases the price by 10% and is available at TL11 and higher.
Plasmablades: And what character in a SciFi setting has not wanted their own lightsabre? Although a bit more limited than the cinematic version, in this sort of weapon the striking surface is replaced with a magnetic bottle containing searing plasma. This adds 4-6 extra penetration points above the hullmetal core, two to block, and four to damage. As with vibroblades, lesser weapons have a chance of damage when blocked by a plasma blade. Unless integrated into battledress or supplemented with a power backpack, these weapons are of very limited duration. Plasma weapons cost 100× the price of regular weapons and are available at TL14 and higher.
At the referee’s discretion, true cinematic lightsabers might exist in a campaign as an Ancient artifact. These add double the penetration, block and damage, require no supplemental power, and make a very cool whoosh-whoosh noise.
Other Fun Attachments
Explosive Spikes: The problem with high-penetration weapons in pressurized environments is their indiscriminate use. An explosive spike mounts a standard HE or HEAP charge on the thrusting tip of a weapon, triggered by forceful impact. Therefore, the round goes exactly where intended, and reduces the chance of unintended consequences. The stats for any standard pistol ammunition can apply when used on a swung surface, back spike or butt spike. Long hafted weapons may mount a spike on the extreme end of their haft allowing rifle ammunition to be delivered. Explosive spikes can only be added to Hullmetal or stronger weapons and cost an additional 10% for each spike. They are available at TL10 and higher.
Magnetic Hooks: Many of the more esoteric protuberances of medieval pole arms were there to snag, catch, or foul an opponent’s weapon, armor, or shield. In far-future hand to hand combat, hafted weapons may be mounted with magnetic hooks to attain the same goal. Lower tech versions affect ferrous metals only, but higher tech molecular magnets will stick to any surface. This increases the block of the weapon by two, and successful disarm attempts result in a 3D mishap roll. Adding a magnetic hook to a weapon requires a metal weapon and adds 10% to the price of the weapon for each hook. It is available at TL10 and higher (TL12 for nonferrous metals).
Grav Assist: For a given cutting edge, human muscle can only drive it so far. That limitation can be surpassed by adding gravitic compensators to a weapon. They can, firstly, cancel or dampen the weight of a weapon, allowing for heavier designs of denser composition. Secondly, through pressure sensitive sensors on any gripping surface, they can attune themselves to the actions and motions of the wielder. This allows for attacks to be made with preternatural speed and blocks to become truly indomitable. Gravitic assistance can only be added to weapons longer than 1.5m, doubling the price of the weapon. However, the penetration increases by 4, the block by 3, and the damage by 3.
The following sections contain a thematic introduction showing the use of one of these enhanced weapons in a game setting. This is then followed by the MegaTraveller stats for the weapon.
The Fire Axe
The acrid smoke of melting insulation hung in the air at the top of the corridor like an overcast day. Sarekin and Gidolf coughed their way through it, bending low to avoid as much as possible.
“Not how I wanted to die”, grumbled Gidolf, hand over his face like an inept filter. “I wanted to die cheating at a high stakes card game.”
“I don’t want to die at all”, said Sarekin between coughs. They had reached a dead end in the corridor. She pounded the wall in frustration. Something rattled. “In case of emergency”, she read.
Gidolf shrugged, coughing again. “I guess being about to die counts as an emergency.”
They pulled it open, and quickly sifted through the contents, tossing useless things to the floor. The last thing Gidolf pulled out was an axe. It was about a meter long with a well sculpted handle and a utilitarian head, painted bright red. Sarekin peered at the blade closely, “It’s hull metal”, she said. “It’s for breaking down doors.”
Gidolf was about to make a sarcastic comment but Sarekin grunted, swung it, and it bit in deeply into the partition. The both stared in surprise for a bit, then broke out into coughs.
Gidolf grabbed it, and hacked away at the interior bulkhead. Splinters of metal flew and great rents appeared in the wall. A few more hacks and they were crawling through. He sagged, caught up by coughs and Sarekin took the axe.
They kept going in a straight line until they got to the outer hull. The axe had a much tougher time with that, but they were loud enough that the emergency rescue crew heard them.
An hour later they sat on the dockside, finishing up the accident report paperwork. Sarekin patted the axe. “Funny old thing. Never thought I’d be saved by an antiquated piece of lumberjack equipment.”
Gidolf smiled, got up and slipped it into his belt. “I think I’ll keep this. Fancy looking for a high stakes card game?”
The Fire Axe is a crystaliron axe and can be found in emergency lockers in many ships. It is primarily intended for rescue operations and is sharp enough to, literally, chop through an iris valve door or internal walls of a ship. However, it also packs a mean swing and some spacefarers have been known to carry them around dodgy areas for safety. Presumably in case a fire just happens to start.
TL 10, 500Cr. Pen 8, Block 2, Damage 3.
The Dubious Tavern’s Redoubt
Uloma searched through the corridors on the disreputable end of the spaceport until she caught the smell of badly fermented alcohol. “Evening boys”, she said to a pair of men in dingy overalls. They made to stop her, but seeing her ready pose and smile, they thought better of it and waved her in.
The inside was dirty and dingy. Not a lot of tables and chairs, but a lot of people milling about. No music, just noise. Perfect.
It didn’t take long for the fight to start. She helped.
Her opponent was a wiry local with hooch on his shirt and a dagger in each hand. She grinned back and drew her own blade. There was a bit of laughter at that. The blade revealed was long and thin, very thin. It looked light and fragile compared to the thick pommel. The edges were serrated with curved scallop shapes, and ornamentation to match. It looked inconsequential compared to the man’s two cleavers. She smiled wider.
He hacked at her, and she danced away, to howls of laughter from the crowd. The oaf wasn’t very skilled, and she didn’t want her desire to make a lovely example be ruined by an unexpected bad move.
But the man obliged by falling for her every feint. She sidestepped his lunge for the huge opening she left and effortlessly slit his overalls from their seat to his collar.
Now the audience was laughing at him, as he staggered around trying to pull his clothes together. He was angry, but he was also bested. He sat heavily and tossed one of his daggers to her in acknowledgement of his defeat. She smiled, pretended to examine it, then carved her initials on its blade with the tip of her own. There were shocked breaths as she did that and tossed it back.
Several others tried their luck with her and left with their blades etched with her name. But, as always happens, there’s some wise guy who just won’t play fair. He didn’t stop after she cut his shoelaces from his boots. He didn’t stop after she drew blood, scratching her initials on his cheek. In a complete lack of etiquette he upended one of the few tables and smashed her up against the wall with it and started grappling her.
The one thing she couldn’t stand was being touched. This had to end. She gave a bit and let him twist into what he thought was a better position. But it was one that allowed her to bring her pommel up against him.
The shot was loud in the close quarters. Firearms were forbidden in the space port and people were not used to the sound of gun fire. The man slipped to the ground, at best, seriously wounded.
The crowd was agitated and confused. The smarter people were slipping out, and she joined them, holding her dagger by the blade while the pommel cooled. She hated using her little redoubt. But it had gotten her out of several sticky situations. She turned her direction towards the docks. It was time to move on.
The Dubious Tavern’s Redoubt is a dagger made of superdense metal with scalloped edges that can’t be blunted. Although it is paper thin, it is virtually unbreakable. The blade is unpolished but is etched with a pattern of waves matching the curves of the edge. The lady who commissioned it really hated when close quarters fighting turned into wrestling, so she had the pommel fashioned to conceal a single shot explosive spike typically chambered with a HEAP round.
TL12, 110Cr. Blade: Pen 4, Block 2, Damage 3. Spike: Pen 5, Damage 4.
The Eclectic Chainsword
Gokrada’s fur bristled as he shook from his nose to his tail. This was it. This is what he’d been working himself up for. He had friends on the inside barking up the mission they’d just pulled. The one that coward Aerkadz had not gone on, because he was setting up Gokrada to die on it.
He panted a bit, willing himself to be calm and slipped his hand to the pommel of his sword. His breathing calmed and he slipped his hand further down to the squishy grip, which he clenched and unclenched rhythmically. It felt good. He grinned, and his tongue lolled to the side.
He kicked open the doors to the den to the cheers of his confederates. The rest were not so welcoming. Least of all Aerkadz.
The brigade’s leader sat on a cushioned chair on a small dais glaring down upon Gokrada. He opened his mouth to say something but Gokrada stole the moment by throwing a large bag to the floor. It split open on the shag carpet spilling many coins and trinkets.
“I did what you were unable to do”, growled Gokrada, putting his hand on the hilt of his sword.
Aerkadz looked at him disdainfully, stood up, and strode down from the dais, resting his hand on his sword. “You challenge me?” He glared down on Gokrada, with all the pressure he could bear. Low growls came from the throats of the assembled Vargr. Gokrada’s tail sank a little, but he willed it back up. With a look of patronizing pity, Aerkadz slipped his sword effortlessly from its sheath and held it before him.
Gokrada grinned, and with a howl, he whipped his own sword from his sheath and held it over his head. It was black, with square offset facets up and down its length, reflecting the room in no coherent pattern. Embedded in the large spherical pommel was a bloodshot eye, which looked and darted from one face in the room to another. A murmur of appreciation went up from the crowd.
Gokrada stamped his foot, and activated a switch in the grip. He felt the sword vibrate as it powered up. Starting with low frequencies the hum increased in both volume and pitch, eventually passing into eyeball vibrating ultrasonics. But, as it did so, secondary and tertiary harmonics kicked in, and the blade itself acted like an acoustical sounding board, giving off a moaning chord.
He pounced left, and then right, swinging his sword one way, and then the other. The blade groaned in response, both discordant and musical at the same time. Aerkadz stood, mesmerized by it, and brought up his defense late, as Gokrada suddenly pounced. He spun in recovery and bore down on him and their blades locked. Aerkadz smiled, as he was the stronger of the two and would win at this sort of sword wrestling. But his face started getting worried as the vibrations of Gokrada’s sword transferred to his own, and stung his hand. He began to give way as he was pushed back.
Gokrada then twisted his sword, and brought the edge to bear against the other’s sword. To everyone’s astonishment his blade started cutting into, and through, Aerkadz’s sword. The pack howled in excitement.
Aerkadz yelped and leaped backwards, dropping the two halves of his sword. He did a quick look left and right, and saw his support evaporating. With a scream of rage, he stomped off.
Everyone surged forward, bearing Gokrada up on their shoulders and tossing him in the air. He turned off his sword, and let his adoring fans pass it around and marvel at it. He’d been planning that sword since he was a pup. Now he had it. And the world was his.
The Eclectic Chainsword is a vibrosword made of black superdense metal with the flat of it polished and chiseled in many facets of slightly different angles. When activated the facets resonate at lower harmonic frequencies to the main oscillation of the blade to form an eerie multi-octave chord. The grip and guard are of soft, resilient plastic to form a good hand hold and protect the wearer from the vibrations. The pommel is a crystal sphere with the likeness of a large eye suspended in it. A micro camera and embedded facial recognition software turns the eye to look at whatever face is closest. It was made for a Vargr mercenary who designed it when he was 13.
TL 12, 2250Cr. Pen 7, Block 2, Damage 5.
The Boarding Spear
Yasuikh swallowed heavily and looked to her sister, Yueftea, as the melodious high alert alarm tinkled. They bowed formally to each other, and then pressed their dewclaws into recessed seals on the case before them. With a gentle chime, the catches released.
Inside were stacked long shafts about 2m long. Their crewmates filed past solemnly, each receiving a tube, and took their place in the formation in the corridor.
Yasuikh bowed to her unit when they were all set. “Sisters”, she said formally. “Our men have fallen and the marauders have breached our perimeter. We must stand ready and hold this corridor. The honor of Tarasate Lines requires us to give our all to ensure our passengers have the most harmonious experience.”
Yueftea inspected them. “Just stand together, like canes of bamboo. The wind will blow, but we will not break. If any barbarian gets close, just stab them in the chest, the weapon will do the rest.”
Yasuika activated her communication device. “Maintenance squad 12 is assembled and ready to perform our duty with honor.” She put down the communicator, and looked down the corridor, which swept gently to the left. Quietly she began to sing one of the company poems, about strength, dedication, and veneration of the corporate elders. The others took it up in turn.
They were interrupted by a loud smash further up the corridor and raucous cheering. A potted plant flew through the air, hurled by something around the corridor. Stocky six footed creatures with large metal boots kicked the pieces of a water sculpture about, and slashed at the walls with axe bladed pole arms. The head of an Aslan was tied to its belt by his mane.
Several more came around the corner and they paused, noticing the maintenance squad. Loud calls were made, clearly taunting, but Yasuikh deigned not to translate or react. Their fun spoiled, the raiders brandished their weapons, and cried out a clattering charge.
“For honor” shouted Yasuikh, quickly echoed by her sister. The women pressed in together, and held their poles firmly at waist height. The second rank was pressed up against the first, their poles between them, at breast height. The final rank held theirs at full extension, over the shoulders of the preceding ranks at head height. They all braced as the enemy collided into them.
Wherever there was contact, there was a loud retort as the sensors on the tip fired the projectile at the base. Shells ripped into the pirates at point blank range everywhere on the line. In shock and confusion, those who didn’t fall to the first rank fell back.
The invaders regrouped, worked themselves into a screaming mob and came running at them again.
The women braced as the heavy aliens flung themselves at the line. Spears exploded up and down the line, some borne down by the bodies on top of them. “You will not disturb the passengers!” screamed Yueftea as her weapon was wrenched from her hand. The third rank then focused on her attacker, stabbing it repeatedly delivering shot after shot until it fell.
After that the attack was broken, and the few marauders who could still move ran off. The women sagged on the walls and one another, panting as the adrenaline left them.
Yasuikh’s communicator chimed. As she listened, she suddenly looked upward, then stood very straight.
“Sister, what is it?” asked Yueftea, after she turned it off.
“The Captain saw it all, and broadcast the video of our defense to the fleet. No matter if the ship falls, our families are to be honored in the highest terms.”
Ears perked up and all members of the squad stood taller. They gripped their spears with renewed intensity. Let them come again. They were ready for anything.
A Boarding Spear is a simple shaft of crystaliron that acts as a long, rifled barrel. The length of it can store 15 rounds of rifle ammunition to be delivered at point blank range when someone is “stabbed” with the spear. It is found routinely among certain Aslan megacorporation liners for disbursement to non-warrior personnel in the advent of a boarding action. They use them to create phalanx blockades in critical corridors around the passenger safe room.
TL 10, 110Cr. 9mm Rifle round: Pen 5, Damage 3.
The Red Sonya
“I think this is the treasure room”, came Lara’s hesitant voice over the remote drone.
Razak stepped further into the room gingerly. “About time”, he grumbled. “I’ve had enough of this freak’s ‘grave goods’. Keep me covered.”
“Yes sir”, said Shunintu. She braced herself in the doorway, holding up her ACR with shaky hands. Red lights flickered on and the plinth moved. “What’s that!?”
Razak jumped and rolled to the side, prone on the ground, pistol up as the plinth rose on grinding gears. He grinned as the top of a double headed axe appeared. It was almost as tall as he was, once he got up again, with a stout haft made of dense grey metal the same texture as the hull of a starship. He peered closer at the head, which was a mixture of electronics, etching, and heat sinks. The blades to either side were only styled that way. The crescent shapes actually held the manifolds and projectors for heating and containing a plasma bottle. “The legends are true”, he said, under his breath.
“The legends also say there’s a test”, said Lara. “I suggest we…”
There was a sharp clang and thump, as Razak touched the axe. Shunintu yelped and leaped back as a heavy grate slammed shut, closing the room off.
“... do a scan first”, finished Lara, pointlessly.
“It’s just more stupid theatrics”, said Razak, hefting the axe. It was heavy, but not as heavy as he thought it would be. He grinned wryly. “I bet this would be great for cutting my way out of here.” He thumbed a switch and there was a dull thrumming. He felt heat briefly on this face, before the magnetic deflectors kicked in and contained it.
“Uh, uh, uh…” stammered Shunintu. “Sir?” she said, her voice quavering. “The spirits of the dead are rising.”
Razak turned and several skeletal figures were detaching themselves from the walls. “Lara, what is this?”
“Well, she did say she wanted to be buried with a phalanx of her fiercest warriors”, Lara said dryly. “But that was against Imperial Regulations.”
The “skeletons” all drew swords and stepped towards him. He swung clumsily at the nearest, knocking it over. It slowly got up. “Robots? Geez.” He swung at another one. “This axe is a dud. It ain’t doing crap.”
“It’s not up to temperature yet”, said Lara. “You might want to play for time.”
He dodged and wove around the room. The red lights in the room had come up to full strength now, and were stylized as burning torches. An ancient speaker system was also playing rhythmic chants. He felt the haft of the axe buzz in his hands. “I think it’s game time.”
He took a big swing at the nearest stylized skeletal robot. There was a hissing and spitting noise and the axe bit deeply into it, instantly molten metal cascading down its sides. The figure threw up its arms, made a metallic screaming noise, and crumpled to the ground.
“Impressive”, said Lara.
“I can’t argue that”, said Razak, looking with renewed respect at the blade.
His opponents, though, stopped at the fall of their comrade. They seemed to become more focused and at attention. Red flames, the same color of the torches, began to glow in their eye sockets. Two of them clattered their teeth, and came at him from opposite sides.
Razak swung at one, but it dodged out of his way. His momentum carried him around, but he wasn’t well placed for a second shot. He brought the haft up to block the blade. The first had closed and he had a tough time of it, fending off both at the same time in close quarters. But a lucky shot swept the legs from under one, and he used its flailing body to tangle the other long enough to split it in two. The axe head glowed white hot now.
Three more warriors detached themselves and advanced towards him. “Bring it on!” he bellowed. Before they could close, there was a roar and flames jetted out one side of the axe. “What the?” said Razak.
“It’s overheating”, said Lara. “It vents plasma when it gets too hot to cool down.”
Razak danced around, looking for a wall to put his back against as the three tried to circle him. “Can it, you know, vent in a specific direction? That would be, you know, useful.”
“Try swinging it around your head”, said Lara. “That might cool it down.”
“That is the dumbest move ever”, said Razak, jumping again. “Do you think this is a holovid?”
“She’s the sort of person they make holovids of”, said Lara. Shunintu whimpered.
Razak shook his head as a sword bit home into his cloth armor. “Well, I won’t die any slower.”
With a shout he leapt from the wall and brought the axe up in an arc, slicing the leg off of one robot. He let the momentum continue and brought it high up and around. He spun with the axe and forced the other two back, cutting the first in half on his first complete revolution. He whooped and kept the spinning going, which did seem to cool the blade down. The second and third quickly fell.
After that, the remaining warriors fell on him all at once. Between pirouettes and figure eights, he kept the blade going continuously, screaming as he seemed to lose control, but always recovering just in time.
Then it was over. The grates receded and a whimpering Shunintu crawled forward and clutched at his leg. Tangled metallic bodies lay in heaps around him. He stood with one leg on the dais, contemplating the axe, a slight mist pooled across the floor.
There was a flash as Lara’s remote snapped a picture. “Yep, that’s one for the books.”
The Red Sonya is named for a, possibly legendary, warrior from a primitive planet. She came to lead a famous mercenary band, but never gave up her love for primitive weapons. The bonded superdense shaft and frame support magnetic plasma bottles styled like an enormous double headed axe. The heaters are overcharged, so when ignited, it only takes about a minute to reach operational temperature. However, unless kept in constant motion it will reach the high end of its temperature tolerance and must vent plasma in a random direction to cool down. (This did not bother the original owner as her personal favorite style involved much swinging around the head, and the random venting “added interest” to combat.)
TL 14, 20,000Cr. Pen 16, Block 4, Damage 8.
The Spoil Foil
Captain Seldon and his crew burst through the hotwired door into the control room of the gas giant’s refinery station. He paused, allowing his people to flank and face off against the array of scruffy hooligans.
“In case you did not receive our transmission, I shall repeat”, said Seldon, in a clipped voice. “We are here under contract to The Medford Company to evict unauthorized personnel from this station and return it to their control.” He performed a neat bow. “Are you willing to comply?”
The biggest and scruffiest of the men growled “Fat chance.”
Seldon made an exaggerated sigh and drew from his side a long, thin rapier. “Well, if you are determined to settle this dispute by aggression, then I suggest we do so in a civilized way.” The goon looked at him blankly. Seldon gestured with his sword. “Mano a mano. Battle of Champions.” The man continued to look blank. “You. And. Me. One. On. One.”
The man scratched his head. “Youse gonna fight me all by your lonesome?”
“Yes”, said Seldon, drawing it out. He eyed the large pipe wrench the man had. “If you need a proper weapon, my lieutenant can supply you with one.”
The man grinned at his compatriots and pushed himself off of the console. He took a large swing at Seldon with the wrench, missed, and smashed a workstation.
“The advantage...”, said Seldon, sidestepping another blow. “Of a smaller weapon...”, he continued after another crash. “Is it avoids unnecessary property damage.” He darted in while the goon was off balance and scored the back of his hand with the tip of his blade.
The man cried out, dropped the wrench, and sucked the back of his hand.
Seldon bowed again. “Now, if you will just accompany us…”
The man grunted, reached inside his jacket, and pulled out a wide barreled short pistol. Seldon gave him a disappointed look. There was the twang of a spring-loaded charge and a projectile flew from the pistol, expanding into a net in the air and wrapping Seldon from head to foot. The man grinned and his mates laughed.
“I really do hate it when people refuse to be civilized” bemoaned Seldon. There was a buzzing whine that rose in pitch, quickly becoming ultrasonic. With a swift gesture Seldon raised his foil, severing the net everywhere the blade touched it, freeing him in seconds. “I ask you again…” he started.
The man snatched up the pipe wrench and tried a double handed swipe at the Captain. Seldon parried with the blade, cutting the wrench neatly in two. The man tried a chair next, with much the same result. As he scrambled for position, Seldon closed and placed the tip of his blade next to the man’s neck.
“You really should recognize when you’ve been outmatched”, said Seldon. The man looked at him, craftily. “And, yes, I know you are reaching for something in that sheath on your back.” The man paused, briefly, in surprise, and then grabbed for the hidden blade.
But Seldon was faster. With a quick twist of his hand, a discharging capacitor whined, and electricity suffused the blade. There was a large crackle of discharging energy, the smell of singed hair, and the man fell to the ground, twitching spasmodically.
Seldon stepped away, sheathing his blade. It clicked into place, starting the recharge cycle from his belt power supply. “Things would be so much less messy if people just adhered to civilized norms.” He looked at the damage, and the man on the ground. He wiped a piece of grit from his shoulder. “Lieutenant? Do check the gentleman out. Remove whatever other weapons he has and make sure he doesn’t have a heart condition or something.”
The Spoil Foil was commissioned by Seldon, a ship captain from a once aristocratic family. He distained projectile weapons as dishonorable, heavy handheld weapons as crude, and considered the only civilized form of settling differences to be through dueling with foils. In sad acknowledgement to the fact that not everyone else felt the same, he crafted a foil from crystaliron, enhanced with ultrasonic vibrations, and an electrical charge, to top it off. Each feature was able to be activated separately, and he only chose to do so if his opponent proved to be disappointingly barbaric.
TL 11, 1650Cr. Pen 6, Block 3, Damage 4.
The Bec de Kerwin
“Eh?” said the Old Man, as a drink was placed in front of him. “That’s mighty nice of ya.” He looked sidelong at the person giving charity. “So, what do ya want?”
“Never mind”, he said, taking the drink. “I can see it all written in your face.”
He pointed a finger. “Youse about to go adventuring out towards the Kerwin cluster. Yeah?” He nodded in satisfaction. “And ole’ barkeep said to talk to me first, so I could warn ya.”
He took a swig from his drink. “Right he was. Not that you’ll listen. But at least you can die warned.”
He cradled the drink on his chest for a while, eyes closed. He almost appeared to drift off when he said, “Most embarrassing fight in my life.”
He cracked his eyes open and looked at the listeners. “Those Kerwins. Crazy as loons. But…” he shook his head.
“So, I was with the 43rd infantry investing Malden, back in the day. A bunch of us on foot, with a transport and some mechanized support. We was pushing into some lightly held territory. Supposed to be a walk in the park.”
He sat up straighter, and took another sip of his drink. “We were on the outskirts of this small town, comin’ down the road. Then, there, pleased as punch, right in the middle was this one dame. Just one! Standing there in fancy battle dress with this big stick.”
“No”, he said, shaking his finger. “You pay attention. That’s the important bit. She’s got this big stick, longer than she was tall. With all sorts of prongs and cleavers stuck to the end. Like you see in a museum.”
He shook his head. “Sargent say, ‘go escort this senile dame home’, and little Willie goes out there. Quick as a snake striking, the woman spun the stick, hit Willie in the gut, and knocked him ten meters back into the rest of us. Then she went back to her statue pose, only the prongs on the end of her stick started glowing white hot.”
He took a deep breath and blew it out his lips. “Never seen nothin’ like it. Battle dress is a tough nut to crack, but Sargent’s all pissed now. ‘Get ‘er lads’, he shouts, and takes all the infantry forward. Instead of running away, the nutcase runs right up to them. Gets inside their firing perimeter and then lets loose with the stick.”
The man gestures wildly with his arms. “There were arms flying, bodies flying, and that stick was everywhere. The blade on that thing was, like, nova hot. Cut through our armor like butter. But for the Sargent, he had on sterner stuff. Looted from some officer, I heard. He’s also been around the block and wasn’t taken as easily as the rest.”
“So, the two are faced off, like 5 meters apart, and he’s yelling at her, all spit and spleen because, right, no way you can hit someone at 5 meters with a 2 meter stick?” He smiled and shook his head. “Not unless you are a Kerwin. I seen it all happen and won’t forget. She had been holding the stick midway, to block and strike. Well, she shifted till she had one hand in the middle, and one hand on the bottom. Then, not bothering to be quick, she took a full step forward, so the front tippy toe that had been 5 meters from Sargent was now at the back of a full stride. Then she twists her body, shoving the pole forward with the hand she had on the base, until her arm was at full extension, and the pole was balanced on her palm, pointed straight at Sargent’s heart. And, BANG! The top hits, and sets off some sort of shaped charge. Blew right through Sargent’s armor and sends his poor heart bouncing out his backside.”
He sat back in his chair, lost in the moment, drink forgotten. “And that wasn’t the end of it.”
“We’re all panicked, seeing Sargent down, and Charlie, my driver, says he’s had enough. He guns the engine and charges straight at the woman. She’s back in her statue position and doesn’t flinch. She just holds the pole out horizontal, like, and waits. We crash into the damn thing and it doesn’t budge. Made out of unobtanium or somethin’. The APC just kind of crumples around it. Charlie’s toast, and I’m thrown all around the place in my gun mount.
“The guy in the G.P. loses it. He tries to do a quick 180, but she’s on to him. Two strokes and she’s cut the axle in half. Then she jabbed her pole arm through the window and hit him with the back of it. I don’t know what was on the back, but it stuck to him like glue. She then dragged him right out of his seat through the window like a fish and flung him ten meters down the road. He got up and just ran. That left me.
“She turns, and I see it all in slow motion. She lifts the rod into the air and it just kind of sticks there. She then vaults off of it, like you see in those sports contests, into the air, and it comes loose again. She lands, right in front of me holding it up behind her, greatsword like. I seen that thing move faster than an adder and strike harder than a rhino. I’m brave, in my measure, but I’m no fool. I took my hands off the support weapon and put them in the air.”
“Then, her faceplate hums and her visor goes down. Brown eyes, brown face. She looks at me and says, ‘Pranjali de Kerwin. You will leave this place and not return.’ And I say ‘yes, ma’am’. And that’s what I did. Walked home, mustered out on psychiatric leave.”
He sighed deeply, picked up his drink, and put it down again. He looked his audience in the eye. “I done read about it since. She ain’t the only one. They have a thing for these weird weapons. Fight like demons they do. That’s why they’ve never been amalgamated. Better to let them be. You would be wise to let them alone.”
He picked up the drink and took a modest sip. “Only you won’t”, he muttered to himself.
The Bec de Kerwin has long been a traditional weapon on certain Solomani worlds. This pole arm has been updated with all modern enhancements. With a haft and frame of bonded superdense metal, it sports as its main striking surface a plasma hammer, backed by gravitic assistance. In place of the back-spike is a magnetic hook to torque opponents and throw them off balance. A favored tactic is to pull an opponent to the ground, and then use the explosive spike running the length of the shaft to give them the coup de gras while they are down.
TL 15, 16,500Cr. Pen 18, Block 10, Damage 11.
The updated weapons here can be used as standard off-the-shelf equipment widely available in your campaign setting, or as unique, rarely discovered gimmicks or perks found or given as a reward for special missions. They might be used to produce an unexpected surprise for your characters or may be used by the characters themselves to get out of tough situations. No matter how you choose to use them, they certainly have the potential to make life interesting for everyone.