Shipboard weapons in sci-fi
Science fiction is filled with a ton of great and fantastic options for exciting storytelling and perhaps none of those options are as common as Space. There are so many wonderful things about space that I want to devote a whole article to that it’s hard to pick where to begin. I’m going to start with a topic quite important to most people playing any tabletop game. Weapons. Specifically I want to talk about spaceships, spaceboard weaponry and the effect it has on diverse weapon options.
A single breach in a bulkhead or wall can mean depressurization and death. Which means the ideal weapon aboard a spacecraft is not likely to be a high powered energy gun, or some sort of handgun that shoots armor piercing grenades or a laser sword. This creates a need for a wide variety of very different weapons. From a gaming perspective this means there are a lot of potential ways of justifying weapons that might otherwise fall by the wayside in a futuristic campaign.
One common category of shipboard weapons could be sensory weapons like flash grenades and sonic pulses and nausea rays that disorient, blind, or stun the target. Even chemical sprays and gasses that knock out foes could see common use. In the modern day these sorts of weapons are used to disperse crowds, abuse the innocent, and disable dangerous criminals. This category could also include psychic weaponry that disables the targets mind directly. All of these weapons could be specific to certain common alien races, or more widely reliable, but there are always going to be exceptions. It might be impossible to blind a creature with no eyes, while a creature that is mostly a giant sensory organ could instead be killed by a conventional flash bang for example.
Another category is binding or restricting devices. This could be throwable shackles/handcuffs that latch onto a foe, or small metal spheres that when hurled expands into a writhing mass of cables and wires. At which point it’s basically become a high tech nets, though conventional or electrified Nets could work as well, especially if made of a superstrong cable. And then there are force field generators that could be used to create a box or a prison, or even just a tactical shield like a modern day SWAT officer. More esoteric variations include gravity well generators that create a centralized point of gravity that pulls people towards them. Instead of generators one could use gravity nullifiers that cause their targets to float about uselessly without some way to adhere to the walls of the ship. And then there are chemical sprays that fire a liquid or gas that rapidly changes to a solid. this can either be a very hard durable solid like a concrete foam, or something much more sticky, or even slippery. Any of the three makes for an excellent deterrent. Trapping a foe in place or making them unable to move or get away without falling over. Or imagine a handheld 3-D printer that can fire spools of super heated or chemically unstable thread that rapidly hardens into steel or titanium or diamond. These weapons may all require some cleanup after use, but it’s a lot easier to dissolve a known chemical compound than it is to completely replace a ship or section of hull. And some of these devices may even be used to make immediate temporary hull or system repairs.
Then there are lethal weapons that don’t risk breaches. This can include melee weaponry such as swords and knives and staves. These melee weapons are easy to control and deal little damage to a hull or glass but can still dispatch an unarmored or lightly armored foe. And of course these weapons can be enhanced with more advanced technology, vibrating blades are particularly common, as are ones sheathed in flames, electricity or kinetic force fields. It is of course important that these advanced weapons don’t become strong enough to actually destroy the windows and hulls, otherwise they’re only marginally safer than ranged weapons. My advice here is to pick really cool designs for melee weapons and just roll with them. The diversity of real world melee weapons speaks volumes about how much humanity values look and feel and uniqueness over uniform efficency.
Then of course there are even more unconventional weapons. Psychic weaponry that attacks a foes mind, time disruptors, trained packs of alien hounds, aggressive nanite swarms, well programmed attack drones or robot guards, and even conventional firearms programmed not to fire if they detect that their shot will hit the hull. These help round out the huge roster of dangerous deterrents for anyone thinking to board a vessel. The important thing is that it in some way can stop, hinder, or kill an opponent without doing the same to the ship.
What all of this truly serves however is allowing a massively diverse range of weapons that might otherwise be hard to justify in a futuristic setting. Each of these weapons is fascinating in its own right and serves to make threats so much more varied and diverse than simply blaster cannons and lasers. And of course as always when it comes to sci-fi, don’t limit yourself based solely on what you see here. Keep your mind open to the possibilities that advanced technology allows!