One of the things I want to bring into Aliens & Asteroids is the effects of various environments on combat. And two of the big things I’ve been struggling with are zero-gravity and zero-atmosphere, so I thought I’d write about that struggle.
Let’s describe a scenario.
For example, let’s say that we have a group of space marines who are assaulting an alien base on a moon somewhere. Though there is some atmosphere on our own moon, it’s very minimal to the point where we’ll say it’s negligible. And there is minimal gravity on our moon as well, about 1/8 of Earth, so let’s say that this moon isn’t around here and has negligible gravity as well.
What does that mean for a normal gun if we fire it in this environment?
Well, according to LiveScience, you can shoot a gun in space despite the fact that there isn’t any oxygen. Most modern ammo contains an oxidizer, so no external oxygen is required. As such, go ahead and squeeze off a few rounds and it will work just fine.
The problem is that without gravity that bullet could travel a very long way. In fact, in the right conditions if it misses the target and there’s nothing to stop it, it might come around and hit you in the back. That would really ruin your day if you miss an alien and accidentally shoot your teammate from behind. Friendly fire takes on whole new meaning.
However, if you pardon the pun, I think this is overkill to include in the rules for a game system. There are enough other things trying to kill the characters and adding the possibility that they might accidentally kill themselves in such a way seems very cruel. So I think that we’ll add a safeguard that *could* actually pay off for those really smart players in the room.
Back in 2015 there were stories about self-guided .50 caliber ammunition in the media (like this story at CNN). So why not take that to the next level?
I’m going to assume that every marine’s armor is sending off some form of electronic emissions so that it can be tracked and seen for strategic purposes. Whether it’s just a blip on a screen somewhere or tracking a soldier’s health in real-time doesn’t really matter, but it’s going to be sending signals into space.
With that in mind, we’ll just set up marine ammo so that if it is fired at a marine, it can check the transponder to see “friend or foe” and either veer off course or slow itself if it’s in danger of hitting a friend. Problem solved.
Of course, a good techie could probably have a drone that fires off intelligent swarms of ammunition on the battlefield and steers them towards targets like Melf’s Minute Meteors in good old D&D (see Mage’s Minute Meteors here for comparison). That would certainly cause some heartache in combat, don’t you think?
And then there’s the possibility of Gauss Rifles, which would fire small projectiles at a target using magnetism. These also would fire just fine in zero-g and zero-atmosphere, plus be even more silent (though if there’s no atmosphere, there’s also no sonic boom).
Long story short, it seems that zero-g and zero-atmosphere really isn’t an issue. Range would be affected — with the right aim, you could have nearly infinite range in zero-g. But that’s about it.