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Old 10-29-2019, 05:01 PM   #1
Raekai
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Default (Semi-)plausible plasma weapons, plasma powers, and plasma damage?

Let's say I need stats for plasma damage and (semi-)plausible plasma weapons and powers. For weapons and powers, I'd prefer local plasma generation and not laser-induced plasma at a distance, etc. (or sneaky comments about how metal is like a plasma). I'm not trying to emulate traditional plasma weapons; I'm working from the other direction and trying to use plasma as a weapon—if it could be weaponized.

I admit that I don't know more about plasma other than what Wikipedia (including the 'Plasma weapon' article that includes a list of related real-life devices) and a few Youtube videos have taught me, so forgive me. I struggle to conceptualize what a (semi-)plausible plasma generation/manipulation power would look like. It seems like a lot of (artificial) plasma generation involves electric arcs, so it feels like electricity generation/manipulation would be a part of that power too in order to justify it. Or maybe magnetic field powers or even laser powers for containing and/or directing the plasma.

Whether it's "arc" plasma or "jet" plasma, the big problem seems to be getting it where I want it to go. It's my impression that something like a realistic lightning bolt shot (or even a much smaller plasma streamer, like those from a Tesla Coil) from the hand of a super wouldn't go very far because it would try to ground itself. Right? It's also my impression that a plasma flamethrower wouldn't work very well because plasma is so light and energetic that it wouldn't have a long reach because it would dissipate quickly. Right? Then, it seems like there are mixed feelings about plasma "bolts" being able to be fired as toroids from weapons like the MARAUDER. Even if it works, it takes a lot of energy, but I find it easier to handwave the energy requirements (for powers) than the rest of the process. And, of course, there's always ball lightning—whatever that actually is.

So, how far could I get a lightning bolt or plasma streamer and how accurate would it be if I wanted to hit a specific target? What about a plasma jet? What about a plasma toroid? What would be the damage ranges for these attacks? What other effects would they have? Ideally, I think I'd want to scale the MARAUDER back from a 1m diameter to about half that for a more "classic fireball" feel with more science and less(?) magic.

Some GURPS Plasmas
  • Per High-Tech, a TL8 plasma torch does 3d+6(2) burn per second. Action 5: Dictionary of Danger fills out its stats, giving it Reach 1. Wikipedia tells me both that a plasma torch can only reach a few inches long but also up to a foot.
  • Arcs from Tesla Coils are plasma, right? High-Tech: Electricity and Electronics puts them between 1 and 1d-3 burn. It doesn't provoke an HT roll to avoid heart stoppage. They seem pretty safe, but I would imagine that you could increase power to increase damage.
  • Lightning, per High-Tech: Electricity and Electronics (which is very close to what's in Basic), causes 6d damage with a typical bolt and provokes an HT check for heart failure at -1 per 5 points of injury.
  • Then, of course, there's Ultra-Tech.
    • For its TL9–10 plasma torches, 1d+2(5) to 4d+1(5) is the range. They have Reach C,1 (except for the mini, which is just Reach C), which is interesting because the TL8 plasma torch is only Reach 1.
    • Then, there are the Plasma Flamers (TL9^) and Plasma Guns (TL10–11^). These are superscience, and I recognize that the Plasma Flamer wouldn't work because there isn't a way to get a coherent jet of plasma over dozens of yards, and also that the Plasma Gun would also be more trouble than it's worth because the shot energy is inefficient (according to other forum talks about plasma).
    • Finally, there are Electrolasers (TL9), which seem like a great candidate. I'm okay with the use of lasers as a way to create a channel. If that's the only thing that can solve my targeting issue, then that's fine. Though, I'm a bit underwhelmed by the lack of damage, though it seems like that could be ramped up.
    • As a bonus, it seems like Charged Particle Beams (TL10–11) might count, but I'm not sure. It says it uses ionized particles and it resembles a linear lightning bolt, so it seems related.

My goals are to understand what the range of plasma's effects in GURPS would be, to figure out how to justify a usable (semi-)plausible plasma generation/manipulation power, and to better understand plasma in general.

As always, your help and input is greatly appreciated. Just go easy on me!

Thanks.
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Old 10-29-2019, 10:33 PM   #2
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Default Re: (Semi-)plausible plasma weapons, plasma powers, and plasma damage?

While lightning produces plasma, this is just a side effect of the massive energies involved, and it's the electricity causing the damage. Lightning is as much a "plasma attack" as it is a "sonic attack." That said, there's no reason the electrolaser mechanism couldn't be upscaled to be as powerful as a lightning bolt if you wanted it to be. An electrolaser weapon of that power would probably be a mounted weapon, of course.

A "realistic" plasma-using super would probably bring in atmosphere, superheat it into plasma in some fashion (heat powers, electricity powers, hell air powers to supercompress it), and then either release it in one direction or all around. These would be burning Innate Attacks, either with Cone (probably a rather wide one) and Dissipation; or Area Effect, Dissipation, and Emanation (honestly, Explosion would probably be more realistic, but I don't think that's compatible with Cone - or if it is, it should be a Limitation, not an Enhancement). You could probably concentrate it down enough to function like a plasma torch, for maybe Reach C,1, with either magnetic powers or air-manipulation powers (in the latter case, you're just making a small amount into plasma at a time and throwing it forward, kind of like how a plasma torch operates normally). Something akin to telekinesis that can work on plasma (I believe magnetic manipulation and air manipulation would work) could probably allow you to make a jet of it.
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Old 10-29-2019, 10:50 PM   #3
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Default Re: (Semi-)plausible plasma weapons, plasma powers, and plasma damage?

Fire is plasma, it is just nonmagnetic and low energy (usually). In the most intense fires, you get more classic manifestations of plasma, like with fire tornados and the like. Anything more intense than that is probably superscience though.

A possible exception is a plasma lance munition. It would function similar to a shape-charged explosive, but it uses a fusion detonation instead of a chemical detonation (the classic Casabaw Howitzer). At TL9, it should be possible to use a Mininuke in a sharpcharged fashion, with a plasma lance damage equal to twice the explosive damage (with only the linked damage dealing damage to the area), with a maximum range equal to square root in dice of damage (1/2D equal to 50% max).
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Old 10-30-2019, 11:25 AM   #4
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Default Re: (Semi-)plausible plasma weapons, plasma powers, and plasma damage?

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
Fire is plasma, it is just nonmagnetic and low energy (usually).
Flame is mostly incandescent gas, not plasma. Magnetic is one of the defining characteristics of plasma.
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Old 10-30-2019, 12:21 PM   #5
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Default Re: (Semi-)plausible plasma weapons, plasma powers, and plasma damage?

What sort of thing are you looking for? Is this something supers related, or weird ultratech, or something else?

Broadly speaking, plasma is what happens when you ionize a gas, and for situations where its magnetic and electrical properties don't matter, can be treated as hot gas. This is usually not very useful as a weapon, because it will prefer to spread out until it reaches equilibrium with surrounding pressure, at which point it's rather diffuse and thus not that dangerous. This is similar to flame, which is also not terribly effective as a weapon; there is a reason effective flaming weapons rely on burning liquids or solids, rather than direct application of flame.

In most weapon applications, plasma, if it occurs, is a side effect of something more dangerous, most often an electric spark but possibly a particle beam or laser, and the plasma is just what happens when the dangerous thing hits air. Non-conventional explosives might also be hot enough to have substantial plasma generation, but again, the hazard is the explosion. Plasma is sometimes deliberately generated as a guide for something else (e.g. an electrolaser), but again, the hazard is the something else.
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Old 10-30-2019, 01:29 PM   #6
Raekai
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Default Re: How to create/justify a "realistic" firebending power? Fire, plasma, etc.?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
While lightning produces plasma, this is just a side effect of the massive energies involved, and it's the electricity causing the damage. Lightning is as much a "plasma attack" as it is a "sonic attack." That said, there's no reason the electrolaser mechanism couldn't be upscaled to be as powerful as a lightning bolt if you wanted it to be. An electrolaser weapon of that power would probably be a mounted weapon, of course.

A "realistic" plasma-using super would probably bring in atmosphere, superheat it into plasma in some fashion (heat powers, electricity powers, hell air powers to supercompress it), and then either release it in one direction or all around. These would be burning Innate Attacks, either with Cone (probably a rather wide one) and Dissipation; or Area Effect, Dissipation, and Emanation (honestly, Explosion would probably be more realistic, but I don't think that's compatible with Cone - or if it is, it should be a Limitation, not an Enhancement). You could probably concentrate it down enough to function like a plasma torch, for maybe Reach C,1, with either magnetic powers or air-manipulation powers (in the latter case, you're just making a small amount into plasma at a time and throwing it forward, kind of like how a plasma torch operates normally). Something akin to telekinesis that can work on plasma (I believe magnetic manipulation and air manipulation would work) could probably allow you to make a jet of it.
Thanks for your input! By atmosphere, are you referring to "air" or a specific part of the atmosphere? That's not exactly my strongest suit either.

I arrived at a similar conclusion about Cone and Explosion, but in the reverse order where Cone would be a limitation for Explosion. I appreciate your ideas about magnetic manipulation and air manipulation too. It got me to thinking about the base power being an ionization power to justify generating plasma and electricity. Does that sound right? Of course, it doesn't sound like it would shape it as well as air or magnetism, but I'd prefer to keep those powers separate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
Fire is plasma, it is just nonmagnetic and low energy (usually). In the most intense fires, you get more classic manifestations of plasma, like with fire tornados and the like. Anything more intense than that is probably superscience though.

A possible exception is a plasma lance munition. It would function similar to a shape-charged explosive, but it uses a fusion detonation instead of a chemical detonation (the classic Casabaw Howitzer). At TL9, it should be possible to use a Mininuke in a sharpcharged fashion, with a plasma lance damage equal to twice the explosive damage (with only the linked damage dealing damage to the area), with a maximum range equal to square root in dice of damage (1/2D equal to 50% max).
Quote:
Originally Posted by RyanW View Post
Flame is mostly incandescent gas, not plasma. Magnetic is one of the defining characteristics of plasma.
From my crude and internet-based research, it seems like some flames (~3000 °C) are hot enough to contain plasma. The plasma lance munition seems neat. If I have mini-nukes, though, why would I prefer plasma lances instead? In what situations would they be preferred?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
What sort of thing are you looking for? Is this something supers related, or weird ultratech, or something else?

Broadly speaking, plasma is what happens when you ionize a gas, and for situations where its magnetic and electrical properties don't matter, can be treated as hot gas. This is usually not very useful as a weapon, because it will prefer to spread out until it reaches equilibrium with surrounding pressure, at which point it's rather diffuse and thus not that dangerous. This is similar to flame, which is also not terribly effective as a weapon; there is a reason effective flaming weapons rely on burning liquids or solids, rather than direct application of flame.

In most weapon applications, plasma, if it occurs, is a side effect of something more dangerous, most often an electric spark but possibly a particle beam or laser, and the plasma is just what happens when the dangerous thing hits air. Non-conventional explosives might also be hot enough to have substantial plasma generation, but again, the hazard is the explosion. Plasma is sometimes deliberately generated as a guide for something else (e.g. an electrolaser), but again, the hazard is the something else.
That's a good question. Admittedly, it's for more for Supers. I should've been more upfront, but the idea is to create something of "realistic" firebending from the Avatar series (not the blue aliens one, obviously), which is also why I would stay away from air powers (as they'd go to a different element) and magnetism powers (as they don't seem to fit the bill), though I greatly appreciate the ideas. I also asked about real plasma and Ultra-Tech weaponry because I thought it would help me understand how plasma works, how it'd be weaponized, and what those effects would look like in terms of GURPS numbers (e.g., damage, etc.). Though, to be fair, I'm open to discussion to how else "realistic" firebending might work. I just jumped on plasma because it's also the fourth state of matter, which made sense in my head. It doesn't necessarily have to work or look the same (because I know fireballs aren't going to work terribly well), but I want it to feel the same. There are three other supers that throw around rocks, shoot water, and blast wind all over the place using limited forms of telekinesis (and other complementary powers), but it felt a little harder to figure out how fire/plasma/whatever would actually work.

What you say about thinking of plasma as a hot gas resonates with what I read about plasma weapons here, which is why I mentioned that it would dissipate so quickly (which is presumably why the Plasma Flamers wouldn't work very well). What you said about plasma typically occurring as a side-effect of something more dangerous and that fire likewise wouldn't be a great weapon on its own is exactly what I was afraid of.

If I could re-title this thread, it would be "How to create/justify a "realistic" firebending power? Fire, plasma, etc.?"

EDIT: Waterbending and earthbending are covered by some handwaving around telekinesis while airbending is covered by altering local atmospheric pressure. (Though, I also wouldn't mind extra ideas for those...)

Last edited by Raekai; 10-30-2019 at 01:41 PM.
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Old 10-30-2019, 03:11 PM   #7
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Default Re: (Semi-)plausible plasma weapons, plasma powers, and plasma damage?

A plasma lance would allow for a directed attack that penetrates better (probably a /10 armor divisor) as well as dealing 2x damage. It would also have a long range in space (100+ km).
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Old 10-30-2019, 03:48 PM   #8
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Default Re: (Semi-)plausible plasma weapons, plasma powers, and plasma damage?

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
A plasma lance would allow for a directed attack that penetrates better (probably a /10 armor divisor) as well as dealing 2x damage. It would also have a long range in space (100+ km).
How so on the long range in space? You have two forces trying to spread out a plasma. Magnetic repulsion as the charged gas has the same charge so repels itself. Pressure dispersion as a high pressure item will spread out into a lower pressure environment.
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Old 10-30-2019, 04:20 PM   #9
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Default Re: (Semi-)plausible plasma weapons, plasma powers, and plasma damage?

I'm pretty sure the 'plasma lance' concept involves trying to apply the Munroe effect to a nuclear weapon. Which won't actually work for a nuclear weapon because the Munroe effect is a feature of blast waves, so it only occurs after the blast wave forms -- which it does not do until the fireball is far larger than the bomb (blast wave separation is at about 10m radius for a modest sized nuclear weapon used in air, and doesn't happen at all in vacuum).
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Old 10-30-2019, 05:30 PM   #10
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Default Re: How to create/justify a "realistic" firebending power? Fire, plasma, etc.?

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Originally Posted by Raekai View Post
Thanks for your input! By atmosphere, are you referring to "air" or a specific part of the atmosphere? That's not exactly my strongest suit either.
By atmosphere I do indeed mean just generic air. I'd imagine the super could get better efficiencies if he's just working with one component of the atmosphere (so just oxygen, just CO2, etc), but don't know enough about plasma physics to say which one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raekai View Post
It got me to thinking about the base power being an ionization power to justify generating plasma and electricity. Does that sound right? Of course, it doesn't sound like it would shape it as well as air or magnetism, but I'd prefer to keep those powers separate.
It's probably alright - perhaps the power involves serious excitation of electrons, heating up the air and producing plasma as the electrons are stripped from the molecules. Do note, however, that any serious electricity-generating powers will give the character magnetic powers in a setting that attempts realism. This is because electricity and magnetism are very closely related, and one can readily create the other - running electricity through a "wire," which can just be any stable path, produces a magnetic field, while moving a wire through a magnetic field (or moving a magnetic field over a wire) will generate electricity in the wire. The former is how electromagnets work (and more mundane magnets are produced by exposure to other magnetic fields, so you can use this to make a "permanent" magnet). The latter is how the bulk of electricity is produced in the modern age (typically using steam to turn a turbine). The interactions of these two phenomena are how metal detectors work (they use electricity to generate a magnetic field, this generates electricity in metal objects, and the detector picks up the resulting weak magnetic field from this), and also why shielded networking cable gets a cleaner signal (the shielding prevents magnetic fields from nearby electrical wires from generating bursts of electricity and interfering with the signal).
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