The Game Mechanic: A Future Near You (Part 1)

Yes, you can actually buy these.

Speculative science fiction has always been one of my favorite genres of literature. I love seeing people put their dreams and ideas of the future to paper, and joining them in looking forward to (or dreading) what has yet to come. I’m particularly fond of older sci-fi, reading through and seeing what they got right and what they never even saw coming.

On the other hand, it can also be a little frustrating to play classic tabletop RPGs, such as the earlier editions of Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun and get pigeon-holed into what the future looked like back in the 80’s and 90’s. Therefore, we are going to take a look at a few speculative technologies that will probably be horribly outdated in another decade or two, but will still feel a little more modern.

Our launching point will be a small handful of personal combat gear, with stats for the Savage Worlds system, and then we’ll spend the rest of the month on implementing the future near you.


1. The Wasp Knife 

Created by Wasp Injection Systems, the Wasp Knife was designed to provide divers with an edge against sea predators, as well as provide a deadlier melee weapon for police, military, and security forces. It uses a canister of compressed gas in the handle to create a basketball-sized orb of tissue disruption, as well as freezing a decent chunk of the flesh around the point of entry. To operate the knife, one merely stabs the target and presses the handle in the button to release the gas into them.

While the technology behind the knife is fairly simple, it represents an important step forward in improving the technology of melee weapons, which haven’t enjoyed nearly as much forward progress as ranged weaponry.

The Stats 

Weapon: WASP Knife Damage: Str+ d6 +2 AP: 0 Cost: 500 Min Str: _  Weight: 1 Shots: 1  Notes: Cannot be thrown. Those affected by the knife underwater must make a Swim check at -4 each or start floating to the surface.  Gas cartridges for the knife are available for 30 apiece.

2. Recoilless Small Arms 

For the sake of clarity, this entry refers to an area of hypothetical technology, as opposed to the existing technology of a Recoilless Rifle, which is basically a term for certain types of hand-held antivehicle weapons. For our purposes, Recoilless Small Arms represent advances in the field of firearm technology that will help to mitigate, or even eliminate, the effects of recoil on the shooter’s accuracy.

This could be accomplished with two different methods. The first is to simply implement technology that reduces the actual recoil itself. A good example of this sort of weapon is the TDI Vector, a submachine that uses a few different proprietary methods, such as improved ergonomic alignment and mechanical recoil absorption, to reduce the perceived recoil.

The second method, hypothetically, employs a form of highly-accelerated burst fire to move a small number of rounds, usually three, out of the barrel before the muzzle of the weapon has a chance to start climbing upward. While this could result in some nice, tight shot groupings and provide a burst-fire capability to weapons that wouldn’t normally be able to have them, the combined recoil of the three shots would hit the shooter very, very hard.


Luckily, this technology is pretty easy to implement in Savage Worlds. For the first method, simply reduce or eliminate the autofire penalty, depending on technology’s potency and the weapon’s size. Reducing the required strength score over a normal automatic weapon would probably be a good gesture as well. For the second method, simply increase the strength requirement (or impose a penalty on subsequent shots) and provide the weapon with the benefit of burst fire. Pistols and Sniper Rifles are the most likely weapons to benefit from this technology, and for grittier settings or particularly large weapons, you may want to increase the damage bonus to +3.

3. Boomerang Gunfire Locator

Between the staggering array of crap that you can slap on to an assault rifle and the various pieces of logistical, analytical, and computational equipment available to a character today, we could easily spend an entire series of articles just on tactical accessories.

After perusing a few different options, I came across a DARPA project commissioned by the American Secretary of Defense in 2003. The purpose of the project was to provide soldiers in vehicles with a method of discerning exactly where hostile gunfire was coming from. The Boomerang is currently only available as a vehicle-mounted device, though there were plans to integrate it into the scrapped Land Warrior program.

While gunshots are pretty damn loud in and of themselves, when faced with an ambush in a crowded urban area, the ability to discern exactly where the shots are coming from can do go the tubes pretty damn quickly. Luckily, with a personal version of this device, your characters can quickly get a handle on their attacker’s location. This will give them a lot more breathing room for taking proper cover, directing their own fire, and possibly even calling in artillery or UAV strikes.

The Stats: The personal gunfire locator provides a +4 bonus to locating hostile gunfire within 150 meters, with the more advanced software painting the shooter’s location on a map and possibly even identifying the type of weapon being used. This is also available in a vehicular version, which provides the same bonus and will continue to do so up at speeds upwards of 60 miles an hour. Cost: Military

Nonlethal Weaponry 

Nonlethal weaponry has seen a huge upswing in development recently, with things like pepper-laced paintballs and the Taser Shockwave developed and deployed with increasing frequency in the past decade or so. Since we’re taking a more futuristic bent on things, I thought I’d drag out a particularly shiny prototype weapon from a couple years back: the PHaSR.

Standing for Personnel Halting And Stimulus Response, and demonstrating that most weaponry R&D types are probably huge nerds as well, the rifle narrowly skirts the 1995 Geneva ruling on not using lasers to blind people by only doing “temporary” retinal damage.

Not only do these things get points for clearly being designed to look like some sort of sci-fi energy weapon, they would also make a fantastic weapon for Dystopian security forces to use on your player characters.

The Stats 

Weapon: PHaSR Rifle Damage: See Notes AP: 0 Cost: Military Min Str: _  Weight: 12 Shots: 20  Notes: Characters hit by this weapon must succeed at a Vigor roll or become shaken. Protective equipment such as properly designed goggles may provide a bonus to this roll. If the attacker gets a raise with the PHaSR, then the subject takes a -2 penalty to all vision-related activities for the next 2-3 hours.

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