Monday, 31 December 2018

Gyroflares: Here I Am!

Gyroflares, aka gyrobeacons are a signalling device. It serves as a flying strobe light or non-incendiary flare. To use a gyroflare the container is placed on a level surface or held firmly. A small charge launches the gyroflare several yards up into the air. This gives the gyroflare sufficient time to deploy its rotors and generate enough lift to begin rising to its working altitude. The gyroflare will ascend above any nearby trees or other obstacles.
Essentially the gyroflare is a small UAV that will hover above its point of release until its small (B cell) battery is exhausted. The body of the gyroflare is covered in red, green and blue LEDs. By using these in combination the gyroflare can simulate a wide range of colours. Some models have LEDs with enhanced infra-red output.
The behaviour of a gyroflare can be programmed before launch. Most, but not all, wearable software packages include the utility. Betas and knock-off tech may lack this and other useful programs. Alternately they may have faulty versions of the software that may cause the gyroflare to behave in unexpected ways.
Typically, a gyroflare program might instruct the device to fly high and emit a high intensity strobe for several minutes to attract attention. This would be followed by a longer period of lower output to guide observers to the location. In an emergency situation the gyroflare can pulse “S-O-S” in Morse code. When multiple beacons are in use each can flash a unique code. Better models of gyroflare trail a wire antenna and also transmit radio pulses.
Gyroflares are mainly intended for signalling and location marking. While not intended for such use, they can be used as an illumination source by programming them to hover lower and produce a constant high output of light. This will deplete their batteries at a higher rate than usual.
Gyroflares are often carried by wilderness travellers and other civilians who might have a need for them. Their use in mountains and other areas where strong winds are encountered can be problematic. Hovering gyroflares may be easily shot down by certain weapons so their use in high intensity conflicts is limited. The military do use them for non-combat missions and some “operations other than war” (OOTW).
How long a gyroflare can be used will depend upon how high and how long it is required to fly, wind conditions and its light output. When the battery is nearly expended the gyroflare will gently descend to its point of origin, providing it has not been blown off position by strong winds. It is recommended the gyroflare is placed back in its container and returned to the manufacturer for battery and cartridge replacement. Credit for this may be used towards future gyroflare purchases.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Weapons: Grenade Launchers for Transhuman Space

I will add more details at a later date. Blogger always mucks up tables and I do not have the time or temperament today. In the meantime, the grenade launcher pages of High-Tech 4e will prove useful, particularly the section on the M29 on p.144.

Whilst mini-missiles are a very common weapon in 2100 they have not totally replaced grenade launchers. Many armies feel grenade launchers compliment the capabilities of mini-missiles. In many cases grenade rounds are more weight and cost effective than bulkier, heavier and more expensive missiles. Grenades are also more suited to the delivery of less-lethal munitions, being less likely to cause injury than a fast moving rocket propelled projectile. A typical infantry squad will have two members armed with grenade launchers, although this ratio will vary according to tactical requirements. 
Several types of grenade launchers are in common use on the Earth of 2100.
Smart-fusing is standard on suitable grenade launcher rounds. To use smart-fusing the launcher or the weapon it is mounted on must have a suitable fire control system. These are standard on Fifth and Fourth wave battle rifles and common on many other weapon types. Usual fuse options are airburst, impact, delay and “window”. Superquick and timed settings may also be available.
A typical engagement would see the grenadier using his weapon's laser rangefinder to establish the distance to the target. He will usually lase a spot near the target since many systems include laser warning receivers (LWR). These will trigger an alarm and possibly countermeasures if the target is lased directly. The grenadier may also select or modify the range by verbal command or keypad. The next round to be fired is programmed with the desired range. The fire control system will also adjust the sight's aiming mark to allow for range, elevation differences, wind conditions and target movement.
If set to “airburst” the grenade will explode when it reaches the programmed distance. If set to “window” it will explode 1.5 yards beyond the set direction. HEMP rounds used against armour may be programmed to detonate early for improved stand-off effect. Impact is the default setting and will be selected if there is no fire control system or an error in programming.

20mm Launcher.
This weapon has already been described in detail elsewhere. A versatile weapon, its classification poses a problem. As a grenade launcher many of its projectiles have a much higher velocity than is usual for the type. Many of its projectiles are self-propelled micro-missiles cleared from the barrel by a small impeller charge in the case. Whether these projectiles are micro-missiles or small mini-missiles is also debated. With different ammunition the weapon is often employed instead of a shotgun.
These discussions have little relevance to the practical use of the weapon. It is valued as a weapon system that can handle a wide variety of targets.

In addition to the other under-barrel versions of 20mm launchers already detailed there is a self-loading model with a tube magazine. This resembles many late 19th and 20th century firearms in that rounds need to be loaded individually and the last round loaded is the next round fired. Tube magazines should not be confused the magazine tubes used in 30mm grenade pods.
30mm Grenade Pod.
The 30mm grenade pod (aka “GL-pod”) mounts under the barrel of a battle rifle in the same fashion as a mini-missile pod. At a distance the two pods are difficult to distinguish. Like the mini-missile pod the grenade launcher uses the rifle's fire control system to program the grenades. Pods may also be mounted on battlesuits, cybershells or other systems.
The pod contains a short, rifled barrel mounted ahead of a cylinder with three open-sided chambers. Each chamber takes a magazine tube containing three 30mm grenades, all in the same magazine of the same type. The pod can be treated as a weapon with three three-shot magazines. A magazine tube weighs 0.6 lb, a fully-loaded pod 3 lbs. Magazine tubes with different grenade types can be loaded in different chambers. The weapon recognizes the grenade type in each tube and the operator can easily switch between different types.
The magazine tube also serves as the breech of the weapon and uses a superimposed load system. The grenades are arranged and fired in series. Partially-fired tubes can be removed from the weapon and used later. Empty tubes must be returned to the manufacturer or an armourer for reloading. Tubes with high explosive rounds are green with a yellow stripe. Riot control magazines are grey with a red stripe. Smoke magazines are light green with black markings. Canister magazines are black with white markings.
The most commonly used round is HEMP, 6d x 3 (10) cr + linked 2d cr ex [1d+1]. This has the same effects as a TS-era HEMP hand grenade or 30mm warhead. Arming distance is 12 yards. Thermobaric rounds, 8d cr ex, are less common but not unusual. Various types of riot control munitions are widely available and include various gases and thunderflash rounds. Smoke rounds produce an 8 yard radius PFOG cloud for 25 seconds and are mainly used for signalling and target marking rather than screening. Canister rounds are useful for close range operations and contain either buckshot or flechettes.
Average HEMP grenade velocity is 92 yd/s. Range is 560 yds. Homing capability is possible but not typical.

30mm DGL.
The 30mm DGL has some resemblance to the 30mm grenade launcher pod but uses the disposable launch tube technology familiar from 40mm Swift mini-missiles. The tube contains three grenades arranged in series rather than a single mini-missile. One or more tubes can be attached to a rifle or other suitable mounting. If a fire control system is not available the grenades work as “dumb”, impact-fused munitions. Projectiles are effectively identical to those used in the 30mm grenade launcher pod.
Launch tubes may be treated as disposable when in combat. During training used tubes are recycled and reloaded at appropriate facilities.

30mm Individual Grenade Launcher.
The 30mm grenade pod and 30mm DGL are under-barrel launchers that can be fitted to rifles. The 30mm IGL may be thought of as a grenade launcher with an under-barrel rifle! The grenade launcher itself is a semi-automatic weapon with a six or ten round box magazine. Larger, drum magazines may be encountered. The ammunition is derived from that used in the GL-pod and DGL. These, in turn, are derived from contemporary hand grenade and 30mm mini-missile warhead technology. Rather than using a superimposed system the round have more conventional aluminium or polymer cases. Several emag versions of IGLs became available in 2095.
Grenades from a conventional IGL have a similar velocity to those from a GL-pod or DGL, all being designed to produce the same tolerable level of recoil to the user. Emag IGL offer the option of variable grenade velocity. Grenades can be fired at lower velocities for short-ranged high trajectory fire. Velocities of 200-300 yd/s or more allow for flatter, longer range shots, but with corresponding increases in felt recoil. Grenades are also prone to be less accurate if travelling at trans-sonic velocities.
As might be expected, an IGL has all the sighting, range-finding and fire control systems that might be expected for a weapon using smart-fused grenades. IGLs are claimed to be more accurate than GL-pods or DGLs, although some dispute there is a significant difference in actual combat.
Grenade launchers have a relatively long minimum range so many armies fit the IGL with a “kinetic energy” component: a stockless, short-barrelled variant of a battle rifle, BCR or PDW.
The addition of the KE component further increases the weight of the weapon system and reduces its responsiveness in either mode. For rifles the excessively shortened barrel significantly reduces performance. Blast and flash are also a problem with such short barrels. +1 Hearing and +1 Vision to spot a firer in the dark.
Where possible or permitted some users remove the KE component. Others consider the KE component as only for emergencies and reduce the weight of rifle ammunition carried accordingly.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

New Movement and Scatter System for GURPS.

A hexagonal grid combat map is commonly used in GURPS. The conventions for using it are described in Chapter 12, Book 2 of the Basic Rules.

Under these rules a figure must always face one side of a “hex”. If a figure wishes to move in a direction other than the principle six this involves a non-linear path. In the real world people do make course changes of 45 or 90 degrees!

Many table-top games do not use squares or hexes. Movement distance is measured and figures are moved, independent of markings on the surface. An example of this is classic Car Wars. The grid on the map was just an aid and vehicles and figures could cross it at any vector.

Such a system can easily be adapted to GURPS. One inch/25mm per yard is a convenient scale and very suitable for readily available 25-32mm figures, which often have bases of an inch or smaller. Where Chapter 12 says “hex” or “movement point” “inch” can usually be substituted.

To keep things consistent with official rules, turns are in increments of up to 60 degrees, each 60 degree change of facing or part thereof costing one movement point or reducing total move by one inch. A 90 degree turn is therefore -2 inches of movement. Inch/ movement point costs for other actions and conditions are given on p.B387.

It may be useful to remember that one hour on a clock-face is 30 degrees and 60 degrees two hours.

When using these movement rules on a hex-map the GM may require any movement to finish within a hex. If a figure finishes more than halfway across a hex they occupy that hex. If they were halfway across or less the figure moves back to the hex they were leaving. If a figure is across multiple hexes use majority, least advantage, dice roll or narrative imperative as a guide. As I discuss in one of my books, rules should facilitate a story rather than hinder.

The scatter rules on p.B414 use a d6 to move an object in one of six possible directions. If you require a more random system try this method, adapted from “The Rules With No Name”.

Near the point from which the object will scatter, cast two d6 of different colours. Visualize a line between the centres of the two dice. This is the angle at which the object will scatter. Treat the higher scoring dice as the “pointer head” to give the direction of scatter. If you roll a double treat the darker/ redder dice as the pointer.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Weapons: E-mag Commando Mortar

“The machine guns pin down targets for the mortars. The mortars drive out targets for the machine guns”

The 60mm e-mag commando mortar is a common platoon-level weapon. It resembles a short tube (Holdout -4) with a carrying handle and a shoulder strap. The most obvious difference from older commando mortars is the large loading port just above the breech.

By using a non-pyrotechnic system to project rounds the mortar produces no flash and very little noise. Projectiles of all commando mortars are subsonic. The e-mag commando mortar is treated as having silent ammunition and uses the 16-yard line of the Hearing Distances Table [4eHT, p.158]. The e-mag system also allows greater control of the projectile's initial velocity, allowing range to be controlled without varying the barrel angle. For simplicity treat bomb velocity as 300 yd/s.

The 60mm emag commando mortar is powered by a standard C cell (0.5 lb, 1" diameter x 2" tall). Some projectiles contain small power cells that partially recharge the mortar while they are loaded, so typically a user runs out of bombs long before the mortar runs out of power. A C cell provides at least 80 shots.

The mortar's loading port permits faster reloading, particularly when the operator is prone. The port also allows the status of a weapon to be easily ascertained, the presence of a loaded bomb being able to be determined by sight or touch. Since the nose of a bomb is above the bottom edge of the port accidental double-loading of the mortar is avoided. The loading port also mates with automated ammunition feed systems build into some military cybershells.

A display panel above the carrying handle shows the bearing the mortar is aimed towards, the estimated range of the bomb loaded and the barrel angle. The bearing is displayed in mils or degrees and can be set to local magnetic or true north. Range is given in metres and barrel angle in degrees. Typically each reading is displayed in a different colour. This data display can also be transmitted to the user's HUD.

To use the mortar the baseplate is placed on a firm surface. A bomb is loaded if the weapon was not already loaded. Guided by the display reading, the mortar is aimed in the desired direction. Range is set by varying the barrel angle or adjusting a power control on the carrying handle, or a combination of both. When the display shows the desired range the mortar is fired by a trigger set in the carrying handle.

In the event of an aiming system malfunction the carrying handle has a bubble clinometer showing approximate range and barrel angle. A luminous line below the muzzle may be used to aim the weapon.
An additional aiming system is provided by marks on the carrying sling. The kneeling operator places his foot on a mark on the sling and raises the muzzle until the sling is pulled taunt. This places the barrel at the desired angle.

The mortar can be carried with a bomb already loaded, allowing the weapon to be rapidly brought into action.

Three types of ammunition are common. These rounds are also compatible with vehicle-mounted 60mm e-mag gun-mortars:

The illumination round produces a 350 yard radius area for 45 seconds. Both visible and infra-red light variants are available [4e HT p.171].

Smoke rounds typically use white or black PFOG which is either Prismatic or Hot Prism/ Hot Smoke [4e HT p.171 and UT p.160] giving a -10 penalty at the affected wavelengths. Smoke rounds affect a 15 yards radius for 90 seconds and build up at five yards of radius per second.

By 2100 the standard 60mm mortar HE round is a HEMP with the effect 6d x 8 (10) cr + linked 8d cr ex [3d cutting fragmentation]. Main damage is incendiary. These are smart homing rounds that can be programmed to preferentially target vehicles, man-made objects or entrenchments. Such technology has made the platoon-level mortar even more deadly and versatile, now being a weapon that can more effectively engage moving targets.
Short-range riot control rounds are also produced for 60mm e-mag mortars. These only contain enough metal for the e-mag to project them.
An e-mag commando mortar can throw a grappling hook and line 30 yards upwards and forward at -2, providing the grapple is magnetic and the shank can be fitted inside the muzzle.


60mm E-mag
Commando Mortar
6d x 8 (10) cr
+ linked 8d cr ex [3d]
9/ 3.2
1 (2)

Button Men in 2100

Human hunting and duelling are common themes in fiction. Recommended is Robert Sheckley's “Victim” series. “Victim Prime” even includes a Car Wars-style sequence.

A version that may be well suited to Transhuman space is that of “Button Man”. Button Man (1992) was originally published in 2000AD, notable for being one of the few stories in that publication that did not have obvious sci-fi content. 

A hunt involved two button men hunting each other. The hunt was to the death but the winner could instead opt to take the loser's “marker” instead. A marker was one of the loser's fingers. A button man who had lost three markers was to be eliminated.

Each button man had a wealthy patron or sponsor known as a “voice”. If I recall correctly this was because the button man was not supposed to know the identity of their voice and their only contact was by the audio only medium of phone or radio.

The technology of the world of Transhuman Space will have some effects on the above scenario. Losing a finger is not a much a penalty when such things can easily be regrown with modern bio-tech. It is possible that the finger will still be taken from the loser in the interests of tradition and symbolism. The actual number of markers a button man has lost will be displayed in an encrypted v-tag, only visible to the other button man within a certain distance.

Drone cameras and body-cameras will give the voices a much better view of the actual action. It is very likely that button men will be required to have upslinks so voices and others can more fully experience the hunt.

In the original story the protagonist, “Exton” was a down on his luck ex-serviceman. In military systems where most of the fighting is conducted by cybershells or bioroids the human element is chiefly responsible for administration, supply and maintenance. Some current servicemen may be tempted by the prospect of real action. Mercenaries, hit-men or the very poor are also likely recruits for button men. The GM will have to decide if patrons are permitted to use bioroids and parahumans as button men. Similarly, button men with particular bio-mods, bionics or other enhancements may affect the odds.

Gambling is an important element of button man duels. Patrons are very rich individuals who run one or more button men as a hobby. Substantial bets ride on the final outcome or details of a contest. In the original story Exton's voice loses a considerable amount when Exton kills an opponent rather than taking a marker, as that voice had wagered. In 2100 some button man contests may be accessible not just to the patrons but also worldwide via dark web sites. Upslink recordings of duels may be available through the black market throughout the Solar system.

Button man contests provide many possibilities for adventures. Do the contests actually exist or are they an urban myth or elaborate hoax? Once an idea exists it is likely that someone with enough money will attempt it. Given that contests are illegal, not every button man may have adopted the role voluntarily. An adventure may involve very poor individual(s) being coerced into becoming button men. An adventure investigating the movement of illegal upslinks may lead to characters discovering button man contests. Groups of voices and their button men might also be used in Car Wars campaigns.

The package was surprisingly small, but everything was there.
On top, a black market 9mm MAX pistol without serial numbers. Three spare magazines, loaded.
A one-use data card with the frequencies and other settings he would need.
A couple of neo-amphetamines.
A pair of field dressings and an assortment of lesser bandages and plasters.
At the bottom, the inevitable plastic bag and shears.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Weapons: Bushcrow and Nutcracker

“That depends upon what class of weapons our future clients will want: Sparrows, Crows or Hawks?” was Oyama's cryptic reply.
Oyama went on to explain that the supra-technology (ST) weapon systems being developed under Copp's direction were far in advance of the ET systems in service with the superpowers. They fell into three groups, named after birds. The Sparrow class comprised a number of light 'fire and forget' anti-tank, anti-air and anti-personnel missiles, named after small birds, which would 'lock' onto whatever target was being engaged when the firer pulled the trigger. Having a much higher velocity than the comparable ET weapons of the superpowers, they were much more difficult to decoy. They also had a markedly higher lethality and hit probability. The Crows were a family of larger medium range 'maids of all work', which were replacing almost all the conventional mortars and artillery in the field armies. And Hawks were long range killers that Oyama described as the creators of nuclear scale destruction by non-nuclear means, hence with no radiation side effects. Naval and air weapons were modification of the same three basic families.

The Alternate Third World War 1985-2035 (p.129)
William Jackson.
Pan-Asian Armaments classifies its missile products as belonging to one of three classes: Sparrows (Suzume), Crows (Karasu) and Hawks (Taka). This system has been adopted by some other manufactures and the terms are used generically in certain circles.

Sparrow-class weapons are man-portable and range from 15mm micro-missiles to large calibre anti-armour and demolition munitions. Typically Sparrow-class munitions need to be aimed in the general direction of the intended target.

Crow-class munitions typically are vehicle-mounted systems, usually using vertical launch mechanisms and manoeuvring towards their target after launch. A good example of a Crow-class weapon is the 200 mm Raven, essentially a version of the Jaguar missile described elsewhere. Like most Crows the Raven is modular, allowing motor, guidance and warhead to be varied to suit the customer's needs.

Hawks are large, long range weapons.

Two models of Crow-class weapons are of particular interest.

The 107 mm Bushcrow is a weapon that can trace its origins to Chinese-made rocket systems popular with guerrillas in the latter half of the 20th century. The Bushcrow is designed as a Crow-class weapon that has a level of man-portability. The missile is shipped in a cage-like framework that also serves as a launcher. Thin sheets of plastic may be attached over the spaces of the frame for additional weather protection. These are usually removed when the missile must be man-carried. Carrying straps are easily attached to the launch frame. While typically used by dismounted fighters, vehicles may be fitted with racks from which one or more missiles can be fired. Used frames can be reused or put to various other purposes.

While classed as man-portable, the Bushcrow and its launch frame weigh 42 lb and is just under a yard long and has a volume of 0.018 yd3 (5 x 5 x 33"). Range varies with particular variant, but is typically around 14,000 yds.

To use the Bushcrow the carrying frame is simply propped at an upward angle. The guidance system of the missile means that the positioning does not need to be that precise. The missile can be programmed to launch at a selected time after activation, allowing the unit that carried it to be far away when it fires.

The guidance system of the Bushcrow makes it a vastly more effective weapon than its simple rocket ancestors. The most basic version uses INS/GPS to attack a programmed location. More advanced versions can be programmed to select specific targets within the target area. Fuse options include impact, delay and airburst. The most commonly used warheads are HEMP or a 3 lb octonitrocubane high-explosive warhead that also scatters high-velocity incendiary pellets.

The Nutcracker can be seen as intermediate between the Sparrow and Crow-classes. It is a 150 mm calibre missile with large cruciform wings. It weighs 25 lbs and has a carrying handle on its “upper” side. In the infantry role the Nutcracker does not need a tube, rail or any other form of launcher. Nutcracker missiles may be placed in various locations and activated remotely as needed. The Nutcracker has two launch options.

Like most members of the Crow-class the Nutcracker can be launched vertically. To facilitate this the trailing edges of the wings are concave and the tips shaped into supports upon which the missile can be stood. This raises the exhaust an adequate distance above the ground.

The Nutcracker can also be launched horizontally. The missile is positioned with the carrying handle uppermost so it rests on its two lower wings. The missile automatically detects its orientation so when launched it fires a small cartridge located between the lower wings. This jumps the missile upwards and forwards at an angle of about 20 degrees. The main motor then ignites to propel the missile towards its target. Horizontal mode allows the Nutcracker to be used from positions with overhead cover, such as forests or inside buildings.

The Nutcracker usually has a SEFOP or HEMP warhead but can use any warhead intended for 150mm Sparrow and Crow-class munitions. Range is 4,500 yds and velocity 500 yd/s.