In Timothy Zahn’s Blackcollar series, the blackcollars are a ninja/ commando unit that use low-tech, non-electronic and non-explosive weapons to avoid detection by their high-tech opponents. Favoured weapons included nunchaku, shurikens and slingshots. Oddly, the weapons used in the books that I read were still made from metal.
The technology available in Transhuman Space permits the construction of effective non-metallic weapons from such materials as glass, plastics and ceramics. Low-tech, low-detectability weapons might also be supplemented by certain combat-orientated bio-implants. The blackcollars in Zahn’s books had enhanced speed and reflexes.
There will doubtless be situations in THS where low-tech systems may be used to circumvent high-tech defensive systems.
Items such as nanoburn are technically robotic and electronic, but it is debatable as to whether the electric field is strong enough to be detected by security systems, particularly if carried close to a larger electric field such as that of a human/parahuman/bioroid/bioshell body.
The dense covalent bonding of monowire and nanofiber effectively make them metallic as far as detectors are concerned. Undetectable garrottes and climbing ropes will need to be made from polymer or natural materials.
What can and cannot be used is ultimately up to the GM.
Below are some suggested stats for a slingshot. The American term “slingshot” often causes confusion with a sling, a weapon working on a quite different principle. (One episode of “Lost in Space” claimed the slingshot was the weapon that slew Goliath!)
I have therefore used the British English name of “hand catapult” (aka “catapult” or “catty”). Late 20th century examples have proved to be effective for small game hunting and have been known to break riot police visors.
A THS version of a hand-catapult would probably use a polymer that was less likely to break or perish than rubber. Non-metallic ammunition can be assumed to be glass marbles of 0.04lb weight each.
Inventive players will undoubtedly wish to use catapults to fire arrows, shuriken and various other devices.
In World War Two, some British commando units were issued catapults for throwing stones to distract sentries. THS catapults can be used in the same way, but there is a danger that if the sentry is close he may hear or recognize the noise of the “rubber”. Robotic systems are more likely to be fooled.
Zhan’s blackcollars used sticky clay pellets containing lumps of radioactive plutonium to blind and degrade sensors
Rubber Hand Catapult
Slingshot/ Catapult is a P/E skill, defaulting to Bow-4 or DX-4
|Weapon||Damage||Acc||1/2D (yards)||Max Range (yards)||Mass (lb)||RoF||Min ST|
|Catapult (4e HT)||1d-1 cr||1||60||100||1||1(2)||6†||$15
Update! My original stats for a hand-catapult were based on a prod crossbow.
Since first writing this, I have found there is a slingshot stat in HT4e p.201. I have added this to the table above.
Skill to use in HT4e is Bow (Slingshot)(DX-5 or Bow-4). Bulk is -2 and folding models are Holdout -1. A lead or steel pellet (0.05lb) costs $0.1 and gives +1 damage and double range.
The handle of a catapult can be used as a yawara stick.
Known in the Philippines as “Indian Pana” and more generally in other nations as “Catty-Darts”. These are 10 to 15 cm long darts designed to be thrown by a hand catapult. They usually have a hook or barb which engages the catapult sling.
Darts do 1d-1 small piercing (pi-) damage instead of crushing (cr). At ranges equal or less than user's ST they inflict impaling damage. Mass is 0.1lb per dart.
Loading a dart correctly into a catapult requires an additional ready action.
Darts are useful for making holes in tyres or pressure tents, or delivering a dose of drug or poison. A catty-dart takes one dose of poison or drug.
Darts can be designed so they can be launched from standard catapults. Launchers specifically intended as dart launchers may have a ring rather than a pouch.
Darts with frangible warheads may be constructed. In effect these resemble paintball rounds, delivering a dose of liquid or powder without seriously damaging the target. Contents other than paint are, of course, possible.
Catty-darts can be hand-thrown like bo-shuriken or fei biao. Treat as a small throwing knife (Thrust-1 Imp), range ST-5/ST. They can be also used in close combat and are treated as a small knife or dagger, with a -1 to skill and an additional -1 to parry for a total of -2.
An incendiary dart contains one dose of pyrogel or thermite analogue. The dart body is made from materials that will readily be consumed by flame. Treat as a strong storm-match. An incendiary dart is relatively small, so a material will have to be dry and inflammable to be successfully ignited.
Homing darts with a tag-tracker are available for catapults. Some have detachable heads and are used to tag thick-skinned land or sea animals. The tag remains in the animal while the rest of the dart drops off. Detachable headed darts may be used to deliver other cargoes.
If the remainder of the dart is not apparent, the GM may require a skill roll to determine the nature of an attack.
Caty-darts made by street-gangs may simply be hammered from nails or a similar source of metal.
Blackcollars or similar are likely to use darts that are non-metallic and difficult to detect.
In THS it is possible that a plant could be genetically engineered to grow suitable thorns, complete with a tuff of leaves to act as stabilizers.
A catty-bomb resembles a fat dart or a diminutive mortar bomb of 20-30mm calibre. It has a hook that engages the catapult.
Treat as a 30mm warhead, as per THS 3e p.158. A catty-bomb can carry eight doses of chemical.
Like a catty-dart, loading a catty-bomb requires an extra ready action.
Catapults can launch larger arrows or grenades, but at suitable penalties for weight and awkwardness.