Fading Suns and Flaming Heresies
Melee weapons saw a resurgence after the Fall, since energy shields are common among the nobility and those who can afford them. However, the needs of internal starship combat also helped promote their return. The ranged weapons necessary to penetrate space marine armor risk damaging a ship if they hit a key component. Thus marines and pirates have turned to melee weapons when onboard ships. The nobility’s adoption of a dueling culture only adds to excuses for carrying melee weapons.
Knife: The only thing most peasants are allowed by law to carry is a knife, but this can be anything from a turkey carver to a mammoth survival knife. Smaller knives may deliver less damage; larger knives are considered to be dirks.
Knife Boot: A kick to the schiskas can hurt, but the same kick with one of these can be deadly. A great equaliser in dirty bar-room brawls, the knife boot is a 6" spring loaded blade that pops from the toe of the boot. Activated by flexing the toes twice in quick succession, the blade is just as easily retracted when the dust clears. Knife boots are rare enough that most casual searches do not uncover them.
Spring Knife: The spring knife has the same traits as any other knife, but the blade stays concealed in the hilt until its user presses a button and brings it into play. Some of these are exceptionally well concealed, being worked into belt buckles and jewelry, but these are even more expensive than the normal ones. Needless to say, possession of one of these is a crime in many cities — these aren’t tools.
Cestus: Knuckle covers, usually made out of any metals from Brass to Ceramsteel, provide an extra die of damage when their users punch someone. Most of these are simple lumps of metal worn over the knuckles, but some are ornate designs with hooks, poison jets and spikes. The lattrer are especially popular among Bannockburn’s professional pugilists.
Trench Knife: Traditionally a strong slashing and cutting blade attached to a large hilt. The hilt acts as a cestus (above) and grants its user and extra die of damage with a punch.
Dirk: A large knife or short sword, depending on the manufacture. Similar to the Scottish knife from which it gets its name, this could also be a Gurka kukri or Roman gladius.
Rapier: The most popular melee weapon in the Known Worlds. It is elegant and light, perfect for fencing. The common rapier resembles a renaissance blade with a cup or swept hilt guard. Noble rapiers are usually engraved with fine decorations, and often have precious gems set into the pommels. Rapiers are popular among those who have the finesse to slide the blade under an energy shield’s impact threshold (purposefully doing less damage by withholding victory dice).
Broadsword: A heavy sword favored by certain soldiers. This could be a Viking broadsword, a Norman conqueror’s sword or just about any broad, straight sword from history.
Scimitar/Katana: A curved sword with either two edges or one. This could be an Arabian sword, a pirate cutlass or even a samurai katana. Scimitars are popular among the Kurgan barbarians.
Two-handed Sword: The biggest, baddest sword around. This mammoth sword could be any huge blade, but is mainly modeled after the Scottish claymore. Two-handed swords are popular among those who do not have the finesse to slide a blade under an energy shield’s impact threshold but who might deliver enough damage to exceeds its protection threshold.
Axe: This could be a battle axe or a simple woodcutter’s tool. This is the kind of heavy weapon often snatched up by peasants trying to defend their farms from strangers.
Staff: The ol’ standby for merry men everywhere, this could be Little John’s quarterstaff, a Japanese monk’s bo staff, or just about any long stick (a short stick is considered to be a club).
Spear: An old favorite, spears have made a comeback on many worlds. They are considered primitive by even most peasants, but the increasing need on some backworlds to supplement crops with hunting means that they are used anyway.
Club: Used by peasants and Zen masters alike, a club is an equal-opportunity weapon, because anyone can pick up a stick and beat someone with it. This could be a short tree branch found in the woods or a polished hate stick.
Mace: A metal ball or long-handled hammer. Basically, a very mean club, meant for hurting. This could be an ornate Inquisitor’s “prod” or a blacksmith’s hammer.
Flail: Two long sticks connected by a chain. This could be the standard medieval weapon or the more modern nunchaku. A flail wielder with five or more levels in Melee skill can purchase a special combat action called Flail Parry/Disarm. This acts just like the fencing action Cloak (Level 7).
Whip: Whips come in all shapes and sizes, from bull whips to slaver whips. The above traits assume a simple leather whip. If metal is added to the end of the lash, add one die of damage. High-tech synthetic whips are known at Tech Level 6+, and these usually have a base of 4 dice of damage and require only STR 3 to wield.
Whip users can learn the fencing action Disarm (Level 5), but this must be learned separately for blades and whips. In addition, there is another action available:
Snare (Level Six): The whip user can wrap his whip about a target’s limb or neck and yank the target off his feet. The whipper rolls Dexterity + Melee to first snare his target (this can be resisted with a dodge). If successful, he rolls Dexterity + Melee again, but he can add the victory points from his previous roll to this roll. This roll is contested by the target’s Strength + Vigor roll. If the whipper is successful, the target is yanked off his feet. It takes two actions to escape a snare, although no roll is required.
Garrote: A favorite assassin’s weapon, garrotes have been used to strangle people throughout the centuries. Different models have been manufactured at different Tech Levels. A garrote user must first grapple his target around the neck (a Tough task, -6, unless the target is unaware of the attacker). If successful, he may roll the garrote’s damage plus his victory dice once per turn. The victim can try to break the hold using the normal grapple rules.
Primitive versions are made from metal wire, but more advanced models can be made from unbreakable synthetic plastics. At Tech Level 4 and above, garrotes can be hidden in increasingly clever places, from a line drawn forth from a wristwatch to a line that shoots out of a pen to wrap around its target from a distance (see Suresnake Whip, above).
Energy Melee Weapons
Shocker (TL5): Any knife, sword, mace or even whip can be turned into a Shocker; it simply means that the weapon is rigged to release an electrical charge whenever it hits a target. Once the target has been struck, add three dice of damage (this is considered energy weapon damage, so metal armours suffer a -1 from their protection values against it). Models vary, however, and some may only deliver one or two extra dice of damage. A fusion cell is required (it lasts for 25 turns).
Vibrating Blade (TL5): A sword or dagger is modified with an electrical apparatus so that, when a switch is flicked, the blade vibrates minutely but very quickly. A vibrating blade does no extra damage but it will cut through energy shields easier: add one to the minimum damage required to activate the shield and subtract one from the shield’s maximum armour rating. For example, a standard shield would be 6/9 against a vibrating blade.
When the vibration is inactive, the sword is not as firm (it jiggles a little in its mounting), delivering one less die of damage. A humming sound always accompanies an active vibrating blade. Activation requires a fusion cell, which can last for 25 turns. Switching the blade on and off does not require an action.
Frap Stick (TL4): This is a simple stick with an electric tip (similar to an anti-shark stick). It is often used by thugs to slowly slip under shields and tap the target once the tip is past the shield (suffer -2 to Initiative, withhold victory dice and hope the damage does not exceed the shield’s impact threshold). Once the tip contacts a surface, a charge is released (damage 6, ignore energy shields but not other armour).
Special Melee Weapons
Avestite Sword of Penance (TL5): Used primarily by Avestite Leaders and some Church Soldiers, the Avestite Sword of Penance is designed as much to intimidate its foes as it is to kill them. With the push of a button, flame covers the entire blade. This flame is hot enough to cause second degree burns to anyone who comes into contact with it. It provides 2 additional dice of “Flame” damage that can leak through like flamegun damage. The fiure is also good for impressing the superstitious.
Note these flames are not good for the metal of the blade. These swords tend to be weaker than others and if they are used to parry an attack, the wielder has to roll 13 or less to ensure the flame mechanism has not broken. Critical Failures are as likely to break the sword as they are to burn the user. The sword otherwise acts as a normal broadsword. A Standard energy cell can keep the flame burning for one minute (20 Combat Turns).
Glankesh (Vorox) Sword: A deadly crescent blade resembling a Chinese deerhook sword. These blades of superior craftsmanship are made by the Vorox, originally invented to make up for their lack of claws (feral Vorox spurn these swords). While they are one-handed swords, Vorox warriors usually use one in each of their four-fighting hands. The crescent shape allows them to create a circle of death around their bodies as they slash the swords about with all arms. These swords are forged from high-quality alloys found in abundance on Vorox. They are almost sacred to some Vorox warriors, who painstakingly engrave them with sigils of victory and hang “trophies” from the handles (enemy’s teeth, hair, etc.). They don’t like it when someone touches their Glankesh without permission.
Suresnake Whip (TL7): This can be any of the whip types listed above, but a special tracking wire has been threaded throughout the length of the whip. The tip of the lash holds a nanite computer which can home in on a chosen target; the tip must first be aimed at the target then “locked down” on that target with a flick of a switch in the handle (this takes one action). As long as the target does not disappear from the computer’s sight for more than three turns, the whip gains a +3 goal roll bonus to hit its chosen target. These whips are popular among the Chainers, who use them to keep “special” cargo in line.
Artifact Melee Weapons
Wireblade (TL8): A monomolecular blade, the height of Second Republic weapon technology. A wireblade can slice through even ceramsteel, and is popular among the very few space marine boarding parties who can afford to have one. When activated, the monofilament blade slides out of the handle and is surrounded by a corona of faint light (the only way to see the blade with the naked eye). Wireblades can be deadly to their users if they get careless, for the blades will cut through flesh with no hindrance, as if slicing through air. A fusion cell powers the light and lasts for 30 turns. If the cell runs dry with the blade extended, things could get tricky — there is no easy way to see the blade, and people may walk into it accidentally.
Flux Sword (TL8): An energy sword. Flux swords — like most Second Republic energy tech — were developed from stolen Vautech. At the flick of a switch, a sword-shaped force field is created which instantly fills with plasma. Anything which comes into contact with this blade-shaped field can get severely damaged, similar to being hit by a blaster. Like blasters, Flux Swords can leak through energy shields. Roll damage normally, but those dice which roll 1 or 2 ignore shields. These swords are powered by a fusion cell, which lasts for 30 turns. Flux Swords are rarely made today; the tech know-how is arcane.
Mist Sword (TL8): A Flux Sword which is psychically attuned to the wielder. The wielder must have some Psi (at least one level). This attunement process is a sustained action whereby 20 victory points on successive Psi + Focus rolls must be collected. Once these points have been achieved, the Mist Sword is considered “bonded” to the character — she can use psychic powers on it easier. It is not alive and has no mind to be read, but FarHand powers costs one less Wyrd to use at range with the sword, and duration extension costs one less.
Bonded Mist Swords can become channels for psychic energy: The attuned wielder can spend Wyrd points to increase his goal rolls or his damage dice (one Wyrd point per +1 goal or +1 damage dice). The maximum amount of Wyrd which may be spent to channel energy is equal to the character’s Psi rating.
These are among the rarest of Second Republic artifacts. Only a few were developed by a coven of psychics before the Fall, and none are known to have been made since then.