Swords (and other melee weapons) in a sci-fi setting?
By - rafaman1
2. Can be improvised
3. Do not appear on "chem-sniffer" sensors
4. Do not require ammunition
5. Often are less illegal and therefor less risk to carry when other weapons may be very illegal.
6. Additional use, knifes have a lot of utility
7. In my game a melee attack create the "engaged" state with the target - that makes using a (big) ranged weapon a lot harder.
One more reason: In a dystopic scenario where weapons are generally as common as water bottles not all people would be able to afford guns, but a sharp piece of metal that's basically a really big knife? Easy peasy
This is a great list! May I add too, that you can make it a cultural or even religious for the races of your world to use close combat weapons: like the Klingons in Star Trek or any race in the WH40K setting.
I believe there was also an episode of Star Trek DS9 where they used some form of “energy field” to essentially disable any ranged weapon (or just energy weapons I can’t remember) but you can use individual cases like that too!
Hope this helps!
yes! Good point! WH40K Tau were one inspiration of my engaged state - and it works well from a gameplay perspective. (Long/big) Ranged weapons are a fundamental advantage until you find yourself in a close combat situation, I do allow the use of pistols or comparable weapons in melee situations)
You could use the dune method.
If I remember correctly, personal "sheilds" are fairly common. The problem is they can only stop fast moving objects, so you have to stab people slowly
>The problem is they can only stop fast moving objects, so you have to stab people slowly
Addendum: Besides this property, there was also the issue that when a modern firearm (a laser weapon) shot a shield, there was a non-zero chance that the laser beam and the shield would react in a way that produced a nuclear explosion and killing both combatants and anyone unfortunate enough to be near them.
Those two properties plus the ubiquity of personal shields made for a huge motivation to resort to the knife fights we see in the books.
ahhh thank you all my dune knowledge is second hand. I haven't taken the time to read them yet
There was a very old computer game, like late 80s early 90s, that justified the use of swords as a counter to energy shields. Energy shields could block any bullet or laser, but a swords layered with shields could cut right through a shield, and you couldn't do it with lasers or bullets
Maybe it's just really hard to do any significant damage with bullets. What if most people have extensive, redundant cybernetic implants that can quickly stop bleeding and prevent shock, or simply put the biological components of their body in stasis while the robotic part allows them to keep fighting or run away to seek medical attention? Guns don't do much except with a direct hit to the brain because bullets are small, but several hits with a blade or maybe an electrical shock weapon would be able to disrupt enough cybernetic systems to cause death. Cut enough wires and the grid fails, so to speak.
Your sci-fi fantasy needs to provide downsides to firearms
Is ammo tracked or expensive?
Is noise from fire arms likely to bring unwanted attention?
Are guns licensed or restricted in areas?
Make sure your combat numbers support a sword build.
There's several ways to do it! The main advantage of a gun is range, meaning a shooter will take out a stabber before they get close. Play with that.
Introducing barriers that only defend against ranged attacks gives melee a chance to close distance. Melee would also be inherently useful in cramped and indoor spaces where range isn't an advantage. You can also make melee extremely deadly, like a lightsaber, making the risk worthwhile. Adding in ways to quickly close distance like speed boosts or teleportation also lessens the range advantage. Stealth abilities also do this.
I use a combination of these in my own setting!
Hmmm , the same way we can justify in the current world ?
Close combat , maybe not a full on double handed sword like a flembarge or zweihanded , but i image something close to a short sword , a gladius maybe , a kukri knife , a machete .
Then even if the world is science fantasy , like in our world , there might be places where they fight a low intensity conflict , or the 2 sides are not as technological advanced as the rest of the world , lets say a civil war in an african country won't have the same tech as lets say a war between China and USA .
Gangs , cartels and other types of thugs and lowlifes at street level might still have an use for them .
At the very least bayonets. A rifle with a pointy bit at the end is essentially a modern spear.
Otherwise a blade like a knife or a sword is more like a side arm then a 'battlefield' weapon like a halberd is. So it could just be easy enough to have one along with your guns. Not like it needs ammo or much maintenance.
Machetes and other knives, whatever kind of blade, are all still very popular today for when you don't want to waste bullets. Or have run out of bullets. Or your gun is broke and so on and on and on.
Dune with shields that melee penetrate
Poor people, typically, don't have access to semi-automatic weapons. Nor do oppressed minority groups. Even in a place as gun-happy as the U.S, most poor families don't own more than a shotgun or a decent rifle. The reason why, when we're dealing with a dystopian hyper-capitalistic setting, should be pretty obvious.
Swords could be an old bygone sidearm that is passed down as a home defense weapon each generation, or something like that.
Bit of a stretch, but you can add an AI tech to the swords, where it can predict bullets and deflect accordingly. Making it equally effective to semi automatics. That is, if the weilder's dexterity is capable enough to handle such swords.
Either do the Dune method or do a more technical approach.
Like personal shield belts that can be overwhelmed but have a certain radius they protect against firearms and when you cross the threshold you are basically already in melee and swords combined with armor might be superior to firearms up close.
If it's science fantasy you can also go down the star wars route and invent some pseudo magic why swords work against bullets.
Armor that is immune to small arms fire but melee weapons can somehow defeat it (mono- or vibroblades) is another possible approach.
Wh40k space Marines are basically immune in their armour against small caliber fire but an energy sword cuts through armor like a knife through butter.
Also heavy powerarmor soldiers might prefer melee weapons while fighting lightly armored, common troops to preserve their high calibre ammunition for fighting against other power armor troops.
That's kind of the equivalent of medieval knights that used swords to cut down unarmored peasants but needed special weapons like warhammers to really threaten armored opponents.
You can't really because all it takes is for one guy to use a gun and he wins. The guy who still used a sword doesn't get an opportunity to complain. Even if guns are somehow not in play a grenade does wonder against massed melee troops in a hallway.
You can come up with justifications that have been used in sci-fi in the past but they aren't really based in reality, they are for stroytelling.
* Guns are too powerful to use on board ship, bullets pierce the hull and cause leaks. This only works for small ships and with high velocity and density bullets. Replacing bullets with slower velocity projectiles that are just as deadly like flechettes, tazers, lasers, or anything else means some sort of gun is still viable and still better than melee weapons. Also once you get to huge ships with armor defending against outside threats like missiles, nukes or lasers it becomes a non-issue. If those things cant penetrate from outside a simple bullet wont from inside.
* Culture. You can have your culture encourage/support dueling, have the code for that only allow melee weapons. This works fine for one on one and to give people a reason to carry swords, but no culture is going to stick with that nonsense in war for long, too much is at stake and all it takes is for one rebel faction to pick guns and the culture gets overthrown. Cheaters also win.
* The Dune method has already been mentioned. It works but its kind of contrived to have a shield that only works against "fast" moving objects.
* Advance your tech so much that gunpowder weapons are considered obsolete and lost to time so aren't around anymore. Everyone has lasers or other high tech weapons of some kind. Something (drive tech producing a field, new laws for the universe, all powerful beings who dont like tech weapons) stops those high tech weapons from working so everyone is reduced to melee weapons. This only works on a short term basis unless the magic also stops gunpowder as it will be reinvented.
Best approach besides the dune approach would require... basically the elimination of war. For some reason or other, wars would have to be replaced by one on one duels between nation representatives. This is the only other feasible way I could see anything larger than a machete or kukri practically coexisting with semi automatic weapons. But outside of these duels, or similar duels on smaller scale, guns are king.
Swords with high inherent gravity. This would allow them to block or slow projectiles with mass. And/or enhanced senses and reflexes that would allow users to block and parry projectiles. I used this in a game where mechanized attack drones used only fixed blade weapons, but were so fast and efficient that they were able to dodge or absorb most weapons fire. You could also make projectile weapons a kind of taboo against honor. Similar to the advent of guns where many martial societies considered guns as weak.
There was also a book series (can’t remember the name) where the planet generated creatures and hazards from human fear. The fear of misfiring made most guns misfire, and thus only highly trained warriors would use projectile weapons. It also effected combustion engines etc. as well.
Advanced materials for the blades, shields/armour that is effective toward bullets...
Odds are short swords, big knives and tomahawk-like axes would be not uncommon, since they're easy to carry and good on close quarters , but I'd doubt any blade bigger than 60cm overall would be used in any way besides ceremonially
Someone still versed in the old ways, and if by some means of magic or training in your world can deflect bullets, maybe not a lot but some. Also magic energy swords sound cool.
It's seen as more brave/noble/honorable/whatever.
Swords are much quieter.
Bullets/ammunition is super rare.
Some armors or personal defense options are better suited to dealing with guns than swords.
The government makes guns either illegal or taxed to hell and back so that its often more worth it to use a melee weapon
In a lot of sci-fi media ships are normally made up of tight corridors and sharp turns. If an opposing force wants to board a vessel without destroying it, melee weapons might work best because you'll almost always be in close range and firing blasters or guns in a ship could risk puncturing the hull.
Personal shields. You could have your form-fitting personal shields be strong enough to absorb the force/cancel out/redirect energy and kinetic weaponry. Then your swords, fitted with energy technology but concentrated on a smaller area, can cut through those shields. Your melee don't even have to be energy-based--they can be made of a special metal or or magically blessed to achieve the same thing. You just have to finagle a reason why said materials or enchantments can't be used in ranged weapons--enchantment's not strong enough, it only activates when held, etc.
Dystopian? It's real easy for a determined government to heavily restrict access to guns and ammo (especially ammo). But any idiot with a few simple tools can put an edge on a leaf spring off a wrecked car, or put nails in a bat, or just buy a hatchet or sledgehammer or crowbar from the hardware store.
If you're set on guns *also* being common, it's harder. But: networked, microphone-based gunshot sensors are pretty common even in the real world. In a dystopian world, you could have them on every street corner; fire a gun and you have SWAT troopers swarming the area from VTOLs and armored vehicles in 5 minutes flat. A gutter punk with a gun could take a shot at a corporate elite, and we can't have that. Punks shivving each other they don't so much care about; even if they could get close to a real person, the bodyguards would stop them.
Criminals can get guns, but they don't use them without a getaway plan.
Maybe your dystopia is an overcrowded hive world full of cramped corridors and dark alleys. Guns loose a lot of advantage at engagement ranges of less than 20 feet.
What i used in my ideas is a mana driven approach so if there is no magic or mana at all in your world this wont work.
It boils down to all people using mana subconciously to enhance their movement and protecting their body with a protective film. The higher the amount of mana = power of a person the denser and stronger this film.
Short Range weapons like swords are always in the hand of the user. A trained wielder treats his weapon as a part of his Body. therefore the subconcious strengthening also applies to those weapons. This results in the mana clashing and dispersing or just being cut through.
Bullets on the other hand (and projectile Weapons in general) do not receive any buffs since the contact is missing, also its less personal.
This leads to guns being still able to slaughter rank and file keeping their worth but swords working better on strong opponents.
My personal favorite of this technique is that you can tweak it to your liking:
Still wanna keep bows or throwing weapons an option -> let them charge mana through direct contact.
Want to give Firearms a fair fighting chance: hail of bullets consume a lot of mana to block, therefore tyring out your enemies extremely fast. Diving in a machine gun is still suicide.
Still wanna have skill expression for gun users? let the mana be disturbed for a short time making consecutive hits on the exact same part break the film -> Snipers still worthwhile.
Want to have your MC or evil guys easily beat bunch of other sword users, just let their strikes be blocked by the shield and let it consume energy.
If you are not a fan of the shield approach you can also just go for the strengthening approach to the max, giving your sword fighters the kinetic vision and motor reflex to keep up woth bullets.
generally you need two factors to make melee viable
1. how do they get into melee ran without being turned into swiss cheese, for example the protoss zealots have energy shields combined with the ability to charge to rapidly close the distance, while the dark zealots use stealth to avoid being shot out all together, the jedi are able to deflect blaster fire ect
2. melee must be far more powerful then ranged, even if you can get in melee range if the ranged options more powerful you dont really have a reason to, lightsabers are able to cut threw armor and shields that blasters cant scratch like they were butter, the simplest solution is energy blades, vibrotech or whatever other tech is used to make these swords more powerful is simply to expensive to be used as ammo, if it costs a hundred bucks to give your soldiers a sword that will last there whole career thats feesable, but if every single shot costs a hundred dollars your nations going to go backrupt after just a couple big battles, though you could also make it where the tech is to delicate and thus firing it with explosives(or running it threw a bunch of magnets if your scifi uses railguns) would fuck it up to much to be useful even if its cheap, or it might be directly linked to the user, to use the protoss again there energy blades are powered by channeling there psionic power into a blade, they couldent launch those blades because it would rapidly fizzle out once disconnected from the user