A good explanation why tracking weapon ordnance can't be used as improvised bombs?


General Discussion


So when the PCs starship has a tracking weapon they have a free and never ending supply of high powered (or even nuclear) explosive devices.

Can someone come up with a good explanation that doesn't sound too much like DM fiat as for why those can't be used as makeshift bombs, either by detaching the warhead and adding a normal detonator to it or just delivering the entire thing to whatever they want to go away and blow it up with a regular timed explosive?

This hasn't come up (yet), but I want to be prepared for things like this.

Also, am I the only one who thinks that giving the PCs a free, endless and legal supply of nuclear devices is a very bad idea?


1) Size is probably an issue. A high-powered or nuclear warhead probably isn't going to be small. It's probably big, clunky, and heavy, making it very obvious if you're trying to take it somewhere it shouldn't be.

2) I'm no demolitions expert, but I don't think you can just use any random detonator for nuclear warheads. Based on my limited knowledge of explosives, detonators work by basically triggering either a small ignition or strong heating element which then ignites the larger explosive package. From what I know of nuclear explosives, that just isn't going to fly with a nuclear warhead unless you take the entire thing apart and rebuild it with the detonator in *just* the right place, which is probably going to be a long, involved, and probably high-DC task, because from what I know of nuclear explosives the function by triggering a blast of *just* the right size in *just* the right place to split the unstable atoms of certain radioactive elements, thus causing the fission reaction that leads to big boom. And if it's a Fusion bomb (if those are even a thing in Starfinder, I can't remember,) well, based on my sci-fi readings, that might not even work with a detonator at all but rather something like a miniature particle accelerator. Which means it's going to take time to warm up, which is fine if you're taking the time to load up, aim, and fire, and then take travel time into account, but not so great if you want to blow up this thing right here when you want it to go boom.

And of course the final point, while mechanically it may seem infinite, your supply of warheads isn't *actually* infinite. You actually have a limited supply, it's just that reloading that supply is part of ship upkeep, which happens outside the normal economic system and thus there's no actual 'cost' to it.


Don't only focus on the nuclear weapon. Yes, they can't be triggered by a explosion, but the other tracking weapons available likely can.

And the text about the limited quality of starship weapon says that the ship fabricates them on its own. So you do not have to buy the weapons but just whatever resources the ship needs which is "free".

PS: Tactical nukes don't need to be that large depending on your definition of tactical.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W54


Well, even modern day nuclear devices are pretty good at not causing a nuclear mishap, even if you were to attach another explosive to said nuclear device. If you could manage to rig up an explosive device to a nuclear weapon, what you'd have is a big dirty bomb, which is a conventional explosion sending out radioactive material as fallout.

This is mainly because the process of initiating a fission or fusion reaction is more complex than simply hitting a chunk of fissile material with an explosion.

So, I'd imagine Super Future Magic Technology has even better safeguards, running from relatively simple mechanical lockouts (you didn't put in the key and arm it) to crazy future science (there's a device in here that measures time from launch, time from arm, gravity, atmosphere, whatever, that will not let the nuclear part engage) right up to magic (you have to summon a tiny fire elemental into the casing of the nuclear weapon to arm it, so you need to be looking right at the weapon when you cast.)


Ixal wrote:

Don't only focus on the nuclear weapon. Yes, they can't be triggered by a explosion, but the other tracking weapons available likely can.

PS: Tactical nukes don't need to be that large depending on your definition of tactical.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W54

At that point, the PC's are just carrying around a big warhead, looking for somewhere to put it down and detonate it, instead of just using the man-portable explosive weaponry that they already have.

Also, if you needed an explosive device with more punch than what you already have/can get at the corner Mom and Pop Gun Shop, it would probably be better to build or buy an actual explosive for the purpose you're looking for, rather than a jerry-rigged warhead from a torpedo/missile.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

They weigh seven and a half tonnes.


Ixal wrote:
Don't only focus on the nuclear weapon. Yes, they can't be triggered by a explosion, but the other tracking weapons available likely can.

It still ties into the first point, likely even more than an actual nuclear warhead would, because while the rigged nuclear material is going to be big, bulky (especially with the likely lead lining) and awkward, straight up explosive ordnance that can do even remotely comparable damage is going to be even bigger. And still probably shielded so that it doesn't chain-reaction explode the first time your weapons system takes a hit, so you still have to bypass that shielding to attach the detonator.

Ixal wrote:
And the text about the limited quality of starship weapon says that the ship fabricates them on its own. So you do not have to buy the weapons but just whatever resources the ship needs which is "free".

That material still has to come from somewhere. Yes the ship probably has an entire store-room of UPBs somewhere specifically for making ship-based weaponry. Yes that store-room of UPBs comes out of the same nebulous "ship fund" that lets a level 1 party have a ship in the first place because it's outside of the normal economy. No that still does not make it actually infinite, and the GM can still give you at least a metaphorical slap on the wrist and tell you to stop it if you try to abuse the system.


Treat starship tracking weapons as a form of unstable temporary energy that can't be removed from the ships magazines and only function similarly to their named weapon (high explosive, nuclear, antimatter, etc.) rather than being those things. It explains both how they can be manufactured for "free" and why they can't be accumulated or repurposed. Star Trek photon torpedoes never looked much like real physical items once they were fired.


Xenocrat wrote:
Treat starship tracking weapons as a form of unstable temporary energy that can't be removed from the ships magazines and only function similarly to their named weapon (high explosive, nuclear, antimatter, etc.) rather than being those things. It explains both how they can be manufactured for "free" and why they can't be accumulated or repurposed. Star Trek photon torpedoes never looked much like real physical items once they were fired.

A good idea.

Energy torpedos it is then (also solves the "get fabricated out of nowhere" thing).


if you want a in-game deterrent; grenade scramblers are a thing. I don't see why larger, city-wide missile scramblers couldn't be a thing. When the inevitable question of "can we get one of those for our ship?" comes up, say sure and point them to the Countermeasures and ask them what level would they like to buy for their ship.

otherwise, I'd use the things, size and weight and complexity of detonating it as desired to deter their casual use, and if that doesn't stop them, then what's good for the goose and all that, and they become cosmic stardust by one of their enemies doing the same to them, then you can restart with a "gentleman's agreement" not to have nukes running around willy-nilly.


yukongil wrote:
if you want a in-game deterrent; grenade scramblers are a thing. I don't see why larger, city-wide missile scramblers couldn't be a thing.

Grenade scramblers are a thing that makes thrown grenades miss, they don't keep them from detonating after they miss and land in a different grid intersection. Not sure how that helps prevent an emplaced nuke from going off.


Xenocrat wrote:
yukongil wrote:
if you want a in-game deterrent; grenade scramblers are a thing. I don't see why larger, city-wide missile scramblers couldn't be a thing.
Grenade scramblers are a thing that makes thrown grenades miss, they don't keep them from detonating after they miss and land in a different grid intersection. Not sure how that helps prevent an emplaced nuke from going off.

yeah, I dunno, I guess I just read the item. "interferes with the detonation sequence". From there I used imagination and maybe just a tad of logical conclusion to get to the point; if a personal device can do that to a grenade, then a much larger, much more complex device could just stop the detonation sequence cold. Sorry if you can't grok that, maybe try a less imaginatively strenuous game?


You could also just let them do it. Give them some XP, let them solve the problem.

But now system security has a bounty on their heads, and there are a couple of big ships headed towards them.

As much as I'm a fan of starfinder's nearly wild west setting, PCs detonating big bombs in places should be noticed.

There's already the pre-existing issue of the PCs using starships vs. ground targets. You should deal with it in the same way.

But also, as mentioned previously, probably a DC40+ engineering check to remove the payload from the missile in any sort of portable fashion, followed by a second one to set it up, and then, if it makes sense, employ a signal jammer/opposed hacker to prevent remote detonations.


Nuclear weapons are not doing that much damage. 50d8 (200 points on average) and that's if you hit on a focused point, not in an area.
I would personnaly let my players use nuclear weapons if they want to destroy a door, a wall or something like that. But if they want to nuke a town, I'll kindly remind them that they don't have access to capital ship nuclear warheads (these ones must be pretty rare).


2 people marked this as a favorite.

*patiently waits for a "Can we tape 15 nuclear warheads to a detonator" thread*


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pantshandshake wrote:
*patiently waits for a "Can we tape 15 nuclear warheads to a detonator" thread*

:-D

Luckily, a little knowledge on nuclear bombs dismisses this issue as the first bomb to explode destroys all the other one. To work, all bombs need to explode at like a nanosecond of difference. DC 60 Engineering check to make it work.


Pantshandshake wrote:
*patiently waits for a "Can we tape 15 nuclear warheads to a detonator" thread*

Ignoring the issues with placement on that, that's gonna be a lot of duct tape.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
SuperBidi wrote:

Nuclear weapons are not doing that much damage. 50d8 (200 points on average) and that's if you hit on a focused point, not in an area.

I would personnaly let my players use nuclear weapons if they want to destroy a door, a wall or something like that. But if they want to nuke a town, I'll kindly remind them that they don't have access to capital ship nuclear warheads (these ones must be pretty rare).

It's been mathematically proven on these boards that nukes can't usually destroy a wall on their first try.

Not sure why GMs would be so worried. By the time the PCs can send down enough nukes to wipe out a single building, the locals/authorities would be all over them like a swarm of ants.


Ravingdork wrote:
It's been mathematically proven on these boards that nukes can't usually destroy a wall on their first try.

I agree. I think nuclear missiles are not nuclear bombs. They are not meant to destroy cities, but to penetrate a heavily armored ship. These types of weapons are supposed to pierce through the armor and inject inside the ship a deadly effect, in general an explosion, but it can be a shockwave or a projectile. So, using them like a standard explosive would not be very efficient, hence the ridiculous amount of damage compared to what a real nuclear bomb should be doing.


I have thought that these missiles were in principal similar to depleted uranium rounds carried by a modern Main Battle Tank. Specially designed to punch though armor and then explode. They cause localized heavy damage. These rounds are only slightly radioactive but the heavy metal is poisonous (similar to lead or mercury). In any event they should be handled with care.


Dont forget that there are heavy variants of tracking weapons (100d8 nuke or 100d10 antimatter).

And not everywhere there is an authority which can intervene.
Also, the low yield if nukes and heavy missiles can also be an advantage. Players usually do not want to blow up everything. Rather I am more worried with them deciding that instead of going through the dungeon the normal way, they stack some of their missiles against this wall and blow them. Now you have a free door opener or breaching charge and I rather not have to constantly worry about if the players can blow this door or penetrate that wall, etc.
I wouldn't even object against this if it did cost ressources. But imo the players should not have this equipment for free in unlimited quantities.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I just want to point the above post out to everyone who laughed when we said "In armory 2, I want breaching or demo charges."

Look what you guys did. You didn't give us a breaching charge, so now we have to knock a wall down with a nuclear weapon.


Ixal wrote:

Dont forget that there are heavy variants of tracking weapons (100d8 nuke or 100d10 antimatter).

And not everywhere there is an authority which can intervene.
Also, the low yield if nukes and heavy missiles can also be an advantage. Players usually do not want to blow up everything. Rather I am more worried with them deciding that instead of going through the dungeon the normal way, they stack some of their missiles against this wall and blow them. Now you have a free door opener or breaching charge and I rather not have to constantly worry about if the players can blow this door or penetrate that wall, etc.
I wouldn't even object against this if it did cost ressources. But imo the players should not have this equipment for free in unlimited quantities.

I suppose they could stockpile them, but they also can probably only carry as many as they have PCs to a given location if they ship can't get there itself.

Make them bulky, so it's difficult to get them anywhere. 15-30 bulk to move around. They aren't designed to be portable, therefore don't let them be easily portable.

Make it cost credits to rig the warhead to a detonation system outside the missile under the control of the ship's targeting computer. A lot of credits, 20k for the lighter warheads up to 100k+ for the bigger ones.

These big anti-ship missiles aren't meant to be detonated without bypassing a lot of safety features. You pull the warhead out without that ridiculous check, it's useless.

A regular detonator won't set it off, you need to rig the missile's systems to set it off, that costs UPBs to do, and another ridiculous check.


All of this discussion assumes there is a fully functional missile sitting there, waiting for the PCs to dismantle it cannibalize it and trivialize their encounters with its ordinance.

Or...

The ship's weapon is never "loaded" at all. It sits there, empty, until it's fired. Firing the ship's weapon causes the missile to be instantly created with its explosive payload already armed and set to detonate at a designated target.

Sort of a Schrodinger's Missile - it only exists at the moment it's fired.

That would make it hard to gain access to the warhead if there never is a warhead until the weapon is fired.


DM_Blake wrote:
That would make it hard to gain access to the warhead if there never is a warhead until the weapon is fired.

But then, of course, it's Turtles All The Way Down.

As soon as I tell the PCs that the weapon is spontaneously generated at the moment it is fired, my PCs would immediately want to take the entire weapon on their planetside adventures.

And when I say that's too big, they'll say they don't really need the aiming, launching, and frame of the weapon. They only need the tiny little bit of the weapon that actually generates the warhead. They'll be more than happy to scrap their ship's weapon (or that of some other ship parked nearby in the hanger) to remove that component and take it with them, spontaneously generating armed warheads all over the ensuing adventure.

And when I say that the range would be zero without the firing mechanism, they'll offer to reprogram the unit with a simple computers check to include a delay so they can reach minimum safe distance prior to detonation.

And when I say that this takes a lot of power, they'll gleefully patch into the various power sources found throughout the adventure with a simple engineering check.

Etc. And so on. Ad infinitum.

Until I just say no.

(Or until I say OK, and watch them gleefully blow up encounter after encounter, until they encounter an enemy who brings his own cannibalized and modified ship's weapon to the fight and then proceeds to win initiative.)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Pantshandshake wrote:

Look what you guys did. You didn't give us a breaching charge, so now we have to knock a wall down with a nuclear weapon.

But why would you use something so ineffective? :P

Paizo Employee Customer Service Representative

Removed a pair of posts. It is not acceptable to mock, belittle, or disparage other participants in the conversation, and this is not a productive tone for any conversation. Your points can be be made without this added language.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Using a ship missile as an improvised, placed demolition charge? This seems like an entirely valid PC Plan to deal with an Adventure Problem.

Which is to say, you are all going about it the wrong way: it doesn't need a firm rule making it impossible. It needs a GM to adjudicate the reasonableness of the plan, and the challenges that need to be overcome to make it work. Some problems, it makes perfect sense to have the solution of "haul a missile out, place it on the target, rig it to detonate". Its just the responsibility of the GM to ensure that the PCs have to actually earn this victory. Which is where comments like "How much a missile weighs" and "How big a skill check it will take" factor in.


This is very easy to rule on as a GM.

OK so the closest real life example I can find to simulate a starship missile is the US MK48 (ADCAP) Torpedo. It is 19ft long and 21 inches in diameter. It weighs 3,695 pounds (370 bulk). So you cannot get this thing off your ship without significant equipment such that you would find at a space station or military base.

This would not be easy to accomplish without attracting all sorts of unwanted attention.

So the players say we just want the warhead. Ok fine.

The warhead for this torpedo weighs in at a mere 650 pounds (65 bulk).

This also is difficult to remove safely and it needs a stout vehicle to move and yet again specialized gear to get it off the ship and onto said vehicle.

Your players insist that they can do this.

You then can point out to them that each one of these torpedo costs 3.8 million dollars US. As A GM I would have no problem telling them each tracking missile costs 3.8 million credits and their employer (and probably the ship owner) would frown on such a wasteful use of precious resources.

The players insist still.

Now factor in that no planet, space port, system with any level of law is going to let a group of space adventurers wander around with a 650 pound warhead without some sort of challenge. They players should not have a license to carry a warhead and even if they have a forged license most security personnel in my game are going to call back to HQ. Its a warhead not a hand cannon!

If they players still insist and complain. Have outlaws, pirates, etc come and steal it from them. If the warhead is enticing to use for the PCs it certainly is for bad guys.

So your players continue to insist after all this.

So be it let them.

Maybe the warhead works better than advertised and they blow the base to bits. Oops mission fail.

The players wail and complain. OK tell them it makes a tremendous amount of noise. This noise will not go unnoticed.

They players maybe arrested by local authorities. They may be docked 3.8 million credits by their employer. They may get a reputation of being so lacking in subtlety and intelligence that no one will hire them again.

As stated above there are many, many ways to rule on this without just saying no.


Nice info, Hawk.

There is a glaring issue with that. Remember that the ship "creates" these torpedoes automatically. The US Navy must buy their torpedoes in advance and stockpile a supply of them on each ship that uses them. PCs are not required to do this at all.

The problem is that this results in an infinite supply of these torpedoes on the PC's starship.

The minute I tell my players that they have an infinite supply of weapons that cost 3.8 million credits each, they will happily open shop and start selling them. Even at the game's staggering 1/10 selling penalty, they can still unload theoretically infinite torpedoes for 380,000 credits.

If I tell them "No, because every other ship has an infinite supply too." their inevitable response is "Infinite supply equals zero demand. Zero demand equals zero value. Zero value does not equal 3,800,000 credits, it equals zero credits."

Which means pirates won't take them and ship owners won't frown on wasting a zero-value infinite resource, etc.

Or my PCs just become overnight millionaires.

But I do like the weight limitations, as well as the difficulty of trying to sneak around with that big heavy thing hidden from police and other officials and from their enemies too.


How about telling them that the casing and propulsion systems are the only parts made beforehand, and the ship creates the actual warhead just prior to firing, precisely to avoid everyone with access to a ship having infinite explosives?


DM_Blake wrote:

The problem is that this results in an infinite supply of these torpedoes on the PC's starship.

The minute I tell my players that they have an infinite supply of weapons that cost 3.8 million credits each, they will happily open shop and start selling them. Even at the game's staggering 1/10 selling penalty, they can still unload theoretically infinite torpedoes for 380,000 credits.

...and this is part of why ships exist outside of the normal economy. On top of the several million (or possibly even billion) credits it would take to buy the ship itself, that no APL 1 party could possibly afford.


@DM_Blake,

Thanks!

As for the ship "creating" them automatically; where is this stated in the rulebook? I have taken ship travel and combat to be very abstracted at the moment.

There are no rules in place for many starship items: fuel, water, oxygen system, maintenance, etc.....

Most tracking weapon have limit being able to be fired five times in a single combat. It then needs a 10 minute period to rebuild and recharge the inherent ammunition.

Of course this implies the ammo is created, but given the abstract nature on how ships are handled one could also look at it as moving physical ammo from storage to a ready position at the firing weapon.

Interesting....

And as Shinigami02 has said that is why ships exist outside the normal economy. Players are just not supposed to be ship owners at this stage of the game.


Hawk Kriegsman wrote:

@DM_Blake,

Thanks!

As for the ship "creating" them automatically; where is this stated in the rulebook?

It's not explicitly stated in those words.

However, tracking ammo for these weapons is very different than tracking bullets for a kinetic projectile firearm (e.g. most sniper rifles):

a) We have rules for the price of bullets.
b) PCs need to buy bullets before they leave town (etc.) to make sure they have ammo on their adventure.
c) PCs need to track their bullets and cannot use their weapon when they have no bullets.

None of this exists for ships missiles (tracking weapons). The only rule we have is that after a number of shots (five for the ones I've used), there is a reload time that must be observed.

We could assume that the ship has a bunch of missiles or torpedoes that the PCs pre-purchased and stored in their ship somewhere, but there are no prices for such things and no rules for it.

So the assumption is that the weapon has infinite ammo but needs reload and recharge.

I suppose an alternative assumption is that each time we go to a space port we reload our supply of these ordinances and it costs nothing (just like upgrading the ship costs nothing), but even that assumption would need more rules to support it. Rules like:

a) How many missiles do we actually have on hand?
b) How many times can we reload before we actually run out of supply and cannot reload at all without visiting another space port?
c) What happens if we dismantle a missile and carry it around to open doors or blow up our enemies?


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

IIRC, the rules actually do state that the ship manufactures more missiles between combats.


DM_Blake wrote:


We could assume that the ship has a bunch of missiles or torpedoes that the PCs pre-purchased and stored in their ship somewhere, but there are no prices for such things and no rules for it.

So the assumption is that the weapon has infinite ammo but needs reload and recharge.

I suppose an alternative assumption is that each time we go to a space port we reload our supply of these ordinances and it costs nothing (just like upgrading the ship costs nothing), but even that assumption would need more rules to support it. Rules like:

a) How many missiles do we actually have on hand?
b) How many times can we reload before we actually run out of supply and cannot reload at all without visiting another space port?
c) What happens if we dismantle a missile and carry it around to open doors or blow up our enemies?

What I have done is just house ruled it. So to answer your points:

A): as a base line a medium sized ship will have 2 to 4 "reloads" per tube. Military craft will always be on the higher end of spectrum. Larger craft will be on the higher end of the spectrum while small craft will have less or no reload (tiny ship) capability.

And of course in my game the solo goblin piloted "goblintorp" has no reloads. LOL

B): if you have 2 tubes and the ship is ruled to have 2 reloads then you have 30 missile on board (10 in the launcher room and 20 in ship storage). It is house ruled that the 10 minute period need to reload out of combat can be done with the equipment on board to get missiles to from storage to the launcher room).

C): the difficulties of this were outlined in my previous post.

This so far is working well in my game.


I've actually had this issue come up a few times in my campaign. Enough that I had to come up with a consistant houserule for it.

Starship Demo Charge
Cost: I use the "your ordnance is part of your maintanence/BP contract on the ship" standing for how often "Limited Fire 5" weapons can be reused in my campaign. My players can only refil their missile tubes (except the Unlimited Fire Light Torpedo) at a major port so converting one in the field costs them the missle. I prevent stockpiling by having their maintanence contract include an inspection of the ship much like any investment firm would between missions.

Bulk: After the engineering check is performed for the conversion I have the players roll the damage dice of the missle/torpedo used to decide how much bulk they managed to shrink it down to. I may give them bonuses for high engineering checks to reduce it further but this generally means that only "Light" missiles are relativly easy to move around.

Damage: I use the standard Damage Dice times 10 mechanic for using a ship weapon against a surface target. Including the extra times 10 if its a capital missle.

Blast Range: Blast radius I use is generally Destruction (1ft/damage done), Shrapnel/Radiation Pulse (2x Range, 25-50% Damage, Reflex Chance), Concussion Blast (4x Range, 5-10% Damage, Knockdown, Reflex Chance).

This means a light torpedo warhead would max out at 16 Bulk, 160 damage with a 160ft/320ft/640ft area of effect. Larger weapons would probobly be considered war crimes depending on where you detonated them assuming the players even have the equipment to haul them around & escape the blast radius. :)

Gives the players a chance to solve problems with brute application of explosives for use against heavy blast doors or demolition jobs. But also forces them to actually treat them as an industrial blasting charge rather than a tactical ground weapon.


Hawk Kriegsman wrote:


OK so the closest real life example I can find to simulate a starship missile is the US MK48 (ADCAP) Torpedo. It is 19ft long and 21 inches in diameter. It weighs 3,695 pounds (370 bulk). So you cannot get this thing off your ship without significant equipment such that you would find at a space station or military base.

This would not be easy to accomplish without attracting all sorts of unwanted attention.

So the players say we just want the warhead. Ok fine.

The warhead for this torpedo weighs in at a mere 650 pounds (65 bulk).

This also is difficult to remove safely and it needs a stout vehicle to move and yet again specialized gear to get it off the ship and onto said vehicle.

Alternate branch:

Players: We split the warhead ordinance into smaller, more manageable pieces.

GM: OK. You are also planning on rigging up some detonators and such for it, yes? You will need to spend some UPBs to create that. A small one will cost 35 UPB and the resulting explosive will do 1d6 damage. A larger one will cost 700 UPB and do 2d6 damage.

Congratulations, you just re-invented weapon crafting.

Community / Forums / Starfinder / Starfinder General Discussion / A good explanation why tracking weapon ordnance can't be used as improvised bombs? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Starfinder General Discussion