Thursday, 29 May 2014

Bolt Action! The Wrist Crossbow

Part 2 of Liquid Swords is coming along nicely, but I'd like to let it percolate for a little while longer. Instead, here's another weapon straight outta video games for your Cyberpunk 2020 games. (and your Savage Worlds games!) Except this one might have practical uses!

The wrist crossbow is one of Deus Ex's special pleasures, and vitally important for any kind of non-lethal play through. Since then, other games have picked up on the idea: Dishonored has a particularly nice version! The various Bioshock games have their own version - while I haven't played them, there isn't anything stopping me looting the Bioshock wiki for inspiration.

In the event I got carried away - you'll find this weapon isn't great at killing enemy mooks. But with 16 - 16! - different ammo types, it is great at fucking with them!


The Wrist Crossbow

The Wrist Crossbow is a specialist security weapon popularised soon after the development of myomer - artificial muscle - and "smart" rope. It also draws upon "muscle twitch" technology and lessons learned during the 2020's craze for "police armguns" - wrist mounted "hands-free" electrolaser and micromissile launchers.

In general, police forces have chosen to keep their fancy micromissile launchers in preference to the various wrist crossbow systems on offer - micromissiles tend to do more damage and offer more options. On the other hand, private security companies and intelligence agencies like the stun dart system. Micromissiles are also loud.

The real admirers of the wrist crossbow are not so "legitimate," however. Rebel groups have gained a new fondness for crossbows in general during the age of advanced 3d printers: myomer and metal feedstock are easy to get hold of, compared to ammunition (and certainly compared to micromissile ammunition!) and a printed crossbow with a "smart" draw and some simple wind sensors can be a deadly sniper's weapon. Even the simplest printers can create darts (even if they might need some hacking to deal with the same systems first). 

These weapons can be installed in a cyberarm. Some cyberarm versions come with a 16 bolt incorporated ammo feed. Standard wristbows can load 4 bolts at a time, which must be loaded individually.

The weapon can be fired by a variety of means, depending on model and preference. This can range from a muscle twitch sensor to a palm trigger to a piece of string! The weapon can be smartlinked. 

Cyberpunk 2020 stats are below. I'm undecided on which weapon skill to use - Archery? Pistol? Exotic? Your referee's opinion may vary! 

P  |  0   |  P  |  C  | see below |  1  |  4  |  VR  |  20m

$120
$300 (smartlinked)

Interface Zero

These rules were written for Cyberpunk 2020. However, I've been playing a lot of Savage Worlds lately, and so I feel confident in providing the following Interface Zero guidelines. 

Damage values are the same in both systems, for the purposes of this document!

Range: 5/10/20  Damage: see below RoF: 1 Cost: $120

Anytime damage is listed as "AP" treat as AP1. 
Tranq Bolts will drop anyone who fails a -2 Vigor roll.
Guided Bolts reduce called shot penalties by 2. -6 becomes -4, for instance.

I'm not comfortable enough with the rules of Shadowrun to write confident rules, but a fourth edition wristbow deals 2P damage (standard bolts), has SS mode and ammo 4.

Regardless of the rules system, damage is dependent on the bolt. I got a bit carried away, so there are 16 to choose from. Naturally, they work with other small crossbows and "bolt casters" as well!:

Standard Shafts


These darts are produced and sold by the same commercial crossbow makers who sell these things to security forces. In many cases, an "out-of-the-box" wrist crossbow will come with licensing agreements allowing you to print out the ammo at will. In addition, most of these darts are relatively easy to print with a standard printer. Some will require a chemical printer or chemistry set.

Standard bolts cost about $15 per hundred to buy or print.

Bolt: Simple bolts can be printed with ordinary feedstock for very little money. The standard hardened plastic bolt does 1d6 damage and hurts a lot. A steel or diamond tipped dart ($1 each) is an AP weapon: however, ordinary damage is not halved.

Standard bolts can be coated in narcotics and poisons at the usual costs.

$15 for box of 50

Tranq Bolt: Tranq bolts are specially designed to penetrate heavy hide or clothing and deliver a powerful tranquilizer to the target. Tranq bolts do no damage but automatically penetrates up to 6 SP soft armour.  A target hit with a standard tranq round must succeed in an SP20 Resist Torture/Drugs roll or fall unconscious 1d6 combat rounds later. This effect lasts for ten minutes or more.

Police forces sometimes load tranq "riot bolts" with concentrated Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) loads instead. These bolts are designed to avoid situations in which a human target suffers a heart failure or splits their head open falling over, or to make them easier to arrest.

These work in the same fashion, except that characters failing the save becomes stoned in 1d3 rounds. Once this occurs, s/he immediately reduces her REF by 3 and must make a DV20 Resist/Torture Drugs roll to carry out any physical exertion (including combat and, well, standing up) for the next half hour or more...

Empty Tranq Bolts can also be loaded with other substances.

$15 for box of 20 (empty)
$40 for box of 20 (loaded - these are actually the most common rounds on the market, reducing costs)

Flare Bolt: These are fairly standard flares. They light up an area of 30m and cause 1d6 ongoing fire damage to anything they hit (if they don't ignite something!). This effect lasts several seconds. 

$25 for box of 30 (requires chemical printer and legal substances to create)

Guided Bolt: Guided Bolts have microscopic avionics systems and a tiny guidance system. These require an initial firing distance of at least 10m to be effective. These take up most of the dart. Ordinary guided bolts deal 1d6 damage. 

Guided Bolts are designed specifically to aid called shots. A Guided Bolt ignores the -4 penalty for aiming at a specific hit location. 

Any bolt on the "standard" list can be brought or produced with guided systems for an addition $3 per bolt. Ordinary desktop 3d printers may not be sufficient to produce them.

Tracker Bolt: tracker bolts are loaded with some kind of tracking device! A tough system designed to punch into the side of a car, these things usually cause 1d6 AP damage. Tracking bolts either have an active transmitter - easy to follow, easy to detect - or something like an RFID system that is much harder to detect but requires the trackers to remain close to their prey.

$3 each

Dye Bolt: dye bolts are essentially paintballs (some people call them paintbolts instead, but it doesn't roll of the tongue!) that explode on contact, creating an equivalent splash. Anything that can be put into a paintball can be put into a dyebolt, including RFID and radioactive tagging systems. 

A dye bolt that hits someone in the face has a 50% chance of blinding them, temporarily or otherwise.

$30 for 100 (standard)
$35 for 100 (RFID tagged)

Weirdly, dye bolts are often harder to print with a delicate desktop printer than they are with a "kid friendly" arts n crafts device. GMs may rule they require a chemical printer during creation.

Noisemaker Bolt: Noise maker bolts contain a small pre-loaded music file and a speaker. They are designed to stick into virtually any object they penetrate (D3 damage) and then begin making a noise. The volume of this noise is pre-set. Volume isn't especially high - think crappy laptop speaker - but on certain high frequencies can match the average rape alarm. The standard "undernet" model comes with dozens of preloaded "distraction" noises.

With a smart linked wrist crossbow and a neural processor of some kind, it may be possible to program a bolt's volume and sound effect in a single action, before launching it. Noisemaker darts are sometimes designed with commlinks, allowing them to be changed after launch. These systems can be detected by many comms detectors, however. 

$1 each

Sensor Bolt: Sensor bolt contain a small active sensor cluster - usually containing a suite of acoustic, motion and thermal sensors and a commlink. They are usually small and printed from transparent materials to hide them from visual detection. Sensor bolts are designed to be used with common plug and play software, allowing the user's central computer analyse and triangulate data from multiple launched bolts and any other sensors s/he might be using.

Active sensor bolts can usually be detected by any usual signal detector. Some sensor bolts are designed with passive sensors and do not transmit data back - instead they are designed to be retrieved later. 

The cost of the battery pushes up the price of sensor bolts and can render them difficult to fabricate. Many open source versions are designed to take commercial power cells.

$10 each

Bespoke Bolts

The following darts are very specialised and were usually created for specific jobs by underground inventors. In some cases, techies will have to "reinvent them". For most of them, however, it's simply a case of finding the blueprints on the undernet and printing them yourself. 

The other reason these darts are so rare is because - unlike a standard bolt - you can't just put one in your kid's crappy toy scanner and then print cheap plastic versions with her Hasbro MakerBox (TM). Most of them require complex printers or manufacturing systems to create.

Several weapons here use a spool of cable. A spool must be fitted to a wristbow along with any bolt connected to it - this takes an action to fit (or remove) the spool and another action to load the bolt or bolts it connects to. A launcher with an attached spool can only have two bolts loaded at any one time, including any attached to the spool. 


Fractal Tip Bolt: Fractal tip bolts use the same technology used by the fractal blades in Liquid Swords - namely, they have microscopic serrations that render the sharp edge considerably longer than the point itself. 

These things are designed to maim. A fractal tip bolt tears 1d6+4 damage out of targets, in addition to the effects of any poison or drug they may have have been coated in. 

Fractal tips are often made out of fragile, transparent material. A transparent fractal bolt will disintegrate inside the body, and is extremely difficult to remove. Medics attempting to give first aid to characters dealing with an embedded fractal tip do so at a -2 penalty. If they fail the roll d3 pieces will remain in the body to re-emerge and cause 1d6 damage at some random time over the next few days or weeks.

$2 each

EMP Sticky Bolt: EMP sticky bolts are a niche saboteur's weapon, based on a more common type of dartgun ammunition. A bolt with a conductive gecko pad tip hits the target and delivers a zap. A piece of unshielded cyberware or electronic equipment hit with an EMP bolt has a 60% chance of shorting out for between 30 minutes and, well, forever. Shielded 'ware only has a 20% chance of shorting out. 

$7 each 

Taser Bolt: Big, ungainly things, these things contain the biggest power cell that can plausibly be launched at the end of a spike or conductive gecko pad. A Taser bolt that hits the target causes 1d3 actual damage followed by stun/shock save (in Savage Worlds replace with 2d6 non/lethal damage - these things don't zap especially hard!). A taser bolt has a 30% chance of shorting any electronic equipment it hits (10% vs shielded equipment).

Trap Bolt: Trap bolts exist because a hobbyist remembered Bioshock. They consist or one or two bolts, a spool and a battery pack. The bolt - which causes 1d6AP damage to anything it hits - trails a wire from a specially designed spool. The user then fires the second bolt (if there is one), ties off the battery around something solid, or simply pulls the line taut. It's quite easy to detach the cable and battery entirely from the spool. Finally, she presses the "on" button connected to the battery or activated by a neural command.

(Firing the first bolt takes one action. Securing the cable by launching another bolt or tying it around something takes another action. Detaching the cable from the spool takes a further action. Switching the on switch is a free action, but requires the character to be in contact with the battery physically or electronically.)

He now has an electrified trip wire. This causes a stun/shock save to anyone who walks into it (Savage Worlds: 3d6 non-lethal). It may also cause them to trip over, come off a motorcycle, etc. 

The internet is convinced that the funniest thing in the world is to watch what happens when one electrified bolt hits one mook and another is hit by the second bolt. These people are wrong: they really ought to watch what happens when a user attached to the cable rolls some kind of fumble.

$80 each to buy, $50 to print. The cable is usually about 10 foot long

Slicer Trail Bolt: Monowire was first proposed as a terror weapon in the novel Stand on Zanzibar: all it needed was a literal, physical existence for it to achieve that lofty goal. In the old days terrorists had to string it across roadways, but now with a launcher and a spool cable...

Slicer trails tend not to be actual monowire for practical reasons. Piano wire will do. A bolt connects to a spool around which the slicer trail cable is wound: the other end is sheathed in plastic to allow it to be tied off - or in some cases, connected to a second bolt. You launch it. What ever happens to get hit takes 1d6AP damage. 

The amount of damage taken by someone walking into the cable is likely to be at least 3d6 but could be considerably higher if they are moving at some speed (falling or collision damage tables may be a good guideline here). If the user is holding the cable taut, they may find themselves unexpected pulled along - the cable may well slice through a crappy car, but not as fast as they imagine! 

The spool is designed not to let the trail fall down onto the user's hand. Nonetheless, an idiot who fumbles firing a razor sharp trail wire deserves to lose some fingers.

 $200 for spool and 20 feet of trail

Pheromone Bolt: these things have a use so incredibly specific they are unlikely to be commercially available. That said, spy agency skunkworks like to live up to the Q ideal!

Pheromone Bolts are specifically designed for fucking with cyberanimals and people who employ them. A small dart (1d3 damage) comes loaded with a biochemical pheromone solution designed to make the target smell like injured prey (or drive creatures wild in some other way). They usually have to be tailored to the specific target animal. The idea is this: you aim the dart at some hapless human target, wait a few seconds, and then watch him get savaged by his own guard dogs.

The extent to which these things actually work is up to the GM. In Shadowrun, these things are positively terrifying! 

$4 each. Chemical printer and creature specific printer required

Tyre Buster: tyre busters are heavy bolts specially designed to, well, bust tyres. Covered in fractal razors, the weapon causes 1d6 damage but cause 3d6 SP/SDP damage. 

Oddly, these things work great against space, cold and diving suits!

$7 each