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Ballistic weaponry falls into two categories, magnetic or chemical, based on the source of acceleration. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. Magnetic rounds generally are fired by either a rail or coil gun and consequently have a greater muzzle velocity and ergo damage than their chemical compatriots. In addition they are very stable in storage, but they require a lot of power at the time of launch and a long barrel to be effective.

Chemical rounds are accelerated like traditional bullets[1] down a short barrel. Rifling is moot so the barrel is perfectly smooth and ideally exactly the same diameter as the shot. Generally, chemical rounds tend to travel more slowly than the magnetic, and have a lower mass, but they are significantly cheaper, less likely to fowl and require only a spark to fire. They have a tendency to be used by civilians or militias for this reason.

Kinetic rounds in Vast Worlds are no where near as destructive as classically depicted in sci-fi, mostly because the distance and energy required to accelerate them to explosive velocities is not generally available in battle. Instead they are designed as penetrating weapons, preferably fragmenting within the hull and hitting as many targets as possible. Armour is the best remedy, but as the rounds in both cases are quite slow dodging is also possible. Because kinetic rounds are so versatile they have been used for everything from short to long range weapons, with a variety of bore sizes and some even featured detonating shells.

Finally, missiles are a much underpowered weapon in Vast Worlds for a number of reasons[2]. The first of these is the over effectiveness of point defences, all ships carry p.d. or ‘pop guns’ and these are designed to intercept fast moving debris on an impact course with the ship[3], its not to much of a stretch to start pointing them at missiles too and they achieve disturbingly high kill ratios. Also, missiles are incredibly bright, due to their motor, so are instantly visible on any kind of scanners, so there is no way to sneak past a ship’s p.d. grid short of firing from extremely short range.

In the earlier eras missiles are also underpowered due to the fact a good number of ships can match or equal their acceleration. Humanity runs up against a lower limit to the size they can readily make a fusion rocket, or fusion powered rocket, and this is about the size of a jet engine. This means that all missiles are forced to use chemical propellant, and this simply isn’t powerful enough to catch smaller ships. They do become more powerful later in the setting, but by this point ship technology has passed them by and they resemble torpedoes rather than interception missiles.

Missiles are also highly vulnerable to electronic warfare, especially with battle ships able to deploy faux A.I.s to interfere with the missiles’ far simpler systems. This of course requires some time to operate so is only effective against missiles fired from range, and missiles that are extremely ‘dumb’ can not be confused in this manner, instead jamming systems must be used and even then missiles can be made too simple again.

Anyway, missiles do have their uses, the chemical store allows significantly more destructive power in the shot than can be provided with classical munitions, and they are far more reliable than the more futuristic weapons. They also can be fired without significant amounts of aiming and so can be launched on mass without serious logistical issues, and so they are often used as the second strike wave when the fleets are in brawling range. They have a strong tendency to be used on the smaller vessels as they hit above their weight class, but you can store comparatively few shots so it’s best not to use them on any ship with an appreciable survival time.

[1] Though do bear in mind a regular gun requires oxygen to fire so will not work in space, chemical kinetics carry their own oxygen supply so can operate.

[2] The most significant is how boring a space fight where everyone is killed by missiles from two light seconds away is.

[3] These were absolutely vital around Earth where human debris was a serious navigation hazard, and they still tend to be installed on ships from less polluted worlds as they are a life saver when actually necessary.


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