How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Shurikannon

So Howard posted earlier today a spoiler of writing from the book. Not to be outdone, I’m posting one myself. But first, let me give you some back-story and example of how design and play-testing impacted this part of the game.

During the early pre-Alpha days of the Schlock Mercenary playtest, we had a lack of weapons. Howard had really only canonized a handful of weapons, and obviously the players wanted more options than that. So I quickly handwaved a few companies into existence, statted up a bunch of generic weapons for usage, and one very, delightfully non-generic weapon, the Shurikannon.

The Shurikannon started life is a massive, underslung, hip mounted, rotating barrel railgun that fired shuriken instead of bullets, or lasers, or plasma. That’s right. It was a portable minigun that fired throwing stars.

Players loved it. I don’t think a session went by where someone didn’t bring the Shurikannon with them, and I know for a fact it got used.

When Howard was fleshing out the weapons and manufacturers, I requested that the Shurikannon be made into…well, canon.

We discussed it, I explained the idea, and lo, and behold, Howard wrote the following that night:

Phubahr 75mm Shurikannon

If you want to hit your target like a metric truck-fun of drunken ninjas, hold tight and let loose with the 75mm Shurikannon from Phubahr. This pea-shooter launches 5-packs of 7.5cm “throwing stars” at roughly 200 meters per second, and can empty a 20-round magazine (that’s 100 shuriken) in two seconds.

But when we say “hold tight,” we mean it.The Shurikannon kicks with 8500 newtons of force for each sharp, starry cluster of joy sent downrange, and that’s almost exactly the force you got hit by that one time during sparring practice when you told your sensei not to hold anything back.

There have been worse ideas in the long history of bad ideas, but most of those ideas envy the Shurikannon for how cool it looks in the moments before things go pointedly un-cool. Of course, given the recoil, the stresses on the barrel, and the irregularities inherent in the projectiles, not to mention the failure-prone workmanship characteristic of all Phubahr weapons, “pointedly uncool” is a cute understatement. If your imagination has painted an unpleasant picture here, perhaps a bit of good judgment will prevent a 75mm Shurikannon from doing the painting for you. Or, frankly, with you.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go stat up a character for playtest, who intends to duel wield these magnificent toys.

And wear a LOT of armor.

18 thoughts on “How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Shurikannon”

  1. Okay, I teach physics, and now I want to structure some test problems around that excerpt. Because if I find the idea of a gun that fires throwing stars at 200 m/s amusing and memorable, I hope my students will too.

    1. If you’d like to spot-check some of the other mathy-bits, Becca, I would be happy to share some more excerpts with you.

      In particular I’m leery of accidentally hanging a bunch of “hits harder than” kind of statements from something where I put the decimal in the wrong place.

  2. I have a thought… If Phubarr is known for their shoddy worksmanship, but the design is basically sound, can you get a, well, non-shoddy knock-off by feeding the design to your friendly local warship fabricator and feeding it a few small asteroids?

    Also, I am totally going to stat this ridiculous and awesome weapon up for Eclipse Phase, because this is the kind of crazy that is entirely possible in Eclipse Phase. In fact, I’ll get right on that, because this is straight-up the funniest thing I’ve read all day.

      1. Oh, no, I can clearly tell that the entire idea is asinine, but with a sufficiently dedicated engineer who’s too ignorant to know that an entire idea is so BLINDINGLY STUPID that it shouldn’t be done, amazing achievements can be made!

        It’d still be loads more practical to just use a regular weapon, of course. That said, okay, if the design itself is flawed in the Schlockiverse, could your friendly local warship AI knock out a redesign that isn’t unsound? Because frankly, hosing everybody in the room down with mass-driven ninja stars is awesome!

        1. As a mercenary, why would you put that level of effort in? If it’s more practical, cost effective, and efficient, no CO/Quartermaster would approve the resources needed for the redesign.

          1. The very same questions can be asked as regards why Schlock is still carrying around a knockoff of a Stroh Munitions BH-209i, rather than an AP-250 like Captain Murtaugh carries.

            It can be asked doubly-seriously after the incident at Oisri, when Schlock attempted to use his plasgun’s rocket mode, only to discover too late that his plasgun does not function for more than a short burst outside of an atmosphere. In the wake of that incident, any CO/Quartermaster who was interested in practical, cost-effective, and efficient, would have issued the Sergeant upon his ressurection an AP-250 and ordered him not to carry a BH-209i or any knockoffs thereof.

            Instead, Tagii redesigned the BH-209i to maintain all the tactile and auditory features Schlock loves, yet still work in a vacuum, as can be seen by the fact that in the latest strips, Schlock is still carrying a 209i knockoff, and not an AP-250.

            Therefore, weapon redesign is clearly a fairly trivial matter for a warship AI which is already in the business of designing and fabricating weapons out of whole cloth, and the kind of CO/Quartermaster who would allow the AI to redesign and issue a Gatling gun that fires ninja stars at 3,000 rounds per minute is the one who has at least one eccentric heavy weapons soldier on his payroll who insists on firing ninja stars at 3,000 RPM.

  3. No, I’m absolutely not stupid enough to tell Schlock I’m taking away his plasgun. :)

    I’m also not stupid enough to tell the heavy weapons guy who’s fallen in love with a rotary shuriken cannon that for all imaginable practical and reasonable purposes, it’s an insane weapon to use, and hence I’m replacing it with a standard heavy G/G machine gun.

    Hence: have the fabrication AI redesign the plasgun and the Shurikannon to be usable weapons, instead of self-destructive suicidally awesome weapons. :)

  4. Completely apropos of, well, the awesomely stupid and stupidly awesome idea that is the Shurikannon, I spent the evening statting it up for Eclipse Phase. If anyone reading this is a fan of sci-fi transhuman RPGs (as seems likely, since Schlock Mercenary is getting more transhumanist and is definitely sci-fi, or at least close enough to it,) they may wish to check out my write-up. I also wrote up the pistol, machine pistol, autorifle, light machinegun, and “sniper rifle” variants, because if a concept is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing, and 75mm ninja stars are too nifty an ammunition type to be relegated to just one weapon.

    (I also included rules for normal shuriken flung by hand, in their intended usage.)

  5. Don’t suppose we’ll see MesCorp or any of the other Forum War Weapons suppliers from the Nightstar Zoo Forum?

  6. 8500 Newtons? That’s . . . huh . . .After a bit of research, that’s not as massive as I thought it would be. A 30-06 fires at ~5000 N, Wehrmacht’s preferred 8mm Mauser fired at 6780 N and the .50 BMG fires at an absurd 18,360 Newtons. So what I think I’m getting at is: Can we see Schlock kill someone with an antique Ma Deuce?

    1. As much as you have to respect the work of John Moses Browning, I wouldn’t fire a 1,000 year-old machine gun. Even if you fabbed up perfectly new ammo for it, I’d be worried about the effects of age having rendered the weapon unsafe to fire.

      I could see Schlock passing one in a museum somewhere in the New York Arcology and saying “Huh. A thousand years old, and still more than twice as much energy per shot than a Phubahr.”

      And then someone would have to ask which note he cribbed that off, and be surprised that Schlock actually knows a thing or two about weap – okay, I’m lying, he’s totally got a link to one of the ship AIs (probably Cindercone) in his replacement comms, so she can feed him intel/let him look smart.

    2. The problem isn’t the energy or momentum of the individual piece of ammo, it’s the 3,000 rounds per minute ROF.
      (50 per second.)

      Now, Newtons are a unit of force, and energy will be in newton meters, momentum in newton seconds.

      Units for firearms in the USA tend to use lb-ft or N-ft and measure energy. (Yeach, that should be N-meters, but N-ft it is.)

      If we assume that 8500 is in N-ft, them the actual energy per second is 129,540 Joules. Muzzle velocity is 200 m/s, so force is 1295.4 newtons (divide by half “exhaust” velocity). Which is barely more than is needed for a 290 lb man+gear to hover in place sending spiky death straight down on those below. Till he runs out of ammo of course, he’s burning through over 14 lb of ammo per second, and we know ammo + gun + man is only 290 lb for him to do this.

      Still and all, pull the trigger on this thing, and unless you are braced against something fairly solid, you WILL be moving the other direction, and the gun WILL pull if not dead centered on your center of mass.

      This is a BAD BAD weapon for personal use as a carried item.

      1. Replying to myself: The weapon has a substantially subsonic muzzle velocity, but fast enough that the sharp edge really doesn’t matter much. Why subsonic? This is baffling given the other technology in the setting (but see below).

        Are they thinking this thing will be quiet if firing subsonic?

        Does the ammo take advantage of subsonic aerodynamics? Why bother? With a vaguely decent design faster will almost always have a flatter trajectory.

        Are they just worried that their ammunition will break apart in the atmosphere if a spinning sharp spiky thing tries to fly supersonic?

        Speaking of spinning: How fast does it spin? A MLB pitcher can throw a ball rotating at 3,000 RPM and over 40 m/s. This thing is 200 m/s, I should hope it can spin up by a comparable margin, say 15,000 RPM.

        What kind of break do we get on the shots? Is the curve a deliberate design feature or just another “interesting” undocumented feature? Can you set this thing to break in different directions by spinning the shot in different directions.

        This is in fact the only reason I can come up with for subsonic, so you can spin those suckers enough to get them to curve and break as they fly. Is the maximum break setting in a dense atmosphere enough to let you shoot yourself in the back?

        Inquiring minds want to know.

  7. Sort of reminds me of the Eldar shuriken catapults from Warhammer 40000, except that they fire *monofilament* shurikens. We know that monofilament weapons exist in the Schlockiverse, since Tagon has one in his boots; I wonder if we’d be able to upgrade one of these to fire monofilament-edged shurikens instead of regular metal ones. 😉

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