A laser is a device that amplifies light of a certain frequency into a coherant beam. It is possible to make this beam have extraordinarily high power and enough energy that when focused down to a tiny spot it can litterally make matter explode. By TL 10, high powered lasers can be made in packages small enough that an individual soldier can carry one, with portable batteries that contain enough energy to give a useful number of shots and that put out enough power to give a reasonable rate of fire. The laser can only put out these high power beams for an extremely short time; each such pulse only produces about the explosive energy of a firecracker. However, the laser can pulse its beam very rapidly, delivering a burst of explosions so quickly and tightly spaced that they blast a deep hole through anything the beam is incident upon. Typically, one "shot" from a laser weapon will deliver hundereds or thousands of these pulses in a burst lasting about a millisecond.
Laser light must be delivered to a tight spot in order to be destructive. The beam must be diffuse enough while it is in the laser to avoid damaging the laser itself. To meet both these criteria, laser weapons produce a wide beam that is focused by mirrors and lenses to a point at the target. The laser weapon must sense the distance to the target (using a laser rangefinder) and adjust the focal length of its optics to deliver the concentrated light at just the right range. A fundamental fact of physics is that the wider the beam is initially (and the wider the optics that focus it), the tighter the beam can be focused and the farther it can be kept focused. As a result, lasers do not look much like projectile firearms. They have no barrel, no long hollow tubes as are needed for pushing a bullet to high velocities; rather they are short and stubby with a wide lens at the end, looking something like a military grade camcorder with a pistol grip or rifle stock.
The air a laser beam must travel through has density fluctations that will act to slightly defocus a laser beam, keeping the pulses from reaching destructive intensities at their target. To correct for this, lasers reflect their beam off a mirror with a deformable surface before sending it through the final focusing optics. Subtle warping of this mirror can "pre-focus" the beam to exactly cancel the defocusing of the atmosphere. This deformable mirror also allows some other tricks. It allows the beam to track the slight movement of the target over the millisecond duration of the pulse burst so all pulses stack one on top of the other. It also allows the direction of the beam to be shifted slightly from the main axis of the laser weapon. This means that electronic image stabilization routines can be implemented that automatically correct for any jitter of the weapon, such as that caused by breathing, heartbeat, pulse, or muscle tremmors. Laser beams can thus be held at rock steady aim, far superior to what can be acheived by mere human dexterity. This, and the very sophisticated imaging optics that are necessary for the laser to operate in the first place, the lack of recoil, the lack of drop due to gravity, the lack of need to lead the target with a light speed beam, the lack of drift due to wind, and the fact that the laser beam follows exactly the same path to the target that the light from the target took to the laser (automatically compensating for large scale lensing effects of the air, shooting from air into water, and so on) make lasers incredibly accurate.
The focus of a weapon's grade laser pulse has so high a light intensity that the normal rules of light interaction with matter no longer apply. Reflection, transparency, and the like matter not one whit; the light is so intense that electrons are litterally ripped off of atoms regardless of optical properties. This means that, contrary to popular belief, reflective coatings provide no protection against lasers. On the other hand, before the light reaches that intense focus, it can pass through windows, bounce off of mirrors, and the like. If you aim at the image of your target in a mirror, you can hit your target as easily as if you aimed directly at it.
A laser emits light of exactly one color. If this light is visible to the human eye (such visible colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet), the beam can be seen as a faint trace in daylight, or a bright ray indoors or at night. The spot the beam illuminates scatters some of that light, enough to produce a dazzling flash of the beam color from the target. The beam itself is silent, the laser makes a slight snap when discharged, but the explosion at the target produces a thunderclap, a bright flash of superheated plasma, incandescent sparks, and flying bits of debris. If the laser beam is an invisible color (generally near infrared), you cannot see the beam or the flash without special sensors (or character advantages such as Multispectral Vision), but the flash, sparks, and thunderclap from the explosion are still quite evident. Weapons grade near IR beams are not visible to infravision (which detects light in the thermal IR part of the spectrum, not the near IR).
Laser beams are attenuated by poor atmospheric conditions. Mist, smoke, fog, and dust can all scatter laser light from the beam so that it has less energy with which to damage its target. Halve damage for every -2 penalty to vision from smoke, mist, fog, and haze. An extra -1 vision penalty gives an additional -1 damage per die.
Lasers have several settings for their beams. Lasers can be set to use any of the following options (changing beam settings takes a ready action):
|near IR||×0.5||× 1/4|
For example, a 30 cm vehicular laser firing pulses as powerful as that of the 10 cm heavy laser would have 30/10=3 times the range of the heavy laser. Since each pulse uses 1/10 as much E, it could fire at 10 times the ROF, or ROF 40.
For example, a battle laser (base 25 E per shot) is set to fire 5-fan beams of 1 E per shot. It can spit these beams out at a rate of 4 (its base ROF) × 25 (the ratio by which the beam energy is reduced) = 100. In groups of five beams per shot, this gives the laser a ROF 100/5 = 20, with each shot causing 2d+2 beam+1 damage.
The mass of the power pack is not included in the listed mass of the laser weapon. Small power packs are typically attached direcly to the weapon; add the mass of the pack to that of the weapon. If the power pack weighs more than 50% of the empty weapon, increase Bulk by 1; if it weighs as much or more than the weapon, increase bulk by 2; if it weighs double the empty weapon's mass, increase bulk by 3. Attaching the power pack to the weapon with a flexible power cord eliminates the increase to bulk, but can pose other inconveniences (the cord snagging on brush or furniture, having to put on a bulky pack when you want to use the weapon, etc).
|8||Vehicular Laser, 50cm||beam-2||5d(2)||12+2||2km/6km||250+200||10||20||-||0||1||$1.6M||1||[1,4,5]|
|8||Area Defense Laser, 100cm||beam+2||10d+2(2)||12+2||13km/40km||1000+2000||10||200||-||0||1||$11M||1||[1,4,5]|
|9||Sniper Laser, 10cm||beam-1||6d-1(2)||12+2||1000/3000||10||1||20||12(7B)||-5||1||$23K||2||[1,2,3]|
|9||Vehicular Laser, 30cm||beam+3||12d+1(2)||12+2||10km/30km||45+84||4||200||-||0||1||$320K||1||[1,2,4]|
|10||Palm Laser, 1cm||beam-5||2d+2(2)||4||30/90||0.25||4||1||3||-1||1||$240||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Laser Pistol, 1cm||beam-4||3d(2)||6||40/120||0.5||4||2||4||-1||1||$450||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Laser Pistol, 3 cm||beam-3||4d(2)||6||180/540||1.1||4||4||7||-1||1||$1200||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Heavy Laser Pistol, 3 cm||beam-2||5d(2)||6||250/750||1.7||4||8||9||-2||1||$1950||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Auto Laser, 3cm||beam-2||5d(2)||9+2||250/750||3.0||10||8||8||-3||1||$3450||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Target Laser, 6cm||beam-2||5d(2)||12+2||500/1500||3.0||4||8||7||-3||1||$3300||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Sporting Laser, 6 cm||beam-1||6d-1(2)||12+2||600/1800||3.6||4||12||7||-3||1||$4000||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Assault Laser, 3 cm||beam-1||6d-1(2)||12+2||300/900||4.3||10||12||8||-4||1||$5000||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Battle Laser, 3 cm||beam||7d+1(2)||12+2||450/1350||4.4||4||25||8||-4||1||$5150||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Sniper Laser, 10 cm||beam||7d+1(2)||12+2||1500/4500||8.2||4||25||11(6B)||-5||1||$9700||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Big Game Laser, 4 cm||beam+1||8d(2)||12+2||700/2100||4.5||2||35||8||-4||1||$5200||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Support Laser, 10 cm||beam+2||9d(2)||12+2||2000/6000||12||4||50||14(8B)||-5||1||$14K||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Elephant Laser, 6 cm||beam+3||11d+2(2)||12+2||1800/5400||8||1/2||100||11||-5||1||$9600||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Heavy Laser, 10 cm||beam+3||11d+2(2)||12+2||3000/9000||19||4||100||10B||-6||1||$24K||2||[1,2,3]|
|10||Air Defense Laser, 20 cm||beam+1||8d(2)||12+2||3500/10km||16+37||40||35||8M||-6||1||$66K||1||[1,2,4]|
|10||Vehicular Laser, 30 cm||beam+6||20d(2)||12+2||20km/60km||36+75||4||500||-||0||1||$140K||1||[1,2,4]|