Radiation beams emit beams of ionizing radiation, either charged particles or high energy photons. These pass through matter, and in the process knock off enough electrons as they go to heat the matter in the beam path and inflict radiation exposure.
Material strength is dependent on chemical bonds, which are interactions between the weakest-bound electrons. Radiation essentially ignore material strength, passing right through any matter and ionizing all chemical bonds so that the matter falls apart into highly ionized plasma. In game terms, all DR except for cover DR is ignored. However, the energy used to cause ionization is removed from the beam's energy. This is proportional to the amount of matter in the way, so that cover DR protects with its full DR.
As the radiation interacts with the matter it passes through, it can either lose energy continuously or via discrete processes. Continuous energy loss gives a well defined range to the particles - they can only go through so much stuff before they lose all their energy and stop. Discrete interactions remove some of the particles from the beam, but the amount is proportional to the amount of particles already in the beam, so as the beam gets less intense it loses energy more slowly. With only discrete interactions, the beam has no maximum range through matter and although it steadily loses intensity it never drops to exactly zero (although if it goes far enough it will be close enough to zero for all practical purposes). All charged particles suffer continuous energy loss - their electric field pulls the electrons and pushes on the nuclei if positively charged and vice versa if negatively charged. As the charged beam particles fly by, they give the matter electrons enough of a kick to knock them out of place. This heats the matter, but the energy to do so comes from the beam itself, whose particles will gradually slow down and eventually come to a stop. However, discrete processes may also occur which remove charged particles from the beam. Uncharged particles generally do not suffer from continuous energy loss but will usually experience some type of discrete interaction that can remove them from the beam.
|Beam Size||Armor divisor|
The heating caused by the passage of a beam of radiation through matter may flash the matter to vapor when it is still tightly focused in a very narrow beam. The explosive expansion of the heated material in the beam path will cause significant disruption to solid objects the beam passes through - including people. Even though the beam may be less than a millimeter wide, it will produce a large wound channel. At longer ranges, the beam expands. This heats a larger area but less violently. This will cause melting, thermal decomposition or degradation, or surface ignition. There comes a point where the beam is still intense enough to cook the flesh it passes through and perhaps melt wax or ice but cannot directly affect bulk materials that are relatively insensitive to heat such as rock or steel. Eventually, the beam will be diffuse enough that it can no longer substantially heat its target and it will stop causing direct thermal damage.
The direct heating damage is considered tight beam burning. At long ranges where the heating due to the beam is enough to cook meat but insufficient to ignite flamables or melt rock or steel, the damage is limited only to living things or materials close to their melting temperature or an otherwise high sensitivity to heat. Beyond the distance at which injury can occur, the beam will still deliver radiation damage - roll damage for the beam, but do not apply any wounding except for the radiation effect. The range has three ranges listed - the maximum range for unconstrained tight beam burning, the maximum range for tight beam burning that only affects living beings, and finally the half-damage range for the radiation.
All beams of penetrating radiation are made of ionizing radiation. Some of the particles will inevitably scatter out of the beam, and the interaction of the beam with matter typically creates other forms of ionizing radiation as well. This will cause radiation exposure with the subsequent acute radiation poisoning and chronic radiation sickness. Radiation exposure is also caused when the beam passes through living tissue at too low of an intensity to cook the tissue. Radiation exposure from a given beam will be a multiple of the basic damage delivered to the target (or damage absorbed, for barriers or other intervening objects) times the armor divisor for superscience armor from the beam's damage size. As usual with explosive damage, internal damage (in this case radiation dose) resulting from damage absorbed by a direct hit is multiplied by 3. Unlike normal explosions, radiation dose falls off as the square of the distance from the source to the victim. A target will take the full dose produced from damage absorbed by armor or any other interposing matter he was wearing. Because of the explosive modifier, bystanders near the point of incidence or intended targest that got lucky with a near miss can be irradiated by the radiation escaping from the point of incidence. This includes the gunner, if he is standing too close to his target! Against most biological beings, any direct hit will deliver a lethal dose.
Even damage absorbed by the air en route to the target will emit radiation, according to how much damage was absorbed by the air. This will end up irradiating the gunner as well. Rather than adding up all the radiation exposure from each point along the beam, figure anyone affected will take an exposure equal to the radiation damage multiple for beam size × the cover DR/m of the air times the radiation multiplier divided by the distance from the beam (for a gunner using a handheld weapon, this will be his Reach. Assume Reach C is 0.5 m). The dose per shot may be small, but after emptying a power cell the gunner may end up very sick. For this reason, radiation beamers are usually only used by rad-hardened automated systems, by vehicles whose crews are protected by heavy shielding, or in vacuum. (Note - this is the distance from the beam, not the square of the distance from the beam. Dose from line sources goes as 1/distance, as opposed to the 1/distance2 of point sources.)
Example: Jed the Space Marine is guarding an asteroid space depot in his Dreadnought battlesuit (5 points cover DR). He is shot by a p-beamer from an enemy spacecraft that inflicts 30⊗4 Beam+2 damage.
The first 5 of the initial 30 point damage increment are absorbed by the armor, producing 5×100 points of radiation, multiplied by 5 for Beam+2, for a total of 2500 points of radiation damage.
This is divided by the battlesuit's PF of 20 for 125 points delivered to Jed.
Next, Jed takes full blowthrough of 6 points of basic damage plus 2 points of damage coming and going from vital organ protection, for a total of 10 points of damage inflicted in three wounds as a cylinder of meat in his torso is heated to the point that it cooks.
The ten points of basic damage are multiplied by 100 to get the base radiation, and then by 5 for the radiation wounding multiple, and then by 3 because the dose is internal, to give Jed 15000 points of radiation damage.
As the beam exits, it spits off another 125 points of radiation from Jed's suit.
Jed is badly injured, and is unlikely to survive the radiation exposure.
Jed's squadmate Ned is in an underground room in the depot. A stray beam pierces the meter of overhead rock (cover DR 100) and four centimeters of steel plate for the armored pressure walls (cover DR 12) and goes through Ned. The initial 30 points are absorbed by the rock, as are the next 30 points where the beam is at damage size +0, and the next 30 when the beam is at damage size -2, and 22 of the last 60 at damage size -4. This leaves 38 points of basic damage in this increment to go through Ned and his battlesuit. The battlesuit absorbs 5 of this, producing 5×100×(1/20) = 25 points of radiation, which becomes 1 after the suit's PF is applied. Ned can take 10 points of basic damage from this attack before it blows through (2 points absorbed by his vital organ protection, 6 points through his squishy middle parts, and anither 2 points as the beam exits through the other side). This evaluates to 10×100×(1/20) = 50 points of radiation exposure. Finally, Ned takes the additional point of radiation exposure from the beam going out the back of his suit. Ned is in pain with deep burns going through his body, but is likely to survive both the injury and radiation exposure.
The range listed for radiation damage is the range where SM 0 targets take the full radiation exposure. This is the range where the entire focused spot of the beam can be expected to pass through the target. For longer ranges, the beam is wide enough that much of the radiation passes by the target. Divide the radiation damage by the square of the number of multiples of the listed range, rounding all fractions up (for example, between the listed range and twice the listed range, damage is divied by 4. Between twice the listed range and three times the listed range, damage is divided by 9). Targets with different size modifiers have the half-damage range multiplied by half the Linear Measurement value from the Speed/Range table (pg. B550) corresponding to their size.
Radiation beams are very obvious. At ranges close enough to cause flash-vaporization, they produce a blazing blue-white streak along the beam path flashing instantly and momentarily from the gun to the target with the sound of a thunderclap; and an actinic flash, explosive bang, and shower of sparks and debris where the beam is incident. The beam streak clearly shows the position of anyone using one of these weapons. Beyond this range, the beam causes the air it passes through to fluoresce blue for an instant along the path of the beam, and may make the target glow from its heat or burst into flames.
There are various ways of producing radiation beams:
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