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Star Trek phasers


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Introductory notes

This is a semi-technical DC Heroes RPG article – meaning it’s full of stats but still comprehensible if you skip those. It discusses the “phaser” energy guns used in the various Star Trek movies and TV series.

  • For the different time periods discussed, TOS refers to The Original Series (the late 1960s Trek), TMP refers to the movies featuring the TOS crew, and TNG refers to The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager.
  • The images used therein come from http://www.ditl.org  — there are a lot more there. Though the site’s author sometimes overestimates the capabilities of Starfleet equipment, the site as a whole is an excellent visual and information reference.

General notes

Settings

The output of phasers is highly adjustable, with up to 16 power settings. These settings can be categorized into three general groups: stun (settings 1-3), kill (settings 4-8), and disintegrate (settings 9-16).

The stun settings are energetic enough to disrupt the biological processes of most living being without causing significant tissue damage. This is represented by Energy Blast with the Bashing Damage Only Limitation. However, as described below, repeated stun blasts over a relatively short time period or heavy blasts at extremely close range can inflict permanent and possibly fatal damage.

The kill settings are much more powerful and capable of killing most humanoid lifeforms. Kill settings are also sometimes used to disable particularly durable living beings who are able to withstand stun blasts. These settings are represented by the Laser Beam Power.

The highest settings are able to vaporize a humanoid-sized target. This leaves little or no traces beyond possible scorch marks where the target once stood.

Despite their impressive power, disintegration blasts do not inflict collateral damage unless they miss their target. The blast is completely absorbed by the first object it hits and does not punch through to hit other background objects nor does it propagate to objects connected to the original target.

Unintended lethality

Energy Blast is listed as Bashing damage instead of Non-Lethal (as per BoH:SE) because the stun setting can do Killing damage in some instances. One example, as seen in ST6: The Undiscovered Country, is that firing a phaser on stun while in contact with a victim can inflict lethal damage.

Another example was seen in the TNG episode Samaritan Snare, in which Dr. Crusher expressed concern that repeated stun blasts might cause Lt. LaForge permanent neurological damage.

This can be represented (at the GM’s option) by using Z’s Bashing damage rules, in which damage beyond that necessary to reduce a target to 0 APs of Current BODY is halved (rounding down) and applied as Killing damage.

For example, 5 RAPs on a person with BODY 03 would reduce their Current BODY to 0 (3 RAPs) and then inflict 1 RAP of Killing damage (2 remaining RAPs divided by 2 equals 1 RAP).

Heat

Though phasers are not inherently heat-based weapons, their beams do produce thermal effects. At low settings, this can be useful for variety of non-offensive purposes. Starfleet officers have used this in survival situations to make hot drinks or to heat up rocks to provide warmth inside a sheltered space.

Phaser blasts at low settings generally do not inflict significant heat damage on their targets. However, heavy stun blasts emitted at very close range may leave telltale burn marks at the point of impact.

On kill settings, phaser blasts often produce noticeable heat damage. The point of impact on humanoid targets may have a noticeable scorch mark or severe tissue burns. Phaser beams on these setting may also leave burn marks on surfaces of more durable objects such as metal bulkheads.

This is accounted for under the standard DC Heroes Laser Beam rules, which include a Bonus for heat damage.

On the highest settings the vaporizing effects of Disintegrate supersede any incidental heat damage that might otherwise be inflicted.

Detonation

Phasers in the TOS era had much more volatile energy storage units. They exploded after 4 APs (1 minute) with the equivalent of Bomb: 13. This raises the cost of phasers in the TOS era to 85 points for type-2 phaser pistols and 92 points for type-3 phaser rifles.

Detection

Security systems onboard Starfleet vessels are set to detect phaser blasts. In the TMP era, firing a phaser on any setting above stun (Energy Blast) while onboard a Starfleet vessel set off security alarms.

In the TNG era, phasers were programmed to accept instructions from starship computers. Thus, while on a Starfleet vessel, phasers could not be fired at any setting above stun without entering the proper security code.

Starfleet officers could also order the ship’s computer to suppress phaser fire entirely. This could be done to specific sections of the ship (“Disable all phasers on Deck 23, corridor 14) or even to specific phasers. This Advantage raised the cost of all phasers in the TNG era by 3 points.

Tactical flashlight

Phaser rifles in the TNG era had an optional flashlight attachment for use in low-light conditions. Rifles with this attachment had the equivalent of Flash: 02 (Illumination only, -2 FC), which raised their cost by 7 points.

Reliability

At the GM’s option, the phasers may be treated as having an R# of 02. However, instead of representing a malfunction this represents a complication concerning the phasers.

This may be as simple as the power pack running out (though this usually only happened after extensive use). Or it may represent environmental circumstances such as ambient radiation preventing the phasers from operating (which happened on numerous occasions in the series and films).

This is not included in the phaser’s stats as it is more of an optional, very limited Power Complication Subplot than a Drawback.

Power source

Phasers can sometimes be used as an impromptu power source for another piece of equipment or modified to produce an unusual effect. These can be treated as Trick Powers (see Blood of Heroes: Special Edition page 227), with the user’s Gadgetry Skill substituting for the AV of the Trick Roll.

Disruptors

While some other Star Trek societies such as the Ferengi and the Bajorans also use phasers, most of the other known groups such as the Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, and Breen use disruptors. Stats for disruptors are provided in the Klingon Warrior writeup.


Phaser types

Holdout Phaser (Type-1 Phaser)

[BODY 03, Energy Blast: 06, Laser Beam: 07, Range: 03, Cost: 23, Drawbacks Switching settings from one Power to another costs an Automatic Action (-10 pts.), Limitations:

  • All Powers are Contingent Upon Energy Blast (-1FC each)
  • Energy Blast and Laser Beam have No AV (-1FC each)
  • Energy Blast only does Bashing damage* (-1FC)
  • Laser beam is Lethal (-1FC)
  • Laser Beam cannot use Ricochet Maneuver (-1FC)]

These palm-sized phasers are occasionally used when an easily concealable weapon is desired. Howbeit, their limited power and versatility compared to standard phaser pistols usually discourages their use. They have the same design style as the larger pistols, though both are oval-shaped.

The energy supply for Type-2 phaser pistols in the original Enterprise’s era was in fact a Type-1 phaser and thus could be removed and used separately (this would take an Automatic Action).

Type 1 Star Trek phaser remotes


Phaser Pistol (Type-2 Phaser)

[BODY 04, Bomb: 05, Energy Blast: 06, Laser Beam: 08, Disintegration: 10, Range: 04, Cost: 69, Advantage: Powers can be used for a 1 AP Area Effect, but this lowers the Power’s APs by 2 and costs 5 HPs per use (+10 pts, Drawbacks: Switching settings from one Power to another costs an Automatic Action, setting overload (Bomb) or Area Effect requires two Automatic Actions (-10 pts) ; No other Powers can be used when Bomb is activated (-5 pts) ; Using Bomb destroys the phaser (-20 pts), Limitations:

  • All Powers are Contingent upon Energy Blast (-1FC each)
  • Energy Blast and Laser Beam have No AV (-1FC each)
  • Energy Blast only does Bashing damage* (-1FC)
  • Laser beam is Lethal (-1FC)
  • Laser Beam cannot use Ricochet Maneuver (-1FC)
  • Bomb does not detonate until 3 APs (30 seconds) after activation, during which it emits a shrill noise that increases in pitch and volume as it gets closer to detonation (-2FC)]

Phaser pistols are the standard side arms of Starfleet personnel. They have adjustable settings, which can range from light enough to stun most humanoids instantly to powerful enough to vaporize dense materials.

Mid-range settings can be used for slowly blasting away or cutting through tough materials or for heating objects (sometimes used to provide warmth in outdoor survival situations). Phasers can be set to overload their energy packs, causing an explosion.

It is possible to adjust a phaser so it fires over a wider area, but this strains the phaser slightly and is also traditionally eschewed by Starfleet personnel for fear of collateral damage.

Phasers in the TOS and TMP eras are black pistol-shaped weapons with art deco streamlining and a radar dish-shaped emitter. Phasers in the TNG era are wand-shaped with a control panel under the user’s thumb and an emitter port at the firing end. They were colored light gray or beige.

Type 2 Star Trek phaser pistols


Phaser Rifle (Type-3 Phaser)

[BODY 06, Bomb: 06, Energy Blast: 06, Laser Beam: 08, Disintegration: 10, Range: 05, Cost: 78, Advantage: Powers can be used for a 2 AP Area Effect, but this lowers the Power’s APs by 3 and costs 5 HPs per use (+10 pts.), Drawbacks: Switching settings from one Power to another costs an Automatic Action, activating (or deactivating) overload (Bomb) requires two Automatic Actions (-10 pts) ; No other Powers can be used when Bomb is activated (-5 pts) ; Using Bomb destroys the phaser (-20 pts.), Limitations:

  • All Powers are Contingent upon Energy Blast (-1FC each)
  • Energy Blast and Laser Beam have No AV (-1FC each)
  • Energy Blast only does Bashing damage* (-1FC)
  • Laser beam is Lethal (-1FC)
  • Laser Beam cannot use Ricochet Maneuver (-1FC)
  • Bomb does not detonate until 3 APs (30 seconds) after activation, during which it emits a shrill noise that increases in pitch and volume as it gets closer to detonation (-2FC)]

As the name suggests, this is just a larger version of a standard phaser. Phaser rifles usually have an elongated phaser body and two pistol grip handles, one at the butt and another a few inches behind the beam emitter.

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) with a phaser rifle and a torn shirt


Compression Phaser Rifle (Type-3 Phaser, Advanced)

[BODY 06, Bomb: 06, Energy Blast: 08, Range: 05, Cost: 34, Drawbacks: Switching Energy Blast from Bashing to Killing costs an Automatic Action, activating (or deactivating) overload (Bomb) requires two Automatic Actions (-10 pts) ; No other Powers can be used when Bomb is activated (-5 pts) ; Using Bomb destroys the phaser (-20 pts.), Limitations:

  • Bomb is Contingent upon Energy Blast (-1FC)
  • Energy Blast has No AV (-1FC)
  • Bomb does not detonate until 3 APs (30 seconds) after activation, during which it emits a shrill noise that increases in pitch and volume as it gets closer to detonation (-2FC)]

These are phaser rifles modified to fire “compressed” phaser energy blasts, resulting in much greater effectiveness. These blasts take the form of bolts of energy instead of the usual continuous stream of phaser fire. The initial compression rifle designs sacrificed the greater options of standard phaser settings for more powerful blasts on the lower settings.

Compression rifles entered service at the beginning of ST: Voyager. Starfleet personnel used either compression rifles or standard phaser rifles, depending on personal preference and situational tactical demands.

Compression rifles were styled much differently than standard phaser rifles. They were chromed streamlined rifles with flattened bodies and a wide emitter port at the end of the barrel.

Star Trek compression phaser


Heavy Phaser Rifle (Type-3 Phaser, Heavy)

[BODY 06, Bomb: 06, Energy Blast: 08, Laser Beam: 08, Disintegration: 10, Range: 05, Cost: 147, Advantage: Powers can be used for a 2 AP Area Effect, but this lowers the Power’s APs by 3 and costs 5 HPs per use (+10 pts.), Drawbacks Switching settings from one Power to another (or switching Energy Blast from Bashing to Killing damage) costs an Automatic Action, activating (or deactivating) overload (Bomb) requires two Automatic Actions (-10 pts) ; No other Powers can be used when Bomb is activated (-5 pts) ; Using Bomb destroys the phaser (-20 pts.), Limitations:

  • All Powers are Contingent upon Energy Blast (-1FC each)
  • Energy Blast and Laser Beam have No AV (-1FC each)
  • Laser beam is Lethal (-1FC) ; Laser Beam cannot use Ricochet Maneuver (-1FC)
  • Bomb does not detonate until 3 APs (30 seconds) after activation (-2FC)]

These phaser rifles combine the focused blasts of compression rifles with the option to use standard phaser fire. Heavy phaser rifles entered service at the time of the second Borg Invasion (as seen in ST: First Contact) and replaced both standard phaser rifles and compression rifles.

Heavy phaser rifles are more rounded than the standard phaser rifles and have black rubberized barrel grips and butt-stocks that the standard rifles lacked.

Heavy Star Trek phaser rifle


Bonus — Reboot movie phaser pistol

[BODY 06, Energy Blast: 07, Range: 05, Drawbacks: Switching Energy Blast from Bashing to Killing costs an Automatic Action, Limitations: Energy Blast has No AV (-1FC)]

In the altered timeline created by the Romulan vessel Narada travelling back to the year 2233, phasers were just one of the many technologies that developed differently than in the original timeline. These phaser pistols fired discrete bolts rather than beams, much like the compressed phaser rifles in the TNG era of the original timeline.

The stun bolts fired by these phasers were bright blue with a low hum and kill bolts were bright red with a higher pitched whine.

Star Trek phaser pistol (rebooted version)

By KalEl el Vigilante, Sean MacDonald and Roy Cowan

Helper(s): Sébastien Andrivet, The Angel, William Chamberlin, John Colagioia, Eric Langendorff, Evan May, Jay Myers, Torchwolf, Darci, Mike Davis, and Woodrow Hill

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