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Weapons Locker – Modern Firearms – Chapter #4 – Less-than-lethal


This article is part of our Weapons Locker series. Wot presents overviews of weapon types used in fiction, with TTRPG stats.

It presents the “less lethal” weaponry that wasn’t covered in other articles in the series. Frex :

  • The basic small melee weapons article already has stuff like stun guns, batons or incapacitating sprays.
  • The ammunition article already discusses less-lethal firearms ammo, both real and fictional.
  • The grenades article already covers the likes of tear gas grenades, flash-bangs, stingers, etc..

Having a bash

Less-lethal weapons can have a specific role in super-hero and adventure stories. A common convention in these genres is that knocking people out without any lasting damage is easy. The fictional version of less-lethal weapons can therefore :

  1. Lower the cost of suspension of disbelief, as people get incapacitated by something marketed as being able to do so.
  2. While keeping the “it’s all okay, nobody was killed or even seriously wounded during this big action scene” have-your-pudding-and-eat-it-too narrative convention.

In most DC Heroes TTRPG Genres, all these weapons can therefore be assumed to only do Bashing Damage.


Table of content

Taser pistol

Tasers (a commodification of the Taser® brand) shoot a wire-trailing, conductive needle into the target. The weapon can then deliver a strong electrical discharge through the wire and needle.

In the real world, tasers require well-trained, professional operators and strict spectrum of force engagement rules. Without that, they’re little more than electrical torture devices. About a thousand deaths were caused by electrical impulse weaponry in the US during the 2000s and 2010s.

In most fiction, tasers are a knockout ray. Point, shoot, safely render target unconscious for hours The stats below model the fictional version, as we almost always do in our weapons locker articles.

Tasers usually carry two needles and can thus shoot twice. Needles come in several, colour-coded levels of range and power. The green, beefier one has a range of about 25 feet (7.6m).

Accessories include :

  • Laser sights, which are frequently featured in fiction to help visualise the action.
  • A gun camera to document each shot taken.
  • Confetti-like tags sprayed with each shot. These tiny bits each bear the serial number of the needle, for forensics purposes.

Stats & illustration

DCH Taser pistol [BODY 01, Lightning: 04, Range: 02, Ammo: 02, R#3, Limitation: Lightning has no Range (use the listed Range instead) and has Limited Penetration, Drawback: Very long reload time].

M&M Taser pistol [Ranged Affliction 6 (Daze/Stun/Incapacitate, resisted by Fortitude), Diminished Range 3, Unreliable (Two shots)].

Some such pistols also have a stun gun mode. As long as it has one or more Ammo left, they can be used to attack in melee without expanding Ammo. One pokes with the muzzle and has it emit a small arc.

Taser X26 pistol black

Taser International M26 pistol (photo by the manufacturer).

Taser small arm

A rifle- or shotgun-sized weapon. These do not seem to use the needle-and-wire approach, but rather some sort of self-electrifying blunt projectile.

Such weapons are usually seen in comic books to depict firefights that are obviously done with non-lethal force. Usually, the projectiles’ impact comes with flashy, crackling lightning discharges to show that it’s a sort of taser.

Action might be bolt-, pump- or lever-action to emphasise that these are small-production-run near-prototypes.

Advanced, well-funded good-guy comic book SWAT teams might have several of those.

Stats & illustration

DCH Taser small arm [BODY 03, Lightning: 06, Range: 03, Ammo: 05, R#3, Limitation: Lightning has no Range (use the listed Range instead) and has Limited Penetration].

M&M Taser small arm [Ranged Affliction 8 (Daze/Stun/Incapacitate, resisted by Fortitude), Diminished Range 2].

Taser rifles ATF agents - Marvel Comics Agents of Atlas - Grizzly

These “rifles” were used by Marvel Universe’s BATF assaulters in 2009.


A comic book weapon intended to take down superhumans.

These weapons are usually produced in small quantities to equip specialised SWAT and military operators. They can vary from carbine-sized to shoulder-fired.

Their efficiency is variable. Sometimes they do not help at all. Sometimes they’re the plot device to have the highly durable and/or regenerative hero get captured.

Our stats are a murky, somewhat highballed compromise. The weapon will take down even the toughest humans but are not going to work very well on super-durable superhumans.

Another variable is the number of officers, military police, etc. arranging to simultaneously shoot their target with their super-tasers. Such tactics usually receive the Team Attack bonuses, which is rare when it comes to nameless characters attacking.

Stats & illustration

DCH Super-taser [BODY 01, Lightning: 08, Range: 02, Ammo: 01, R#3, Limitation: Lightning has no Range – use the listed Range instead, Drawback: Very long reload time].

M&M Super-taser [Ranged Affliction 11 (Daze/Stun/Incapacitate, resisted by Fortitude), Diminished Range 3, Unreliable (One shot)].

Comic book super-taser

Hefty made-up design, to suggest power. With three launch tubes and a heavy, removable electrical feed pack, it presumably has a higher ammo capacity than the model in the stats above.

Tranq pistol

A handgun firing a dart filled with a tranquillising drug. Technically, it’s called a “projector”.

In real life these are used to approach dangerous animals. Fire at the beast, wait for the drug to finally take effect, make sure the animal is indeed knocked out, then do your business. Veterinary medicine, putting a tracer on, capture, etc..

In fiction the effects are much quicker. Like tasers a fictional tranq pistol is essentially a phaser set to stun.

They’re usually are air pistols, and thus quieter than a firearm. Not silent either, but they have a modest report that is often difficult to locate.

In comic books tranq pistols are generally sufficient to knock out any human being.

Superhumans will normally resist the drug while the shooter swears that there’s enough drug to knock out a rhino, any three elephants, a herd of wolvertons, or something equally hyperbolic.

Stats & illustration

DCH Tranq pistol [BODY 02, Poison touch: 07, Range: 03, Ammo: 05, R#03, Thief (Stealth): 01, Limitation: Thief only to muffle the shots].

M&M Tranq pistol [Ranged Affliction 8 (Fatigued/Exhausted/Asleep), Resistible (Toughness and Fortitude), Diminished Range 3].

Tranq pistol

This is a Benjamin Sheridan Pneu-Dart (it pneumatically fires a dart – in other words it’s a compressed air pistol) 179B breech-loading one-shot pistol. It looks much like what people expect a tranq pistol to look like.

Tranq rifle

As above, firing a larger dart with more drug at a longer range.

The values used in the stats are an even murkier compromise. These darts are generally loaded with the heaviest possible dose, but their efficiency in fiction is highly variable.

Tranq rifles often cartridges of gunpowder to shoot the dart, and usually have an optical scope (often a x4).

DCH Tranq rifle [BODY 02, Poison touch: 09, Range: 05, Ammo: 05, Telescopic vision: 02, R#02].

M&M Tranq rifle [Ranged Affliction 10 (Fatigued/Exhausted/Asleep), Resistible (Toughness and Fortitude), Diminished Range 1, Senses 1 (Extended visual)].

Dan Inject tranq rifles projectors

Two Dan-Inject projectors (JM Specials, I think) with a smaller compressed air bottle screwed on. The lower one has the barrel extension on..

Tangler, snare gun, entangler, net gun, gummer, goop gun, etc.

These sci-fi weapons are common in comic-book universes. They are often pictured as riot gun-sized.

They all intended to entangle targets to neutralise them in a low-risk, less-than-lethal manner. Typical users are police and security systems meant to deal with superhumans.

There exists “net guns” in the real world. These usually are 4-barelled affairs that shoot four weights dragging a net.

Fictional weapons tend to shoot a sort of soft ball that explodes in a mess of sticky restraining tendrils – or even metallic cables. Real world weapons using this approach (like the Foster-Miller Webshot or Stingray systems) do not quite work in the field, but the fictional equivalents have the problems all worked out.

Like with tranq guns, how efficient tanglers are is very variable from one story to the next, and the stats below are a murky compromise.

DCH Tangler [BODY 03, Snare: 06, Range: 04, Ammo: 04, R#03].

M&M Tangler [Ranged Snare 7, Diminished Range 1].

Here is a quick imaginary design. The flash-ball guns below would also work fine as props for a tangler.

Tangler gun

Another quick made-up design.


This less-than-lethal weapon shoots a 44mm soft rubber ball – or some variant thereof.

It is used to punch and stun at about 15-30 metres – or 10 to 50 in more recent models. The impact has been compared to being hit by a heavyweight boxing champ. Note the minimal range, under which wounds are too likely to occur.

This type of weapon has primarily been used in France during the late 2010s and 2020s to wound and maim citizens protesting royal policies. Head impacts, in particular, can destroy eyes and jaws.

However, a fictional and less dangerous version could be a thing for some street-level super-heroes.

DCH Flash-ball [BODY 02, Projectile weapon: 04, Range: 02, Ammo: 02, Limitation: Bashing damage only, R#03, Limitation: Projectile weapon has No Range, use the Range listed instead].

M&M Flash-ball [Ranged Ballistic Damage 3, Diminished Range 1, Unreliable (Two shots)].

LBD cougar 40 flash ball crowd control police

A common early 2020s model in France is the LBD Alsetex Cougar 40. Those could be used as a prop for about any large-bore near-future gun, really.

Older types of French flash-ball police crowd control launcher

Older models of flash-ball launchers. The two photos aren’t at the exact same scale..

FN 303 Riot Gun

A modern design for a less-than-lethal gun with varied ammunition. This gun uses compressed air to shoot specialised 18mm ammunition at a range of about 30-40 metres.

The 303 is fed by a 15-shot drum magazine. Said mag has a transparent rear to see the colour-coded ammunition, which on paper can allow to select a specific type of ammunition for a given shot.

While the 303 is essentially an upgunned paintball carbine, it — like all “less lethal” weapons — can kill. Especially if not used correctly, if hitting a person in poor health, through sheer bad luck, via projectile fragments, etc.. Its real-world track record has been pretty bad.

Ammunition includes :

  • Impact rounds (white).
  • Impact rounds loaded with tear gas (orange).
  • Impact rounds loaded with fluorescent washable paint (pink).
  • Impact rounds loaded with permanent polymer paint (yellow).

In a crowd control context, paint is used to mark a person who cannot be arrested right away, and seize them later.

This model was picked since, in a fictional context, the rounds could be filled with something other than glycol or inert powder. Holy water would be the first thing that comes to mind.

Stats & illustration

DCH FN303 Riot Gun [BODY 02, Projectile weapons: 03, Range: 04, Ammo: 15, Limitation: Bashing damage only, R#03. Paint rounds add a Combined Colour: 04, tear gas rounds add a Combined Chemical attack: 04].

M&M FN303 Riot Gun [Ranged Ballistic Damage 1, Diminished Range 2. Paint round have a Linked Feature 1 (Paint) ; OC rounds have a Linked Visual Dazzle 4].

FN 303 riot control launcher orange

This photo clearly shows the air bottle and the drum mag. Less-lethal weapons are often painted in bright yellow or bright orange to facilitate field recognition, safety and logistics.

FN 303 riot control launcher - railed under the barrel of a M4 rifle

An underbarrel version exists as well as a small arm version. This could be relevant in stories where you want to hit the opposition with specific compounds (like the aforementioned holy water). So let’s have a photo of that..

Powder round cannister launcher

A single-shot, reloadable hand-held device. It looks sort of like a small flashlight.

This type of launcher delivers about 7.5g of 5% capsaicin-like irritant, with the spray having about a 10 ft (3m) range.

This sort of spray can easily be kept on a weapons belt, and quickly used for point defence. Say, if you expect to soon run into an unarmed opponent at close range. It’s far less common than ordinary pepper sprays, but more impactful.

DCH PRCL [BODY 02, Chemical Attack: 06, Ammo: 01, Range: 00, Advantage: Scattershot, Bonus: No Unskilled Penalties, Limitation: Chemical Attack has no Range, use the listed Range instead, Drawback: Very Long Reload].

M&M PRCL [Close Visual Dazzle 7, Reach 1, Unreliable (single-shot)].

Pepperball blast tube launcher

The Pepperball Blast is the real-world basis for this category..

Pepper round pistol

Essentially the handgun version of the FN 303. It fires a colour-coded, frangible plastic capsule filled with about 2½ grams of 5% capsaicin-like irritant, with a range comparable to that of a normal pistol.

Beyond various mixes and dosages of peppers, alternate rounds include :

  • Marker rounds filled with pain, as with the FN 303.
  • Glass-breaking rounds. Those are usually used to clear the way for grenades, pepper rounds, or precision gunfire that might be deflected by hitting the glass.

Stats & illustrations

DCH Pepper round pistol [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 02, Chemical attack (Scattershot): 04, Range: 03, Ammo: 06, R#03, Bonus: Chemical Attack is Combined With Projectile weapons, each Combined attack spending one Ammo; Limitation: Neither Power has a Range, use the listed Range instead].
Paint rounds have 4 APs of Colour instead of Chemical attack, and glass-breakers substitute Mental Blast: 04 for Chemical attack (but mental Blast only works against glass-like obstacles).

M&M Pepper round pistol [Ranged Ballistic Damage 1 Linked with Visual Dazzle 4, Diminished Range 2. Paint round have a Linked Feature 1 (Paint) instead of Dazzle ; glass-breakers have a Linked Feature 1 (will usually shatter common glass surfaces) instead of Dazzle].

Pepperball compact pistol

A Pepperball TCP is one real-world equivalent of this.

Pepperball pistol extended with carbine kit version

Same thing but with a compressed-air-bottle-holding stock (important if you use optional range rules for weapons), an extended mag (Ammo becomes 10), a small holosight and a barrel extension with a vertical grip.

Pepper round carbine

This fires the exact same rounds as a pepper round pistol. However, the shape imitates a common assault carbine.

Beyond reducing the familiarisation time, this form factor allows for using much larger magazines. The more efficient ones are hoppers (just like paintball markers), but in fiction they are more likely to be depicted with a large, brightly-coloured assault-carbine-like mag.

Real-world versions are semi-auto. But given the form factor, we’re going to assume that in stories they are somehow burst-capable.

DCH Pepper round assault carbine [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 03, Chemical attack (Area of effect 0 APs): 05, Ammo: 15, R#03, Bonus: Chemical Attack is Combined With Projectile weapons and uses their Range, each Combined attack spending one Ammo].

M&M Pepper round assault Carbine [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 1 Linked with Multiattack Visual Dazzle 5, Diminished Range 1.]

Pepperball carbine with AR-15-like ergonomics

The Pepperball VKS Pro is the real-world model for this.


An acoustic device that sends a focused wave of sound (usually a strident sound such as a car alarm blasted at 150+ db, or ultrasonics) over a large range.

The larger such systems are not intended as weaponry. They’re made to hail a boat you can’t establish radio contact with.

The smaller ones are built for “pain compliance”, and are very much like a modern megaphone in size and shape.

This is essentially a mass torture device to force people to flee in pain. If a person cannot run, it is likely to induce permanent hearing loss, nausea and unconsciousness.

In sci-fi and some comics, “screamer” can also be a term for a sonics-based raygun. In DCH terms, these are different and have APs of Sonic Beam (or more rarely Vibe).

Stats & illustration

DCH Screamer [BODY 02, Aura of Pain: 05, R#03, Note: Aura of Pain is sonic and protections against those apply].

M&M Screamer [Cone-Area 3 Affliction 11 (Dazed/Compelled/Controlled, resisted by Fortitude), Limited 1 (Controlled is limited to making the person run away in pain), Quirk 2 (the Rank of Affliction is lowered by the ransk of distance between the emitter and the target), Descriptor: Sonic].

The stats above are for a large unit intended to disperse a crowd. In the real world it would be vehicle-mounted, though in fiction it could fit in a flamethrower-like backpack with a hand-held projector. For smaller, megaphone-sized models, halve the power.

Militarized police with screamer sound canon riot control atop armoured vehicle

Hey, can you play Dolly Parton’s Jolene ?

Writeups.org writer avatar Sébastien Andrivet

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Helper(s): Roy Cowan, Chris Cottingham, Eric Langendorff, Azraelfl, Max, Darci, Pawsplay and (allegedly) Angelina Jolie.