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So, in this generic fantasy setting, where magic is technology, I have trouble regarding adventurers.

To avoid rolling up a new character every time, adventurers are rebuilt shortly after death at the nearest "checkpoint". There are several problems with this design choice, however:

  1. Checkpoints only rebuild the adventurers and their base gear (casual clothing and a frying pan, if you paid for it beforehand).
  2. After death, the adventurer's dead body and items will be there for a long time. Drone units can be recalled and trackers exist, but that's all.
  3. As this is not some cheesy MMORPG, whoever killed the player can and most likely will use these items.

This would not pose a problem if we weren't talking about Kar 98k rifles, crates of "LMAO I was almost banned" 5.56x45mm green tip and M855A1 rounds, and Steyr AUG A3 bullpup assault rifles.

I need to find a way to ensure the adventurers won't have their own weapons used against them, or at least, make the trick harder to pull off. Preferably by installing something directly onto the weapons

Priorities of this Firearm and Explosive Denial Mechanism:

  1. It can't be turned against the adventurers.
  2. It has to be hard to bypass by the enemy.
  3. cost-effectiveness
  4. simplicity

What sort of mechanism could I use?

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    $\begingroup$ I am very positive on the fact that you're watching much anime, how does SAO/GGO solve the issue? $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Aug 22 '18 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T What is SAO/GGO? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 22 '18 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_Art_Online $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Aug 22 '18 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ Why are you using science-based rifles in your generic fantasy setting? How does your magic work? Why can't someone just cast a spell to restrict usage to just the adventurer? $\endgroup$ – Brythan Aug 23 '18 at 5:54
  • $\begingroup$ So you have a setting where whole beings are rebuilt after death - meaning the world contains a mechanism to reliably detect death, 'rebuild' a character from scratch .... and you are looking for a means to make some super low tech stuff (the weapons, in comparison) not go boom? How is this a problem? Letting them all turn into balloon-animal versions of themselves would not be much less of a problem (and equally unexplained) than the rebirth-stuff, would it not? $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Aug 23 '18 at 10:11

13 Answers 13

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Limit the ammunition, rather than introduce story-breaking silly tech

These and any likely future firearms are primarily mechanical, not electronic, so any kind of electronic safety is trivial to bypass. So it is with the real-world "smart gun" prototypes you hear about now and then. Remote disintegration, self-destruct, and other such features seem pretty impractical to me. Who would put a bomb in their rifle that might be triggered by a low battery or by walking too far away from the rifle to go to the bathroom?

My suggestion, instead, is that you design this universe to make ammunition rather scarce, perhaps by making spare magazines extremely rare. That way, when an adventurer dies, he has likely fired most of his ammunition in his final stand, leaving few or no rounds to the baddies. By the time he returns to the battlefield, those rounds have probably already been used up (or traded to the bigger bosses in exchange for cigarettes) so those weapons are not likely to be seen again.

If ammunition is not naturally scarce, perhaps adventurers themselves will adopt a policy of not carrying very much ammo, because they know that arming the bad guys is a real problem but dying is only a temporary setback.

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Adventurers know this, and they have prepared for it.

In Crysis, the suits worn by the protagonists can be remotely disintegrated by other team members if the occupant is KIA. This is to prevent the tech from falling into enemy hands.

Build the same type of magitech into your weapons and gear, and integrate the command structure into whatever basic HUD unit your adventurers come equipped with as standard (I'm imagining something similar to the ECHO devices from Borderlands). If your adventurers don't have an HUD, make it a "magic word". Upon rebuild, they can simply issue the "kill" command and have all their old weapons and gear disintegrate (or explode if they're particularly sinister).

This gives you options. Do you "kill" all your old gear immediately after re-spawning as a precaution? Do you wait to try and recover the gear? Do you wait until your enemy is aiming your old weapon at you and then make it explode in their hands?

Of course, everyone will be paranoid all the time, since anything you give them could potentially explode or disintegrate when they least expect it. Maybe ownership transfer involves replacing your kill command with theirs.

This based somewhat on Cadence's dead-man's switch idea, so credit there.

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  • $\begingroup$ Couldn't the trigger be instead of a signal, the lack of one? $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Aug 22 '18 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ Could be, but then you functionally have a dead-man's switch like in Cadence's answer. And you lose the option of not immediately destroying all your stuff in case it could be recovered. $\endgroup$ – Chris M. Aug 22 '18 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ Are you kidding me? If you increase the range of the signal, make an auxiliary emitter at the checkpoint and a primary in yourself, that deadman switches upon death, then you can choose to stop signaling at any time, and if you're carrying the weapon, the signal would be too strong even in broadcast to be efficiently jammed. Right? $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Aug 23 '18 at 21:02
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Sounds like an open-world PUBG with the frying pan and civy clothing.

How about a simple handprint scanner on the weapon? Or a DNA scanner or whatever you fancy. It can be hacked or bypassed but it takes time.

Edit: The scanner would unlock the weapon while holding it, and lock it again when not holding it. That way an enemy would need to chop off your hand and keep that on the weapons trigger/whatever to keep it unlocked, a bit cumbersome even with ducttape.

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    $\begingroup$ There is a dead body, lying next to the weapon. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Aug 22 '18 at 19:12
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    $\begingroup$ Handprint scanners can also be made to detect heartbeats, so dead tissue cannot be used. $\endgroup$ – Ummdustry Aug 22 '18 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles consider adding the info about the dead body to thequestion. As of now the question implies starkly that only the items remain $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Aug 22 '18 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ Besides that, what you going to do? Hold the dead hand in place while you shoot? The scanner works by unlocking the weapon while you hold it, and locking it the moment you let go. Also helps reduce accidental firing when not holding the weapon (like the pro-guns woman who accidentally got shot by her own child after leaving a gun out). $\endgroup$ – Demigan Aug 22 '18 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ The problem with any kind of electronic safety is that, just like with a mechanical safety, a thief can simply file off the pin or 'catch' that stops the gun's action, neutralizing the safety and turning it into a normal (non-"smart") gun. If adventurers dying is a frequent occurrence around these bad guys, and firearms are worth money, they'd have the tools handy and would have a good motivation to reclaim those weapons. $\endgroup$ – workerjoe Aug 23 '18 at 13:27
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You must have training to use an advanced tech weapon.

I personally would not know a Steyr AUG A3 bullpup assault rifle if it came up to me begging for treats. There are levers and switches and doohickeys, I am sure. Does it have a safety? Where do the bullets go, now? Up under here, somehow? OK I fired it at the ceiling by accident and now it wont fire again. How do I unjam it and keep my thumb?

Usually in these games you find a weapon and just blaze away like it was a big stick to hit stuff with. Actually you need to know what you are doing & especially with military hardware like this. If you find a weapon and you have not trained on it at least a little, it will not work as well as it would in the hands of someone competent. You can build penalties in to the game. Maybe it will be less accurate. It will be slower to load. It might jam and then be useless until someone who has trained on it comes along to unjam it. It might hurt the user.

Penalties for the ignorant user can be weapon specific. A revolver might come with no penalties. A flame thrower or railgun will have a lot of penalties.

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    $\begingroup$ "A revolver might come with no penalties" - In real life, one well known penalty for mishandling a large revolver is that is the gasses escaping from the cylinder gap can cut your thumb clean off. $\endgroup$ – plasticinsect Aug 22 '18 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ Meanwhile in Syria... $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Aug 22 '18 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles - what do you mean with that comment? $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Aug 23 '18 at 11:28
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    $\begingroup$ @bukwyrm I'm not sure if it's exactly what they meant, but Syrian villagers have learned how to build and operate artillery pieces. Zulus taught themselves to use stolen British Martini-Henry rifles after Isandlwana, and traditional tribal villages in Afghanistan went from jezails to AKs in a few years of Soviet occupation. Today, boys in central Africa, as young as six, are given AKs and sent to fight. Guns are more complicated than media depict, but are still simple technologies that anyone can learn to operate with minimal experimentation. $\endgroup$ – Catgut Aug 24 '18 at 14:12
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Deadman's self-destruct

When you start using the weapon, you trigger some kind of mechanism. When you put it down, you have to deliberately turn it off - if you don't, it explodes. If you're shot and fall down, the deadman's switch goes off and your weapon is rendered useless. (It's up to you what "useless" means - maybe it can be repaired, maybe it's valuable only as scrap, maybe it just goes up in flames.)

In theory you could allow some kind of advanced technique to override the switch and steal people's weapons if the attacker was fast/smart/capable enough, but you could make that capability arbitrarily rare or even nonexistent.

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  • $\begingroup$ The problem with this is that you might set your gun down to go use the privy and, if you walk too far away, it might explode. Therefore you'd tend to turn off the feature, and it wouldn't be active when you do meet the enemy. $\endgroup$ – workerjoe Aug 23 '18 at 13:29
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Metal Storm

Security measures added to a fundamentally mechanical weapon are of only of value in the short term to stop someone else using it. Given a moderate amount of time and some basic firearms maintenance tools and skills, most safety interlocks can be removed.

Electrically fired weapons such as Metal Storm can be a different story though. Ammunition is in preloaded barrels, which are not designed to be reloaded in the field. (Reloading is achieved by swapping barrels rather than magazines.) Barrels can be designed with encrypted inputs so that firing impulses must be coded correctly in order for rounds to fire - you can't just connect a battery and switch across two contacts.

As a result, interlocks requiring handprint / thumbprint / fingerprint scans cannot be easily bypassed - it would require a factory disassembly of the barrels to even recover the ammunition. (As noted by Ummdustry in his comment on Demigan's answer, dead or detatched hands or digits will not work to unlock a modern print scanner.)

The disadvantage of this sort of security control is that the adventurers can only use ammunition loaded in barrels that are specifically coded for them. They cannot scavenge ammunition from defeated enemies, even if that ammunition is from the same type of weapon (unless the adventurers, but not their enemies, have the ability to hack the security coding on loaded barrels).

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Stubborn AI

How much technology are we talking about here? Cause an AI that knows its owner and refuses to fire on said owner would be pretty easy to pass off if you have that level of tech. And since you're auto-spawning dead people, I think this isn't much of a stretch.

It also fits the sentient weapon schemes from various DnD rulesets.

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Make the adventurer a part of the weapon.

(Your reconstruction checkpoint reminds me a lot of Borderlands)

It may not be the simplest solution, but I'll handwave it with the "magic is technology" part. So let's say that with some "magitech", the adventurer's hand has to be connected to the weapon via an outlet, and anybody else trying to use that weapon with its own outlet (or without one) would just receive an electric shock.

You can also add a safety system that accelerates the decay of the outlet when the adventurer's body dies, so it remains unusable to looters.

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I'd recommend embedding RFID chips in the player characters. Each weapon is paired to a specific RFID signature in the hand of the person wielding the weapon. Any time the weapon doesn't detect the chip in the hand of the wielder, it locks up and can't be fired. This is also a useful safety against dropping your weapon, etc.

These chips are just a small bit of metal and silicon, so they could easily be part of the "basic kit" when the player is respawned. In order for the enemy to use the weapon, they'd have to hack the weapon (probably requiring opening the thing up and risking an anti-tamper fail-safe locking the thing permanently), which would be difficult and time-consuming.

This also can give a sense of urgency for your players. They have to retrieve their gear now, before their enemy has a chance to reconfigure it (or bricks it in the attempt).

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  • $\begingroup$ Or they just cut the chip out of the corpse, which is lying right next to the weapon. $\endgroup$ – Erik Aug 23 '18 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ Would be better if there were a dead man's switch that would wipe the RFID device's volatile memory when brain activity stops. If that RFID held an asynchronous cryptographic algorithm's private key, and the weapon was registered against the public key, then it's easy even with today's tech to verify that the user is nearby, and computationally difficult to brute force the key... Even a Matrioshka Brain (computer using ALL energy of a star... Dyson sphere on steroids) would have trouble brute forcing the private key if the key is long enough. $\endgroup$ – Ghedipunk Aug 23 '18 at 22:40
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Attunement

High-tech weapons can be attuned so that only authorized personnel can pick up and fire them. This works each person unique magical "signature" which persist even after they've been rebuilt via a checkpoint.

Possible ways to circumvent or bypass this measure can be reserved for higher-end or special enemies that you want to unleash against your players.

Why doesn't every dogsbody bandit have this on their guns:

  • Increases cost of weapon
  • Takes time; to properly attune a weapon take take days
  • Special tech limited to the heros
  • Bandits discourage this so that they can more easily reuse their fallen comrade's weapons
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You use a key

Embedded in every weapon is a mechanism that renders the weapon inoperative. There are thousands of way to do this so let us skip the details and just postulate this:

  • If the mechanism has not been operated, the weapon is incapable of being fired.

Also...

  • This mechanism cannot be operated mechanically from the outside. To reach the mechanism you must pry the weapon apart, effectively destroying it.

There is however a small magical entity that sits with the mechanism.

  • This magical entity can operate the mechanism and thus enable the weapon.

This mode of security is kind of generic and is implanted into every weapon upon manufacture. And finally...

  • The entity knows a secret.

It may be a word, a phrase, an emotion, a set of colours... anything that you can picture or otherwise evoke with your mind. In order to make the magical entity operate the locking mechanism operate, you have to evoke that secret, whilst holding the weapon. Only then will the magical entity unlock the weapon. The entity will also recognise you, for a while. But as soon as someone else picks up the weapon... poof ...the entity locks the weapon.

In muggle-speak, such a secret is what we call a "key". Keys — be they physical or digital — are all about that secret; it is something that only the one that holds the key is supposed to know.

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Magic Signatures

Since technology is magic and magic exists in your world, why not use it. Every single person has a magic fingerprint that uniquely identifies them.

Your physical devices are either integrated with microchips that have to be matched with this unique finger print so only a single person can ever use it, or they require a very small amount of magic power that needs to match your fingerprint to work (e.g. A gun which uses magic to fire the bullet).

Another way, would be that the weapons and equipment are summoned and only remained summoned for a short time if they aren't supplied with magic power. You can then restrict it to a specific magic signature through some crafting or bonding process. So like maybe your armor is summoned using a special sticker than needs to be attached to you, and your weapons only have handles until they are activated by magic that is unique to the users/purchaser.

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A variation on Drazex's answer:

You have a chip embedded in your hand, but it's not a simple ID chip. Rather, it actually contains the decryption key for the program that actually makes the gun work. When the gun can read the chip the control code is decrypted and held in volatile memory, the gun can operate. The gun dumps the decrypted code if it loses contact with the key.

The key itself is designed to use biological power, the same as your body. It will cease to work if the blood supply is cut off and will brick itself after 12 hours.

The only way to put a gun back in operation is to reprogram it's non-volatile memory--and if they take security seriously enough that's not possible. (The last step in setting up a gun is to burn out a fuse powering the write circuitry. At that point physical replacement of the relevant electronics is required to restore it to operation.)

When the rightful owner respawns, however, they have the decryption key and can operate the gun normally. Note that they can choose to provide this key to teammates if they choose, thus allowing the teammates to fire the gun.

For a bad guy to put a gun to use requires that they cut out the chip and implant it in their own body before it bricks (note that this is something that requires a surgeon, not something to do in the field) and there may be some characteristic of the baddie that the chip can detect and refuse to operate.

Note that I chose the brick timer considering that a tourniquet might be used in the field to keep someone alive to reach medical help. I set it long enough that the limb would almost certainly be lost (thus necessitating chip replacement anyway) if the timer ran down. If you're not going to model that level of realism you can make the brick timer far shorter.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hypothetical scenario: your (dominant) right arm is wounded and you have to try to shoot with the left. Does the weapon still fire? Scenario #2: you want to hand your rifle to a buddy on the battlefield, maybe because you're wounded or maybe he's just a better marksman. What happens? $\endgroup$ – workerjoe Aug 24 '18 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe Case #1: Chips in both hands. Case #2: If you shared the code with your buddy before, it works. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Aug 24 '18 at 21:02

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