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I'm writing a science fantasy setting for a tabletop game. Its major influences are Dune, Final Fantasy 7, and Borderlands. My goal is to give a universal account why swords, spears, etc., equal or even best guns between fighters of equal skill. Let me define my terms:

  1. By guns I primarily mean modern ballistic firearms, like what you'd see in a Call of Duty game. I'm not as interested in making lasers, rail guns, grenades, etc, comparable to hand-to-hand weapons. If you can relate them in your answer, though, that would be extra appreciated. The setting is not premodern, so flintlocks and other obsolete guns are out.

  2. By raw-ability I mean explanations like Star Wars where superhuman powers, strength, or magic make exceptions for hand-to-hand combat. My major concern here is, "If the sword wielder has x level skill, why can't the gun wielder with X level skill be even better?" I'm not trying to explain why super heroes can overcome guns with swords. I'm looking to explain why swords themselves are comparable to guns as part of the world's "natural law."

  3. By exceptional explanations I mean something like Dune where special technology, geography, monsters, or other special scenarios make melee weapons desirable. Although brilliant, explanations like Herbert's create more "an exception to the rule" than they account for a universal law of the universe why axes can keep up with machine guns. This rules out making specific environment a primary reason for melee combat. If the world only featured close-quarters environments, for example, that might work, but it features a relatively varied amount of environments and I'm looking for a reason why melee will be desirable in most environments by default.

So, in terms of goal, I'm looking for a vaguely Advent Children-esque world where plebs walk around with firearms for self-defense while mercs dabble in swords, spears, maybe gun-fu, but where the setting neither turns into wuxia supermen battles nor hard sci-fi tech.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site The Necessitarian, you need to be aware that edits to questions should not invalidate existing answers for reasons that will become obvious the more you stick around. $\endgroup$ – We are Monica. Feb 19 at 11:29
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    $\begingroup$ This is in the VTR queue, but I can't vote to reopen. This is an undirected fishing-for-ideas question, which isn't a good fit for our site. We focus on helping you develop and consistently use the rules of your world - but you've given us no direction by (at least) explaining the nature of a best answer and how you will judge it. It would help if you explained why the solutions you present (e.g., "explanations like... superhuman powers... magic...") don't work. Our help center specifically states that telling us answers then asking for more is off-topic. $\endgroup$ – JBH Feb 19 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ Would you be open to introducing one piece of advanced technology - incredibly advanced, lightweight bullet proof armour? While a skilled gunman might have difficulty penetrating it, a skilled swordsman, with greater control over his weapon and being a lot closer to the target, is more able to find the chinks in the armour and move his sword in patterns that can exploit weaknesses in it. $\endgroup$ – colmde Feb 19 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ I think your 2nd condition is going to be a problem here. The reason people often use guns (in the US) for self defense is not just because of the ability to engage at range, but because they are an equalizer. A gun allows a small person with minimal training to engage a much larger person with the same level of training. Swapping the guns for swords and keeping training equal, the larger person has a major advantage. I don't train in martial arts, thus I would choose a gun - even for extremely close ranges against more proficient opponents. Not sure most answers truly address this. $\endgroup$ – ben Feb 20 at 2:36
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    $\begingroup$ All these answers are too long. No. Just no. Where in our reality is it better to bring a knife to a gun fight? $\endgroup$ – Mazura Feb 20 at 17:38

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Do you really need kinetic weaponry? You said a method that can work against laser rifles. Now I have a method that will work very good against laser rifles, could also work against kinetic weaponry, but not so well. The answer is simple:

Use shields

Proper hand held almost human sized shields. For energy weapons, you just need a very good deflector/absorber material. Hits will go to waste except for heating the shield up a bit. Thus getting hit multiple times can mean death. This also ensures shields cannot overpower energy weapons, just delays the inevitable. Of course there is surprise factor, but both sides get it. If you don't notice the guy with the sword approaching behind you, you are dead. If you don't see the guy aiming you with a laser rifle: you are dead. You can explain this in lore without much difficulty with a early found super battery. An early laser rifle can cripple the development of advanced kinetic weapons. If you want realism, laser rifles should have short ranges or your world's atmosphere should be more transparent.

Same can be done with the kinetic weaponry but it would be difficult. The hit will stop the swordsman's charge by pushing back. Also shields that can stop a bullet in its tracks is quite bulky and is not extremely suitable. AP bullets also has a say in this, but this is your world, maybe AP bullets are not that effective in your world.

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Lack of supply

Imagine a mars (lunar, space, etc) colony in a post-modern era. You just do not have the ubiquitous access to bullets, even if you brought a gun.

Collapse or extreme regulation of supply would do add well, at least for the "have nots", consider movies such as Mad max, The road, etc.

In almost all situations, a gun is simply better, so it's best to limit access to guns or their ammunition.

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I recall a story where firearms had become a forgotten technology because clothing had advanced to the point that it provided complete ballistic protection, completely absorbing and dispersing the kinetic force without pushing any to the wearer of the clothing.

Thus even the poorest of individuals (slaves and servants) wrote clothing made of this material.

The main character discovered an ancient pistol, and found that while it was useless against clothing of any sort, the noise shocked and surprised people used to silent reactionless beamer weapons, and it still worked just fine on bare skin, such as headshots and shooting hands and feet.

Thus a marksman was needed to make any use of this weapon.

Perhaps melee weapons with an energized cutting edge would work.

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Pressurized environments If your setting is a near future setting where most places you encounters are pressurized e.g. on a space station or in a habitat on planetary surfaces. Then firearms will be suicidal--any bullet that misses would puncture the wall of said space station or habitat and lead to rapid decompression that would kill everyone in the room. This is why security on airplanes are not allowed to use metal bullets. Wood bullets are still viable, but they are at most as effective as a knife on close quarters. This would also give a twist when the combat turns underground, where the walls are made of rocks that won't be punctured easily. Which would make a surprise return of lethal firearms.

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protected by L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Aug 1 at 19:05

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