My (science-based but certainly not hard sci-fi) world is basically a large island run by a couple of mad billionares. They have each built an army of aircraft armed with cliche "futuristic" type weapons such as rail/coilguns, lasers, plasma-bolt weaponry, and both charged and neutral particle beams. Battles happen at both low and high altitudes within the atmosphere.

Lasers are primarily used against smaller craft.

Railguns, plasma weaponry, and particle beams are used against larger ones.

They have the technology to create large magnetic fields to deflect plasma and charged particle weaponry, but the destructiveness of these weapons keeps them in use.

How can I justify the use of so many diverse types of weaponry?

  • $\begingroup$ The question needs more worldbuilding notes and detail, for this feels a bit vague. $\endgroup$
    – Crafter
    Nov 24, 2022 at 5:33
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you even need an excuse? You just said the place was run by a couple of mad billionaires, at that point the need for 'any' excuses for anything you want are completely unnecessary by any measure .. as detailed this falls under character choice and actions so off topic and might get closed as such. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Nov 24, 2022 at 5:34
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    $\begingroup$ I'm with @Pelinore on this... the "mad" aspect puts you into the realm of Austin Powers where they have lasers attached to sharks simply because they can. Also, what are the requirements for weapons? Are their "rare" materials? Unobtanium in various quantities would mean some of the weapons are harder to make meaning the others... IE: you can easily make big lasers... but small ones require a wafer of unobtanium that's in limited supply. Or lasers vs other weapons. $\endgroup$
    – WernerCD
    Nov 24, 2022 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore I would agree, but the billionaries' management is rather "hands-off". $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2022 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ That they have a failure rate less than revolvers. Otherwise, you can pry my projectile weapon from my cold dead hands. Or rather, I'm going to take the batteries out of your gun when I'm done and put them in my walkman. - You have [claseless] in the body, but no 'projectile'. Pretty sure this is a dupe of why still have projectile weapons? ... because they work when you pull the trigger. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Nov 26, 2022 at 1:33

7 Answers 7


Variant defensive technologies, which are effective against some weapons but not others. For instance, magnetic screens can deflect big plasma blasts but a laser will slip right through. Superconductive armor easily absorbs the heat of laser hits but can be shattered by kinetic weapons such as railguns. Certain weapons are more or less effective against point defense lasers, explosive reactive armor, or void spaces.

The "ideal" might be to have a single warship that's bristling with every weapon and armor type in the book, but since these are aircraft, they probably can't bear that much weight and fight effectively. So designers have to choose which offensive and defensive systems to mount based on what they expect to encounter, among other factors.

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    $\begingroup$ This is actually the main idea behind combined arms. $\endgroup$
    – user22613
    Nov 26, 2022 at 14:49

Toys for rich people

"What the hell was that, recruit? I don't care what they told you in training! You do not shoot opponents with downed shields! And if your shield goes down, you better believe you fake engine trouble and get out of the fight! Or one of the red team will put a particle lance straight through your cockpit. And, should you survive, I'll kill you. We have an arrangement! You will not threaten that!"

Your world is run by crazed billionaires who like people fighting for them. That means the fights should be spectacular - not just some boring, practical explosives, but a light show of explosions. It turns out that plasma looks cool. As do lasers. Particularly when they hit cool shields.

The fights are more like a high tech gladiator match than a real battle. No one really wants to be here, so there's deals from both sides to keep casualties to a minimum. The best way of doing that is with weapons that shields stop, but that look spectacular. Weapons would be designed to take shields out fast, and force a surrender.

For a real life example of combat that looks like this, Italian mercenary companies in the Renaissance era were known for, when deployed against each other, just pretending to fight to appease their employers. At least one employer reprimanded them and threatened to take away pay for this.


Give all weapons specific advantages and drawbacks which make them useful for different situations.

Those advantages and drawbacks can be:

  • Cost
    • Of acquisition
    • Of maintenance
    • Of firing them
  • Combat efficiency
    • Accuracy
    • Range
    • Destructive power vs. different kinds of targets
    • Ability to hit moving targets
    • Psychological effect
  • Scaling factors
    • Some weapons might not be possible to miniaturize below a certain size.
    • Others might only give diminishing returns if scaled up above a certain size.
  • Strategic aspect
    • Maintaining stealth while firing the weapon
    • Using the weapon without direct line of sight
    • Mobility
    • Weather influence
    • Being able to inflict lots of damage in short amount of time vs. continuous damage over longer times.
  • Logistics
    • Ammunition requirements
      • Some ammunition might be heavy or bulky
      • Some ammunition might have a limited shelf-life
      • Some ammunition might have special storage requirements
      • Some ammunition might be difficult to transport
      • Ammunition is not just what you launch at the enemy. It can also be things like coolant, power cells, lubricants, weapon parts which require constant replacement and other things you consume while using the weapon.
    • Power requirements
    • Technology required to manufacture/use them
    • Training required for using/maintaining them
    • Ability to acquire certain weapons or the resources to manufacture them.
  • Social factors
    • Some people might be subject to legal requirements from their overlords which prohibit them from owning certain weapons.
    • Some factions might refrain from using certain weapons due to moral objections ("too cruel", "unacceptable collateral damage", "for cowards" or "not cruel enough").
    • Some factions might prefer certain weapons just because it's "on brand" for them.

All of these factors can influence who would use which weapon in which situation.

Some SciFi universes you might want to study because they too use very diverse arsenals of weapons are Battletech and Warhammer 40k. Which both happen to have their roots in very complex tabletop wargames. This explains why both universes feature a diverse yet balanced arsenal of weapons.

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    $\begingroup$ To add to the looonngg list :p : Going beyond special storage requirements, some ammunition can be hazardous to handle, for instance grenades. If I recall, Battletech has this system with their missiles. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Nov 24, 2022 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena I considered adding that, but I think it's covered under "storage and transport requirements". $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Nov 24, 2022 at 13:51
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, WW2 had tanks and mechanized transport, but horses were still widely used. It is not like when the new technology appears, all the rest is completely phased out. $\endgroup$
    – Lodinn
    Nov 26, 2022 at 6:47

They each work better in different situations.

As an example, let’s look just at lasers. They have a couple of distinct advantages if we assume ‘standard’ sci-fi physics:

  • On planetary-surface scales, they’re functionally hitscan weapons (IOW, if you are aimed correctly when you pull the trigger, you hit the target, period).
  • They have zero projectile drop (IOW, you aim straight where you want to hit).
  • They can be relatively compact for their power output.
  • They can trivially be made silent.

They also, again assuming standard sci-fi physics, have some pretty distinct disadvantages:

  • They are only line-of-sight weapons unless you have mirrors available. This means you cannot shoot around cover (like you can with ballistic projectile weapons) without special preparation.
  • They are more significantly impacted by things like fog.
  • They have more difficulty shooting through opaque materials. This is stretching it a bit, but if you’re hand-waving this, then it’s very likely that you’ll have better use for your power supplies as simple explosives.

You get the same kind of thing with other weapon types though. Sure, a coilgun may be better than a classic firearm because it’s quieter and can be constructed so there are no losses to friction due to internal ballistics, but a strong magnetic field can block the projectile unless you spend a lot of extra money and mass on integrating a non-magnetic projectile with a discarding sabot-style carrier. Sure, a charged plasma weapon will easily destroy most electronics, but it’s a pain to get the plasma to stay coherent as a ‘projectile’ or even a stream for more than a few meters if you’re in an atmosphere, and you’ll also tend to set things on fire with it.

And this is all ignoring any story-specific reasoning that the people who are claiming you need more worldbuilding seem to be fishing for.

  • $\begingroup$ Shooting through opaque things isn't an issue? I would think you could hide in/behind clouds to defeat lasers. $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2022 at 5:07


What if you do not jave enough money for 1 weapon, so you have to buy another type, but due to having some money left, you could only but a few of the first type? As confusing as that sounds, what I am talking about is that they may have a variety of weapons, because they cannot have all of 1 type.

Envrionmental Conditions

What if some weapons cannot work in different environment areas? What if there are different types of force fields? What if... This could go on forever, but depending on environmental and physical conditions, you may need a diverse set of weapons, so that the billionaires can still have some forms of defense

What the enemy has

Perhaps maybe why there are diverse weapons is to have some sort of advantage against your enemy. Maybe he can only bring in one type, so you have to bring in the type you have that is superior. Or, depending on their attacks and ambushes, they may need different weapons depending on the plan.

In conclusion, I suggest that you add more information to your world, including:

  • More on the Politics
  • Economic status
  • Envrionment(s)/Geography
  • Outside problems

Aside from that, based on the information you have given, this is all I've got.

  • $\begingroup$ This is what my answer would be... a list. I would add one thing: Materials. "Unobtanium" or something like Iron Man where bombs use something and then he makes a rare materials to not die. With an unlimited supply, you'd have nothing but lasers... but you don't so you have to make the other weapons (or whatever)... or the "unobtanium" is what allows you to make the smaller variants. The "rare" material is the limiting factor and it's why you have other weapons - each weapon needs its own material. $\endgroup$
    – WernerCD
    Nov 24, 2022 at 15:08

Expanding a bit on what Cadence and others already posted:

Each weapon has its uses.

  • Lasers: it makes sense to use them primarily against smaller craft, and probably also against enemy missiles and large projectiles. Lasers move at the speed of light, have no noticeable projectile drop, and aiming them probably does not require moving a huge barrel around.

  • plasma-bolt and charged particle beams: very destructive through delivering heat and electrical charge, but probably not so great at punching through armor. Can be deflected by the shields you mentioned. Use them on large enemy craft after their shields are disabled! Atmosphere probably diffuses these very quickly, so they're more useful in high altitude (or space, but you said all battles are somewhat in atmosphere)

  • neutral particle beams: not sure how to imagine these. Accellerating particles is easiest if you can use a magnetic field because they're electrically charged... but as a basic premise, they would be a beam of non-charged particles with high accelleration, so a slower-moving laser that packs more of a punch? If so: less useful against fast small craft, better against big ones. Probably designed to destroy shields, since those work well against the charged variants - so their use is likely to break down the shields of large craft, after which the other weapons can be brought to use!

  • railguns/coilguns: a LOT of punch in there for relatively low energy investments (just have to accellerate the projectile, not ionize any particles or anything). But the projectile has travel time, and aiming requires moving a large, heavy barrel with lots of magnets and cables around. Probably punches through a shield without actually destroying it, and is good at damaging armor - but to cause relevant damage, you need to hit, and hit something important. Otherwise you just created a new window. Best used to punch through large crafts' armor so the charged particle weapons can wreck havock inside the ship after the neutral charge beams have disabled the shields for them.

So giving up on any one weapon class would put whoever did it at a disadvantage.

  • No lasers? No good way to easily shoot down small enemy craft and missiles (if they use those, you did not list them)
  • No neutral-charge beams? Enemy shields will prevent your charged beams and plasma bolts from hitting!
  • No rail-/coilguns? Enemy armor will prevent your charged particle weaponry from reaching important systems, massively reducing their effectiveness.
  • No charged particle weapons? You're giving up on superheating the insides of the enemy ship and overcharging their electronics after you're through the shields and armor. That's the best way to deal REAL damage though!
  • $\begingroup$ "neutral particle beams: not sure how to imagine these. Accellerating particles is easiest if you can use a magnetic field because they're electrically charged"—one idea for a neutral particle beam relies on separating electrons from hydrogen nuclei, then using the ions for the beam, and on exit firing the electrons back into the ion stream. $\endgroup$ Jan 10 at 18:36

Lasers can target very quickly, essential for a point defense weapon. However, they produce a lot of heat and thus aren't too good on offense. Thus they are essential but can't do the job themselves.

Your two charged options can be shielded against, you need something that can pierce or take down the shield. Particle beams of any type have the same heat problem as lasers. Your plasma weapon is probably the best at actually destroying something once the shield is down (although you very well might have a situation where it isn't normally actually used--the norm is to surrender when it could be used on you.)


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