Electorthermal Weapons in Cyberpunk 2020


Author: unknown.

These weapons are very unrealistic and overpowered. The default rules don’t talk about the many disadvantages of such weapons. Will all know that an electrothermal upgrade can only be preformed on a gun that fires cased shells. While the increase in firepower is considerable, the large list of disadvantages may make you think twice about using such weapons.


Think about it, using plasma to fire a copper cased shell is not by any means smart. The copper casing ejects from the side of the gun through the sliding action. These casings are extremely hot and can burn your skin. Even normal casings can burn you if you catch them, but with electrothermal casings the chances of starting fires and such are greatly increased. Burning your hand on a casing inflicts 1 point for a normal casing and 1d6/2 for a electrothermal casing. There is also a 15% chance that a hot casing will start a fire if it lands on something flammable.
Also note that blowing up a clip of electrothermal ammo is a bad idea. Throwing a clip into a fire, will likely cause it to explode (most ammo will).

Water :

Yeah yeah, it says the batteries are sealed against water. Big deal, plasma basically is super-heated gas. Usually (99% of the time) man made plasma is super-heated water. If water gets into the barrel of your electrothermal weapon. You could be in deep, deep trouble. Firing a water filled electrothermal weapon will cause your gun to blow up. Damage everything within 5m of your weapon and inflicting 4d6.

Rapid Fire:

To avoid over-heating the barrel of your gun, it is suggested that you only fire at a ROF 2. Think about it, nothing is stopping you from firing at a faster rapid. However firing a burst with a electrothermal weapon has a 1 in 10 chance of warping the barrel of your gun after the first burst. Basically you allow the player to get away with the first burst, but then you start rolling a 10-dice. If you roll a 1, the gun’s barrel becomes warped.
Optional : If you want to be really nasty, you can roll another 10 sider after you’ve rolled a 1. If you get “double 1’s” the gun blows up inflicting 4d6 to a 5m area (see above).

Speciality Ammo:

Oh this is a big one. Behind a electrothermal bullet there is alot of heat and force. This seriously limits the kinds of ammo you can use in this type of weapon. Hollowpoints, explosive tips, and most fragmentation rounds will simply blow through and with the cores blown out the jackets are left in the chamber. This jams the gun and is weaponsmith vs dif 15 to clear.
Ammo such as Armor Piercing, Tungsten Carbide, Depleted Uranium and Titanium rounds are very heat resistant and tough. They are unlikely to blow through and are therefor good rounds to use in an electrothermal gun.
Ammo Cost : The cost of electrothermal ready ammo costs twice that of normal ammo. This is because of the plasma injected into the base of the round and the re-configuration of the firing plate of the round, so that it maybe fired from an electrothermal weapon.

Battery Power :

Electrothermal guns use up an unreal amount of electrical power. A small battery storage in the butt of the weapon will hold about 25 charges. While a hip pack can hold up to 100 charges. The small battery is included in the weapon conversion, but the hip pack costs roughly 75 euro. (Hey it’s just a big battery)
These batteries have to be recharged after all the shots are fired. No other rounds can be fired if the battery is at 0 charge. Not even normal shots. (duh!) Since the rounds are completely different.

14 thoughts on “Electorthermal Weapons in Cyberpunk 2020”

  1. This seems way over the top… the reality is that the rules don’t make sense in terms of cyberpunk’s damage system – doubling the velocity of the round doesn’t double the damage because CyberPunk uses a geometric damage progression as shown in the firearms damage and armour layering rules.

    The rules for specialty ammo and water in the barrel are the two that I find the most annoying. Plasma hitting water will indeed vapourize it, but in this case there is already ammo shoving the water out of the barrel when you pull the trigger. The specialty ammo comment (especially regarding hollowpoints) is just completely over the top.

    But then again, so is the concept that someone can be killed by standing next to someone firing ETE weapons (or even regular weapons) because each ejected shell casing can cause up to 3 damage… in a game where 13 damage is a mortal wound.

  2. Good thinking. I really can’t tell how hollowpoint would behave. Do you have any further information or would like to make a educated guess?

    Don’t you think that a plasma heated casing would damage someone without protection? I know of people who got severe blisters from touching the barrel of a machine gun. So it might be likely to get burns by touching a casing, too.

  3. Wanna stand next to someone spraying little pieces of burning thermite at you? Thermite hits you in the head, you’re a dead duck. If these are copper cases they have a melting point of ~1900 farenheit, so they’re under that, but there’s still quite a bit of potential for heat there. How’d you like to get something 1500 degrees hot in the eye? What happens if it burns through your clothing (a likely scenario, considering) and lodges behind an armor plate? Is 1500 degrees hot enough to bore its way into your chest cavity? What about hydrostatic shock and embolism from having your blood instantly blasted into high-temperature steam inside your veins?

    This isn’t really overpowered, not in CP, because if the players use them, the good guys will start using them too…

  4. I dunno… I don’t think the use of thermite is so unrealistic.

    Do you think they might have used it during the wtc attack and demolition?

    kermit johnsons last blog post..Questions About 911

  5. I believe there is a basic mistake that has been made here, that of science. That mistake is the use of the word Plasma. It appears that the assumption of everyone here is that plasma is something that is as hot as the sun.

    Superheated water is mentioned also, that is NOT how electrochemical weapons work. They have nothing to do with hydrogen fusing together.

    Plasma is just one of the States of Matter
    Solid, Liquid, Gas….and PLASMA


    Also the plasma mentioned here is not what drives the projectile. The plasma here is formed through the application of a ELECTRICITY which ionises gas around it, this PLASMA in turn ignites the propellant evenly and quickly. THe subsequent ignition of the propellant is NOT super hot, NOR HIGH PRESSURE it is just expanding evenly and very fast. This pushes the projectile very hard and very fast. It is just more efficient way of initiating the BURN of propellant.

    Can I recommend you read how the technology actually works.

    Now I fixed this in game terms quite easily, because I utterly agree this damned techology/rules are broken. I did not double the dice I shifted to d10 from d6. (In metagame terms means it has a lower max damage and a lower average). I also reduced weapon reliability, and finally the ammunition is hideously expensive and really difficult to get.

  6. @ Gryphon:Ah, that’s really interesting. How did you change the handguns with ET from Morgan Blackhands Street Weapon Guide, the ones named after movie stars like Clint Eastwood? They have d6 Damage, IIRC?

  7. Karsten,

    please excuse me I am sitting down at the Cyberpunk table after a gap of some years. So the Street Weapon Guide is actually not something I came across years ago, and not something I have had to deal with till today.

    If you must use it, and lets face it the bang for the buck is what folks want, then half the d6 and make what remains d10. Simple really.

    I am really dubious about handguns and ET myself, not least because it is pointless. A pistol doesn’t have enough barrel length to make effective use of the advantages of ET as the projectile is not up to full speed when it leaves the barrel.

    The ET increases effective muzzle velocity by burning the fuel more evenly and predictably. OK that makes sense faster = more accurate, possibly more damage, definitely better penetration, but it doesn’t mean it farther though, projectile aerodynamics is still going to limit the long range accuracy.

    Oh and one caveat to this is you have to use d12 (1d12 or 2d6) for a weapon that is already doing d10…but I am sure folks could work that out.

    Oh yeah and I would not reduce the reliability of them as they were purpose designed for this firing system.

    But really a weapon that is specifically designed for electrothermal technology has a breech, mechanism and appearance that is nothing like a normal weapon.

    Lets see if wiki has a decent picture…ah yes they do, clearly this is a tank or heavy gun not a hand weapon. But the principle is easy to understand.

    Now imagine that in a man portable form, the weight is going to be a little more than a normal weapon, and there has to be room for the electrical system. This would be somewhat bulky but it is not impossible that in 2020 it could be done smaller.

    One important thing…no trigger, as there is no physical firing mechanism.

  8. @Gryphon: Well, a near-future rpg like Cyberpunk 2020 might skip over engineering problems, even if they are in reality unsolvable. So we we are stuck with the assumption of ET Weapons in the game world.

    But like most other GMs I see the problem of balancing. With a handgun doing 6d6+3 you might as well not having armored clothing in the game- its kind of hard to roll LESS then the SP of most armors.

    So if you want to follow the rules (about availability, reliability and weight) you have not much leeway as a GM.

    Personally I’m against modifying the values the books gave us. I simply outlaw them in most places – suddenly they are much like assault rifles. You only carry them if you expect a firefight – not if you go out for a dance and beer.

  9. @Karsten,

    Sorry I missed your response, I was not being rude, just busy.

    Re: Changing Rules
    That is interesting, I have spent the last few years writing on and for 3e and 3.5 DnD and I have exactly the opposite approach as a result.

    If I(or should I say we) don’t like or can not make sense of something then it is my job to tinker/change it. Not ad-hoc but within an agreed framework.

    I pretty much leave the core stuff alone, basically the 2020 2.0 version, but I feel the other books are not well balanced nor well written in may cases.

    Having said we are trying very hard to get the whole autofire thing to make more sense just at the moment. Nearly there.

    But each to their own of course.

    Gryphons last blog post..Dr. Scrooge or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Hobby

  10. @ Karsten

    I have no idea how to post a new thread on here so please excuse me just adding on here. Hopefully my plog thing works too….very new site…very new blog

    So I have been polishing this now and I think we are at EDIT stage. It is finished!! Ok so it is finished for now, and now we have to see if it works out, as two of the guys bought ET guns this time.

    Electrothermal Conversion

    Electrothermal weapons work by replacing the normal breech and firing mechanism with a completely different one. The mechanism uses a small charge of plasma, generated within the gun itself, to ignite the special propellant, held in special shell casing. The propellant burns more evenly and quickly than in a normal firing chamber, and thus the muzzle velocity of the round is higher and achieved quicker.

    Game Effect: The conversion increases the effective damage of the weapon, increases it’s accuracy, increases the weight of the weapon and drops it’s reliability to unreliable.

    Electrothermal weapons do d10 instead of d6, (or 2d6 instead of d10), the increased muzzle velocity of the round increases the WA of the weapon by +1, but the conversion is such that the reliability drops to UR (although this can be increased by spending additional money improving it), and the weight increases by 10% of the original.

    Batteries: Electrothermal guns use up electricity from batteries to generate the plasma pulse that ignites the projectile. These batteries have to be recharged after all the shots are fired, although it is easy enough to get additional batteries, it is not as easy to change them as it is to change a magazine. It takes a full round to change the battery and not a single action.

    No rounds can be fired if the battery is at 0 charge.
    Ammunition: Electrothermal guns need special ammunition to function, and these bullets cannot be used in none electrothermal weapons. The propellant can’t be ignited by a firing pin, and the electric charge in the ET weapon cannot ignite a normal projectile.

    As a consequence all electrothermal ammunition costs four times the price of a caseless projectile of the same calibre. Cased ammunition costs double caseless and ET ammunition costs twice that value.
    They are also quite difficult to get hold of for a converted weapon, being a Difficult (DC 20) task (Steetwise Streetdeal or Resources) to get in any numbers.

    While it is possible to buy speciality ammunition for this type of weapon it is even rarer than normal ET ammunition being Very Difficult (DC 25) to aquire, and even more expensive than normal rounds. For example armour piercing rounds cost three times normal cost, so in this case for ET weapons AP rounds cost 12 times the cost of normal ammunition. (3x for AP, 2x for being cased, and 2x for being ET).
    Sophisticated composited ammunition like sabotted, flechette or penetrator rounds not designed for the ferocious acceleration generated in an ET weapon can even disintegrate in the barrel, clogging up the mechanism or jamming in the breach unless modified for the specific purpose. Those containing electronic components just cannot survive the firing of the weapon and explosive rounds of all sorts tend to explode in the barrel of the gun as the aforementioned acceleration triggers them.

    Modifying this type of ammunition for use with an ET weapon is costly indeed. Apply all the normal multipliers for the cost of the ammunition, then the ET mod x2, and finally add 1 to the multiplier.

    Autofire: When using an ET weapon in any autofire mode, one of the drawbacks of the weapon presents itself. Recoil; simply put the bang for your buck you get for ET is much greater than normal projectile weapons, but equally so is the recoil.
    The weapon accuracy drops by 2 for burst fire and 3 for full autofire (+1 per additinal 10 rounds fired).

    Weapon Reliability: Another problem with this conversion is that the weapon is simply no longer reliable; no matter what the reliability of the weapon was it is now unreliable. It is very well known for the copper from the jacket of the shell to get vaporised and deposited throughout the workings of the weapon.
    Essentially misfires are common, and catastrophic failure more regular than is sensible. Read about the trials that went on with caseless ammunition in the 20th century.

  11. @ Karsten again

    Once again no idea how to post a new thread…pull this out by all means if you think it deserves a thread of it’s own.

    When making an autofire attack, the player makes a normal against the range-based difficulty, modified as per below.

    Aiming and Autofire: It is not possible to gain the benefit of aiming when using burst or full autofire, as the shooter does not have full control of the weapon after the first round is fired.

    Autofire and Multiple Actions in a Round: Burst Fire is considered a single action in a round and can be combined with other actions, while full autofire, (stream, spray or suppressive fire) is a full round action and can’t be combined with other actions. It also means you cannot use two SMG’s or other Autofire weapons at the same time, or rather you could do, but you can’t hit anything nor cause any appreciable effect…it looks cool though.

    Burst Fire: The difficulty for hitting with burst fire is;
    Range + situation modifier + rate of fire penalty

    Full Autofire: The difficulty for hitting with autofire is;
    Range + situation modifier + recoil + rate of fire penalty

    The ease of controlling the weapon relates to the recoil penalty for different types of weapon;

    Suppression Fire: The difficulty for hitting with suppressive fire is;
    Range + situation modifier + recoil + rate of fire penalty

    Because suppressive fire is not really aimed at a specific target, more a specific target area, or zone the firer receives a bonus to hit as if the target were large, ie +4.

    Rate of Fire Penalty: All autoweapons regardless of type suffer a penalty based on the number of rounds fired in a round. For every 10 rounds (or fraction) above 10 used in the attack the shooter receives a cumulative -1 penalty at ranges of medium and above.

    This represents the difficulty in holding the gun on target when letting off a lot of rounds.

    Recoil Penalty: The ability to control the movement of the weapon while under autofire is absolutely vital. Light weapons that fire on full auto are as difficult to control as heavy weapons.

    • Firing autoshotguns, pistols and light or heavy SMG on full auto has a –3 penalty to hit representing the difficulty in controlling the weapon under full auto conditions. Pistols and light SMG’s are too light to be easily controlled and autoshotgun’s and heavy SMG’s are too powerful.

    • Firing medium SMG and all assault rifles on full auto has a –2 penalty to hit representing the more controllable nature of the heavier weapons.

    • Machine guns, and other weapons designed for use on full auto all the time, do not suffer autofire penalties when fired from a normal braced position. If fired in an unbraced positions of course they suffer the ROF penalty and a further -3 Recoil penalty.

    Autofire hits per attack: Determining how many rounds hit the target is dependent on the type of autofire firing being undertaken. Burst fire is the most accurate and spraying an area with bullets the least. See below for more details.

    Semi Autofire “Burst”
    A semi-autofire (or “burst”) attack consists of firing a short, controlled burst of fire at a single target. The shooter makes a single attack roll against the target modified as above.
    On a successful attack roll, the target is hit once, plus an additional time for every point the attack exceeded the target number by (to a maximum of the number of rounds fired in the burst).
    Note: Most autoweapons have a 3-round burst setting, but some use 2-round and even 4-round settings. The maximum number of rounds that may be fired in a burst is 5; anything else is considered full auto fire.

    Full Autofire
    “Never mind the accuracy hear my ‘roar’.”
    When full auto is selected the shooter abandons accuracy in exchange of raw firepower. You don’t necessarily hit more but you certainly make an impression.
    Anyone the target of a full auto attack, at Close or Medium range, regardless of whether they are hit or not, must make a Cool check with a difficulty 5, +1 for each time they are hit and +1 for every 10 rounds (or part thereof) fired directly at them in order to take any action other than take cover.

    Autofire can be used in three separate ways, suppression fire against an area, a stream of fire against one person or in a spray of fire against multiple targets.

    Advanced Note: Autoshotguns are fairly inaccurate weapons at the best of times but they are unpleasant weapons to face. When using normal rounds, not solid shot or flechette, the cool roll is 7 + modifiers not 5.

    Full Autofire “Stream”
    “Cop for this big boy”
    A stream autofire attack consists of aiming the weapon at a single target and releasing a stream of rounds or projectiles at it. This is sometimes referred to as “hosing” a target, or a “Hail Mary” attack.

    If the attack is successful, then you need to determine how many rounds hit the target. The target is hit 1d6 times for every 10 rounds, or part thereof, expended, rounded down, with a minimum of 1. So someone using 20 round will roll 1d6 twice and add the result together. The maximum number of hits cannot exceed the number of shots fired.
    Making a stream attack uses the full Rate of Fire of the weapon, minimum 5 and is the only action a character can undertake in a round.

    Full Autofire “Spray”
    With a spray autofire attack, the shooter can attempt to hit multiple targets at once. Divide the number of rounds fired by the number of targets available, adding one additional “zone” target between each target to account for rounds fired sweeping from target to target. Thus, a spray of 30 rounds aimed at two targets would be 10 rounds against the first target, 10 rounds lost between the targets, and 10 rounds against the second target.
    A “stream” attack roll is then made against each non-‘zone’ target, as mentioned above. Note that friends and enemies both count as targets when spraying a group.

    If the attack is successful, then you need to determine how many rounds hit each target. The target is hit 1d6/2 times for every 10 rounds, or part thereof, expended, rounded down, with a minimum of 1.
    In the event that the number of shots fired at each target is less than ten reduce the number of hits achieved proportionally.
    The maximum number of hits cannot exceed the number of shots fired.
    Making a spray attack uses the full Rate of Fire of the weapon, minimum 5 and is the only action a character can undertake in a round.

    Advanced Rule: The number of “zone” targets is based on the distance between the targets of the spray. At close range, a zone is 1m wide. At medium range, a zone is 2m wide. At long range a zone is 4m wide, and at extreme range a zone is 8m wide. Thus if there is a space of 4m between targets at medium range, then that counts as two zones, effectively dividing the number rounds in the spray by 4 for each target.

    Full Autofire “Suppression”
    “Take cover, incoming”
    Suppression Fire is used to make the enemy keep his head down, and to provide covering fire for friendly troops who are trying to change position. A suppression attack does not directly target a single person, but a person’s position instead,
    To successfully make a suppressive fire zone the shooter must make a normal attack roll at Close or Medium range only, designating the limits of their suppression zone.

    Normally the zone of suppression is a 2m wide area (with one or more persons behind it) where ammo is sprayed in order to keep someone from acting on their turn, but it can be wider. The only limitations are the number of rounds that are fired.

    The suppression zone can be up to 2m for every 10 rounds (or part thereof) that are fired, but the areas must be adjacent.

    Suppression fire is more psychological than skill-related. Each person within the zone of suppression, regardless of whether they are in cover already or not must make a Cool check with a difficulty 5, +1 for every 10 rounds (or part thereof) fired at them in order to take an action that would put them into risk (or out of cover).

    Anyone attempting to cross the zone must make an Athletics or Luck check with a difficulty 10, +1 for every 10 rounds (or part thereof) fired. Failure to make this check means they were struck by some of the bullets fired their way. The number of rounds that strike the target is determined by taking the number of rounds fired into the zone and dividing it by 1d6/3, rounded down, with a minimum of 1.

    Like all autofire options suppressive fire is the only action a character can undertake in a round, and uses the full Rate of Fire of the weapon.
    Advanced Note: As mentioned above autoshotguns are good at suppressive fire, when using normal rounds, not solid shot, or flechette the cool roll is 7 + modifiers not 5, and the difficulty to cross the zone of fire of an autoshotgun is 12 not 10.

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