I’ve been running my kids through the Volturnus modules in Star Frontiers. We’ve been at it for years in fits and starts. It’s not because they don’t want to play but rather that we can never find the time with all the things we’re doing (and them needing to get their chores done), but it is starting to become more regular. In any case, they were exploring the Sathar Artifact (a complex left behind to signal if spaceflight was detected in the system) and acquired a couple of sathar designed laser pistols and a few sathar power clips to run them.
Being designed for sathar, the pistols were not easily usable by any race other than Dalasites who could mold their pseudopods to fit into the trigger assembly. My youngest (age 8) is playing a Dralasite who happened to have a beam weapon skill so she decided to collect them and use them in future fights. The problem was that they didn’t know how to adjust it. All they had was a trigger and a little panel on the side of the weapon (pictured below). It had a small control knob with five positions and four lights above it.
They speculated a bit on what it could mean. The first 4 positions (starting at lower left and going clockwise) each caused one of the lights to light up. When moved to the 5th position, all the lights went out. They correctly assessed that each light represented a different power level (although they don’t know what) but had mixed ideas about the fifth setting. One of my twins (age 15) suggested that it was the off position and was close to the maximum power setting so that you could quickly get to max damage in a hurry if you needed it. His twin suggested that that last setting was a self destruct setting and that if you pulled the trigger when in that position the gun will blow up. The didn’t test it to see who was right but continued on the adventure.
My daughter playing the dralasite with the pistol decided to set the weapon to the 4th setting so that all lights were lit. Shortly thereafter they ran into some cyborgs and proceeded to attack them. She fired two shots at that setting which completely drained the power clip (there is another row of lights that had been fully lit but went completely dark after the two shots). Her brother (age 10) was firing a standard laser pistol set at 5 power units (called SEU for standard energy units in Star Frontiers). I told them that the blast from the sathar weapon looked brighter and more intense than his shots. She managed to connect with one of the shots and did considerable damage to the cyborg she was shooting at.
How It Works
(If you are one of my kids reading this, stop here!)
In my game the sathar use an octal (base 8) numbering system. Unlike standard UPF laser weapons which can be set anywhere from 1 to 10 SEU for pistols and 1 to 20 SEU for rifles, sathar weapons have 5 or 6 settings. The first setting is 1 SEU and each successive setting doubles the amount of energy (and therefore damage) in the shot. The only exception is the last setting which does something different. So in the pistol you have 4 usable settings that use 1, 2, 4, or 8 energy units. The rifle has a 5th setting that can use 16 energy units.
Also unlike the UPF power clips, which hold 20 SEU, the sathar clips only hold 16. So my daughter who had the pistol set to use 8 SEU, drained the clip in 2 shots. When they found it, it had been set as in the image above and would have only used 4 SEU giving 4 shots.
And that fifth setting (or 6th on a rifle), what does it do? Well, the second twin was right. It is a self-destruct setting that causes the weapon to short circuit, releasing all the energy left in the clip plus an additional 4 SEU (stored in the body of the weapon for that exact purpose) in a small explosion designed to destroy the weapon and hopefully kill the wielder.