they're not just for fun anymore
by Gary Astleford
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I remember laughing when I first held Cyberpunk 2020 in my dirty little hands, because they actually included a paintball gun in the book's arsenal. My friends and I tittered about it for a few moments. Granted, it might be nice to shoot that ganger in the head and put him down for good. Why bother with that, though, when for just 300 eurobucks more, you can take your Colt AMT 2000 and deliver 4D6 points of organ-shredding, bone-splintering, blood-spewing damage upon your unfortunate foe? Yeah, we said. Who wants a PAINTBALL gun, anyway?

I'd never given them much thought until I read about Mike Pondsmith's little character-killing tactic. I'll describe it in brief, in case you've never heard about it. Attack your players with a group of Inquisitors armed with paintball guns, half loaded with sleep rounds, and half loaded with acid. The sleep rounds will drop most of the unarmored characters right away. The acid rounds are for use on the characters wearing clamshell armor. Once their armor is eaten away, hit 'em with the sleep rounds, too.

In short, it's evil. A little bit too perfect, but evil.

It follows, then, that paintball guns are a very special kind of weapon. They're powered by compressed air and as such are almost silent. They're cheap, and no one is really, REALLY frightened of them. If I think about all the things you can fit into a sixty-eight caliber ball, it makes me wonder why no one ever thought about it before. It makes paintball guns nearly as effective as shotguns, if not more so, because the variety of ammunition that could be available is enormous.

So, for your amusment, I've come up with several different ammo types, just for use with paintball guns. Be careful! Some of these things are really nasty. Aside from the different prices, each type of paintball has a listed Availability rating. For those of you who don't have CP2020, I'll give you a low down on what the different Availabilities are :

  • Excellent : Can be found almost anywhere.
  • Common : Can be found in most sports and gun stores on the street.
  • Poor : Specialty weapons, black market, or stolen military.
  • Rare : Stolen, one of a kind, special military issue, may be highly illegal.
  • EXCEEDINGLY Rare : Highly illegal, top secret, the stuff that scandals are made of.

    I'm serious about these Availabilities, now. Some of this stuff is fire (literally), and you don't play with fire. However, the vast majority of it isn't any more dangerous that any of the other nasty things listed in any of the Chromebooks. So knock yourself out. Don't say I didn't warn you.


    Acid - Cost (per 50) : 50 eb; Availability : Poor

    These paintballs are thin-walled ceramic spheres containing a powerful acid. Standard acid loads (CP2020 pg 107) do 1D6 in acid damage, and will eat away at armor SP for the same amount for three rounds. More powerful acids, while uncommon, are available for a substantially higher price.

    Adhesive - Cost (per 50) : 30 eb; Availability : Common

    Adhesive loads are much like typical paintballs, yet they contain a powerful adhesive similar to an industrial strength cyanoacrylate. Such glues are normally instantly adhesive, and are only effective as long as they are still wet. Cyanoacrylate glues are normally very thin, with a low viscosity, which increases the chance that they will spread over an area and sink through small cracks and holes. They are only inert once completely dry (which takes about two or three minutes), but by then it is usually too late. These loads are effective when fired at the floor in front of pursuers, who will usually step into the glue and be left immobilized. Powerful solvents are available that dissolve cyanoacrylate compounds.

    Anti-Laser Aerosols/Chaff - Cost (per 50) : 20 eb; Availability : Poor

    ALA/chaff balls are used to reduce the effects of laser weapons. They release a small cloud of reflective and heat-absorbing particles into the air upon impact. The ALA cloud will remain for twenty seconds for every three balls fired, and will create a one meter diameter cloud per hit within the area. Any lasers (pulse, beam, or otherwise) fired through the cloud are at -4 to hit.

    Bioplague - Cost (each) : 500 eb; Availability : Rare

    Some of the more dangerous loads around, bioplague paintballs are no laughing matter. They utilize a bacterial or viral infection to kill or wound foes. Such loads would be too dangerous if they used an aerosol method of dispersion, so most take an effect upon contact with the skin. Some such bioplagues cause an immediate breakdown at the cellular level, producing ebola-like symptoms within two or three hours. Others, which are more long term, can produce severe cancer-like tissue growth at the source of impact. The simplest merely make the target ill. Specific disease effects (including contagion) and durations should be under the sole jurisdiction of the GM.

    Biotoxin - Base Cost (per 50) : 500/750 eb; Availability : Poor ( BT I)/Poor (BT II)/Rare (Nerve Toxin)

    Biotoxin-filled paintballs are one of the most common offensive loads. The poisons used are delivered in one of two ways. Either they are absorbed by the target's skin, or they burst and become an aerosol which is then inhaled. Biotoxins are naturally produced or organic poisons, such as jellyfish venom. Most biotoxins must be absorbed by the skin to be effective, though a few can be ingested or absorbed into the bloodstream through the eyes. The CP2020 book (pg 107) lists standard damages for poisons/biotoxins as 4D6 (Biotoxin I, at base cost), 8D6 (Biotoxin II, at base cost x 1.5), and 8D10 (Nerve Toxin/Gas, at base cost x 2). Loads that disperse as an aerosol are 1.5x more expensive.

    Chemical/Blister and Blood Agents - Cost (per 50) : 250 eb; Availability : Poor

    Blister and blood agents cover a group of aerosol dispersed poisons designed to kill and incapacitate their targets. Blood agents must be inhaled, and gas masks will nullify them. Characters exposed to blood agents may hold their breath, but the poison can still enter the bloodstream through the eyes with only half the full effect. Blister agents, on the other hand, are absorbed through the skin, and a full protective suit is required. Both blood and blister agents cause 2D6 damage per round of exposure. The chemical cloud will remain for twenty seconds for every three balls fired, and will create a one meter diameter cloud per hit within the area.

    Chemical/Illumination - Cost (per 100) : 10 eb; Availability : Excellent

    Illumination loads are filled with a yellow-green chemical that glows, much the same as the stuff that fills the glowsticks you see on Halloween. The illumination loads (or light balls) can either be primed before loading by gently squeezing them (thereby creating a sort of paintball "tracer"), or they can illuminate upon impact, splattering the target with a yellow-green blotch of iridescence which makes him/her/it easier to see in dim conditions.

    Chemical/Irritant - Cost (per 50) : 50 eb; Availability : Common

    Irritant loads cover a wide variety of non-lethal, yet disabling, chemicals that are dispersed as an aerosol upon paintball impact. Such irritants include pepper spray, tear gas, and vomit gas. Tear gas causes an immediate watering of the eyes and the target may have trouble breathing. This is reflected in a -4 to all actions for the duration of the gas. Pepper spray is similar, but incurs a -6 penalty, and can be used on animals. Vomit gas loads, also known as "stink bombs" on the street, force a BTM check at -4. If failed, the target is overcome by nausea and can do nothing but retch. The chemical cloud will remain for twenty seconds for every three balls fired, and will create a one meter diameter cloud per hit within the area.

    Chemical/Smoke - Cost (per 50) : 12 eb; Availability : Excellent

    Upon impact, smoke loads release a small cloud of hexochloroethane smoke. While single hits produce very little smoke, multiple hits can cause larger and larger clouds (one meter diameter cloud per smokeball fired). The smoke will remain for twenty seconds for every three balls fired (ie, four rounds last 40 seconds, etc.), depending on atmospheric and weather conditions. Different colors are available, including white, red, yellow, blue, green, purple, and black.

    Dirt - Cost (per 100) : 15 eb; Availability : Poor

    Dirtballs, as they are known, are a specialized form of paintball. They are filled with a dark, sticky substance that adheres easily to smooth and shiny surfaces, and were originally intended for use in nullifying laser reflective armors. Such armor affected by dirtballs has its protection reduced against lasers by 1/2. At the very least, dirtballs will ruin a good car wash. Otherwise, they are identical to standard paintballs.

    Drug - Cost (each) : As Per Drug Dose Cost; Availability : Varies By Drug Type

    Many drugs have found a home in the paintball arsenals around the globe. The most popular include drugs that incapacitate, without killing, either through nausea, hallucinations, or sleep. Any drug, with the proper preparation, can be converted into a contact-activated solution. Imagine pumping a burst of blue glass into that onrushing security guard. Seconds later, he'll be left by the wayside, staring at all the pretty colors. Other popular drugs include, strangely enough, anti-toxins (easily administered from a distance via paintball), tranquilizers, and many of the more dangerous combat drugs.

    Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) - Cost (per 50) : 150 eb; Availability : Poor

    These small spheres contain no paint. Instead, they are small electronic bundles designed to give off a limited EMP burst upon impact with a hard surface (be it a wall or a full 'borg conversion's faceplate). The pulse has a radius of about 1.5 meters, and will wipe stored data from chips, tapes, and diskettes, as well as inhibit electronic performance (including that of cyberware and computers). Damage to unshielded cyberware and computers is only permanent 10% of the time, but the effects will last 1D6 minutes. Any degree of shielding will nullify the pulse.

    Explosive - Cost (per 10) : 100 eb; Availability : Poor

    Explosive paintballs are filled with an unstable liquid charge, similar to nitroglycerine. They explode on impact, causing a loud rapport and 2D6 explosive damage to anyone within a one meter radius. Handle with care.

    Flame Retardent - Cost (per 50) : 30 eb; Availability : Common

    Flame Retardent paintballs are packed with two thin chemicals that combine upon impact to form a superchilled liquid. If present in great enough quantities, these loads can put out small fires and smother incendiaries such as napalm and phosphorus for a short time. Assume that one flame retardent load will be needed per each meter of diameter the fire has spread. There is a 10% chance that each ball fired will have no effect on the fire. These balls can also be used to mask heat from thermographic and IR optics and sensors.

    Flash/Bang - Cost (per 25) : 150 eb; Availability : Common

    These balls, upon impact, explode with a bright flash and a loud report designed to confuse and befuddle opponents. Anyone within three meters of the impact (nine meters, if indoors) must make a stun/shock save at -2 to avoid being stunned and deafened for four rounds and a DIFFICULT reflex save must be made to avoid being blinded for two rounds. Anti-dazzle and audio level damping will negate the effects of these loads.

    Incendiary, Napalm - Cost (per 10) : 50 eb; Availability : Poor

    These paintballs contain a thickened flammable liquid, such as gasoline mixed with detergent. Upon impact, they will break open and distribute an amount of the liquid over a 1 foot by 1 foot diameter area. Note that the napalm must somehow be ignited. As such, these loads are popularly used in conjunction with Phosphorus balls. Once lit, napalm will burn for up to 60 seconds, causing 3D6 burn damage each round until extinguished, and igniting all nearby flammables. Napalm damage heals at 1/3rd the normal rate.

    Incendiary, Phosphorus - Cost (per 10) : 150 eb; Availability : Poor

    Incendiary loads contain an amount of white phosphorus which is sheathed inside a thin ceramic coating. Deprived of oxygen, the phosphorus is inert. Upon detonation, however, the phosphorus ignites and burns at 2700 degrees Celsius for up to thirty seconds. This also creates a dense cloud of white smoke, as well as igniting any flammables in the area. Unless scraped off in a timely manner or deprived of oxygen, burning phosphorus will do 5D6AP damage per round. This damage heals at 1/3rd the normal rate, and leaves horrible scars.

    Lubricant - Cost (per 50) : 30 eb; Availability : Common

    Lube loads are filled with a slippery chemical. Most of the time, these loads are fired at the floor, creating a one meter radius oil slick. Anyone crossing this slick must make a DIFFICULT reflexes save, or go sprawling ass over elbows, taking 1D6 damage to a random location from the fall. Other uses include shooting an opponent's weapon, which will slip from his grip unless it is well secured or he makes an AVERAGE reflexes save each turn to hold on.

    Nanoplague - Cost (each) : 1000 eb; Availability : EXCEEDINGLY Rare

    Very nearly identical to bioplague, nanotechnical diseases are frightening in their own right. Many are impossible to cure, and their effects can devastate a person for the rest of their lives. The simplest cause skin disorders, starting at the point of contact. Others go deeper, finding their way to the bloodstream where they latch onto red blood cells and invoke an artificial anemia. Still, others break down the immune system, or rewire the target's nerves, causing a terrible condition similar to Parkinson's disease. Nanoplague effects are as terrible as they are varied.

    Paint - Cost (per 100) : 6-10 eb; Availability : Excellent

    These are your standard paint balls. They are filled with an easily-washable, bright-colored paint, and are used for recreational combats or for marking people, places, or things. They generally do no damage, although some unscrupulous hobbyists freeze their paintballs. Frozen paintballs rarely, if ever, cause permanent injury, though they will leave a nasty welt. Head hits with paintballs have a five in ten chance of blinding the target for three rounds, and a four in ten chance of destroying an eye. See CP2020 pg 107 for details.

    Paint, Ultraviolet - Cost (per 100) : 12-20 eb; Availability : Common

    Ultraviolet paintballs, upon impact, spread a dose of ultraviolet paint or powder upon the target. The paint/powder is invisible unless viewed through a UV optical device. These paintballs are often used for tracking individuals or marking locations and vehicles. Otherwise, they are identical to standard paintballs.

    Solvents - Cost (per 100) : 50 eb; Availability : Common

    Almost any type of powerful industrial-strength solvent can be used in paintball form, if loaded correctly into a ceramic shell. The most common are used to dissolve adhesives, paints and lacquers, while others can soften and destroy paper, plastics, and ballistic cloth (such as kevlar). Some powerful solvents are also highly flammable, so care must be taken by those who have been exposed to them. Assume that the solvent will dissolve whatever it is designed to. If this includes plastics or ballistic mesh, these substances will take 1D6 damage per hit per round for three rounds, or until the solvent is sufficiently diluted.

    Tracking Device - Cost (per 50) : 100 eb; Availability : Common

    Useful for law enforcement agents, and people who want to keep track of their enemies. Paintball tracking devices are small, weighted, plastic or alloy spheres which contain a small, powerful transmitter. Some contain a small electromagnet to keep the ball from rolling about after impact. On impact, the transmitter begins to emit a beacon that repeats at intervals of five seconds. The transmitter has a range of five kilometers, and batteries are usually good for forty-eight hours. The signal can be tied into most navigational computers to give an exact location of the target in question.


    So, there they are. By now, you've probably breezed through the ammo types and you can see some possibilities there. That's good. I'd like to talk about something else, now. Paintball safety.

    Damage from a paintball, initially anyway, is considered to be bruise damage. It's not the impact of the paintball that hurts you, it's the effect of whatever is inside that makes your life hell. Paintballs have to break open in order to take effect.

    Assume that paintballs carry either inactive or active ingredients. Inactive incredients are (generally) non-harmful, and include standard (and ultraviolet) paintballs, (non-aerosol) drug loads, chemical/illumination loads, dirt loads, etc. These are generally sold in tubes, and have an easily broken or popped outer layer. Such loads can be treated with less care than those which carry active ingredients since the consequences are less dire if their stability is compromised.

    Loads with active ingredients include anything harmful or fatal that is converted to an aerosol upon rupture, as well as those loads that contain dangerous chemicals, such as phosphorus and bioplagues. Most of these loads are contained within a thin ceramic sphere, and are packed in what resemble small egg cartons that say "Handle With Care" all over them. The ceramic sheath is more durable than the outer layer of most other paintballs. It usually takes a high velocity impact to shatter the ceramic and break it open. Knowing even this, though, don't drop one. If even one of these paintballs ruptures before its time, though, it could be disastrous. If a paintball containing an active ingredient is dropped onto a hard surface from chest height, assume that it breaks open 20% of the time. Therefore, if you're toting a Nelspot Wombat filled with blood agent loads around, you don't want to drop it.


    Paintballs can also be used as impromtu grenades. Their effects are usually less dramatic, but for the most part, are nothing to laugh at. It takes a hard throw against a solid surface to break open a paintball. Even then, range is a factor, since you might not want to throw the thing at a target that is only three or four meters away. Being as they are so small and not designed to be thrown, there is a -2 penalty to any Athletics roll made in conjunction with the throwing of a paintball.

    Another use for paintballs that creative punks might think of is that of traps. Imagine the setting, if you will. Mr. Johnson's lush corner office with a beautiful view of the harbor. You pack Mr. Johnson's patent leather chair cushion with several phosphorus paintballs. At nine o'clock the next morning, Mr. Johnson walks into his office, puts his briefcase on his desk, and plops his fat butt down onto his chair. WHOOSH! Gives a whole new meaning to the term "Office Barbeque," doesn't it?

    Due to their small size, paintballs are ideal for such uses. They are easily concealed, relatively cheap, and there's one for just about any function you can think of.


    Paintball weapons, due to their low recoil, silent actions, and plentifully cheap non-lethal ammunitions, would seem right at home in an orbital environment. This is true. But you must also realize that the majority of paintball weapons are fed from a gravity clip. That is, the paintballs are loaded into a box which is suspended above the weapon. When one ball is fired, another drops into place. In a zero gravity environment, this is impractical. Of course, there are always solutions.

    One solution is that of the vacuum clip. By way of specially modifying the weapon with a small fan vacuum, the paintballs in the clip are literally sucked down into the chamber. This increases the cost of the weapon by 25%. It also generates a certain amount of noise in the form of an audible humming. The noise has caused modified weapons to be referred to as "Dirt Devils."

    Other weapons, however, are well-equipped for orbital and zero gravity work. Most of these utilize spring fed tubular magazines with a pump-action cocking device. While more reliable in an environment like an orbital habitat, they don't have the magazine capacity that gravity fed weapons have, and ammunition jams can result in rupturing the paintball (which, as you know, can be a bad thing).


    I hope you find use in this file, and enjoy playing with the new ammo. I'm sure that I'll have a good old time with it. If I've given but one person a new respect for paintball weapons, my efforts have not been in vain. Enjoy!

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