Plasma Weapons are highly potent and destructive directed energy weapons utilised in many forms by the advanced intelligent races of the Milky Way Galaxy. Most Plasma Weapons work by delivering pulses of searing energy and superheated matter that have been transmuted into a gaseous plasma state that carries an electrical charge. The plasma "bolts" fired by these weapons explode on impact and generate the destructive heat of a small sun, and the sheer amount of energy released by the impact of superheated plasma is often enough to completely vaporise the target. Plasma Weapons vary greatly in form and size; ranging from small and compact Plasma Pistols to huge starship batteries that can obliterate entire cities in a single salvo. Against all forms of armoured infantry and light vehicles, the superheated bolts fired by smaller Plasma Weapons impact with the fury of a supernova, scything through steel, flesh and bone as if they were nothing.
Due to the enormous temperatures and deadly energies that Plasma Weapons generate when fired, most such weapons are prone to overheating, destabilisation and misfire. This unfortunate quality makes the weapon potentially as deadly to the wielder as it is to the target. However, the sheer power and deadliness of Plasma Weapons often outweigh the hazards that come with their use.
Despite its drawbacks, Plasma Weapons have remained part of the Imperium's arsenal for thousands of years since at least its inception. Such technology was far better understood during the dawning age of the Imperium if still somewhat unsafe. By the time of the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium, Plasma Weapon technology was at a dangerous phase in its development. Plasma reactors were in limited use, and the giant weapons mounted on Titans and space faring vessels were a simple outgrowth of the systems needed to create reactors. Plasma Weapons which could be carried and used by a Space Marine Legionary in Power Armour were still prone to overheating and leaking energised plasma onto their unfortunate users. Nonetheless the devastating power of Plasma weaponry made it too potent to abandon and many Space Marine Legions utilised it in a limited fashion anyway. In the dark days of the Heresy itself, the desperate need for ever more potent armaments pushed early Plasma Weapons to the battle front more and more, regardless of the risks involved.
Towards the end of the Heresy, the Tech-Priests of Mars solved the immediate problems of Plasma Weapons. By slowing the recharge mode of the weapons, they found they could maintain the integrity of the magnetic field containing the energising plasma. This prevented catastrophic leaks detonating the whole weapons. The slower recharge cycle also meant that overheating was kept to a minimum by the weapon's coolant system. The resulting weapons were relatively safe and reliable, but suffered from a slow recharge rate which limited their effectiveness. Space Marine commanders were far from happy at the compromise but the number of catastrophic meltdowns experienced with the older weapons made plasma too dangerous for the Space Marine Legions to continue using otherwise. As doctrine within the Adeptus Mechanicus changed, the old style Plasma Weapons were branded Fabrus Excommunicata, engines of destruction that had fallen from the approval of the Machine God. Within a few centuries, early Plasma Weapons had entirely disappeared. Such a light of reason has never shone over the Traitor Legions. They still maintain and use the old, dangerous Plasma Weapons, perhaps revelling in the raw danger of doing so. Given the contempt held for life by Chaos Space Marines, it's unlikely they would be willing to trade off less firepower for a safer weapon anyway.
In the modern 41st Millennium, it is an honour to carry such weapons into battle and be trusted to make sure every searing shot counts. Based on the secrets of the sacred STC, it is a design that has never been developed or improved on. Indeed, the very thought of trying to mitigate the flaws of Plasma Weapons would be repellent to the followers of the Machine God. By the grace of the Omnissiah, these weapons fulfil a role within the God-Emperor's armies, and to change this role in any way would be to invite mayhem and disorder. So Plasma Weapons are crafted just as they have been for untold centuries, each finding its way into the hands of a resolute Space Marine or an ungrateful Guardsman.
Plasma Weapons operate using a raw plasma fuel, which consists of highly dangerous and volatile hydrogen compressed and contained precariously within reinforced flasks in a gaseous or liquid state. These Plasma Flasks are potentially lethal objects in their own right, and it was almost surely a Plasma Flask whose handling rites were rushed that gave birth to the Imperial Plasma Grenade. For smaller Imperial Plasma Weapons, Plasma Flasks often allow for 10 shots to be fired before reloading.
When a hand-held Plasma Weapon is fired, hydrogen fuel is fed into a miniature fusion reactor core contained within the weapon's mechanism and superheated to extreme temperatures into a highly-energized state of matter known as plasma; the fuel of the stars themselves. The generated plasma is held in the weapon’s core by powerful electromagnetic confinement fields. When fired, the fields dilate open and the plasma is ejected, via the coils of a linear magnetic accelerator, as a bolt of superheated matter akin to a solar flare in appearance and temperature. For this reason, Plasma Weapons are also known as “Sun Guns” by the soldiers of the Imperium. Plasma bolts that are fired are encased in a magnetic containment field that prevents them from dissipating before reaching their target. Once the plasma comes into contact with a solid material, the magnetic field ruptures and vents the superheated energy of the plasma onto the target, often vaporising the enemy outright.
Most Plasma Weapons suffer from the problem of overheating, primarily due to the immense amounts of heat generated by the stored plasma. When the weapon reaches critical temperatures, excess heat must be released, for containing it within the weapon can prove catastrophic. This additional heat is often vented into the surrounding area via emergency cooling ducts and exhaust vents, as very few forms of proper cooling apparatus capable of neutralising the excess heat exist. Even with this solution, however, continual firing almost inevitably overloads these functions and it is not uncommon for Plasma Weapons to dangerously overheat and for the ravaging energies, held in check by the magnetic containment fields, to burst from their restraints and pour from the weapon’s specialised cooling vents in a cloud of super-heated vapour. Though the weapon itself will remain intact in such an event, the unfortunate soul wielding it often does not prove as lucky. Despite this danger, Plasma Weapons are usually such a rare and valued technology for the Imperium it is often considered better that the weapon survive than the wielder.
In extreme circumstances, the core of Plasma Weapons can suddenly melt down and explode; whether this be the result of excessive firing or the result of a flaw during manufacture. Should the weapon's casing crack or the magnetic containment field fail, the firer will have only a fraction of a second before the gun turns into a ball of blazing energy in his hands, consuming itself with the heat of a star and vaporising everything within reach.
In addition to the dangers of an overheat, hand-held Imperial Plasma Weapons are difficult to reload. Only with the requisite prayers should their hydrogen flasks be screwed into place, as their unstable ammunition is all too prone to spilling or fouling the plasma intakes. An incorrectly attached flask can cause the weapon to explode the first time it is fired, as an empty or partially filled magnetic chamber creates inescapable pressure that will tear the weapon apart, in addition to its user. Removing a flask is also dangerous, as even a small amount of plasma leaking out of a broken seal or an incorrectly closed value can burn away a hand or cost the shooter several of his fingers. For these reasons, Imperial Plasma Guns are slow and difficult to load and unload on the battlefield.
Known Plasma Weapons
Imperium of Man
Imperial Plasma Weapons represent a dying technological art for the contemporary Imperium of Man, with the secrets of their design and construction almost lost outside the select circles of the Adeptus Mechanicus and their Tech-adept artisans. Their inner workings are a mystery for the most part in the wider Imperium, and only a select few Forge Worlds still know how to construct them. Existing weapons must be carefully maintained and passed down generation to generation with each operator carefully ensuring all the proper blessings of the Machine God are bestowed before use. As such, these relics of a bygone era of adcvanced human technology are greatly revered; and it is considered a great honour to be able to wield one. Plasma Weapons are more commonly found in the elite ranks of the Adeptus Astartes than amongst the troopers of the Imperial Guard, although the weapons are still uncommon amongst even the ranks of the Space Marines. Most notably, plasma technology is frequently found in the hands of the Dark Angels Chapter, which has maintained a large number of such weapons and the art of their construction since their Founding.
Plasma is an incredibly dangerous and unstable substance to deal with, and Imperial Plasma Weapon designs are some of the most unstable due to the inherent imperfections and flaws within them. Imperial Plasma Weapons tax their cooling systems considerably, and even Space Marines must push the limits of their own resilience by using them. However, the hydrogen fuel the forces of the Adeptus Astartes use in their Plasma Weapons is of a higher quantum state than that of standard Imperial patterns. The colossal energies generated by Imperial Plasma Weapons must be contained within an electromagnetic field. Failure of this field can result in the weapon overheating and producing a devastating meltdown within the miniature fusion reactor core. Imperial Plasma Weapons mounted on vehicles are a safer form of the technology, as their mounts can carry the specialised cooling equipment needed to prevent catastrophic overheating. However, Plasma Weapons are nevertheless valued for their destructive power -- and many an Imperial soldier owes their life to the timely use of such weapons.
- Plasma Pistol – Perhaps the most destructive sidearm in common use in the Imperium, a soldier with a Plasma Pistol wields the power of a small sun in his hands. Plasma Pistols are the smallest variant in the Imperial Plasma Weapon family, and their small and compact design allows them to be wielded in a single hand. They are most commonly paired with a close-combat weapon of some form. Each shot from a Plasma Pistol leaves the destructive fury of larger Plasma Guns undiminished in a smaller package, although its diminished size means it must sacrifice range and rate of fire. Those willing to take the risk of using one possess a weapon capable of taking down almost any foe at close range. Plasma Pistols are a favourite of Imperial officers, who view it as a status symbol to be entrusted with such a valuable and venerated weapon. Few pistols are deadlier than a Plasma Pistol, and even many ranking Adeptus Astartes find them worth the trouble of acquiring and the risk of their use acceptable as a result of their sheer efficiency in eliminating foes at close range. However, Plasma Pistols hold smaller hydrogen flasks than larger Plasma Weapons and can thus only fire a handful of shots. They are dangerous to use on board voidships as a single shot can penetrate several bulkheads. Plasma Pistols most commonly have two modes of fire -- a standard mode, and a maximal mode which uses more fuel in a single shot for additional stopping power. However, the user must wait a short time whilst the weapon recharges and replenishes its internal fuel reserves when using the latter setting.
- Barrage Plasma Pistol – Barrage Plasma Pistols are deadly side arms and are a variant of the standard Plasma Pistol that is unique to the Jericho Reach Deathwatch, and few exist even within their hallowed armouries. Barrage Plasma Pistols feature a higher rate of fire than standard Plasma Pistols at the cost of increased energy consumption and chance of overheating.
- Plasma Torch – A Plasma Torch is a common tool utilised by Imperial engineers and Tech-priests, exploration teams who need to breach multiple barriers, and Space Marine Techmarines. Plasma Torches utilise a controlled plasma arc to make precise alterations when fixing Imperial technologies, although they are more commonly used to cut through impeding bulkheads within voidships. Plasma Torches are capable of cutting through adamantine plating that is up to 20 centimetres thick in a standard minute, and can cut thinner and weaker materials far faster. Plasma Torches can also be fired as a weapon in a similar way to a Plasma Pistol, albeit at a shorter range and without the ability to fire on maximal mode. Many a foe who has come too close has been struck by a bolt of superheated plasma from a Plasma Torch.
- Plasma Grenade – Imperial Plasma Grenades are an exceedingly rare form of grenade used by the armed forces of the Imperium that most likely originated when a wielder improperly handled a Plasma Flask. Plasma Grenades are most commonly only used by those who are able to acquire them, such as Deathwatch Space Marines, high ranking Space Marines and Inquisitors. These highly lethal grenades use a deliberate plasma containment field failure so that they erupt into blasts of white-hot energy. The dense plasma core of an Astartes Plasma Grenade is designed to not be fully consumed in the initial explosion, so it leaves a glowing, energised orb that continues to sear the area like a miniature sun. This tiny stellar body can continue to cause great damage to the immediate area for some time. It is of note that Imperial Plasma Grenades are cruder, although more potent, than the Eldar Plasma Grenades commonly used by Eldar assault troops.
- Plasma Gun – Plasma Guns are probably the most common pattern of Imperial Plasma Weapons, and are powerful weapons in their own right. Rifle-sized and intended to be wielded by a single trooper, Plasma Guns fire compact "pulses" of plasma energy and have a reasonably quick rate of fire. Plasma Guns are often deployed in situations where raw takedown power is required against highly resilient or armoured targets as they can easily punch through armour and leave brightly glowing holes. Despite the risks it often poses to the bearer, Imperial soldiers who have access to these weapons will often select them from the armoury, willing to take the risk in exchange for their devastating power. Most extant Plasma Guns are hundreds, if not thousands, of standard years old. However, as a testament to their design, they remain as deadly today as they were on the day of their fabrication. Due to their sturdy construction, even in the event of an overheat, the weapon is likely to survive, though the wielder is often less fortunate. In the Imperial Guard, it is a rare "honour" to serve as a squad’s plasma gunner. Whilst destructive, Plasma Guns are prone to overheating and few Guardsmen survive long enough to truly master these revered weapons. Plasma Guns most commonly have two modes of fire -- a standard mode, and a maximal mode which uses more fuel in a single shot for additional stopping power; although the user must wait a short time whilst the weapon recharges and replenishes its internal fuel reserves.
- Barrage Plasma Gun – Barrage Plasma Guns are rare and venerated weapons that are jealously guarded by the Techmarines of the Jericho Reach Deathwatch, and issued only to the most honoured Space Marines. Barrage Plasma Guns are highly tuned, rapid-fire weapons that can lay down incredible volumes of devastating plasma energy. While their ability to fire in semi-automatic and automatic modes make them both versatile and deadly, they use an immense amount of energy and are more prone to overheating than a typical Plasma Weapon. Deathwatch Space Marines see this as a small price to pay for the ability to spray volleys of plasma energy into charging bands of xenos.
- Combi-Plasma Gun – Combi-Weapons are Bolters that have been specially modified by skilled artisans. Each has been expertly converted to house another weapon, which can be a Plasma Gun. This extra weapon carries only a limited charge, allowing the bearer a single fusillade -- perfect for emergencies.
- Phased Plasma-Fusil – Phased Plasma-Fusils are relics of the bygone era of the Horus Heresy, and are potent Plasma Weapons that are used only by the Thallax Cohorts of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Each Phased Plasma-Fusil is similar to a Plasma Gun, except that it trades strength and armour penetration capabilities for a faster rate of fire, especially when standing still.
- Plasma Talon – The Dark Angels and their Unforgiven Successor Chapters utilise a unique form of relic Plasma Weapon known as the Plasma Talon. The Dark Angels Ravenwing Black Knights make use of them, for their Mark IV Raven Pattern Bikes have their twin-linked Bolters replaced with twin-linked Plasma Talons. With a range in between a Plasma Pistol and a Plasma Gun, a Plasma Talon gives the Black Knights a significant boost in power. With these weapons affixed to their metallic steeds, the Black Knights can tear holes in the enemy lines before they ride into combat to smash apart the foe.
- Plasma Blaster – Plasma Blasters are relics of the bygone era of the Horus Heresy, and are potent Plasma Weapons that were only wielded as specialist weapons in Terminator Squads wearing Cataphractii Pattern Tactical Dreadnought Armour. They are nearly identical in power and function to Plasma Talons, except they were of a more archaic double-barrelled design. Contemptor Pattern Dreadnoughts have also been known to mount a Plasma Blaster embedded within their Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon instead of a Storm Bolter.
- Plasma Cannon – The largest man-portable Plasma Weapon is the Plasma Cannon, which is also known as the Heavy Plasma Gun. Fearsome to behold, a Plasma Cannon can drench an area in molten plasma when it fires its "bolts" of molten gas that explode on impact—burning, melting, and dissolving almost everything it touches with the destructive heat of a small sun. These weapons are so large they require a backpack fuel canister containing the weapon’s store of hydrogen fuel, instead of using attached Plasma Flasks for ammunition, though only a Space Marine or one of their Traitor brethren would think about carrying such a weapon into battle. More often, Plasma Cannons are mounted on vehicles, which can carry the specialised cooling equipment needed to prevent catastrophic overheating. Plasma Cannons has a much longer range and ammunition supply than a Plasma Gun, and its violent discharges, hurled like miniature suns from the barrel, have a large impact area. The weapon can also be fired in a special maximal mode that exhausts more fuel in a single shot to provide a larger blast of heat on impact, creating a truly devastating raging fireball. After this, the Plasma Cannon must recharge and replenish its internal fuel reserves before it can fire again. Plasma Cannons are best employed against clusters of heavily armoured troops or light vehicles; although due to its larger size, its incidences of overheating and meltdowns often prove to be even more catastrophic then what would be the norm for Plasma Weapons.
- Missile Launcher Plasma Missile – A larger incarnation of the Imperial Plasma Grenade, a salvo of Plasma Missiles can easily turn enemy troops into a smoking crater. Indeed, a soldier must take care when firing one of these rare and dangerous weapons to make sure his own squad and friendly forces are sufficiently out of harm’s way. Plasma Missiles have the same continuing effect as an Imperial Plasma Grenade. However, in addition to this, they pose an additional threat to vehicles. The plasma core of a Plasma Missile can become fused with the hull of a target vehicle, leaving no escape whilst the plasma core burns its way inside.
- Plasma Storm Battery – A Plasma Storm Battery is an ancient weapon found only in the armouries of the Dark Angels and their Unforgiven Successor Chapters. Since the discovery of the Land Speeder Vengeance STC, it has since been mounted on these vehicles to create a devastating mobile weapons platform. A Plasma Storm Battery is capable of firing in two modes -- a rapid burst mode of plasma pules similar to those fired by a Plasma Gun, or a slower super-charged mode that sends a toroid of plasma to explode over an even larger area than that of a Plasma Cannon bolt.
- Executioner Plasma Destroyer – Like its smaller cousins, an Executioner Plasma Cannon, also known as a Plasma Destroyer, is a temperamental but ultimately devastating weapon of war. It is especially effective against heavily armoured infantry, for its pulsed plasma bursts, which each are the size of a standard Plasma Cannon blast, are capable of incinerating the Emperor's enemies in a focussed beam of incandescent light which burns with the fury of the sun. Executioner Plasma Cannons are most commonly found mounted as the primary weapon on its namesake, the Leman Russ Executioner, although other Turret Emplacements and rare vehicle designs such as the Deimos Pattern Predator Executioner are also able to mount these rare weapons. Gradually, over many millennia, understanding of the plasma technology used to build Executioner Plasma Cannons has almost been lost, with Ryza being one of the few Forge Worlds still capable of producing them. During short engagements, the Executioner Plasma Cannon comes into its own, but over protracted fire fights the weapon is less reliable, as the time required to recharge its hydrogen fuel cell often puts the vehicle and its crew at risk during the fast-paced frenzy of battle. Given the ferocious temperatures generated by the Executioner Plasma Cannon when it is fired, the Ryza Pattern turret mounted on a Leman Russ Executioner incorporates emergency vents to disperse the heat from each shot. These are positioned on the forward turret sides, with the crew further screened by protective heat shielding. This is enough to save them in the event of a minor breach in the cannon's containment field, allowing them time to escape. If the worst should happen however, a catastrophic containment field failure can result in the destruction of the entire vehicle and a large area around it.
- Deathstrike Missile – Deathstrike Missiles are massive intercontinental ballistic missiles which can be outfitted with several different types of warheads, including biological, tactical nuclear, and Titan-killers. However, by far the most common type is the plasma warhead, which is capable of vaporizing almost anything within a very large radius by unleashing a potent thermonuclear plasma reaction.
- Omega Pattern Plasma Blastgun – The Omega Pattern Plasma Blastgun, although available since its discovery in the late 39th Millennium by Explorator Magos Valistle Hum'nal, suffered doctrinal wranglings over the purity and completeness of its template within the Adeptus Mechanicus. This would delay its field testing and eventual deployment for centuries. The weapon's design, although more widely applicable that the arcane technologies of its forbearer -- the standard Plasma Blastgun-- lacks the stability of the superlative Ryza Pattern weapon more commonly deployed on Titans and Stormblades, and generates considerably more waste heat. However, the Omega Pattern also utilises a more compact generator design and force crucible, allowing it to be mounted on smaller super-heavy hulls such as the Macharius Omega Heavy Tank. An Omega Pattern Plasma Blastgun is capable of firing in two main modes, both of which are capable of throwing out huge toroids of plasma that are far larger than the bolts fired by the more common Plasma Cannons. The first mode is a pulsed mode which trades strength for rate of fire, whilst the second maximal mode generates a single devastating blast capable of felling anything short of a Titan. However, due to the weapon’s smaller size, an Omega Pattern Blastgun cannot fire blasts with quite the same large scale as those fired by a standard Plasma Blastgun.
- Plasma Blastgun – Plasma Blastguns are immense Plasma Weapons only found mounted on Titans and on the Stormblade super-heavy tank. Originally designed as a Titan weapon, it can be most commonly be found mounted as an arm weapon on a Reaver-class Titan or Warhound-class Titan, or as a carapace weapon on a Warlord-class Titan. However, the Stormblade design, which was originally designed to fulfil the same "Titan-hunter" role of the Shadowsword, trades the latter’s rare Volcano Cannon for a modified Plasma Blastgun that can be mounted on the tank’s chassis. This is an effective weapon but lacks the awesome power of the Volcano Cannon, meaning its gun crews must fire at a much shorter range to engage their enemy. First developed upon the Forge World of Ryza, the Plasma Blastgun is a devastating weapon capable of vaporising whole armies in a single salvo. On a Stormblade chassis, space created by the removal of the original Volcano Cannon’s redundant main generator and capacitors is used by massive fuel cells which more than adequately power the tank's plasma weaponry. Additional space is also taken up by the weapon's extensive cooling system, and much like its smaller cousin, the Leman Russ Executioner, a Stormblade’s crew are protected by additional heat shielding. The vehicle's larger size also allows for a more efficient main cooling system, making it a more reliable vehicle than the Executioner. A Plasma Blastgun is capable of firing in two main modes, both of which are capable of throwing out huge toroids of plasma that are far larger than the bolts fired by the more common Plasma Cannons and the Omega Pattern Plasma Blastgun. The first mode is a pulsed mode which trades strength for rate of fire, whilst the second maximal mode generates a single devastating blast capable of felling anything short of a Titan.
- Plasma Obliterator - A Plasma Obliterator is the ultimate expression of plasma weaponry -- an apocalyptically powerful weapon capable of unleashing the wrath of a sun's heart onto the battlefield. This cannon is so large that it requires a bastion-sized weapons platform just to hold it. In the 41st Millennium, the wisdom required to create such weapons has been lost to the depths of time, and thus the Plasma Obliterator has become venerated, not just as a gun emplacement, but as a shrine to the Imperial cult. Behind the gun, a giant stylised eagle rears up, a sure sign of the Emperor's unrivalled majesty. The Plasma Obliterator is as much a relic as a war machine as rivets and screw threads sit beside ornamental skulls. The four facings of the Plasma Obliterator are decorated with a frieze depicting a death angel, standing symbolically among writhing flames -- a fitting metaphor for the fiery death it unleashes. Plasma weapons are feared across the galaxy for their capability to destroy their target -- armour, flesh and bone -- in an explosion of super-heat. When the Plasma Obliterator fires, men and aliens are reduced to ash in an eye blink.
- Plasma Destructor – A Plasma Destructor is one of the largest deployable land-based Imperial Plasma Weapons, and is only found mounted as an arm weapon on a Warlord-class Titan, or as a carapace weapon on an Imperator-class Titan. It is similar in power to a Plasma Blastgun, but has a further range and increased rate of fire. A Plasma Destructor is capable of firing in two main modes, both of which throw out huge toroids of plasma that are similar in size to the bolts fired by Plasma Blastguns. The first mode is a pulsed mode which trades strength for a high rate of fire, whilst the second maximal mode generates multiple devastating blasts capable of felling almost anything in its path.
- Plasma Annihilator – A Plasma Annihilator is the largest deployable land-based Imperial Plasma Weapon, and is only found mounted as an arm weapon on Emperor Battle Titans such as the Imperator-class Titan. It is similar in power to a Plasma Blastgun and Plasma Destructor, but has an even further range and an increased rate of fire compared to both as it is linked directly to the Titan’s monstrous plasma reactors. A Plasma Annihilator is capable of firing in two main modes, both of which throw out huge toroids of plasma that are similar in size to the bolts fired by Plasma Blastguns and Plasma Destructors. The first mode is a pulsed mode which trades strength for an extremely high rate of fire, whilst the second maximal mode generates a devastating blast at a still relatively high rate of fire capable of felling anything that stands in the Titan’s path.
- Plasma Bomb – Plasma Bombs are Plasma Weapons designed to be used by Imperial Starhawk bombers to assault enemy capital ships during void combat. When a Starhawk comes in close for its bombing run on a starship's hull, it will often drop flurries of these plasma warheads from its mid-bay bomb-firing cylinders. However, larger forms of Plasma Bombs have also been known to be dropped onto planets, often as part of an orbital bombardment or Exterminatus action.
- Plasma Torpedo – Plasma Torpedo warheads are the standard armament for Imperial Torpedoes used in starship void combat. These systems are designed to blast through a warship’s armoured hull, using their high speed to punch deep into the target vessel. The plasma reactor that powers a Plasma Torpedo’s drive forces it deep into the bowels of the ship and then it overloads, contributing to the fury of the warhead’s detonation. This reduces complexity, making their manufacture comparatively simple. Thus, these torpedoes are the staple of many Imperial Navy warships' armouries. However, larger forms of Plasma Torpedoes have also been known to be dropped onto planets, often as part of an orbital bombardment or Exterminatus action.
- Plasma Lance – Plasma Lances are the most common form of Imperial warship Lance weapon that makes up Imperial Navy Lance batteries. Plasma Lance Batteries are devastating in power and effective at long ranges for pinpoint strikes to penetrate enemy ships' shields and armour.
- Plasma Mortar – Plasma Mortars are rare space defence weapons only found mounted in powerful batteries on Ramilies-class Starforts. They form part of each Starfort’s overwhelming defences and are extremely powerful weapons at long range.
- Plasma Projector (Plasma Battery) – Many Imperial Navy starships are armed with powerful Plasma Batteries of Plasma Projectors which hurl out great balls of plasma energy to decimate enemy warships. The Hecutor Pattern Plasma Battery is an ancient variant of plasma macro-weaponry that refocuses the power of a plasma blast, concentrating it into a compressed packet that can be fired over extremely long distances. It is rare to see these on any but the oldest vessels, meaning many are found on Heretic vessels lost to the forces of Chaos millennia ago. Few warships can match the power requirements necessary to equip a full broadside of these weapons, so these weapons are almost exclusively the providence of Battleships and larger warships. The Tyrant-class Cruiser is also most notable for its Plasma Projectors, for its super-charged Plasma Batteries are able to project its plasma blasts considerably further than comparable cruiser weapons, whilst retaining the same weight of fire at close quarters.
- Plasma Culverin - A Plasma Culverin is a type of heavy Plasma Weapon deployed by the Adeptus Mechanicus' Kataphron Battle Servitors, particularly the variant known as the Kataphron Destroyer. Plasma Culverins sacrifice the range of their cannon pattern equivalents in exchange for a higher rate of fire. Only the Adeptus Mechanicus dare coax such rampant destruction from their Plasma Weapons, yet to the Adepts of the Forge World of Ryza in particular, the scars they leave on wielder and war zone alike are considered quite normal.
- Nova Cannon – Nova Cannons are a classification of exceptionally powerful weaponry that can only be mounted upon capital ships. Mounted below the heavily armoured prows of Imperial Navy Cruisers and Battleships, Nova Cannons have few equals in terms of their range or destructive power. While variation exists, a typical Nova Cannon consists of an array of potent gravimetric impellers designed to accelerate a projectile to a fraction of the speed of light. These projectiles vary more than the nature of the cannons themselves, although the most common comes in the form of sophisticated plasma warheads which burn with the ferocity of a small star for a fraction of a second. In any case, a well-used Nova Cannon is a terrifying weapon to face, as much a psychological tool as a weapon. These weapons, however, are often ill-favoured by the Imperial Navy, with most starship captains preferring to utilise the more traditional torpedoes. Those few who favour the weapon understand that it is difficult to use and often rendered useless at close ranges. The Ryza Pattern Nova Cannon variant uses highly unstable plasma-based macro-bombs. These weapons are even more power-hungry than the standard Stygies-pattern, but are believed to be slightly more effective as well. With this additional power does come some additional questions of stability, as weaponising such a huge quantity of plasma carries its own dangers.
Most Chaos forces utilise corrupted and tainted versions of Imperial Plasma Weapons. However, in essence, these Plasma Weapons are still the same, albeit often more archaic and improvised in design due their prevalent origin during the era of the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium.
- Plasma Pistol – See above.
- Plasma Gun – See above.
- Combi-Plasma Gun– See above.
- Plasma Cannon – See above.
- Plasma Blastgun – See above.
- Plasma Destructor – See above.
- Plasma Annihilator – See above.
- Plasma Bomb – See above.
- Plasma Torpedo –See above.
- Plasma Lance – See above.
- Plasma Projector (Plasma Battery) – See above.
- Nova Cannon – See above.
- Ectoplasma Cannon – Ectoplasma Cannons are Chaotic variants of standard Plasma Cannons that channel the raw daemonic energy of the Warp into searing, cometary blasts that make a noise like the howls of the damned. Harnessing such energies can sometimes prove as dangerous to the wielder as to the target. Anything hit by an Ectoplasma Cannon is enveloped by screaming, tortured souls that dance in the flames. Because of their daemonic nature, the blasts from Ectoplasma Cannons are far more deadly than that from a normal Plasma Cannon. Ectoplasma Cannons are usually only found mounted as arm and mouth weapons on Forgefiend Daemon Engines.
Whilst the Adepts of the Imperium have attempted to harness plasma technology for millennia, only the Eldar have truly mastered its potential; for unlike the extremely hazardous Plasma Weapons used by Imperial troops, the Plasma Weapons of the Eldar are both sophisticated and safe to use. This is no more evident than with their Starcannons and similar weapons, which capture the fury of burning plasma in complex containment fields which are never at risk of overheating or explosion. To the Eldar it is further testament to the idiocy of Man that he has created a weapon that frequently maims or even kills the wielder.
- Starcannon – Starcannons are the most common type of Plasma Weapon utilised by the Eldar, and unlike Imperial Plasma Weapons, Starcannons have no crude flaws in their design and are extremely stable, allowing them to maintain a more constant rate of fire. Each weapon's plasma core produces the incandescent heat of a sun, but sophisticated containment fields ensure that the weapon remains cool to the touch. The most common type of Starcannon is mounted on Eldar skimmercraft and vehicles, and is the equivalent in power to an Imperial Plasma Gun. However, larger Starcannons are the most common form of macro-battery weapon used by Eldar starships. Each Starcannon battery consists of clustered plasma generators mounted in turrets, and each is far more powerful than the crew-served weapons of the same name used by Eldar infantry and light vehicles. As accurate as they are deadly, Starcannon batteries can wreck horrific damage on enemy vessels with the preciseness of their fire.
- Suncannon - A Suncannon is a scaled-up version of the more common Starcannon and is only used by Eldar Wraithknights due to their immense size and power. Capable of annihilating even the most heavily armoured infantry with ease, the plasma pulses the Suncannon fires are capable of vaporising multiple targets within wide areas at once.
- Eldar Missile Launcher Plasma Missile – Eldar Missile Launchers are capable of firing a Plasma Missile round that is roughly the equivalent to an Imperial Missile Launcher’s Frag Missile. However, due to the Eldar's plasma technology being naturally superior to that of the Imperium, Eldar Plasma Missiles have better armour penetration abilities and the dangerous energies they leave behind after they detonate can pin down enemies for some time.
- Plasma Grenade – Plasma Grenades are a highly advanced type of assault grenade commonly employed by Eldar assault troops that can be thrown to create a destructive plasma blast. Whilst used in a similar way to Imperial Frag Grenades, Eldar Plasma Grenades have naturally superior armour penetration effects when thrown.
- Plasma Torpedo – Plasma Torpedoes are an Eldar starship weapon used to back up their advanced Laser and Plasma Weapon batteries. Most commonly fired from keel Torpedo tubes, Eldar Plasma Torpedoes make use of highly sophisticated technologies that allow them to hone in with unerring accuracy onto weak points in an enemy ship’s hull, before detonating their powerful warheads to inflict maximum damage.
- Spear of Light – A Spear of Light is an Eldar Craftworld defence weapon that consists of a linear accelerator which hurls plasma charges at nearly the speed of light; it is similar to an Imperial Nova Cannon, albeit with far more force due to the weapon system’s sheer size. A Spear of Light is primarily used by a Craftworld to eliminate large objects in its path, such as moonlets and small planetoids, although it can also be used as a slow and devastating weapon against enemy warships in void combat, where it is easily capable of vaporising even a Battleship in a single shot.
- Bio-plasma – Bio-plasma is a potent close-ranged Tyranid Biomorph -- often engineered by the Hive Mind into Tyranid Carnifexes -- that is capable of unleashing a potent short-ranged attack upon their foes. With this Biomorph, a Tyranid organism gains the ability to internally energise a form of organically-created plasma that can be vomited forth as a burning and blinding ball of incandescent green energy. Each ball of plasma has the equivalent force to a blast from an Imperial Plasma Cannon, but can only be hurled only a short distance. Bio-plasma is formed from a highly corrosive exothermic chemical that releases massive amounts of heat once it is released from the Bio-plasma organ within the Tyranid bioform. Shortly before the plasma is launched, the bioform will usually let out loud screams as the projectile makes its way from its belly through the creature and out its gaping maw. This high-pitched scream is often the last thing the Carnifex's prey ever hears. The Screamer Killer variant Carnifex bioform is most notable for its more advanced evolution of the Bio-plasma biomorph. Their characteristic high-pitched screaming is caused by rasping plates in their oesophagus, which are used to energize Bio-plasma in their gut. However, instead of launching this as a ball, the ‘vomit’ acts as a deadly short range Flamer-like weapon instead. Screamer Killers are also capable of using an electrical field around their claws to build up an incandescent Bio-plasma ball before launching it at a target over longer ranges. Massive Bio-plasma-emitting spines can also be found on Tyranid bio-ships. These spines emit gargantuan balls of Bio-plasma that can devastate enemy voidcraft. Bio-plasma spines serve as effective short-range weapons batteries in void combat for Tyranid bio-ships.
The Tau, whilst a relatively young race in the grand scale of time, have advanced extraordinarily rapidly and have already perfected many different forms of Plasma Weapon technology and use it to a great extent on the battlefield. The Tau variant of Plasma Weapon technology, which they refer to as Pulse Weapons , is commonly utilised by the warriors of the Tau Empire's military Fire Caste. Pulse Weapons make use of micro-pulsed induction fields to propel a particle across a distance. The particle reacts by breaking down after being exposed to the effect of the field to create a plasma pulse as it leaves the barrel, thus allowing for lethal bursts of plasma to be fired over astonishing ranges. Whilst Plasma Weapons technology is used by many of the advanced intelligent races of the Milky Way Galaxy, despite its unstable nature, the Tau favour this form of the technology, which foregoes a degree of stopping power for the increased safety of the operator.
- Pulse Pistol – Pulse Pistols are the smallest form of Tau Pulse Weapon, and utilises the same pulse technology to accelerate plasma at high power. Whilst it retains the same strength as larger Pulse Weapons such as Pulse Rifles and Pulse Carbines, the weapons smaller size means it has a greatly reduced range. Pulse Pistols are most often issued to Tau personnel as a hold-out weapon for use in desperate situations.
- Pulse Rifle – The Pulse Rifle is the standard weapon issued to Tau Fire Warriors on the frontline, and is far more powerful than many of the standard weapons issued to the mainline infantry of many other major races in the Milky Way Galaxy. A Pulse Rifle uses an induction field to propel a particle that reacts to the effect of the field by breaking down into a plasma pulse as it leaves the barrel. The linear accelerators that propel this plasma pulse allow for shots to be made with great accuracy over extreme ranges, and the simple speed of the projectile is often enough to punch through enemies in its path. A Pulse Rifle's long twin barrels also feature a recoil absorber weight mounted towards the end, which completely steadies the weapon in even the shakiest of hands.
- Pulse Carbine – A Pulse Carbine is a Tau Pulse Weapon that is very similar to the Pulse Rifle, except that it sacrifices the latter’s long barrel and range for better portability and the chance to mount an underslung Photon Grenade launcher. Most often issued to Fire Warrior squads which are deployed in urban environments, the weapon’s additional pinning abilities are immensely useful in close quarters fighting and room to room sweeping. Tau Gun Drones are also armed with Pulse Carbines as standard, giving them powerful weaponry that can be brought to bear once they have used their mobility to get into position.
- Kroot Rifle and Kroot Gun Pulse Ammunition – Since the Kroot have joined the Tau Empire, the Tau have adapted their weapons to fire a charged pulse round supplied by them, instead of relying on standard Kroot ammunition that is fired using primitive chemical propellants. This new ammunition gives Kroot Weapons far greater stopping power and armour penetration, making Kroot wariors fearsome enemies at range as well as in close combat.
- Pulse Submunitions Rifle – Pulse Submunitions Rifles are advanced variants of the standard Pulse Rifle and can only be wielded by the powerful systems of the XV9 Hazard Battlesuit. Pulse Submunition Rifles fire rounds that affect large areas and can bypass cover effectively.
- Burst Cannon – Multi-barreled weapons capable of sustaining very high rates of fire, Burst Cannons are an offshoot of Tau Pulse Weapon technology. They are usually mounted on Tau Battlesuits and vehicles, providing heavy anti-infantry support. Burst Cannons have four barrels and are short-ranged, like Pulse Carbines, though this is deficiency is offset by the maneuverability of the Tau units commonly armed with them. Long-barrelled Burst Cannons are variants of standard Burst Cannons usually mounted on Tau aircraft, and possess almost double the range due to their extended barrel lengths.
- Heavy Burst Cannon – Heavy Burst Cannons are larger variants of standard Burst Cannons that are only mounted as primary arm weapons on the experimental XV104 Riptide Battlesuit. A Heavy Burst Cannon possess six large barrels with extended lengths, and are capable of ferocious rates of fire that can mow down enemy hordes with ease. A Heavy Burst Cannon can also draw upon an XV104’s Dark Matter Nova Reactor to nova-charge its power, allowing for a devastating hail of pulse rounds that can crack even the toughest of armour with ease.
- Plasma Rifle – Plasma Rifles are the Tau equivalent of Imperial Plasma Guns, albeit sacrificing a modicum of the Imperial weapon's power for increased safety. Plasma Rifles are powerful weapons that are often used to kill heavily armoured infantry, and are most commonly wielded by Tau Battlesuits, such as the XV8 Crisis Battlesuit.
- Plasma Cannon – So far, Tau Plasma Cannons have only been mounted as a variant turret on Hammerhead gunships, and were first identified by the Imperium during the Taros Campaign where it is believed they were being field-tested. They use the same plasma technology as that incorporated into Tau Plasma Rifles, but are far larger in size. Because of this, they are more powerful and also fire more rapidly. However, a Plasma Cannon sacrifices some of its armour penetrating power for this advantage, making them similar in power to Ion Cannons.
Minor Xenos Races
- Hrud Fusil - Little is known of the reclusive and dangerous race known as the Hrud other than that they dwell only in darkness and possess strange, Warp-based technology which allows them to walk between worlds and even corrupt the flow of time with their baleful presence. The Hrud Fusil is one of a scant few Hrud artefacts that occasionally come up for sale and is always in high demand. It is a form of “plasma musket” that uses an unfathomable mechanism to phase a plasma bolt between realspace and the Empyrean, bypassing its target’s defences. Though somewhat unpredictable, the weapon’s unique qualities make it useful for Assassins and Inquisitorial agents alike. Fusils traded on the black market most often have been crudely modified to accept Imperial Plasma Flasks. However, if a Fusil’s mechanism becomes badly damaged, it cannot be repaired by human hands, for its technologies are beyond the current understanding of Mankind.
- Ulumeathi Plasma Syphon - Whilst not a form of Plasma Weapon, a Ulumeathi Plasma Syphon is a rare form of defensive technology employed only by the Inquisitors of the Ordo Xenos that can destabilise Plasma Weapons. Each Ulumeathi Plasma Syphon consists of an array of alien power crystals that generate a distorting resonance on the frequencies of energy used by most Plasma Weapons. This resonance wave causes Plasma Weapons within the short range of the Plasma Syphon to fire much more wildly, making them all but impossible to aim and keep on target. Where the Inquisition obtained such xenos artefacts is unknown, though these devices are powerful assets in battle when used by Radical Inquisitors.
- Black Crusade: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 158
- Codex: Blood Angels (5th Edition), pg. 58
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition), pg. 65
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (5th Edition), pp. 82-83
- Codex: Dark Angels (6th Edition), pg. 83
- Codex: Dark Angels (4th Edition), pg. 51
- Codex: Eldar (6th Edition), pg. 63
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition), pg. 22
- Codex: Grey Knights (5th Edition), pp. 58, 62
- Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pp. 49, 69
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), pp. 99, 1101
- Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition), pg. 60
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 65-66
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pp. 26-27, 29
- Codex: Tau (3rd Edition), pg. 19
- Codex: Tyranids (5th Edition), pg. 46
- Codex: Tyranids (4th Edition), pg. 32
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 134, 142
- Dark Heresy: Disciples of the Dark Gods (RPG), pg. 74
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 147-148, 151, 157-158, 177, 366
- Deathwatch: Rites of Battle (RPG), pg. 135
- Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos (RPG), pg. 31
- Imperial Armour Volume 1 – Imperial Guard (2nd Edition), pp. 20-21, 106-107, 120-121
- Imperial Armour Volume Five - The Siege of Vraks - Part One, pg. 150
- Imperial Armour Volume Six - The Siege of Vraks - Part Two, pg. 184
- Imperial Armour Apocalypse, pg. 8
- Imperial Armour Apocalypse (2nd Edition), pp. 8, 20
- Imperial Armour Apocalypse 2, pg. 38
- Inquisitor Rulebook, pg. 64
- Only War: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 180
- Rogue Trader: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 123
- Rogue Trader: Battlefleet Koronus (RPG), pp. 8, 15, 34, 37, 85, 140
- Rogue Trader: Koronus Bestiary (RPG), pg. 48
- The Horus Heresy - Book One: Betrayal (Imperial Armour), pp. 196, 232, 270
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 55-57, 62
- Warhammer 40,000 Wargear (4th Edition), pp. 9, 26
- Warhammer 40,000 Munitorum: Plasma Guns (Digital Edition)
- White Dwarf Weekly #63 (11 Apr 2015), "Plasma Obliterator," & "The Rules - Plasma Obliterator," pp. 12-13, 45, 53-52
- Space Marine (Video Game)
- Sons of Dorn (Novel), by Chris Roberson
- Codex Adeptus Mechanicus - Cult Mechanicus (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), pp. 234, 237
- Emperor-class Titan Apocalypse Datasheet
- Games Workshop Online Store - Plasma Obliterator Aquila Strongpoint Web Bundle