Created By: Epiblast on March 30, 2009
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Lightning Gun

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In Real Life, for electric current to flow there must be a difference in electrical potential. There must be negative and positive termini for current to flow between. Not so in fiction. Quite often in fiction, it will be possible for some device or some person to simply fire a lightning bolt more or less straight forward toward another presumably electrically neutral object, with no sign of building up charge separation beforehand. It is very rare to see lightning weapons or electricity-based Elemental Powers that have electricity behaving the way it does in Real Life.

Projectiles that merely look like lightning but are clearly supposed to be something else should not be included.

Examples:
  • The Matrix features guns that fire lightning bolts as common weapons in the real world.
  • Every Shock and Awe user I've ever seen qualifies, although I'm sure there must be a few that don't work this way. It may be justified if the "lightning" is really some kind of magical effect instead of actual electricity.

Suggestions for other titles are welcome.
Community Feedback Replies: 43
  • March 30, 2009
    Alucard
    The Arc Charger in Resistance: Fall of Man. Relatec to Lightning Can Do Anything.
  • March 30, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    The Wunderland Treatymaker is a Wave Motion Gun version of this.
  • March 30, 2009
    Haven
    One of the Standard FPS Guns. Like the entry says, usually an automatic weapon. (There are quite a few examples there)

    In Unreal Tournament 2004, notably, it's a sniper rifle for some reason.
  • March 30, 2009
    Epiblast
    @Frodo Goofball Co TV: Well... sort of. It's not a very good example, since unlike the other examples it actually generates charge separation to work:

    "The Wunderland Treatymaker was used only once. It was a gigantic version of what is commonly a mining tool: a disintegrator that fires a beam to suppress the charge on the electron. Where a disintegrator beam falls, solid matter is rendered suddenly and violently positive. It tears itself into a fog of monatomic particles.

    Wunderland built, and transported into the Warhead system, an enormous disintegrator firing in parallel with a similar beam to suppress the charge on the proton.

    The two beams touched down thirty miles apart on Canyon's surface. Rock and kzinti factories and housing spewed away as dust, and a solid bar of lightning flowed between the two points. The weapon chewed twelve miles deep into the planet, exposing magma throughout a region the size and shape of Baja California on Earth."

    An archetypal example of this trope would have the weapon just fire lightning straight forward somehow.
  • March 31, 2009
    forthur
    In Stardust, lightning is captured to use in this way. In the movie Tristan uses captured lightning to attack a witch. It doesn't go very straight, though, and behaves a bit more like real lightning.
  • March 31, 2009
    Arivne
    This has been YKTTWed before, but I can't find it.

    Tabletop RPG

    Videogames
    • The old Xenocide arcade game had a Lightning Gun as an available weapon.
  • March 31, 2009
    Nate the Great
    The Tale Spin pilot. They even call it a lightning gun.
  • March 31, 2009
    Dante668
    Would normal stuff like tasers count, or does it have to specifically shoot an arc of electricity at its target?
  • March 31, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    Real Life: alleged mad scientist Nikola Tesla apparently claimed to have invented one, as did some corporations. And there's also this guy.
  • March 31, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Unagi of Sushi Pack frequently throws electricity at his opponents, and in one episode he was able to target random objects (he'd gained the ability to turn them into living things).
  • March 31, 2009
    dkellis
    The Scientist/Priest in The Chaos Machine SNES game uses one of these.
  • March 31, 2009
    LarryD
    Gilgamesh Wulfenbach in Girl Genius has one. And it's been a Chekhov's Gun. And he has used it (in conjunction with other devices) to call down lightning.
  • March 31, 2009
    BlackDragon
  • March 31, 2009
    Zaka51
    Crypto's basic weapon, the Zap-O-Matic. In one game, he also gets a gun that shoots ball lightning.

    The Thundershock gun from Metal Slug 7.
  • April 1, 2009
    Epiblast
    @Dante668: I'm thinking of stuff that shoots electricity across a sizable gap of air at an object that shows no sign of being charged. Note that a taser makes contact with the target at two points and sets up a current between those points.

    @Frodo Goofball Co TV: Tesla's particle beam weapon is very interesting, although I note that while it uses electricity to accelerate them it actually ends up firing neutral atoms at the target; they do damage with kinetic energy rather than electric shock. The electrolaser is a bit closer, as it actually does damage via electric shock.

    It does seem like I was overly cut-and-dried about the differences between fictional versus real electrical weapons in the initial post, as worded. I recognize that, in theory, there are ways to make a weapon based around generating an electrical current through air or a similarly heavily resisting medium to damage a target. This trope is mainly about the idea that lightning is a "thing" that you can shoot at objects and doesn't behave all that differently from a bullet, an arrow, or a shell; at its margins it may blend into stuff with a stronger basis in real physics (or internally consistent, well-defined fictional physics that doesn't redefine how electricity works) like the electrolaser or the Wunderland Treatymaker, although these are not core examples of the trope.
  • April 1, 2009
    calronmoonflower
    Role Playing Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons: One of the many magical effects that you can apply to weapons, is the ability to deal electricity damage.
  • April 1, 2009
    Jupiah
    @calronmoonflower - That's not this trope, because the electrified weapons actually make contact with your target. This trope is about lightning that flies through the air on it's own, disregarding real physics to hit it's target. A wizard's lightning spell fits better, but that has the excuse of A Wizard Did It.
  • April 1, 2009
    calronmoonflower
    If you cannot complete a circuit, then it shouldn't work. Shocking weapons do not have positive and negative poles for the electricity to flow between. The shocking properery still has an excuse though.

    How about more Dn D examples. Blue dragons have electic breath weapons. Shocker lizards electrocute their prey.
  • April 2, 2009
    Thande
    Tesla Coil weapons from Command And Conquer Red Alert and its sequels.
  • April 2, 2009
    WizardJoni
    Orks in Warhammer 40,000 have the Shokk Gun.
  • April 3, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Wow does have positive and negative change effects.like anyone really cares...
  • April 3, 2009
    Made of Meat
    Shock And Load, anyone?

    • In Jasper Morello, Kovacs uses a Steam Punk variation to shoot the creature when it attacks Jasper. Electricity guns are apparently commonplace. There are even advertisements for them on the website.
  • April 3, 2009
    Sabre_Justice
    The closest thing we have in Real Life so far are tasers.
  • April 3, 2009
    LickyLindsay
    Does Zeus count?

    EDIT: I see he's under Shock And Awe.
  • April 3, 2009
    SevenMass
    Nah, lightning bolts that spring from one point to an other and shock damage through touching can be explained somewhat, all that this requires is that a static charge is built up. Even if the technique used to accomplish that is Functional Magic or Handwaved with Techno Babble, that would still not be this trope as it is proposed.

    A lightning gun really shoots streams of lightning.

    The device Gil uses in Girl Genius is a lightning generator (that makes the air static) combined with some kind of directing device (his rod) Heavily handwaved, but not a lightning gun.

    The device in The Matrix shoots a lightning stream forward.

    Frankly, I believe the gun from The Matrix should fall under Wavemotion Gun

    Or maybe we can say that the trope as it is proposed is a Wavemotion Gun.
  • April 3, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Radioactive Zombie - Unreal Series had this replace the sniper rifle in UT 2 K 3, and after fan demand, it was placed alongside the Sniper rifle in UT 2 K 4 and UC 3. The tradeoff of it being more powerful is that your enemies now know where you are.
  • April 3, 2009
    A Guy
    The Volt Auto Rifle from Command And Conquer: Renegade.
  • April 3, 2009
    Epiblast
    @Seven Mass: This is not the same as Wave Motion Gun. Some individual examples may be Wave Motion Guns, but the majority of the examples that have come up thus far appear not to be one. The defining feature of a Wave Motion Gun, as described in the article, is that it's a ludicrously large and powerful beam of energy of some kind, capable of very large-scale destruction. Not all Lightning Gun examples are this.
  • April 3, 2009
    TB Tabby
    Don Karnage uses one in an episode of Tale Spin.
  • April 4, 2009
    SevenMass
    @Epiblast, ok I get the point, so maybe this is not a wave motion gun. But then is still sounds a lot like an Energy Gun or something.

    Do Non-lightning energy guns count?
  • April 4, 2009
    Zaka51
    I doubt it.
  • April 4, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    • Soviet Tesla technology in Red Alert computer games.
  • April 5, 2009
    Arivne
    Anime
    • Bleach Bount Assault on Soul Society arc, episode #108. During his final battle with Ichigo, Jin Kariya reveals that his doll's control over wind allows it to generate and throw lightning at his opponents. He wears it on his arm and points it at Ichigo while shooting lightning bolts at him.
  • April 7, 2009
    Epiblast
    "Do Non-lightning energy guns count?"

    No. This is specifically about electric weapons, and even more specifically about weapons that appear to fling electricity straight forward.
  • April 7, 2009
    rsm109-2
    The shuriken-and-lightning gun from Painkiller that Yahtzee seemed to like might fit, but I don't know enough about the game to be sure.
  • April 15, 2009
    Epiblast
    @calronmoonflower: That was more or less my point in making this YKTTW, yes. I'm not a D&D player, so I don't know all the details, but it does seem like the electric damage effect in general could potentially count marginally, if only because, as you said, whether or not it works has nothing to do with whether it completes a circuit between positive and negative termini. That said, the most archetypal examples of this trope are projectile weapons, of which the blue dragon's breath sounds like a fine example.

    I'm going to launch this soon. If anyone has anything they think should be added or changed, whether in the examples, the description, or the name, please let me know ASAP. I'd love to hear suggestions for names in particular, since while the current name is at least straightforward, not all examples of this trope are really guns.
  • July 26, 2009
    cheat-master31
    The Wunderwaffe DG-2 in Call Of Duty World at War. It hits an enemy with a bolt of lightning, then reflects off the enemy and hits any other enemies near by with the same one hit kill power, with up to ten enemies being killed with one shot.
  • July 26, 2009
    henke37
    The game InnerSpace has a battery weapon that fires batteries that in turn fires lightning. But it does (try to) comply with electric charge rules. It's still devastating.
  • July 26, 2009
    calronmoonflower
    This still here. I'll resubmit the Dn D example to be more in line with this trope suggestion.

    Live Action TV

    Roleplaying Games.
    • In Dungeons And Dragons has weapon enhancements that deal electricity or lightning damage can be applied to ranged weapons that then deal the damage via the ammunition.
  • July 26, 2009
    BrainSewage
    the Emaciator in Turok: Rage Wars.
  • August 12, 2009
    Epiblast
    Holy balls, I completely forgot about this one. (Bows head in shame.) Facepalming aside, does anyone have any new recommendations regarding the new name? If no changes are suggested to the article in the next 24 hours, I'll launch. In particular, if anyone thinks this should be merged into another entry rather than getting its own entry, tell me now.

    I kind of like Shock And Load, although it's a bit close to Shock And Awe for comfort.
  • August 12, 2009
    zevans
    In case you can't decide whether the [[Wunderland Treatymaker]] counts: that weapon started as a Slaver Disintegrator in earlier Known Space novels. The Puppeteers strapped two of them together with opposite polarity and Crossed The Streams.
  • August 13, 2009
    Taeraresh
    Considering its name, the Thunderbolt from Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky might fit. I don't think we ever get to see it fired, or get told what it does, but it is mentioned that it can "kill at almost any line-of-sight range".
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