Follow TV Tropes


Arbitrary Maximum Range

Go To

"I dare to assume you ignorant jackasses know that space is empty. Once you fire this hunk of metal, it keeps going till it hits something. That can be a ship, or the planet behind that ship. It might go off into deep space and hit somebody else in ten thousand years. If you pull the trigger on this, you are ruining someone's day, somewhere and sometime. That is why you check your damn targets! That is why you wait for the computer to give you a damn firing solution! That is why, Serviceman Chung, we do not 'eyeball it!' This is a weapon of mass destruction! You are not a cowboy shooting from the hip!"
— The Gunnery Chief from Mass Effect 2, defying this trope

Weapons used on an atmosphere-bearing planet (like the one you live on) will suffer air resistance, gravity and other restricting factors. In space, there's no such thing. However, the word "maximum range" will frequently pop up in space battles, which makes no sense. All weapons in space have unlimited range. This can be especially jarring if laser beams are immediately cut off and bullets disappear when they reach maximum range, which happens frequently in video games.

Of course, weapons having a maximum effective range makes sense. At great distances, lasers can't focus as sharply due to diffraction and the inverse-square law and may not be able to cut through enemy armor; particles beams bloom out due to thermal and/or electromagnetic effects and suffer the same problem; missiles run out of fuel for course corrections and can be dodged or intercepted; etc. Weapons using FTL drives or special force fields may also run out of energy after a while. If the sci-fi is particularly hard a maximum effective range may also be justified in that without FTL sensors, it becomes increasingly hard to tell where the target actually is as the range increases, due to the time taken for the light or other emissions being detected to reach. The fact that energy weapons would take the same amount of time again to reach the target, and projectile weapons would take longer, makes the situation worse. Guidance systems onboard the weapons would be limited by fuel, with better guidance systems reducing the size of warheads, or in the case of purely kinetic weapons, mass. And this is without considering the computational power needed to develop a firing solution for possibly relativistic battles.


Particularly egregious in shows where vessels are depicted fighting at a few hundred meters, where in real life energy weapons would allow them to do battle at hundreds if not thousands of kilometers. This is often done in visual media so that the audience can actually see both sides' vessels in the same shot, something that makes the flow of the battle a lot easier to understand despite also making it much less realistic.

This is one of the Acceptable Breaks from Reality in videogames. Imagine that your game engine takes into account velocity, momentum and other relevant factors of every single projectile fired in a battle. Now imagine you have, say, over nine thousand missiles flying. Add in More Dakka, Beam Spam, what-have-you. Then remember you need to keep track of the moving ships, the effects of successful hits, etc. Computer performance is going to crash and burn if you want to be hardcore realistic about itnote . Neither are computers typically capable of handling the sheer scale of engagements waged at the distance of tens of thousands of kilometers, and even assuming they would, such battles would probably boil down to Hot Sub-on-Sub Action Recycled IN SPACE!, where the first ship to detect the enemy is likely to win the engagement by the virtue of shooting first, or a matter of who has more weapon throughput, Deflector Shields and better damage control, making the player's skills in either piloting or unit management a complete non-factor.


See also Short-Range Long-Range Weapon, Short-Range Shotgun, Old-School Dogfight. Contrast Arbitrary Minimum Range.

Examples (and Aversions):

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Averted in Starship Operators. Ships move toward each other to get to optimum range, which is still usually several hundreds of kilometers, before firing. The first episode shows the effect of distance on the weapons with a railgun that is highly inaccurate (because it's being fired at a target 900,000 km away, and it does become more accurate the closer Amaterasu is to it) but has enough ammo that it acts as suppressive fire on the Amaterasu, forcing them to hide behind an asteroid until they get close enough to use their plasma cannon.
  • Averted for the most part in Toward the Terra. Several space battles are shown to be taking place at such distances that the opposing sides can't even see each other. At one point a Kill Sat is fired at a target on one planet from the orbit of another.
    • They also have a Death Star-like planet killer. To keep their target from noticing it before its fired, they park it behind a gas giant in the same solar system and fire right through it at the target planet.
  • Space Battleship Yamato - the Wave-Motion Gun seemingly can only be used when the Yamato is close enough to the target to risk being caught up in the explosion itself. Enemy weapons are explicitly stated to be longer-ranged. One assumes that the difference is in the targeting systems, not the strength of the beam itself, but it's never explained in the series.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes operate with a max effective range for its beam and missile weaponry, explained as a combination of problems with targeting at such extreme ranges and diffraction of the energy weapons.
    • The ranges for beam weaponry (in space) are mentioned to be that of a few million kilometres though. Arbitrary, but nonetheless huge.
    • Played straight for the Iserlohn Fortress' Wave-Motion Gun, the Thor's Hammer, which has been stated to have a maximum range that has been extensively studied from previous battles and losses by the Free Planets Alliance to the point that entire strategies are designed around and beyond its firing arc.
  • Justified in Gundam, particularly the Universal Century series, where the second biggest influence on the setting are the Minovsky Particles that, among other effects, tend to play merry hell with non-visual targeting methods (and possibly even those as well). Most other Gundam settings still use similar ranges out of pure habit, even where Minovsky particles are not an explicit part of the setting.
    • Averted in Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam: Steel Seven, where the Jupiter Empire builds a Colony Laser in orbit around Jupiter they intend to shoot at Earth. We'd never seen Colony Lasers used at such distances, but there's no reason they couldn't be, and the threat is treated as very serious. The heroes don't manage to stop it from firing, but they do manage to mess up its aim by a tenth of a degree... which causes the laser to miss Earth by several million miles. Targeting at such distances needs to be extremely precise.
  • In A Certain Scientific Railgun the title character's signature ability (throwing a coin at hypersonic velocity) has a maximum effective range of 50 meters, as the coin vaporizes from air friction. However, this doesn't happen instantly, which is brought up during the first Railgun SS when she still manages to damage her target since it was close enough for the coin's melted remains to barely hit it.
    • 50 meters is also the extent of her ability to manipulate magnetic fields. Within that range, she's holding the coin together herself despite the friction - conversely, if she's using a larger and heavier object that can handle moving at that speed, her max range increases due simply to inertia. In the anime, she is at one point seen using a minivan-sized robot-fist as ammunition, and it's shown to fly far out into outer space.
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch experiments with his Geass to discover its limitations, and finds that there's a maximum range. In the DVD Commentary the Japanese voice cast wonders how he figured this out (since the Geass requires a verbal command) and Yukana suggests he and his "guinea pigs" used cell phones like walkie talkies ("150 meters, check. 160, no good.")

  • Averted as strongly as possible in one of Paul Chadwick's "100 Horrors" backup features collected with Concrete; it describes a vaporizing ray, fired from an immeasurable distance an immeasurably long time ago intersecting the earth, instantaneously boring a gigantic hole through the planet. At the edges, cities, buildings, pets and people are neatly sliced down the middle. Any ray would probably diffuse to a large degree after that amount of time. But maybe that was diffused...
  • Implied aversion in Invincible; rumor says that the Space Rider has a weapon whose beams are still traveling through the cosmos and destroying everything in their path.
  • Averted in Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men: the ruler of a distant planet plans to destroy Earth by launching a huge missile through space to shatter our planet. The X-Men find about this and plan to stop the missile by messing up with its engine. Only after it's launched do they find out that it's not a missile, but a giant bullet. There's no engine to mess up with, the momentum gained in launching the bullet is enough to carry it to Earth.
  • Speculated to have happened in the Dan Dare story Terra Nova. The ship is struck by some mysterious small objects. What they were will never be known, but the scientist Galileo McHoo suggests that they could have been bullets fired millions of years ago in a space battle in a distant galaxy.

  • The aversion is invoked in one author's "realistic" take on how a Ranma ½/Dragon Ball Z crossover would go. It involved Ranma sparring with Ryoga and suddenly collapsing dead from a single missed shot from a beam launched by Piccolo in a battle several miles away.
  • In Absolute Power Sucks Absolutely, Maxime is able to do almost anything thanks to his Reality Warper powers, but he can only affect things that are within 100 m of him and he can't extend this distance by any means. He can't even make portals for himself to travel farther than 100 meters even though he can do it for others.

  • Real Genius inverts the trope. The plot involves a project to develop a five megawatt laser for use in a Kill Sat, but it ignores the problems of attenuation and scattering that would occur in Real Life for lasers fired in an atmosphere — in other words, the laser has an unrealistically high range.
  • Star Wars, particularly Star Wars Legends, presents range limits as more the limits of the computer targeting programs than the actual weapons themselves. The various video game adaptations usually play it straight, though.
    • Episode III has a space battle at point-blank range as the first scene in the movie. But this isn't limited to the prequel trilogy — Episode V has two Imperial Star Destroyers very nearly ram into each other while chasing the Millennium Falcon, which shows both remarkable incompetence and that the ships were far too close to their target to begin with.
    • Also, the weapons mounted on ships are repeatedly referred to as lasers in the EU, including "turbolasers" on the capital ships. Although most of the EU's usage is intended to mimic how the original trilogy did things; energy weapons there were relatively short range, and visible. This was reinforced by the X-Wing and TIE Fighter video games, which were based on WWII dogfighting tactics. That said, this is subverted a few times in the SWEU, with one notable example being in the X-Wing books: a pilot points out that proton torpedoes can travel 14 kilometers before running out of fuel and the safeties automatically detonate it, but a fighter's targeting computer can only lock onto a capital ship at 5 kilometers. So he has a bomber squadron fire torpedoes at his own fighter's tracer signal, then he'll try to maneuver so that the capital ship they want to kill is in between him and the less-manuverable torpedoes. It actually works out pretty well, mostly thanks to his ship's droid.
    • Averted at one point in the New Jedi Order series, where a stationary Yuuzhan Vong ship is hit by a single turbolaser beam completely out of nowhere, with no Republic ships in range. They also get reports that a mysterious Republic weapon in another system had fired toward that ship at around the same time, and conclude that the Republic was developing turbolasers capable of instantly firing through Hyperspace. In reality, a normal Republic ship had fired the shot some time before from within the same system as the Vong ship, meticulously calculated to hit at the same time the "mysterious weapon" (actually a fake) fired, as part of a plan to trick the Vong into an ambush.
    • Note also that the weapons are merely called "lasers/turbolasers". Rather than a solid beam of enhanced light, they are bolts of charged plasma. This would surmise that it does, in fact, have a limited range before it loses coherence.
      • Which then causes one to wonder why ships in SW need two types of shields (Particle shields for solid projectiles and energy shields for energy weapons). Since plasma is in fact matter (basically, high-temperature, ionized atoms and electrons), it should be stopped by particle shields.
    • In The Last Jedi the Resistance fleet is able to stay far enough away from the First Order fleet that the First Order's weapons couldn't penetrate their shields.
    • In the new canon, the Thrawn novels fully clarify the range issue. In Thrawn, light cruisers are explicitly stated to be unable to conduct Orbital Bombardment because their weapons' damage falls off so drastically over range that they have to be within the stratosphere (about 50 kilometers from the surface) for their shots to do anything to even unshielded targets. In Thrawn: Treason, an officer comments that a Star Destroyer's guns are ineffective against anything remotely armored past about 1,200 kilometers.
  • Justified in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. The main character has a makeshift gun built by former inmates. Because of its lack of power and available resources, it must be fired at a close range. It's still very effective even if she has to approach her targets before firing.
  • Looper: The guns used by the titular Loopers are designed this way: they can be used at long range, but suffer terrible inaccuracy and quickly lose power at anything more than a few feet. Within those few feet, they are incredibly deadly and powerful.

  • Averted in the Honor Harrington series. Although every book will include some discussion about the range of energy weapons and missiles, it is clearly stated that the range discussed is an effective one, that is, the range from which it's still possible to hit the target.
    • Energy weapons have beam divergence and on-the-way dispersion that tends to limit its effectiveness at the extreme ranges, but the most significant problem is aiming. It's already a major miracle that laser cannons could aim at all, given that targets often move on relativistic speeds and the typical range is light seconds to light minutes, as Weber very consciously averts Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale trope. It doesn't matter how powerful your laser is (and how many gazillions of kilometers it can go) if you have a 99.99% chance of missing anyway.
      • The beam divergence problem is exacerbated by the fact that warships are protected against fire from the sides by gravity 'sidewalls' that weaken incoming fire. At ranges of over 500,000 km an energy beam would be too weakened to do any damage. In cases where the target is not protected by a side (which doesn't happen often against an awake enemy) the effective range is about double that.
    • The missiles' engagement range is objectively much smaller, but the fact that they are homing made them the primary long-range weapon in Honorverse. They are, however, limited by their drive endurance — the missile without fuel has no other choice than coast ballistically, and although much more stealthy, is both a sitting duck for point defense, and has 99.9% chance of simply missing its actively manoeuvring target — at such distances even slightest inaccuracy translates into a huge miss. This was made especially apparent after the invention of the multi-drive missile, which could launch, coast until near the enemy (even if it takes hours to get that far) and then fire off their second drive to attack - giving them virtually unlimited range.
      • Except that since they were too far away to receive useful input from the firing ships targeting computers they were relatively ineffective anyway unless launched in massed salvoes until the development of Project Apollo which gave the firing ship FTL control over them.
  • The turrets in Factory of the Gods operate on their ability to sense people and target them. Their exact range isn't stated, but it's close enough Julian was able to have a full conversation with people on the other side of that range.
  • Also explained in detail in the Vorkosigan Saga. The Vor Game features a space battle in which the interactions between the main weapons systems in use, each featuring different ranges, is explained. Lasers do have infinite range, but the ships of the day have very good anti-laser armor that works unless it is damaged by other weapons systems. Other weapons include physically firing missiles at the enemy, which while they theoretically have infinite range must be propelled or they'll be too easy to dodge, and gravitic lances, whose power decreases by the square of the distance and therefore have a minimal effective range, although their effects are measurable far beyond the distance at which they can do any damage. There are also plasma lances, which can be countered by plasma mirrors (some sort of forcefield that reflects plasma bolts back at the firing ship). The perpetual contest between weapons and countermeasures is such that, at the time of The Vor Game, strategists are once again toying with the idea that ramming will become a starship's primary weapon.
  • Aversion of this trope (and how!) provides the punch line to the short story "The Gun That Shot Too Straight".
  • The RCN series by David Drake averts this trope. Plasma weapons drop in effectiveness with range (at close range a 5-cm cannon can do moderate damage to a corvette, at longer ranges it won't do more than a week or so of solar wind erosion) and scale up in effectiveness with bore diameter. Missiles use their kinetic energy to do damage, so a missile that manages to hit late on in its run will actually be more powerful than one early on - if it hits. (Though, as one of the characters points out, a large lump of iron that hits the target while being pushed at twelve g will still do rending damage even if it isn't going very fast.)
  • Starworld by Harry Harrison has the first space battle in history taking place as part of a rebellion against Earth by its colonies. The rebel admiral points out to the protagonist how energy weapons don't work due to the energy diffusion problem. Although missiles are being used by both sides, the rebels use linear accelerators firing unguided cannon balls to gain the decisive edge, then finish them off with a Flechette Storm of rocket-propelled bullets (fired from the standard infantry weapons of the time) which work well over infinite ranges due to the lack of air resistance.
  • The M-300 grav rifle, used by the ACS in John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata, avert this. The ammo, tiny pellets accelerated by grav drivers, is fired at just below the speed of light, and in or out of an atmosphere the only real limitations, for all practical purposes, are those of targeting system capabilities. In Layman's Terms, if you can target it, you can hit it.
  • Averted in the Humanx Commonwealth series by Alan Dean Foster, which presents a wide variety of space-based weaponry, some with effective ranges measured in intergalactic distances. Even a simple ship-mounted laser has light-second range; the major limiting factor is accuracy.
  • The Hardy Boys: Casefiles book "Flight into Danger" has the boys in an experimental jet with an experimental laser weapon. Since the beam loses efficiency over distance, it's like "hitting [another fleeing jet] with a flashlight" beam. Still gets his attention, though.
  • Averted in The Forever War, by the 10th year of the war (which lasts over 1000 years) missiles (called drones) can already hit targets from across the system, and combat consists of one ship chasing another while both sides throw up curtains of 'drones'. Also, committing more than a single ship to an engagement is considered unusual. All in all, it's about as far from Star Wars as the Denmark Strait was from Salamis.
  • Averted regularly in Iain M. Banks' The Culture series of sci-fi novels, where space battles typically happen at distances best measured in AUs, and all targeting and firing is generally controlled by A.I.s because organic lifeforms simply can't cope with the maths involved to hit anything at that distance.
  • Justified in The Lost Fleet, since the lack of FTL sensors means that any sensor data from a light minute away is exactly a minute old. Since starships normally perform battle maneuvers at speeds around 0.1c, firing at a ship at a distance of more than several light seconds is a waste of ammunition. There are three primary space weapons in the setting: hell-lances (particle beams), grapeshot (Magnetic Weapons), and missiles. They're usually fired at pretty much the same ranges (missiles a bit earlier to make sure all three reach the target at the same time). The Alliance also has the null-field, which is a destructive weapon with an extremely short range. Post-Geary, fleets engage one another at a combined speed of somewhere around 0.2c. While they could move faster, doing so degrades sensor data even more, since, at that point, the speeds are relativistic, which greatly increases the uncertainty over what is going on in space. "Stationary" targets like planets and space stations can be attacked from a significantly longer range with "rocks", since they can't evade the attack.
  • In Star Carrier, battles between capital ships take place at relatively short ranges due to the lack of FTL sensors. Fighters engage one another at even closer ranges. Ubiquitous gravity propulsion means that fighters and missiles can accelerate to a high percentage of the speed of light in a matter of minutes. While fighters don't actually fight at those speeds, a typical tactic when arriving to a system that is known to be occupied by a hostile force is to immediately launch several wings of fighters at 99% of the speed of light in order to get in firing range mere seconds after the light from the arrival of the fleet reaches the enemy sensors, giving them little or no change to react, while the fleet takes longer to get there. FTL travel within a star system is impossible (until later books). Trevor "Sandy" Gray gets his nickname from an innovative tactic he devises during the defense of the Solar System. While still at 0.99c, he has his wing launch their AMSO canisters, which normally launch a cone-shaped spread of "sand" to destroy any incoming missiles. At relativistic speeds, the "sand" particles have enough kinetic energy to rip much of the enemy fleet to shreds before they even know what's happening.
  • Explicitly called out and averted hard in Jean Johnson's Theirs Not to Reason Why. The military develops a laser superweapon. Ia demonstrates why she is the only one who can fire it by pointing out that its range is measured in many light-years, and that over-shoots will definitely ruin someone's day: the area light-years away might be empty at the moment you fire it, but may not be empty when the beam enters the area years from now, as both planets and ships are moving all the time, and only a hyper-powerful precognitive can fire the weapon in a safe direction. Fortunately for the plot, Ia is such a powerful precognitive.
  • Averted in the Doctor Who novel, Only Human where a stray electromagnetic blast from an alien war in a distant solar system has hit a future Earth and long term disabled all electronics.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: The first Romulan episode, "Balance of Terror", has them using an incredibly powerful weapon that fires plasma warheads that can travel at warp speed. The best solution is to accelerate to maximum warp backwards until it dissipates enough for the shields to handle.
    • The makers of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan wanted to have a starship dogfight between the Enterprise and the Reliant, but were initially concerned that it wouldn't make sense since both ships would logically be able to hit each other without having to get close. Thus, circumstances were contrived to make both the film's space battles take place at close range. For the first battle, Kirk lets the Reliant close in on the Enterprise without raising shields because he doesn't realize they've been hijacked, which he later admits was a mistake. In the climax, Kirk lures Khan into a nebula, rendering the sensors on both ships ineffective.
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978) featured laser bolts that would arbitrarily explode after traveling a certain distance.
    • Ditto the late 1970s/early 1980s TV version of Buck Rogers, made by the same production company.
      • Both presumably made so space fighters could fly through flak.
  • In any of the air-battle scenes in Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, a miss with an energy weapon would result in the laser beam exploding in the air just behind the evading target. As if it had hit the matte painting behind them. (My God, man, I think you found that answer we've been searching for.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Abilities clearly based on the victim's visual acuity, such as a Medusa's petrification or a nymph's blinding beauty, nonetheless will have a cutoff range of only 30 to 60 feet. Well, both of those are magical...
    • In old versions, the spell's range is the maximum distance to its point of origin: a fireball without set target flies to its maximum range and detonates as a sphere — unless something interferes. In d20 all spells have an arbitrary cutoff range, and can affect nothing further away than that: a fireball with range of 400' hurled at 400' will make a hemispherical explosion because the half that would go out of range is not allowed to exist.
    • Worse, many senses (including eyesight) have cutoff ranges if you have infravision/darkvision/reviseforeditionvision/tremorsense/blindsense - credible if it was some kind of active scanning sense, but the fluff generally makes clear that it isn't.
    • The same was true for ranged weapons until d20 set a more flexible range limitation in given (but arbitrary) number of range increments.
    • Played straight for various ballistic weapons (likes bows) in most editions. The exact way it works varies, but in general there is a cutoff point where it's impossible to hit and your arrow apparently just drops to the ground. Particularly silly in some cases where a shot a the edge of the weapons range might still have a reasonably good chance to hit, but a target five feet further out is impossible to hit.
      • Epic-level characters in 3.5 can invert this by taking the epic feat Distant Shot. It allows the character to shoot any target the can see without penalty. This means a character with this feat has the same chance to hit the orc standing on the horizon as to hit the orc standing 30 feet away. Thanks to a lack of adjustments to the combat mechanics for extremely long ranges, the attack will also REACH the orc on the horizon just as quickly as it would reach the nearer orc, with no increase in damage for this obviously greatly increased velocity.
      • The Sharpshooter feat in fifth edition makes this even stranger, as it removes the penalty imposed for firing a weapon at long range, but does not extend the range in any way. Meaning the a character with a longbow is just as likely to hit a target 600 feet away as one that is 10 feet away, but is incapable of hitting a target 601 feet away.
      • The fan-made Peasant Railgun is here for those who do wish to take into account increased velocity (and have a very permissive DM).
    • Despite its... purposefully bizarre physics, one thing that the Spelljammer setting did well was weapon ranges. Maximum range was just "snowball's chance in hell at hitting", and if you did fire at long range it would often take several turns for the arrow to get there. For heavy weapons, "range" is given for the first round, when the target have no time to get away; then a missile marker moves on at the same speed until it either hits something or reaches the tactical map border.
    • Amusingly, the rules don't take gravity into account when shooting a ranged weapon straight up or down, even though realistically if you drop a boulder or whatever straight down it should just fall indefinitely until it hits something. It also doesn't affect your ability to throw things straight up, meaning a normal human could throw a boulder 150 feet straight up.
  • The Star Fleet Battles board game reduces the damage of phaser weapons as the range increases, and the hit roll is used to see how much damage is done, not if they hit at all.
  • Similarly, the FASA Renegade Legion series of board games has laser weapons attenuate at range. Although all weapons have an absolute maximum range of 30 hexes regardless of type, this is more of a game balancing factor than a realism issue.
  • In BattleTech, lasers can have an effective range as short as 100 *yards*. In space combat, where a different scale and different range brackets apply, even the smallest laser (The exact same kind as used on the ground)'s effective range shoots up slightly over 3,000 yards. Not bad for dogfighting between aerospace aces (though granted, on the other hand the maximum effective range for even the largest capital-scale weapons — other than tele-operated capital missiles, which move like fighters with their own small fuel reserve — is only about an order of magnitude larger than that). The game does have optional rules for extreme range and line-of-sight range, but the steep attack penalties mean that even when they're in play it's really hard to actually hit anything.
    • This is lampshaded in the Battlemech Manual, a recent rulebook, with a flavor quote for the Machine Gun:
    "Damn, he's 91 meters away."
    • Word of God suggests that as far as in-universe reality is, the ranges would be a lot further for everything, and that the admittedly ridiculously short maximum ranges for weapons are in the service of game balance and playability — long-range sniping duels would tend to negate terrain over the long run, and if realistic ranges were modelled at the scale of BattleTech gamesnote  it would take a playing area roughly the size of a tennis court to properly play a game.
  • In GURPS, missiles, guns, and cannons fired in space have unlimited range as, barring all else they can just keep drifting. Beams weapons have maximum rages, albeit very large ones (the smallest possible is 20 miles) that represent something more like maximum range. When fired in atmosphere most beam weapons have extremely short ranges justified as absorption by the atmosphere.
  • The Sixth Edition Warhammer Fantasy rulebook discussed the relatively short ranges ascribed to its bows and cannons with words to the effect of, "Accept that these distances don't scale to real-world distances, or else go find an empty parking lot to stage your battles".
    • More pronounced in Warhammer 40,000, where the longest range basic infantry rifle has an absolute maximum range of 30", and most artillery weapons have ranges around 48"-60" (with a few going higher). Now, consider that a typical tank is about 6" long in the game. Supersonic craft regularly move 24" or less. Blindingly fast ships can clear a whopping 36"! Ranges and speeds like this would embarrass Napoleon's gunners and a land tortoise, respectively, but is an Acceptable Break from Reality, unless you can find an empty stadium to host your battles in.
    • Justified in the Gaiden Game Battlefleet Gothic. Since the model of a ship represents a microscopic particle in the middle of it's base, a maximum range of 30cm-45cm (which is standard for most guns) is actually hundreds of thousands of kilometers of vacuum and is the maximum range at which the gunners bother to fire, since anything farther away than that would be long gone by the time the shells got there. Completely averted with torpedoes however. Once fired they keep going until they are destroyed or hit something, be it the enemy, a celestial body or your own poorly placed ships.
  • The Witcher: Game of Imagination has justified maximum range for all weapons, including arbitrary-sounding, but perfectly fine 10 meters for knives (after all, you want to hit your target with the blade). Cue stones, which also can't be thrown at distance further than 10 meters, even if it doesn't matter which part or "side" of the stone hits the target and children can throw at thrice the distance in real life.
  • In Attack Vector: Tactical, lasers are actually built with energy inputs, conversion efficiencies, wavelengths and diffraction limits and aperture sizes to build the weapon tables. One damage point is 50 MJ delivered 'roughly instantaneously' over an 8 cm diameter spot size - this is roughly the equivalent of 12.5 kilos of TNT detonated into a focused spot the diameter of a soda pop can. The conversion efficiencies and laser wavelengths were chosen to make the game interesting, but within those bounds, they're scientifically accurate. The coilgun rules walk the launching player through four frame of reference shifts to present a firing card that ends up being the ducks eye view of a shotgun blast, and coilguns can be very long ranged.
  • For what it's worth, to make an interesting game, there's also a meta rule - weapon ranges that are shorter than 1/3 of the distance a unit can move in a turn tend to be very frustrating, unless segmented movement is allowed. Weapon ranges that are longer than about 4x the maximum rate of movement (or 'whole turn of thrust' in momentum based games) tend to render movement decisions obsolete. This isn't so far fetched; it's an accurate description of modern day Naval tactical combat - in the amount of time it takes for a sea skimming missile to cover 200 nautical miles, its target will have covered about 300 yards, and if it's big enough to be worth throwing an anti-ship missile at, might have changed course by 10 degrees.
    • Plausible space combat would break that meta rule hard. Ships with thrusts measured in single digit milligees, and depending on who you ask, lasers will either be limited to point defense roles due consumables, or will be so long ranged (and not heat constrained) that you'll be able to start firing weeks before you get to visual range. Beam weapons feasible in 1980-x era could have effective ranges 100-1000 km, but quick recognition of targets this far is another matter. One passable description of realistic space combat as we think we know it is that long range lasers will be used to mess up sensors, so that you can hit the now-blinded enemy ship with kinetic weapons that will tear through it like a shotgun through wet kleenex.
  • In Rifts South America 2, this is justified in the case of the Megaversal Legion's Inerta-Beam weapony, in which the beam is used to accelerate a bullet/shell to incredible speeds. One the projectile leaves the beam's effective range, it suddenly loses all inertia and velocity and comes to a dead stop, dropping straight down to the ground.
    • Ranges for all weapons in Rifts are listed as "maximum effective range," thus possibly averting this trope.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones "range increments", shooting beyond which adds a cumulative cover bonus to attack difficulty, is determined by the shooter's stats. And a character in combat has an absolute maximum of their Ranged Combat level +1 increments, multiplied by ten outside combat. Also, ships have absolute weapons ranges and "Inaccurate" weapons such as shotguns and SMGs have a max range of one range increment.

    Video Games 
  • Played straight by the beam and missile weapons in Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator, with minor justification on the missiles' part (due to fuel requirements, etc.)
  • In Egosoft's X-Universe space simulator series, the highest (non-missile) range is about 8 KM for a heavy capital ship cannon. Then again, said capital ship has a top speed of 50 m/s...
  • In Master of Orion II, lasers and almost all other energy weapons have range-based damage penalties due to bloom, but mass drivers, Gauss guns, Disruptors, and the Stellar Converter do not. However, all weapons in the Master of Orion series do have a maximum range that's not a direct function of ship's hit probability.
  • Weapons in Freelancer have maximum ranges that are either ridiculously short or pretty reasonable, depending on your interpretation of the Units Not to Scale. That is, less than a kilometer in game units, but plausible if compared to the scale of planets and stars. The projectiles do still inexplicably vanish when they reach the limit.
  • Averted in EVE Online, where weapon ranges are waved away as being, variously, a product of projectile velocity, the targeting computer being unable to hit a target that small, or the missile running out of fuel. For projectile and laser weapons, there is no hard cutoff distance, but as distance increases they miss more often. Part of the range limit is the maximum range a ship can target at, being a possible maximum of 250km with appropriate skills and modules - it is possible to get railguns and missiles to have a longer actual range than this, but they can still only be fired at a targeted ship (although the range over 250 is still useful on missiles if the target is moving away from you, but in that case they would have more then enough time to warp off before any missiles reached them).
  • Semi-averted in Vega Strike (current version, at least). Each weapon has the maximum range property set rather close, but also property which controls dissipation, so arbitrary "range" could be avoided or set many orders of magnitude higher, it's needed only to conserve resources. Missiles are less limited — torpedoes even have FTL drives — though lockable ranges are still relatively tame.
  • Both averted and played straight in FreeSpace. Laser bolts (which more accurately would be plasma weapons) simply vanish a certain distance from the ship that fired them. Justified by the missiles, which explode automatically once they reach their maximum range (presumably after running out of fuel). But averted with the badass, ginormous energy beams used by the capital ships in the sequel, which can be seen going off into infinity (bonus points for them being true lasers: they strike the target instantaneously). The fact that these weapons still have a "range" setting makes very little sense (fans have attempted to explain this as the computer's effective targeting range: one campaign featured a ship attempting to fire a beam at an enemy outside that range and missing by about thirty degrees. The target jumps out before they have a chance to correct their aim). They are both visible in space and have a profound distortion/shimmer effect, but that's a different trope.
    • The beam cannons have a 30 km cutoff range, you just don't normally see it because the ships are never that far apart.
    • The Kaiser, the one primary weapon that fires actual projectiles, technically has an arbitrary maximum range, but it is so large that it avoids the trope. There are few instances in missions where enemies are outside the range of the Kaiser and at long range it is nearly impossible to hit any ship due to accuracy issues.
    • Gameplay Story Segregation does avert this in cutscenes as early as the first game. The Lucifer easily is able to bombard a planet with its beam cannons from a fairly high orbit.
  • Averted in a rather interesting fashion in Mass Effect, where it is explained that the effective range of the ship to ship artillery mass drivers is limited not so much by absolute range, but rather by the ability of the target ship to detect the incoming projectile(s) and get out of the way. When the enemy's maneuverability isn't a factor, and their movement is essentially fixed (e.g. stations in orbit), ships are quite capable of simply blasting targets from tens of millions of kilometers away at essentially no risk to themselves, as the quarians did against geth space stations at the Battle of Rannoch- using the system's star's gravity as a slingshot, no less.
    • It is also mentioned that the first wave of fighters sent against a ship with laser weapons is guaranteed to be hit once they get within a reasonable range where those lasers would have perfect accuracy. They only begin to miss once the weapon itself heats up too much.
    • A Gunnery Chief in Mass Effect 2 makes damn sure his underlings have a targeting solution before firing their vessels' mass accelerator, otherwise it keeps going... and going... and going...
      Gunnery Chief: That means: Sir Issac Newton is the deadliest sunuvabitch in space!
    • The second game also reveals the explanation for the Great Rift of Klendagon, believed to have been caused by a glancing blow from a very powerful mass accelerator round over 37 million years ago. An unknown race fired it at a Reaper, presumably as their "last great act of defiance". Not only did the weapon kill the Reaper, but the round simply kept going until it hit Klendagon, located in an entirely different star system!
    • One mission in ME2 has terrorists hijacking a podunk colony's missile defense base and launching an IPBM at said colony from its moon, which you have to stop. Note, that wasn't a typo: they're interplantary ballistic missiles. After all, given that you can accelerate effectively forever in space until you reach an absurd speed, and then maintain that speed without additional thrust (though, if you want the projectile to survive atmospheric reentry, you'd also do well to save some fuel for deceleration), every missile capable of leaving the atmosphere is also a planet-to-planet weapon.note 
  • Missiles in Elite 2: Frontier will automatically detonate if they run out of fuel before hitting a target. This is explained in the manual as a safety precaution; they don't want armed weapons flying about in space since that time a missile, after drifting for two years, obliterated a planetary settlement.
    • The lasers in all 3 Elite games avert this, however, as they apparently have vast ranges. The downside is, rather logically, the further away the target the harder it is to hit, though interestingly if you can gauge radar distances right, it is possible to hit out-of-visual-range targets (though it requires quite high skills and more than enough luck).
    • Played very straight in Elite Dangerous. Laser weapons have a hard cutoff at 3km.
  • Dynasty Warriors: Gundam: This was especially notable with suits known for their ranged attacks, like the Wing Zero.
    • Graphically, this is applied quite oddly. Units firing solid projectiles will usually be firing some kind of explosive, and the warhead will detonate an arbitrary distance away from the firer. Beam weapons, on the other hand, simply cut off...and when the beam in question is the Wing Zero's wider-than-itself Buster Rifle shot, this has the effect of resembling nothing so much as a giant glowing cylinder that appears for a second to ruin someone's day.
  • Somewhat averted in most of the Space Empires games. Numerous beam weapons have a gradually decreasing level of damage as the range increases. It is not consistently true, though, as many still have a nonsensical cutoff range, and missiles simply disappear after a certain distance.
  • Gorf. The range of a shot was limited by when you wanted to fire again. Your shot would last forever, or until the edge of the screen, or until you shoot next.
  • Transcendence, a Rogue Like with 2-D Space, uses this all over the place, and with good reason — in 2D space, it's really, really easy to shoot a friendly who's just out of the range of your scanners. The really long-range weapons are very difficult to use properly.
  • Played straight in the Wing Commander series of games. Not only do guns have a maximum range, but missiles just disappear if they don't hit anything by the end of their fuel.
    • All There in the Manual: The Wing Commander manual justifies it in the case of self-propelled weapons (missiles, torpedoes), on the grounds that a space colony was once destroyed by a drifting derelict missile fired years earlier. Confed have taken to fitting their missiles with self-destruct systems that go off when the fuel is exhausted to avoid a similar incident.
  • Played completely straight in Sword of the Stars. Ships won't even fire weapons beyond the set range. And if beams miss, they will simply stop at their max range, instead of some sort of a blooming effect.
    • Slightly averted in the sequel, where the maximum range of most weapons is beyond the standard sensor range, requiring spotters and/or advanced sensors.
    • Some weapons even in the first game can fire at targets beyond-visual-range (but not sensor range). This includes missiles and (with expansions) rail cannons (AKA impactors). Additionally, Word of God is that battles actually take place from hundreds of thousands of kilometers away, but the game would be boring if this were rendered realistically.
  • Most of the Ace Combat games zig-zag this. Bullets, missiles, rockets, and bombs have a set maximum effective range; but a good player can hit targets beyond that rage by accounting for gravity and leading the target. However, if they don't hit anything for a long enough time, they vanish.
    • Worse yet, the game lets you zoom in on the 'clear hud' view. Attempting to utilize your plane as a sniping tool rarely works because the missiles will vanish long before they reach the target. The exception is the semi-active radar-guided missile, at least in the PS2 games, due to its extremely long range combined with the mechanics behind how it locks onto targets - you can fire at a target so far away you can't even lock on to them or even see them except as a radar signature, and still potentially nail the kill.
  • Star Trek Online gives most weapons a measly 10-kilometer range. Thus enforcing Old School Dogfighting. It is needless to say quite annoying when your huge ship bristling with weapons is forced to try and keep a much smaller ship in it's firing arc.
    • Furthermore, projectile energy weapons such as cannons lose power the further you are away from your target. Shooting a salvo at a target at the maximum 9.99km range will give a generally reduced damage output than if you were rubbing right up against the enemy at 0.00km. Projectile weapons such as torpedoes don't follow this rule though. Their damage is set.
    • On top of that, the game's combat mechanics makes it impossible to exploit the 10km range. Once a projectile is fired at a target, the game has already determined whether the shot will hit or miss. If a Borg command ship fires a Torpedo Spread (an almost always lethal attack) at your ship when you are out at 9.99km, activating Emergency Maneuvers and Emergency Power to Engines to boost your speed and quickly take you out of range to 20+km isn't going to stop the attack from registering on your ship. You'll still get hit since you already did and the game just needs to make sure it's visually carried throughnote .
    • This is consistent with the visuals of the show (though a lot of episodes they call out ranges of much larger but such things can't easily be represented on screen), if not the expanded universe. Even in large-scale battles shots are only fired at extreme close range. What's not consistent is that, during on-foot segments, your sidearms have a maximum range as well—of about (eyeballing it) 15 meters.
    • Interestingly averted in the old Windows 95 WinTrek game and its clones. While beam power dissipates, photon torpedo power does not, and since it's grid-based accuracy doesn't have to be all that clear either. Just point in their general direction and fire. No matter how far, the torpedo averages 200-250 points of damage.
  • Star Trek: Bridge Commander is a little better about this. You can free-fire photon torpedoes and pulse weapons, but good luck hitting any target closer than 60 KM (or closer for faster ships or slower torpedoes). Phasers are most effective if fired at closer than 40KM, and won't fire on a target at all if it's further than 60KM.
  • Homeworld 2 has a bad case of this. Missiles and kinetic rounds fired from ships will magically disappear into thin air (or thin vacuum?) once they reach their maximum in-game range. This is especially ironic considering that in the first Homeworld, missiles that don't hit a target will be seen flying off into distant space rather than disappearing. Realistically it should also to be possible to fire such projectiles from across the map and have them hit the large and slow motherships.
    • That's still pretty minor when compared to the energy beams that cut off immediately after reaching maximum range.
  • In Allegiance, missiles seem to disappear at a certain range, however they will actually float around the sector until hitting the edge of the map. They do run out of fuel at max range though.
  • In Star Control, all lasers are limited in range (usually very limited compared to other weapons). Most projectiles will disappear a certain distance out of the muzzle. Some projectiles, however, will keep flying as long as the firing button is held down. Since the battlefield loops around on all sides, this means that projectiles that missed the enemy ship and keep flying off can eventually still hit it!
  • In the Descent games, projectiles from non-hitscan weapons disappear after a certain distance, eg it's impossible to hit the second game's first boss from across the arena.
  • Steel Battalion not only has this for each weapon, but an armor modifier on all VTs that further detracts from the effective range, depending on which side gets hit. This means that if a VT takes a hit that would normally be within a weapon's range gets hit, but is treated as out of range by the armor modifier, no damage is taken.
  • In the Armored Core series, each non-missile weapon has a given cutoff range (actually slightly less than the given statistic in the equipment menu) where the projectile simply vanishes note . This is increasingly subverted in later entries. For example:
    • Armored Core 4 and Armored Core: 4 Answer feature missile weaponry that continues cruising until they run out of fuel, wherein said missiles will then start to fall to the ground and explode. While it's highly unlikely for expended missiles to hit anyone this way, missiles with more exotic warheads such as Kojima-based Explosives will still explode, showering the impact zone with harmful Kojima radiation, wreaking havoc with NEXTs' Primal Armor.
    • In Armored Core V and Armored Core Verdict Day, the stat indicated by "Maximum Range" actually represents what is in the Japanese version literally indicated as "Maximum Firepower Distance"note . That is to say, this indicated distance is the maximum range where a weapon's maximum theoretical firepower is conserved. What happens beyond this distance depends on the weapon:
      • Kinetic Energy weapons note  use kinetic energy to deal damage; any further and bullet tumble starts affecting the projectile, drastically reducing its attack power. While it can still hit enemies beyond this range, its attack power is reduced such that it will only do 10-15% its indicated attack power or worse.
      • Chemical Energy weapons note  use explosives contained within shells or missiles. This means that this weapon is not affected by tumble and will continue to deal significant damage beyond its Maximum Range. Battle rifles, essentially rifled bazookas, continue to deal as much as 80% damage far beyond its Maximum Range, but has a shorter range and a more pronounced parabolic arc to compensate.
      • Thermal Energy weapons note  also differ in its treatment. Laser weapons (which are non-lightspeed charged particle weapons in this series) simply dissipate, presumably from bloom. Pulse weapons explode into tiny explosions at the edge of their maximum distance, giving them slightly extended range. Finally, Plasma weapons fire a ball of charged plasma that explodes at their maximum range, essentially preserving its lethality, but with an extremely short range.
  • In Chromehounds, made in part by those responsible for the Armored Core series, shots will go out to their respective ranges before simply falling to the ground in an abrupt arc. For some weapons, this tiny bit of extra range can be accounted for when aiming and extend the weapon's useful range. Learning to visually estimate ranges and arcs with accuracy is the entire crux of the Heavy Gunner RT.
  • Downplayed in Shores of Hazeron. Your three weapon types rely on energy, ballistic projectiles and missiles. Energy weapons can hit any target within sensor range, but their focusing lenses cannot keep the beam cohesive beyond a certain distance. Shells can be evaded with enough reaction time and missiles run out of fuel, essentially becoming super-slow projectiles. So far, so good, but the c.65km max effective range for every type seems an arbitrary number - though a high one, when rocky planets are seldom more than 22km in diameter.
  • 4X game Sins of a Solar Empire has this for all ships, requiring that they move into range before engaging a target. However, it's averted for the arbitrary "Big Gun" of each faction: building a Novalith cannon, for example, means you can shoot it at any planet on the map, as long as you're willing to wait for the actual impact.
  • Averted in the background information of Halo: MAC slugs are not stated to have an effective range, their primary limitation being firing rate and the time needed to calculate a firing solution. Likewise, Covenant plasma torpedoes are only limited by the mechanism used to fire them, as the firing ship is constantly maintaining a magnetic field to guide and contain them.
    • Interestingly, in Halo 2, the Covenant ships that jump into the Solar System are stated to have stopped just short of an unexplained "Super" MAC "kill zone." It's likely the range in which they can be assured of hitting their targets, as MAC rounds still have to travel to the target - even if it's traveling at 4/10ths the speed of light, that could take minutes to reach its target, within which a potato with a charge running through it would think to move out of the way.
    • Covenant ships do have a maximum range at which they can maintain the magnetic field around their plasma torpedoes. This also means that, if the firing ship happens to be destroyed while the torpedoes are on their way, they will lose their magnetic bottles, continue moving in a straight line (i.e. no guidance), and rapidly bloom (which happens in the novel Halo: First Strike), assuming they don't immediately detonate as a safety measure.
  • Used in World of Warcraft, where there is a limit on how far away an opponent can be to fire a spell at them. However, the spell doesn't care if they stay within that range after it's been cast, though if they run away for too long they'll take the damage before the spell graphic actually hits them. With a fast flying mount it's possible to travel faster than the projectile. This means someone can aggravate a gargoyle in Icecrown Citadel into shooting at them, run away from it, double back and get fired at again as many times as desired, fly off, land in the Howling Fjord, and finally get hit by a barrage of "40 yard range" spells that just followed them across the continent. Admittedly, they won't hurt, because the target already took the damage when they were "supposed" to.
    • Something similar occurs in City of Heroes. You have to be close enough to aim, but if you can out run the animation it will chase you until it hits.
  • Portal 2 subverts this at the end. As long as it hits a conductive surface, a portal is opening somewhere. Portal shots also travel at the speed of light. The combination of these things allows for some brilliant foreshadowing. And remember, moon rocks can conduct portals...
  • MechWarrior really can't seem to decide what side of this trope to be on at times:
    • MechWarrior 2 had weapons with listed maximum ranges that seemed to get an unusual amount of distance beyond that (most notable for PPC shots and Gauss rifle slugs, but would occasionally be invoked by missiles too). At almost all other times, though, beams, projectiles, and missiles simply despawn at their maximum range. This can be problematic given the game's notoriously wonky hit detection and damage calculation at times.
    • Played straight in MechWarrior Living Legends, where ballistic and energy weapons abruptly stop at their listed maximum range. Missiles auto-detonate after a certain point, but on guided missiles (particularly those with a ballistic trajectory, like the long range missiles) it's typically 10 to 20% further than what is listed.
    • Zig-zagged In Mechwarrior Online, where energy and ballistic weapons deal full damage out to their listed range. However, beyond that they start linearly dropping off, until they do zero damage at twice the listed range. Missiles auto-detonate right at their maximum range.
  • In All Points Bulletin, weapons fired outside of their optimal range would have suffered from damage falloff, turning, for example, a 2-shot Short-Range Shotgun into a 4-5 shots kill when fired at mid range. Before a certain patch, though, the game had a far more bizarre behavior - bullet that traveled outside their maximum range would disappear into nothing.
  • In Far Cry 2 and its various sequels, fires will only spread a certain distance, leaving patches of scorched Earth surrounded by untouched grass. According to the developer behind the fire tech in 2, they put the limit in after a test fire consumed the entire game world, killing everyone in it.
  • Star Ruler has this problem, though ranges are pretty damn long: 1000 is equal to an AU, roughly eight light-minutes, meaning even the absolute shortest 1-range weapon is still good to about half a light-second. This goes into the other problem of having inexplicable FTL weapons, though, when lasers remain hitscan all that way.
  • Justifiable in Escape Velocity for everything except pure kinetic weapons, which are fairly uncommon. Missiles detonate at the end of their range, while shots from plasma casters fade out. However, weapon velocity and range are completely independent of ship velocity, which makes it fairly safe to engage a capital ship by retreating from it at the same speed it pursues just at the edge of proton cannon range.
  • Spacewar! has a Wrap Around screen. At least one version has both torpedoes and lasers. The torpedoes go on looping forever until they hit something, but lasers have a very short range.
  • In Team Fortress 2, it's not the sentry's bullets or rockets that have a maximum arbitrary range, but its sensor. Cheeky Scouts, usually nothing more than Sentry fodder, can park themselves just outside of its range in large enough maps and plink at it with handgun bullets until it's destroyed. Conversely, the Engineer's Wrangler allows them to take control of the sentry themselves and tell it where to fire regardless of if there's actually a target there - as long as there's a clear line of sight between the sentry and where you're pointing the laser, you can make it fire at it.
  • In Vanquish, the LFE Gun's blast dissipates after about five meters.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has a unique use of this with both magic and arrows. After a certain distance, they will just go through the enemy. This was apparently done as a workaround with the AI, as it forces enemy archers and mages to close in on you rather than sniping you from a mile away. As for the player? It's highly unlikely you'll ever actually encounter it as an issue, because the distance is far enough that, if you manage to hit an enemy from it, either you're extremely lucky, or River Tam. That said, there's one other distance rule with arrows: after a certain distance, they won't sink into models they hit, but bounce off, sometimes straight up. This is inside the possible damage range, and so it's possible to kill an enemy with an arrow that then flies 50 feet into the sky and comes back down.
  • The Pulse Weapon in FEAR 2 fires slow-moving energy balls that can kill almost anything nearby in one hit, but then dissipate after moving only a few meters. Its intel document acquired by picking the weapon up for the first time makes note of this, stating that the pulses "destabilize violently" after a short interval.
  • Averted and used as a plot point in System Shock. SHODAN won't fire Citadel's mining laser at Earth until the station is close enough to target it, but the resistance can't simply fire it (which would force SHODAN to waste time charging it back up) because they don't know what it's pointed at. Sure enough, if you fire it off yourself you'll end up hitting Earth. You have to activate the station's energy shield and then fire the laser into it, destroying it.
  • World of Tanks has arbitrary maximum ranges on all its weapons (which are substantially shorter than the real-world ranges for most of them) but most of the time the limited view range mean that it isn't an issue. However, some low-tier vehicles have guns that have such limited range that they must get quite close to their target before they can hit it or the bullets will just wink out of existence on the way there.
  • In Sunrider Mask of Arcadius, the titular ship’s Vanguard Cannon has a maximum range of 7 tiles. Unlike every other weapon type in the game, the Vanguard Cannon will strike everything in the beam’s path and then just stop once it reaches the space you targeted. Averted in the sequel Sunrider Liberation Day, where the Vanguard Cannon now has unlimited range.
  • In the original Metroid and its remake Zero Mission, Samus's default beam has a max range of about two meters. The Long Beam upgrade extends its range to the full length and width of the screen. It's as arbitrary as you get, as later games eschew it entirely and make its effect a property of all beams.
  • Earth & Beyond based maximum range on the type of weapon used, and from a real world physics stand point didn't make a whole lot of sense. Shortest range fell to projectile weapons with a range only a few times the ship's size, beam weapons claimed mid range being only slightly greater than projectiles, and missiles dominated with over twice the range of beams. If a Terran, the game's missile focused race, neglected their sensors it was possible to have a firing range greater than your ability to detect and target enemies.
  • Children Of A Dead Earth, being ultra-hardcore realistic space combat simulator, doesn't have maximum range. However, the limit to gun's accuracy and laser's power at range means that limited effective range does exist in the game. You can choose to make the ships ignore this by ticking "Ignore Range" button. However, the maximum engagement range that the game will switch into combat mode is 1000 km, so that could be considered as maximum range of sorts, since guns and lasers can only be fired in combat mode. Drones and missiles can be launched in navigation mode, however, and is only limited by its acceleration and delta-v in order to intercept enemy ships.
  • Stellaris:
    • As with most space 4X games, all weapons in the game have a maximum range regardless of whether they're lasers, projectiles or missiles. Similar to Star Ruler, battles take place across entire stellar systems so even the shortest ranged weapons can cover 10s to 100s of AU so calling this a maximum effective range isn't too bad. Missed shots do get cut off rather than continuing to infinity or fading out, although given the hectic nature of battles this is only noticeable with the very biggest weapons.
    • There is a lot of Anomalies that you can find and study that deal with ancient mass drivers lost after some battle.
    • A ship of yours can also be on the receiving end of the aversion to this trope as a random event, taking damage from a mass driver slug that was shot in war in another star system millions of years ago.
  • Played straight in the Borderlands series of games:
    • Sometimes is justified (e.g projectiles that droop as they travel so they only move a relatively short distance before hitting the ground), but other times is just annoying (e.g sniper rifle bullets just magically disappear after traveling a certain distance, which means you can have the scope on and a target who's right in your sights and not moving, and still have them be impossible to hit because they are further away than the range limit.)
    • The Sawbar of Borderlands 2 and Borderlands 3 has, after a while, its projectiles split into three that travel perpendicular to the bullet's initial direction for a little bit, constaining its maximum range into bullet speed * [time to trifurcation].
  • Reactance 2: Plasma weapons' main weakness is their really short range as their damage and fire rate are high otherwise, despite the game taking place in space. Other weapons have infinite range.
  • Not to do with spaceships, but the reason the Laser is such a lousy weapon in Contra is that if you press the fire button again while a shot is on screen, the previous shot will simply vanish. This gives the player a rate of fire that is simply unacceptable in a high-speed action game like this. Some players will make it work as a Self-Imposed Challenge.
  • Red Alert 3: Subverted in the case of the Akula sub's Ultratorpedoes, which keep going once fired and don't stop or explode until they hit something, that something being an enemy, an ally, a rock, a beach... But on maps with large amounts of water, it is possible to "snipe" targets from the other side of the map by aligning the sub with the target (actually getting the sub to turn the way you want it to is another matter, of course).

    Web Comics 
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Averted where an author's note states that a test-firing of orbital weaponry proved inconsequential until the blast sterilized a comet bearing single-cellular life two years later. But it would have burned up in a nearby star in another couple million years anyway, so it doesn't really matter. Think of it as a mercy killing. The beam has a gravitic component to it that keeps it from dispersing, but it's not perfectly efficient - it'll go quite a long way, but eventually it will lose focus.
    • Massively averted here: Credomar, thought to be a space station, is actually a hyperspace death ray capable of hitting a target anywhere in the galaxy, while being fired from anywhere. Importantly, "anywhere" includes "inside the Deflector Shields of an enemy ship," and with enough targeting information, could plausibly be "1cm from your enemy's head," and Teleport Interdiction doesn't block it in any way. The inherent impossibility of defending against such an attack when correctly targeted becomes a serious plot point in the later installments of the comic as the technology proliferates or is re-discovered.
    Kevyn: This is where I defecate in sympathetic reflex for every defense planner in the galaxy.
  • Explicitly Justified in Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger, where the author explicitly states that the projectiles from God's Shotgun that miss their primary targets will be slowed to a harmless velocity by collisions with random hydrogen atoms long before they hit anything else.

    Web Original 
  • Justified in Void Dogs, where weapons are useless past a certain range because the beams and bullets move at or below the speed of light while the ships (and everything inside their magic reality-warping fields) are moving much faster.

    Real Life 
  • Radio transmitters that operate in the VHF range and above (about 30MHz and up) are "line of sight", in that the signals travel in a straight line instead of bouncing off the atmosphere. This, combined with the curvature of the Earth, means that such transmitters will have a maximum range regardless of their transmit power. A VHF radio at sea level will never transmit beyond about 10-15 miles, no matter how strong the signal.
  • Atomic Rockets considered the limits of beam weapon technology grounded in real-life physics. A 10 megawatt X-ray laser could quite conceivably kill spacecraft out to at least a light minute... sure, most things that were actively evading would be hard to hit due to lightspeed delay but consider this: such a weapon in orbit around the Earth would be able to vaporize well armored satellites in orbit around Mars when the two planets were at their closest, and thoroughly frazzle the electronics of any unarmored device fifty times further away (over twice the distance between Earth and Mars when they are furthest apart). There's no maximum range, just a max effective range.
    • The same site also suggests a light-second as the maximum range for projectile weapons (at sub-relativistic speeds, at least), since at greater ranges, the target will have time to fire its engines before it's hit, and even a second's burn from a decent rocket can let a ship dodge by a wide margin. This doesn't go for guided missiles, of course, which are mostly only limited by fuel.
  • Anti-aircraft shells are designed to avert the trope as described in the top-of-page example. Because AA gunnery in the World War II fashion consists of firing large quantities of explosive-packed steel into the air over a major city, something has to be done to make sure those quantities that miss their targets don't descend upon the people and things you are trying to protect. AA shells have a self-destruct mechanism, which triggers long after they should expect to have hit their target but before they have had a chance to fall to earth. The worst the people below suffer is a light rain of tiny fragments... in theory.
    • In practice, not all forces set their shells' fuses properly. Much of the civilian casualties and property losses as a result of the Japanese Empire's surprise-attack on the US Navy's Pacific Fleet were from anti-aircraft fire.
    • Not to mention, even if the shell explodes as shrapnel, the shrapnel still has to come back down thanks to gravity. Even if it's not heavy enough and fast enough to kill someone, that shrapnel could still put them in the hospital.
    • Given the difficulty of hitting a distant fast-moving target with gunfire directly, more often than not the shells were fused with the intent of having them detonate as soon as they were close to the target, showering the area with fast-moving shrapnel (the shrapnel would slow down as it fell back to the ground). Fusing methods varied, to include setting a timer based on estimates of the target's distance, to using proximity fuses which would go off when a tiny radar set in the shell's nose detected a nearby target. Presumably the proximity-fused shells would also feature a timed-fuse as a safety feature.
  • Wire-guided missiles like the US BGM-71 TOW are, well, wire-guided. As in they receive guidance commands from a wire trailing behind the missile, and attached to the launcher. They have a maximum range equal to the length of wire.
    • Even similarly designed wireless systems have the limitation of their transmitter.
  • Multi-barreled weapons with the barrels fixed in place have issues related to this based on their convergence, i.e. the distance where all the barrels are set to hit at a certain distance - at or before that distance, depending on how far apart they are, they'll generally hit the same target, but past that one or both will start to miss. Double-barreled shotguns in particular can have cases where one barrel will consistently hit a target at a set distance, but the other barrel will consistently miss the same target at the same distance if they're poorly converged.
  • Aircraft cannons back in the days of fitting them with multiple single-barreled cannons in the wings, often loaded with a variety of different ammunition, avoided this by the same manner, so that up to a set distance the various ammo types would all hit at the same point, then past that they'd start to veer off-course.
    • In WWII, the necessity of setting a convergence point for wing-mounted aircraft guns is why several countries continued using synchronized guns firing between the propellers. Whereas wing-gun fighters had to be within a "sweet-spot" distance (not too far, and not too close) for maximum effect, synchronized guns - which were mounted on the plane's centerline - were only limited in range by the gun's ballistics, valuing marksmanship over firepower, and being less reliant on gun sighting technology.
    • The P-38 Lightning was the epitome of this due to its unique design- involving a pair of fuselages bearing the propellers with a third capsule in the center for the cockpit. It mounted a grand total of five guns (four .50 caliber machine guns and one 20mm cannon) in its nose, significantly more than other aircraft. This layout made it a fighter with exceptional forward firepower at any range, enabling pilots to engage near and far targets with equal ease, and sniping targets at ranges that fighters with wing-mounted guns simply could never hit.
  • When trying to use computers to model large molecules, the relatively long-range nature of electrostatic forces can make the predictions difficult to model without using supercomputers and taking years of time. As a result, simulations typically set a maximum range to take into account these forces, while adding other parts of the model to make up for the resulting discrepancies.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Space Based Weapon Has Cutoff Range


Just short

How well does it match the trope?

4.57 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / ArbitraryMaximumRange

Media sources: