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Plasma Cannon

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Smell that ozone.

"Phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range."

Plasma is one of the four traditionalnote  states of matter, a step up from gas where the electrons become so energized that they break free of their orbits. Naturally some people have thought of weaponizing it. Unfortunately, in real life, plasma's properties make it more than a bit impractical. Even without atmosphere, it spreads out and becomes useless more than a fraction of an inch from the source, making it useful as a cutting tool but not a (ranged) weapon unless you can practically project a magnetic bottle to contain the plasma until it hits the target... which is very advanced technology in its own right (and subject to that very same technology being used to disrupt the magnetic bottle of the weapon). Even with atmosphere, the fact that gases are much denser than plasma means that plasma won't penetrate very far through air — think of shooting compressed air underwater. Needless to say, practical ranged plasma weapons are an indication of a highly advanced civilization.

Those impracticalities may be why most fictional plasma weapons, almost always heavy guns or cannons, are at most Cool, but Inefficient. Common traits include:

  • Being considered the next step up the Tech Tree from Slow Lasers.
  • Bulk, almost always a BFG if not a vehicular weapon.
  • Drawbacks such as lengthy charging time, low battery capacity/high power drain, short range, or a tendency toward Overheating.
  • Massive damage, frequently an Armor-Piercing Attack as well, making it primarily useful as Anti-Armor.
  • Usually fires green or blue blobs, although colors may vary.
  • Said blob is a Painfully Slow Projectile compared to beam based energy weapons.
  • Occassionally sets targets on fire or melts them.

That being said, one of the major reasons why a civilization displaying practical ranged plasma weapons is so intimidating is because, if practically delivered, plasma has a devastating effect on target. It doesn't merely look cool; it delivers enormous heat and electricity into the target, wreaking havoc on electrical systems (including organic ones, like the human body), outright melting what it hits, and setting everything near it on fire.

A Sub-Trope of Ray Gun and Energy Weapon. When the science fiction setting demands the function of the weapon to be explained, however, it's nearly universally mentioned to be a high-powered relative of Magnetic Weapons instead, the implications being that the projectile's launch energy and/or air friction is sufficient to turn most of it into plasma.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Fire Force: Arthur Boyle can use his weapon, Excalibur, in conjunction with his pyrokinetic abilities, to create a Laser Blade out of flames superheated to the point of becoming plasma.
  • "Beam" weapons in the Gundam series (both ranged and melee) are based on charged particle. Some weapons are more explicitly plasma-based (e.g. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny has many Mobiles Suits equipped with plasma cannons such as Calamity, Raider, Forbidden, Freedom, Saviour and Destroy), but it's not clear what difference this makes.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Universe: In their early appearances, a plasma pistol was a standard additional sidearm (they also carried a .45 as well) for agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Plasma weapons soon became prevalent for almost all people in Powered Armor, including some of the Iron Man armors.
  • The Metabarons: The Cogan Rifles and its successor the Multi-Cogan, both use laser-propelled plasma bolts according to info from the tabletop game corebook.
  • In the Superman storyline The Plague of the Antibiotic Man, Amalak's star-cannon is a plasma-powered ray gun able to kill a Kryptonian. Nonetheless, it can also be dialed down to stunning instead of killing (which Amalak does when he stuns Supergirl).

    Fan Works 
  • All Guardsmen Party: Tink's weapon of choice. Also; some party members get Tau pulse rifles disguised as lasguns.
  • Casey Steele: Betsy uses them against spiders, because they scare her, and still doesn't think it's enough.
  • In Event Horizon: Storm of Magic, plasma weapons exist, but are rare due to the previously mentioned impracticalities and their short range. Plasma cutters are still used though, and are often mounted on HULK units used in mining, as the extreme heat melts through rock easily. During the Battle of Outpost B, a White Walker trying to escape containment found out how hot plasma can get the hard way.
  • Kitsune: A weapon of Meliferra:
    "Invention of mine. A new prototype I just started field testing. It works by firing a charged mass of plasma that disables electric systems and synaptic nerves of organic...”
    "Soo... stun gun?" I summed up before she really got on a roll into techno-babble.
    She stopped talking, sighed a little then nodded. "Stun gun."
    "Works nice," I said with a smile. "Organic nerves... so it paralyzes people like a Taser?"
  • Son of the Sannin features Plasma Release as the combination of Fire and Lightning Releases. At first, Sasuke is able to combine both elements together to create an imitation version, but it's nowhere near as powerful as the real deal when he fights a ninja with the actual bloodline limit.

    Film — Animation 
  • Lilo & Stitch:
    • Plasma blasters are used extensively throughout the franchise after Jumba states that a direct hit might stun 626 momentarily. In the first film, one blows up and destroys Lilo's house.
    • In Stitch! The Movie, Jumba is held at gunpoint for a bargain and is said to be allergic to plasma. Doesn't seem like an allergy to any lethal weapon would really matter, but...

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In the Alien Expanded Universe (starting with a mention the novelization/Special Edition of Aliens and elaborated in the Colonial Marines background manual), We Will Use Lasers in the Future is starting to appear with humanity using electron lasers, particle-beam and plasma weaponry for vehicles. Plasma is the most powerful of the 3 and is unique in not being restricted to a vehicle turret. The "man-portable" M78 Phased-Plasma Infantry Gun or PIG is a bulky, heavy weapon to carry but for a lone Colonial Marine, nothing snuffs out tanks like the PIG.
  • Independence Day: While it's never definitively stated what they are, the Wave-Motion Guns that the aliens' city-destroyer ships use function very similarly to these, using a laser to guide a comparatively slow-moving pulse of energy to its target after taking about ten seconds to charge up. Given that said ships are called city-destroyers, you can guess how destructive they are.
  • Kin (2018): The gun Elijah finds fires some kind of plasma discharge or similar that can blow up fairly large object in one blast, plus vaporize a human.
  • Pacific Rim: Gipsy Danger is armed with a Plasma Caster. So is Crimson Typhoon, with an updated version of Gipsy's, at the cost of charging time.
  • In the Predator series, the Predators are armed with shoulder mounted plasma casters with distinctive triplicate laser sights.
  • Starship Troopers: The Bugs combine this with their Hive Caste System. The towering bugs that the Mobile Infantry first encounters during their initial ground invasion of Klendathu are so-called "Plasma Bugs". They shoot huge bursts of plasma from their backs to target the human space vessels in orbit around the planet. Two of them are blown up onscreen, but the rest of them end up destroying most of the Federation's Fleet.
  • Star Wars:
    • Blasters canonically function by firing plasma formed by energizing Tibanna Gas. Particle beams and laser weapons do exist in the setting, but are seemingly less efficient as infantry weapons, with a notable example of the former being the side mounted bubble turrets on the Republic Gunship, and for the latter, the Death Star.
    • Believe it or not, the Lightsaber is actually a form of plasma gun... only not a gun, as it contains superheated plasma in an adjustable magnetic field.
  • Terminator:
    • In The Terminator, the Terminator requests a handheld plasma weapon at a gun shop, which the salesman brushes off as a joke. He then proceeds to rob the gun store of a number of conventional modern weapons. Being from the future, he probably wasn't making it up. The energy weapons seen in the future segments may or may not be examples; it isn't specifically stated.
    • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the T-X's primary Arm Cannon weapon is said to be a plasma weapon. Being a Swiss-Army Weapon, she has several alternates built in, including a flamethrower.

  • In the final story of Gareth Powell's Ack-Ack Macaque trilogy, Macaque Attack, the trader starship Ameline is armed with the Dho weapon, an add-on piece of Organic Technology. The Dho weapon opens a portal to the nearest star's core to capture its plasma ventings. The plasma is then directed by a gunner who's directly hooked into the link pod of the Dho weapon. Interestingly the Dho weapon is an aversion to Wave-Motion Gun depiction of most plasma cannons. Despite its raw power, the Dho weapon fires this star plasma in a pencil-thin beam. This makes the weapon more a surgical tool then a weapon of mass destruction and the Dho weapon had to fire in wide sweeping arcs to destroy a giant asteroid that was on its way to Earth.
  • In Arrivals from the Dark, primitive plasma cannons were already in use by pre-FTL humans, mainly used to destroy asteroids that may potentially threaten Earth or any Solar System outpost, although they were secondary to nuclear missiles. After reverse-engineering Faata tech, humans gained access to advanced tech. Better plasma weapons became standard ship weapons, although frigates and cruisers were also equipped with annihilators, extremely powerful antimatter weapons. Races that don't have annihilators (e.g., Dromi) tend to use plasma as their primary space-based weapons.
  • Artemis Fowl: Koboi Labs and Police Plaza have plasma cannons that can be set to "stun" or "kill". They are also powered by a tube of plasma that acts like a gel when unpowered and is safe to swim in.
  • The Bolo stories are centered on the Bolo autonomous tanks, whose usual main armaments are Hellbore cannon, extremely powerful plasma cannon normally found on space battleships.
  • In Mark Latham's Bug Hunts from Osprey Publishing's "Osprey Adventures" line, humanity is in a massive war against three different species of insectoid aliens. Most of humanity's guns are actually smaller than what's used in the 20th and 21st century, but the guns use high-energy plasma shells and carries a lot of ammo. One particular insectoid species, the Araknyd (expies of the Tyranids) uses biotech plasma weaponry which humans are trying to reverse-engineer (humans invented and can make ammunition that explodes in a plasma explosion, but not guns that shoot plasma bolts or beams like the Araknyd can).
  • A Certain Magical Index: Not quite a cannon, but Accelerator tries to use plasma in its natural state (with his power over vectors to go around the issue of it spreading) to finish off Touma when they first fight. The Misaka Clones get together to save Touma.
  • Death's Head has protagonist Sven Tveskog's SIG-37, a Hand Cannon with a true A.I. that can select various ammo types for Sven and aid in targeting enemies. Should an enemy prove too tough for its ballistic loadouts, the SIG-37 can fire its built-in Plasma Cannon at them. This plasma bolt can One-Hit Kill an armored gunship.
  • In Great Ship, a plasma cannon is one of the very few man-portable devices capable of genuinely killing humanity's Transhuman descendants, as the temperatures destroy the brain, whereas blunt trauma (i.e., from some flavor of BFG) won't even scratch the brain, and the body damage can be healed.
  • Hammer's Slammers: Powerguns use precisely arranged copper atoms stored in a plastic matrix. The atoms are pulled down the mirror-smooth barrel of the weapon by electromagnets. The barrels are cooled by liquid nitrogen and air, as most use a rotary assembly. The net effect is a machine gun that ejects plastic discs instead of brass cartridges and hoses cyan bursts that can flash-boil your brain instead of bullets.
  • Honor Harrington: Plasma rifles and plasma carbines, considered to be anti-armor weapons, and plasma torpedoes, which are not torpedoes at all but rather a capital ship grade BFG, capable of tremendous destructive power at relatively short ranges (they pretty much stop factoring in the stories entirely once the Manticoran Missile Massacre becomes the preferred tactic of the setting.) The problem with the torpedoes is that they are utterly useless against sidewalls. The only reason they were mounted on Honor's light cruiser is to complement the gravlance, an experimental weapon that can take down sidewalls with a single shot, allowing the torpedoes to finish the job. Unfortunately, the gravlance has a ridiculously short range, making it utterly useless in actual space combat.
  • Every personal weapon that isn't a knife for shanking mercs is a pulse gun in Kieran Shea's Koko (a.k.a. EBK) book series. The raw firepower of the plasma firing pulse weapons and with them being capable of pistol or assault rifle size (there are vehicle-mounted pulse cannons), humanity had no reason to make a new line of more conventional guns.
  • In Line of Delirium, plasma weapons are one of the two common types of energy weapons (the other one being lasers). Plasma weapons have crazy knockback, even able to blast a soldier in Powered Armor across the room. If a plasma shot manages to get through one of the slits between armor plates, then the person wearing it is cooked from the inside, as the armor is instantly turned into an oven. Some plasma weapons are also called fusion weapons. A plasma blast at close range can put a fist-sized hole in someone's chest.
  • In The Nameless War, plasma cannons are the standard anti-ship weapon system. Man-portable plasma weapons are technically possible but work poorly in atmosphere, as the bolt quickly loses coherency, meaning such weapons are generally out ranged by projectile weapons.
  • The Prince Roger series of books includes these as heavy artillery. That they're faulty due to Corrupt Corporate Executives running the companies that manufacture them, costing the lives of some of his marines, is one of Roger's Berserk Buttons.
  • In the RCN universe, ship point defense mounts use plasma cannons, whose lightspeed bolts don't really work beyond relatively short ranges but are quite destructive within those ranges. Instead of destroying incoming missiles, they use ablation to try to drive anti-ship missiles off-course enough to miss.note  As a secondary use, they can strip the delicate sails used by ships to maneuver in hyperspace, to prevent a Hyperspeed Escape.
  • The Ship Who...: The Kolnar pirates in The City Who Fought use plasma rifles that ignite slugs of U-235.
  • An interesting take appears in Adam Christopher's Spider Wars novels. 30th century humanity has plasma rifles and plasma pistols which are... not that much different from contemporary firearms. They're just somewhat more advanced versions of our assault rifles and sidearms, the devastating plasma is from the clips of plasma-infused bullets that are issued when fighting Spiders. When fighting fellow humans on a space station, the plasma rounds are swapped out for ceramic bullets. These will easily shred the human body but won't damage a station's hull like plasma fire would.
  • In Starship Operators, the Amaterasu's main weapon is a plasma cannon.
  • In Starship Troopers, Bug Warriors are armed with advanced plasma weapons that are implied to be purely technological in origin.
  • The Takeshi Kovacs novels have "Sunjet" particle blasters. They're most commonly used to vaporize heads, and the cortical stacks implanted within, thus making it one of the simplest ways to inflict Real Death on people without remote backups. The client in the first book died that way, but had a 48-hour backup enabling him to hire Kovacs to figure out who did it.
  • To the Stars: Tanks with fusion cannons are useful for clearing jungle and other obstacles in the second novel, but in the third novel when the first space battle in history is about to occur, their uselessness at any longer range is lampshaded. Turns out Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better.
  • "Plasma arcs" are common weapons in the Vorkosigan Saga. By the time of the main action of the series, ship-mounted plasma weapons have been made obsolete by "plasma mirrors" (which not only block plasma fire, but can be used to reflect an enemy ship's fire back at itself), but plasma arcs continue in use as heavy hand weapons for anti-materiel (and anti-personnel) use, along with several other kinds of energy and projectile weapons.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 Expanded Universe novel Sons of the Hydra, Strike Master Occam and his warband the Redacted all use modified plasma weapons (including the Sergeant who's carrying a heavy plasma gun) which incorporate xeno and loyalist technologies to not only make them completely safe to fire, but also had their range increased and amount of fuel spent improved.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: Plasma-based weaponry was used by both starships in the form of large-scale plasma cannons and PPGs, "Phased Plasma Guns", which were handheld weapons that varied from the size of a small pistol to an assault rifle-sized device. The in-canon justification of this is that they are safer for use inside a spaceship or space station than kinetic weapons, as the bolts will dissipate harmlessly if they strike a large conductive object (like the inside of a hull). Shipboard plasma cannons have fallen out of favor following the Earth-Minbar War, as the powerful but short-ranged weapons proved to be of little use to humans against advanced Minbari tech. Post-war, newer ship designs favored longer-ranged yet slightly less powerful weapons.
  • Blake's 7: Terran Federation pursuit ships and planetary interceptors are commonly equipped with "plasma bolts", which can home in on (and strike) a target faster than light with accuracy and precision. They project enough force to destroy most unprotected space-based objects and craft in a single strike. Smaller Federation military vessels may be armed with up to four plasma bolt hardpoints.
  • Farscape: Sheyangs made prominent use of Plasma Weapons on their ships; several other species did as well, and handheld plasma weapons were mentioned on occasion.
  • Stargate SG-1 has the Goa'uld use plasma weapons they call "staff weapons" because of their shape and the ability to use them in close combat. They fire orange bolts that, while deadly, can't be aimed well because of the weapon's archaic design (meant to be fired from the hip and lacks any iron sights). Regular bulletproof vests actually make the impact worse, but newer heat-resistant inserts can allow a soldier to survive a direct hit. A wrist-mounted version was designed by Anubis for his Kull warriors. Its shots are individually less powerful, but it has a full-auto mode. Several upscale versions also exist, such as the stationary cannons, cannons mounted on Death Glider fighters (also without any means of targeting beyond "fire wherever the craft is moving"), turreted versions on Alkesh bombers, and heavy cannons aboard their Ha'tak capital ships. The heavy cannons have been known to level cities and have their firepower measured in megatons. Humans have been reverse-engineering them for quite some time. During a scientific conference, Sam and Dr. Lee present a "not-quite-working" model of a handheld plasma cannon (the size of a bazooka). Why? So they can show the normal trial-and-error progress to the world and avoid any suspicion. But when an alien assassin tries to kill Sam, they are able to quickly get the weapon working for at least one shot. The latest Asgard weapons are called plasma beams and can cut through any known shields (but utterly fail to scratch the bio-armor of the Super-Hive in the Stargate Atlantis Grand Finale).
  • Star Trek:
    • The original Romulan Bird-of-Prey encountered in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror" had a high-powered, faster-than-light plasma-based weapon that was very destructive, but had limited range, and due to power constraints, could not be fired while the ship was cloaked.
    • Plasma torpedoes are also mentioned in passing as armament used by the Cardassians and the Kazon in successor series.
    • Plasma weapons are used in the pilot episode of Star Trek: Enterprise and never since, probably because of their extreme inaccuracy. The NX-01 Enterprise is shown not to be able to hit anything with them. In another episode (pre-phase cannons), they're testing spatial torpedoes. When those fail, the crew acts as if the ship is defenseless, forgetting about plasma cannons. In fact, the only time a plasma weapon is successful is when a farmer shoots a pissed-off Klingon with a plasma rifle.
    • The time-traveling Nah'kul also have these weapons, having provided them to the Nazis in an alternate timeline in the Enterprise two-parter "Storm Front". The German military mount these weapons on their fighter planes.
    • Inverse to the trope, plasma cannons are deemed an obsolete weapon by 22nd-century standards, Particle beam weapons are superior technology.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Battlelords Of The Twenty Third Century: There are ten different types of Pulse Weapons, each of which fires accelerated plasma pulses. There are also three different types of plasma grenades.
  • BattleTech:
    • Plasma cannons and rifles (notably not simply the same thing on different scales — there are plasma rifles for conventional infantry and battle armor troops, but also a Humongous Mecha-scale plasma "rifle" that weighs six tons and is considered one of the better "modern" weapons introduced to the game) are among the few energy weapons that actually use ammunition: they flash-superheat a special plastic foam into plasma, then fire that at the target. Unlike most portrayals of plasma weapons in fiction, BattleTech plasma rifles and plasma cannons (the plasma cannons are actually the smaller of the two) work by using an electrical current to flash the ammunition into a plasma state, then vent it out toward the target in a stream like a gigantic blowtorch.
    • Technically, the classic 'Mech flamer is another example. While it's often described as directly channeling and venting fresh fusion-hot plasma from the 'Mech's engine itself it actually works by super-heating air into a plasma state. It's better known, however, for embodying another trope.
    • The Particle Projector Cannon alternates between a plasma cannon and a Lightning Gun depending on the artist and adaptation, but it is always a massive, highly accurate energy cannon that is so bright it can cause permanent eye damage. The massive Naval Autocannons mounted on WarShips are also stated to use controlled plasma explosions to launch the projectiles instead of gunpowder, making them a partial example.
  • Eclipse Phase: The most powerful handheld non-explosive weapon is the plasma rifle, however it's also the bulkiest, only fires in single-shot mode, and has to cool off for a couple rounds every two shots.
  • Elite Dangerous Roleplaying Game: There's a man-portable Plasma Accelerator. They're designed to kill tanks (being the setting equivalent of anti-tank rocket launchers), take two actions to set up (because they're tripod mounted), and the fluff suggests a minimum safe firing distance of 400 meters. That having been said, the stats proper give a 46 meter blast radius (12 meters lethal, 34 meters injury) — still not something you want to fire at point blank range.
  • Fading Suns: Plasma weapons are high-end weaponry not only capable of dealing heavy damage, but also potentially leaking that damage through the setting's resident Deflector Shields. As a courtesy nod towards real-life plasma physics, they explicitly apply the same shields to keep plasma contained until it hits.
  • GURPS Ultra-Tech has stats for a variety of plasma guns, but notes that they are all "superscience" and therefore shouldn't be included in "hard" settings.
  • Hunter: The Vigil: The MJOLNIR Cannon, one of the highest-grade armaments available to Task Force: VALKYRIE, fires a high-intensity laser beam that ionizes the air along its course into highly conductive plasma and then sends a strong electric current down this channel. It comes in both assault rifle and car-mounted versions; it's difficult to get access to one, as the latter version especially is only given to exceptional agents and not permitted in urban areas, but it can reliably put down all but the toughest horrors of the night through sheer brute damage.
  • Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game: In the Fantastic Four: Fantastic Voyages adventure "Crash Test", the Skrull scout ship the Kell'rr Anelle has four plasma cannons.
  • Mutant Chronicles: Humanity had mastered plasma weapon technology before the technological collapse, so a number of pistol and rifle-sized plasma weapons are still available on the market in addition to the plasma-filled shells of the Cartel Pulse Rifle. Interestingly in the game, plasma weapons were developed long before laser weapons (it's only recently that the most high-tech faction, the Cybertronic Megacorporation were able to start fielding them and only in small numbers).
  • Myriad Song: Plasma cannons actually deal less damage than rayguns (though still considerable) but sets the target on fire and softens their defenses too. Ghibli blades are kind of a melee version.
  • Paranoia: Plasma generators vaporize anything they hit. They're also prone to malfunction, hard to repair (often vaporizing you if you fail) and expensive to replace. And only legally available at Violet clearance.
  • Planet Mercenary has the BH-209 and AP-130 from Schlock Mercenary, along with the Phubahr P-51 Blaster which deals even more damage than either but is useless at ranges more than 50 meters and has a 3% chance of exploding and vaporizing you and anyone else near you. In the custom weapon rules plasma doesn't confer any special rules, but all the mass-produced plasma weapons have the AVPL quality allowing them to damage armored vehicles that are impervious to normal small arms.
  • Rifts has them as popular heavy weapons, either direct projecting weapons, as warheads in missiles, and even the occasional Plasma Flamethrower.
  • Skyrealms of Jorune: Blasters are the Magnetic Weapons variety of Plasma Cannon. Ranging from pistol to cannon size, the blaster magnetically launches a metal pellet that has been super-heated. Leaving the muzzle, the pellet becomes a ball of super-hot plasma capable of punching a hole through the massive Jorune wildlife.
  • Star Fleet Battles gives Plasma Torpedoes to several factions, most notably the Romulans, but also the Gorns and Interstellar Concordium, the latter of which also have the Plasmatic Pulsar Device.
  • Traveller: PGMP (Plasma Gun, Man-Portable) and FGMP (Fusion). Both are intended to be used with Powered Armor and expose nearby people to radiation. Larger versions of plasma weapons could be mounted on vehicles and/or used as artillery, such as the Plasma A, Plasma B and Plasma C guns.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Almost every race in the game has access to some form of plasma weapon, most often for a squad's special weapons guy.
    • The Imperium, Orks, and Chaos Space Marines have high-damage, but unstable plasma weaponry that shoot balls of plasma, scaled as pistols, rifles, and of course as a plasma cannon, and scaled up even farther with Titan weaponry. They're powerful enough to cook even the most well-protected troops with a single shot, and a lucky hit can even punch through all but the heaviest of vehicular armor. The downside, other than being hard to make and maintain, is that they are prone to overheating, venting, and even exploding in the user's hands, easily killing them if their armor doesn't hold out. It is possible to fire them relatively safely at lower settings. Not so for the Orks, who are a species of Living Weapon Blood Knight Ax-Crazy maniacs who won't fire at anything less than full power, being the Trope Namer's for More Dakka.
    • The Tau have safe and stable ion weapons that fire a stream of ions that turn the target into plasma. Unusually for Tau equipment, ion weapons can disable their power-limiters to fire an explosive over-charge shot at the cost of making them unstable. Plasma weaponry doesn't see a lot of use in their arsenal, however — their main sidearms, pulse weapons, are essentially particle accelerators that fire charged particles, and they favor railguns for the really big hitters.
    • The Eldar and Dark Eldar have stable AND powerful plasma as, when their old civilization collapsed, they were able to keep their technological capability, unlike the humans who lost a lot of technological knowledge and the Orks who, unlike the Eldar whom they were created alongside, devolved and cannot fully access their inbuilt genetic knowledge.
    • Some large Tyranids (read: bugs the size of houses, or multi-kilometer bio-ships) are also capable of generating plasma within their own bodies, although it's more of a mix of unstable chemicals that ignite when spat out and leaves the bug's mouth or other organ that projects them. That being said, the Tyranids are so evolved that this chemical cocktail used by their bio-forms burns hot enough that it makes plasma, hence "bio-plasma".
    • "Melta" weapons are considered to be, by certain segments of the fandom, to behave the way that realistic plasma weapons should, although plasma is never referred to when describing them. They fire a beam of immense heat that disperses rapidly, so they can one-shot a vehicle or a building up close, kill most things in one shot just outside of a few yards (or a guaranteed wounding on things that are just too big to die outright), but are practically harmless at stand-off range and long range. Their portrayal differs a bit between different media, with tabletop and lore having them as an instantaneous shot, while video games tend to use a continuous beam. That said, fan opinion is typically more leaning towards the idea that they fire microwave beams.


    Video Games 
  • The plasma rifle in Abuse is an unusual example. Instead of firing the familiar blobs or bolts, it shoots rapid-fire beams that quickly dissipate into what look like contrails.
  • Agent Intercept has the Gemini Cannons. While they may appear to be bullet weapons, they work by trapping microparticles in a high-energy state and releasing them at velocity. The projectiles' fast degradation of energy makes the cannons an efficient and safe close-range weapon, which Torpere stresses the importance of due to "certain Agents."
  • The Pulse Laser from Apocalypse fires green, fast-moving plasma bolts capable of doing serious damage. It debuts at the exit of the first level, right before the Tank boss, and can shred plenty of health away before it's depleted. The same weapon shows up regularly afterwards and it's one of the better weapons available.
  • In the Bloons Tower Defense games since BTD3, you can upgrade the Super Monkey so that it shoots plasma (called Plasma Vision in BTD3/BTD4 and Plasma Blasts in BTD5/BTD6). This replaces Laser Vision and gives it the capacity to pop Lead Bloons.
  • Borderlands 2 plays the trope straight with Plasma Casters: the rare 'E-Tech' variant of the SMG, they act like any other SMG, but fire small orb-shaped pulses of plasma that deal extra damage, albeit for the cost of 2 ammo (they normally have doubled magazines to counteract this) and slower moving projectiles than their bullet counterparts. Different manufacturers with the Plasma Caster variant available to them will feature their own spin on the weapon type, ranging from 'drunk' projectiles to additional splash damage, and unique variants exist with additional effects.
  • Plasma rifles are the default weapons used by the alien invaders from C-12: Final Resistance. In later levels, the player hero Riley Vaugh can obtain this type of weapon from slain alien mooks.
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series:
    • In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun and its expansion Firestorm, the Brotherhood of Nod deploys an advanced aircraft known as the Banshee equipped with plasma cannons. Nod's Cyborg Commando is also equipped with a plasma gun.
    • In Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars and its Expansion Kane's Wrath the Scrin make extensive use of plasma weapons.
  • Crying Suns has the Plasma Nuke, a battleship weapon which inflicts heavy damage to all squadrons in a large area of effect. It is less powerful and has a smaller blast radius than the Heavy Nuke, but it also has a much shorter cooldown time.
  • Dead Space has the Plasma Cutter, a heavily modified industrial tool. The intended use (as seen in Dead Space 2) is to fire a continuous beam that cuts through hardened materials. The modified version instead fires highly damaging beam pulses instead. The pulses have less actual cutting powernote  but are much more useful when it comes to killing things.
  • The Plasma Cannon in all three games in the Descent series fires massive green blobs that travel faster than the game's Slow Lasers, making them harder to dodge. They also have a high rate of fire, meaning they drain your energy faster than the lasers, too.
  • Deus Ex's plasma rifle "superheats slugs of magnetically-doped plastic and accelerates the resulting gas-liquid mix using an array of linear magnets". Too bad this weapon is not held in high esteem among players. The PS20, a one-shot disposable cigarette-sized version described as an "emergency weapon", is equally as despised.
  • Doom:
    • The plasma rifle (Doom³'s in particular) does more damage per projectile than the go-to machine gun, and with higher accuracy, but it suffers from slower projectiles, more scarce ammo, and in the classic games an arbitrary one-second delay after releasing the trigger. It does, however, buck the trend of "slow-to-fire" into orbit with its rate of fire: the classic one fires at 700 rounds per minute cyclic, while 3's iteration goes up to a more modest but still considerably high 480.
    • The BFG9000 in the original games is implied to be a plasma cannon, given that it uses the same ammo as the standard plasma rifle.
    • The Project Brutality mod for Doom 2 has the plasma rifle with a charged shotgun blast as its secondary fire, the heavy plasma rifle that shoots slower but with more force and can be used as a plasma thrower, the BFG10k, the big brother to BFG9000 with its main shot, a focused laser, and energy shield, and the BFG11k a rapid fire plasma gatling gun that can fire a powerful plasma beam.
      "Ooh, I like it! The sugar-sweet taste of heavy ordinance!"
  • In the Dune computer games Dune II, Dune 2000 and Emperor: Battle for Dune, the Harkonnen Devastator Tank is equipped with dual plasma cannons, which fire plasma "shots" over short distances. They are powered by a nuclear reactor, which can be pushed into a meltdown under certain circumstances.
  • Earth 2150 has plasma cannons as the energy weapon of the United Civilized States. It's implied to be reverse-engineered from a UFO at Area 51. Like all energy weapons, can be countered with Deflector Shields, while kinetic weapons and missiles pass right through them. The UCS superweapon is a giant plasma cannon with ballistic bolts guided by satellite.
  • Earthworm Jim uses a plasma gun as his primary weapon, although in practice it functions more like a rapid-fire Hitscan Ray Gun and the single-use stronger shots he can collect function closer to actual plasma projectiles.
  • Elite Dangerous features plasma accelerators, which are the most damaging weapon in the game and are one of two types of weapons (the other being railguns) that deal thermal kinetic damage, which makes them capable of tearing through both shields and armour with equal ease, but at the cost of a slow firing rate, requiring huge amounts of power, generating huge amounts of heat, and being a Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon with a Painfully Slow Projectile, meaning you have to Lead the Target manually.
  • EVE Online: Large scale plasma cannons and plasma railguns are the favored weapon of the Gallente Civilization.
  • Fallout:
    • Energy weapons include plasma pistols, rifles, and grenades. Plasma weapons do more damage than lasers but tend to hold less ammo, have a lower rate of fire and the projectiles are slower (the last is only relevant from Fallout 3 on). They also have the ability to reduce the enemy to a pile of goo with a lethal critical hit.
    • Fallout 3 introduces a more compact version of the plasma rifle, eliminating the "bulky" aspect of it (it isn't significantly heavier than other rifle-sized weapons). Fallout: New Vegas expands on the difference in plasma rifles by retconning it to be the "Q-series" (and showing the series' Super Prototype, the Q-35 Matter Modulator, as a unique weapon), as opposed to the classic Fallout "P-series" (like the Winchester P-94), which are now called "Plasma Casters".
    • Fallout 4 removes the Plasma Casters, but allows for more customization of the weapon, like transforming a plasma rifle into a pistol (and vice versa), into a shotgun or flamethrower-type weapon, or make it fully automatic. They also consume their own unique ammunition instead of using the same ammo as laser rifles.note  Fallout 76 adds the Gatling plasma as a new heavy weapon, which compared to the Plasma Caster is shorter, more stout, and has a lot more coils around it. It also has another, unique ammo type called as "plasma core".
  • First Encounter Assault Recon: The Type-7 Particle Weapon, a portable sniper weapon which fires a high velocity particle burst that vaporizes organic targets save for bone material.
  • Freelancer: Among a number of other starfighter-mounted energy weapons, plasma weapons have short range and low muzzle velocity but high damage as a trade-off. Pistols and rifles are also seen wielded by the main characters in certain cutscenes.
  • Galactic Civilizations has ship-board plasma weapons in the Energy Weapons research tier, the description notes that they're technically not "energy" weapons though.
  • Half-Life 2: While never explicitly described as a "plasma rifle", the Overwatch Standard-Issue Pulse Rifle functions much like the plasma rifles of most FPS games. The main difference is that Pulse Rifles function by using containers filled with dark energy, as clips which expel this material in controlled bursts. They also can fire a compressed orb of dark energy as a form of self-propelled projectile. Dark energy has heat and kinetic damage, and due to the nature of this sort of exotic matter, it causes normal matter to vaporize and cease to exist. Similar weapons are found mounted on the game's enemy warships and vehicles.
  • In Halo, a variety of plasma weapons are used by the Covenant. Infantry-scale ones tend (in-game) to be less powerful than ballistic weapons, have significant travel time, cannot be reloaded by the player, and overheat if fired too much, but are much better at draining energy shields and have enormous magazines. Ship-based plasma weapons are always portrayed as frighteningly powerful and far superior to their ballistic counterparts. In particular, the Covenant use a device in their weapons which can project a magnetic sheath remotely; this can actually be used to "guide" plasma to its target (though it's subject to certain limitations), with its operation is described as being like focusing a series of lenses to adjust the containment as the plasma travels. If the firing ship is destroyed while the plasma shot is still en route, the magnetic sheath will disappear, and the plasma will follow suit soon after. In one novel, Cortana was able to modify the settings on a plasma weapon to turn it into a near-lightspeed plasma beam, earning her the ire of the ship's Covenant AI for messing with "divine" artifacts.
  • Homeworld includes many ships armed with plasma bomb launchers, notably the Attack Bomber and Assault Frigate.
    • The semi-canon Homeworld: Cataclysm has the Taiidan attempting to increase the rate of fire for plasma bomb launchers. The result is the Energy Gun, an upgrade for mass drivers that fires a self-guided and thus highly accurate plasma bomb. This gives larger ship classes a fighting chance against fighters, yet fighter strafing runs also become more deadly against larger ship classes. The Kuun-Lan's siege cannon is an oversized weapon originally designed to crack the shielding of asteroid bases. It has a range of several kilometers and a massive blast radius.
    • Homeworld 2 features a few ships with plasma-based weaponry, Bombers and Progenitor Movers in a forward mount as well as Progenitor Dreadnaughts in a dual-barreled underside turret. The non-controllable Progenitor Drones are armed with a rapid-fire version. Many mods feature the heavy use of plasma-based weapons.
  • Iji: The Plasma Cannon is a weapon that fires an instant-hitting red beam that penetrates through whatever the user is hostile to and deals enough base damage to one-hit Soldiers, all for just two Shocksplinter ammo. In Iji's hands (and with some points in Attack), the Plasma Cannon becomes an Infinity -1 Sword.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect 2 has the Geth plasma shotgun added in one DLC. It is a small BFG and basically a secondary heavy weapon that takes the shotgun slot, despite not fulfilling a shotgun's typical role: Instead of spreading close range buckshot it fires three blobs that are actually very accurate and have a slight homing effect if you're using the aim function to make up for the gun firing projectiles instead of being a hitscan weapon like everything else. It doesn't actually shoot plasma, but cluster rounds of superconductive material that creates plasma on contact by superheating and ionizing the air around it. It is very useful against armor and it does massive damage, but has a slow rate of fire. It can be supercharged for even more damage, although it takes significantly longer to fire.
    • Mass Effect 3 adds two new weapons- the Geth Plasma SMG and the Geth Spitfire. The former is a submachine gun that's extremely light but has a huge rate of fire while the Spitfire is a plasma minigun that functions like a massively scaled up version of the SMG. The Spitfire is a support weapon, so you're only able to carry it around and use it on Single Player missions where you find it, though it's available in the multiplayer game as an Assault Rifle. Unlike the Geth Plasma Shotgun, both the SMG and the Spitfire are hitscan weapons and thus avert the slower projectiles aspect of the trope.
  • Master of Orion has plasma cannon for your ships, and plasma rifles for infantry. In both games, the plasma cannon is a fairly advanced late-game weapon, and the plasma rifle is the best handheld weapon available. In the second game, plasma cannons have an enveloping effect, which means they deal damage to all four shield sections simultaneously. Also, the Stellar Converter is mentioned to be an extremely powerful plasma weapon. It's capable of causing an Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • The Particle Projector Cannon in MechWarrior 2 functions like a plasma cannon with massive damage, extremely slow projectile, slow refire rate, and infinite ammo (but heavy heat generation), unlike the PPC in later MechWarrior games which were generally near-instant Lightning Guns used primarily for sniping. The MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries MekTek re-release has an actual Plasma Cannon from BattleTech, though its excessive heat generation made it rare on the battlefield.
  • In the Mega Man series, Reploids (robots) use plasma weapons.
  • Metroid:
    • The Plasma Beam is a weapon upgrade which powers up Samus's attacks and grants them the ability to pass through multiple enemies (and in Metroid Dread, to damage robotic enemies with all beam attacks instead of only charged shots). It's usually the strongest beam weapon that Samus can get in each game, depicted as capable of incinerating lesser foes in a single shot, and burning those who survive.
    • In Metroid Prime, in which Samus switches between beam weapons on the fly rather than stacking their effects, the Plasma Beam functions like a Short-Range Shotgun — having high power but a slow firing and charging speed compared to her other weapons, as well as a limited range when not charged — making it somewhat more realistic than most examples.
    • Metroid Prime: Hunters has the Judicator, which actually uses super-cooled plasma, which is capable of freezing people if used. Sounds like bad science, but it actually is indeed possible to supercool plasma to freezing degrees with a laser.
    • Metroid: Other M has Anthony's plasma cannon, which is noticeably more primitive in that it "takes forever to charge".
  • Nuclear Throne's plasma weapons fire large balls of energy, and includes the Plasma Cannon, which fires an even larger ball that explodes into 10 normal ones, and the Super Plasma Cannon, which fires a ball multiple times larger than your character and is powerful enough to lag the game every time you fire it. The weapon's associated loading tip? "Comedy".
  • Plasma turrets are the best planetary defenses that can be built in the MMO Ogame. It's the unique defense against which no ships have rapid fire, and flavor text mentions the impressiveness of an approaching bluish ball of plasma as seen from a target ship before the latter is destroyed.
  • Zarya of Overwatch wields a "Particle Cannon" as her main weapon, a mighty BFG that either fires a continuous plasma beam of finite length (sort of like an extremely long Laser Blade) or blasts singular explosive projectiles. They start out doing decent damage on their own, but Zarya's gimmick is the ability to project "Particle Barriers" on herself and her allies, with any damage they receive charging up her cannon, making her extremely effective at vaporizing foes when at maximum charge.
  • The Vanu Sovereignty of PlanetSide use plasma weapons reverse-engineered from advanced technology left behind on Auraxis by a vanished alien species, powered by disc-shaped batteries. Practically, they're not much different from regular kinetic weapons, falling between the Terran Republic's lead-based bullets and the New Conglomerate's Gauss-propelled ferrous slugs in terms of damage, but many VS weapons have the added benefit of their projectiles ignoring gravity (and therefore avoiding bullet drop).
  • Purple features a plasma gun as one of the available weapons for the player. It's not as powerful as a hammer, but it provides nifty Recoil Boost, which is necessary to get some secrets.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: The plasma cannon is a powerful late-game weapon.
  • Appears in the HD version of Spelunky, where it appears as an extremely rare Random Drop in a crate or at the top of the Mothership. It's much larger than the player character, has enough recoil to send the PC back a good ways and throw him/her off of a rope, and its shots cause explosions on impact (so be very careful about firing one).
  • Starbase Orion has plasma cannons as one of the ship weapons. It's the only weapon whose firepower increases with range. The weapon fires tracking blobs of energy. It's possible to dodge them with certain equipment. Since all weapons are hitscan in the game, it's possible for a ship to blow up before all the blobs have impacted.
  • The Star Control franchise brings us the Mycon Podships, whose only weapon are fire-and-forget sentient plasma globs. While very powerful at point-blank distances and having a quite decent range, they dissipate with time and fast ships can outrun them and even cause the plasma globs to hit the firing ship.
  • Star Fox: Assault has a plasma cannon that Fox uses in two missions while riding on a teammate's wing, it's about the size of a rocket launcher, is very powerful, and fully automatic.
  • Starsiege and its direct predecessor EarthSiege 2 both have the plasma cannon as a heavy weapon loadout for the HERCs. It has decent range, limited tracking ability, and can one-shot a majority of enemy units. Despite this it is inadvisable to use early on as the cannon is not only an energy hog but also destroys any potential salvage from the enemy, which is the currency for repairs, upgrades, and new units.
  • In addition to the Plasma Torpedoes carried over from the source material, Star Trek Online also features plasma energy weapons, coming in a wide variety of forms, both carried and ship-mounted. Any captain can decide to use them, and by default the Borg and the Romulan Republic use them.
  • Stellaris has plasma throwers as energy weapons that have higher armor penetration than standard energy weapons, usually some form of laser (which are generally ineffective against armor).
  • Sword of the Stars has plasma cannons as the initial medium-level energy weapons. They fire green bolts. Later on, they can be upgraded to fusion (yellow) and Antimatter (purple). There are multiple kinds of plasma/fusion/antimatter weapons, including triple-barreled heavy mounts and plasma/fusion/antimatter emitters (which fire a short-range cone of bolts). There are also plasma/fusion/antimatter torpedoes, which track their target.
  • System Shock has a plasma rifle which uses energy, while most other weapons use solid ammo.
  • TAGAP has a Plasma Gun that has decent range, fire rate, and power. On top of that, you can also use it to deploy plasma barriers.
  • Terminator Rampage requires you to obtain parts in the Skynet base to create a prototype weapon, the V-TEC Phased Plasma Cannon, which turns out to be the Meta-Node's only weakness.
  • In the first two TimeSplitters games, the plasma rifle is basically a sci-fi version of the machine guns, with a few differences; rather than needing reloading it overheats if fired for too long, it fires faster as it begins to overheat, and its secondary fire grenade launcher fires a sticky plasma grenade (rather than the conventional grenades the "Soviet Rifle" fires). The third game removes the secondary fire from rifles and instead makes the plasma rifle a more powerful, slower version of the automatic rifle from the same era.
  • Total Annihilation and its unofficial 3D open-source variant Spring both include plasma cannon in the place of most tank, infantry, ship and artillery guns.
  • Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon has Plasma Cannons available to the Terran Empire and the Procyon Expanse as an expensive, long ranged weapon. However, despite its name, it resembles and functions like a conventional rifled cannon, instead of a true plasma cannon.
  • The Twins (2020): You can find one in the prison and use it against the enemies. It is incredibly powerful, being able to not only kill the enemies, but launch their bodies around the rooms. It can One-Hit Kill the giant beetle. Unfortunately, it can damage you with the recoil if not properly fired. On Guest Mode, a possible game-over has Granny shooting you with it and killing you.
  • Vangers has the Ghorb Gears. These are plasma cannons that come in two sizes and fire a moderately powerful bolt of energy at a fairly rapid pace and these plasma bolts are Homing Projectile too. There are more damaging weapons like the Crustest Cannon or Speetle Systems but overall the Ghorb Gears are the best weapon in general.
  • Warhammer 40,000 Expanded Universe:
    • Dawn of War has plasma weapon upgrades for Imperial Guard, Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, and Tau infantry squads.
    • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine upgrades Captain Titus's bolt pistol to a plasma pistol about a quarter of the way into the game. Larger plasma cannon are also available in multiplayer and at special points in the campaign.
  • X-COM:
    • Plasma weapons are mainstays of the alien army. You can research and reverse-engineer these weapons, making them the tier three upgrades for your own troopers, and finally on par with alien damage output. Exactly the same can be said on the various clones and descendants of the title, like for example Xenonauts.
    • In the original series, X-COM: UFO Defense, alien plasma weaponry is the best conventional weaponry in the game (unconventional weaponry includes guided missiles and stun bombs), and only technically lose to lasers in that their ammo capacity is finite. In the sequel, XCOM Terror From The Deep, plasma weapons are unsuited for the oceanic depths, and you can instead develop Gauss weaponry, which works on a similar principle. In both cases, the plasma particle is fired and encased in a magnetic field that explodes on impact to release the energy. Gauss weaponry is less powerful and effective than straight plasma weaponry, but uses a stronger magnetic field to work underwater as well as on land.
    • In XCOM 2, plasma weapons fire laser-like beams rather than the usual "gassy bolt" projectiles, and are deadlier than ever.

  • Freefall: The Ecosystems Unlimited compound that Florence Ambrose visits has plasma cannons mounted in its guard towers, though after serving as part of a punchline for one strip they're never heard of again.
  • Irregular Webcomic!: In an alternate comic, Paris claims that her gun fires ionized plasma. When pointed out that this is a tautology, she points out that he's thinking of a different kind of plasma.
  • Outsider: Ship-mounted plasma weaponry are employed by the Loroi, Historians and Umiak, and is well beyond anything humanity has access to. Plasma cannons come with a number of disadvantages, as they require the use of a "carrier wave" to keep the beam from diffusing into nothingness before doing anything useful — only the Umiak and Historians have mastered this technique, and Loroi plasma cannons are consequently fairly primitive in comparison — have limited range, are easily disrupted by electromagnetic screening due to their net charge and are completely useless in atmosphere. On the other hand, they're far more powerful than the lasers and particle beams that make up the bulk of most ships' guns and are well-suited for penetrating ship armor, and the heavier variants are capable of overloading and shorting out defensive screens.
  • Schlock Mercenary: The titular character favors the BH-209 Plasgun as a default handheld weapon. It's barely usable one-handed, makes a distinctive ommminous huuuummmmmm sound when charging up, sears through most body armor, and explodes at the drop of a hat. It's more or less a handheld fusion-powered thruster with "recoil-less" mode, which can be toggled with a flip of switch. When used for propulsion, it allows the quarter-ton amorph to fly around and try aerial acrobatics. Which also means it eats a lot of working medium and expects to take it from air, so in vacuum it fails and around liquids becomes even more dangerous than normally. His first one blew up when he poured beer on it. Later strips introduce the AP-130, which is smaller than most handguns and doesn't have a lengthy charging time; Sergeant Schlock rejects it as "dinky". This actually proves to be a legitimate point; without the glowing barrel and hum the intimidation factor that was most of the weapon's appeal was completely lost. Then he picked up BH-250, looking much the same as his old one. It totals 19.5 kg.
  • S.S.D.D. has the Black Rose Mk. II plasma gun. It's powered by a backpack fusion generator connected to the gun by a flimsy hose and is infamous for exploding when hit. Naturally, Tessa owns one.
  • In Vexxarr, the Mahlakosian's Humongous Mecha and Lattrox ships use plasma cannons.

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • There's some experimental plasma weapons in Real Life such as MARAUDER and Shiva Star. In contrast to typical fictional devices, the MARAUDER fires plasmoids much faster than a bullet (1000km/s or more; any slower and it would pop before reaching the target) and while its projectiles explode, the much more significant part is the EMP they create.
  • "Casaba-howitzer" devices are effectively focused nuclear explosions... a one-shot brief pulse of 50000K plasma reaching over a relatively short range. A bit like a plasma weapon, but both more powerful and less useful than fictional plasma weapons.
    • Originally designed for peaceful purposes too... nuclear shaped charges are a key part of the Orion Drive design.
  • The prime reason plasma weapons were hitherto considered Awesome, but Impractical is the fact that plasma dissipates quickly when outside a magnetic containment field. A 2013 development, however, has enabled a plasma projectile to generate its own field. While it still doesn't remain stable for long enough to travel any practical distance, this is an important proof of concept that holds significant promise for self-sustaining plasma reactions. Humans being humans, you can bet that the possibilities of weaponizing it will be duly investigated.
  • Functional relatives of plasma weaponry include particle beams and electrolasers.
  • While humans are still taking baby steps, Mother Nature has provided the Pistol Shrimp with a plasma cannon.


Video Example(s):


Plasma Cannon overload

Jumba and Stitch try to pass a plasma cannon that has been jammed with a carrot, before it overloads and explodes the house.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / GrenadeHotPotato

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