On lethal damage and scary weapons

In the current version of Bulletproof Blues, there is no difference between the damage inflicted by a sword and the damage inflicted by a baseball bat. There is a simple reason for this. Aside from a handful of specially designed weapons, like rubber bullets and tasers, any real world weapon is lethal — and even tasers and rubber bullets can cause death or crippling injury.

However, in the comics that Bulletproof Blues seeks to emulate, there is a big difference: a character who carries guns and/or swords is not regarded in the same way as a character who carries a hammer or a ball-and-chain, even though, in the real world, these weapons would all be equally lethal. A character with guns is a killer. Guns are scary. Swords are scary.

Thinking about this, and how we might apply this distinction in the next version of Bulletproof Blues (which is a long way off), it occurred to me that there is a real-world equivalent for this phenomenon: the “assault weapon”. The term “assault weapon” was popularized in the late 1980s by an anti-firearm lobbying group seeking greater restrictions on civilian firearm ownership. This effort was successful, at least for a while. The U.S. Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 restricted ownership of “assault weapons” in the United States from 1994 to 2004. However, the distinction between an “assault weapon” and an ordinary rifle was a cosmetic one. This rifle…


… and this “assault weapon”…


… are functionally the same. They are, for most practical (rather than cosmetic) purposes, interchangeable. The difference is not in the weapons themselves, but in our perception of them. “Assault weapons” are scary looking… much like guns and swords in a superhero comic.

So what we are thinking about is a new power enhancement: Scary. “Scary” powers are not any more effective or lethal than other powers, but bystanders perceive them to be more lethal, and more dangerous… and the people who use such powers are perceived as more bloodthirsty, and more willing to take a life.

What do you think?