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Just rewatched the new Dune movie and had to explain to a friend why melee combat is a thing. I then started wondering: this could very well be used as an offensive weapon. Emphasis by me:

Lasguns were the preferred weapon for armies. However, when shields were being employed, lasguns were generally not used because contact reaction between a lasgun beam and a shield created a nuclear explosion that often killed everyone within a large radius.

From the Dune Fandom article on Lasguns

So, basically, a faction could be using this as a deterrent for other factions (if you attack us, we are using the lasgun, attack us at your own peril) or simply sending one single guy into the enemy camp shooting somebody using a shield with a lasgun.

I figure noble houses would probably not do this (maybe an accord that is enforced by them all?) but I assume there might be factions with less ethical concerns (not implying Harkonnens have such concerns). So, is that tactic used by a faction? If yes, which? If no, why not?

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  • 3
    Just make a warhead with a core comprised of a shield and a tiny lasgun. Multiple cores could be put on multiple re-entry vehicles of a ballistic missile, or made into an ornithopter delivery. Oct 28, 2021 at 14:40
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    Pretty sure this was explained in detail in the book.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Oct 28, 2021 at 14:45
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    @SillybutTrue - According to Dune, the lasgun/shield interaction might be small or large. No-one wants a weapon that might not work or might invite an uncontrollable response.
    – Valorum
    Oct 28, 2021 at 15:06
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    I’d imagine anyone trying to use this as an actual tactic would be treated the same as someone using their House Atomics in war. The empire would unite to exterminate them. Oct 28, 2021 at 15:07
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    @NKCampbell Read the books but like a decade ago. Currently busy reading the 50+ books of the Horus Heresy.
    – Shade
    Oct 28, 2021 at 15:30

2 Answers 2

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The Houses of the Imperium are bound by the Great Convention. Much like the UN of today's world, going against the Great Convention will bring down the might of the Imperium on the offender.

One of the rules of the Great Convention is the use of atomics - dreaded weapons that most Houses keep in reserve, yet never dare to use (again, because of the Great Convention). Such a House would have no choice but to go rogue and risk being hunted down and killed.

The lasgun/shield interaction is indistinguishable from the blast given off by atomics (with the added bonus that the blast feeds back along the lasgun beam, ensuring the attacker is also vapourised). As such, it is incredibly seldom risked as it would easily be mistaken for an atomics attack.

It should be noted though that it has been used offensively a few times throughout the series. Two occasions that I can think of:

During Dune, whilst on the run, Thufir Hawat rigs a lasgun remotely to fire on a shield, eliminating a large Harkonnen force. I believe the thinking here is that there is nothing left for House Atreides to lose.

In Dune: Duke Of Caladan, rebels fire a lasgun at a shielded Atreides ship, eliminating an attacking Atreides squadron (and Paul, if he had gotten his way and joined the attack).

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  • It also shows up in some of the Dune RTS video games, if you count those as being part of the series. It can be viable to use laser-wielding units as suicide troops to take out shielded enemy units.
    – nick012000
    Oct 29, 2021 at 9:07
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    I believe it may have been Duncan Idaho, not Thufir Hawat, who rigged the remote firing mechanism. It also may have been safer to do in that case because the Emperor would not want the events on Dune investigated too closely, which would surely happen if word of an atomic attack leaked off-planet, so it was much more likely to be swept under the rug.
    – Xono
    Oct 29, 2021 at 9:42
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In the novels they explain it by saying that any house that used lasgun would basically become the enemy of all the houses and would lose the support of the spacing guild so they would be trapped on there planet. When you don't control travel off or onto your planets it becomes much easier for one body to control the action of everyone.

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    lasguns or nuclear weapons ?
    – Max
    Oct 28, 2021 at 21:19
  • It should be noted that the Spacing Guild is impartial, and would transport even rogue Houses, given the right amount of cash. Whilst not a Frank Herbert novel, this can be seen in Dune: House Atreides, when the Spacing Guild helps House Vernius escape Ix as they are overthrown by the Bene Tleilax and declared renegade by Emperor Elrood.
    – user25730
    Oct 29, 2021 at 0:37

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