An anonymous Tumblr user asks, “Are melee and ranged combat equally effective in S&S? Because in most settings with guns, not just sci-fi ones, there’s always the issue of why are the characters even engaging in melee combat when they could just shoot at their enemies from a safe distance. Does S&S favour ranged combat, or does it put in place mechanics that make it reasonable to bring a plasma sword to a gun fight?”
Melee combat is something we put special focus and effort into since we knew that the addition of technology and guns would drastically empower ranged combat. Some classes, like the Vanguard, Paladin, certain Fighter and Marshal archetypes, some Psions, and Adepts all have a vested interest in getting in close for melee action. Each of them have special class features that help improve your ability to make your melee attacking worthwhile. For example, the Myrmidon Archetype for the Fighter gains boosted armor class against ranged attacks and can even deflect bullets back at people with their weapon.
Overall, it’s less of question of equal and more a question of environment. Sometimes one will be better than the other and vice versa. This ebb and flow of ranged and melee combat is part of what makes S&S feel different than normal 5e. (It’s also why switch hitters were popular among the playtesters.)
Primarily melee combatants take advantage of three things:
1. They don’t have to worry about the cover rules nearly as much because their enemy’s cover doesn’t pose as large of an obstacle.
2. Most melee weapons ignore the extra hit points granted by Personal Energy Barriers, meaning that you’re pushing in more deadly damage.
3. And of course ranged attackers have disadvantage when you’re in their face and they can’t make attacks of opportunity like you can.