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 Post subject: Crossbows
PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2015 8:45 pm 
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In most systems, there's very little reason to use a crossbow. In AD&D 1e, for example, a crossbow bolt does less damage than an arrow (except for a heavy crossbow vs. a large opponent) with either half or a quarter the rate of fire. Sure, a heavy crossbow has a 30' longer range than a longbow, but a rate of fire of 1/2 for the crossbow vs. 2 per round for the bow, few people opt for the crossbow.

And I think that's a shame, because crossbows are kind of cool. So I was wondering about ways to make them more attractive. I'm thinking of these possible house rules:

  1. Increase the rate of fire to 2 for a light crossbow and 1 for a heavy crossbow.
  2. Bump the damage for each with a +1, so a light crossbow bolt does 2-5 and a heavy bolt does 3-6/3-8.
  3. Allow anyone to use crossbows without spending a proficiency slot. The advantage of the crossbow, historically, was that any peasant could use a crossbow: just wind, load, point, and shoot. The bow took training. So why not let people use crossbows without spending proficiency slots on it? Of course, there are lots of weapons one might say shouldn't require proficiency slots. Clubs, for example. I need to train to learn to use a club? Isn't it just a matter of hitting people with it? Alternately, the bow's increased rate of fire could come at the cost of an extra proficiency slot: bows would require 2 proficiency slots to use, but crossbows would need only one.

What do y'all think? Unbalancing? Would you use a crossbow with these rules? Stop using bows? What other house rules would you suggest to make crossbows worth using?


Last edited by Zhym on Thu Mar 26, 2015 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2015 8:49 pm 
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What I always did back in the day to represent the stopping power of a crossbow is to give it a +1 to hit vs armored opponents, making it more likely to pierce plate or shatter chain.


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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2015 9:13 pm 
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I like that. It's a simpler version of the to-hit vs. AC charts, which help the crossbow a little (but not enough, IMO).


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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 5:38 am 
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I dont think anyone has used one as a normal weapon in any that I have seen here. The original to hit vs AC chart had it up to a +4 adjustment. But, since no one uses those, that advantage went away, leaving only the hindrances... I would say a +1 normally, and +2 in surprise/ambush situations would make sense.

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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 7:46 am 
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I'm in a Delving Deeper (OD&D Clone) game where crossbows see a fair amount of play.

The reason? We're in the hinterlands. Supplies are often scarce. Since they are OD&D rules, the damage isn't different from the bow and there isn't really the worry about having proficiency. The fire rate is a little different; in OD&D rules, using your bow for a round means you expend 2-5 (or so; I forget the exact number) arrows for X amount of damage. With a crossbow, you fire one bolt for the same amount of damage.

So you run through your arrows really quickly, making the bow useless after about two or three fights when you can't run to the store to resupply.

A lot of the creatures we fight have crossbows, so we recover more bolts than arrows. Hence, most of the players who can fire one (fighter and rogue types) carry a loaded crossbow they fire at the start of every combat. By round two, melee usually starts and it doesn't matter anymore.

Historically, crossbows came into fashion because of their ease of use. Firing a bow takes a fair amount of training and skill. Any bloke (or woman or child) can cock a string, point it at a target, and pull a trigger. So they were a lot more common.

Might consider that route. Make bows more expensive and require more proficiency slots to properly use; make crossbows cheaper and reduce non-proficiency penalties or negate them or make them require just one proficiency slot.

Or make resupplying arrows harder to do, limiting the use of the bow in the campaign.

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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 8:33 am 
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Interesting ideas. Arrows could also be more fragile and prone to breakage than crossbow bolts.


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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 8:47 am 
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I'm not sure how the rules work across ALL editions for magical ranged weapons with ammo, but some at least give a +hit bonus to the weapon and +damage bonus to the ammo. Crossbows could be different, giving a damage bonus as well--though that doesn't make standard crossbows any better :)


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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 9:14 am 
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Zhym wrote:
Interesting ideas. Arrows could also be more fragile and prone to breakage than crossbow bolts.


That or you could limit ranged weapon use in general and call all arrows/bolts non-recoverable. Makes people think twice about raining arrows onto every single target they come against before closing for melee.

Or maybe modify range for bow vs. crossbow in dungeon settings to make them (honestly) more realistic. Bows rely heavily on trajectory as the range gets longer and longer. This is often not really possible in a dungeon environment with 10' (or lower) ceilings. So you could houserule an indoor range for bows that severely limits their use and an indoor range for crossbows that makes them more efficient in the enclosed environment.

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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 9:17 am 
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I almost always make firing bows indoors impossible from the second rank or back unless the ceiling is high or the folks in front are ducking low to provide a straight firing line--but limiting them overall to short range would make good sense too.


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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 12:17 pm 
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BtB a nocked arrow shoots before segment 1, so first in any melee. It's impossible for an archer to keep an arrow on the string for two long, you can argue that a cocked and loaded crossbow should go off first before any other weapons. And that a crossbow itself (with proper saves from crushing blows instituted) can be used as a club after firing. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 12:21 pm 
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rredmond wrote:
And that a crossbow itself (with proper saves from crushing blows instituted) can be used as a club after firing. :)
Hey, Oliver Queen uses his bow as a club all the time. :D

So many combats have only one round of missile fire before the sides converge into melee that the crossbow rate of fire doesn't always matter. Fire it, drop it, and draw a sword. But of course, the same could be done with a longbow.

I do like the idea of it being impossible to fire bows at range indoors.


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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 5:01 pm 
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To be honest I always use crossbows not that you may have noticed this unless you are in any games with me but I use them for their superior range sacrificing the lower damage. They should be able to do more damage in my humble opinion. I like how the ideas are flowing in this discussion. Here is a list with some different ideas with a number of weapons notice the damage for crossbows.
http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Weapons
Here too is another site I tend to use in my games when I DM as well, again notice the damage for the crossbows.
http://www.legolas.org/items/arms.html

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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 5:07 pm 
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You could even add another range increment (I'm using B/X rules here) at a -3 to hit modifier on top of the existing ranges, just for crossbows, to represent trying to arc a shot with it using the superior force of the mechanism (heavy crossbow only).


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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2016 10:22 am 
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Always hated the weapon damage chart. Just made every pick a longsword and longbow. And you could never stop players meta-gaming damage, a low level fighter surrounded by a quartet of crossbow wielding guards would probably surrender but by 5th level they contemplate an average damage and fight their way out.

So I used to DM games with house ruled damage based on if the weapon gives piercing, crushing, slashing, impaling damage and dam bonus according to the level and skill of the wielder. And ongoing damage so wounds needed to be bound.

So a 1st level guard with a crossbow may do 1+d6 dam with ongoing dam equalling the d6 rolled, whilst a 5th level guard may do 5+d6 dam (ongoing).

Of course combat was brutal and deadly at low level but it makes adventurers approach encounters that much more aware. To compensate, I had my players start with their class HD + their initial con ability rolled, not just the modifier.

I think that worked for me exceptionally well.

Any thoughts?


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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2016 9:52 am 
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In my 1E house rules, I do:

Light crossbows do 2-7/2-7, heavy crossbows do 2-9/2-11 damage.

Only one slot in bow gives ROF 1/1, you need two slots to get to 2/1.

The result? If you only have one slot to invest in a ranged weapon, crossbow is better.


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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 1:44 pm 
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Not actually a rule I've used, but here's a thought...

Give crossbows an armor-piercing bonus (+1 to +3) which corresponds to damage die (which would be 1d6/1d8/1d10 for different "levels" of crossbow).

A character may only fire the crossbow once per round if they have a strength bonus equal or higher than the armor-piercing bonus. Otherwise, they need one reload round for each missing point of strength bonus (so a character with a -1 str bonus would need 4 rounds to crank that massive +3 arbalest between shots, but conan with a +3 str bonus can just cock and shoot).

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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Mon Nov 21, 2016 4:46 am 
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Bows can't be fired very far in a dungeon, due to the ceiling. Crossbows go further in a straight line.
Also, they're far classier.


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 Post subject: Re: Crossbows
PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:33 am 
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I've tried a few things, all of which I found agreeable enough in play:

1. Make crossbow quarrels cheaper and lighter. I've also upped their appeal by making iron crossbow quarrels double their range modifiers (so in B/X terms, -2 at long range, but a whopping +2 at short range).

2. Make bows require proficiency. If proficiency slots are used, have bows take more; if they aren't, make anyone who isn't a ranger or thief shoot at -2 unless they waste a level's worth of money and time training in bow use.

3. Make bows tire characters out more quickly. Characters can shoot a bow as many times as their Constitution score, and then suffer a penalty to all physical rolls and saving throws until they sleep.


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