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I'm tinkering with weapon designs and I wanted to hear some opinions about this - especially from anyone who actually knows a lot about historical archery, which I do not; I'm basing this on the information I could dig up online.

 

My idea was to divide bows into "long" and "short," where "long" is defined as "too large to use on horseback" and "short" is "short enough to use on horseback," and then into decurved/deflexed bows, straight bows, and recurved/reflexed bows (for bows that bend the same direction strung as unstrung, bows that don't significantly bend while unstrung, and bows that bend opposite directions strung and unstrung).

 

Longbows have higher damage and STR requirements than shortbows, and are more accurate, but can't be shot from horseback. Decurved/deflexed bows have the lowest damage and strength requirements, and they can be left strung for long periods without damaging them. Straight bows have average damage and strength requirements, and they take a Full Phase Action to string but cannot be left strung over a long period of time without damaging the bow. Recurved/reflexed bows have the highest damage and strength requirements, take a Full Turn to string, and cannot be left strung over a long period of time without damaging the bow.

 

I should also add that, to the best of my knowledge, decurved/deflexed shortbows never saw much if any use because they had such low draw weight, and reflex longbows weren't used much because they had such high draw weight. I want them to have stats regardless, since there would have been nothing stopping a bowyer from making one.

 

I plan to handle differences in construction (such as self bows vs. composite bows and whatnot) just by adjusting damage/str minima, without changing the basic properties.

 

My goals are to preserve a reasonable level of realism and historical accuracy while having more than one "useful" type of bow (I don't want D&D style "if you don't use a composite longbow you're doing it wrong").

 

Does any of this sound wildly inaccurate?

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Re: Bows

 

Sounds good to me. It's even in accord with Alexander's First Law of Weapons Tables: "If a weapon exists in a game, there should be some viable reason why someone, somewhere, at some time, would actually use it."

 

Historically, bows were used for warfare and hunting. Adventuring is something different from either warfare or hunting. Taking 12 seconds to string a bow is probably more acceptable to a hunter or soldier than to an adventurer, who will often want his weapon ready RIGHT NOW.

 

The one thing I would say is, I think some players are going to want to know what constitutes a "long period of time." They're going to want to keep their bows ready as often and for as long as possible.

 

Thank you, by the way, for reminding me of another reason to use a sling instead.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

Palindromedary Cavalry

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If I remember correctly, composite longbows in D&D refer to composite *recurved* longbows, which get around several of the problems that single-piece (self-bow) recurved longbows have with being strung for long periods of time. You're right about the initial draw weight, and the traditional long form factor didn't offer much advantage over the self-bow version.

 

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongol_bow and related articles on composite bows. Scanning the articles, I don't see anything seriously erroneous with any of them.

 

The main reason to use a self-bow was time of manufacture. It would take a week or so to make a longbow out of a single piece of wood; it could take considerably longer to make a composite bow.

The other major consideration is weather, specifically rain. Composite longbows use natural glues that are water soluble, so they are usually unstrung and stored in a leather case when not actively being used.

 

The main advantage of the composite bow is size. They tend to be small enough to be usable on horseback and, for the same draw weight, they store more energy for the release of the arrow; that gives the arrow a higher velocity, and thus better range and arguably better accuracy. They were in fact the preferred form of bow throughout most of the Orient and Asia, and parts of Eastern Europe.

 

I'm not sure that a full turn should be needed to string a composite bow. Maybe an extra phase or two.

 

Another thing to consider is the draw weight. You can build bows to have higher draw weights, and thus higher strength minimums. The strength minimum can also be considered the strength needed to string the bow, thus requiring extra time and Pushing strength for those who don't have the requisite minimum.

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FWIW another difference you could throw in is expense and construction time. Simple shortbows, IIRC, could be constructed in a day. Good longbows took more like a week. Composite recurve bows of horn and sinew took months or years. Depending on the campaign it might not matter at all, or it might be critical when the archer's exotic ibex-horn-and-cheetah-sinew recurve composite bow breaks, and the orc army is due to arrive tomorrow...

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Re: Bows

 

Sounds good to me. It's even in accord with Alexander's First Law of Weapons Tables: "If a weapon exists in a game, there should be some viable reason why someone, somewhere, at some time, would actually use it."

 

Historically, bows were used for warfare and hunting. Adventuring is something different from either warfare or hunting. Taking 12 seconds to string a bow is probably more acceptable to a hunter or soldier than to an adventurer, who will often want his weapon ready RIGHT NOW.

 

The one thing I would say is, I think some players are going to want to know what constitutes a "long period of time." They're going to want to keep their bows ready as often and for as long as possible.

 

Thank you, by the way, for reminding me of another reason to use a sling instead.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

Palindromedary Cavalry

 

That was my thinking as well - historically, decurved/deflexed bows were really only used by people who didn't have the technology level to make anything else, but I can see an adventurer deciding that the ability to walk around with their bow strung all the time was worth having a less powerful bow (or even carrying a second bow for), but I can also see someone deciding that if they're caught without time to string a bow, they can probably get into melee range quickly. Straight bows would be a compromise option. So I can see all 3 types being used by adventurers - even though armies will probably never bother with anything other than straight longbows and reflex shortbows unless they can't make better.

 

What constitutes a "Long period of time" is a very good question.

 

I know that modern composite bows, ones made of fiberglass and whatnot, can be left strung indefinitely with no harm. I think that this isn't true of composite bows made of traditional materials, or at least not as true, but if anyone has more information on this I'd be interested to hear.

 

My feeling is that it makes sense for composite and self bows of a type to "work" the same, but for the composite bow to be better - sort of like a bronze longsword versus a steel longsword type deal.

 

I'm thinking about this:

 

Decurved/Deflexed or Straight bows are an Extra Phase to string, or a Full Phase with a Fast Draw check.

 

Recurved/Reflexed bows are a Full Turn to string, or an Extra Phase with a Fast Draw check.

 

Deflex/Decurve bows can be left strung indefinitely with no penalty.

 

Self bows that are either Straight or Recurved/Reflexed, if left strung more than an hour at a time without being left unstrung for a similar amount of time, have to make a 14- check or be damaged; the bow takes -2 OCV, -5 STR Minimum, -2 DC. This check is repeated at -1 for every hour up the time chart. Composite bows have +2 on this check.

 

The 1 hour is something of a guess; it's really more "it's a nice round number" and it's in the range where you can string your bow before a fight, but not wander around the wilderness with a strung bow 24/7.

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FWIW another difference you could throw in is expense and construction time. Simple shortbows' date=' IIRC, could be constructed in a day. Good longbows took more like a week. Composite recurve bows of horn and sinew took months or years. Depending on the campaign it might not matter at all, or it might be critical when the archer's exotic ibex-horn-and-cheetah-sinew recurve composite bow breaks, and the orc army is due to arrive tomorrow...[/quote']

 

Yeah, I think I heard in a diocumentary that the Egyptians took 18-20 months to make a bow.

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I'm going from memory here, without my references to hand, so may have some details wrong. Also, I’m not an archer, but am relying heavily on the relatively few books on historical bows and archery I have, and a good deal of anecdotal evidence from archer friends.

 

I'd classify bows as either self bows or composite bows. Either may be made recurved.

 

Self bows

 

Self bows are the traditional European-style wooden bow. They're made from staves cut so they have both the heartwood and the sapwood, which have different tensile properties. They form a natural composite. Yew is the most highly regarded wood for a bowstave (and Spanish yew the most highly regarded of the yews), but the bows could be made from many different kinds of wood. Gerald of Wales records 12th-century Welsh archers using crudely finished but extremely powerful elm bows against Norman knights.

 

You could subdivide self bows based on purpose, or based on draw weights. Warbows are designed to hurl a heavy arrow a relatively short distance, with enough power to penetrate metal armour (Gerald's description of the Welsh bows gives an example: a knight was struck in the thigh at short range by an arrow which penetrated his mail hauberk, gambeson, passed all the way through his thigh, through his saddle and into the horse. He wheeled the horse around to be hit in the other thigh by a second arrow which did the same thing, pinning both him and his saddle to the wounded horse.)

 

To do this, a warbow needs a high draw weight, which requires well-prepared wood and a thick stave with long arms. The amount of 'bend' in the bow will be relatively short: it gives a short, sharp impulse to the arrow. Estimates of warbow draw weights vary wildly; I seem to recall a modal average from the Mary Rose of around 90lb, with one example going as high as 160lb or even more. My memory may not be 100% reliable on this point.

 

The warbow will have a high STR min, be of moderate range (possibly a reduced range limitation, though I wouldn’t argue too strongly in favour of that) and do a good deal of damage. For extra detail divide arrows into broadhead (standard), bodkin (armour piercing) and blunt (normal damage).

 

Hunting bows use lighter arrows, so require lower draw weights. This means either shorter arms (sometimes called a ‘shortbow’) or longer arms with a flatter profile (a ‘D-bow’ or ‘flatbow’). Examples of flatbows go back to the Neolithic period (such as the Meare Heath longbow).

 

Hunting bows will have lower STR mins, depending on their draw weight, and do moderate damage. They may have longer range than a warbow, depending on what arrow is used (a bird arrow has a very broad head – around six inches from flange end to flange end in one example I’ve seen - and relatively short range, for example; in game terms the trade-off is reduced range for greater chance to hit).

 

Hunting bows can, of course, be used in combat. They may not do enough damage to reliably penetrate mail, but could still be effective against a lighter armoured target (in game terms, I’d max them out at about 1d6+1 damage if you keep mail at the Hero default of 6pts armour).

 

It’s relatively quick to make a self bow from a seasoned stave (the one week quoted by Old Man seems about right). Of course, seasoning the stave could take a couple of years (so a bowyer needs a ready supply of seasoned staves – either a merchant, or his own seasoning yard, with staves in various stages of seasoning).

 

Composite bows

 

Composite bows are made of a sapwood with layers of sinew glued to them. They tend to be much springier than self bows, and can be very powerful. Their arms do not need to be as long as a self bow’s. This makes them ideal for using on horseback.

 

Construction is fairly time consuming (I can’t remember a ballpark figure, though, but you have to wait until each layer of glue and sinew dries).

 

Some composite bows are very small indeed. Turkish distance bows are tiny, with arms of maybe only one foot long (so two feet total length). Nevertheless, these little bows held the distance record until modern technology came into the frame – IIRC one reached a range of nearly 1,600 yards. A very light arrow is used, the bow is drawn so far back that it’s nearly bent double, and the distance from nock to handle is actually longer than the arrow itself – it’s called ‘overdraw’ - so the bow has an ‘arrow channel’ to support the arrow when it’s behind the archer’s stave hand. These bows (and their arrows) are virtually useless in combat, however; they’re designed purely for distance shooting as a sport in itself.

 

Recurves

 

It’s very difficult to hold tension on a powerful straight-arm bow at full draw for more than a few moments. Try it, and the strain causes your muscles to shake, reducing accuracy drastically, and it gets worse until you loose the arrow or lower the bow. For this reason, traditional western archers practice aiming as they draw, loosing the arrow as they reach full draw. Whatever Hollywood says, unless the draw weight is far lower than your strength allows, you simply cannot ‘cover’ a target by pointing a fully drawn bow and arrow at him while making your heroic soliloquoy (you can, however, cover a target by having an arrow nocked and the bow lowered at half- or quarter-draw, ready to draw and loose, but it doesn’t look as cool).

 

A recurve or arm extension creates a point of lower tension at full draw. This does allow some hold-and-aim ability, for a few seconds at least.

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What kind of adventuring do you have in mind? A world which is relatively "safe" with areas of high danger would mean that standard/recurve bows are adequate (you know when you should string your bow), vs. a world where the average countryside is dangerous might lead to more development of decurve bows. Identify what use you think each bow should use. Also compare them to other ranged weapons in your setting.

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Back with some of my references... primarily Robert Hardy's Longbow (3rd edition, 1992). Hardy, as well as being one of our leading stage and screen actors, is one of the foremost authorites on bows, and was called in as an expert in the Mary Rose excavations. If you are interested in traditional wooden bows, Longbow is a must-have.

 

Prof PL Pratt's report of tests on samples of the Mary Rose bows, published in Longbow, showed draw weights of 101lb to 185lb at 30 inches of draw. The 185lb was so thick, the test team figured it would break at 30 inches, so reduced its test draw to 28 inches, when it had a draw weight of 172lb.

 

Pratt notes: "Even this range of draw weights from 100lb to 172lb would require a very different kind of archer from the majority of those living today."

 

Pratt's investigations, both experimental and theoretical, suggest the heaviest bows (160-175lb draw weight) had a range of 320 yards with a heavy bodkin arrow (58-73g) and 350 yards with a lighter flight arrow (33-42g). A bow of 100lb pull would have a range of 220 yards with the bodkin and 250 yards with the flight arrow.

 

What does this mean for Hero System? The Equipment Guide lists a Very Heavy Longbow (Str Min 18) as doing 2D6+1 damage with a range of 350 metres (~385 yards), and a medium longbow (Str Min 12) doing 1 1/2d6 damage with a range of 250 metres (~275 yards).

 

These ranges are slightly higher than the figures given for flight arrows in Longbow, but not much. For a game, I'd say Steve is bang on target and wins the Silver Arrow. Damage figures are about what I'd figure as well.

 

Skeletal evidence of suspected archers from the Mary Rose shows they were big, burly men, around 6ft, with deformations of the shoulder blades thought to be the result of years of practice with heavy bows. (In the words of the senior anthropologist, the archers were "huge... not necessarily tall, but massively boned.") The bows would suit men of 5ft 7ins to over 6ft, assuming a draw length of 30ins.

 

If we assume the heaviest bow (the 185lb one) is a very heavy longbow in Hero terms, the archer who used it had STR 18 - very high for a competent normal. Even Hero's heavy bows (let's call these the bows of 140-150lb draw weight) have a STR Min of 15.

 

Given the years of practice, I'd have no problem allowing an archer to buy STR of 12, say, with extra STR with the limitation "Only to draw bows" (I'd put this as a -1 limitation; your view may vary). I'd also expect an archer to invest in several levels of penalty skill levels against range (Longbow notes that a law of 1542 forbade archers over the age of 24 to shoot at targets less than 220 yards away - a -10 range penalty under Hero).

 

Note that the draw weight of the heaviest bow was reduced by reducing the draw length. A weaker archer can use a stronger bow, but won't be able to draw it to its maximum power - reduce OCV and DC as required. Stringing it is a different matter, however, and I'd rule an archer cannot string a bow he doesn't have the STR Min for. Stringing a bow requires a combination of raw strength and technique - a friend of mine who is perhaps a little stronger, but not much, can smoothly string his 60lb replica longbow. I cannot, because i don't have the knack of it.

 

However, when the original Mary Rose bows were drawn too far, the wood cracked (their elasticity had suffered after centuries under water). Although the elasticity of a freshly made bow is better, an archer cannot draw a weaker bow further to increase its damage without risking breaking it.

 

For 'shortbows', I have no reference that doesn't rely on a significant amount of speculation. I'd stick with what I wrote in my post above.

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Re: Bows

 

Thanks for all the information, Andy. In particular I'd not considered what type of arrows were fired. It might be a good idea to include some hunting bows that trade out damage for range and accuracy.

 

This also suggests that heavier bows should have pretty high STR minima, which is good - I want to make sure options at that end exist. Also, that you need to be stronger to "ready" a bow than to fire it. I might go with something like "you need +3 over the STR minima to Set, Brace, Ready, or Cover someone with a bow."

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Re: Bows

 

Mr. Staples' date=' you are a helfpul gentleman and an erudite scholar. Take a bow![/quote']

 

Thank you, sir. I'll have a 40lb one - these days, I think that's my useful limit.

 

Firegolem, you're also very welcome. I'm just going to make myself sound really picky for a moment and point out that neither bows nor arrows are 'fired'. Arrows are loosed or, arguably, shot. 'Firing' comes in with gunpowder, for obvious reasons. (I allow myself 'shot' not because I'm confident it's authentic, but because sometimes I feel the need to say something other than 'loosed'.)

 

And if you think I'm picky, you did not have to endure the harsh looks or smacks on the back of the head I got from archer friends when I talked of firing a bow - they get really @rsey about it.

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What is the general feeling on altering damage based on the type of bow? I know a lot of systems do it, but I've always disliked the idea myself. I figure that any bow strong enough to be used as a weapon can send an arrow all the way through an unarmored person. The damage is based on the type of arrowhead, and location of the hit. Different bows would give different effective ranges, accuracy at range, and even penetration of armor, but would not alter the actual damage. Does this make sense, or am I just off-base?

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No, that makes perfect sense to me. I've always wondered about archery discussions that talk about bows meant more for distance and others with more power--to me this should be almost entirely a matter of muzzle velocity and arrow type. I'm sure the combination of bow and arrow make a big difference as far as arrow mass and length determining the acceleration of the arrow and its overall inertia, but it just seems weird to think it would make a huge difference unless you were in the Olympics. I'm certainly not inclined to bother with it in Hero, at least.

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Another point possibly worth considering is differing arrow weights.

Modern arrows are around "hunting" or "target" weight historical arrows.

War Arrows were (IIRC) usually quite a bit heavier, to both increase direct fire penetration and to increase the effectiveness of indirect fire by retaining more momentum and handling cross breezes better.

I seem to remember differences in the fletchings as well, but I couldn't say for sure.

 

Edit: Probably should have mentioned Flight or Distance arrows. Mostly for signaling, or acting as range marks

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I'd also have to ask what technology level you're talking about. Recurve doesn't really appear before a certain point; composite construction, earlier, but still past most of the classical period (the Parthian bow being pretty much the earliest one we have good info on.

Also, while most longbows had to be used on foot, don't forget that the Japanese longbow (whose name escapes me) was designed to be used from horseback. For every rule, there is an exception...

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The term for Japanese bows is either "hankyu" for the shorter version or "daikyu" for the longer version. The reason that the daikyu could be fired from horseback is that the place that the hand holds the bow at is approximately 1/3rd of the way up from the bottom of the bow (when it's unstrung), thus avoiding the problem that other bows have which have the holding point (or shelf) at the midpoint of the bow. Also the firing method for these types of bows is a modified thumb ring style, due to the design of the shoting glove worn.

On a separate point, most horse bows (usually defined as a short composite bow) were fired with a thumb ring, which is very similiar (in mechanics) to the mechanical "flicker" (for lack of a better term) release for modern coumpound (i.e., pulley system) bows. If you want info on horsebows, check out http://www.horsebows.com or email the American agent for the manufacturer (Ed Gilbert - ed@horsebows.com). I personally own a lynx model 3-layer compound bow & it's a totally different firing style than the self/stick or recovers that I've previously fired.

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When you're firing more than just the occasional arrow, even having leather finger protectors on your drawing fingers doesn't help much. So there are rings with notches to help pull back and hold the string until you want to release.

 

Though it's possible there were versions that had knobs or very short bars.

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Also, Mongolian and other Asian archers used a different draw from western Europeans. The usual western draw pulls the string with two or three fingers, above and below where the arrow is nocked. The Mongolian draw has the thumb on the string, just below where the arrow is nocked. The thumb is hooked under the fingers on the draw hand, so really it's the fingers that are doing the work of holding the thumb on the string during the draw. The thumb ring is actually almost like a half thimble to protect the pad of the thumb from the string.

 

There are a bunch of ramifications from using this technique. First of all I think it makes it easier to pull a heavy draw weight since you're basically drawing with a closed fist instead of three fingertips. Second, the release is much more abrupt as the thumb snaps free from the fingers. Third, the arrow rests on the right side of the bow from the shooter's perspective, not the left as with the western release, which makes nocking easier as the archer doesn't have to thread the arrow between the string and the bow. My memory's a little hazy on all of these, but I think it's right.

 

thmbrng1.gif

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Re: Bows

 

hankyu?

 

your helcome!

 

:D

 

Years ago, I asked my martial arts teacher to demonstrate a particular technique and then asked him what it was called. He said "Sankyu" and I said "You're welcome!"

 

Oh, I suffered for that .... but it was totally worth it. :)

 

cheers, Mark

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Another point - the seperation between "war bows" and "hunting bows" is a totally arbitrary one in terms of design. Warbows do tend to have heavier draws and fire heavier arrows (and thus have shorter range) but they're not built for that. Nor are hunting bows built for longer range: fire a lighter arrow from a "war bow" and you'll get more range. The differences are that bows built especially for war exist only where there are archers trained specially for war (ie: guys who train to use big, heavy bows) and because in war you can expect to be shooting at armoured men, who are trying to kill you: you don't want to just lightly wound them and you usually don't have the leisure to maneuvre close for a killing shot.

 

Thus, big heavy arrows, with specialised killing heads. But the bows themselves, pull notwithstanding, are built exactly the same way. You could very easily use them for hunting ... but why bother? A lighter bow and a simple broadhead is cheaper, less fatiguing to use, less fatiguing to carry, and just as effective, if all you want to do is kill an animal.

 

We know that for war, arrows with specific weights and heads were produced for specific tasks, so I have no problem with allowing different arrows. I don't care too much about extra range - although a flight arrow will outrange a lighter hunting arrow, which will itself outrange a heavy armour-piercing arrow, the extreme end of a bow's range is usually irrelevant and the differences in effective range are not that great. So it's easy enough to simply allow AP arrows (which trade off AP for a range penalty CSL), broadheads (which trade off reduced pen. for a +1 STUN mod) and flight arrows, which trade off DC for a a range bonus - with ordinary arrows being a straight HKA.

 

Combine that with differing numbers of DC for pull, and you are pretty much there.

 

cheers, Mark

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