Mechanical question – I’ve been thinking about a magic bow – one that hits a terrible hit on every target (maybe…

Mechanical question – I’ve been thinking about a magic bow – one that hits a terrible hit on every target (maybe…

Mechanical question – I’ve been thinking about a magic bow – one that hits a terrible hit on every target (maybe messy, best damage of 3 rolls?) but negatively effects the party. I want the devastating efficiency of this bow to bring everyone down, to make them feel demoralized and hopeless at all the killing.

Is there a mechanism where I could say, “Damage b[3d6], the following two rolls by other PCs take -2”? This would create an interesting dynamic where the archer would love this bow but the party would be begging them to stop using it. Kind of a cool corrupting mechanic!

38 thoughts on “Mechanical question – I’ve been thinking about a magic bow – one that hits a terrible hit on every target (maybe…”

  1. Maybe give it something like the terrifying tag that forces everyone witnessing the bow to cover in terror as they realise the importance of life and ease of death?

  2. Exactly! But my question is can I do that mechanically? If I just narrate everyone cowering, that only works so far. If it’s negatively imacting everyone else’s rolls, then that’s a whole other story.

  3. Well they need to overcome that feeling of dread right? So some kind of defy danger will come up often.

    Mechanically you do that wi something like a [dread] tag. Or just [dangerous]

  4. Aha! How about whenever this bow is fired the target is damaged messily (I’d worry about auto-kill, because of the possibility of one shotting giant creatures and boss types) but all other members of the party have to roll defy danger +int or suffer a debility

  5. I worry about “OK, you are facing the final wizard, the air crackles around him as he prepares a spell to destroy the child you swore to protect… What do you do?” “I shoot him with my instakill bow of death, save the child, take the loot. Team, defy danger”

  6. Meh. Play to find out what happens. The emotional damage that puts on the child might be horrible. Not to mention the long term damage on you and the team.

    Also, what evil wizard worth her chops doesn’t have arrow protection spells cast? Or artefacts that help protect her.

    And you still have to make your volley roll I guess.

  7. Its not a bow but i feel like the best inspiration for this is the sword Stormbringer, from the Elric stories by Michael Moorcock. It’s a powerful weapon, that kills almost anyone it is used against, but it has a mind of its own, and the consequences of using it are often dire. Elric hates it, but he needs it. And it causes him great problems and pain, I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t read the stories by going into too much detail. But anyway, I’d say make it mechanically powerful, but narratively damaging to use.

    This is DW. “Representing it mechanically” is heavily about tying it into the fiction. I’d say you need to work out what your group values and have the bow threaten or damage that when used.

    Let’s say they worship the god of magic. Every time this bow kills someone, it drains magical energy from the world. The localised area is hit hardest. Any spells currently learned are gone from memory and must be relearned.

    Or if they are protectors of nature and the wild (druids/rangers) – every time the bow kills someone it damages the fabric of the world – plants and animals in the vicinity are corrupted and mutated. The bodies of those slain by the bow taint the earth when buried, so must be burned.

    In terms of stats I’d make it insta-kill on a 12+, very high damage on a normal hit. You want there to be a strong incentive to use it, but for them to be personally invested in caring about the consequences enough to make them question the wisdom of doing so 🙂

    Hope that helps. 

  8. If all it does is damage, it’s not worth the party suffering debilities or -1s. I would have some harsh criticism for a fellow player who decided to keep that bow.

    If killing is too extreme for you, have it maim someone every time it is used. That’s still a bow worth keeping around.

  9. I don’t mind the instakilling, I just wouldn’t want it to be absolute. I think this is a minor issue that could be easily avoided with a “most of the time” clause – I just want to avoid a “you see the shape of a giant dragon block out the sun…and you one-shotted it with your bow… on to the next adventure!” Easily avoided with the fiction.

  10. Ben Duchac : remind that damage done from PC to opponents is NOT related to the weapon, but to the class.

    That said, “roll two times your damage and keep the best result” is viable, with a significant fictional and/or mechanical drawback.

  11. Well, if you don’t want the whole game to revolve around the bow when it’s there, that’s fine. On the other hand, it looks to me like you say you want an impressive and terrifying bow, but you don’t actually want an impressive and terrifying bow? I don’t want to read your words uncharitably, and I apologize if I come off that way, but for my tastes, I want that stuff to really be a big, big deal. A killing bow and a dragon overhead, to my eyes, turns a pretty boring old volley move into something where on a 10+, yes you kill the dragon with a single shot, now you can go adventure in it’s bloated corpse; on a 7-9, yup, you kill it with a single arrow and it falls on top of the village, spewing flame from it’s orifices all over the villagers and their homes, now what do you do?; and on a miss, great, you kill the Wizard. Hey, Wizard, how about you roll for your last breath?

    I actually think I like maiming better. I’d risk a maiming for the archer to clip that dragon’s wings. That would be rad. Maybe after losing a hand or a leg or something I’d be less enthusiastic.

    But it has to be absolute, otherwise it’s just up to the GM’s whims. If the PCs get the bow and are told that every arrow that is loosed from it will maim or kill someone, you have to stick to it. If it’s the only bow around and the archer uses it to attack a string line across a chasm or something, that arrow still has to maim or kill someone before it’s done.

  12. Ooh I like that. Absolute maim/kill makes for a real “live grenade” kind of feeling every time it comes out, and then the negative side-effects make it even more dangerous. 

  13. You can emphasize that feeling by having a normal person challenge them to an archery contest when they don’t have a spare bow. If they refuse, they villagers all thing the PCs are cowards and treat them rudely. If anyone accepts the challenge, of course things go badly…

  14. This sort of horrible, evil, sure-thing weapon is also going to be enormously attractive to other forces once word gets out. It’s a bad deal and learning that it’s a bad deal will be all kinds of fun.  The arc runs from badass toy to dreadful tool to millstone to terrible obligation.

  15. When you use the Death Bow to kill someone, name a person, then roll 2d6. I you get doubles, the soul of the person is trapped in the bow, leaving behind but a empty husk. If you don’t want to name anyone, your soul is trapped instead.

  16. Tags: forceful, messy, terrifying [this takes care of the maiming]

    When you inflict damage with the bow, roll your class damage twice and apply the highest result.

    When an arrow shot from the bow takes a life, the GM holds 1.

    Whenever you attack with the bow, before you roll, the GM can choose to spend one hold: if he does, your arrow strikes an unintended target. Deal your damage directly.

    This is possibly too much (it requires the GM to pull out a dick move every once in a while, I don’t like it), but surely it makes the bow both powerful and problematic.

    There’s also ways I can think of to alleviate it.

  17. I would tend to handle this in pure narrative mode. Every time the archer inflicts damage (just use regular damage or maybe +1 or +2) describe the horrible withering of the target as life force is drained; limbs becoming twisted and useless, an eye rotting and popping out, that sort of thing.

    Once the party has seen this “cool” effect its only a matter of time for the archer to make a roll that allows you to make a move and that move is going to be hitting another PC (oh the horror!). “Fighter your sword-arm dangles ineffectively at your side, what do you do?” Might even happen to the archer himself on a 6-. The effect doesn’t have to be permanent but something like this ought to prove very useful (slowing down or disarming opponents) while also being horrifying to the heroes. 

  18. This one is a bit more over-the-top — but I can pretty much guarantee it will only be used in the most dire of circumstances.

    When you *use the Death Bow to kill someone* in weapon range a person within vocal range must willingly offer their life to the god(s) of death. The death of both is absolute and irrevocable. (No Last Breath, no Death Moves).

  19. Maybe have a look at the vorpal sword for inspiration? 

    “Vorpal Sword Close, 3 piercing, 2 weight

    Snicker-snack and all that. Sharp as anything, this simple-seeming sword means to separate one thing from another—the limb from the body or folk from their lives. When you deal damage with the Vorpal Sword, your enemy must choose something (an item, an advantage, a limb) and lose it, permanently.” (

  20. I absolutely love overpowered weapons. With great power comes great risk to balance it out.

    When you shoot a massive or gargantuan monster with your Bow of Death

    On 12+ you hit it in its weak spot and the beast explodes with cinematic awesomeness.

    On 7-11 you deal serious damage. But the primal death-magic in the arrow seeps into the beast’s blood and it goes into deathfrenzy.

    When a monster in deathfrenzy touches another living creature it drains 1d4 constitution of the target in addition to its normal damage. (Adjust max HP accordingly) Its attacks gain the messy and forceful tags. When the GM thinks it is fictionally appropriate, the monster may still explode with cinematic awesomeness.

  21. To increase the risk of fun stuff happening. This is an autokill move so the risk has to be great. It is like putting all your chips on the table. Greater risk means greater reward

  22. Here’s a first go-round on my bow – what do you think?

    Ned’s Bow alive, messy, 3 weight


    Ned won the war, but he was never the same again. When the fighting was done he dropped the bow on a pile of bodies and never laid a finger on it again.

    A jet black bow, it’s not clear what the bow is made of. It’s hot to the touch, like someone with a fever. The bow is intricately carved with a design that seems to squirm and change the harder you study it. The grooves are filled with a dry substance that might be dried blood, or it could just be earth. A matching quiver contains ten arrows. 

    When Ned’s Bow is fired it is almost as though the bow fires itself. The arrows fly straight and true until they are out of sight, and will punch through most structures and just about any living thing. On a 10+ the target is horribly maimed or instantly killed. On a 7-9, the target is horribly maimed in a way that allows it to get one or two more attacks in if it is lucky. On a 2-6 pick one: 

    -The bow breaks

    -The bow maims a member of the party

    -The bow maims the person using it

    Such is the dark power of Ned’s Bow, that whenever Ned’s Bow kills or maims an enemy, any characters witnessing what it can do have a momentary vision of what it was like to be at the battle of the black rock, where Ned laid an entire nation’s best and brightest low with his bow. All characters must roll Defy Danger their choice of INT, WIS, or CHA. A 2-6 will result in a debility of Stunned, Confused, or Scarred(mentally) respectively.  

Comments are closed.