Disclaimer: Pseudo-realism post commencing!

Disclaimer: Pseudo-realism post commencing!

Disclaimer: Pseudo-realism post commencing!

I’m reading up on medieval era arms and armor, and I stumbled upon something quite funny. Historically, archers were trained from an extremely young age as bows require an almost extreme amount of practice to use efficiently.

Crossbows on the other hand did not; in one or two weeks of intense training, a (wo)man could become a brutally efficient murder machine.

As far as I could tell, the bow and arrow was the superior weapon simply due to range and loading speed, but the crossbow was way easier to master, perhaps because of the “point and click” nature.

DW makes a distinction between crossbows and bows, but it is not based on how hard they are to use. They make the crossbow “hurt more”, but makes it slower to load.

I am not sure that a crossbow is exactly slow to load, rather I am under the impression that a bow is just extremely fast to load. A common crossbow also won’t strike much harder. Unless we are taking about an arbalest, which is a crossbow that is windlass-pulled to support a very high amount of force. It was slow to load and it pierced plate armor as if it was butter.

DW isn’t really a game that needs a sense of historical accuracy, but I just thought it was really interesting. Actual house-rules to support this could still be interesting though, and this is what I have come up with so far:

You take -1 for shooting a bow at long range. Fighters and Rangers should have the “Marksman” move that made them ignore this penalty (much like the Paladin and Fighters “Armored” move).

Crossbows should not have reload, and they should lose the +1 damage tag.

Bows could historically be loaded much much faster than crossbows, even if crossbows didn’t take a lot of time to use, and in that regard, I think it is feasible to assume that the “Marksman” move should also include the ability to use a bow as a Reach weapon in close combat with the precise tag.

Arbalests should have the reload tag and the piercing 3 tag (plate has 3 armor).

Note on arbalests; according to wikipedia, a skilled arblaster (man using an arbalest) could fire an incredible two arrows per minute. In other words; it is loaded before combat, and you really need a big fucking pause in the action to reliably reload it.

Just a few thoughts, and I won’t apologize for my language 😉

13 thoughts on “Disclaimer: Pseudo-realism post commencing!”

  1. Another thing to take into consideration is the name of the ranged attack move – volley, which implies firing more than one projectile.

    I also think dungeon world’s approach to crossbows is based on common perception of their role, historical accuracy or no.

    This is very interesting information, especially the part about archers needing years of intensive training to master the skill.

  2. Could you just have a tag fast?

    Apply it to either bows or the Marksman Move?

    Or just add you knowledge of historical precedent to inform the fiction of your game without touching the mechanics?

  3. Comparisons are based on precedent. The bow was around much earlier than the crossbow, thus the bow is the standard. This makes the crossbow slow to load by comparison.

  4. Gah! The maille in the video above looked like it was butted.

    Real maille had rivets (and usually, much smaller links that the example piece). This makes a huge difference in the level of protection.

    Nathan Roberts Laughs were had. That guy is kind of nutty. 

  5. Bows don’t have “fast”, but crossbows actually do have “reload”, I imagine, because you can’t really be doing anything else while you’re reloading, or can’t reload if you’re doing anything else.

    Skeletons of archers from the Mary Rose show evidence of the lifetime of training. Huge shoulders, enormous muscle attachment points. The Welsh or English longbowman looked like an american footballer.

    It has to be said that other historical bows could be as strong as the longbow without the need to hold the full weight when fully drawn that needed all that training.

    The faster a crossbow is, the weaker it is. Repeating crossbows were really, really weak. But hooks or windlasses mean they can be more powerfull than bows, and there’s no effort required to hold them drawn.

  6. Crossbows let you do two things that archers couldn’t:

    1) Have an army of people who are relatively untrained in ranged combat shoot an initial volley – then set pikes (or have the pikemen come up to cover them).

    2) Shoot in the rain and other bad weather conditions.  Get your non-nylon bowstring wet, and you don’t have a working bow.  

  7. Ken Burnside 1. No-one anywhere, ever, fought with pike and crossbow (what do you do with your pike while handling the crossbow?)

    2. See the previous post’s videos, which gives the same point the other way round. Does your crossbow have a nylon string?

    In any case, history would say otherwise. The Battle of Towton famously includes Longbows exchanging fire in high winds and a snowstorm, much to the advantage of the Yorkists and the detriment of the downwind Lancastrians. I’m from Yorkshire; we won the battle, lost the war.

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