Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Short bows and arrow types

Henceforth, I’ll be correcting a rules error that we’ve been making for several years in allowing “sheaf arrows” to be fired from short bows. Despite the 2e PH not explicitly stating (to my knowledge) that short bows are limited to using “flight arrows” only, I think we have enough suggestive data points to know that it’s not intended for short bows to deal 1d8 damage:

  • The “Missile Weapon Ranges” table on p. 69 lists both arrow types under “Longbow,” but no specific type under “Short bow,” implying that either the arrow ranges for short bows are indistinguishable or that only one type of arrow can be used.
  • The “Bows” section on p. 73 states that “Arrows for long bows of all types are divided between light-weight flight arrows and heavier sheaf arrows. Flight arrows have longer ranges and are normally used in hunting. Sheaf arrows have a stronger metal head but a reduced range. They are often used in times of war.” It makes no distinction with regards to usable arrow types for short bows.
  • It simply doesn’t make mechanical sense for short bows to be able to deal 1d8 damage in the context of the available weapons in the PH.

From this point forward, characters and NPCs using short bows will deal only 1d6 damage per hit. Any preexisting inventory of sheaf arrows on record sheets may be freely converted to flight arrows. Short bows can be “traded in” for longbows in Mirabar or Dagger’s Deep for an “upgrade cost” of 45 gp (the cost difference between the weapons in the PH). Note that certain classes are permitted to use short bows only (the Thief class, in particular), but I don’t believe that any current PCs are subject to this restriction.

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