Monday, December 4, 2023

Simple Improvements - Power to the Archer

I like archer characters. Over the weekend, I had a chance to binge-watch a couple of episodes of Hawkeye and a few of The Arrow. Both shows are obviously based on bow combat. 

In virtually all RPGs, archers are limited to how many arrows they have. Once the quiver is empty, they aren't an archer anymore. They lose the deadly ability to strike at a distance. 

I wrote about making fighting men and spell casters more powerful without adding die rolls or wildly different mechanics. Archers can be similarly empowered. 

Looking at the first Avengers movie, Hawkeye doesn't miss so much as not hit his target. 

Loki is a trickster and should have seen this coming. Now let's look at Hawkeye missing a target. 

This time Hawkeye misses because something got in his way. He didn't see it coming and lost an arrow because of it. His second shot is also a miss because Quicksilver threw him down and the arrow was knocked out of reach. Then there is a third attempt, the one I want to simulate. Quicksilver simply disappears, leaving Hawkeye with no target. Technically, that is his third miss. 

This last miss is easy to simulate. When a shooter ATTEMPTS a shot, sometimes the target moves in such a way that the archer can't follow. In this case, the miss means the archer never loosed an arrow. This is actually a very powerful thing for someone with a bow. In not loosing the arrow, they keep it for later. Since running out of arrows will put the archer out of action, not losing an arrow in every round of combat is powerful. 

(Good lord, my spell checker hates the difference between loosing and losing.) 

A DM could declare that on certain missed rolls the archer has released the arrow and on others, they retained the arrow and didn't shoot. Since 1 is odd, I would rule that every odd-number missed attack means the archer really did let the arrow fly and it's gone. On every even-numbered missed attack, they didn't let it go. They kept it. 

I have a simple rule for collecting arrows after combat. If the characters have fled the battle, they lost all of the arrows they shot. If they keep the battlefield, then they can look for them. Even better, if the enemy was shooting, they could possibly recover those, too. 

If a player shoots x number of arrows, I select a die with fewer sides than the arrows fired, hopefully within one. If an opponent was also using arrows, I have PC archer roll a second of the same die. They may end up with more arrows than they started. This is in addition to whatever is taken as treasure. 

You can also amuse yourself with the possibility that two archers keep missing each other until each has to resort to picking up the arrow just fired at them. This is more likely to happen with spears and javelins, which is why the Romans used pilums. Pilums have a soft tip that bends to prevent it from being thrown back. It seems to be a 400 BC solution to a much older problem.  

Let me know what you think in the comments. 


  1. You may find these videos about the pilum interesting:

    TL;DW: The iron shank was most probably not meant to render the pilum useless to throw back – at least not primarily – but rather to hit through the shield.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion. I watched them once, but I want to go back and watch them again to dig for details.