New AD&D Crossbow Rules (variant)
I've got a lot to do this week, what with Spring here, as well as a fresh copy of Robert J. Kuntz's new book to read. This week, I've decided to take it easy.

I like weapons that function differently from one another, it is a total AD&D 2e thing. We can make the rules as complex or as simple as we like. One of the things that bugs me about the system is, as the title says, The Crossbow.

The Crossbow was a terror on the battlefield, and was, at the time, considered to be much like the nuclear bomb is today. It was an unfair advantage. Bowmen had to spend hours honing their craft, it is a weapon of skill, while the crossbow was not. Anybody could pick up a crossbow and use it to kill other men.

What the crossbow lacked in distance, it made up for with accuracy. It's kind of like a shotgun today, you don't need to be a good shot with a shotgun, you just aim the barrel in the general direction of what you don't want to be there anymore, and when it gets close enough, you pull the trigger.

This factor really isn't all that apparent in the AD&D Weapons table. There are multiple ways that we can go about fixing this:

  • You can have the weapon always fire against AC 10. 
  • This weapon was slow to load, but the power behind it was pretty impressive, much better, I feel, than the damage listed in the book. We can alter this, either up the damage die used, or if max dmg is rolled, roll the same die again and add that to the total. The problem, however, with this solution is that the die in question is fairly easy to influence, a d6 would give you much better results than the d4, or you can roll the d8 but have it only give you results of 1-4. 

I do think that the damage needs to be altered, I'm not sure why it was set so low. DEX does make it more accurate and more dangerous, but I think that the best solution might be focusing on its ease of use.

  • One doesn't need to spend a Prof. point on this weapon, those that do are actually now specialized in that weapon, and anybody can specialize in it at least once, fighters can spend multiple slots specializing in it further.

I also think that the Range might be set a tad too high, I don't see how a heavy crossbow could reach 250 yards and still be able to hit. Maybe it could, I've honestly never shot one, but I am kind of in the camp of cutting those numbers in half. It would remove the hand crossbow from play, but I think that I'd be happier with play-testing this system.



Brett Christensen said...

Player's option tweaked the heavy crossbow nicely changing the range to 16/32/48 (in 5 foot squares), damage to 1d8+1/1d10+1, and at short range (armor penetration) reduces the target's AC by 5 points. Specialization makes it even better.

Adapt said...

Ripper, it seems like you have some good ideas regarding crossbows. I agree that they are extremely underwhelming in AD&D. Crossbows revolutionized medieval warfare, so IMHO the rules should reflect the advantage they gave to the wielder.

I like the idea of not needing proficiency in order to fire them, and I agree that the range should be ahorter. I like the idea of increased damage or maybe aome sort of AC penalty to the target, but - like you mentioned - that might be tricky to pull off.

Brett, I am unfamiliar with the Player's Option you speak of, but it sounds like a great modification. Where do those optiona appear?

Brett Christensen said...

I should have added, that as a fan of the Heavy Crossbow, I'm always looking for ways to tweak it. I enjoy seeing how others approach the same issue. The book is The AD&D 2e Player's Option: Combat & Tactics from 1994.

Martin Aaby said...

I recently (this weekend) played a session with 5 new players and they were shopping for equipment with their starting-gold. They were confused that a 'weapon' like "man-catcher" was so expensive, because it didn't do any damage and hey, here is a 2h sword that does 1d10 and only costs a 5th of a man-catcher.
There is a certain attention to detail in what the different weapons entails and why certain items might cost more/less, because the process of construction is harder/simpler.
At glance-value there is a big simplicity to the weapons and it's easy to spot out the highest damaging weapon, but how it actually works in the world and what is actually possible is a whole different story. A detail often lost on new players just grasping the rules, and it's not nessaserily something that gets explored until someone stumbles upon a "glitch in the matrix" and says 'hey, that's not quite right..'.

Ripper X said...

Howdy Brett! Combat & Tactics is a really radical book. It is probably my favorite of the Player's Options series, and I do use it from time to time.

The more I study the system as it is used in the core handbooks, the more I notice that the writers of the PO series didn't understand the subtleties of AD&D. They just changed things and some of these things are errors that get magnified during different phases of the game, though often they just make things more difficult than they really have to be.

I don't hate the books, I do use the miniature rules in C&T . . . well, I modified them to function a bit better for me.

I don't want to completely rewrite the PHB, that book needs to function. When the player looks up a fact, they use that book, not the Player's Options.

Sometimes I'll temporarily add things from the series during a session. I'll go over the rule so everyone is on the same page, and once the session is over, so is that mechanic.

I can remember, and easily make a note in the PHB that X-Bow require no Prof slots to use. That, while subtle, could be enough to make this weapon type function better without slowing anybody down or causing confusion. Wizards do enough of that for everybody, we don't need the fighters doing it too :)

Ripper X said...

Welcome Adapt! I have seen you around many of the same circles for a while. The image that you use brings back great memories; Finieous Fingers was the best!

Ripper X said...

Hey Martin! You know, I still do that. I get so caught up in my suspension of disbelief that I get tricked into believing in those numbers. Some days I just want to strip the whole system and just do damage die according to class, and other times I want to give dwarfs the ability to do 1d12 with their axes, just because.

I always have to remind myself that D&D is a game, and to not get too carried away with thinking that it is anything else. Reality and D&D are poor bedfellows.

Martin Aaby said...

Mathmatically speaking some weapons are just plain superior, while in reality it all comes down to each individual situation. In a tight corridor a shortsword should best a 2h sword, but when you look up the raw stats, this isn't the case.
I remember a few cases when we sat around the table having picked weapons of what suited the character, but suddenly feel very weak because the stats just didn't support the fantasy - you'd have to be a very creative and knowlegdeable DM to apply all the little details and characteristics of each weapons to really make them count. More of then that not, only the rules and the dice-rolls makes the game. I really want to bring out each characters fantasy more as a DM.

For instance, I think it was in combat and tactics I read that, going against a spear, the spear-user would first have to miss, because the battlestyle mainly involved closing the distance. As a spear-user, if you were able to hit and strike first, the opponent with shorter reach couldn't make a hit that round. On paper, a spear is just a slower shortsword, but with the added characteristic, there is a sense of purpose and tactic to it.

In the end, applying that level of detail to both the players and the enemies can take its toll on both players and DM - I think it's about finding a balance in between.

Ripper X said...

Hey Martin. I think that at some point we just have to except that this is a game, the combat simulation is faulty, if we don't keep it that way then we end up with a mess.

Gygax stated that there is a lot going on, parrying, jumping around, the actual attack roll simply determines if, during this chaos, one actually manages to score a hit or not. They you have hp, we really don't know what those are. I don't start describing blood until 0hp, or a massive hit.

I know guys that run every damned modifier in the manual, and combat sucks because of it. I run what modifiers I want to run at that time, if any at all. Nothing slows down a game and removes synergy faster than realistic combat.

There was some system that came out in the Seventies, I can't recall right now what the name was, but it looked really good on paper, very detailed, but once folks played it, it just didn't work.

Martin Aaby said...

Say one of your players argues that the enemy doesn't have room to swing his halberd and his shortsword has the advantage in the narrow corridor, how would you rule this? Let the roles flow as per usual, or improvise a tempoary house-rule that penelize the halberd?

Martin Aaby said...

(You need an edit-button to the comments ;))

And I agree that convoluting combat even more than it is will most likely get tiresome for the players. Maybe the DM (if skilled enough) can make the nessesary modifiers as he sees fit, but for now, I think my group hit a sweet-spot with the tactical map and just handling combat as is.

Brett Christensen said...

Martin, why on earth would someone be using a halberd in a dungeon corridor? They were used in battle formation for pushing back pikemen and unseating cavalry/resisting charges. Common sense should be applied. Of course, we're talking about a fantasy dungeon here - so I guess anything goes. Depending on which rule set you're using, a longer weapon may strike first or the short sword may have a much faster weapon speed. In either case I don't see the halberd being effective beyond the first round. I'd be inclined to favor the short sword wielder in the narrow corridor.

Ripper X said...

I hate my comment code, always have, but I'm stuck, with it.

The rules only exist as long as they are needed, that is why a computer sucks at DMing.

I remember playing a fighter who specialized in the rapier, it was hilarious! I could parry the blows of axes and two-handed swords; I got that guy pretty high up there in levels! Sure, he used a magic rapier, but the idea of it is still funny. It makes no sense outside of the context of that specific game. We wanted to emulate a character out of adventure stories.
Perhaps if I changed the way that I played him, and turned him into a mean-spirited bully, his sword probably would've broken.

Post a Comment


Contact me at

My photo

Advanced Gaming & Theory is my Blog

I use AD&D that has been modified over the years.

Search This Blog