Thursday, September 26, 2013

Crossbow Slings are Pretty Cool Actually . . .

I think the Crossbow Sling from DF1 is a seriously underlooked item. At least in my games.

It's pretty cheap - $200.

It's light - only 2 lbs!

And it lets you carry a loaded crossbow hands-free, a Ready action away from firing. And it keeps it from breaking on a drop (since it just re-slings away from your hands.)

Way back in Man-to-Man, our favorite purchase was a high-ST crossbow and a single quarrel. You'd walk into the fight with it out, take a single shot, hoping for a disabling hit. Then you'd drop it and melee since it took too damn long to reload.

Players did that in my fantasy games, too, risking breakage from dropping the crossbow. They'd deal with loading and reloading it daily, the worries of dropping the bolt or securing it in place.

But the crossbow sling turns the $150/6 lbs one-shot weapon in to a $350/8 lbs weapon that's ready to hand when you need it. And if you have a really strong friend, you don't need a heavy windlass to re-load it. It's just "pass it over to the Barbarian." So you just need to get one barely able to be loaded by your friend, sling it, and Ready it when you need to take the shot, then drop it as a free action. With a typical DF party, ST 21-22 isn't even slightly unreasonable, and a ST 22 crossbow does 2d+4 impale . . . more with poison.

Yes, it's mostly a big ridiculous, but hey, you're going into tunnels to kill monsters, you have to expect some silliness.

And yet it doesn't get used too much in my games.

Perhaps until after right now when my players read this and buy them in bunches.

Any equipment you think is awesome but overlooked in play?


  1. Can you describe how the sling keeps the quarrel in it's groove? And keeps the long trigger from bumping into the character or surroundings? I can't picture it.

    Or are you using modern crossbows? Maybe it might work with them, maybe.

    1. Do I have to? I don't have to explain how healing potions close surface injuries when you drink them.

      But I can make some silliness up, sure. The sling when hanging taught or near-taught is placed in such a way to keep the bolt from slipping out of its groove, and when slack it releases that pressure enough to allow a full-power shot. The long tigger is covered similarly, or is effectively safety-locked out. Or perhaps DF crossbows are built with a smaller trigger more easily covered. Or maybe brownies made it in their workshops or something.

      It's over the top, but DF has a lot of that. And I don't mind at all. It's beer-and-pretzels fantasy. I wouldn't allow this in a realistic game, but I'm not running one. I'm playing elves who shoot fireballs fight trolls in dungeons! :)

    2. This seems workable if you can make a spring:

      You wouldn't even need to do this much, considering that the draw weight on a "realistic" (ahem. I know. DF.) low damage crossbow is probably on the order of hundreds of pounds. The model I used for The Deadly Spring was a 740-lb draw with a 7.5" draw length, and would clock in at about 1d-1 or 1d using a "realistic" penetration model. I call this a ST 22 crossbow, so in DF using the usual rules, that would be 2d+4 imp. (!!). Point is, the forces required to keep the bolt clipped in will be spectacularly eclipsed by the forces being exerted to push the bolt down the bow, so having a bolt clip with or without a sling is a fully justified handwave.

      Though I like "do I have to?"

    3. This one's cooler, with a pic of the holder and trigger mechanism

  2. A standard crossbow maxes out at ST 21, easily loaded with Power Blow. You can add in a Crossbow Sight $100 1#, the Quick Aim enchantment $100 0#, and Balanced $750 0#. Then go with Balanced Fine bolts at $14 each. For $1300 9# + $14x you can have Acc 8 and 2d+5 imp or pi. For those special battles bring along a couple bolts with Accuracy +2 $100, Puissance +2 $100, and Penetrating Weapon (3) $75= $275. That gets total Acc up to 9, and damage up to eith 2d+7(3) imp or 2d+7(6) pi.

    Temporary Enchantment allows Quick & Dirty for up to 666 points so there's probably several other spells for those special bolts. I was unhappy with DF13 because this is the kind of help I wanted and it didn't even recognize Magic as a DF core book.

    1. The only issue with crossbow sights, Quick Aim, etc. is that people have to spend a turn aiming. That's not trivial at the engagement ranges we're talking about. Plus in my game $350 is a trivial expense, $1300+$275 per shot isn't trivial at all. Still, it's a good example of how silly you can go if you've got the cash.

  3. Peter,
    I'm surprised your crew hadn't already jumped on crossbows with slings. Starting combat with a volley of crossbow bolts, before melee is second nature to my Mega Dungeon group now. Everyone but the Scout carries one. So far they haven't left any survivors to relay what they are doing, so the tactic hasn;t been used back at them yet,

    1. Me too, especially since many of them did it before crossbow slings. Now it's easier, but they don't do it.

  4. I thought all your guys used shields? Large shields take 3 seconds to ready, so you're either an awful shot with your crossbow (-2 for balancing it in your shield hand) or are spending an additional 3 seconds re-readying their shields after doing this trick.

    That's very few people in my groups use crossbows this way. You sometimes see it with two weapon fighters (especially swashbucklers, who have enough DX to be decent shots this way) and coleopterans and others with 4 arms, or sometimes with two-handed sword users. But there aren't a lot of two-handed sword users in the games I play.

    I probably should add some more shield enhancements for this purpose: there's already the shield lamp and shield lectern, so a shield crossbow rest seems perfectly reasonable.

    1. In my group, we have Chuck Morris (light horse cutter), Vryce (greatsword), Raggi (greataxe). The only shield guys are Honus and Borriz, and both use smaller shields (Medium, I think) because they found good ones. Borriz has used a crossbow, but not that often.

      A shield crossbow rest is extremely DF, isn't it?

    2. A shield crossbow rest deserves to be written up ASAP.

      (Also, clear out your PM inbox in the forums so I can message you.)

    3. Cleared! And emailed! You're my co-author on a book, I know you have my email somewhere.

      And Mark, you need to write up a crossbow shield rest ASAP. I'll even use it in my game this weekend if you stat it before then.

    4. Here's my suggestions, based on the existing shield lectern and shield lamp.

      Shield Crossbow Rest: A small bar on the shield provides a second "hand" for wielding crossbows, even when the shield is in use. The arm is a bit clumsy, and makes it difficult to aim the crossbow. Shield use is at -2 (giving a -1 to Block) while the crossbow is ready, and the crossbow has a -2 to attack. $100, 2 lbs.

      Shield Crossbow Brace: An improved version of the crossbow rest, with gnomish gyroscopes counterbalancing the bar* to simplify aiming. No penalty to Shield use or to attack with the crossbow, and the crossbow counts as braced for extra aim. $1000, 8 lbs.

      * Replace fantasy technobabble of your own here if you think gyroscopes would not help maneuver a crossbow.

    5. Pricey, but it does replace the need for a crossbow stand and let you use a shield. Thanks!


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