Rate of Fire in Swords and Wizardry

My post yesterday regarding repeating crossbows got me thinking about the rate of fire rules in S&W and  two things came to my mind. The first is the questions of when should additional attacks occur for missiles? If we look at S&W, a combat round is supposed to be 1 minute long, and if you’re using Option 1 combat, is divided into 3 main segments: Winning Initiative, Losing Initiative and Held Initiative. Each of these segments is probably then 20 seconds long give or take. Remember that RPGs are not combat simulators (unless they are designed for that, which OD&D and by extension S&W was not) so when your fighter gets his 1 attack it represents the culmination of a full minute of fighting, parrying and trading blows. Similarly, the initiative round when your character acts is not the only 20 seconds that he was active, but the 20 seconds where he or she, well … held the initiative. If you watch any fight or sparring, combat ebbs and flows and someone who was on the attack may be suddenly on the defense moments later, even if they’re still winning. The abstract initiative orders make that ebb and flow really come alive.

So that being the case, how does 2 or even 3 attacks in a round play into this? We could stack them all together in the same initiative segment, after all, I just said that 1 attack did not necessarily correspond to 1 swing of the sword, so it’s not unreasonable for all the attacks to occur in the same segment. On the other hand, I really like the simultaneous attacks / damage that some initiative systems allow for. So in my games, I ruled that for ranged weapons with multiple attacks, each attack occurs during a different initiative segment. In the case of two attacks, they always occur during the Winning the Losing Initiative phases, and in the case of 3 attacks, the third occurs in the held initiative segment. It does add a lot of book-keeping and it makes things a little more interesting.

If you read my post from yesterday though, you will have discovered the flaw in my perfect plan. While the basic S&W equipment list only includes weapons with a maximum of 3 firing per round fitting nicely into the 3 segment initiative, my new repeating crossbow allows 4 firings in a round. I think I’m just going to rule that the 4th attack occurs during the player’s initiative round. Like I said, it’s all abstract anyway.

Additionally this doesn’t apply to the multiple attacks that fighters get. My ruling on this is that fighters are a sort of whirling ball of death and so they get their multiple attacks all on their initiative segment.

Which segues nicely into the second thought that crossed my mind. Do fighters with multiple attacks get to do full firing volleys for each attack as well? That is, does a 3rd level fighter wielding a short bow vs 1HD creatures get 2 arrows off, 3, or 6? I’m tempted to say that the fighters multiple attacks only occur when he’s wielding a melee weapon, and otherwise is by the fire rate chart since the fire rate is in part a function of the weapon. On the other hand, fighters are indeed whirling balls of death, and given them the option to be Rambo with their short bows also gives them a reason to be more than just a big guy with a sword.

I’m not sure which way I want to go with this one. Anyone have any thoughts?

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