Archive for category Weekend Quickie

Weekend Quickie: Repeating Crossbow

An interesting invention from ancient china, the repeating crossbow was designed to allow high rates of fire at the expense of accuracy. Mostly used as a defensive weapon or from under the cover of shields, a team of repeating crossbowmen could rain down nearly 4 times the number of bolts at their enemies as compared to a standard crossbow. Unfortunately the repeating crossbow had little penetrating power, and it’s design and firing position made it less accurate. For this reason the bolts were often tipped with poison, to maximize the lethality of the weapon. Sounds like the perfect addition to any RPG’s arsenal, so here it is in Swords and Wizardry stats:

Crossbow, Repeating :
Damage: See Bolts, Poison
Rate of Fire: 4
Range: 50ft
Weight: 5#
Cost: 10gp
Bolts, Poison (20) :
Damage: 1d3 + Poison (+4 save)
Rate of File: By Weapon
Range: By Weapon
Weight: 1#
Cost: 4gp

Design Thoughts:

The repeating crossbow needs a shorter range than the standard crossbow, but equally something longer than a sling I think, so 50′ puts it at the same range as a short bow. At 4d3 damage per round (assuming the player chooses to fire all 4 bolts) the average damage should be 8. This is just slightly higher than the expected 7 from a short or long bow, which to my mind is a good representation of the lower fire power but higher rate of fire effect. The slightly cheaper cost reflects that this was apparently a common weapon among peasants to defend their homes. On the other hand, the more expensive bolt costs reflects the added costs of obtaining a poisoned tipped bolt.

The poison gives a +4 to save, mostly because giving 4 chances per round to poison a target seems to me like a huge advantage to the player. The effects of the poison are left to the game master, but my thought is 1/2 ongoing damage per round per bolt. This makes the poison relatively ineffective with just a single bolt, but can add up if the player (or monster) can land multiple hits to the same target. An alternative might be a higher ongoing damage, but no multiplier for multiple hits or simply declaring that the poison will cause death in 2d6 rounds.

Other alternatives a game master might wish to include is a negative penalty to hit with the repeating crossbow to reflect its inaccuracy.

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