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  1. #1

    Bows Versus Crossbows?

    Not sure if this subject has been bought up before? But other than Proficiencies and availability and personnel choice why would anyone use a crossbow in 5E FEATS not withstanding over a Bow? Rate of fire is worse(loading rule) damage isn't much better if any better and range is worse in most cases. With out Some additional Rule giving Crossbows better damage are armor penetration as in earlier additions only the hand crossbow competes with bows, and then really only when FEATS are allowed.

    What have I missed in the standard rules and supplements?

    Everyone likes to keep referring to the Crossbow higher damage over the Bow as its best feature so lets look at the two top weapons of the Bow/Crossbow lines the 50gp Longbow and the 50gp Heavy Crossbow both according to PHB page 149. have the two-handed feature, need ammunition, heavy feature, the crossbow requires loading. Longbow range is 150/600(damage 1d8) and crossbow is 100/400(damage1d10) but we really only want short range as to fire at any range beyond is at Disadvantage, So the crossbow is behind already in two points range and damage over time as it does a d10 every other round while the longbow does a d8 every round. both do benefit from DEX.

    There are classes that are not proficient with the longbow and may be with the crossbow but as I have said they usually have a cantrip are special class ability that will out class the crossbow very quickly if not out right. Rouge Sneak attack, Spell casters. Honestly who uses a crossbow unless its a hand crossbow magical are they just like them for the flavor, they need to be adjusted up to a more even footing with bows.
    Last edited by Blackwolf; September 11th, 2019 at 18:44.

  2. #2
    Zacchaeus's Avatar
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    Dec 2014
    Crossbows are better if you invest in the Crossbow expert feat. But you are correct for a dex based fighter or ranger then the bow will always be better. For classes that don't get more than one attack per round then the crossbow is better.
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  3. #3
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    Choices, choices, and not all of them are equal

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  4. #4
    Yes and many are inferior with out applying OPTINAL RULES like FEATS. best fix is to remove the reloading feature, are give crossbows a better damage model. Even the classes that don't have Multi attack in their builds usually have cantrips that out strip crossbows especially with out the FEAT crossbow expert.

  5. #5
    dulux-oz's Avatar
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    Remeber, though, that Bows *were* a better weapon in the Middle Ages (cv Battle of Agincourt). A cross bow is easyier to use, aimwith and score hits with than a bow (assuming little to medium training), hence the French Army, being conscripts, etc, being armed with crossbows. With the English *trained* in using the Longbow, and with the Longbow's greater range and rate of fire, well...

    The English Yeoman (Freeman Peasants and the "middle class" of English Society at the time) being, by King's Law, required to practice with the Longbow for 4 hours every Sunday Afternoon (after Church) - and from age 12 mind you - we can see why there was such a decicise difference in the Battle (yes, heavy French Knight on boggy soil didn't help, but Military Historians acknowledge it was the Bows vs Crossbows which were the telling factor).

    Now, D&D is a Fantasy RPG, but it makes sense to me to try to simulate the real-world as best we can, within the constraints of a game - don't you agree?

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  6. #6
    Yes it is true that bows did tend to take greater skill to master but it is also true that the crossbow was outlawed by a Pope Innocent II in 1139 here ( but that crossbow were easier to build overall learn and master and more powerful "The crossbow allowed archers to shoot bows of greater strength and more accurately as well due to its greater stability, but at the cost of speed."In 169 BC, Chao Cuo observed. ( The Battle of Agincourt had much more going for the English than the fact that they had a large portion of longbowmen on their side very muddy ground that the French nobility insisted they could conduct cavalry over into a line of sharpened stakes with infantry armed with polearms defending that. and the French did it more than once. (

  7. #7
    the real factor is number of attacks. Characters with 1 attack should use crossbows. Those with more should use bows. if you have rules for dual loaders or magazines that changes things.

    And wizards/sorcs have cantrips that are better after a certain level. That's fine if crossbows have a niche. Not everything needs to be balanced around one specific tier of play.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by GavinRuneblade View Post
    the real factor is number of attacks. Characters with 1 attack should use crossbows. Those with more should use bows.
    The Crossbow Expert feat allows multiple attacks with a crossbow.
    I never claimed to be sane. Besides, it's more fun this way.

  9. #9
    I've always house-ruled crossbows to deal more damage but require time to load. That, and bows really should require load time. Anyone who's done real archery would tell you that it takes more time to draw and knock an arrow than it does to draw a dagger. Yes, there are specially trained archers that can rapid reload and shoot, but a vast majority of archers don't have that special training (feat?). All projectile weapons should have the loading property. Slings, bows, etc.

    At any rate, you use xbows if you aren't proficient in bows, or perhaps plan to fire from a prone position (which I would allow with a crossbow). That's about it.

    My Houserule: Crossbows have STR bonuses (plus dex) and have load times if you meet the STR of the crossbow. STR-4 required to load it slower.
    * Light Crossbow: Str 14 (minimum 10 to load); 1d8+2 damage, loading (move action) for Str 13 or less, bonus action for Str 14+.
    * Heavy Crossbow: Str 18 (minimum 14 to load); 1d10+4 damage, loading (1 Action) for Str 17 or less, move action for Str 18+

    Feat: Crosssbow expert would reduce reload times 1 step:
    Action > Move Action > Bonus Action > no action (part of attack).

    A suitably strong person with the Crossbow Expert Feat could load a heavy crossbow with a move action (or bonus action with Str 18+ since they wouldn't need the winch/windlass). Never get 2+ attacks with it, but could Shoot, drop xbow, move up (drawing weapon), and attack in the same turn. Pretty solid DPR if you mix it up, but the longbow would still out damage a crossbow exclusively. (2 bow attacks would get you 2d8+8 for 18 dex vs 1d10+8 for 18 dex, 18 str).
    Last edited by tintagel; September 9th, 2019 at 07:08.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Nickademus View Post
    The Crossbow Expert feat allows multiple attacks with a crossbow.
    Look above, feats are optional and blackwolf doesn't consider them a solution he likes:

    Yes and many are inferior with out applying OPTINAL RULES like FEATS.
    Last edited by GavinRuneblade; September 9th, 2019 at 08:21.

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