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Modern compound bow vs. legendary weapons?


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Just randomly wondering whether a modern graphite compound bow is significantly better than its ancient equivalents? Better enough to provide some sort of bonus to hit or to damage? How would a modern Olympic archer armed with modern gear compare to Robin Hood, or Ulysses, or the ancient Persian hero Rostem -- all legendary archers? Would a modern bow, in the hands of a Magic World, RuneQuest or Legend character, be considered a magic item?

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Just randomly wondering whether a modern graphite compound bow is significantly better than its ancient equivalents?

I very much doubt it. The normally available modern bows are designed for comparatively light

arrows, not the kind of armour piercing heavy war arrows used by the famous archers of the

past. However, a graphite compound bow designed for the right kind of arrows might well be

better than one of the historical bow types.

Edit.:

Just looked it up, the average modern compound bow has a draw weight of about 65 lbs, whi-

le the average longbow found in the wreck of the Mary Rose had a draw weight of more than

100 lbs (up to ca. 170 lbs), and Chinese sources give draw weights in the 120 - 140 lbs range

for Mongolian composite bows.

Edited by rust

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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If there was some way to get a modern compound bow in a draw weight equivalent to ancient longbows and composite bows, you may consider allowing some kind of aiming bonus. The advantage of the compound bow is that the holding weight is less than the draw weight due to the asymmetric pulleys, and all the stabilisers and release aids are designed to allow the arrow to be released as cleanly as possible for maximum accuracy.

I'm not sure what sort of draw weights are available for modern hunting bows, perhaps some of our American members can shed some light on that?

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I very much doubt it. The normally available modern bows are designed for comparatively light

arrows, not the kind of armour piercing heavy war arrows used by the famous archers of the

past. However, a graphite compound bow designed for the right kind of arrows might well be

better than one of the historical bow types.

Edit.:

Just looked it up, the average modern compound bow has a draw weight of about 65 lbs, whi-

le the average longbow found in the wreck of the Mary Rose had a draw weight of more than

100 lbs (up to ca. 170 lbs), and Chinese sources give draw weights in the 120 - 140 lbs range

for Mongolian composite bows.

Two things you need to keep in mind, while a compound bow has a much lighter draw weight of around 65 lbs vs. a historical longbow having ~140 lbs, that is stored energy and how much is transferred to kinetic energy. The intricate pulley systems of modern compound bows allow for a much higher percentage of the draw to be stored as stored energy (or potential energy), as well as allow the bow to transfer more of the stored energy into kinetic energy when the arrow is released. Numbers I have seen state that a typical longbow is about 85% at 30", a recurve bow can have up to 98% at 30", and a compound is actually around 102% at 30" (using 60 lb draw). These numbers drop as the draw length decreases in a linear fashion, about 3.5% per inch of draw, until you hit 26", when the drop increases. As far as transferring PE to KE, typically 85% - 90% of the PE is transferred into KE with compound bows and some modern compound bows actually have a 99% transfer rate. Longbows, on the other hand, show bout 70% - 75%, and recurves 75% - 80% (the heavier the arrow, the more PE converts to KE).

Or, in other words, if you add it all up, the historical longbow with much heavier draw and heavier arrows, probably results in greater power transferred to the arrow. However, the compound bows are generally more accurate due to their efficiencies, and they can fire at a much higher rate of speed (lower draw weight as well as more efficient when drawn back less).

Ian

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Interesting help article for choosing a compound bow. Based on this there is a lot more to a bows power than simply draw weight. Draw length on adjustable bows can make a difference in delivered power of 10% +/- using the same draw weight.

Compound Bow Selection Guide - HuntersFriend.COM

Traditional Bow Selection Guide - Hunter's Friend

I know it is possible to order a compound bow in 100lb weight, but that is unusual. Most top out at 75-80lbs, but modern traditional bows top out at only 50-60lbs, so neither really matches the claimed weights of historic bows, but there does seem to be quite a bit of debate as to what they really were. I've seen numbers given for English longbows as low as 80lbs and as much as 190lbs. At the low end an 80lb compound bow would compare well with a 90-100lb long bow, but would come up short against the higher weights.

I would think the primary advantages of a compound bow would be accuracy rather than damage. They tend to have higher velocities so a flatter trajectory, and the let off allows for a better aim since there is much less weight to hold. Of course a modern bow also offers all kinds of high tech gadgets, sights, string silencers, etc all of which add to accuracy. Modern arrows are lightweight, but made to a much higher standard and of much tougher stuff so it would be interesting to see how the trade of in weight really turns out against armor. Would be interesting to see a shoot off between modern and historical bows on one of those top shot kind of shows.

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I am not an expert with a bow, but I grew up with and around a lot of bow hunters. I believe my brother is the reincarnation of Robin Hood. We had both compound bows and recurve bows around the house. I would say that compound bows are much, much better. The arrows flew with much more strength and authority. The big advantage is that at a point the pulleys flip out on compound bows; the draw "relaxes" and you can hold the arrow steady.

One time I went to a bowyers shop and fired his longbow. He said that it was as powerful as the typical compound bow. The Longbow was much harder to fire because the bow never relaxed and you had to fire the arrow pretty quick or your arm strength would wear out. After a couple of shots my arms wore out and I couldn't pull it back anymore at all. The guy who owned it even said that he could not fire it very long before it wore him out.

I certainly would not want to get hit by either of them in any armor though. Once while playing in the backyard, I shot at a steal bucket without thinking and the arrow went clean through it like it was butter. As I recall,that was with the recurve and not the compound.

My parents were not too happy about that one. :P

Edited by Puck

294/420

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Once while playing in the backyard, I shot at a steal bucket without thinking and the arrow went clean through it like it was butter. As I recall,that was with the recurve and not the compound.

This is no problem with "direct fire" at a short distance, but the historical war bows and

arrows were designed for "ballistic fire" at a long distance, where the weight of the ar-

row falling onto the target determines the arrow's armour penetration. The power of the

bow was required to get the arrow as far and high as possible, but its impact was most-

ly a matter of gravity.

For example, according to early Chinese military handbooks the archers began to fire at

a distance of about 200 meters from the enemy force, and as far as I know European

longbowmen used the same tactics.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Most of my experience was with relatively short distances. It is almost impossible to hit a single target (like a deer) at those distances (at least for me). Whole ranks of soldiers would be a different matter. The big problem of getting any experience or practice at that distance is that you loose the arrows. I can say that as the distance increases, the authority of the arrow quickly goes from a quick solid cathunk into wisky, wobbly floaty thing. I imagine the arrows I was using were pretty light compared to historical arrows. They were also practice arrows without the heavy broad head.

Anyway, If you are trying to hit a huge target, say a 30 yard wide block of troops at extreme distances, I believe the difference between the Long bow and the Compound would not be much. If I was trying to hit an individual orc 40 yards away then I would take the compound bow every time.

Right now I am itching to get a bow and fire a few arrows.

294/420

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It is almost impossible to hit a single target (like a deer) at those distances (at least for me). Whole ranks of soldiers would be a different matter.

An inscription on a stone stele was found near Nerchinsk in Siberia:

"While Chinggis Khan was holding an assembly of Mongolian dignita-

ries, after his conquest of Sartaul, Yesüngge shot a target at 335

alds." These 335 alds were approximately 530 meters. According to

other sources of the time this was an exceptional, but not unique

shot, and an experienced Mongolian archer was expected to reliab-

ly hit a person at a distance of about 200 meters.

These guys were professionals who started at an age when they

were strong enough to hold their first bow, practiced daily and of-

ten for hours, and continued that for decades. It would be most un-

fair to compare them with today's hobby archers. For example, the

Korean traditional archery now uses a standard target at a standard

distance of about 145 meters - this would hardly have impressed a

historical Mongolian archer.

Edited by rust

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Just randomly wondering whether a modern graphite compound bow is significantly better than its ancient equivalents? Better enough to provide some sort of bonus to hit or to damage? How would a modern Olympic archer armed with modern gear compare to Robin Hood, or Ulysses, or the ancient Persian hero Rostem -- all legendary archers? Would a modern bow, in the hands of a Magic World, RuneQuest or Legend character, be considered a magic item?

I did an article on bows a few years back. TO sum up:

Accuracy: Not much from the bow if any. There could be a bonus from the arrow, sights, and release system. But skill is king. Ancient and medial archers got lots of practice. The Yeoman in England and Wales in late Middle Ages were required to spend at least 20 hours a week practicing.

Damage: Possibly, but not always in favor of the modern bow.

The damage an arrow does is based upon it's weight, type and size of arrow head, and how fast it is moving when it hits the target. How fast the arrow travels is mostly a matter of the draw weight of the bow, that is how much "pull" it takes to draw the string back. A modern compound bow tends to have a higher draw weight than other types of modern bows, simply because the pulleys allow a person to increase the effectiveness of their draw.

Now, some of the historic bows had a greater draw weight than modern bows and would do more damage, assuming similar arrows. In fact, some "longbows" were so powerful that modern archers can't draw them back!

Range: Is determined by the speed of the arrow (draw weight) how aerodynamic it is (usually pretty good), how how much inertia it has (weight). Generally speaking, the more powerful the bow the further it will shoot.

Edited by Atgxtg

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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These are the kind of questions I had to struggle with to write my BRP steppe nomads supplement (to be published hopefuly some time, it is almost done). It is a rather complex question and I've read and heard so many things, often contradictory, that at last, I decided to make it simple. I think that trying to acurately simulate bows is a too complex thing. Not only the bow, its quality, the kind of arrows or the skill and strength of the archer, but also the use it has been made for (acurate firing, volley, mounted archery, life-time...) have to be taken into account. It is all about an optimal combination archer/bow/arrow/use/conditions. Almost every bow is the best for for of these combinations. My short experience in archery did not help much finding the magical formula.

You may have been trained with a coumpound bow, but if using it in stress or in movement during a battle or while trying to escape, it may not be much more efficient than a self bow, at least as long as acuracy is concerned. But for contests like for Ulysse or Robin Hood, where you have time to aim, a compound will surely help. Since the training of the archer is the first criteria, I'd not give a bonus but instead grant a higher basic score. Or may be only for aimed shots. If you play with the fatigue option, you may give some advantage as well. It would probably have no true advantage for instinctive shooting, which is actually what is understood under the Bow skill.

Such a bow would be seen as magical by primitive cultures with no understanding of mechanics, but has a kind of secret technics for high developped medieval cultures like the Chinese or the Muslims kingdoms.

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The big advantages of a modern compound bow over traditional bows are:

1) You can hold it back with less effort, allowing you to take more time to aim.

2) The materials would be more resilient and wearth-resistant. A modern bowstring is still good when wet, whereas an old style bowstring can become useless in wet conditions.

Most of the other modern improvements are only of slight benefit in game terms. Sure sights, quick releases and other high tech goodies help, but they don't make up for training and experience. A lousy archer with the best equipment is no match for a skilled archer using primitive equipment.

I think most of this can be maodeled farily easily in an RPG such as BRP without too much difficulty. But if you want to model STR and draw weight you have to expand a bit upon what's in the rules. Basically, you need to look at the STR rating, ranges and the damages of given bows.

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So, Ulysses grabs a modern compound bow and immediately breaks it in half by accident because it draws too easily.

Probably not. He would get a feel for the draw of the bow when he starts to pull back. What would throw him would be when he hits the point where the pulleys kick in and the felt draw weight drops in half. That would probably confuse him.

Meanwhile, the modern Olympian might as well be trying to bend a steel girder and is working up blisters trying to pull the Greek's famous weapon. ;D=|

Some modern scholars have a new take on Odysseus' bow. They think it might have been a composite horse bow, as opposed to a Greek bow, and the difficulty in drawing the bow was because the method of drawing back the bow was different. Rather than holding the bow perpendicular to the ground and pulling pulling back on the string, the bow would have been "drawn" by holding it horizontal to the ground, near the cheek, and pushing the bow up and away.

The idea being that Odysseus wasn't so much stronger than the other Greeks that only he could draw (or string) the bow, but that only he was clever enough to know the secret of how. Which reinforces the whole concept of him being the hero who wins by his wits.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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Granted it probably only refers to the cheap pencil like wood arrows sold today, but they highly discourage the use of wood arrows in compound bows because of the forces generated. Also found it interesting that they describe a compound bow as a long push, vs traditional bows that have a quick jolt of energy.

If we are talking about bow using cultures with access to high tech materials, then I think the compound bow wins hands down, as it is the ultimate form of bow.

Where it lacks is due to modern life and use. The use of light arrows comes from their use as relatively short ranged (flat trajectory) hunting and sporting weapons. As a primary military weapon used for volley fire compound bows would be available in the same weights as traditional bows, and equipped with heavy arrows. A modern militaristic society that never discovered firearms would be an interesting spin on things.

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It is all about an optimal combination archer/bow/arrow/use/conditions.

I did read somewhere that a Mongolian archer typically had four bows for different

uses, like using them on foot or from horseback, for hunting or for war, and also a

variety of different arrows for the different bows and tasks. I could well imagine

that this is true, it would make sense.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Meanwhile, the modern Olympian might as well be trying to bend a steel girder and is working up blisters trying to pull the Greek's famous weapon. ;D=|

I seem to remember that the modern world record of a successfully used draw weight

was about 180 lbs, which is almost the same draw weight as that of the strongest long-

bow found in the wreck of the Mary Rose.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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I think the subtle differences are probably beyond the granularity of BRP. Remember, if you start differentiating between different bow types, you also need to look at crossbows in relation, and then you get into all kinds of complexity. I've used things like +5% aiming bonuses for weapons that allow aiming, but I don't bother with such small modifiers nowadays.

I (and many practical writers as opposed to pure historians) take the extremely long missile ranges quoted in antiquity with a pinch of salt, given the huge disparity between what was claimed then and what is known to be possible today. In modern field archery, shooting at stationary animal targets, distances are normally between 20 yards for rabbits up to 80 yards for bears.

Draw weight is also a controversial issue, because it depends on how far back you draw the bow - all we have to go by is some not entirely trustworthy medieval illustrations, so it may be possible that the 150 lbs longbows of yore were not actually drawn back as far as we would today (or maybe they were - we don't really know), and the smaller size of ancient archers is a factor in this. It is certainly true that these types of bows were mostly used in mass battle and not "adventurer" style archery.

In conclusion, I am quite happy with the BRP RAW on this. There is simply not enough reliable data to go beyond.

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In modern field archery, shooting at stationary animal targets, distances are normally between 20 yards for rabbits up to 80 yards for bears.

True, but our culture has lost much of its knowledge about and skill in archery.

If you take a look at cultures where archery never came out of use as much as

in Europe, you will find that 80 yards would be considered a ridiculous distance.

As mentioned in a previous post, in traditional Korean archery the standard dis-

tance is 145 meters, in Bhutan the standard distance is 130 meters (with a tar-

get 90 cm high and 28 cm wide). To these people the distances and precisions

mentioned in historical texts do not seem outrageous, they have seen similar

feats in their lifetime.

Edit.:

By the way, there are reliable data about many types of historical bows. For ex-

ample, Ingo Simon (a former archery world record holder) tested and demonstra-

ted several old bows, including a Turkish composite bow of 99 lbs draw weight,

with it he shot an arrow over a distance of 434 meters.

Edited by rust

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I think the subtle differences are probably beyond the granularity of BRP. Remember, if you start differentiating between different bow types, you also need to look at crossbows in relation, and then you get into all kinds of complexity.

It's not all that complex. And yes you do have to look at crossbows in relation. It's not all that bad either.

I (and many practical writers as opposed to pure historians) take the extremely long missile ranges quoted in antiquity with a pinch of salt, given the huge disparity between what was claimed then and what is known to be possible today. In modern field archery, shooting at stationary animal targets, distances are normally between 20 yards for rabbits up to 80 yards for bears

I don't blame you. Most of the extraordinary shots were recorded because they were extraordinary. Most battlefield shooting doesn't count either, since that was ususally massed volley fire at large masses of troops rather that aimed shots at individuals.

Draw weight is also a controversial issue, because it depends on how far back you draw the bow - all we have to go by is some not entirely trustworthy medieval illustrations, so it may be possible that the 150 lbs longbows of yore were not actually drawn back as far as we would today (or maybe they were - we don't really know), and the smaller size of ancient archers is a factor in this. It is certainly true that these types of bows were mostly used in mass battle and not "adventurer" style archery.

It's not that controversial. The difference in draw weight between pulling to the cheek, ear, or above the back of the head (Japanses Style) is not that much compared to the overall ability of the bow.

In conclusion, I am quite happy with the BRP RAW on this. There is simply not enough reliable data to go beyond.

I've seen tons of reliable data. Certainly enough to beyond the BRP RAW.

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I did read somewhere that a Mongolian archer typically had four bows for different

uses, like using them on foot or from horseback, for hunting or for war, and also a

variety of different arrows for the different bows and tasks. I could well imagine

that this is true, it would make sense.

It is true. This is the reason why I think it is not necessary to go too far in the simulation of the physics of archery: bows are anyway practically not used up to their maximum performances. Bows of the same kind are also never exactly the same, except may be compounds.

OK, a composite bow can send an arrow beyond 400m, but which archer would like to do it? It is practically impossible to hit anyway and the arrow would be wasted -an lost: target too small, arrow too slow to do much damage, flight deviated by wind, distance too difficult to estimate… if you can see the target at all! OK, a stronger bow will shoot at longer distance and have a straighter flight at short distance, but not if you can’t pull it properly.

The ranges given by the rules are the practically usable –and practically used- ranges, not the extreme ranges. There are some differences which are enough to simulate the different performances of bows. Moreover, a rule is made to run a game: either you make a bow simulator, which is a game in itself, or you run a RPG: do we really care if a target is at 120m, 135m or 83.65m? “Within range”, “out of range”, “at close range” are mostly enough for RPG. Add the ½ db to simulate the different strengths –a strong guy can pull a strong bow but still can't better aim -, and that’s enough.

Of course, it is possible to add some finesse: I allowed 3 kinds of arrows with different bonus/penalties in ranges and damage and 2 settings with different ranges for the composite bows, and I think this is a good compromise between simulation and playability. More would have been unplayable.

So, back to the compound bow, a few ideas:

- make it easier to aim

- replace the 1/2db with a +2 instead (the strength of the user is not as important as with traditional bows)

- Regarding the range, we shall consider until which range the light arrow of the compound bow does much damage: this will be the useful range. Shall not be above 120m, probably not even beyond the 100m of the long bow. Those who have one may try to see how much the arrow penetrates the target at 50/80/100/120m and tell us. You may also like to decrease the damage level when at long range (1d10 -> 1d8 -> 1D6…).

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On the long ranges, I think that is probably more of a mass combat thing overlooked by most games. Just like heavy machineguns have useful indirect fire capabilities rarely modeled in RPGs. RPGs generally assume more personal direct fire combat.

It may be that ancient archers were capable of hitting point targets at extreme (to us) ranges, but I have a lot of doubt about that. Wind is an issue for guns, and it wouldn't take much wind to move an arrow dozens of feet off target over a several hundred yard shot. If such feats really were possible and repeatable then I am in awe of their skills.

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Wind is an issue for guns, and it wouldn't take much wind to move an arrow dozens of feet off target over a several hundred yard shot.

This problem can often be solved by "intelligent design". Where I used to live the wind ten-

ded to come from the southwest, so most archery ranges were designed with the targets

in the northeast ... ;)

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

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This problem can often be solved by "intelligent design". Where I used to live the wind ten-

ded to come from the southwest, so most archery ranges were designed with the targets

in the northeast ... ;)

But that still requires some amazing wind estimation skills to prevent over shooting. A bullet is very small, very fast and follows a much flatter arc. An arrow is a sail by comparison and also way up high where the winds are much less troubled by obstacles like trees. Up above the tree level the wind may not even follow the same path as that in the ground. In my past job I landed a lot of medical helicopters so we had to call the winds at the landing zone out for the pilot. On the ground the wind was generally coming from the south, but up above the trees it tended to blow from the east. The terrain shifted the ground winds 90 degrees.

I'm sure it could be done by a person who had never flown through the air (watching birds, following the flight of an arrow etc), but then I guess that is the kind of thing that would set an exceptional archer apart from a good one.

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But that still requires some amazing wind estimation skills to prevent over shooting.

In my experience it was a bit like artillery methods when it came to longer

ranges: The first arrow usually went too far, the second arrow usually went

too short, and from the third arrow onwards the target was in serious dan-

ger of being hit - until the wind changed ... ;)

In other words, I am willing to believe that Yesüngge hit a target at a distan-

ce of 530 meters, but I am not willing to believe that he did so with his first

arrow. Or his second. Probably not even his third. :)

Edited by rust

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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