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Historic Missile Weapon Ranges revisited


Sunwolfe

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Howdy all BRPites:

I have an issue I need to resolve and I'd like to have your opinions, but first a word or two.

If you guys know of a thread which includes an answer to my query, send me there and disregard this thread. I looked but I may not have typed in the "right" word.

Though I am not interested in serious scientific accuracy and only want to keep from breaking the "asthetic distance", I don't want to push the bounds of credibility so radically far that the game (I know, irony here) enters the realm of silliness and farce.

That being said...

In light of the wiki errata concerning Extended Range which suggests that,

"This Spot Rule is deprecated. [and] Instead, use the Missile Weapon Range Modifiers on p257, as follows: “At the weapon’s basic range, the skill chance is unmodified. At medium range (double the basic range), the chance becomes Difficult, and at long range (four times basic range) it becomes ¼ the normal skill chance.”

I'm a little concerned about the extended ranges this suggests for Historic Missile Weapons".

The weapon in question is the "composite bow". I have written of this weapon before as one of my main players is armed with one. According to the BRP book, it has a range of 120 [meters?]. If I apply the suggested rule above that means at basic range, 120, the skill chance is unmodified and, barring circumstances, an "Average Action". At medium range, 240, the chance to hit is 50% of the player's skill with the bow--a "Difficult Action". At long range, 480, four times the basic range, success is measured at rolling under 1/4 normal skill chance.

My difficulty is with the "long range" section and my concern is as follows:

Is "four times basic range" even possible for an unaltered (non-magical)composite bow? Would that be beyond its physical capabilities?

If so, is the rule, in referring to "four times basic range" suggesting an impossibility of range and therefore, by default, an "Impossible Action"?

This seems not so however, and hence my confusion, as it gives the player a ¼ chance to pull off the shot and therefore suggests that the archer does indeed have this incredible range.

Suggestions, clarifications and enlightenment appreciated. If you feel the rule is broken, that’s fine, but please don’t belabor the point and force me to sift through cheap shots fired off at one another to find it. If I have simply misunderstood, a very good possibility, feel free to steer me in the right direction.

I note that RQ III suggests that the "Effective" range of a composite bow is 120 and that its "Maximum" range, beyond which the weapon "...can reach no further..." is 225. Between the two extremes the roll is at half the archer's skill...I.E. a Difficult Action. Would you take your cue from RQ?

Cheers,

Sunwolfe

Edited by Sunwolfe
hit the post button by accident :-P

Present home-port: home-brew BRP/OQ SRD variant; past ports-of-call: SB '81, RQIII '84, BGB '08, RQIV(Mythras) '12,  MW '15, and OQ '17

BGB BRP: 0 edition: 20/420; .pdf edition: 06/11/08; 1st edition: 06/13/08

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It depends a lot on what kind of composite bow you are thinking of, as there

are huge differences in construction and performance.

If you are thinking of the Mongolian composite bow, most probably the best

of all, these quotes may help:

An inscription on a stone stele was found near Nerchinsk in Siberia: "While Chinggis Khan was holding an assembly of Mongolian dignitaries, after his conquest of Sartaul (East Turkestan), Yesüngge (the son of Chinggis Khan's brother) shot a target at 335 alds (536 m)."

In the historical novel "Khökh Sudar" Injinashi, the Mongolian philosopher, historian and writer, imagines the competition amongst all Mongolian men in about 1194-1195: five archers each hit the target three times from a distance of 500 bows (1 bow = at least 1 metre).

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Here's another quote to support Rust's assertion that YBMV (Your Bow May Vary):

From Bronze Age War Chariots by Nic Fields (great book BTW):

Tests using weapons from anthropological collections suggest that self bows, not unlike the native egyptian one, might attain a maximum range of 155 to 190M, and the oldest composite bows for which we have explicit data had an effective range of more than 175M. A replical of an angular composite bow, made by the anthropologist Saxton Pope, cast an arrow a distance of 230 to 260M on several occasions.

For my campaign, a bronze age fantasy which tries to be as realistic as possible, we use only Close, Effective, and Maximum ranges. Between Effective and Maximum Range, skill it is halved. Using 1/4 skill crosses the 'fiddly line' as far as I'm concerned. And I suspect the extra long range is more approriate for sniper rifles than bows and arrows.

In my campaign world, different cultures are differently skilled at making various weapons, so an Assarian Composite Bow will be different from a Horselands Composite Bow, etc.

Thalaba

"Tell me what you found, not what you lost" Mesopotamian proverb

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At Extreme Range you are at 1/4 chance. Throw in strong winds, poor visibility and so on and you are even more reduced. So, I'd allow it if only because players are unlikely to make it and they will feel really good if they succeed.

As for historical bows, they were surprisingly effective especially when in the hands of master bowmen.

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Until the advent of good composite bow making, slingers were extremely important on the battlefield. A cadre of skilled slingers would easily outclass simple (non-composite) bows. Bow effectiveness varied wildly depending on available materials. Effective bowmen also required good training and tactics.

Bowmen in antiquity weren't the ancient equivalent of snipers or marksmen; this a common cinematic misconception. They were artillery and it was mass arrow fire that was effective/disruptive at longer range. The slingers were the snipers.

I did some research for this in connection with Ashes to Ashes (where slings rule)! Simple bows had ranges in the 300-600 feet range, but this depended on how you using the bow. There's a different between hitting a target vs. penetrating a shield (effective range) vs. how far a gang of bowmen could arch a storm of arrows.

Good slingers in the late bronze/early iron age could go 200 metres with stones. 400 meters with shot. Roman army slingers could pierce mail with shot at 1/2 mile. Again, though, as these long ranges what is going on is massed fire.

A simple bow has neither the range nor the power of a composite bow.

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Mortal Coils:

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Out of the Vault: http://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtml?mainid=395

The Primal State:

http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/sample.html?id=7056

Ashes, to Ashes (& soon, Dust to Dust):

http://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/14/14290.phtml

Lost in the Lights (coming soon):

http://yog-sothoth.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=17334

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Life in the Aztec World, by Manuel Aguilar Moreno. They had bad bows, bad slingers but good javelins (with the atlatl). Effective at defeating shields but limited range.

I wrote all this junk and accept full credit or blame:

Mortal Coils:

http://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtml?mainid=1216

Out of the Vault: http://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtml?mainid=395

The Primal State:

http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/sample.html?id=7056

Ashes, to Ashes (& soon, Dust to Dust):

http://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/14/14290.phtml

Lost in the Lights (coming soon):

http://yog-sothoth.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=17334

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Effective bowmen also required good training and tactics.

If I remember it right, the English had a saying that if you wanted to train

a longbowman, you had to start by training his grandfather.

As far as I know, this was one of the main reasons for the replacement of

the longbow by the musket around the time of the Thirty Years War, when

the longbow still was far more efficient and precise and had a much higher

rate of fire than any of the firearms of the time.

It was simply much easier to train a unit of musketeers to the point where

they could be used in battle than to spend the long time needed to train

a unit of longbowmen.

And time was most important when huge numbers of soldiers had to be hi-

red only a very short time before a campaign, because none of the parties

of this war had the finances necessary to keep a standing army big enough

for its needs - even Spain and Sweden finally had to hire mercenaries.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Dead on. Longbows (which in the English sense are a form of composite bow--laminates with differing materials on either side of the arc) were potentially more effective but required a LOT of training to use effectively. Muskets were easier, and it was MASS musket fire that was militarily significant in controlling a battlefield.

Effective sniping didnt come along with firearms until the 19th century when rifling and minie balls came into vogue.

I wrote all this junk and accept full credit or blame:

Mortal Coils:

http://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtml?mainid=1216

Out of the Vault: http://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtml?mainid=395

The Primal State:

http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/sample.html?id=7056

Ashes, to Ashes (& soon, Dust to Dust):

http://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/14/14290.phtml

Lost in the Lights (coming soon):

http://yog-sothoth.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=17334

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So, what I get out of this thread is that the extended ranges are not complelely unrealistic for many historic missle weapons, right?

At least as a general rule, and you can modify for those weapons that were known to be inferior as far a range goes.

Okay, so what about damage at extended ranges?

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Okay, so what about damage at extended ranges?

I know it's 'deprecated' in the wiki, but the Extended Range Spot Rule (p.223) says beyond double base range damage should be halved.

Or maybe a neater rule would be to apply the same multiplier to damage as to skill (with exceptions for those you want to be world-renowned in your campaign, such as English Longbows, Mongol Composites, Roman Shot-Slingers, whatever).

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Ah, thanks for info. I admit I've yet to sit down and read all of the BRP book front to back. I already feel like I "know" the game system so well I don't need to do more than check details on a few things. I've tended to "house rule" so many things over the years anyway, that the line between what is offical and what I actually decided to do is a bit fuzzy at times.

I don't know about halving damage either. Sending an arrow on a rainbow arch toward a target, even at 300 yds away, should still be doing better damage than that. To me, just hitting the target is the real challenge, though a minus of 1 or 2 pts of damage makes sense. I'd go half at Long Range, where you'd have to be hoping to get a special success to actually do serious damage.

BTW, Thalaba? I want to see your notes on that Bronze Age game. :D

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I don't know about halving damage either. Sending an arrow on a rainbow arch toward a target, even at 300 yds away, should still be doing better damage than that. To me, just hitting the target is the real challenge, though a minus of 1 or 2 pts of damage makes sense. I'd go half at Long Range, where you'd have to be hoping to get a special success to actually do serious damage.

In the last one of our historical settings we distinguished between "ballistic"

and "line of sight" arrows.

The "ballistic" arrows, basically the "artillery" of the setting, did full damage

against unarmoured targets (including horses) and half damage against ar-

moured targets at long range, the "line of sight" arrows all did half damage

at long range.

However, I do not remember how and why we came to this rule.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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BTW, Thalaba? I want to see your notes on that Bronze Age game. :D

What kind of notes are you looking for?

I've often thought about putting something up, as the setting's become pretty cool since I first started, but I have no idea where to begin. It's a sandbox exploratory type campaign with broad scope. It's only detailed in places the PCs have been, and more roughly figured outside of that. My players tell me they like the depth and vibrancy of the setting. Some of the cultures, history, and magic that have evolved since I started the game are really compelling, in my view, but while my notes on some of the cultures are fairly in-depth (including lengthy 'what the priest says' type notes), many of them are far from complete - and much only in my head. I was doing a campaign summary for a while, but I fell off that wagon about 4 months ago and so the more recent part of the campaign hasn't been properly written up.

Thalaba

"Tell me what you found, not what you lost" Mesopotamian proverb

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As many posters have said already, there are two ways of using bows. The long ranges quoted in most historical sources all refer to large-scale indirect fire military 'bombardments' and literally represent the point at which arrows hit the ground if you fire them into the air at a step angle. They will hit massed formations, but they are basically area-effect weapons so skill should have very little to do with it (compared to direct fire, that is).

I prefer the RQIII ranges because they represent the sort of direct fire at a particular target which PCs normally engage in. No-one is going to consistently hit a human-sized target with a composite bow at 500m or so. A 100% master would be doing that with 1 in 4 arrows using that system. Based on the difficulty I had in hitting a bear target at 100m (admittedly using a 65lbs composite bow, which would have been a bit -not much - less powerful than an ancient one) I would stick with the RQIII ranges, myself.

I think PC bow use is much more akin to hunting rather than military combat.

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No-one is going to consistently hit a human-sized target with a composite bow at 500m or so.

I think so, too. The fact that the Mongolians, doubtless among the finest ar-

chers of history, erected a monument to an archer who hit a target at some-

what more than 500 m shows that this was a truly extraordinary feat (that

he was Gengis Khan's nephew might also have helped somewhat ...).

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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What kind of notes are you looking for?

I've often thought about putting something up, as the setting's become pretty cool since I first started, but I have no idea where to begin. It's a sandbox exploratory type campaign with broad scope. It's only detailed in places the PCs have been, and more roughly figured outside of that. My players tell me they like the depth and vibrancy of the setting. Some of the cultures, history, and magic that have evolved since I started the game are really compelling, in my view, but while my notes on some of the cultures are fairly in-depth (including lengthy 'what the priest says' type notes), many of them are far from complete - and much only in my head. I was doing a campaign summary for a while, but I fell off that wagon about 4 months ago and so the more recent part of the campaign hasn't been properly written up.

Thalaba

Well, I'd have been surprised if you had written up everything in nice 11 point font with double columns. I'm nowhere near that organized myself.

I was just asking on the off chance you had organized a campaign folder, you know, a background introduction for the players to give them a high level view of the various cultures, equipment, professions, etc.

Better yet, how about I volunteer you to write up a Bronze Age monograph for BRP?

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Well, I'd have been surprised if you had written up everything in nice 11 point font with double columns. I'm nowhere near that organized myself.

I was just asking on the off chance you had organized a campaign folder, you know, a background introduction for the players to give them a high level view of the various cultures, equipment, professions, etc.

Better yet, how about I volunteer you to write up a Bronze Age monograph for BRP?

I can say right now I'd buy a Bronze Age BRP monograph, I've always enjoyed ancients style RQ/BRP games. When you consider that a lot of the traditional monsters in role playing eg centaurs, harpies, giants etc come straight out of earth mythology it's a really fertile area for adventuring which so far hasn't been given the attention it deserves.

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Good slingers in the late bronze/early iron age could go 200 metres with stones. 400 meters with shot. Roman army slingers could pierce mail with shot at 1/2 mile. Again, though, as these long ranges what is going on is massed fire.

What is shot? A metal ball? :ohwell:

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What is shot? A metal ball?

Yep, usually made of lead, with a weight of up to 400 g (at least accor-

ding to the archaeological digs over here - the true experts from the Ba-

learic Islands perhaps used different ones), and often with "funny" in-

scriptions (like "Catch That !").

Slingers could also throw hollow clay balls filled with some burning sub-

stance and several other types of "special ammunition".

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Approximately what diameter were these clay balls?

If I do not misunderstand the texts, they usually had a diameter of 30 mm to

50 mm, although there are also historical pictures of much larger objects.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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I was just asking on the off chance you had organized a campaign folder, you know, a background introduction for the players to give them a high level view of the various cultures, equipment, professions, etc.

Well, I did do one for the for the starting PC culture. They started in a small tribal area on the outskirts of the broader world. But their starting culture is very insular and at the beginning of the campaign they didn't know anything about the others - we've been discovering these things during play. So at the moment there is no overall summary, but maybe I'll do one up.

Better yet, how about I volunteer you to write up a Bronze Age monograph for BRP?

Are you kidding? In that case I volunteer you to edit it and draw the art! I make no claims at being able to write, and everything I know about the Bronze Age I learned from Mitchell and Webb:

It's zeitgeisty, slightly shiny, and doesn't need chipping.

YouTube - That Mitchell and Webb look se2 Bronze Age Orientation Day

Thalaba

"Tell me what you found, not what you lost" Mesopotamian proverb

__________________________________

 

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Well, I didn't think it would hurt to ask....

I wouldn't be much good for art, other than stick figures, but editing would be something I'm more comfortable with. If you ever get some notes together and need some help, let me know.

BTW, amusing video. Kinda reminds me of a Monty Python skit.

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... BTW, Thalaba? I want to see your notes on that Bronze Age game.

There's a file in the file section of the Alternate earth Yahoo Group you might find interesting (http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/alternateearthrq/files/), entitled "RuneQuest Bronze Age Rules Source Book"

It's by Eduardo Chamon who was a regular poster on that list but I don't think is a member here as yet.

Cheers,

Nick

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