Friday, May 21, 2010

The Use of Missile Weapons in Melee Combat

Rob (Bat in the Attic) and I were discussing the use of missile weapons in melee combat. That has occurred in the S&W campaign he is currently running. He said he posted it somewhere and there were many who said no to shooting a bow in close combat. I am one who doesn't see a problem with it. My reasons...

1. Like most retro clones, combat is divided into 10, 6 second segments. More than enough time for an archer or crossbowman to maneuver into a position where he could fire off an effective shot. I would allow them to take a step back and fire off a shot, but if they had no place to step back and was engaged in close combat then no, they would need to attack with a different weapon.

2. I don't like to get too caught up with realistic combat. If mages are launching fireballs, clerics raising the dead then having someone shoot a crossbow or bow at close range shouldn't be too much of a stretch.

I think this simple one space separation rule adds a strategic value to close missile combat.

On a side note the one rule that we currently use for missile weapons is an ACC rating, meaning you get that number to your 'to hit' for aiming. A mechanic borrowed from GURPS. In GURPS it works well because you have to sacrifice a few precious combat rounds to accumulate ACC, but in S&W since they use 6 second segments its just a free + to hit. I would remove that rule from a S&W or retro clone campaign.


  1. Crossbow get ACC because not just because of accuracy but also for their superior armor penetration capability.

    Mechanically modifying the to-hit roll is the only to represent this in D&D.

  2. I understnad what your are saying, but I don't see it as making it more accurate. The superior armor penetration capability is already reflected in the massive amounts of damage it does.

    I would also argue the more powerful something it is it tends to be less accurate.

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  4. It depends on how you view what the to hit roll means in D&D. The classic interpretation is that combines accuracy AND penetration. Hence the infamous Weapons vs AC tables.

    But ask a random player most of the time they will say it just accuracy.

    It make sense if you know the history of the game (it originated in Chainmail) but it is non-intutive hence why most non-D&D games use a true to-hit roll and some type of armor rating to mitigate damage.

    The standard heavy crossbow and light crossbow are inferior in every way without some type of weapon vs AC modifier. To me it just a bit too jarring given their historical use.

    You have a point about the knight killer being less accurate.

  5. The superior armor penetration capability is already reflected in the massive amounts of damage it does.

    I agree.

  6. In my game, missile weapons are pretty nasty. You roll to hit against the targets in the line of fire, from the first to the last, and the missile stops when it hits someone.

    This means firing into a melee can be dangerous, because you could hit a friend before you even get a chance to hit your enemy target. Or a stray shot that missed the target could continue and hit a friend.

    In mechanical terms, it means you get a lot of chances to hit (say, if you fire into a line or crowd of enemies), so it seems better than a melee weapon. But they're inconvenient for other reasons (carrying and cost of ammo, uses two hands or takes an action to pull a throwing weapon).

    In the end, there's no game balance reason to say they can't be used in melee. It just kind of feels wrong from a wargaming perspective. But oh well.