A quick summary:
Item Cost (gp) Damage Weight Range
Short Bow 25 1d6 2 lb. 16/320
Longbow 50 1d8 2 lb. 160/600
Strength Bow 1* 160 1d8 3 lb. 160/600
Strength Bow 2** 300 1d10 4 lb. 200/800
Strength Bow 3*** 1000 2d6 5 lb. 300/1000
* Dmg adds STR Mod, not DEX Mod / Requires STR 14 to use.
** Dmg adds STR Mod, not DEX Mod / Requires STR 18 to use. *** Dmg add STR Mod, not DEX Mod / STR Mod, not DEX Mod / Needs Workshop / Requires STR 22 to use.
I really need a better name for each level of Strength bow. If anyone has any suggestions let me know.
This idea came from a question and discussion about bows with one of my students/ players. We were talking about the fallacy that the bow was a Dexterity (DEX) weapon. Shad Brooks, of the Shadiversity YouTube channel, refers to this in video “Best medieval weapons for WOMEN”. I found myself referring to the Welsh Longbowmen and their impact in the Hundred Years War, as well as the story of Odysseus and Penelope’s suitors.
In the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), at battles like Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415), the British decimated the French primarily because of the power of the Welsh Longbowmen. It is said that the Welsh Longbowmen could shoot 6 times faster than the crossbow. Whilst not as accurate, they also had a similar range, and their power meant that they could pierce armor too. Because of the strength required to pull back the bow, which were about the height of a fully grown man, up to 6’6”, the Welsh bowmen were trained from childhood to draw them. It’s also the origin of the two-fingered swear sign used primarily in Britain (see below). If the French caught a longbowman, they would cut off those two fingers so that he could never draw a bow again. Before battles, the British bowmen would make the gesture as an obscenity to the French to show that they still had the their fingers. Soon it became an obscene gesture and remains so in Britain today.
Odysseus was the primary Greek strategist and general in the Trojan War. It was his idea to build the famous Trojan Horse to house the Greek troops and to pretend to withdraw. The war went on for ten years, and then Odysseus’ journey home to Ithaca took another ten years. This mythical journey is immortalized in Homer’s Odyssey, probably the most famous book of Greek mythology. Upon returning home, Odysseus disguises himself as a beggar to determine what has transpired in his 20 year absence. He discovers that his wife, Penelope is beset by suitors - who probably want the throne, since Odysseus was King of Ithaca - but impressive nevertheless, since she no doubt over 60 years old. Penelope declares that whoever can string the bow of her husband and shoot it through twelve axe shafts can marry her. All the suitors try and fail and retired to plot to elect one of them to become King of Ithaca. It was a measure of Odysseus’ strength that he could firstly string the bow, but then fire an arrow so true (straight) through twelve axe shafts. Odysseus, dressed as an old beggar requests an attempt; he strings the bow, shoots it through the axe shafts and proceeds to kill all the suitors. He goes on to prove to Penelope that he is actually himself, and of course, they live happily ever after...
I wanted to stay true to the simplistic nature of 5E, not getting bogged down in mechanics, but still keeping it realistic.
I don’t want to change things too much, but only use these for players who are specifically asking for strength bows. They should be custom made items, not readily available and that’s reflected in the price.
The basic strength bow will just be for those who have invested in Strength rather than Dexterity. The “To Hit” modifier will still be DEX, but the damage modifier will be STR. It will weigh slightly more than a normal bow, and since it’s a rarer custom made item, it will cost three times a normal bow.
The second level strength bow will match the power of a crossbow, thus the d10 + STR damage. The crossbow has extra power because of the crank, but with the extra length and draw of a full longbow/ strength bow, the range is extended.
The final level would be only for exceptional characters, probably with magically enhanced strength. This would need a lot more investment of money and have to be created in a special workshop. Again, the damage is increased, as is the range. For both these bows, the “To Hit” modifier remains DEX and cannot be used by small creatures. Of course, you are welcome to adapt these rules for making a strength bow type for small creatures…
You can see that even in just one conversation, this keen young D&D player got to learn a bit about British Culture (albeit profanities), Military History, Greek Mythology and even a dash of Physics. Encouraging young people to get passionate about Tabletop Roleplaying Games introduces them to a whole community of knowledgeable people who are passionate about History, Mythology, Physics and a whole range of other topics. Intellectual curiosity cannot be taught, but it can be strongly encouraged, especially by surrounding young people with others who are intellectually curious themselves. I will be writing about this in a future article.