Archery question


Hello Folks,

Begining to think the only ones on this thread were Taylor and I. Yeah Yog, you're right, I was commenting on the SCA types who stick to rattan and fight using only tournemant rules. I prefer to try and recreate the feel and fury of real battle where it was win by any means necessary. For that we used accurate replicas with dulled edges.

Frankly I paid a stiff price for my practical app. I was already busted up from working a ranch and four years in the Fleet. Then I had to go get stupid and run around in 60 to 80 pounds of armor in the Florida heat, hump the same as a pack while carrying a 10 pd rifle-musket or 20pd pike while wearing wool and leather, get knocked off horses while at a slow gallop (never a full, not a complete idiot. Though accidents happened), climb through breastworks in pouring rain, jump off halftracks into heavy brush carrying a MG42 and ammo, and get whacked by maces, rifle butts, ect. Frankly it's a minor miracle I have all my teeth. My marbles are debatable...if you've been hit in the head as many times as I have, you'd question your marble count too :D ! The fact that I slept in conditiond the Marines frown on while doing this in all climes all over the states is likely proof of a certain lack :roll: .


Okay Taylor, we seem to agree on some point and disagree on others.
Nothing wrong with that mate. J

My point on the steel quality on the sword is not that a slashing sword was not made the best it could be IF ONE COULD AFFORD IT, but rather that a stabbing sword often had a larger amount of well fired quality steel due to both the nature of the weapon and the era in which they became prevelant i.e. the late 14th to 15th centuries.
If you are saying that the swords of the 15th century were more consistently superior because steel refining techniques were consistantly better, then I totally agree. But you said Yes Taylor a stabbing weapon did in fact have to be of a better steel than a slashing sword due to the nature of the attack, and that is wrong.

The slashing sword had a softer steel in the core (yes due to the method of firing I know
All swords do to a certain degree. It’s like cooking a steak: the outside is usually at least slightly more cooked than the middle.

I figured you knew that as well and thus didn't mention that) to give the flexiablity (not whippiness, once again I assumed you knew what I was driving at).
I’m sure you did know mate, I just chucked it in for people reading the thread who didn’t and might be interested in what we were talking about. J

True also many stabbing swords were thicker than slashing weapons as a matter of function. But also due to the higher firing of the steel the steel was more brittle as well. Stabbing swords did become quite flexible later on, but by that time armor was nonexistant for all practical purposes so it was a matter of pointless debate (sorry couldn't help it)

The reason the got more flexible was because they evolved from a thrusting tool back into a cut & thrust weapon once the sword lost the evolution battle against plate armour.

While it's true Oakeshott does not mention the points I brought up, but I'm also going by some of the most recent info coming out of the Royal Armory research, which calls into question some of the long accepted info on many things, including use and number of swords.
And that’s great, I’m sure Oakeshott would approve.

As far as who carried what, I never said ONLY a knight could carry such and such by law (though in some countries at some times it was so). My ponit was that certain sword are going to be limited to certain CLASSES by virtue of ECONOMICS.
Sure in the 7th century, but not so much in the 15th. Steel producing and refining techniques were much more affordable by then.

I did point out that one could gain a better due to luck but the likelyhood of a footsoldier having a fine Milan or Regensburg blade made by the best is unlikely. It's like my cracker butt getting his hands on a firstclass Berretta shotgun or Mosenburg rifle. First question out of everyone's mouth would be "who'd did I kill?". The foot soldier going to have the best he can get, which won't be all that great (falchion ect.) the knight the afore mentioned custom made blade. Thus what class carried what sword can be GENERALY assumed based on quality and style. But like all human influenced events, there will be exceptions always.
I can see what you are driving at, but I still don’t agree. A longbowman and a knight in the 14th century might both wield a XVIa longsword. The blade geometries, and general design would be very similar. The knight must have got his blade imported from Toledo or Solingen (both cities had craftsmen renowned for the consistency of their heat treats), and he might have a beautifully engraved and gilded hilt to boot. But, the sword designs (XVIa) are still the same.

Actually I was pointing out that the sword was the primary weapon of the earlier Middle Ages knight (but not the foot soldier) up into the mid 14th. The lance was a point of impact weapon, sort of a shock weapon. Once the melee began the sword and to a lesser extent the axe became the prime killing tool.
The primary purpose of the mounted knight at this time was shock cavalry. If they got tangled up in melee combat against infantry who absorbed their charge, they were in trouble. The lance was the weapon designed to maximise the knights primary role, so I would say it was their primary weapon.

Battlefield forensics bear this out, for the foot soldier casualties anyway.
Personally, I think that the evidence in this instance is showing the knight using his sword to hack down broken infantry, and not using swords in melee combat against a fighting foe.

As far as modern officers go, I was a Marine and my officers led from the front all the way to colonel so they worked for a living. After all, as the Duke of Wellington said "A officers' first duty is die well as an example to his men."
We have a saying at work that if a soldier (out of uniform obviously) gets asked if he’s an officer (or gets saluted by a recruit or whatever), he answers with the fact he works for a living. It’s a tongue in cheek joke, with a big germ of truth in it. Personally, despite being part of the system, I find it ridiculous that a sergeant with 15 years experience is subservient to a lieutenant with 2 years experience. It reeks of 18th century British class-ism to me. But, whatever, it’s not like we are conscripted anyway!
As for the Duke, let me give you a couple of quotes from that gracious and humble leader of men;
On his soldiers:
Ours (our army) is composed of the scum of the earth - the mere scum of the earth
On being reminded about being born in Ireland:
Being born in a stable does not make one a horse

Personaly, I will admit I base my info on the opinions of researchers at museums and reenactors who actually have to use the stuff (and are sticklers for accuracy) as well as my own reenacting experience (1988-2003, quit due to injuries piling up). I have find what we often come up with ends up often proving true once the Museum researchers try out and research the info from the new perspective. Nothing proves a theory of how a sword works than to swing a accurate (as possible) replica, made the traditional way, at another person (or approximation of one), wearing full plate in a the closest thing we are ever going to get to a 15th century battle! TO HELL WITH RATTAN, IT'S FOR WIMPS! I WANT STEEL!!!!
Fair enough. I’m not a reenactor or a SCA buff, but I’ve been a historical fencer for a couple of years (primarily under Stephen Hand’s interpretation of George Silver’s Paradoxes of Defence).

Begining to think the only ones on this thread were Taylor and I
lol, no hostility on my side mate, I’ve enjoyed our discussion. J

The fact that I slept in conditiond the Marines frown on while doing this in all climes all over the states is likely proof of a certain lack
lol, there are no conditions too decrepit for an Aussie digger to sleep in!


Hello Folks,

I wish I could do the quote thing like you but I claim computer illiteracy and seem determined to remain that way.

The point the first. I mispoke myself I agree. By the time the stabbing sword predominated the steel working quality was much improved. It does seem however that the stabbing swords found often have a higher quality steel than the other contemporary types at the time. The reason for this is indeed a matter of debate. It's the opinion of most practical app types here that the tougher steel need for a good stab through armor is the reason for the extra attention. We can't talk to a 15th century swordsmith so the debate continues! :wink:

The point the second. Your point is very true. However my point is that the softer, springier core was a purposeful design in construction for a specific purpose. That's all. Stabbing swords often seem to have this to a much less degree for the reasons you accurately pointed out.

Point the third. Cool. 8)

Point the fourth. Actaully I was talking much later in the sword's development when it seemed regulated to decoration and dualing. I got my hands on a early 19th century small sword (a consumate stabbing weapon [drool]) and I was surprised, based on my experience with rapiers and medieval weapons, how flexiable it was. Not as flexiable as slashing weapons, but flexiable enough. As you seem to be a fencer of these sort of weapons, I will indeed leave it to you as to why. However what I was driving at was by the time the small sword (the final evolution as it were) armor was not a factor and had not been for some time. Slashing an opponent was left o the sabre anyway, a excellent weapon in my opinion for mounted work.

Point the fifth. I'm sure Oakeshott would, he never sat on laurels and was always willing to accept new info. All of us miss him.

Point the six. Very true and hence why swords of any sort were more common at all. Polearms and other such weapons are more economical to make by any measure but metal content on some. However, I am going by the records of purchase and by the percentage of weapons found on battle sites combined with their quality. I'm not saying that quite a few longbowmen wouldn't have a type XVIa (as you point out) it just they will be a minority. Numbers would certainly shift after a battle though :twisted:.

Point the seven. I also stressed the quality difference. I see we fully agree on that. I've never said a longbowman wouldn't have such a sword, I've just stated it was uncommon.
I have found a new bit of info though. I've been expanding into studying the culture and socialogy of the Medieval and Tudor worlds (what a sudden shift in attitudes! :shock: ). It seems that quite a few VOLUNTEER longbowmen mustered in times of active conflict could be comfortably well off or at least inherit some damn good equipment form Dad's earlier campaigns ("loot" in other words). So your stance is indeed not so uncommon as I have earlier thought though I still think it was uncommon over all from the evidence I've seen. Thanks for the spark of interest though.

Point the eight. I would agree for the intitial charge. Descriptions of battles however not only talk of charging prepared infantry (and indeed getting mixed up in them) but also fighting other mounted knights. Many battles lasted hours and could degenerate into grand melees for a period of that. The Battle of Bouvines in 1214 was one such back and forth slugging match were the sword quickly became the primary weapon. I'm counting the prime weapon as the one used most often and the one that does the most killing for the knight.
Also my research shows that the knight actally fought on foot most often. This is due to the (unpopular to the knight) siege being the dominant form of battle through out the period. Here the knight fought as heavy infantry and used his sword most often, Plus the the knight could often count on loosing his horse in many a battle and again his sword became the prime. I also think of the lance as the opening weapon, the sword as the carry through weapon. I think are difference here is a matter of point of view.

Point the Nine. I would agree actually to a point. However the location of the skeletons and of the same and angle of the wounds shows many also died in the stand up battle. It is true that in many battles the bulk of the casualties were after a route started. As I said: the sword did the most killing for the knight. I think it's a matter of our point of view again, not real disagreement.

Point the Ten. Personally I also think Wellington was a bastard, I was just using his statement as the Marine Corps' tounge and cheek take on officers. I would disagree with you on the worth of officers as a whole, but thats another debate altogether. I was just pointing out that the social change was very slow and only the function changed intially. Knights however did indeed evolve in the long term into the European (and British) officer class we love to hate but initially they indeed earned their keep as they still had the hard professional attitudes of their grandfathers. Within two centuries that had indeed radically changed (I'd say the 17th or maybe even earlier. I'd say the Eglish Civil War finished the last of them off).

Point the Eleven. I like a man who faces real steel and not those glorified coat hangers fencers use these days. Reenacting is indeed very different and far less refined in technique. We use reprints whenever we can get them of period manuals and manuscripts, but find that once the crush begins, it becomes a real brawl. To point out how nasty, I now wear a modern cup and accuracy of under garments be damned! I still wonder at having all my teeth, and the lack of lawsuits :lol: .

We have a joke by the way. We in the US think of the hard core European reeanactors as a little crazy, even masochistic. We try to pull punches and wear face grills despite this being a anachronism: it's the only way many of can keep this hobby legal, the Brits and German don't bother with either and go all out. This is why they are popular with the History channels and such, not to mention movie makers. You don't have to worry about lawsuits or even paying them at times, these crazy bastards will whack the hell out of each other for fun! Thus we Americans can always spot a Brit or German unit on the field by the number of teeth missing!

Point the twelve. I think you and I need to get back to the point of this thread: Archery! At least I think that was it :wink: .
BhilJhoanz said:
I should start by saying that I have a problem with people who decide to play Melee only or Ranged only Specialists. A smart combatant will know that there is a time for each! The Melee specialist seem to be the more foolish however, rushing into a throng of foes with their sword drawn only to be cut down! Archery specialists never seem to know when to put down the bow.

That is interesting. I tend to agree with you. The group that I game with insists on building parties with specialists that compliment each other. I recall a heated debate over whether a MU should keep a +2 spell point ring (equivalent of one free 2nd level spell per day) versus bracers (don't recall the AC but it was a huge improvement). He went with the +2 ring. Being higher level I would have grabbed the bracers because sooner or later he would/should be in melee. Our spell casters constantly hide behind the front row fighters and the DM lets them. But, that's not Conan. And, that's not me. I will definitely challenge ALL the players in melee (even if it is just ranged) so that, hopefully, the characters learn to balance their characters out.


Hello Folks,

Oh High Lord Dee! :wink: I agree and yet disagree at the same time. I admit that makes no freakin sense, but bear with me. When you've suffered as much head trauma as I have...oh pretty birdy :lol: ! Um, well. Actually our little troop is fairly well specialized.
My character Sanga is a definite melee specialist. Sure he can throw a mean javalin or spear, but that means throwing a weapon away, so he rarely does it. The rest of the group is made up of a pirate, a couple of soldiers, a Cimmerian barbarian, a Hyrcanian horse archer and a Stygian scholar/wizard (don't ask). Our archer can use a sword fairly well, but he'd rather not. If he can keep his distance and use the bow, that's exactly where we want him. It keep the characters form sprouting thingies in their backs. Meanwhile, under the cover of Tejuin and the Stygian (who tain't half bad with a bow) Sanga leads the rest in to create a positive body count. We do always plan when possible and use smart tactics that (hopefully) catches the enemy flatfooted and helpless (we's likes 'em all helpless and such! :twisted: ).
When plannings not possible we all know our roles and weaknesses and act accordingly to pick our opponents and actions without wrangling or debate.
On the other hand, you've got a valid point. However, IMO the Conan system seems to be oriented to all characters at least being able to club someone fairly effectively and promotes cross classing alot. Sanga has been a barbarian, soldier and pirate so far and is now doing a stint as a borderer. Our scholar is also a bit of a thief. I think the problem is much worse in D&D, but then the system there reinforces such behavior while exposing a mage to physical combat is seen as suicide at all but the highest levels. Even I considered my mages artillery and thus not to be exposed on the front ranks. Same for my clerics and thieves. I really seemed to work out that way, because the HP and hit probablities were so uneven I guess. I Conan though, your observation has real weight and is valid as heck!


Interesting how this went from archery to swords...

I just have to mention that in all my reading of Dark age history... the Crossbow was always prefered as the ranged fighting weapon in the continent, 1st it was much easier to use than the bow, you didn´t have to train with it much, you loaded, you aimed, you pressed the button and there it would go the nice bolt into the nice knight...
it had more than double range than the longbow, and much more power... at close range it would probably trespass 1 or 2 Knights before it would stop...

On the other side... the LongBow was fast as hell... and the number of arrow was decribe in ancient times as a black cloud descending from heaven...

I thing that in Conan the crossbow and the alabaster are really dowpowered with what they really were... in comparisson with the Longbow...

The Bossonian longbow and other ratial bows are much stronger, the only problem that i see is that the regional bows can had their strength to AP... and Arbalastes stay with their 6 in AP wich against a Full platted armour is the same as nothing...

And crossbow and Arbalaster were famed by Killing Knights...

Yes you may say that in Hyboria the Crossbows are not yet developed... but i must say that they simply don´t have any advantages over the bows... the only one that they have is that they are martial weapon and even a level one soldier can use them...

I might be wrong about that but i always saw Crossbow longer range, stronger shot, Longbow faster shooting rate.


dunderm said:
I can't say at this point in my own research, but there is not a great deal of difference in ranges or damage for crossbows or bows. At least with our modern equivalents.

Hello Folks,

I don't know about modern bows overly much (I've only used the compound wheel bow), but ancient and medieval bow did in fact have vastly different "pulls" ("poundage" ect.). A medieval longbow averaged 80 to 100ib pull, while a 15th century arbalast (a heavy crossbow) utilizing a steel stave could reach over 900ibs! I would imagine there's a world of difference in performance. Experiements at Leeds with steel staved heavy arbalasts using quarrels (blunt, square headed bolt) knocked a 200ib mannaquin in full plate clean off a mounted horse (no mean feat with a knight's saddle designed to keep you in it. We're not talking a "topple" due to lost balance, but a true 5+ft. throw! A first class steel breastplate was crumpled, and the gel bladders inside the 'crash test dummy" were pulverized into a near liquid state. Verdict: Even a "wing" shot (arm or leg) would likely kill you from the shock and the sheer impact of the bolt would shatter the impacted bone (guarenteeing gangrine even today) into a thousand pieces. A torso shot would pulverize organs and likely kill you instantly, if not then through massive internal bleeding. The arbalast was treated as the M2 .50 cal of it's day and was often banned for use on fellow Christains (so is using the .50 on human targets), though this was of course ignored (as are the rules concerning the Ma Duece). Crosbows on a whole had greater range, power and accuracy. However the longbow was reasonably effective, had a phenomenal rate of fire and was dirt cheap to make. You could train a crossbowman in a matter of weeks, but the crossbow was a high-tech weapon (the composite bows still baffle scientists as to how they were put together) and very expensive (they are underpriced in every game I've seen). Think a first class Winchester hunting rifle with scope (over $900) compared to a inexpensive surplus Mosin-Nagant (under $100) and you get the idea. Thus while the crossbow was easy to master, the cost kept it a somewhat elite weapon while the hard to master Longbow was cheap enough to used by the masses and mastered by them over the years.
Modern crossbows and such? I suspect they are made of the same stuff as the compound bows and mechanicaly have similar poundage as a result. Just a guess.


Thanks for the very interesting info Ltlconf.
I remember the crossbow as the strong ranged weapon, and the longbow as the fast one.
Tales tell us of men who were rushed out of their houses, given crossbows, and without any serius trainning and they could destroy entire knight charges if correctly used.
Longbows were diferent needed much trainning and worked on fastness rather than actual strength.
I sure would like to see crossbow and arbalesters revised in Titos trading post, Better, stronger and with longer ranges, and realistic the kind of weapon it was, much much more expensive and with regional types, like the zingarian Arbalest, and the Nemedian crossbow.
It´s just a sugestion...
If not, i´ll just make a house rule about it...


One thing to consider about the crossbow is that it took a long time to reload. Using the Conan/D20 game mechanics, it can be reloaded, aimed, and fired in 6 seconds. What few medieval sources I have seen about how crossbows work, seems like 6 seconds might be a stretch.

So, as for them being underpowered to their real-life counterparts? Maybe. But I guess this is offset a bit by the reload rate.


Actually, to reload a crossbow it´s a fullround action (3 in the case of the Alabaster). to aim and fire just a standart action...
Your right, reloading time is really fast, but if you see that "A crossbowman (also called an arbalester) was only expected to fire one bolt per six shots by an archer" than it isn´t that fast, since high level characters can fire a maximum of 5 arrows by round.
The reload is really slow, but it isn´t compensated much by damage.
A Bosonnian Longbow (standart longbow) deals 1d12+str and has AP 5+str, and as a range of 80feet.
A Arbalest deals 2d8 and has AP 6, and as a range of 70 feet.
Actually in low levels it´s almost balanced, because the bow is exoctic and the Arbalest is martial.
But the only problem is that at BAB +5, the bow shoots twice, being much more deathly, and the arbalest does not compensate this...
An arbalest against a fullplated Knight deals at max 4 damage to him, doesn´t strike me as the knight killing machine it was.


Verdict: Even a "wing" shot (arm or leg) would likely kill you from the shock and the sheer impact of the bolt would shatter the impacted bone (guarenteeing gangrine even today) into a thousand pieces

But battlefield casualty reports from this specific point in time certainly don't back this verdict up. Why, I don't know. Maybe the plate used in the test wasn't as high quality as in period (the usual mistake in modern tests of this type), or even the fact that shooting a cavalry man at this distance with such a slow to reload weapon is suicide; his mates behind him are going to trample you before you get anywhere near ready to shoot again. I'm not sure myself, maybe a combination of the two?


Actually, i think that the fact that their use was banned by the Vatican shows how deadly these weapons were, and therefore gives you actuall proofs of how deadly they were, sure it was slow, but it could kill a knight, none of the fullplated armours could stop a bolt of a arbalest, and it was this weapon that ended the knights reign (fire arms helped, but at that time they were not so good as an Arbalest)
A unit of Arbalesters, could easely kill a knights unit, if they had pike man to take the charge... If it were the alabasters taking the charge, i don´t think they would live much longer...
Battlefield casualty reports simply said that they were killed, and when an important person died by ranged attacks, they would say he died in mellee, because it was disonorable to died from arrows or bolts, except when you were the one killing, them they whould focus on how the enemy died in a ranged attack, and how week he was.


The vatican attempted to ban the crossbow, in 1180. The evidence, as far as I can see, points to the arbalest being a weapon primarily used in seiges behind a mantlet or pavise. It is simply too cumbersome, too slow to reload and too vulnerable to be widely used in a pitched battle.


Hello Folks,

The difference between a steel staved crossbow (which took a cranquilen or a windlass to load) and a arbalast seems to be fuzzy. Admittedly a heavy weapon such as this was supremely suited to the siege, but records show steel staved crossbows being used in battle, such as in the battles of Charles the Bold against the Swiss. Wether they were arbalast or crossbows is fuzzy as steel staved weapons were called by either name. It's possible one was a lighter version of the other, we just don't know. However one could make both weapons with a similar weight stave and get similar effects. The lighter version would be more likely to break under the pressure eventually due to a lack of support. Just theory.

As for their weight and length, they seem no worse than the matchlock muskets used with props in the 16th and early 17th century, a common battlefield weapon. Loading times with a cranquilen would likely be very similar to the musket. Both needed pikemen to keep them safe to boot. Also, a man that died form woulnd induced gangrene was simply said to have died form "fever" and was not listed as a battle casualty either. Maybe they didn't see the relation. It seems the thought the fever came due the weakness caused by the wound, not BY the wound.

It's the crank that would make a steel stave crossbow into a practical weapon in my view. The real question here is though: does Howard's world have the technology and metallurgy to make a cranquilen and steel staved crossbow. We're talking high quality spring steel here, damn near leaf spring quality in some ways (though less steady in quality, and sometimes brittle in cold climate). That's the real question. Until then, I think of heavy crossbows as well made and thicker (thus more powerful) composite staved weapons.


Actually by what i´ve understood, a steel staved crossbow is an "Arbalest", and these were made in seige style, and combat style, being the 1st more powerfull and bigger, and the second a smaller one but almost as powerfull. they were an evolution of the wood crossbow.
Actually Arbalests were better than the 1st matchlock muskets because they were more precise, but with fireweapons evolution, gunpowder weapons became better.

As for if it was a weapon that would could be made in Hyborian times, from my understanding, there are some civilizations that could do it, specially Nemedians and Zingarians, that had an actual army unit made of crossbow men or arbalesters, and probably instead of going for the bow, they would try to improve what they had.
I don´t think that some civilizations would consider the crossbow a mans weapon, specially bossonian, shemites and other bow weilding groups.

About a high quality Arbalest being built in hyborian times... i don´t know, i´m not an Conan expert... but it seems that REH focussed more in the importance of the bow.


Hello Folks,

Yeup, as I said castel, "fuzzy." I've found over 20 names for "Big siege engines that throw rocks by torsion power" alone. Since you didn't have a mass media and recognized authorities such as the Oxford English Dictionary to say what was what every seemed to feel free to call whatever, well, whatever :roll: .
Sure, our combat often ends up meleee. Usually we're outnumbered heavily, so we chuck missile weapons at them as they close with us, then we charge in before the missle guys have to draw their secondary weapons. They keep shooting as the melee goes on to keep things unfair and end things quick. When we can ambush it rarely gets to the melee stage. Usually it's over in seconds game time. As we're pirates, boarding is also a must to capture the other ship. Even in the days of gunpowder, you still had to often board to bring about the surrender. Plus, we're often in a hurry to leave (and not get thrown in a jail) so "quick and dirty" is the name of the game. :twisted:


Hello Folks,

NEAT! Won me a bet as to the age of the crossbow.

Seems to be one of those cases of two cultures coming up with the same thing with no information exchange involved to be noted (I forget the name of the Greek engineer-scholar who invented the European version at Rhodes). I've also found that they are used in central Africa and in the East Indies, also seemingly with no outside influence towards their creation.