Saturday, 9 February 2013

Broken Arrows

By coincidence, I had been thinking about one of the logistic aspects of the game this week that I seem to blow off in my campaigns - keeping track of ammo. Then Talysman writes about it so I feel I should share my thoughts.

Are most people overestimating how many arrows would be lost in combat, given enough time to recover them afterwards as part of the ten minute post-combat rest? This blog has 50% attrition, Talysman has 33%. It doesn't look like too many arrows would be broken even shooting against armor (here) so the main source of loss would be sticking in the wound and being broken off, being trodden on in combat, or just disappearing into the distance. It may be useful to overestimate these occurrences, though, if only to have ammo supplies play a meaningful part in an adventure.
Also topical for Valentine's Day.
In battlefield combat, of course, there is the factor of not wanting your enemy to easily pull out arrows or use them back against you, that led some historical archers to use arrows with the point intentionally loosened. Most of what adventurers are fighting, though, won't have bows themselves. The option can be given to loosen heads if needed, but it seems more important to explorers to be able to conserve arrow stores.

Here are a couple of ideas:

1. Track ammo supplies using toothpicks stuck in a piece of modeling clay, packing sponge, or styrofoam (personally I hate the sound of squeaking styrofoam so that's right out.) Pull your "arrows" out when you shoot them and turn them in if they break or are abandoned. Indicate special arrows (magic, silver, etc.) using marker on the tip.

2. Arrows, magic or otherwise, break immediately on a natural damage roll of 6; I also have a missile fumble that breaks the arrow. Otherwise, there is no need to have a fiddly "realistic" system or extra dice rolls to model what is ultimately just another aspect of logistics like food, water, and light source consumption. So, breakage and loss are abstracted after the combat; each archer loses 1 out of every 4 arrows shot, rolling d4 to see if there is any loss when a fraction of that is shot. If the party flees the battlefield, of course, losses are total. Magic arrows can be exempted from this due to superior construction, although they may be picked up by intelligent foes.

3. Arrow heads can be loosened to become unusable after any hit (including a hit that would connect with an unarmored target even if it missed due to armor) and 3/4 unrecoverable.


  1. I have an easier method, roll a natural one and you are out of ammo- must switch to another weapon. After combat is over, you can scrounge up that 'extra' quiver or search the battlefied for additional projectiles.

  2. To be fair, I'm saying it's a base 50% modified by circumstances. Shooting well-made arrows at a bucket in a field like in that video isn't going to result in a lot of wasted arrows, and it wouldn't the way I run it either. It's a starting point, and assumes combat conditions. More ideal situations will give a bonus, but 1 in 6 will still suffer too much to be usueble without repairs or just lost - simpler to say, just lost.

  3. A rule that my table has used successfully for years is simple: you recover all the arrows that you hit with and lose the ones you miss with (assuming the target isn't on fire).

  4. In a dungeon or when pressed with time, you might want it to cost a turn to recover all your arrows

  5. I love the toothpick idea. Must crib.