Crossbows, Why use them over bows if you can use both? Can they be viable?


Advice


Random question of the day, Crossbows, Can they be viable if you can also use bows? If you can use bows and crossbows, Why would you pick the crossbow over the bow? Are Crossbows just worse then bows in every way (Other then being simple weapons, unless you go for more exotic ones like the repeating crossbow..) And is there a way to get them up to fiering as quickly as a bow?


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

The problem with bows vs crossbows is ultimately one of clashing design priorities. The crossbow is historically slower to fire than other bows and that's preserved in the rules for them. However, they're also a lot easier to learn and while that is partly reflected in the rules, too many classes have easy access to all martial weapons to deter them from using bows that fire at a faster rate.

And to a certain degree, I understand that. They wanted to make bows a little harder to learn but didn't want to force martial characters into picking up proficiencies one-by-one as in AD&D. That does, however, set up the problem that crossbows are dominated by bows as a strategy for most characters and that hasn't been sufficiently corrected.

My preferred correction would be to add a strength bonus to the crossbow based on a rating of the bow, NOT on the character wielding it. Then they would offer an additional incentive for weaker PCs. I would probably also make longbows an exotic proficiency. If it's an appropriate design choice for the bastard sword, it's appropriate for the longbow.


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The Bolt Ace archetype is one of the few ways to be effective with a crossbow.


Rapid Reload allows you to load light crossbows as a free action, while Crossbow Mastery allows you to do so with the heavier variants.

The crossbow might be your choice if you have a strength penalty, as you don't apply that damage penalty to Crossbow or Firearm ranged attacks. So a character with a strength score of 7 would get an effective +2 to dmg from Rapid Reload if they use a Light Crossbow.
And if you want a ranged crit build, the 19-20/x2 range is better than the x3 of the bows.


Bows can work well on a variety of different characters; good bow archers include fighters, rangers, slayers, arsenal chaplain warpriests, savage technologist barbarians, tempered champion paladins, inquisitors, haunt collector occultists, zen archer and sohei monks, luring cavaliers, and more.

A bow combat style needs point-blank and precise shot to be functional, and then focuses on getting a lot of arrows in the air and adding damage to each of them. A crossbow style requires all of that plus rapid reload and maybe crossbow mastery, so you're 1-2 feats behind. Realistically this means that only classes with bonus feats need apply for crossbow duty (whereas the occultist is a great archer without them).

Crossbows are more useful than Bows for things like "Long Range" and "Sneaky Sniping" but normally party composition does not allow for that. For pure DPR crossbowery generally the suggested option is "use a light crossbow, take exactly 5 levels of Bolt Ace, then do whatever you like thereafter."


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Crossbows are only meaningful if you lack proficiency in bows or have special class features that make you better with them. If you don't have special class features and are proficient with bows, there is absolutely no point to using a crossbow.

There are some cool archetypes that are good with crossbows, the bolt ace being the most notable, but unless you're specifically seeking that out crossbows are backup weapons for characters who lack proficiency with regular bows.


Wonderstell wrote:

Rapid Reload allows you to load light crossbows as a free action, while Crossbow Mastery allows you to do so with the heavier variants.

The crossbow might be your choice if you have a strength penalty, as you don't apply that damage penalty to Crossbow or Firearm ranged attacks. So a character with a strength score of 7 would get an effective +2 to dmg from Rapid Reload if they use a Light Crossbow.
And if you want a ranged crit build, the 19-20/x2 range is better than the x3 of the bows.

This is only going to work for the first two levels, maybe three at best. After that the base damage of the crossbow is going to be outpaced significantly by enemy health and you will almost certainly be better off with a weapon that utilizes your class features.

As stated, if you have class features that work specifically with crossbows like the Bolt Ace then they work just fine, but those are few and far between.


Arachnofiend wrote:
This is only going to work for the first two levels, maybe three at best. After that the base damage of the crossbow is going to be outpaced significantly by enemy health and you will almost certainly be better off with a weapon that utilizes your class features.

Hm?

I don't believe anything I said is dependent on being low level. If your character has a low Strength score, you may want to spend a feat to ignore the damage penalty a bow would suffer.


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I absolutely adore Xbows and use them instead of bows when I get a chance.

Bolt Ace does it well.
Alchemists+Explosive Missle weapon+Bullseye Shot (or a Dye bolt for Touch AC instead of xbow damage)+conductive+Vital Strike (if not using dye) (and sometimes + toxicant poison) This also works fun with extract (if GM allows) or potion of Invisi+sipping jacket. Also works with Greandier's Alchemical Weapon. Though honestly thats too many small working parts to be enjoyable for me.

Overwatch Style + Crossbow Fighter. This is... surprisingly good honestly. At the least its a lot of fun. Also works well with sniping.

Wrist Crossbows make great backup weapons for classes that have proficency (rogue for instance).
Double Xbow/Minotaur xbow has some fun Vital Strike as well.

I can't remember the name now.. Gaphalaus? or something weird like that. Its a big Monster Hunter (Playstation) style Xbow. You get penalties if you dont' fire it with some kind of brace, or being prone.
Crossbow Mastery (or other ways to load) + This xbow+ Gravity Bow+ Vital strike is a lot of fun too. I've done this on my Feral Hunter. He snipes at fair range while he sends his Summon Pack forward to do various things. He also has the Conduit stealth feat.
This results in a 3d6 shot+Vital Strike line to add more shots. This is, using the stealth rules NOT sniping rules. You can snipe but I am not sure if Vital Strike works with the sniping rules.
Can also do this with double xbow. it gets 2d6 dice instead of 3d6.

Basically.. Xbows can't really compete with bows in the "Full Attack" way. But they can be really fun in the one strike sort of thing.
Damage wise ? Well full attack with bow and static modifiers will likely over do you.
But there is something immensly satisfying about rolling a lot of dice. As well as the concept of the big one shot.
but I'm biased. I've never ever liked multi hit styles (Exception being nija/monk+Shuriken sorta thing)


Thanks for all the replies! It is nice hearing peoples thoughts on things. Seems like bows are generaly just better in every way so I guess Crossbows will mostly be used for people who cant use bows, Or people who want the flavor of using a crossbow instead of a bow. =)


Trained archers are expensive. Peasants with point-and-shoot devices are cheap. Save money outfitting your army.

The more general case: Skilled ranged combatants use bows. Unskilled ranged combatants use crossbows. (YMMV for other ranged weapons--slings can be pretty brutal with a lot of investment.)


For starters, Crossbow is a Simple Weapon; Bow is a Martial Weapon. More kinds of characters can use Simple Weapons than Martial Weapons. It is often not worth spending a Feat slot to use a Bow.

There are underwater crossbows that do not require any more special Feats than regular crossbows do. Underwater Crossbows work much better underwater than bows do.

The thing about bows is that you can get Composite Bows that grant you your ST Mod to Damage. The Base Damage for Heavy Crossbows is higher. If your character's ST Mod is low, you might be better off with a crossbow.

You can't normally use a bow while Prone, but you can use a crossbow while prone. While Prone, you get a +4 to AC vs Ranged Attacks. Crossbows are better defensively than Bows.

If you are using the Explosive Missile Alchemal Discovery, you can load and fire even a Heavy Crossbow as a Standard Action. So Heavy Crossbow may be an excellent choice for a Grenadier Alchemist.

Zwordsman wrote:
Alchemists+Explosive Missle

Ooh, you ninja'd me!

In real life, you use your Strength (with a mechanical advantage device) to cock a crossbow, and firing it requires a little tickle of a trigger. A Bow is drawn with all your might, and you have to hold it there until you release. That means that if you are in a situation where you are exchanging fire with someone with Cover, it's much easier to camp with your crossbow pointed right at where your opponent's head is going to pop up, and then pick him off as soon as he raises his head. So a Crossbow should give you an advantage when attacking someone with Cover. It should, but it doesn't. AFAIK, there is no such advantage in game terms. Also, there is no game term advantage describing the fact that crossbows have much stronger pulls than bows: Heavy Crossbows do more base damage, and that's about it.


blahpers wrote:

Trained archers are expensive. Peasants with point-and-shoot devices are cheap. Save money outfitting your army.

The more general case: Skilled ranged combatants use bows. Unskilled ranged combatants use crossbows. (YMMV for other ranged weapons--slings can be pretty brutal with a lot of investment.)

Kobold (-1CR) + Warrior<NPC Class>(-1CR) + Point Blank Shot = very cheap and effective followers! Great for that Kobold Sorcerer with Leadership Feat! Bonus! It uses Charisma!


Elves can also trade away weapon proficiency for essentially Rapid Reload as an alternative racial trait, so you can build a low-STR elven Eldritch Archer. Or do the alchemist stuff mentioned above.


You can fire crossbows underwater better than bows, so in the right campaign they have one advantage.

There's a fancy magic crossbow which gives benefits to using rays and similar. And while you have 18K gold tied up in a shiny piece of magic, you might as well use it for its nominal intended purpose sometimes, right?


Scott Wilhelm wrote:
That means that if you are in a situation where you are exchanging fire with someone with Cover, it's much easier to camp with your crossbow pointed right at where your opponent's head is going to pop up, and then pick him off as soon as he raises his head. So a Crossbow should give you an advantage when attacking someone with Cover. It should, but it doesn't. AFAIK, there is no such advantage in game terms. Also, there is no game term advantage describing the fact that crossbows have much stronger pulls than bows: Heavy Crossbows do more base damage, and that's about it.

The closest the game gets to a cover advantage for crossbows is the ability to use them while prone, making it more difficult for your targets to retaliate at range and (here comes the GM discretion) making it easier to utilize lower barriers for cover.


Well what Scott describes is readying an action to pick enemies off. The Crossbowman Fighter and the Overwatch feats already kind of simulate this.

Bypassing cover is more from seeking and other things.

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