Do crossbows take the prone penalty to attacks? Should they?


Rules Discussion


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

See topic. Discuss.


There is no exception written into the rule that applies the attack penalty, nor into the description of crossbows, so yes the penalty to attacks from being Prone applies to crossbows.

"Should they?" is a trickier answer, because it brings philosophy of game design into question - "should" the rules prioritize representation of reality over being simple and consistent for sake of ease of application, or vice versa - and is also a subjective thing. I think the rules should be as they are because that results in the rules being less exception-heavy which makes them easier for me to remember to apply appropriately, and it also keeps all the information a player would need to know to accurately weigh the pros and cons of choosing a crossbow over another ranged weapon option in the weapons chart where the player would certainly be looking (no random special features obscured by having to change pages to find them).


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
thenobledrake wrote:

There is no exception written into the rule that applies the attack penalty, nor into the description of crossbows, so yes the penalty to attacks from being Prone applies to crossbows.

"Should they?" is a trickier answer, because it brings philosophy of game design into question - "should" the rules prioritize representation of reality over being simple and consistent for sake of ease of application, or vice versa - and is also a subjective thing. I think the rules should be as they are because that results in the rules being less exception-heavy which makes them easier for me to remember to apply appropriately, and it also keeps all the information a player would need to know to accurately weigh the pros and cons of choosing a crossbow over another ranged weapon option in the weapons chart where the player would certainly be looking (no random special features obscured by having to change pages to find them).

I agree with all this. I also wouldn't apply the penalty in my own games as a house rule, but not every house rule is good for core rules.


They do, and absolutely should. If i was ruling for realism I would probably make it harder again or nigh impossible to fire a bow from prone, rather than make it easier for a crossbow.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
The Gleeful Grognard wrote:
They do, and absolutely should. If i was ruling for realism I would probably make it harder again or nigh impossible to fire a bow from prone, rather than make it easier for a crossbow.

This.

It should be impossible to fire a bow while prone. And while firing a crossbow while prone seems like an easy thing to accomplish, reloading one from prone should be difficult to impossible, depending on the method used.

This said, I'm happy to use the more abstract rules that we have in PF2 as is, even if a clarification (faq, errata) would be welcome.


I think crossbows are probably not quite as equivalent to guns as we might think when it comes to the prone firing position - reloading most crossbows requires a standing position (the metal loop on the front of most crossbows is actually a stirrup for you to put your foot in to give you leverage to draw the crossbow when reloading).

Example image of a crossbow being reloaded

As you can see, it takes a lever & stirrup combo to draw back the crossbow in the image, which is very difficut to manage while prone.

Additionally, there may be issues with ergonomics and bolt drop-off with firing from a prone position with a crossbow (though I don't know enough to speculate on what they may be).

Using an actual bow from prone position... yeah that is nigh-impossible.

Besides, why get yourself all dirty on the ground when you can fire your crossbow from behind a nice big pavise with your heraldry emblazoned on it?


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Historically, there are a number of different systems that were used to reload crossbows.
- very light ones could be drawn back by hand.
- other light crossbows had the bowstring drawn back by a device called the goat's foot lever.
- a step up in draw weight finds crossbows with a foot stirrup to hold the crossbow in place where the bowstring was drawn back using both hands. A further innovation saw the stirrup used in conjunction with a metal claw hanging from the archer's belt.
- Heavier crossbows required either a cranquin (a rotary handle driving a series of reduction gears) or a windlass using cords and pulleys.

Of course Pathfinder abstracts all these and doesn't really specify what system is used, refering simply to reload times.

Regarding the current thread, only the lightest of crossbows could possibly be reloaded while prone. IMHO this corresponds to the "hand crossbow" from the weapon chart.


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I agree that reloading while prone would be quite difficult. I wasn't asking about reloading though, but about the penalty to attacks.

Reloading is a side topic (though a welcome one I think).


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Nothing to do with the rules or reality, but I think that would be a nice niche for crossbows. They could be easier to use than bows while Taking Cover (including when prone) but you'd be sacrificing mobility.


Ravingdork wrote:

I agree that reloading while prone would be quite difficult. I wasn't asking about reloading though, but about the penalty to attacks.

Reloading is a side topic (though a welcome one I think).

Aside from hand crossbows it would be significantly harder to aim from the ground barring some very specific circumstances.

You have to adjust for fall off, support the weight and angle, aim (positioning of your head) and hit a vital point on the target.

But that is just realism talking, the pentalty we get is no where near as impactful as it should be anyway.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Ravingdork wrote:
I wasn't asking about reloading though, but about the penalty to attacks.
CRB wrote:

Prone

You’re lying on the ground. You are flat-footed and take a –2 circumstance penalty to attack rolls. The only move actions you can use while you’re prone are Crawl and Stand. Standing up ends the prone condition. You can Take Cover while prone to hunker down and gain cover
against ranged attacks, even if you don’t have an object to get behind, gaining a +4 circumstance bonus to AC against ranged attacks (but you remain flat-footed).

Not only is this the RAW, but it seems consistent with what we've been discussing: -2 to attack rolls with crossbows (and all other weapons). DMs who are interested in realism (or at least verisimilitude) could also rule that you can't fire bows or slings from prone at all, nor can you reload a standard or heavy crossbow while prone - but that part is not in the RAW.


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There should be no attack penalty for crossbows while proned.

Reloading should cost one action extra as it is more difficult to do it prone. If possible at all.

Bows should be impossible to shoot while prone or with -20 attack penalty atleast.


Wheldrake wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
I wasn't asking about reloading though, but about the penalty to attacks.
CRB wrote:

Prone

You’re lying on the ground. You are flat-footed and take a –2 circumstance penalty to attack rolls. The only move actions you can use while you’re prone are Crawl and Stand. Standing up ends the prone condition. You can Take Cover while prone to hunker down and gain cover
against ranged attacks, even if you don’t have an object to get behind, gaining a +4 circumstance bonus to AC against ranged attacks (but you remain flat-footed).
Not only is this the RAW, but it seems consistent with what we've been discussing: -2 to attack rolls with crossbows (and all other weapons). DMs who are interested in realism (or at least verisimilitude) could also rule that you can't fire bows or slings from prone at all, nor can you reload a standard or heavy crossbow while prone - but that part is not in the RAW.

Exactly

Also because it is fun on the one hand to add Realism to a fantasy game, with 100 feet leaps, fireball, dragons and wrestlers who grapple dragons.

Also, characters are not the average person. So, even more if rules are clear and works perfectly, it is useless to modify them.

Not to say that crossbows are definitely useless if compared to a bow.

If somebody would want to work on something, then he should definitely work on crossbows balance in comparison to bows.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
K1 wrote:
If somebody would want to work on something, then he should definitely work on crossbows balance in comparison to bows.

IMHO there is no "balancing" necessary for crossbows. They are slow, compared to bows. They should continue to be slow. Best use for a crossbow is to take one shot, then switch weapons & wade into combat.

The RAW say that all attacks from prone are at -2. If you want to allow your players to fire a bow from prone, by all means, go right ahead, it's consistent with the RAW.


Wheldrake wrote:
K1 wrote:
If somebody would want to work on something, then he should definitely work on crossbows balance in comparison to bows.

IMHO there is no "balancing" necessary for crossbows. They are slow, compared to bows. They should continue to be slow. Best use for a crossbow is to take one shot, then switch weapons & wade into combat.

The RAW say that all attacks from prone are at -2. If you want to allow your players to fire a bow from prone, by all means, go right ahead, it's consistent with the RAW.

With this system they finally tried to make weapons different in terms of perks.

Crossbows could definitely get some extra rework because they don't add different playstyle.

You can shot an arrow and then drop the bow as you do it with a crossbow.

What could be instead be made is to get rid of the recharge stuff, if it does exist, and giving them some perks.

Just to make it even more clear

Nobody gives a crap about having a weapon with no purpose, even if in real life that's the limits it has.

A player should consider the weapon he is using.

Would i like to get a higher base dice? Or a better dmg on critical hit?

Eventually some maneuvers or special tricks?

Then we would have a choice.

We will see characters with bows, because of the deadly trait and maybe the bow critical spec, or on the other hand crossbow users with better flat dmg and other stuff.

Currently, crossbows have no sense if compared to bows.


K1 wrote:


Currently, crossbows have no sense if compared to bows.

Crossbows should not be equal to bows on their own. They are a simple weapon, and their flavor is that they are slow to reload and shoot, so neither rules or flavor support them being on the same level of bows. This is the ranged option for those without martial proficiency. It's the same reason a fighter would not pick a club when the longsword is better in just about every way.

Now, if feats are introduced like Crossbow Ace or Running Reload which make a crossbow fighting style up to par, that's a different matter. I'm okay with them being equal if the character spends resources to get the crossbow there.


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Not equal.
Different.

I don't get why many of you put flavor before extra choicee, even when it is not needed.

I would like to have alternatives to bows in term of gameplay, like the whole melee system with perks, hands needed, critical spec, reach, damage type, etc.


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I've made over 20 characters so far. 2 use bows, 1 uses a crossbow, and all the rest use cantrips or thrown weapons. They just hurt more.


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I have to chuckle at people saying it is impossible to fire a bow while prone, as if the bow staff has to be perpendicular to the ground to function.

Let's ignore the entire class of "foot bows" that were designed specifically to be fired while laying on the shooter's back using the feet to brace the bow staff and both hands to draw back the string.

Imagine a right handed bowman. Picture him drawing back the bow as normal, but placing the arrow on the right side of the staff instead of the left. Then imagine that person laying on his left side rather than standing vertically. This would function perfectly well for firing. The mechanics of the bow are completely unaffected by fact that the staff is parallel to the ground, and the arrow is laying on what is now the top of the staff, so it won't fall off.

Also, the bow can be fired from a half-sit-up position with the bow parallel to the ground.

In either of these cases, it is an atypical method of firing the bow, which would sensibly make the shot more difficult than normal (hence a to-hit penalty), but it's kind of silly to say that it's impossible to do.

(For the doubters, just google search "prone archery" to find discussion of the topic. It's something bow hunters use from time to time.)


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

They're probably only saying it because it WAS impossible in First Edition, rather than their believing it is impossible in reality. Alternatively, they might mean that it is impossible to do EFFECTIVELY in reality.


I think a simple rule is, you can fire it from the prone position no problem, but not reload it, or double the reload actions with the running reload feat. (I was thinking Crossbow Ace, but I think a Rogue sniper makes a whole lot of sense)

Saldiven wrote:
Also, the bow can be fired from a half-sit-up position with the bow parallel to the ground.

I would rule that as taking cover, not prone.


Saldiven wrote:

I have to chuckle at people saying it is impossible to fire a bow while prone, as if the bow staff has to be perpendicular to the ground to function.

Let's ignore the entire class of "foot bows" that were designed specifically to be fired while laying on the shooter's back using the feet to brace the bow staff and both hands to draw back the string.

Imagine a right handed bowman. Picture him drawing back the bow as normal, but placing the arrow on the right side of the staff instead of the left. Then imagine that person laying on his left side rather than standing vertically. This would function perfectly well for firing. The mechanics of the bow are completely unaffected by fact that the staff is parallel to the ground, and the arrow is laying on what is now the top of the staff, so it won't fall off.

Also, the bow can be fired from a half-sit-up position with the bow parallel to the ground.

In either of these cases, it is an atypical method of firing the bow, which would sensibly make the shot more difficult than normal (hence a to-hit penalty), but it's kind of silly to say that it's impossible to do.

(For the doubters, just google search "prone archery" to find discussion of the topic. It's something bow hunters use from time to time.)

A sitting position isn't firing from prone, specialty gear is not what we are talking about and this method does not work well at the pace and scale of combat Pathfinder takes place in.

E.G. you are being attacked from both sides and they are 30ft away, you are hit with a spell that knocks you prone...

Shooting a longbow arrow to the north of you and the south of you is a damn impossible act from prone in a 6 second period.


The Gleeful Grognard wrote:
Saldiven wrote:

I have to chuckle at people saying it is impossible to fire a bow while prone, as if the bow staff has to be perpendicular to the ground to function.

Let's ignore the entire class of "foot bows" that were designed specifically to be fired while laying on the shooter's back using the feet to brace the bow staff and both hands to draw back the string.

Imagine a right handed bowman. Picture him drawing back the bow as normal, but placing the arrow on the right side of the staff instead of the left. Then imagine that person laying on his left side rather than standing vertically. This would function perfectly well for firing. The mechanics of the bow are completely unaffected by fact that the staff is parallel to the ground, and the arrow is laying on what is now the top of the staff, so it won't fall off.

Also, the bow can be fired from a half-sit-up position with the bow parallel to the ground.

In either of these cases, it is an atypical method of firing the bow, which would sensibly make the shot more difficult than normal (hence a to-hit penalty), but it's kind of silly to say that it's impossible to do.

(For the doubters, just google search "prone archery" to find discussion of the topic. It's something bow hunters use from time to time.)

A sitting position isn't firing from prone, specialty gear is not what we are talking about and this method does not work well at the pace and scale of combat Pathfinder takes place in.

E.G. you are being attacked from both sides and they are 30ft away, you are hit with a spell that knocks you prone...

Shooting a longbow arrow to the north of you and the south of you is a damn impossible act from prone in a 6 second period.

Given that longbows are generally about as tall as the user when they are standing, I also doubt that you could really fire a longbow from prone comfortably or effectively. With the aforementioned special firing position, you could fire a shortbow (less accurately, effectively, and you would have trouble adjusting to a target moving around, but you can maybe pull it off) but probably not a longbow.


Saldiven wrote:

I have to chuckle at people saying it is impossible to fire a bow while prone, as if the bow staff has to be perpendicular to the ground to function.

Let's ignore the entire class of "foot bows" that were designed specifically to be fired while laying on the shooter's back using the feet to brace the bow staff and both hands to draw back the string.

Imagine a right handed bowman. Picture him drawing back the bow as normal, but placing the arrow on the right side of the staff instead of the left. Then imagine that person laying on his left side rather than standing vertically. This would function perfectly well for firing. The mechanics of the bow are completely unaffected by fact that the staff is parallel to the ground, and the arrow is laying on what is now the top of the staff, so it won't fall off.

Also, the bow can be fired from a half-sit-up position with the bow parallel to the ground.

In either of these cases, it is an atypical method of firing the bow, which would sensibly make the shot more difficult than normal (hence a to-hit penalty), but it's kind of silly to say that it's impossible to do.

(For the doubters, just google search "prone archery" to find discussion of the topic. It's something bow hunters use from time to time.)

With respect sir, but you have never used a longbow in your life.

Or you used some kids bow with 10b draw weight.

And reasonable longbow that is made for war is 70-80lb of draw weight MINIMUM, and many go to 150+bl

You do not have strength to draw the bow as you have inoptimal stance, you biomechanics are all wrong and I wont even start on aiming problems.


Imo, ruling that bows can't fire while prone because it's too difficult in real life is a "Guy at the Gym Fallacy."

I understand where some people are coming from, but I don't really think it's necessary to include this in a game were you can go toe to toe with beings 10x your height and trade blows with each other.

I just think it's strange that it's okay for some areas of the game to be completely unrealistic on a comic book level, only to get pulled back into realism when determining if it's possible to fire your bow at a certain position. I also really doubt that anyone would complain if Hawkeye or even Legolas fired their bow while prone.


Sauce987654321 wrote:

Imo, ruling that bows can't fire while prone because it's too difficult in real life is a "Guy at the Gym Fallacy."

I understand where some people are coming from, but I don't really think it's necessary to include this in a game were you can go toe to toe with beings 10x your height and trade blows with each other.

I just think it's strange that it's okay for some areas of the game to be completely unrealistic on a comic book level, only to get pulled back into realism when determining if it's possible to fire your bow at a certain position. I also really doubt that anyone would complain if Hawkeye or even Legolas fired their bow while prone.

I don't think anyone is actually saying that this should be implemented, it is just a part of the discussion of what penalties are applied, why and how it is justified.

I don't know if it was intentionally, but tonally your post came across far more agressive than necessary in my opinion.


The Gleeful Grognard wrote:
Sauce987654321 wrote:

Imo, ruling that bows can't fire while prone because it's too difficult in real life is a "Guy at the Gym Fallacy."

I understand where some people are coming from, but I don't really think it's necessary to include this in a game were you can go toe to toe with beings 10x your height and trade blows with each other.

I just think it's strange that it's okay for some areas of the game to be completely unrealistic on a comic book level, only to get pulled back into realism when determining if it's possible to fire your bow at a certain position. I also really doubt that anyone would complain if Hawkeye or even Legolas fired their bow while prone.

I don't think anyone is actually saying that this should be implemented, it is just a part of the discussion of what penalties are applied, why and how it is justified.

I don't know if it was intentionally, but tonally your post came across far more agressive than necessary in my opinion.

There are a few posts that do suggest that firing a bow in this position should be or next to impossible.

It's probably far from the first time where someone thinks I'm being aggressive. I'm not, I'm just used to being rather blunt since I've found it to be the best way to make my point clear.

Maybe I'm just not good with people :p


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

No worries. I can see now that firing a bow from prone shouldn't be impossible. The -2 penalty that all attacks take from prone should cover any difficulties that the prone position may impose. That's the RAW, and as this discussion shows, there is no clear reason not to just roll with that.


Sauce987654321 wrote:
The Gleeful Grognard wrote:
Sauce987654321 wrote:

Imo, ruling that bows can't fire while prone because it's too difficult in real life is a "Guy at the Gym Fallacy."

I understand where some people are coming from, but I don't really think it's necessary to include this in a game were you can go toe to toe with beings 10x your height and trade blows with each other.

I just think it's strange that it's okay for some areas of the game to be completely unrealistic on a comic book level, only to get pulled back into realism when determining if it's possible to fire your bow at a certain position. I also really doubt that anyone would complain if Hawkeye or even Legolas fired their bow while prone.

I don't think anyone is actually saying that this should be implemented, it is just a part of the discussion of what penalties are applied, why and how it is justified.

I don't know if it was intentionally, but tonally your post came across far more agressive than necessary in my opinion.

There are a few posts that do suggest that firing a bow in this position should be or next to impossible.

It's probably far from the first time where someone thinks I'm being aggressive. I'm not, I'm just used to being rather blunt since I've found it to be the best way to make my point clear.

Maybe I'm just not good with people :p

Well, since my last post I have actually tried it.

With my somewhat weak recurve bow(36lb),

yes, it's possible. barely. And with a weak bow for wartime usage.

only position that is workable is to lay on your back and shoot down your left side with arrow on right(wrong) side of the bow.

If you have to aim a little high you lose power due to shortening your draw length as your right elbow is hitting ground before full draw.

So, yeah, doable. But as I said if you allow it, I would say -20 penalty to attack.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Leaving bows to the side for a moment, firing a crossbow from prone has different scenarios. A person laying prone on a hill firing a cross bow and then scooting over to another loaded crossbow is a very different scenario then someone who got their feet swept out from under them and is trying to get a shot off at the guy with a sword striding towards them. That can be dealt with using situational modifiers since in combat, the second scenario is likely more common and the rules are designed to cover the big areas. The niche case is for GMs to adjudicate in my opinion.


BishopMcQ wrote:
Leaving bows to the side for a moment, firing a crossbow from prone has different scenarios. A person laying prone on a hill firing a cross bow and then scooting over to another loaded crossbow is a very different scenario then someone who got their feet swept out from under them and is trying to get a shot off at the guy with a sword striding towards them. That can be dealt with using situational modifiers since in combat, the second scenario is likely more common and the rules are designed to cover the big areas. The niche case is for GMs to adjudicate in my opinion.

And then there are situations where a prone person is on an downward incline and the foe they are aiming at is roughly at their level or higher on the other side of the divit /valley :)


I find funny how people are fighting over bow usage from prone without considering greatsword, dagger, lance or flail usage from prone. In my opinion, most of Pathfinder weaponry is not usable from prone. Actually, you can't fight from prone if your opponent has a weapon that is a bit longer than a dagger as you can't extend your reach while prone.
This is a fantasy game, hence all the "attacks from prone" and other unrealistic situations (attack while blinded, attack while immobilized, two-handed weapon attack while restrained, etc...).
In realistic combat situations, while having such conditions, you have roughly a second or two to get free of it before meeting your maker.


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I'm reminded of Yoshimitsu from Soul Calibur, as well as a few drunken masters in other fighting games and how they could fight effectively with weapons even while prone.


SuperBidi wrote:

I find funny how people are fighting over bow usage from prone without considering greatsword, dagger, lance or flail usage from prone. In my opinion, most of Pathfinder weaponry is not usable from prone. Actually, you can't fight from prone if your opponent has a weapon that is a bit longer than a dagger as you can't extend your reach while prone.

This is a fantasy game, hence all the "attacks from prone" and other unrealistic situations (attack while blinded, attack while immobilized, two-handed weapon attack while restrained, etc...).
In realistic combat situations, while having such conditions, you have roughly a second or two to get free of it before meeting your maker.

As I said before, I don't believe people are making arguments to change the game. It is just a discussion that stemmed from why it probably isn't worth while to remove the prone disadvantage from attacks while prone.

And yeah a halberd/bardiche would be hillariously ineffectual from a prone position.


While 1e allowed their use from prone without penalty, it's definitely nice to just have a blanket rule.

Removing the penalty is a good option for class feats or the like. We already have a skill feat that removes the flat footed while prone iirc.

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