This article originally appeared in Pyramid #14
The archer is perhaps the most sadly neglected character type to exist in any genre not revolving around Sherwood Forest. With precious few supporting magical items or technological advancements to keep them interesting, the average archer is doomed to be just that . . . average. They have been restricted to items like the ever so useful +1 Bow vs. Muckmonsters Wearing Bermuda Shorts on Alternate Tuesdays or the equally indispensable Arrow of Rodent Slaying and Paint Stirring for far too long.
Realizing this dilemma, we have come up with several ancient artifacts from realms long since forgotten and peeked into the future of bow technology as well. This we have done in a humble effort to discourage all archers from gathering together for a mass suicide as their therapists reassure them that it is how they perceive themselves that's important (easy for them to say as the plasma residue around your gaping chest wound continues to burn out your insides while your opponent blows the smoke from the muzzle of his blaster and your bow falls to the ground in cinders alongside the arrows that bounced off his power armor like so many rotten tomatoes). So, curl up in your favorite chair, throw another bow on the fire, and let's find some weapons worth being an archer for.
All stats listed below are for GURPS, though converting to another roleplaying system should not prove difficult.
Artifacts from the Past
Swampreed BowsCultivated in the far northeastern bogs of Kahln, swampreeds would at first glance seem unlikely material for bow construction. However, the reed's natural grain gives it two distinct advantages over wood. If bent in one direction, it possesses great flexibility, allowing it to be gathered into a tight coil 6" in diameter (like a roll of green masking tape). Yet, if forced to bend in the opposite direction, it has remarkable rigidity, raising damage by one class for the appropriate type of bow. Being a plant, however, it will eventually dry out and become brittle, snapping on any critically failed to hit roll thereafter (reeds remain fresh for 2-3 months depending on weather conditions). Highly prized for its concealability, one account tells of an assassin who disguised himself as a minstrel, wearing the reed as a belt and hiding the string on his lute.
Blindman's BowWho said blind men don't make good archers? When drawn (and only when drawn) this bow of plain, untreated wood confers sight in all spectrums upon the firer (this includes IR and UV fields). The power originates in a small inset crystal "eye" located above the handle, and is communicated to the archer via a one-way telepathic link. The archer will therefore gain the sight even if blindfolded. The ability is lost the instant the arrow is released. The crystal can itself be blinded if it is covered, removed or shattered.
Spider ArrowThe spider arrow originates as a series of thin, sticky strands found in the bark of an aura tree woven together into an intricate net. This net is then rolled and compacted into a shaft similar to the compressed hair of a rhino horn. The arrow head is a reversed funnel designed to channel the air through the center of the shaft when fired, forcing the net to unravel and spread over an entire hex. The effective range is between 10 and 50 yards, having little effect at other distances. Under 10 yards the net has not had sufficient time to spread and will do a mere 1D6-3 crushing; beyond the 50-yard mark, the net has lost its momentum, and glides harmlessly to the ground. Targets must roll vs ST-2 or DX-2 to escape but may not attempt this on the same round in which they were hit. Meanwhile, all actions are at -4, and movement is at 1/2.
Shrieking ArrowThese arrows discharge a wailing scream as they fly, deafening and confusing those around them. Everyone within 6" of its flight path must roll vs HT or be deafened for 1D6-2 turns (minimum of one turn). Characters within the area of affect are given a +1 on this roll for every 1" distance from the flight path. If hit the target is automatically deafened and stunned for one second even if the roll is made. As the shriek is directed forward from the arrowhead, the archer as well as those behind him will be unaffected.
Warp BowThis horrific weapon houses the life force of a demon banished in centuries past. The entity now activates its power each time the bow is fully drawn, summoning forth a minor spirit and trapping it inside the arrowhead. Nocking an arrow to the Warp Bow triggers a low, quiet hum, while drawing it increases the volume considerably, screaming when fired. Upon hitting a target, the spirit will attempt to possess its victim (roll a quick contest of wills against the spirit's will of 12). If the target wins the contest, he merely takes the arrow damage; but if he loses, one of the following affects apply (roll 1d6):
1-2: Victim goes berserk and attacks all in his view.
3-4: Victim develops amnesia, extending to skills and powers requiring memory.
5-6: Victim becomes catatonic, unable to take any action.
All effects last for 2d6 hours or until exorcised. If the spirit wins the contest by 10 or more, the effects last for days instead of hours. If the archer critically fails his to hit roll, the spirit attempts to possess the archer instead.
Healing ArrowThis arrow has a pristine, white lacquered wood and flat, silver arrowhead. It carries a powerful enchantment of healing. Anyone (person, animal or even monster) struck by the arrow takes no damage, but instead regains 1d6 HT (2d6 HT with a critical success). The recipient must be shot with the arrow, not just touched by it (jabbing it in by hand won't work, either). Specific wounds may be targeted, although all hit location modifiers apply. The arrow will also wipe away any diseases or other physical afflictions short of lost limbs. A Healing Arrow can do nothing for someone who is already dead. The arrow vanishes upon hitting its mark, but if it misses, it may be retrieved and fired again.
Bow of the MessengerThe only drawback to this bow is that it will never hit its target, but that was never its purpose. Made for an elven messenger to send orders from his king to the soldiers in the field, the bow may fire up to five times normal longbow range, the mentally projected message inscribing itself on the arrow while in flight. The arrow will then miss its target by no more than a yard (and frequently by mere inches). The archer must have the bow skill, but no to hit roll is needed. Instead, the archer must roll vs. IQ to determine the complexity of the message sent (1 word per point of success). Normal failure will still allow a feeling to be conveyed, but a critical failure results in misleading or confusing information. If any other message is carved, written, or otherwise attached to the arrow, it will nullify the bow's effect.
Mourdenkhel's Magnificent, Collapsible Arrow Propelling ContrivancesThese bows are made from an incredibly dense wood found only in the dwarven province of Stygothia called Splinter Wood, named for its ability to be carved until nearly paper thin and still retain its structural integrity. This makes them very light, weighing only 1/3 as much as normal bows of the same size. Called Splinter Bows for short, they are carved in 8- to 10-inch segments with slight tapers allowing each section to slide into the next. When fully collapsed, a Splinter Bow resembles a cylindrical scroll case or flute. The last segment on one end houses a small reel that holds the string the archer pulls it from the reel to a hook on the other end.
Grappling ArrowInvented by an alchemist quite by accident, these arrows are fitted with small glass vials in place of normal arrowheads. These vessels are filled with a compound of chemical and organic materials that react violently when exposed to oxygen. Upon impact, the containers burst and the black gel within instantly floods every crack and crevice on the targeted surface, hardening in the same turn. The resulting tendrils form a bond hard to break on any but the slickest of surfaces treat as ST15 (on smooth, non-porous materials) or ST 25 (for castle walls, etc.). The weight of the vial throws the arrow off balance, doubling range modifiers, adding +4 to SS and -2 to Acc. The same chemical in the arrowhead (mixed with a controlling catalyst) is extruded from the rear of the arrow as it flies, leaving behind a thin cord with the strength of 1" rope. The cord looks a lot like black licorice, and is so light that it does not further hinder the arrow's flight.
Bounty Hunter's ArrowDesigned to incapacitate rather than kill, these arrows bear runic symbols of law and justice along their entire lengths. When fired, the archer must target the hands, arms, legs or feet, but suffers no to hit penalty for doing so. The arrows are impregnated with a chemical that causes a terrible burning sensation around the wound which doubles all skill and movement penalties caused by the arrow's base damage. These additional penalties do not dissipate until the arrow is removed.
Motorized Compound Bow (TL8)Ideal for the street samurai with style, this bow is a step above the normal compound bow. A motorized pulley system is developed that fits inside the body of the weapon instead of attaching to the outside. The contraption is powered by one of the newly available C cells which is stored inside the bow's handle. The result is a lighter, more portable compound bow, with only one fatal flaw A broken bow string is nearly impossible to replace, the cost rivaling that of the bow itself.
This little oversight nearly killed the manufacturer, C-Corp., but a modification by engineer Andrew Sullivan saved the day. Sullivan, a member of the Ted Nugent Bow Hunters' Club, devised a manually telescoping body for the compound bow. Not only is the pulley system accessible (allowing for easy string replacement), but hunters can now carry their bows in a large jacket pocket. This development transformed C-Corp. into the #1 bow company in the world. Cost for the improved version is twice that of the now obsolete model.
All stats for either version remain consistent with normal compound bows (-2 to the minimum ST required for bow type, +2 effective ST for purposes of figuring 1/2 Dam and Max ranges and +1 to Damage), both weighing 75% normal for bow type.
Switchbow (TL9)Highly concealable and made entirely of plastic, this bow is a favorite in the corporate world of assassins and street operatives. The telescoping action of this motorized compound bow is fully automated. Just push a button and, snikt, instant bow. Pulleys reel in the extra string when the bow is collapsed. In addition, a number of accessories are available to the well-connected archer.
Laser Scope Projector And Range Sensor. This device projects a dot of any color including infra-red, and adjusts its aim for distance. It adds +4 Acc. and halves SS.
Designer Styles. One end of the string can be detached and reeled in, allowing the bow to be designed to look like almost any hand held device. Popular examples include cellular phones, pocket computers and garage door openers.
Special Arrowheads. Arrowheads are now available in any number of different types including Broadheads, Flu-flus and the ever-popular converted gyroc ammo (but be very careful, they're impact-detonated). All special arrowheads do basic arrow damage in addition to ammo effects.
Improved Switchbow (TL10)The Switchbow and string in this version are composed entirely of bioplastic. Make sure it gets plenty of sun, and you'll never break another string.
Gauss Enhancement (TL10)Nocking an arrow creates a small trigger current that runs through the bow; the current is deactivated when the archer releases the arrow. A magnetic mechanism holds the arrow to the bow and pushes it back against the string. In other words, the bow draws itself! One might think of this as the epitome of laziness; however, the gauss enhanced bow has an effective pull of ST 25, making up for any loss in pride.
Switcharrows (TL10)These arrows retract down to 3" and can be carried in a belt dispenser which minimizes the risk when carrying special arrowheads.
Force Bow (TL12)The Force Bow is not actually a bow, it's just a handle with a notch on the side. The arrow is placed in the groove and is pulled back as though drawing a real bow. A shimmering field of energy can then be seen around the arrow. Releasing the arrow causes the force field to propel it at several times the speed of sound. The Force Bow not only senses for distance, but also locks onto its target. If the archer's skill roll is successful, the bow will not release its arrow until the target fails to successfully Dodge. Stats for the Force Bow are as follows:
Malf. Type Damage SS Acc. 1/2D Ver. Imp. 3d6 x 6 (2) 6 7 2,000 Max Wt. RoF Cost LC TL 3,000 2 1/3 4,000 3 12
We hope that this article has inspired some of the would-be archers out there to pick up a bow the next time they're generating characters.
Article publication date: August 1, 1995
Copyright © 1995 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.