Sidebar Wednesday: Arbalist - Crossbow Rules

This is the second in a new series of weekly blog posts where we'll be making free our Sidebar product line for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

The Crossbow is a powerful ranged weapon, designed to be easier to use and master than the traditional bow. In addition, the locking mechanism and the use of heavier bolts rather than lightweight arrows allows for a lot more potential to be packed into each shot. The trade-off, however, is that Crossbows are much slower early on, and take time, strength, and feats to match the sheer speed of traditional archers.

Basic crossbows come in three varieties: Light, Heavy, and Recurve. The statistics for these basic weapons are provided below.

Each crossbow has a Load Strength. If a character’s Strength modifier is greater than the crossbow’s load strength, he can reload that crossbow as a free action. If his strength modifier is equal to or less than the crossbow’s load strength by one, he can reload that crossbow as a swift action. If his strength modifier is less than the crossbow’s load strength by two points, he can reload that crossbow as a move action which provokes attacks of opportunity. If his strength modifier is lower than the weapon’s load strength by three points, it requires a standard action that provokes attacks of opportunity to reload. If the character’s strength modifier is more than three points lower than the crossbow’s load strength, it takes a full-round action that provokes attacks of opportunity to reload. For example: If a crossbow has a load strength of 1, a character with 14 or more strength can reload it as a free action, allowing him to fire as many times as he has attacks in a full-attack action. If his strength is 10-13, he can reload it as a swift action. A character with strength 8-9 could reload it as a move action. At strength 6-7, it would require a standard action. If the character’s strength was below 6, it would require a full-round action to reload the crossbow. In addition, a character using a crossbow may add the Crossbow’s Load Strength to damage rolls (+1 for Light Crossbows, +2 for Heavy Crossbows, +3 for a basic Recurve crossbow, etc.). Finally, crossbows are more accurate weapons than bows; bolts fly straighter and faster than arrows, and crossbows are easier to aim and can even be fitted with sights to further improve aim. A character gains a +1 circumstance bonus on attack rolls with a crossbow.

Light Crossbow:
Load Strength: 1
Note: You can fire, but not load, a light crossbow with one hand. You must wield the light crossbow in both hands to load it. You take a -2 penalty on attack rolls when firing a light crossbow with one hand.

Heavy Crossbow:
Load Strength: 2

Recurve Crossbow:
Load Strength: Varies, see below
Note: A Recurve Crossbow is made with arms that bend away from the arbalist. These arms are often reinforced with sturdy, but flexible metal rods and braces. In addition, rather than normal catgut, these crossbows are strung with high-tensile elastics that are better able to store energy. These factors combined mean that Recurve Crossbows are much harder to load than normal crossbows, but are able to hit with much more force and over a greater distance.
A Recurve Crossbow has a minimum Load Strength of 3. Recurve Crossbows can be made with a higher load strength, however. Each additional point of Load Strength adds 100 gp to the cost. However, because of the difficulty associated with loading such a weapon, it takes much longer to load for people who do not meet its strength
requirements.
A character whose strength modifier is 1 point below a Recurve Crossbow’s load strength must take a move action that provokes attacks of opportunity to load it. At 2 points lower, this becomes a Standard Action. Any lower, and the crossbow requires a full-round
action to reload. However, if a character’s strength modifier is more than 3 points lower than the crossbow’s load strength, it requires two full-round actions to reload. A Recurve Crossbow cannot have a Load Strength higher than 10.
Finally, Recurve Crossbows have incredible Recoil compared to other crossbows. A character using a Recurve Crossbow suffers a -2 penalty on attack rolls for every point his strength modifier is below the crossbow’s load strength.

Feat Changes:
Rapid Reload
Prerequisites: Crossbow proficiency
Benefit: When loading a crossbow, your strength is treated as being two points higher for the purpose of meeting the weapon’s Load Strength.

Crossbow Mastery
Prerequisites: Rapid Reload, Rapid Shot, Point-Blank Shot, Dex 15
Benefit: When loading a Crossbow, your strength is treated as being four points higher for the purpose of meeting the weapon’s Load Strength. This does not stack with the benefit of Rapid Reload.

This content originally appeared in:
Sidebar #2: Arbalist: Crossbow Rules. © 2015, Fat Goblin Games. Author; Justice Mora