Welcome once again to War Talk Wednesday. Last week, I discussed the historical significance of bows and arrows. This time, I chose a topic that would send a bolt right through you! This week, we are talking about crossbows. These uniquely designed implements of war originated in early Medieval China and were brought to the Levant and Europe through the Silk Road. A tightened torsion rope would fire a small arrow (referred to as a bolt), at high speed.
The most valuable aspect of the crossbow when compared to a typical bow (especially longbows) was its ease of use. A peasant who had never held a bow could be handed a crossbow, point the sharp end towards the enemy, and pull the trigger. Much like gunpowder weapons a few centuries later, the crossbow allowed peasants to become as capable soldiers in a way that was afforded only to nobility prior.
In many TTRPG systems, crossbows are treated simply as a variation of the bow and arrow. I feel this fails to capture the best qualities of the weapon. A way that I like to differentiate crossbows when running a game in Dungeon and Dragons fifth edition, is through granting advantage on damage rolls of an attack, when the target is wearing heavy armor, particularly plate mail. Crossbows were infamous for piercing heavy armor, and the advantage mechanic is most any player’s favorite thing!
What are some ways your characters have used crossbows?
Do you have a tactic or weapon you’d like to see featured on this blog? Let me know in the comments below!