When is a Crossbow not a Crossbow?

Given the overall sophistication of Eberron, it can seem strange that people use medieval weapons. In a world of airships and warforged, why haven’t people created more effective personal weapons? Rising From The Last War highlights the spread of wandslingers, soldiers who fight using damage-dealing cantrips. But becoming a wandslinger requires specialized training; you can’t just hand a peasant a wand. So the question remains: in a world that’s this sophisticated and has an industrial base, wouldn’t people develop effective weapons that anyone can use?

Gunpowder is one possible answer. The Dungeon Master’s Guide includes rules for firearms, and I present my thoughts on this in this article. But it’s not my preferred answer. One of the basic ideas of Eberron is that it’s not a setting that mixes magic and technology, but rather a world in which magic is used instead of technology. So rather than having the people of the Five Nations use gunpowder, I’d rather find an alternative that fills the same niche but is unique to Eberron. So: we’re looking for an affordable weapon that anyone can use without training. This weapon should be better than a medieval crossbow, but it doesn’t need to match a modern firearm; in general, Eberron’s advances are closer to the late 19th century than to what we had in the 20th. This ties to the simple point that this weapon shouldn’t break the balance of the game. If you introduce a cheap weapon anyone can use that does twice the damage of an offensive cantrip, you’ve just broken the balance of the magic system. Beyond that, weapons don’t NEED to do more damage. Hit points are an abstract system. Per the PHB, “Hit points represent a combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck.” If a character has 30 hit points, that’s not supposed to mean that you could stab them in the heart four times with a dagger and they’d laugh it off; it reflects the idea that you can’t land a killing blow until they run out of hit points. If they’ve got hit points, they’re able to parry an otherwise lethal blow, or a potentially deadly arrow only grazes them. 1d8 is all the damage it takes to kill a goblin or a commoner; the fact that you can’t kill a more powerful creature with a single shot isn’t necessarily the fault of the weapon, it’s the cinematic idea that you can’t land the lethal blow.

So with all that in mind, what are we actually looking for with a superior weapon? The weapons we have will already drop a commoner with one shot, so we don’t need better damage. Two obvious factors are range and rate of fire. We want our weapons to be faster and more effective than medieval weapons. But here’s the fun fact: they already are. The crossbow defined in the Player’s Handbook IS better than a medieval crossbow. The crank method for reloading a medieval crossbow limited an archer to about two shots per minute; using a light crossbow, you can fire ten bolts per minute. A modern crossbow in the hands of a skilled shooter has a range of about 240 feet; a light crossbow has a potential range of 320 feet, provided you’re skilled enough to hit at long range. The 1861 Springfield rifle—a common weapon in the American Civil War—could fire 2-4 shots per minute. Again, the crossbow isn’t a match for modern automatic weapons… but at ten shots per minute, it’s not a medieval weapon.

You can dismiss these statistics as unrealistic, designed for ease of play; after all, who would ever USE a crossbow if it took five rounds to reload it? But the alternative is to embrace it, to say that it’s not that these statistics are inaccurate: it’s that the weapons aren’t medieval. Perhaps the soldiers of Galifar I used medieval-style crossbows, with more limited range and a slow crank to reload; the crossbows used today are the result of centuries of Cannith engineering. So if we accept the idea that the statistics of the crossbow are sufficiently effective as a common weapon—the next question is how it delivers those things. How is it that you can fire and reload a crossbow in six seconds while also moving 30 feet in that time?

One thing I’d immediately throw out is the idea that Caniith crossbows use an integrated quiver… or clip, if you will. When you are loading a crossbow, you are performing an action that resets the bow and sets the next bolt in place. This is slow enough that you can’t fire two bolts in that six-second frame. But you don’t actually have to go through a process of drawing a bolt from a quiver and setting it into place by hand in addition to resetting the bow. I’m not suggesting that this eliminates the Loading trait (though see Accessories, below); I’m fine with the idea that the process of resetting the bow and advancing the clip is slow enough that you can only loose one bolt per round. But it’s still far more effective than a medieval crossbow and helps to justify that six-second move-fire-reload cycle. A quiver can hold up to 20 arrows; I’m just suggesting that the quiver is part of the weapon. With this in mind, crossbow bolts in Eberron could be smaller than we usually think of them—aerodynamic densewood quarrels—making the idea of an integrated quiver a little more manageable.

The next question is how the Cannith crossbow delivers that increased range—meaning the bolt has greater force—while simultaneously allowing you to load the bow more swiftly than a medieval weapon. I can see two ways to explain this, though there’s certainly more!

Mundane Weapon, Supernatural Methods. The Cannith crossbow isn’t a magic weapon… but it’s made using magical techniques. It may be made of wood, but Eberron has woods we don’t have access to—bronzewood, darkwood, densewood. The cord may be alchemically treated, stronger and more flexible than any mundane material. The reloading system is a clever and efficient design; there’s no strength requirement on a crossbow. This takes the idea that the crossbow looks like a traditional crossbow (aside from the possibility of an integrated clip); it’s just better than any crossbow we have.

Arcane Science. The crossbow isn’t a magical weapon… but it can still operate using magical principles. The concept of Eberron is that magic is a science. The spells of the wizard are one manifestation of that science… but that doesn’t mean they’re the only way magic can manifest. Magic can generate kinetic force, as shown by a number of spells. So, what if those principles were used to to add force to a physical bolt, as opposed to generating a bolt of pure force?

So imagine the interior of the barrel of a crossbow engraved with arcane sigils. A quarrel is likewise engraved with symbols. When the quarrel moves against the barrel, the symbols create an arcane interaction—a formula that adds kinetic energy to the bolt. With this in mind, the only force the bow has to provide is the initial push of the bolt down the barrel; it’s a spark that triggers the arcane interaction. Which means that the reason it’s so much easier to reload a Cannith crossbow—why you can thumb-load a hand crossbow—is because the bow itself is actually WEAKER than a medieval crossbow, because the true power of the weapon doesn’t depend on the tension of the bow. This also means that the crossbow doesn’t have to LOOK like a crossbow as we’re used to it. It could be closer to a rifle—the longer the barrel, the longer the arcane interaction, thus the short range of the hand crossbow, and the heavy crossbow as the largest and longest weapon. The “bow” could be a relatively small component of the weapon. Essentially, it could resemble a firearm; the point is that the force of the weapon isn’t coming from a chemical reaction, but rather an arcane one. This wouldn’t make the standard crossbow a “magic weapon” for purposes of damage resistance. There’s nothing magical about the bolt itself; It’s simply the case of an arcane reaction generating force. The game mechanics are unchanged, it’s just a different way of presenting the weapon, reflecting the fact that it is superior to a medieval crossbow.

Now, if you DO follow this idea, one could ask why this arcane reaction isn’t being used in other ways. Well, who’s to say it isn’t? It could well be that the lightning rail operates on a similar principle—that the bound elemental provides initial motive force and enhances speed, but that the arcane interaction between coach and conductor stones is the same principle that provides the kinetic force of a Cannith crossbow. Beyond this, the central concept here is that magic is a science, and science evolves. The Five Nations DID use medieval crossbows, and they’ve discovered a technique that has allowed the creation of a more efficient weapon; they could be actively exploring other applications of this kinetic formula. Arcane magic can generate heat, force, and light. It can transmute objects or teleport them. Spells are examples of what can be done with arcane science, not its absolute expression.

All of which is to say that the wandslinger represents one application of magic in war—the idea that knowledge of combat cantrips is becoming more common, and that there are people who fight their battles with fire and lightning. But there can also be a path of arcane science that focuses on enhancing physical tools… building a more efficient versions of weapons people already use, creating tools that can be used even by people with no training or magical talent. Rather than feeling like the crossbow doesn’t fit your vision of the world, consider what could make the crossbow fit.


Once we embrace the idea that the crossbow isn’t a medieval legacy, but rather a modern weapon that’s actively being improved, there’s lots of ways one could improve upon it. Consider a few ideas…

Bayonet. The light crossbow is a simple weapon that can be used without any training and that has an impressive range. Whatever form the weapon takes—whether you embrace the idea of arcane science or just keep it as a traditional crossbow built with superior techniques and materials—it makes sense that the light crossbow is the equivalent of the infantry rifle. With that in mind, it makes sense to have a form of bayonet—a fixed blade allowing a soldier to use the crossbow in close quarters even if they run out of ammunition. It wouldn’t have the reach of a long rifle, but it would still provide the archer with a melee option that doesn’t require them to drop their crossbow. Personally, I’d see this as a simple, two-handed weapon that inflicts 1d6 piercing damage—less effective than a spear (which can be thrown and inflicts 1d8 piercing when used two-handed), but still an effective weapon.

Spellbolt. Following the principle of an arcane reaction triggered as the bolt moves across the barrel, I could imagine a bolt that is designed with a specific arcane payload that’s triggered when the bolt is fired… effectively taking the place of a grenade launcher. The advantage of this would be the ability to project a spell effect farther than normally possible. A fireball normally has a range of of 150 feet; if you could attach a fireball to a heavy crossbow bolt and fire it 400 feet, it’s a dramatic improvement. The catch, of course, is that scrolls and wands require the user to be able to cast the spell (or at least require attunement by a spellcaster). That limitation could be preserved here; perhaps a spellbolt can only be used by a spellcaster, who takes a bonus action to prime the bolt before firing it. Or perhaps this is a new development, and the bolt can be used by anyone as long as it’s fired from a specially designed crossbow. If this is the case, I’d emphasize that this is a recent development; such spellbolts could be rare, and potentially volatile! Note that this is a different approach from the siege staff, which is essentially a long wand; a siege staff can only be used by a spellcaster or someone with specialized training, and projects a purely magical effect.

Silencer. Illusion can be used to create or dampen sound. It’s easy to imagine a magical device that could be attached to a crossbow to eliminate the sound produced by firing or loading the weapon. It would be up to the DM to decide how effective this would be—whether it could allow a well-hidden creature to remain hidden when firing, or whether it would simply prevent the shot from alerting anyone outside of line of sight.

Reload. While I’ve suggested an integrated quiver as part of the Cannith crossbow, my thought is that this justifies the rate of fire allowed by the Loading trait, not that it negates it. However, especially if you follow the idea of the crossbow empowered by arcane science, you could create a superior crossbow that replaces the Loading trait with the Reload trait associated with firearms in the Dungeon Master’s Guide:A limited number of shots can be made with a weapon that has the reload property. A character must then reload it using an action or a bonus action (the character’s choice).” The size of the clip would be up to the DM. Again, I wouldn’t personally make this a standard feature—but it would be interesting if, say, Cannith East had developed a new design that was being used by elite Karrnathi units. Likewise, I could see an advanced hand crossbow with Reload 6, allowing a dual-wielder to get a few shots before needing to reload.

In Conclusion…

This is probably more than anyone ever wanted to hear about Keith’s thoughts on the crossbow, especially since my primary point is the rules don’t have to be changed. But what I hope you take away is that something can be inspired by a medieval tool and still feel modern. Whether it’s a crossbow or a stagecoach, the people of Eberron use magical techniques to improve on the mundane; this can involve flashy effects like fire and lightning, but it can also simply involve something that appears to be mundane and yet is superior to what we’re used to.

Thanks to my Patreon supporters for their support. My next major article will be on either the Znir Gnolls of Droaam or on Dolurrh, the Realm of the Dead—right now, the Patreon poll is tied!

What have you done with ranged weapons in Eberron? Have you added firearms or explored other magical solutions? Post your ideas below!

35 thoughts on “When is a Crossbow not a Crossbow?

  1. This is incredible! I love little world details like this.

    I gave a variant battlefist/armbow to a warforged character before that essentially functioned like a Megaman blaster. If that game had started in 5e it would be a modified eldritch blast.

  2. My party’s Warforged Artificer really wanted to invent Guns and Motorcycles and other Automobiles. I told him that they don’t technically exist in Eberron, because magic is their science. I told him that he could invent objects and contraptions that filled similar roles, but using magic instead of science to make them. This is what we did for the inventions:

    First, the Motorcycle (we still need to find a better name for a magical/arcane/eldritch powered, two wheeled, elemental vehicle). So, the characters went to the Shadow Marches and gathered a ton of Eberron Dragonshards, and found a Siberys Dragonshard with smaller broken pieces. They were able to buy some Khyber Dragonshards to be used in a sort of “magical spark plug”. The “spark plug” would take magic from Eberron Dragonshards, power it through a Khyber Dragonshard with a minor fire elemental bound inside, and create a small magical flame. I also ruled that if this magic fire was used on an Eberron Dragonshard, it would completely burn it up, taking all the magic stored inside it, and free it so it can be contained and used to power the machine. Once they stored the magic in a container, and were able to absorb it, and have a Docent control the rate of magic that could make its way to the wheels to determine the speed you will go. The wheels would levitate, magically suspended by dozens of small Siberys Dragonshards, and the wheels contained a Khyber Dragonshard with an Earth Elemental bound in each wheel. They also developed a way to make magic-tech buttons and lights that could indicate if fuel was running low, and so on.

    In summary, Eberron Dragonshards release magic to propel the magic automobile, with a Docent maintaining the vehicle.

    Secondly, firearms. I really didn’t want to introduce gunpowder or smokepowder in Eberron, because I think that it would change the feel to the world a lot, and I like the theme of the setting, so I made “guns” be possible this way. We used the same magic-extraction from Eberron Dragonshards tech from the Motorcycle, and I imagined that magical objects can be “attracted/moved” by moving magic. So, the “firearm” had a chamber to insert small Eberron Dragonshards, that then would have the magic released from them from a magical flame, then the magic would travel down the “barrel” of the gun, and the bullet would be made of adamant infused with Eberron Dragonshard dust. The traveling magic would drag the bullet along the barrel, accelerating it, and spinning it as the magic tubes spiraled around the barrel of the gun, making the bullet stable and causing it to be propelled quickly through the air.

    Both of these ideas were inspired by existing D&D 5e rules, the infernal war machines for the Motorcycle, and the firearm rules in the DMG for the “gun”.

    Any feedback would be nice, what do you think? Is my interpretation of how magic and dragonshards work completely incorrect? How would you do it differently?

    Thank you, great article.

  3. This is a good fit for how I see Eberron function in my version. I’m just picturing some crazed scene where everybody pulls out a concealed crossbow in crowded market square.

    For similar reasons, I’ve been trying to imagine what the Eberron equivalent of a bicycle would be. I want it to a Vadalis creation, rather than one of the other houses; some kind of mage-bred beast that didn’t have the horse’s fodder & sanitation problems, but did have the size, expense, and efficiency advantages of a bicycle.

    • A giant green beetle that survives off of photosynthesis thanks to symbiotic algae. It’s got a tough outer shell, doesn’t need to eat or poop, and unlike more intelligent animals there’s less ethical concerns when they inscribe control runes on its head for the rider’s benefit.

      • The obvious problem there is it restricts it to places the sun can be seen. It would be unsuited for use on the floor of Xen’Drik’s jungle or in the shadow of Sharn’s towers

  4. I think a lot of people, in their “real worlding” of Eberron, forget that there are spells and physics (game machanics) that can work really well to do certain things. For example, when the idea of guns and firearms comes up, I’m very quick to point at the catapult spell; that’s potentially the basis of all mundane-projectile ranged weapon technology in Eberron, simply because that’s the spell’s entire function; turn something into an improvised projectile.

    Given that catapult the spell exists in the world, I see no reason why you’d need to rely on mundane methods of acceleration in crossbows and “guns”. The Kech Hasherach (gun Dar) would most likely have perfected the use of catapult spells as the core of their weapon technology, especially considering the inherent volatility of gunpowder and its chemical relatives. Why put your limited population in danger by using contained explosives when there’s a well-known and established “yeet object” spell?

    Cannith could easily have made crossbows that use catapult to accelerate the bolts up to speed after the cord has pushed them from the “loaded” position in a crossbow.

    In other words, I am 100% behind the idea of making the ranged weapons inherent in the setting better via magic, rather than falling back on our real-world tech. I support this article, even if there were a few mechanical errors.

    • By “mechanical errors” i refer to the numbers other commenters have already pointed out. I didn’t spot them at all…

  5. One of the players in the 5e Eberron campaign I’m running asked early on if he could use a rifle for his ranger. We came up with a repeating crossbow instead, which uses a slightly modified Reload trait: Instead of needing an action or bonus action to reload, it requires expending an attack; however it allows for multiple attacks with the same weapon as long as the magazine still has bolts.

    In the game, the PC hasn’t discovered yet where the design came from, but (SPOILERS for my players!) it was made by a Cannith excoriate attempting to recreate ancient Dhakaani weaponry. This also leaves open the possibility of finding other repeating crossbows from ancient Dhakaan – possibly with better statistics.

  6. Please don’t pull the article! There’s so much good stuff here for considering crossbow design and the way it could be used for Eberron!

  7. I’ve always thought that Eberron was not 19th century tech PLUS magitech, it was more like magictech instead of 19th century tech. So, for instance, fertility and weather control rituals were developed instead of composting and mechanical irrigation. Moreover, the magitech does not have to duplicate exactly the 19th century tech.

    By the same token, bows and crossbows may be made magically strong instead of using spring steel or composite materials glued together, and that crossbows don’t necessarily have to be as good as 19th century firearms. With the existence of wands and siege staves, it is likely that innovators would be trying to find a way for non-magewrights to use these more powerful weapons, rather than trying to come up with a third form of weapon that will quickly become obsolete.

    It also occurs to me that there may be less of a focus on extending ranges in a world where catapults are less effective at breaching a castle wall than earthquake or passwall spells, and direct fire engines are much less dangerous to a wooden sailing ship than fireball.

    Regardless of range issues, both bows and crossbows have faster than historical fire rates, and could easily have magically assisted drawing (or be self-cocking for crossbows), and magically assisted nocking (perhaps the arrow or bolt snaps into position as long as you get it reasonably close to where is it supposed to be). It would probably be about the same rate of fire as a breech-loading rifle without a magazine, even if it doesn’t have the range: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snider%E2%80%93Enfield

  8. I found rules online that I’m using for specialized more gun-like wands. They are wands that are powered by an alchemical cartridge that are hollow and made of metal because the alchemical reaction is quite vigorous, so it need to be channeled away from the user. Then they just had it fire with a trigger for convenience.

    In my Eberron they haven’t replaced crossbows or regular wands because of their cost, but they are a great way to get a lot of fire power if you can afford it. They also have the advantage of specialized elemental ammo being fairly easy to make, so if you know that there will be lots of undead, you can have your “gun” shooting radiant damage instead.

  9. I actually use something like this in my current game and it works great.

    I reskinned crossbows into dwarven guns. Kept the stats exactly the same as a crossbow, but I just wanted the option did the same with Ballistas and Cannons for our ship travels.

    I like the idea of an Arcanelock (or something like that) even better.

    Totally using this

  10. When is a dry discussion on mechanics not a dry discussion on mechanics? Well, when it’s another great post by Master Keith Hellcow Baker! Thanks for that.

  11. “This is probably more than anyone ever wanted to hear about Keith’s thoughts on the crossbow….”

    Now that I’ve read this much, I want more!!

  12. I think the Spellbolt idea is great! Maybe the crossbows have an arcane ‘eye’ rune on the firing end of the weapon, and a series of runes inscribed along various types of bolts. When the series of bolt-runes runs past an activated eye-rune in the proper sequence and at sufficient speed (so a bolt falling off the weapon won’t work), the stored spell is armed and will trigger wherever the bolt is when it falls below a set speed. In order to activated the eye-rune, you need to channel a bit of spell energy into it. Any cantrip is enough to activate it for a round, allowing a spellcaster to activate the rune as a bonus action before firing. A spellcaster can also expend a spell slot to activate the eye-runes of multiple weapons within 30 feet for a number of hours equal to the spell slot expended. Spells with lingering beneficial effects like Bless and Mage Armor can also keep the eye-runes active while the buff spell lasts.

    Of course, anti-magic effects can cause problems for anything that requires an active effect, but if transmutation magic were used to alter the structure of non-magical materials, the effect would remain even if you’re being stared at by a Beholder. Say the material structure is changed in such a way that the weapon requires a relatively weak draw strength to produce a much greater firing power, much like modern compound bows achieve. This allows the crossbow to be drawn back quickly with minor effort but fired for significant damage.

    I also appreciate that you’re supporting the idea that hit points are not a literal one-for-one measure of physical damage. Maybe the bottom 5-10 HP represent serious wounds, but anything beyond that might better be called ‘stamina’, which is why it can be recovered with resting Hit Dice rolls. If you have someone grappled with a blade to their throat, their HP aren’t going to apply. While they may not be unconscious, they’re still helpless and an attack is going to leave them incapacitated and making saves vs. death. They’re not going to shrug off such a threat because a direct mortal wound is going to ignore all the ‘stamina’ HP.

  13. Your ussage of “clip” is wrong. The term you’re looking for is “magazine”. A clip is a metal strip that holds ammo and feeds a magazine (often a non-detachable one).

    I think a better way giving crossbows higher fire rate through magical methods would be an animated object (or similar) windlass. Rather than spending ~30 seconds attaching the windlass, cranking it, adjusting the ropes so they don’t become tangled, removing the windlass, and loading the bolt, you just say the command word (or whatever activation method) and it spins the crank automatically.

    One thing not to be underestimated in general when concerning fantasy crossbows vs. guns is that crossbow development didn’t stop when guns become common (Oda Nobunaga’s rise in the 1560s at the latest, 1419’s Hussite Wars for a relatively early option). The Windlass and Cranequin (the two crank loading methods) are both 1500s designs, and are easily some of the most iconic.

    Frankly the better question is working out how the standard armor sets and their relative price/quality make any sense in Eberron and how a setting that explicitly has factories, all owned by one company, pumping out cheap armor has such a variety. That 3e and 5e differ significantly in places on which armor is the cheap one just makes things more confusing.

    • One other option I didn’t mention for explaining crossbow loading times that falls under the post-gun crossbow developments is Leonardo da Vinci’s rapid fire crossbow. That should solve the loading times, since it loads in 15 seconds when the loader is intentionally going slow. If anyone can solve the problems of it being too complicated for mass production, it’s House Cannith.

      While I’m at it, might as well mention that just plain old detachable levers (goat’s foot lever and gaffe levers) that were plentiful in the real world do wonders for crossbow loading times. One could assume they come with any purchased crossbow, the same way characters don’t separately purchase a sheath, the quiver itself, or the straps to mount either of those.

    • One more thing! Historical crossbows were intentionally less powerful than the technology’s maximum. Range and power can be dramatically improved just by increasing the draw distance (let alone actual bow strength), alone. The reason they didn’t do it historically is they didn’t have strong enough materials to do it (at least not consistently) without risking catastrophic failure that will severely injure, if not kill, the wielder. Many otherwise authentic replica crossbows feature such increased draw distance because modern spring steel is really good. Windlass and Cranequin powered bows in particular have a max power limited only by the bow’s strength and how long cranking the thing will take.

    • I appreciate that you just want to share your knowledge, but your tone is a bit critical given that you’re talking to someone who produces work that you obviously enjoy. That said, you spelled “usage” wrong. Do you even know stuff, bro?

  14. I use revolving chambers in my crossbow design, and double bow tech to improve arm tension, butt the medical tech presented here is also rad!.

  15. Oh! I also use hollow machined arrows (crossbows use arrows and bolts, depending on design) that can carry alchemical mixtures, and cheap arrow enchantments like “+1d4 cold and save against slow” and “5ft radius take 1d4 thunder damage”, and less cheap stuff like “and you teleport to a space within 5ft of the target”.

    This makes even mooks, if they’re funded, dynamic enemies with a bit of real danger.

  16. I’ve done cantrip wands that use dex similar to the crossbows described & sell returning javelin/throwing knives that have an ammunition die as a middle ground between stack size & infinite use…. But I really like the crossbows described. I’ve been considering changing xbow to strength & importing the 3.5 AoO rules for casting spells/ranged weapons/etc.

    I think that 5e raising ranged weapon ranges by 5-10x over 3rd & 4th edition just male them awkward tfrom a simulationist perspective hough because evrything is always in range if it can be seen, especially if you are using something like roll20 or arkenforge & a tvbox that can trivially handle a map with 200-300+ feet worth of squares without being the entire map; the rest of the system just isn’t setup to handle rods from god type long range warfare anymore.

  17. One idea I had for non-gun in an Eberron setting was an alchemical weapon that was a small, disposable, two-shot device intended as a flare launcher. Beyond its intended purpose, the flame was hot enough to make it viable for setting enemy supplies on fire. Only after the Last War ended was their use as an easily concealed weapon realized (since anyone using them on the battlefield had some kind of real weapon).

    The Doylist reason being that the only concealable ranged weapons in D&D were slings that took time to get ready, dorky hand crossbows nobody was proficient in, splash weapons and very expensive wands. Without concealable ranged weapons, low level thugs can’t intimidate people beyond knife point and they certainly can’t take hostages without being strong enough to grapple the victim. It was disposable because it explains the absence in published material, and to stop it from obsoleting melee fights (though it still allows an opening volley). So basically in effect its a small percussion derringer.

  18. I’m not supersold – guns are still exotic to me, probably because I’m not an American and I know only one person that owns a firearm. Medieval black powder guns are contemporary with full plate armor. If you want full plate in your D&D, why not muskets?

    • Actually, I’d argue that the same principle applies to plate armor. Medieval heavy full plate was typically used by cavalry because of the weight and limits on mobility, but even the heaviest plate armor in D&D places no restrictions on movement beyond the penalty to stealth. There’s no risk of your plate-armored warrior being knocked over and unable to get up. As I suggest with the crossbow, I’d assume that the plate armor used in Eberron isn’t medieval in design, but is actually considerable more sophisticated.

      But in terms of “Why not guns”, I discuss that at more length here: http://keith-baker.com/firearms-in-eberron/ The short form is “If you want guns, use guns!” For me, the issue isn’t whether or not guns are exotic; it’s that I’d rather explore paths that follow the general principle of Eberron employing widespread arcane science over mundane technology.

      • Full plate isn’t that encumbering, and certainly isn’t going to prevent someone from getting up. It’s actually lighter and better distributed than mail (and partial plate is actually cheaper than mail for most of plate armor’s history due to water powered hammers, but that’s another subject entirely). It was used by cavalry because anyone who could afford it could also afford to be mounted.

    • Ultimately because Eberron is still a D&D setting and most D&D styling are largely copied from Tolkien’s works, and the horrors of The Great War didn’t leave him a big fan of guns. From what I can find, he also bypassed the issue entirely by not having anyone use plate armor: Everyone used mail or scale armor.

  19. So it’s not Eberron but there is some precedence with Spellbolts! in the original G3 the Drow commander has a hand crossbow with bolts that cast Hold Person, Deafness/Blindness or Stinking Cloud when they hit a target. The tricky bit there is the interaction with the attack roll and the saving throw – from a mechanical perspective, if you required both then it’s strictly worse than just casting a spell which always “hits” before allowing the target a saving throw. So I think there’d have to be some rules changes to balance their usefulness but it’s a good idea that’s never really been fully explored.

    • I don’t think requiring both attack roll and save is a problem in and of itself. It would actually be a good excuse to reduce the price (so they can be more common) compared to an item that just casts a spell.

  20. I am starting a new campaign as an Old West style frontier set in Eberron and this helps tremendously. All the players fought in the war together and are now Deneith mercs being led by a Sentinel Marshall Paladin. This article is perfect in not only explaining the concept of hit points but also helping to add to the flavor of the old west by modifying these weapons.

    I also cannot wait for Exploring Eberron.

  21. What I say is that there was a time when firearms were on the rise, but then House Denith and Kundarak made magical Force field fueled by there marks and/or made by there marks. With contraptions the size of tanks that (when a bullet or cannon ball it the ricochet was massive) provided a reflected dome that most range attacks were useless the only reason arrows were started to be used again is because the bounce on the dome and fall on the soldiers underneath. I could go into detail about these thoughts, but this is just a summary. Thanks for the Article

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