Bows, Crossbows and Their Balance


Makeshift bullet arrow… Now that sounds like some C:DDA stuff…

Also this.


Very cool video, but i agree not scientific. Needs equivalent comparison to a compound bow.

That said, DAMN that thing looks futuristic! Put that in Halo or something and nobody would bat an eye.

Honestly considering a heavy compound crossbow. Higher damage, slower, more awesomer.


I hate crossbows for their low reload time. I can’t kill strong zombie before he gets to me (early game).
I like idea that bow use stamina to shoot. would make bow usefull for small battles only.
I’d like negative modifiers to bow, that for most game bow would be less accurate than guns (steep learning curve), but equal or better for elite shooters.
Alternatiely, I think we miss some variety in arrows and bolts. Low to medium characters should be able to craft inferior ammo (in terms of accuracy), and only top archers would craft “sniper grade” arrows


Also of note is that crossbows train rifles while bows are only good for bows and marksmanship. A crossbow user can grab a laser rifle and hit just as well. Whereas a bow user really can’t. I feel the balance is fine in that regard.

And as mslangsdwarf said the PBD is probably the best “crossbow” even above the compound crossbow due to the magazine advantage. Plus it fits in a survivor harness so it’s easy to draw and dump. I don’t know if the compound crossbow fits in the harness though.


Yes, it does.



No he does not, but then again he does not have French cavalry decked out in plate armor charging him. My statement on the release is based upon accounts of the battle of Hastings. How peasants and poachers changed the history of warfare by a fluid and quick release of their arrows. It wasn’t the longbows that won that war, it was the skill of the people using them.

I have just been trying to be helpful. I studied History and warfare when I was a young man. I’m sorry if what I am saying goes against your preconceived notions, nothing I can do about that. I wish you the best in your endeavors to balance the game.


Doug Cole extensively researched crossbows and bows for his article “The Deadly Spring” for GURPS Pyramid v3.33. Selected stats from the table:

52" Elm Shortbow at 24" draw with 26", 0.09 lb aspen arrow: 45J, 50 lbs draw
90" Bamboo Yumi at 34" draw with 36", 0.19 lb bamboo arrow: 113J, 90 lbs draw
78" Yew Longbow at 30" draw with 31", 0.2 lb ash wood arrow: 144J, 145 lbs draw
60" Bamboo Reflex bow at 32" draw with 33", 0.15 lb bamboo arrow: 103J, 70 lbs draw
48" Carbon fiber compound bow at 28" draw with 30", 0.07 lb aluminum arrow: 137J, 70 lbs draw
60" Fiberglass recurved bow at 28" draw with 29", 0.05 lb carbon fiber arrow: 52J, 50 lbs draw

34" Steel crossbow at 8" draw with 14", 0.15 lb ash bolt: 65J, 740 lbs draw
27" Carbon fiber compound crossbow at 17" draw with 20", 0.1 lb carbon fiber bolt: 197J, 175 lbs draw
27" Fiberglass pistol crossbow at 11" draw with 15", 0.09 lb carbon fiber bolt: 68J, 150 lbs draw

Glock 17 firing 9x19mm Parabellum: 580J, 0 draw weight

You can justify just about any stats you want for bows versus crossbows, depending on the exact material used, bow design, length, draw weights, and such. Arguments about the effectiveness of English longbows in Medieval warfare are besides the point: we’re not engaging in massed arrow volleys against unmotivated conscripts or horses, and the typical survivor doesn’t have access to properly seasoned cuts of yew sapwood and heartwood.

All bows and crossbows should probably be nerfed in effectiveness compared to guns. 9mm is the minimum generally accepted manstopper caliber and it’s putting 3+ times as much energy into the target as the best bows and crossbows.


Few notes:

-Crossbows cant be upgraded/accuarized/restrung/wathever while PBD and the best bow can. Damage and accuarcy gains from this are huge, the lack of upgrade option make them inerior from the start.

-Some bolts stats are strange. Cheap metal crossbow bolts deal highest damage. Steel broadhead bolts deal more damage to armored anemies than bodkins, because they have 1 less pierce, but 4 more damage. They deal more damage to unarmored targets as well.

-Bow draw strenght requirements are too low. Average human shouldnt be able to effectivelly draw TRUE longbow, were not talking about modern bows that are often weaker so everyone can use them. Should be about 10STR for wooden longbow, about 12 for some stronger bows, and maybe a little lower for fancy modern bows with cleaver mechanisms.

-Repeating crossbow should have damage similar to crossbow pistol, not 0.

-Crossbow pistol should be never a viable main weapon. It should be mostly used as practise weapon, or some sort of special use backup weapon or as a really weak main weapon if player has nothing else.

-Modern versions of repeating and pistol crossbows would be nice. In case they are introduced, the basic ones can be stripped from mod and accesories slots.


Pyramid articles to the rescue once more. Shame it’s gonna be discontinued.

As for the subject at hand I assumed bow power in CDDA was intentionally more than reality for the sake of gameplay.


You’ve got to remember, traditional crossbows penetrated both steel chainmail and platemail and leather and whatever else anyone would wear, often from hundreds of yards away. And while the heavy crossbow goes a long ways to filling that role, I think all the crossbows are a bit weak and fast to load for what they are. I think the weak crossbows should take arrows, however, if they’re based on modern recreational crosssbows, because that’s what people use in their crossbows nowadays anyway. But basically, some more damage, somewhat slower reloads, and specialized winch attachments for both the heavy crossbow and the normal ones would be optimal. The heavy one is definitely a bit too slow, though. I think.


No, traditional crossbows were not that effective. All current research on this topic suggests that a mail armored knight, much less a knight in full plate harness, were basically immune to ranged attacks at any range. His horse not so much, so ranged weapons had a role, but crossbows were not punching through steel plate from hundreds of yards away.


Oh boy, that’s a lot of replies…

Correct, but like mlangsdorf mentioned, that kind of firing was designed for volley tactics, not trying to hit a small target at long distances. I don’t think anyone except maybe a world-class archer who had practised it could hit a guy at 50m, aiming in the time it takes to take a step.

Very interesting, gonna sneak that away for later. Basically reinforces my existing notions that crossbows are decent at hunting draws and quite powerful at really high draws, although I wonder if you missed a number for the energy of the 740lb steel crossbow? 65J seems really low, but that could be the draw length I suppose.

I know that an arrow/bolt isn’t really ever going to reach the energy of most bullets, but I think the cutting nature of broadheads makes for a lot more actual damage than most people expect. A bit of searching suggests that hunting classifications put high poundage compound bows in the very large game category (elephants, grizzly bears), so crossbows would probably be even higher. 9mm, especially from a pistol, is significantly lower and seems to be for deer at most.

Not sure what’s meant from this, are you saying there should be more types of crossbow? Because I’m starting to agree.

Yep. Some/most arrows are weird too. It’s on my todo list.

Sorta yes, sorta no. The way the game handles it is if you reach minimum strength you can draw it at all, but you need twice that strength to reach full draw and get full range (weird, but it seems to work okay, though I should really do some proper testing of it.)

Repeating crossbow is currently suck, as I’ve mentioned. Also on the todo list.

Agreed, but currently it just sucks hard and isn’t useful for anything. In my mind, everything should at least have a place.

Not a bad idea at all.

I basically balanced current bow/arrow numbers against each other, so they’re not well compared to guns. That said, I feel guns in general do too little damage and the average zombie is far too tanky.

Yes and no. I’ll explain my current plan at the bottom.

I’d imagine some of the large 1000+ pound crossbows (ones with decent draw length) could probably manage it at a somewhat decent distance, but I’d agree the sort of the thing we currently have in CDDA would have no chance.

Alright, current plan of attack:
Balance sweep of bows, I think they need to be brought back just a bit in terms of damage/range. Maybe 5-10%, just so I can say I tried.
Fix arrows so they’re not weird.
Fix bolts so they’re not weird.
Add versions of the basic and compound crossbow that have a belt hook for fast reloading, I.E bring both to about 250 moves.
Replace the composite crossbow with a heavy crossbow variant. Much higher damage and range, but has a longer reload time.
Add a heavy and double variant of the compound crossbow, both harder to make than the base one and balanced appropriately (double would be a bit weaker, less accurate, heavy is stronger but slower).
Rebalance repeating and pistol crossbow to be a bit less crap.
Add modern/compound versions of the repeating and pistol crossbow.
Make huge crossbow less crap, possibly add a modernised version with a UPS powered electric winch.
Maybe add a GreatCrossbow? Basically the Huge Crossbow but with significantly lower reload time and an 18 strength requirement.

I may end up making different loading versions of the different crossbow types, I.E Each type has a lever drawn (medium strength requirement, mid speed), belt hook (high strength requirement, fast speed) and winch (no strength requirement, slowest) version, and people can craft the type they want and use it appropriately.

One issue is that the belt hook reloading method is apparently the fastest, but it also uses your legs so it’s ALSO going to have lower strength requirements than anything using arms, cept winches. In the interests of not making belt hooks the automatic best option, I may have to fudge the numbers a little bit and pretend it takes more effort somehow, or limit it to medium strength crossbows, with hand drawing for low strength, and high strength crossbows being windlass only.


Oh hey, I have some work on this. Currently working on a good way to curve ranged damage in general since a lot of the ranged stuff in CDDA makes no sense what so ever. I’d say check out for some more insight as to this, but very specifically the bow/crossbow weirdness is addressed in there!


Haha WOW we have heavy arrows! I think I must have gotten grams confused with grains when I looked over them or something.


Not a typo.

Quoting Doug again: “It is hard to overstate [how inefficient steel crossbows really were as they existed historically because they had short arms and used short bolts]. The 740-lb draw crossbow firing a 0.16-lb bolt that I wrote up in The Deadly Spring delivered around 65J of energy while storing about 315J in the limbs. The limbs themselves eat a lot of power in making them move. So those high-draw crossbows are only about 20% efficient, while a classic yew longbow with heavy arrows (1000-1500 grains, or .14 to 0.20 lbs) could make about 65% efficiency. a 130-lb longbow with a 30” draw delivers 144J - more than twice as much."

Basically, primitive steel crossbows were badly designed but were more convenient to carry and use in massed formations than most bows.

I can accept that rationalization. An arrow or bolt wounds with a deeper channel. Trade-off is that armor penetration, even for bodkins, should be pretty low - a bullet has a lot more energy over a smaller area, so it will break through more armor. Of course, modern armors are optimized for bullets, so I dunno. But 2mm of armor grade steel will not quite stop a 9mm bullet, and it should completely stop any arrow from anything less than a PDB or greatbow, and even those are going to have a hard time penetrating.

Your plan of attack sounds good, and I like the idea of multiple ways to configure the crossbows, either as gunmods or inherent to the design. Gunmods make more sense, but what’s easier for you to set up.

[quote="darktoes, post:32, topic:17067]
One issue is that the belt hook reloading method is apparently the fastest, but it also
uses your legs so it’s ALSO going to have lower strength requirements than anything using arms, cept winches.[/quote]

Simplify your life then, and just write up designs for hooks, winches, and powered winches.


Ooof, that’s disappointing. Wonder how a modern one at that poundage and a decent draw would perform. Decent material limbs obviously, maybe carbon fibre?

Bodkin arrows around the size of a bullet, I’d imagine they’d do a decent job of penetrating most thin armor at sufficiently high poundage, especially with the really high poundage crossbows. I’d imagine most modern body armor would have a pretty hard time stopping an arrow based on how they handle knives and a few of the videos I’ve seen. I think the greater weight makes a big difference.

Glad to hear it. As it stands I’d have to implement it as separate items, but if it were made possible to adjust reload times through gunmods i’d definitely go that way. We’ll see how it pans out I suppose in terms of when I actually do this. I’ll toss an issue on Github and we’ll see if someone feels like implementing it for me.

I need to think some more on it. I think lever designs were pretty close to hooks in terms of speed, so I might just use different methods based on the poundage of the crossbow itself.


I do not think that crossbows need much of a buff if any, simple due to the fact that they train the rifles skill which is applicable to many end-game very high-end firearms, archery is only applicable to archery, crossbows open up a more versatile field of weapons and therefore are by default more powerful for a player that explores around and is likely to find a rifle, attachments, ect.

For a player with a static base, naturally bows make more sense long-term, but crossbows open up avenues to high end assault rifles and the quite effective .308 pipe rifle for some excellent high powered sniping action.


That may be, but as far as the actual effectiveness of crossbows is concerned, it’s not a huge advantage. Some people don’t even use rifles, or would rather use crossbows due to their silence and not having to worry about ammo as much.
I agree that it’s a really nice advantage in the longterm, but i’d much rather crossbows were balanced in terms of realism and combat effectiveness.


Well, how to the ballistics of crossbows work vs bows?
As far as I’m aware it’s smaller, but heavier per size projectiles, so I’d think that they’d in theory lose more armour piercing ability over range, but be far more effective in deeply embedding and seriously injuring the target even with armour at short range?

I think that arrows should be more likely to break if they embed into armoured targets?, that would require some code tho, and I’m no expert on the subject, possibly when butchering have the arrowhead material or leaving scrap metal or whatever the arrowhead is made from on the drops, but assuming the shaft has broken?

But I think the balance needed involves the mechanics and ballistics, not purely the inherent ‘damage’ output in general.


Basically, bows have less energy, crossbows put in significantly more. Shorter bolts can have accuracy issues at longer ranges and tend to lose it faster, but modern ones are pretty awesome and are heavy enough that they don’t lose as much energy in transit. Medieval crossbows are more like you described, very fast and powerful but lose a lot of energy and aren’t necessarily great at range, though it depends what kind of bolts you use, and the poundage of the crossbow itself.