Not everyone that shoots uses a gun, and this is particularly true of 1879. Plenty of cultures still rely on lower tech missile weapons, and some people just prefer them. Having a projectile that is lower speed than a bullet also provides for some interesting unique utility options in this gadgetry driven time frame, so today I wanted to take a look at some of the new options for missile weapons that will be coming with the Fort Alice Sourcebook.
Grappling Arrow: The prospect of shooting an arrow with a rope tied to it and being able to use it to swing across a chasm or pull something is not a new concept, but there are several physical challenges to overcome that make the logistics of actually making it work fairly difficult, which is where the Grappling Arrow comes in. The head for the arrow is fashioned like a drill bit, and if the shaft of the arrow is held statically, can be wound up to tighten a spring. There are also three spring loaded arms that, until deployed, tuck back along the length of the arrow shaft. Finally, the head has an eyelet for a rope to be attached, intended to be placed parallel to the outer fletching of the arrow. The arrow comes with the rope, which is enchanted to make it light, strong, and resistant to knotting.
When the arrow is fired into a surface, the arms deploy to anchor it, and the drill head spins, attempting to drive it deeper into the surface of the target. In order to deploy properly, the arrow must be shot with enough force to penetrate far enough into the surface for the drill to take hold; penetration is determined by the Damage Test of the shot, see the associated chart for difficulties for various surfaces. Once anchored, it becomes extremely difficult to dislodge, making it effective for holding up to 500 pounds of force before the mechanisms fail and the head gives way to being removed (assuming the material itself is capable of supporting that weight).
Due to the weight of the head and the drag created by the rope, the Grappling Arrow halves the normal effective range of the weapon it’s being fired from. The cost and weight of the rope are included in the statistics for the arrow. Grappling arrows are made and sold individually as a set with the rope, as they must be attuned to one another to make the enchantments on the rope most effective.
Grappling Arrow Surface Difficulties
|Surface||Difficulty to Anchor|
Vial Arrows: Much like they sound, these arrows have the traditional arrow head replaced with a glass vial. This allows them to be filled with chemicals and other fluids to create all sorts of targeted effects at possibly great distances. This could be poison, acid, oil, and so on.
Vial Arrows effectively have no damage rating themselves, as the damage done when they are fired is dealt to the glass vial in order to release its contents. When fired at a target, follow normal targeting rules and instead replace the damage of the arrow with the equivalent stats of the fluid inside. Vial arrows typically have a capacity of about 1 to 1 and a half ounces of fluid, which is generally enough to cause Step 8 damage for most directly damaging liquids like acid, or to thinly cover an area up to 3 feet in diameter. These values may vary depending upon the fluid used and other situational modifiers, and are provided only as a baseline for the Game Master.
Shrapnel Arrows: Though arrows with explosive tips have been around ever since the introduction of gunpowder, they’ve rarely been used to any great effect, as arrow head can only hold a very small payload without negatively impacting the arrow’s flight, and there is no way to directionalize the explosion to maximize its effect. However, a light payload with an omni-directional blast works quite well for delivering small pieces of shrapnel. The heads are about the same complexity and size as a single .557 round, using much thinner and softer metal for the casing and the primer being part of the tip rather than at the back. The powder inside is mixed with very small pieces of metal shrapnel. When the arrow strikes a target, the tip causes the primer to ignite the powder inside. The explosion causes the thin casing to burst, and the shrapnel is spread in all directions. Being so small, the damage is not very high, only Step 4, but it does have enough power to spread effectively in a ten foot radius around the point of impact. Shrapnel arrows are most effectively used against groups of lightly or unarmored targets, or as a means of distraction in conjunction with another attacker.
Smokescreen Arrows: Constructed in similar fashion to shrapnel arrows, the payload carried on smokescreen arrows, as the name would suggest, is a slow burning smoke powder. One round after striking, an area 15 feet in diameter will be covered in smoke thick enough to impose a full darkness penalty on anyone trying to see through it – this includes both those inside the smoke cloud and those outside of it trying to see through (see page 246 of the 1879 Players Guide). This penalty does affect those with Low-Light Vision, but not Heat Sight. The smoke will remain for three rounds or until dispersed by external forces such as a strong wind or an air elemental.
There’s plenty of room for both players and GMs to expand further upon these. For instance, you could change up the smokescreen arrow to emit a cloud with something like a poison or sleep effect rather than obfuscation. Even with just these, however, there are tons of possibilities for players to make unique and clever use of these projectiles in a scenario. Have any particular ways you would use them, or ways you’ve used similar items in your games before? Let us know in the comments below and on Discord, and we’ll see you next week for the next installment.