The issue of Archery


#1

I have read several debates regarding the inherent weakness of archery vs melee combat. I have come to the conclusion that the issue lies not with the Fighter/Archer, the Ranger/Archer, or the Arcane Archer. The training and feats provided are in no way inferior to those provided for the Melee fighter. The issue is that of equipment. The Shortbow has to be the weakest weapon in the game and the longbow is not much better. I generated a spreadsheet calculating various factors for weapons and as best as I can determine - using the standard unenhanced longsword as a baseline - a longbow generates 43% LESS damage than a standard longsword. And while upgrading an longsword also upgrades it’s damaged rating, upgrading a longbow does not. About the best bow available is the Duskwood longbow and is only matches the standard longsword for damage potential. The Coldheart bow does give a slightly better damage rating that the Duskwood longbow but you are limited to one form of elemental damage and that is not tactically feasible. By comparison, perhaps the best blade in the game is the Falling Thunder Storm Katana. It does 114% MORE damage than a standard longsword, and it can be upgraded with enhancement crafting. Obviously this puts the archer at a major disadvantage. While the shortbow and composite longbow are fine for the prelude and Act I, starting Act II I prefer something more competitive with melee weapons.

To this end I designed the Swiftheart longbow. I took the Massive Criticals from the Coldheart bow, and the Permanent Haste from the Swift Flier crossbow, and applied them (using the GFF editor) to a Duskwood longbow. While still not as effective as the Falling Thunder Storm Katana, the resulting weapon comes close to matching the damage potential of the Harbinger Kin +3 or the Gemsword. It actually surpasses the capabilities of the Astral Blade +2 and the Desert Wind +2 when used with arrows that provide +1d6 elemental damage.

Swiftheart Longbow +2
+1d10 criticals
Mighty +6
Persistent Haste

Since I now have a bow comparable to the bladed weapons available in Acts II and III, I find myself using the sword and shield less and less.


#2

I generated a spreadsheet calculating various factors for weapons and as best as I can determine - using the standard unenhanced longsword as a baseline - a longbow generates 43% LESS damage than a standard longsword.

how did you come to this conclusion? staying true to your example we ignore character attributes when determining damage output of both weapons. this means neglecting strentgh, dexterity and bab to add damage and/or influencing the chance to hit.

we’re looking at 100 attacks, which will all hit the target. both the longsword and the longbow do 1d8 damage, defaulting to 4 damage on average to make math simple.
the longsword has a crit threat of 19-20 (10%) doing double damage. the longbow crits on a natural 20 (5%) doing triple damage.

  • 100 attacks with the sword: 90 normal attacks, each doing 4 damage, plus 10 critical attacks, each doing 8 damage, makes a total of 440 damage.

  • 100 attacks with the bow: 95 normal attacks (4 dam) plus 5 crits (12 dam) makes equally 440 total damage.

yes, melee weapons will do more damage in the long run, because strength influences both the attack and the damage roll, while dexterity is only good for landing hits. in return the advantage is that ranged weapons can be used from a distance.


#3

Also let’s not forget, that once the PCs reach higher levels and the availability of special arrows rises, archers become very versatile and can really make a difference against strong mobs who have just one or a few weaknesses.

Imo that might make up for shortcomings in the pure damage dealing ratio.


#4

Don’t forget that a big advantage of bows is that they let you attack spell slingers, who are often located toward the back of the enemy mob. If you can disrupt their spell casting, the battle is half over.


#5

The problem is that the game is balanced for a lot of things that are possible in D&D, which are not possible in NWN.

Most importantly flight.

In terms of game balance there is no reason a ranged weapon should be as damaging as a melee weapon when there is more risk involved in melee.


#6

I initially just wanted some way to compare the capabilities of various weapons against each other. I adopted the universal sword as my baseline and referenced everything else against it. I was calculating max potential damage with critical damage averaged in. I know that my equations are not perfect for every situation but they do give me a good estimate for a comparative scale. Since I am estimating max potential damage, the scale assumes a character either trained or equipped to a max strength value of 22, giving a max strength bonus of 6. This maxes out a duskwood bow but obviously melee weapons could go higher. Still it gives me a decent comparative estimate. This is my equation.

(Dice x Damg+Mighty)+(Mult-1) x (Dice*Damg+Mighty) x (CritRng x 2) x .05+Edice x Edamg+(Mult-1) x Edice x Edamg x (CritRng x 2) x .05+Mcrit

MCrit = 1 x 10 x CritRng x 2 x 0.05

Edice and Edamg refer to the elemental damage that the weapon may or may not have, e.g. +1d6 fire.

Quite frankly, I would be hesitant to go up against Lorne with just a longbow. I do not know how I would keep my distance from him while trying to shoot him. My Swiftheart did the job fine though.


#7

I play archers most of the time and try to always have a missile weapon on every companion if practical.

One problem with your math is the way the designers split the normal melee weapon enhancement between an attack bonus on the missile weapon and a damage bonus on it’s ammunition. If you do the calculation for a Composite Longbow +1 you have to assume that Arrows +1 are also available. (They are not always but the math won’t be rigorous without it.)

Second, as more magic enhancements become available at higher levels, the base damage of the weapon matters less. You already mentioned elemental arrows. Vampiric arrows, arrows of petrification, arrows of detonation, etc. all allow the archery character to customize the type of damage they do to the threat while still using the weapon they are best with. A sword specialist who has to switch to a blunt weapon may loses some of his effectiveness.

The last issue is character design. NWN2 is designed around total party control. The archer needs to be designed relative to the rest of the party you build and your style of play. Personally, a good archer, with a good light weapon + weapon finesse as a back-up has never had a problem defeating Lorne.

Notes:

  • There is at least one other bow in the OC that has the unlimited ammo property and can be upgraded
  • The Uthgardt Heavy Bow has both the mighty and massive critical properties making it roughly equivalent to a keen weapon.

When you get to MotB, build a nice bow and put the Shape of Fire essence on it for virtual flame thrower!


#8

The +1 on the composite longbow really only improves accuracy. I did not factor accuracy in on the equations. They only estimate max potential damage for a character with a combined strength bonus of +6. They also do not factor in character feats except for the assumed feat of Improved Critical which can be simulated on melee weapons with keen. (Preaching to the choir here, I know). While an arrow +1 is not represented in the equation, arrows usually only have either 1d6 elemental damage or enhanced piercing damage, if they have any damage enhancement at all. So you can represent an arrow +1 with 1d1 under elemental, arrow +2 with 2d1 under elemental, etc.

I have not come across the Uthgardt heavy bow. It does sound interesting.

I would like you to at least try out the Swiftheart LB and see what you think. BTW the Swiftheart Longbow +2 of course means it has a Ranged Attack bonus of +2.

And I will have to try out that “Shape of Fire” essence on a bow if I can figure out how to do it.

Here is a sample of what the Weapon spreadsheet looks like. It actually has 227 entries.
I only provided the equation for the Elementl column (Keen with Elemental Damage).


#9

I think the archery’s “appearance” of weakness, (in the base nwn2 campaign), has more to do with the relative scarcity of high tier arrows and limited cash, combined with the terrain layout being mostly flat, with choke points and elevated terrain being rather uncommon in many parts of the game.

The real power of archery comes into play when you can’t bum-rush the enemy casters and archers by running around - or through - melee units in the more open terrain of the OC. In well designed areas with difficult to reach ledges or packed choke points, the ability to destroy enemy group support, archers and nukers is very valuable. MotB, SoZ and MoWG seemed to have worked to address some of these issues with plentiful/craftable high-tier arrows, dream weapons and more complex terrain that better rewards archers and other ranged attackers. (Although throwing weapons remain problmatic in my opinion).


#10

I don’t like using standard palette equipment for comparison. It’s a weakness of the OCs, not the system in general, as pointed out by Sabranic. I guess this also means I agree with “rebalancing” archery by adding weapons that are on-par with their melee counterparts.

The mod I’m building caps at tier 5. Melee weapons will be +5 enhancement and add their base damage as elemental. (so tier 5 dagger is +5 +1d4 tier 5 greataxe is +5 +1d12). Bows will have an attack and mighty bonus in place of enhancement; the disadvatage is they have to supply arrows, the advantage is they get all elements with the same weapon. I may create magical quivers that spawn elemental unsellable undroppable elemental ammunition based on quivers tier.

Have any of you guys tried a druid archer? Give them Zen archery and they use their wis mod for shooting. Their Owl’s Insight spell adds half their class level to WIS, taking both AB and DCs to absurd amounts. They have summons and plenty of things to place in an area to slow people moving through. You can either give them a level of monk or just take the heavy armor proficiency feat. They’re quite awesome.


#11

Another factor is the large number of melee feats that you can apply to build up a character’s AB and DMG vs a very few archery feats. While you can Sneak Attack with a bow, I don’t think any of the other feats that multiply DMG apply. If you look at the Character Builder site, Divine Might and variations on Barbarian Rage are the most commonly exploited feats for “power builds”. Feint and Insightful Strike are also popular.


#12

I think the lack in damage is mostly due to a lack of bonus damage from STR. Most mighty bonuses are not as high as what melee characters have and even if they are, dex-based archers can’t take full advantage of it. No two-handed dmg bonus. And fewer buffs can target bows.

Divine Might works really well for bows though. Manyshot used to be very exploitable with sneak (or death?) attacks, as well.


#13

Apology if this is something NWN2 specific, so I am completely off, but in NWN1 archery is also claimed by many as too weak option.

And it is somewhat true. I mean, all weapons are balanced within DnD rules, what breaks this balance are three things:

  1. availability of custom weapons
  2. availability of itemproperties on weapons
  3. availability and power of ammunition

In NWN1, ranged weapons lacks good custom weapons in singleplayer campaigns, there aren’t many, they have poor stats and they sometimes even disallow you use custom ammunion as they will have unlimited ammunition property which in NWN1 is poorly implemented.

Similarly, builder is not allowed to put many itemproperties on bows, xbows and throwing weapons.

Lastly, the ammunition usually costs extra money and time to be able to use your weapon as they don’t drop often and max in 99pieces.

BUT. If you remove these issues, you will find out that ranged weapons are probably more powerful than melee weapons (because even with same stats, the range advantage allows some cheesy tactics + it makes your character not need so many defensive stats.

On the persistent world I was DM/WB, I did these changes to ranged weapons:

  • I made vampiric regeneration, vorpal and all on-hit properties available and working on bows (normally these properties works only on ammunition, I did this by copying these properties from bow onto any equipped arrows)
  • I made vorpal, vampiric regeneration, keen and mighty property allowed to be added to bows (there was custom forge system that allowed to add itemproperties to weapons, but ranged weapons were extremely limited in this)
  • and we allowed socket gems that grants damage to be added into ranged weapons too (in NWN1 bonus damage and also enhancement bonus itemproperties works on ranged weapon, they just don’t stack with same type of damage from arrows)
  • I created a stacks of 500-5000 custom arrows/bolts to be found in treasures, sometimes with very poweful properties such as 1d6 divine/positive (as this damage type was unable to get from socket gems)
  • I created a custom unlimited ammunition which worked as a generator-type item where you used it and it generated several stacks of ammunition - so unlike vanilla unlimited itemproperty player was allowed to swap ammunition freely and use stronger and rare ammunition for boss fights and weaker unlimited for anything else

With these features, archery became very popular and maybe even overpowered (devastating critical builds for crossbows appeared to abuse the 15-20 range with improved critical+keen). So in the end it is all about environment.


#14

This is the bow progression I like to use:

CharLev 1-3: Shortbow
DP: 7 DPE: 14(not available)

CharLev 4-6: Composite Longbow +1 (Attack+1, Mighty+3)
DP: 13 DPE: 20(not available)

CharLev 7-8: Elven Court Bow (Attack+3, Mighty+3)
DP: 13 DPE: 20

CharLev 9-11: Critical Longbow (Attack+1, Mighty+6, MCrit +1d10)
DP: 18 DPE: 25

CharLev 12-20: Swiftheart (Attack+2, Mighty+6, MCrit +1d10, Haste)
DP: 22 DPE: 31

At CharLev 18 I upgrade the Swiftheart Attack to +5

By Comparison as a Melee Fighter I might use this progression:

CharLev 1-3: Shortsword
DP: 14

CharLev 4-11: Sword Saint Legacy +1
DP: 28

CharLev 12-17: Falling Thunder Storm
DP: 36

CharLev 18-20: Custom Crafted Katana
DP: 55

*DP - Damage Potential, DPE - Damage Potential with +1d6 Elmntl arrow
TCC allows the crafting of ice, fire, and acid arrows when you reach a craft weapon level of 12. Lightning Arrows at 17.


#15

I maintain TCC - the 17 for Lightning is an error. I’ll investigate rebalancing this.
I should also note that it’s not a Level check, it’s a skill check. An Int 18 character with max points in Craft Arms and Armor can make score-12 items at level 5, and score-17 items at level 10


#16

I really, really like TCC. I have been using it for a couple of years now and crafting has become one of my favorite parts of NWN2. It is the reason I came up with the Artisan prestige class that kevL_s implemented so well for me

I recently disabled TCC temporarily for a single campaign just to remember what it is like without it. It is rather dis-satisfying. I am looking forward to turning it back on.

I know people always refer to throwing off the game balance. But to me gaming pleasure is more important than game balance. Besides, I recently installed the Difficulty Modifier module and am using it to increase the game’s challenge incrementally. I have always had the difficulty slider set to the highest level.

One thing I do miss from the Original Crafting System (OCS) is the ability to craft the “Brooch of Shielding”. Is it in TCC but I am missing the recipe?

Also I cannot get the Mithal shields to work properly. Is there a fix for this?

I am using TCC 2.04. Is there a newer version?

Thank you for the TCC support!!!


#17

A few answers:

  1. TCC 2.05 will have a lot of fixes, and will be released soon. Go to https://github.com/kevL/TccScripts to download the latest
  2. For the Brooch of shielding, just file an Issue in Github and I’ll take a look. If you have any other problems, file an Issue.
  3. Mithral Shields have never worked properly, and it’s an issue built into the core game I think. We have looked at it before.
  4. TCC balance, like original crafting balance, is primarily driven by the availability of gemstones in the campaign you’re playing. There are only so manyBeljurils etc to go round.

#18

Brooch of Shielding is present in TCC. Search for it in the recipe file, it has changed spell from Mage Armor to Shield.


#19

It has more to do with item creation options in OC not as good as it should (nor balanced). Or in other world, sucks. This also applies to MotB. Which is why I like SoZ much better than either.

In SoZ, bow can be made the best weapon for encounters as it can be used at range. The enchantment affects both AB and Damage. Another plus is the possibility to add near unlimited amount of elemental damages to weapon. Add this the Damage bonus from Mighty, bow’s enchantment & arrow enchantment stacked, and you can get a freakishly powerful weapon.

So, if you want better bow, use SoZ system instead.


#20

True. You can create a bow that has both holy/unholy and sonic damage. Use flaming or acid arrows and it’s effective against virtually everything in the game.