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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Amazing Archery - Using a Simple Bow (Video Nirvana)

Jeff Carpenter of the Peril and Plunder blog sent me a link to the above video. It's less than six minutes long and it is an eye opener. The feats of skill done with a simple bow are nothing less than amazing and simply reinforces anecdotal information I had read in the past - ancient bowmen were deadly, even against armor. They also fired much faster than the D&D default.

Does it make me rethink the speed of bows in the typical OSR game? Not at all. But if one were to design a game where the bowman took center stage, there are some great ideas to be found above.

Trust me when I tell you the video will be done before you are ready for it to end...


  1. Saw this last night. two things to consider: 1. He is using a bow of fairly low draw weight, in the order of 30-35lbs, need at least double that to be effective against mail or better. 2. Impressive as they are these feats are being undertaken in a familiar environment without the stresses of a fighting situation. No denying there is some fairly cool stuff here, but its really just circus tricks when it comes down to it. Regarding speed of loosing arrows, the 14th/15th century English longbowmen were reputed to be able to achieve 12 arrows per minute, firing at a massed target & I have seen a Hungarian fellow ( forget his name) manage 17 in a minute using horse archery techniques, tight grouping but at very short range. Great in a dungeon environment, but would need a lot of ammo carriers for prolonged combats. Thats my few pennies worth

    1. I agree. It's a lot easier to pull these kind of stunts when no one is trying to kill you in return.

      Still, the video is awesome to watch.

    2. The average draw weight of bows pulled from tthe Mary Rose, English longbows, was something like 145 pounds, making those warbows about four times the draw weight of the bow used in these videos. In some cases,the arrows did not even penetrate plastic wrap.

      I've seen other videos of similar stunts, both rapid firing and gymnastics while shooting. it's definitely impressive . . . but against any sort of metal armor, especially properly made mail or plate, it's no better than harassement.

      The Hungarian guy, though - my understanding is that his bows are closer to full power. I think you're looking at 70-100# for something used in a lethal setting against hard targets, and the heaviest bows of mongol and english origin were in the 180-200# range.

  2. Outstanding! Totally awesome and it makes perfect sense. Absolutely great! thanks for sharing that.

  3. Geek Dad had some thoughts on that video: http://geekdad.com/2015/01/danish-archer/

  4. I heard something similar on an audio book about Attila the Hun and again on a Great Course about the steppe nomads. With higher pound draws (~100 lbs) and many of the techniques in this video, imagine a huge double circle of steppe nomads galloping, with the circles almost touching on one side and moving in synch like gears. Now put a huge wagon with sheafs of arrows there in between the circles.

    The circles spin, with every archer getting a sheaf...and then going in two parallel straight lines at a target...like an infantry formation. When they get to 100 yards range, they break 90 degrees away from each other (thanks to stirrups) stand and shoot 10 times along the front of an infantry formation and return to the circle to reload. It would be like a continuous machine gun, and explains the fate of some legions well.

    On another note, I am struck by Agincourt. The bows had higher draws and more static placement than Lars here and some different tactics, but think of the impact of a new paradigm on the French (and to be honest most of Europe's) expectation of how combat worked and should work. The "model" that everyone expected was flawed and a combination of mud, timing, field shape, the longbow and lightly armored troops (with some heavy support) changed the course of Europe.

    Now most role playing games are set to simulate a world where horses and heavy armor make sense. They focus on a "model" that puts too much tech into one frame with the aim of having options that are all roughly equivalent and fair. By analogy, they are set for that French mindset pre-Agincourt. In our role playing games, we don't like to have one tech (for obvious reasons) disrupt all the other character choices, so we add Longbows (or mounted recurve bows) and then create mechanics to make it a level playing field.

    The battlefields of history tell a different story...the technologies that we mix into one era as if they had to be fair with one another really weren't on a level playing field historically. Japan melted it's guns down to preserve a "model" of warfare that for cultural, geographic and demographic reasons happened.

    This is ok, but we should know what we're doing...or make a set of rules and a setting that make it make sense for unfair options to co-exist. The English (and Welsh) Longbow wasn't an option for French peasants historically. It took a long time, practice and enormous, specific strength from both to make an effective bowman. Mechanics could reflect this quite easily.

    Now -- what era and geography's bowman is Lars's style most like, including style, weight, manufacture, etc.?

    P.S.: The audiobook and course were...
    1) Attila: The Barbarian King who Challenged Rome by John Man
    2) The Great Courses: The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes. A series of lectures by Kenneth Harl.