Arrows and Quivers

Approximate time to read: 3 minutes.   

The business of arrows and quivers in Symbaroum doesn’t seem ready to slink into the background. In a Reddit discussion about Symbaroum archers being overpowered, it was noted that this might be true but was tempered by the expense of arrows and the small capacity of quivers, as I have myself covered in Quick Arrow Reclamation.

User twilight-2k noted that in historical terms 12 arrows in a quiver was low and gave many examples of historical soldiers carrying as much as five times as many. I’m mixing two quotes, below, but broadly twilight-2k noted:

Given that many elves and barbarians tend to always be at war, I simply can not believe that they would not use something comparable to a war quiver. Scandinavian archers were required to take at least 24 arrows into battle. English archers typically carried 50-72 (depending on period and battle). Mongolian horse archers typically had 2-3 quivers (of 60 – 1 of ordinary arrows and 1-2 with specialty arrows).

It’s hard to justify normal arrows being very expensive as it just takes some skill, a wooden shaft, a few feathers, and a small metal (or stone) head.

In both cases (small quivers and expensive arrows), if true, I would really hope that Jarnringen would give explicit justification (otherwise it just doesn’t make any sense).

In response, all I can suggest is that you can’t apply historical thinking from Earth to whatever the Symbaroum world is called without considering a little context or the complete cultural/historical difference between the two worlds.

Source Material

With only a core book and a few supplements and adventures, we have to base our understanding on what information we have and we can build from there. To that end, it would appear that the standard quiver holds 12 arrows.

From the books in English translation (and with page references):

A Summer Elf carries “a dozen arrows” (pg 204); a Queen’s Ranger carries “a dozen arrows” (pg 212); Karla carries a “quiver with 12 bolts” (pg 243); Keler carries “12 bolts in a quiver” (pg 247); robbers carry “6 bolts in a quiver” (pg 248); Godrai, elf of late summer carries “Two quivers with 12 arrows in each” (pg 255) because one set are coated with a weak poison; only one character in Wrath of the Warden even carries arrows (pg 163); none in The Copper Crown or Adventure Pack 2 carry arrows or bolts, even where they have a bow!

For whatever reason, 12 arrows or bolts appears to have become a standard across cultures and species.

The Craft of Arrows

The same goes for arrow construction – we cannot set our stead in historical fact alone. We only have limited information about the Symbaroum world, but what we do have suggests a difference at the most basic level. It seems like arrows and bolts are simply more complex to craft and manufacture, or maybe the raw materials are hard to come by. It could well be the case that the world of Symbaroum doesn’t have the same trees as Earth; maybe they lack the conifers that our cultures have leaned to in making arrows, like cedar, spruce, yew and fir.

An arrow costs a shilling. According to another Reddit discussion on How expensive were arrows…, in the early 1400s, King Henry set “a contract for 12,000 arrows that cost the Crown £37, 10s“, which works out at around 1.5 pennies per arrow. A tankard of second rate beer costs about a penny or two around that period, while the same costs around 2 – 4 ortegs in Symbaroum (cross comparing the information in the Core Book and Wrath of the Warden). You can’t strictly compare – but I would suggest a historical arrow figures far cheaper than a Symbaroum one. Something in the economics makes them harder to manufacture or the materials tougher to source.

Perhaps the lack of a suitable Ability to make them means very few can lay claim to the title bowyer (I’m kidding…).

In Reality

Of course, the truth of the matter would more likely be that the writing team aren’t worried about these fine details and expected the average gamer to work around it. Dozens of characters have a bow or crossbow, but don’t have a quiver or arrows/bolts in their listed Equipment. You could contextualise this to suggest that most individuals who use a bow carry a couple of bolts that they use before wading into melee; else, they scavenge wherever possible from the leavings of the battlefield.

You can choose to tweak you version of Symbaroum and run things with a house rule. Personally, I think that’s the best way forward. Why slave your sights to canon when what you read doesn’t sit right with you for whatever reason. It seems unlikely that making your own judgement call around arrows and quivers will have a fundamental impact on the advance of The Throne of Thorns campaign arc!

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  1. You hit the arrow on the head. Let’s remember this land is a frontier, its fantasy Wild West. Bow and arrow makers have found better paid employment working on infrastructure. So the few still in the business charge more. We all need to customise and interpret our games and know that the designers have not always thought down to fine detail, or the game would still be in development. For example my game does not have Thistle Hold the same, I have undeveloped land within the city walls not the published complete look.

  2. I’m sure that if Queen Korinthia’s Army orders 12 000 arrows from the fletchers of the land, they won’t be paying 1 shilling per shaft.

    • I wonder whether she would. Allan has a point that the need for craftsmen might have altered the balance away from the simple art of the bowyer. The Queen’s people have been at war for more than twenty year and have had only twenty to recover – with a great pressure on more important matters of rebuilding civilisation. However, the lack of arrows amongst the elves and barbarians as well might suggest that it is nothing to do with craftspeople and more to do with raw materials. Tedious as it might sound, you might have an adventure about travelling into the ruins of Alberetor to retrieve timber from the scorched forests as something about the wood north of the Titans make it unsuitable for good arrows and bows.

      • All good thoughs, but my point was mainly about the pricing effects of buying in bulk and with royal decree.

        Bulk orders will lower prices because they mean guaranteed income for a longer period for the craftsman, and a royal order in particular will probably see parties and guilds vying to offer the most preferential contract, slicing their own prices for the opportunity to brand themselves as a “Royal Supplier”.

        As such, the price that King Henry paid for 12 000 arrows is probably not representative of what a contemporary hunter would have had to pay for 10 arrows.

      • This doesn’t actually make much sense. Keep in mind the bow and arrow are one of the oldest weapons in human history, just slightly more advanced than the sharpened stick and thrown rock. Across thousands of cultures and technological levels you can find bows and arrows. It doesn’t take one kind of tree to fletch an arrow I am sure the wood of Davokar would do just fine. It doesn’t take much skill either, again primitives can make arrows with would the carved into a shaft, feathers from a bird and a sharpened rock. This should be our “ordinary arrow”. It should be to buy and possible to make yourself in the woods. A “quality arrow” can be made by a professional with attention to the precision of the shaft, the type of feathers used, and using a steel tip instead of a rock. This would justify the price and rarity because you cannot find steel lying around on the ground.

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