Avian Crossbow

An ancient relic from a bird worshiping time.



There was once a time and world where birds were considered mystical creatures. At times the deities of this world used birds to deliver messages, omens, prophecies, and other information to prophets or priests. The 'civilized' people quickly realized that the presence of a bird itself was an omen of different sorts. Some cultures of this old world had strict laws against those who would kill any bird with the usual penalty being death. Others only enforced such an extreme penalty against those who killed birds who could fly, as flight shows a close tie to the heavens. Other 'heathen' peoples ignored those rules completely as several deities did not use birds to deliver messages. Feathers themselves were considered a gift from the gods and were often treasured. A magic system was developed, based entirely on the latent magical energies of birds. One way of harnessing this power was through crafting crossbow quarrels (or arrows) and using it in a specially designed weapon.

Whether the legends of birds being messengers between the gods and mortals is true or not in the present world makes no difference, the weapon works the same.

The Weapon:

This weapon was created in this old time with powerful avian magic. The power and magic was created to use the latent magical energies left in the feathers of whichever kind of birds would grant feathers to the priests and peoples of that world.

Variation 1 – The Original

The crossbow is much like any other only it has no string or cord. So on it's own it operates faster than a normal crossbow. The bolt only needs to be placed in position, aim the crossbow, and squeeze the trigger. A magical force launches the bolt. This improved efficiency may assist the user of the crossbow in a combat situation. (basically depending on the rules of your gaming system, the user may get a bonus action or not face penalties imposed on crossbow users compared to bow users, your call)

Variation 2 – The Bow

The weapon is a bow (with a string) but otherwise functions identically to the original only the weapon is more animus. It would appear that this ancient religion has been preserved through an order of druids or perhaps a group of some woodsman/ranger types.

Variation 3 – The Transforming Crossbow

This crossbow is fashioned after a generic bird in flight, with the wings being the bow, the tail being the handle and the feet being the trigger. As the bow is loaded with a quarrel/bolt of a bird type the crossbow itself changes to match the type of feather being used. This could give someone on the business end of the crossbow a clue as to what they are up against.

Variation 4 – The Crossbow with the Compartment

This crossbow variation requires the feather to be placed within the weapon itself. The compartment is in the shaft of the weapon. The feathers on the quarrel itself don't affect the magic.

Variation 5 – The Siege Arbalest

This crossbow variation is the bigger unit the the longer loading time. Birds with rather large feathers (such as ostrich, roc, stork, emu, crane, etc.) can be used to create bigger bolts.

Here is some examples of birds that you may or may not have in your fantasy world, and how a bolt made from their feathers would behave.

Chicken Feathers – When this bolt flies true, it's target is struck with a fear spell. Sometimes the fear is so strong the target becomes paralysed and cannot act for a time. Other times the target will flee, soiling their undergarments, and be incapable of rational thought until the spells duration ends.

Cuckoo Feathers – When this bolt strikes it's target. The target in filled with intense confusion. Sometimes this confusion is so intense that the target gains an insanity, usually a phobia, but any other type is also possible.

Woodpecker Feathers – This bolt really shines when used against things made of wood. When striking a wood item, such as a door or a shield, the usual result is that the item shatters. The bolt does extra damage to creatures made of wood, such examples would include wood golems, carnivorous plants, dryads, and treants. There is also a very small chance that the bolt would kill such a creature outright.

Vulture Feathers – This bolt is obviously most useful against the undead. Skeletons, liches, and mummies and other dry undead often shatter or crumble under the power of this bolt. Zombies usually explode in a disgusting shower of putrification. Vampires are not immediately killed upon being struck, unless hit in the heart. Most lesser vampires become paralysed by the vulture feather bolt lodged in their bodies. Only the most powerful vampires shrug it off and are able to carry on albeit seriously wounded. Ghosts flee as though hit with a chicken feather arrow (above). Vulture feather arrows also have a small chance of instantly killing anyone who has cheated death with either longevity potions, resurrection, breath of life, raise dead, reincarnation, or other death defying magic.

Owl Feathers – This bolt is an intelligence gathering weapon. When the bolt hits it's target, the target always survives the hit and remains conscious. The bolt quickly runs a mini telepathy, empathy, danger sense, on the target. In a quick wave of intelligence, the user of the bolt becomes aware of the target's general battle plan, including possibly an ambush, a secret weapon, and the target's strengths and weaknesses in combat. This can change as the bolt user reacts in anticipation of the targets original plan.

Phoenix Feathers – This bolt transforms into a fiery dart. The target takes additional fire damage and the bolt itself is consumed in it's own fire. There is a good chance, but not always, a new phoenix feather bolt is created in the same location as where the old one hit.

Ostrich Feathers – This bolt strikes it's target like a catapult shot as opposed to a bolt. The target is hit with blunt force which also acts as a magical push. Targets that are normally immune to arrows and bolts (such as a stone or iron golem) take full damage from this bolt.

Hummingbird Feathers – This bolt hums as it flies. When the hummingbird arrow misses, it changes directions and takes another try at the target. This bolt continues to vibrate intensely when lodged in a target. This results in extra damage every round it is left in. (obviously very small damage)

Lovebird Feathers – This bolt deals no damage to the target and vanishes upon a successful hit. The target is then struck with a powerful love spell and will fall for the first person of their preferred gender that they see. Priests and priestesses of Aphrodite would really appreciate this one.

Crow Feathers – This bolt is a death omen. The bolt itself has a small chance of instantly killing the target. If the instant death ability does not take the life of the target and they survive the battle or skirmish they were in when hit, the target will be plagued with a death type curse. Within the next 24 hours, the target will have the worst luck, which will attempt to slay the target. Henchmen who were considering betrayal will choose this time, the bartender will tap the one tainted keg in the bar, accidents will occur around the target almost constantly until either the target is killed or the twenty four hours pass. If the time passes the target is now rid of the curse and back to life as normal.

Bonus feathers -

Albatross – the bolt gains the ability to pass through water as though it were air. Deals double damage to merfolk.

Bee Eater – the bolt deals double damage to insects & arachnids

Buzzard – the bolt contains a contagion. A successfully hit target has a good chance at getting a disease.

Duck – the bolt gains the ability to pass through water as though it were air. Deals double damage to sea monsters.

Eagle – the bolt deals bonus damage and casts a push spell upon a successfully hit target.

Falcon – large bonus to hit and damage when used to hunt wild animals.

Finch – small bonus to hit. Deals double damage to elves and faeries.

Fireback – the bolt catches fire in flight and deals additional fire damage

Fly catcher – large bonus to hit.

Goose – the bolt has a high chance of stunning a successful target.

Grouse – the bolt has a chance of causing a successful target to completely lose their cool and any rational thought. Spell casters and psionic users hit, have a 50% chance of screwing up their powers when trying to use it (100% upon 2 successful hits). If a successful target survives the fight, they will complain or 'grouse' about the incident for the next 24 hours.

Hawk - small bonus to hit and damage. Critical hits are 20% more likely.

Heron – the bolt deals double damage to giants

Ibis – this bolt is shot always at great proficiency. The shooter could be upside down, riding a galloping steed, walking a tightrope, or falling to their death, however the bolt will fly as though the archer were at total peace and made a carefully aimed shot. Barbarians, berserkers, and other creatures that 'flip out' take extra damage from this bolt.

Jay – the bolt's flight path bends and hits the target from the other side. Using this bolt counts as back stabbing. (I know there's a little Wanted in this one)

Kingfisher – this bolt has the power to successfully penetrate force fields, regular shields, walls of '', and other obstacles. This bolt cannot be caught in flight with either extreme skill or telekinesis.

Kite – the bolt get a bonus to hit and damage if the target is airborne.

Macaw – the bolt casts a random (negative) enchantment upon a successfully hit target.

Nightingale – the bolt casts a powerful sorrow spell upon a successfully hit target.

Penguin – the bolt gains the ability to pass through water as though it were air. The target losses all magical protection to cold.

Pigeon – the bolt deals minimum damage. The bolt carries with it a magic piece of paper which has written the last words spoken by the user of the crossbow. The paper vanishes once the message is read.

Quail – the bolt deals double damage to elementals and has a small chance of casting a banishing spell upon successfully hit elementals.

Raven – bonuses to hit and damage when used against good creatures

Robin – if used as a called shot to knock something off of the target, the shot is made with large bonuses. Otherwise it's a regular shot.

Sea Gull - the bolt gains the ability to pass through water as though it were air. Deals double damage to sharks.

Swan – bonuses to hit and damage when used against evil creatures

Tern – the victim of this shot is 'turned'. The victim must avoid proximity with the shooter until the effect wears off.

Thanks to all the contributions given.  I hope you enjoy.


? Community Contributions (4)-4

lighting bird feathers

releases a blast of thunder and lightning so powerful all target will die and persons close to him will lose most of there health

Pidgeon Feathers: Someone struck with arrows fletched with Pidgeon Feathers are suddenly swarmed by a flock of urbanized Pidgeons who are not afraid of people and extremely proficient at stealing food and other objects from the victim. The victim is harassed by Pidgeons for at least three days, sometimes up to a week.

Magpie feathers

Someone hit by a magpie feather arrow will, if they survive, be plagued by thieves for days or until all their stuff is stolen,whichever comes first.

Parrot Feathers: Victim's voice is repeated verbatim to the person who shot the arrow.

? Responses (15)-15

Goto Author

I would like this item better if it were a regular blow, and not a crossbow. The arrows are interesting, though a few leave me cold. I dont care very much for the owl arrows or the hummingbird arrows. Still, all in all, a good submission. As for helping you with a bird religion, you might want to put that in the Sagely Advice area of the forum

Goto Author

I agree with Scras on this one - the mechanical complexity associated with the crossbow does not jive with the Animus nature of the item.

That and the real item here are the arrows.

I would drop the entire Bow/Crossbow and focus on the arrows. Let the archer figure out what to shoot them with. For that matter, feathered darts would work too.

This also lets you avoid cumbersome discussions on the crossbows powers and other questions, such as

'If it fires with force, why does it need a bow portion? Nicer to say then arrow launcher?'

I do like the idea of the avian themed arrows.

Goto Author

First and foremost, thanks for the feedback both of you. You've both given me something to consider in the development of this idea. Second, I would appreciate taking just a moment to explain my thoughts which apparently didn't make it into the submission. I chose a crossbow over bow because to me it is more civilized or advanced than a bow. Rocks, spears, and perhaps the blowgun are the only missile weapons to be more primitive than the bow. It's totally a flavor thing... if you can imagine a crossbow built to look avian, I think it could fit nicely. Also I wanted the power to be in the launcher not in the missiles. Magic arrows always seem to have issues in my campaigns... less useful than a potion or a scroll or on par at best. One of my big concerns though would be mini quests over finding a certain bird for it's feathers... Time wasting and adding little value to the story line but does add limitations to the ability. Anyway, thanks again... more thoughts good or bad would be appreciated.

Goto Author

Alright, I'm just going to throw all of my ideas out at once, so sorry if my mind dump ends up rambling.

First off, I also like the crossbow concept because I believe that the magic should be in the weapon, not in the missiles. This can lead to some interesting effects when a party first uses the weapon with normal bolts, with no consideration for the type of feathers (or mixture of feathers) used in their creation. I can picture the crossbow as having one or two birds wrought in metal with overlapping wings and tail feathers, providing a sort of wrist guard. Perhaps the appearance of the birds could shift slightly, depending on the type of feathered bolts used to load the bow.

Religion based on bird worship -- could work, but can be taken in very different directions. On one hand, you may have a church that will use only images & carvings of birds, and would consider using their body parts blasphemous. Might burn them ceremoniously (including arrows with bird feathers). Most crossbow bolts from areas like this will be plain wooden ones, with possibly some stiff brissles to aid with their flight. A different approach, of course, is the church that will ritualistically sacrifice birds to the gods, adorn their priests with elaborate feathered head-dresses, and consume chicken every week on their holy day. Your choice, really.

The only thing I see in common between the two approaches is that the bird imagery will be strong in all priestly vestments. A bird priest would probably look quite garish, compared to those of other faiths, with his many-colored robes and jewelry designed to imitate feathers. Or then again, priests may dress as different birds, depending on church hierarchy. I can imagine that the head priest may want to closely resemble an owl, perhaps with large ornate spectacles or some sort.

Moving on: falcon feathers could be used to fashion a bolt that always flies true, or is faster than normal bolts and so harder to dodge. Kookaburra feathered bolts might cause an uncontrollable fit of laughter, to the point of incapacitation.

One final note. Perhaps you should give some thought to how the crossbow will react to feathers that have been taken from the bird by force, rather than given willingly. Being created by a bird-worshipping religion, there may be some serious consequences for using bolts with feathers from murdered fowl, to the order of a light curse. This will also keep the PCs a bit better in check, as they won't automatically go killing every winged beastie in sight in order to try their feathers in the crossbow.

OK one more -- love the ostrich feather arrows, but bolts made from them would have to be quite large (seeing as how the feathers themselves are). I'm betting that this crossbow would end up being considered a heavy crossbow, with most of the significance/penalties inherent to your gaming system. Alright, I'm done now.

Goto Author

Could you possibly separate all your arrows? Its kind of hard to read. Other than that, I like the idea. But i have one question- why not use a string for your crossbow? Using magic to fire it seems wasteful. The magic in the crossbow thats used to fire the arrows would probably have a limited amount of uses, or would wear off after a while. Whereas a crossbow with a string would keep firing for far longer, if good care was taken of it.

Another idea: instead of using the feathers in the arrows, why not have a slot or something to attach the feather to the crossbow itself? And then use regular old quarrels. That way, the PCs wouldn't have any motivation for a bird-killing rampage, since all they needed was a single feather. And you could have the magic in each feather wear out after a month, with each use taking a day off how long it can last, or something like that. And with putting the feather on the crossbow instead of the bolt, you could add an increased range of affects, such as increased accuracy, binocular-like vision, etc, while still being able to keep all the affects you have all ready come up with.

Goto Author

Thanks for your feedback, caesar193. As for your first comment about the reading, I was going to clean it up at finishing, but seeing as it may yet be awhile, I'll bold up each feather title. As to your second comment, I'm not sure how to reply except to say that I've never heard of a bird that needs a string to fly. As to your third comment, I like it and I'd like to hear more. My concern with this concept is that at first glance, it appears to make the crossbow less versatile. I'll think on it. Thanks yet again for your comments, I appreciate it.

Goto Author

Update: Feather titles bolded as requested.

Goto Author

Well, for the second thing, i didn't fully understand that the feathered bolt flew on its own. I thought some magic in the crossbow itself sent it at the foe. My mistake.

For the next thing, the versatility of the crossbow wouldn't be effected much. You'd simply stick the feather in a slot or something, and then the bolt would get that ability. I'd imagine that you might have to forgo a chance to shoot the bow during the first round of combat, but could do so later on. Or get a shot if you didn't have a feather in, and were simply sticking it in then firing.

As for the overall idea. The crossbow itself would work much like a regular crossbow, except for a magical power that the user got to chose, through sticking a feather into a slot, that power. This would get rid of the price of having to get custom made quarrels- no fletcher would pass up the opportunity for extra money from having the use this feather.

An errant thought: it could be possible on the rare crossbow to have multiple slots for feathers, so that the bolt got to make you fall in love (Lovebird) and make you confused (Cuckoo), so that maybe you fall in love with your nonpreffered gender, or even species...

Goto Author

Release it to the Citadel!!

Goto Author

I am glad to see this finally released.

Goto Author

By far the best part of this are the feathers. The bow is just a footnote, detailing how the feathers are unleashed. This could be a way to engage players into noticing different birds, trying out all the different feathers, and giving an archer a whole lot of utility that they didn't have before. Heck, this would be a sweet weapon for a villain to have (until you get it).

Some feathers aren't awesome, but enough of them are for me to give this a 5/5.

Goto Author

And I like the idea of a bird-killing rampage.

'Don't you guys want to go back to the dungeon? Maybe explore the bottom of the muttering hole in the ground?'

'Nah, we're gonna go bird hunting and then shoot each other until we figure out what the heck vulture feathers do.'

Goto Author

What Forganthus said. The arrows are a lot of fun.

Goto Author

I do love this idea. Great set of arrows to start and somebody who uses this idea in a game, the options are just endless.