As is my sacred duty as a homebrewer, it’s time to needlessly overcomplicate an established mechanic to add more decisions and strategy to the game! These variant arrows and bows are meant to force characters to think more strategically about their positioning and the types of weapons they use against their opponents.
I have changed the existing statistics for ranged weapons to encourage their intended usage. The existing rules for range and damage remain in place except where written. I also added two new ranged weapons: the repeating crossbow and the composite bow.
Longbow: The purpose of the longbow is distance, especially in a tall arc as in the longbowmen in the Battle of Agincourt. While it is possible, it is more difficult to fight in cramped space and without access to that tall arc. Moreover, fighting while mounted and trying to get that high arc is near impossible. My new longbow rewards you for your distance offering heightened damage from its time falling through the sky. It also punishes you for using the longbow for close or mounted combat.
A creature has disadvantage when firing the longbow at a target within 30 ft. or less or when mounted. When firing beyond the normal range (thus with disadvantage), if you have a high enough ceiling (outdoors or else height equal to the distance fired), you deal +1d8 damage on a hit.
Shortbow: The shortbow, in contrast with the longbow, is designed for closer combat and horseback (as in Parthian tactics and Mongolian cavalry archers). For this new shortbow I give a bonus for using it as intended, and an additional debuff for sniping from long range.
A creature has -1 to attack rolls made with a shortbow at a target more than 80 ft. away. A creature firing a shortbow at a target within 30 ft. grants the attacker +2 to the attack roll.
Light/Heavy Crossbow: Crossbows have immense power at the expense of loading time and lower range of accuracy. Moreover, simple peasant militia can use a crossbow but not necessarily aim it very well. My version of the crossbow deals double the damage but takes an entire action to reload, so it can only be fired every other round. Yes this means crossbows lose out on a bit of DEX damage but that simulates the lack of accuracy. Moreover, critting with the crossbow becomes far deadlier as it will now deal 4 damage dice. I did not change Hand Crossbows as they are probably a bit easier to reload and this might give rogues a little TOO much burst with an Assassin’s auto crit.
The light and heavy crossbow deals two dice of damage but takes 1 action to reload before it can be fired again.
Repeating Crossbow: A new weapon that acts like a light crossbow but without any loading restrictions. The real-life counterpart to the repeating crossbow was easier to load and draw but had significantly less power and accuracy behind it. It basically fired as quickly as you could pull back the drawstring until it locks, aim, then release the trigger; the new bolt would fall into place on its own. The repeating crossbow costs 50 gp (A regular light crossbow would cost 25 gp).
A Repeating Crossbow is a light crossbow that does not require an action to reload, but each attack beyond the first imparts a cumulative -1 penalty to attack and damage rolls. The magazine of ammunition holds 20 bolts before it must be reloaded, which takes an action.
Composite Bow: Another new weapon that has extra resistance by being made from a variety of materials that allows you make a stronger draw to put extra power behind your shot. I simulated this by letting you add all or some of your STR to the damage if you have any. Making a short or longbow into a composite bow adds 25 gp to the cost times its grade. So a +3 Composite Shortbow would cost 100 gp (25 gp + (25x3) gp).
Shortbows and longbows can both be built as composite bows. composite bows come in several grades: +1, +2, +3, and +4. If your STR modifier is at least equal to the grade of the composite bow, you may add an amount equal to the composite bow’s grade to the damage of the attack. Otherwise, you have disadvantage on attacks made with the composite bow.