VOLLEY OF ARROWS
In most battleﬁeld situations, archers don’t pick par-
ticular targets for their shots. Instead, large groups of
archers concentrate their shots on an area occupied by
enemy troops, ensuring by sheer volume of projectiles
that something will be hit. Despite the name of this
tactic, it can be attempted by any characters wielding
projectile weapons, such as crossbows or slings. The rule
presented here originally appeared in a simpler form in
Complete Warrior; this information updates and expands
on that material.
If at least ten archers are in a contiguous group (each
one adjacent to at least one other), they can loose a volley
of arrows as a full-round action. Rather than aiming at a
speciﬁc target, they concentrate their arrows in a general
area, hoping to hit whatever’s there. Each archer ﬁres a
single arrow, regardless of her normal rate of ﬁre.
The commander of the archers (generally an ofﬁcer or
veteran soldier, who need not be one of the archers himself)
makes a special attack roll against AC 15, using only his
base attack bonus, Intelligence modiﬁer, and any range
increment penalty. If the attack hits, arrows land in the
target area, which has the same shape as the archers in the
group. For example, if two rows of ﬁve archers hit with an
arrow volley, arrows land in a 2-square-by-5-square area.
An arrow volley that misses its intended target still
lands somewhere. Refer to the diagram on page 158 of
the Player’s Handbook to determine the misdirection of the
attack. Since the target area is larger than a single square,
the archers’ commander must designate one square at or
near the center of his formation to correspond to the target
square in the diagram. It is entirely possible for an arrow
volley to be slightly off target yet still hit a portion of the
target area because the area in which the volley lands may
overlap the intended target.
Any creature in a square where an arrow lands takes
damage from the arrow unless it makes a DC 15 Reﬂex save.
Modiﬁers might apply to the save DC, as noted in Table
4–2 below. Each arrow deals normal damage, including
Strength modiﬁers if appropriate.
Table 4–2: Arrow Volley Save DC Modifiers
Situation DC Modiﬁer
Enhancement bonus of arrow +bonus*
Every range increment after the first –2
between target and most distant archer
At least half the archers don’t have –2
line of sight to target square
*Apply the lowest bonus among all the arrows.
For example, ten 1st-level warriors wielding longbows each
ﬁre a single masterwork arrow as part of a volley against
a target area 150 feet away from the most distant archer.
Assuming the commander makes her attack roll to hit the
designated area, each creature in the target square takes 1d8
points of damage, with a DC 14 Reﬂex save to avoid this
damage (base DC 15, –2 because the square is two range
increments away from the most distant archer, +1 for the
enhancement bonus from the masterwork quality).
INDIRECT FIRE VERSUS DIRECT FIRE
A typical volley of arrows is ﬁred in a high arc, rather than
directly at the target square. This kind of attack requires
additional vertical clearance to accomplish, making a
volley difﬁcult or even impossible in most dungeon
environments. The top of the arc reaches a height of 10
feet per range increment (or fraction thereof) of the volley.
A volley of arrows ﬁred from longbows at a target 450 feet
distant reaches a height of 50 feet (since 450 feet is more
than four range increments for a longbow).
Because of this arc, an indirect volley can ignore cover
(even total cover) between the archers and the target, as long
as the arc is high enough to clear the cover. For instance, a
20-foot-high wall midway between volleying archers and a
target square 300 feet away offers no protection against the
volley. A volley cannot ignore total cover within 10 feet of
the nearest archer or within 10 feet of the target square;
such cover prevents a volley attack entirely.
It’s possible to ﬁre a volley of arrows as a direct ﬁre
attack, rather than an indirect ﬁre attack. Such an attack
is not capable of targeting areas behind the enemy’s front
line and may not ignore any cover between the archers
and the target area.
Archers delivering a direct ﬁre volley can target a square
only if each character participating in the volley can draw
at least one straight line between his square and the target
area without being blocked by cover.
Archers who perform an arrow volley can focus their
attention on a smaller area than normal. This kind of attack
is called a concentrated volley and is capable of dealing a
signiﬁcant amount of damage.
To produce a concentrated volley of arrows, up to ten
contiguous archers focus their ﬁre on a particular 5-foot
square. Each archer makes a full attack, ﬁring as many
arrows as he chooses (and is capable of ﬁring).
The leader of the volley makes a special attack roll (as
noted above) against AC 20. (It is not possible to score a
critical hit with this special attack.) Success means the
volley hits the target square; failure means it hits some other
square (again, see page 158 of the Player’s Handbook). All
creatures in the target square take damage as if they were
hit by one-ﬁfth of the arrows ﬁred (1d6 points of damage per
ﬁve arrows ﬁred from shortbows, or 1d8 points of damage
per ﬁve arrows ﬁred from longbows). If the arrows don’t
all deal the same damage—because they are ﬁred from
different bows or because of damage modiﬁers that apply
to some but not all attackers—use the damage dealt by the
most arrows in the volley as the default damage value.
A target that makes a DC 15 Reﬂex save takes half
damage. Modiﬁers can adjust this save DC, as noted in
Table 4–2 above.
For example, ten 1st-level human warriors with the
Rapid Shot feat each ﬁre two masterwork arrows from a
longbow at a designated square within line of sight, 150 feet
away from the most distant warrior. If the attack succeeds,
each creature in the target square takes 4d8+4 points of
damage (one-ﬁfth of twenty arrows is four arrows), with
a DC 14 Reﬂex save to reduce this to half damage (DC 15,
–2 because the square is more than one range increment
from the farthest archer, +1 for the enhancement bonus
from the masterwork quality).
The type of damage dealt by the volley is normal for the
projectiles being ﬁred (typically piercing, for arrows). If all
arrows share the same enhancement bonus, magical prop-
erty, or other special ability that applies on damage rolls,
add this to the damage dealt by each arrow in the volley. For
example, if all arrows ﬁred in the volley described above
were +1 ﬂaming arrows ﬁred from a composite longbow (+1
Str bonus), the damage would be 4d8+8 piercing plus 4d6
ﬁre (Reﬂex half).
Special properties that don’t directly affect the arrows’
attack rolls or damage have no effect on a volley. For
instance, a volley of ten +1 seeking arrows would add +1 to the
Reﬂex save DC and +1 to the damage roll (as normal for +1
arrows), but the seeking property would have no effect.
It doesn’t do any good to have more than ten archers
focus on a single square in a single attack. Typically, larger
groups of archers divide their efforts to target additional
squares (in teams of four or more archers per square), or
split up their attacks to focus on the same square on sepa-
rate initiative counts. For instance, a group of ﬁfty archers
can target the same square with concentrated volleys on
ﬁve different initiative counts, or they can split up to cover
ﬁve different squares with concentrated volleys.