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Archery is the combat skill associated with all ranged combat, as well as the name given to using ranged weapons in general. Its exact function is unknown, except that it has been shown to decrease the probability of an enemy dodging a ranged attack. It serves as the ranged counterpart of the Fighter skill.
In terms of weapons, archery encompasses the crossbow, the bow, the blowgun and anything a creature has thrown at another. Out of these, the crossbow is the only one available to dwarves outside of trading, looting hostiles, strange moods or modding; as such, this skill will be most relevant to your marksdwarves.
In order to engage in archery, a dwarf needs five things: a ranged weapon; a quiver and ammunition; proper labor/military assignments; and a target. For further information, see the archery target page.
Dwarves will fire at targets 25 tiles away and are able to engage targets that are up to 3 z-levels up or down without any loss in firing distance.[Verify]
Assignment of ranged weapons is done through the military equipment screen (m-e). If you only have a few ranged weapons, military squads get first pick, and then hunters can choose from the leftovers. Squads can be assigned a particular type of weapon, but hunters cannot be controlled so finely.
Assignment of ammunition is done through the military ammunition screen (m-f) for both military squads and hunters. Ammunition must match the weapon: bolts for crossbows, arrows for bows.
A living target can be selected from the squad menu by selecting the squad(s) you wish to have attack and then selecting the attack target. You can then select a single target with the cursor, a number of targets by enabling selection by rectangle, or selecting a number of targets through a list. Note that if your dwarves don't have the required ammunition, quiver, or bow/blowgun/crossbow, the squad members missing these components will attempt to engage the target in melee. There is no way to force dwarves to only attack from range, but adequately equipped dwarves stand the best chance of remaining at range.
Subsections of Archery
Crossbow – Ranged Ammunition – Quivers – Archery Target – Crossbowman – Hunters – Ranger
Effects of Skill Leveling
Higher skills in the bowman, crossbowman, or blowgunner attribute equates with greater accuracy and higher rates of fire. In order to increase the crossbowman/blowgunner/bowman skill, a dwarf must fire at something; if it misses a target, it will gain the same amount of experience points just as if it had been hit.
Firing at live targets gives much more experience points than firing on inanimate archery targets. The difference is about fourfold. Tests found that by firing around 67 practice bolts, which provided 7.5 experience for each shot at the archery target; the same experience total is gained by firing 17 bolts at a live target, providing 30 experience per bolt.
Value in the Military
Dwarves using archery have their place in the military: They may fire at a distance without the threat of being attacked by melee weapons or by being mauled to death. They can fire through allies without hitting them, allowing them to support friendly warriors from behind. They may fire from higher or lower Z-levels than the target intended. Archery targets must be engaged from the same Z-level and with no empty spaces in between the ranger and target. They may fire at enemy targets through fortifications and over empty spaces although their usefulness is thwarted by proper armor and tactics.
Hunters use the archery skill and will use ranged weapons in general.
Archers will use their bows, or other ranged weapons, as melee weapons if they run out of ammunition, although regardless of having ammunition or not, they will prefer to run towards the enemy anyway. Crossbow melee uses the hammerman skill while bows and blowguns use the swordsman skill.
It is possible to equip melee and ranged weapons simultaneously, dwarves can usefully switch between weapons in the middle of fights - perhaps sometimes to the wrong one.
Issues with Archery
- If you assign both arrows and bolts to the same group dwarves who are holding a crossbow may grab arrows and dwarves who are holding a bow may grab bolts.
- The way weapons get assigned is bugged. Bug:535 The basic problem is this: when a hunter which is equipped with a crossbow goes on duty as a marksdwarf it will look for a different crossbow rather than the one it is currently carrying. One workaround is to have lots of spare weapons.
- If archers don't equip ammo a remedy may be increasing their dedicated ammo counts. This is done by going into military screen: m, ammunition: f and raising ammo counts for all squads by pressing NUM PLUS. The ammo limit is the limit for the whole squad, so make sure the limit is high enough that there are at least 50-100 bolts per dwarf, depending on whether training and combat ammo are separated. Note that dwarves will fill a quiver until it has at least 25 ammo.
- If an archery target is enabled to training a squad but no one of the squad is willing to use it, you can encourage them by disabling all their labors and stationing them near the target. When they come close, remove the "station" order. This issue happens more often to untrained archers.
- Assigning archers to fire from the top of a wall may result in the archers climbing down to engage the target in melee combat.
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