Shortbow DND: Stats, Tips, and Ultimate Guide

Whether you’re taking down a rampaging ogre or picking off a pesky orc from afar, a shortbow is a versatile and essential weapon for any would-be hero.

But what makes the shortbow so special?

In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into everything you need to know about this iconic weapon.

What Is a Shortbow in DND?

(This post may have affiliate links. Please see my full affiliate disclosure)
Woman Elf with a bow and arrow - Shortbow DND
I made this image – Shortbow DND

A shortbow is a weapon in Dungeons and Dragons that is perfect for characters who want to deal high damage from a distance without sacrificing mobility.

As the name suggests, a shortbow is shorter than a longbow.

This makes it easier to carry and use in confined spaces.

Thanks to its compact size, a shortbow can be easily drawn and fired in rapid succession, allowing archers to unleash a hail of arrows on their enemies.

Additionally, shortbows are easier to aim than longbows.

Making them perfect for characters who want to focus on precision over power. Whether you’re looking for a powerful ranged weapon or a sleek and maneuverable bow, a shortbow is a great choice for any archer in Dungeons and Dragons.

Shortbow DND Equipment Stats

Here is a table with all the stats for the shortbow in DND:

TypeSimple, Ranged, Two-Handed
AmmunitionNeed Ammunition
Weight2 lbs
Damage TypePiercing
Cost25 gold pieces
Shortbow DND Stats

Types of DND Shortbows

There are several different types of shortbows in DND.

Mostly, the differences come down to size, materials, and magical properties. Of course, a DM can homebrew any kind of shortbow for their own campaigns.

Different Sizes

In Dungeons and Dragons, the shortbow is a common weapon.

While there is only one official shortbow, they can come in different sizes that affect the bow’s weight, cost, and damage.

For example, a small shortbow deals 1d4 damage, while a large shortbow might deal 1d8 damage.

The size of the bow also determines the range at which it can be used effectively. A small shortbow has a range of approximately 30/60 feet, while a large shortbow has a range of 100/320 feet.

When choosing a shortbow for your character, keep in mind the size and weight of the bow, as well as the intended purpose.

If you need a powerful weapon for long-range combat, choose a large shortbow.

If you need a lightweight and easily maneuverable weapon for shorter-range combat, choose a small shortbow.

Different Materials

A DND shortbow can be made out of different materials, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.

The standard shortbow is made of wood, which is relatively light and cheap, but also easy to break. For a sturdier option, stone or metal can be used, though these materials are much heavier and more expensive.

Adamantine is one of the hardest metals, making it almost impossible to damage, but it is also a more expensive option.

In terms of weight, Yew is a lighter wood, while Ash is heavier.

As for price, Diamond is usually the most expensive material, while mundane options like Oak or Pine are relatively cheap.

Ultimately, the type of material used for a DND shortbow will impact its weight, price, and durability.

So, choose wisely based on your needs.

Magic Shortbow

Magic shortbows are powerful weapons that can be wielded by both adventurers and enemies alike.

Though they may appear to be nothing more than simple bows, these weapons are infused with magic that allows them to perform all sorts of impressive feats.

For example, a magic shortbow might be able to shoot arrows with such force that they can pierce through metal armor.

Or, it might be able to fire multiple arrows at once, making it ideal for taking down multiple foes.

There are many different types of magic shortbows, each with its own unique abilities.

Here are a few examples:

  • Flaming Shortbow DND. This bow is imbued with fire magic, allowing it to set arrows ablaze. These flaming projectiles can deal extra damage to enemies, and can even ignite flammable objects.
  • Frost Shortbow DND. This bow is laced with frost magic, making arrows fired from it incredibly cold. These frigid arrows can slow down enemies and even cause them to become encased in ice.
  • Shock Shortbow DND. This potent weapon is infused with electricity, allowing it to fire Shock Arrows that can stun and electrocute opponents.
  • Venomous Shortbow DND. This deadly bow is coated in poison, making every arrow it fires poisonous. These toxic arrows can deal serious damage to an opponent, and can even prove deadly if enough poison is injected.

Whether used for good or evil, these powerful weapons are sure to strike fear into the hearts of foes and bring victory to those who wield them.

How Do You Use a Shortbow?

A shortbow is a simple ranged weapon that any character can use, as long as they have proficiency in simple weapons.

To use a shortbow, first select the quiver from your inventory.

Draw back the string and align the quiver with your target. Release the quiver to fire an arrow. In one attack move, you can draw the quiver and shoot it.

That means:

  • You need ammunition
  • You need distance
  • You need at least one attack action

The shortbow is a versatile weapon that can be used in medium to long-range combat.

It is also lightweight and easy to carry, making it a good choice for adventurers who are on the move. With a little practice, you will be able to master the shortbow and use it to take down your enemies.

Who Can Use A Shortbow in DND?

Here is a chart that shows who can and can’t use a shortbow:

Character ClassesCan They Use a Shortbow?
BarbarianYes (even while raging)
WizardYes (with the War Mage Ruby)
Chart: Who Can Use a Shortbow DND?

Ok, that’s the standard chart.

But, there is a way for any character to get proficiency with a shortbow. How? All you need to do is choose Elf as your race.

Elves automatically get proficiency with simple weapons like the shortbow.

You could also multiclass to gain access to the shortbow. So, you could multiclass as both a Sorceror and a rogue, for example.

DND Shortbow Damage

When it comes to shortbow damage, there are two ways to think about it:

  • Standard attack damage
  • Shortbow attack bonus

The standard and official attack damage is 1d6 per arrow.

That means you can deal up to 6 points of damage per attack on any target of your choice. However, there is a way to increase the damage.

Enter the shortbow attack bonus.

For example, if your Bard has proficiency with shortbows, you can then calculate damage by adding 1d6 plus your proficiency bonus.

Your proficiency level is based on your character level.

Here is a simple chart to make DND shortbow damage crystal clear:

Character LevelProficiency BonusShortbow Damage
1+21d6 +2
2+21d6 +2
3+21d6 +2
4+21d6 +2
5+31d6 +3
6+31d6 +3
7+31d6 +3
8+31d6 +3
9+41d6 +4
10+41d6 +4
11+41d6 +4
12+41d6 +4
13+51d6 +5
14+51d6 +5
15+51d6 +5
16+51d6 +5
17+61d6 +6
18+61d6 +6
19+61d6 +6
20+61d6 +6
Shortbow Damage Chart (Shortbow DND)

Shortbow vs Other Bows (Which Is Better?)

If you’re wondering how shortbows compare to other bows, this section is for you.

We’ll pit the shortbow up against:

  • The longbow
  • The crossbow

Shortbow vs Longbow

If you’re looking for pure capacity for damage, the longbow is better.

A longbow inflicts 1d8 damage compared to the shortbows 1d6. Also, the longbow has a longer range of 150/600 feet.

However, the shortbow is cheaper and lighter.

Therefore, if your priority is damage, go with the longbow. If you want a lighter weapon, choose the shortbow.

Shortbow vs Crossbow

There is not much of a difference between these two weapons.

The only real comparison to make is the damage. A crossbow deals 1d8 damage compared to 1d6 from the short bow.

In most encounters, that’s not going to be the deciding factor for victory or defeat.

What probably matters more is how you envision your DND character. Do you see your character as a shortbow fighter or a crossbow wielder?

That’s how I’d make my decision.

Personally, I’m a big fan of crossbows, so I’d lean in that direction.

Shortbow DND Ideas

Check out this list of ideas for using shortbows in DND:

  1. Ambush an enemy from above by climbing a tree and shooting down at them
  2. Fire arrows at a group of enemies from behind cover
  3. Pick off enemy archers who are attacking your party from afar
  4. Shoot an enemy in the middle of a heated battle to disrupt their fighting
  5. Fire arrows at an enemy’s mount to disable them and force them to fight on foot
  6. Use your bow to pin an enemy to a wall or piece of furniture
  7. Shoot an enemy in the leg to hamper their movement
  8. Shoot an arrow into the ground in front of an enemy to make them trip and fall
  9. Shoot multiple arrows at once using special quivers or arrow tips
  10. Target an enemy’s eyesight with well-placed shots in order to blind them
  11. Fashion makeshift explosive arrows using alchemist’s supplies or fire spells
  12. Create a distraction by shooting noise makers like tin cans or bottles
  13. Intimidate enemies with well-aimed shots that come unbelievably close to hitting them
  14. Use your knowledge of geometry and physics to ricochet arrows off surfaces and hit targets around corners
  15. Aim for small, weak points on armor like gaps in joint protection or spaces between plates
  16. Exploit natural weaknesses like dry grass or tinder-filled foliage to start fires that consume your adversaries
  17. Reduce the number of available targets by shooting the ropes holding up bridges
  18. Disperse groups of enemies by firing into their midst and causing them to scatter in different directions
  19. Snipe individual members of large groups from afar in order to destabilize and demoralize them
  20. Lob arrows over walls or other obstacles when direct line-of-sight is not available

Shortbow DND FAQ (6 Things You Need to Know)

I get so many questions about shortbows that I wanted to include these frequently asked questions.

I hope you find these answers helpful!

Is a Shortbow Dex or Strength?

As a ranged weapon, a shortbow uses the Dexterity modifier.

The Player’s Handbook says:

The ability modifier used for a melee weapon attack is Strength, and the ability modifier used for a ranged weapon attack is Dexterity. Weapons that have the finesse or thrown property break this rule.

Therefore, when attacking with a shortbow, you’d add your Dexterity bonus to the attack roll.

Is a Shortbow a Simple Weapon?

Yes, a shortbow is a simple weapon.

In Dungeons and Dragons, a simple weapon is defined as a melee weapon that doesn’t have a heavy or special property.

This includes daggers, clubs, and darts.

Simple weapons are generally the easiest to use and least expensive, making them ideal for starting adventurers or those on a tight budget.

Nearly any character and enemy can use a simple weapon.

Is a Shortbow a Finesse Weapon?

No, a shortbow is not considered a finesse weapon.

How Far Can a Shortbow Shoot?

A shortbow has a range of between 80 to 320 feet.

That means you’d want your target or enemy at least 80 feet away to properly use the weapon. Any closer and you might suffer an attack disadvantage.

The same is true if your target is farther than 320 feet.

Can You Get Your Arrows Back After You Use a Shortbow?

Yes, you can get half of your arrows back after a combat encounter.

Here’s how it works:

  • You shoot arrows during combat
  • After combat, you spend a minute searching for your arrows
  • You find and gather half of the arrows

This means that if you shoot 10 arrows, you can potentially retrieve 5 of them.

If you don’t have time to look for your arrows after a battle (say, you’re running down a mountain to escape a stampede of zombie elk), then you can’t get your arrows back.

Can You Use a Shortbow While Mounted?

Yes, you can use a shortbow while mounted.

If you’re on a horse (or any other kind of mounted animal), you can still use your shortbow during combat.

Which can come in handy when you’re an elven ranger galloping horseback through danger.

Final Thoughts: Shortbow DND

I always find shortbows fun and helpful DND weapons, especially in the earlier levels of the game.

As characters advance, they usually acquire better and more powerful weapons.



Wizards of the Coast (Players Handbook)
30 years of personal experience with DND