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I know, I know, dual-wielding a bow would be near impossible to manage with the basic races (human, elf, dwarf etc). But, what if you were playing a monster race that had four hands such as a Thri-kreen? Is dual-wielding bows then allowed, and if so at what restrictions? Are there any supplements/rules/feats/special abilities out there that state this or would it be treated the same as dual-wielding a typical melee weapon?

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Since you mention Thri-kreens, this question is appropriate: – Adriano Varoli Piazza Dec 19 '13 at 18:03
up vote 15 down vote accepted

The Monster Manual Shows How a 4-handed Creature Wields 2 Bows

If the creature has 2 or more pairs of hands, the feat Multiweapon Fighting (MM 304) lets it use each pair of hands to use 1 bow, each at a -4 penalty to attack rolls.

If the creature has 2 or more pairs of hands and lacks the feat Multiweapon Fighting, the creature suffers the standard -6 penalty to the primary hand's weapon attack rolls and the standard -10 penalty to its offhand weapon attack rolls.

Because the feats Improved Multiweapon Fighting (SS 36), Greater Multiweapon Fighting (SS 36), and Perfect Multiweapon Fighting (ELH 63) allow an increasing number of off-hand attacks, it can be inferred that the creature would always be able to make iterative attacks with its primary hand's weapon during a full attack but would need the Multiweapon Fighting feat and then the aforementioned feats to make multiple offhand weapon attacks with each weapon during that same full attack. Even when using bows.

The Monster Manual's xill (259-60) shows how this is done.

As a 5 HD outsider, the xill's Base Attack Bonus is +5, and with its Dexterity of 16 for a +3 modifier, it should have a ranged attack bonus of +8, which it does during a standard attack. But when employing two bows, as it does in its full attack, its ranged attack bonus drops to +4. If one includes the penalties being reduced via the xill's feat Multiweapon Fighting, the penalties for creatures employing two bows without the feat Multiweapon Fighting appear to be -6 for the primary hand and -10 for the off hand, which, according to Table 8-10: Two-Weapon Fighting Penalties (PH 160) are the normal penalties for two-weapon fighting.

Unlike the symmetrical archery extraordinary ability of the arrow demon or the we're-just-going-to-make-it-up feats nonability of the marilith (which seriously says that "with its natural abilities, a marilith’s Multiweapon Fighting feat allows it to attack with all its arms at no penalty" then leaves those natural abilities undefined) (MM 44-5), the xill is untouched by creative license in his multihanded-yet-using-weapons full attack line, providing a relatively pure sample.

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There are no statements anywhere that you cannot do it, and there is precedence: The SRD mentions that some thrown weapons (shuriken and a handful of others, iirc) are treated as light weapons. Moreover, Arrow Demons do exactly that, though mind you, monster classes can do all sorts of silly things. Even further, mini-crossbows explicitly allow dual wielding.

So, RAW, yes, it looks like you can. Always consult your DM, obviously.

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Arrow Demons have an extraordinary ability called Symmetrical Archery that permits this at a -2 penalty for each attack. I suspect that you technically can do this without any special feat, at a -10 penalty -- you need to use an off hand for each attack, and I don't believe the feat Multiweapon Attack covers two- handed weapons, so each would be an off-hand attack. It is arguable that each hand should be counted cumulatively, for a -16 for the attack that uses your single primary hand and -20 for the one that uses two off hands (you only ever get one primary hand).

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I defer to Hey I Can Chan's answer, which is better supported than my own. – Epiphanis Dec 15 '13 at 12:23

No. How could you? Let's step away from looking for tea leaves in the rules for a moment and look at the real world for a moment. When someone shoots with a bow, they stand with one arm out, holding the body of the bow, and the other arm back at their jaw, heading turned to the side and looking down the shaft of the arrow to aim. Where could someone even with another pair of arms hold a second bow? If the bow is short and the second pair of arms came out of the lower torso, they might hold it in front of their navel, but even so, the four-armed archer would have no ability to aim the second bow.

To be able to fire two bows at once, at a minimum, you'd need:

  • Two independently focusing pairs of eyes (double binocular vision). Independent single eyes (like a chameleon) won't give you the necessary depth perception to shoot accurately.
  • Being able to turn your head very far, like an owl.
  • Both arms come out of your torso at the same height.
  • Be completely double-jointed in your arms and hands. People whose joints allow that much motion probably lack the constitution to become adventurers.

So, hey, if you really want to do it and can convince your DM to introduce a race/mutant that meets those requirements, go ahead.

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OP did not ask about how realistic it was. Your commentary is also predicated on a somewhat faulty assumption. Ancient bow warfare was not conducted like our modern archery tournaments. It involved a lot more "instinct" shooting, instead of sight and aim. There are even some modern recreations of this. – Wesley Obenshain Jul 20 '14 at 21:11

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