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Bows seem in terms of damage, flexibility, etc. just flat worse than the most basic of spells.

Why would I ever want to use a bow over a bolt?

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Powers deplete extremely quickly

A starting character (using SW Deluxe rules) has around 5-10 Power Points and two or three starting powers. Assuming you take Bolt (to replace the bow), one sustained Power, like Armour, Deflection or Boost Trait plus Healing (because there is literally no reason why you shouldn't take Healing). Then, you use them all during a normal combat, hitting something with Bolt every round, activating your sustained ability at the start and maintaining it constantly, and heal somebody once in a while. After four combat rounds, you have used 4 (firing Bolts) + 3 (activating Boost) + 1 (maintenance cost) + 2 (healed somebody) = 10 PP. Four combat rounds in, you're spent. And worse, you will not be able to repeat that feat for 10 hours unless you have picked up one of the regeneration Edges. But even in best case with both Edges, 2.5 hours to recover is considerably longer than the usual frequency of combat for Savage Worlds. In other words, as in other rule systems, Powers are on a nova-rest cycle, and can only be used sparingly.

Looked at it another way, a sustainable rate of PP consumption is 1 PP every hour. However, basically all powers use up PP at rates measured in combat rounds, which are 6 seconds. So of that one hour, 59 minutes, 54 seconds (or 99.83%) have to be spent not using powers to be able to use it sustainably for those 6 seconds.

A bow, on the other hand, can give you those 2D6 damage per round for much longer. 20 arrows (the max fitting in the quiver given in the rulebook) cost 10$ and weigh 4, negligible even on a character with the minimum D6 Strength for a bow, and actually last you an average of 40 combat rounds distributed over several fights, because you can recover half of them after a fight. I've had lots of 4-round fights in Savage Worlds, but I believe never a 20-round one where the arrow capacity of the archer would have ever been a problem.

Personal aside: I have in fact personally experienced this issue first-hand, playing an archer with Arcane Background and a Bolt power. Over the adventure, I fired my bow several times. I could afford to use Bolt once, because my PP had by far not regenerated enough between the fights to give me wiggle room above the use of Deflect in every fight. My experience was literally the other way round: Why would anyone take Bolt when you can have a Bow? And it was mirrored by players I GMed for. One person, playing a character built as an Elder Scrolls conjuration mage who summoned arms and armor instead of carrying any, actually went and looted an enemy weapon because they realized they couldn't use their magic for any length of time.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Combine the two worlds and use Smite to juice a quiver full of arrows for +2 damage. Unlike Bolt, a bow can be further enhanced with Edges like "Marksman" and "Trademark Weapon". \$\endgroup\$
    – Blaze
    May 1 at 22:30
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Because it fits your character concept.

Why do real people use bows instead of Bolt powers? Because they don't have access to Bolt powers.

Your setting might not have powers, and even if it does, your character might not. If it doesn't make sense to have them, don't take them. Arcane Origins imply a whole messy set of assumptions about your character's identity.

On the other hand, it might fit your setting and character concept to use a bow as a power. If you're using Savage Worlds to play, say, Avengers, and everyone has powers, and you're Hawkeye, it would make perfect sense for you to take powers representing your theme of "can do ridiculous things with a bow". Use Bolt for your normal armor-piercing arrows, Blast for a grenade arrow, Stun for a flashbang, etc. This works well as a set of powers because it's not like someone else can steal your bow and now they're Hawkeye. Narratively, the bow might as well be a magic wand.

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