I'm playing a ranger with a longbow. I need to be able to switch hit so I'm trying to pick the strongest possible melee weapon. The obvious choice would be a greatsword. As far as I can tell, there isn't anything rules wise preventing me from using a greatsword and a longbow, but that's completely ridiculous. I would be carrying around two weapons as tall (or taller) than I am. The greatsword is pretty much a polearm, an over the shoulder weapon.

The obvious, realistic answer would be a short sword, but I'm hoping to do better than 1D6, especially with a strength of 13. But even the longsword is well over half my height (5'2", it's a historical Oriental Adventures game). That still seems impractical. I'd like to take a trident for fluff reasons, but that's a 4 foot pole.

Is this purely a DM judgement call or are there any rules to constrain realistic weapon choices? (other than weight) I've tagged 3.5 but I'm just looking for any objective guidelines, as we're playing in a mashup of multiple editions plus OSR and Fate. They do not need to be from 3.5 specifically.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question's fine. Answer or don't answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Sep 7, 2014 at 13:15

2 Answers 2


DM Call (But they shouldn't do anything)

Is this purely a DM judgement call or are there any rules to constrain realistic weapon choices?

Realistic, by what standard? It's unrealistic to have a weapon strapped to your back while using a different one? A longbow that's unstrung is essentially a bowstaff, which is a long piece of wood. You don't carry a longbow strung 24/7 if we're being realistic, as it's bad for the bow and the string.

Unless the DM is making you string your bow regularly, we're already not being realistic. As for a Greatsword strapped to your back, they didn't do that a whole lot in actual war. Shorter swords were on the hip typically (faster draw), and a sword that's actually this large is also really heavy and you don't want it strapped to your back all day. In fact...

Scabbards were never worn across one's back in European, Near East, or Indian military cultures and depictions of such are a modern invention and have enjoyed great popularity in fiction and fantasy, to the point that they are widely believed to be a Medieval invention.

So there's not a problem putting the bow there, since the sword probably isn't there anyway. If you start talking about Halberds or reach type pole weapons, there isn't a practical way to strap them to your back because they're too big and would throw your center of gravity off in a fight. But just how badly do you want to worry about modeling these kind of details?

3.5 is not a fully realistic game, nor does it try to be. This is the kind of thing that if you start creating rulings on which weapons people can use with which other weapons and how they have to store them, you bog the game down in minutiae to the point that the actual gameplay is damaged.

You're playing a hero in a world of magic, who can defeat demons, immortal undead, and ageless dragons. If you can do that, you can probably find a way to transport a sword and a bow at the same time.


There are no such rules. As Tridus points out, the game just isn't even remotely realistic, it's heroic fantasy, very high-magic heroic fantasy at that. A first level human barbarian can outrun Usain Bolt’s world-record sprinting speed— at will, without making any kind of check, for several minutes on end, while wielding a battleaxe, wearing chain, and carrying fifty-odd pounds of assorted other gear, and at worst will find himself briefly Fatigued as a result (good chance he won’t even be Fatigued, though). This is what feats (Dash, Run) and traits (Quick) can do.

Even if you wanted to houserule something like this in, which is very ill-advised because mundane warriors are already struggling mightily under “realism taxes” compared to the magic characters (even though the game isn’t realistic in the least), the game provides absolutely no metric for managing this. You’d have to houserule some quality for each weapon in the game, and there are a lot of them. It’s also worth noting that the weights of basically every object in the game are a bit higher than reality, which was a nod towards how cumbersome each object is.

As Doug points out, the real reason a ranger doesn’t want a greatsword is because it's wasted on his low Strength.

But I’ll go further: you don't want any melee weapon, regardless of how convenient it is or isn’t to carry around. You’re an archer, all your feats are for archery, the bulk of your money is spent on archery, and so on. You will never be effective in melee. After the first handful of levels, it will be detrimental to try.

Sure, get a dagger for utility purposes; later on, it’s useful to have an adamantine dagger, since it's good for digging and breaking things.

But if you’re ever trying to stab any real threat with that dagger, you, and most likely the rest of your party, are probably going to die. Stabbing is a tough gig, and archery is tougher. You’re going to need to focus on your thing, and without that focus on the other, you won’t be able to do it well enough.

The real answers, as an archer, are positioning, coordination, and if all else fails, magic. Numerous ranger spells allow you to use ranged attacks while in melee yourself; arrow mind from Spell Compendium is a particularly good one.


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