I'm wondering if it is legal to use inappropriately sized arrows for your bow.

So, does a rule exist that states whether or not a character can fire a Large arrow from a Medium bow, and simply suffer from oversize weapon penalties? (Which would nicely restrict arrow use to a singular size category difference in most cases.)
(^ Note that this is simply my expectation of what the rule would boil down to.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting that, realistically, you can use a too-long arrow, but a too-short one will prevent a full draw. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Apr 21, 2017 at 14:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Should this have the RAW tag, or are you willing to entertain house rule suggestions? The fact that you suggest a potential rule while asking if any exist makes this unclear, IMO. (Unless you literally want a yes/no answer to whether this specific rule exists.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Steve-O
    Apr 21, 2017 at 14:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Arrows that are too short force you to take wimpy half-drawn shots. Arrows that are too long mess your accuracy up. Also, arrows of inadequate girth do quite often break into splinters on release from all the tension. \$\endgroup\$
    – eimyr
    Apr 21, 2017 at 14:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Steve-O, I'm looking for a more general pointer to something concrete other than player experience. I will edit the question to allow for more clarification. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2017 at 14:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @eimyr arrows that are too long and mess up your shot is almost exactly what I was imagining in this situation. And "arrows of inadequate girth" implies too small, not too large, which feeds into an idea of this I already had, and that Zeiss Ikon also touched upon \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2017 at 14:54

2 Answers 2


Ammunition are weapons

If you read closely on the equipment chapter, you will notice that ammunition are weapons just like every other weapon, they simply have different rules governing how they should be used. Here, it says they are used with projectile weapons, so you cannot use ammunition without a projectile weapons (exceptions exists: see throwing arrows).

Every ammunition also has an entry on their weapon table for small and medium creatures separatedly. Those without an entry, use the damage from the ranged weapon or a special rule described on the ammunition's description.

This means that all rules governing weapons (sans exceptions) can be applied to ammunitions aswell, including the rule for Inappropriatedly Sized Weapons:

A weapon’s size category isn’t the same as its size as an object. Instead, a weapon’s size category is keyed to the size of the intended wielder. In general, a light weapon is an object two size categories smaller than the wielder, a one-handed weapon is an object one size category smaller than the wielder, and a two-handed weapon is an object of the same size category as the wielder.

Inappropriately Sized Weapons: A creature can’t make optimum use of a weapon that isn’t properly sized for it. A cumulative –2 penalty applies on attack rolls for each size category of difference between the size of its intended wielder and the size of its actual wielder. If the creature isn’t proficient with the weapon, a –4 nonproficiency penalty also applies.

To give a few examples:

  • A medium character wielding a medium-sized longbow with small-sized arrows would suffer a -2 penalty on his checks.

  • A medium character wielding a small-sized longbow with small-sized arrows would suffer only a -4 penalty, as the weapon is innapropriate for his size, and the ammunition being used are innapropriate for his size aswell

  • \$\begingroup\$ How would this interact with the Handed-ness increase due to inappropriate size category of the arrow? Characters are usually limited to what they can wield by this, so that you can't simply use a Colossal Greatsword with less accuracy. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2017 at 15:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ammunition are normally not wielded. So there is no rule for that. Regardless, characters are limited to one size category away from their own. A large sized dagger does not become a two-handed weapon, but a 1h weapon. So ammunition (which are the size of a dagger or smaller), shouldnt become 2h either. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 21, 2017 at 15:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, here we go: " In general, a light weapon is an object two size categories smaller than the wielder, a one-handed weapon is an object one size category smaller than the wielder, and a two-handed weapon is an object of the same size category as the wielder." \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 21, 2017 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ As for becoming smaller, there is no extra penalty for wielding small or even tiny-sized daggers, they still require one hand to use. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 21, 2017 at 15:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ You mean a Huge arrow? You simply cannot use it, it is two-size categories larger. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 21, 2017 at 15:15

Ammunition are weapons, but damage is based on the size of the bow.

I believe you could use a larger or smaller arrow than "appropriate", taking the usual penalty for inappropriately sized weapons, which is -2 per size category difference.

Note: the usual reason for using a larger weapon is to get more damage. But that doesn't work here, because arrows don't have a damage rating; instead, the damage dealt by an archer depends on the size of the bow. Bows are two-handed, so using a larger bow isn't an option usually. So, an adventurer might use a larger or smaller arrow if they were out of normal ammunition and it was an emergency, but would gain no benefit from doing so.

(Are you trying to get more damage at the expense of accuracy? Consider the Deadly Aim feat.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ The intention here would be overcoming a Wind Wall effect, and thereby dealing more damage than having the attack entirely negated. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2017 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ For bows and most projectile weapons, yes. But there are all kind of ranged weapons and ammunitions, some have specific damage (d20pfsrd.com/equipment/weapons/weapon-descriptions/ammunition/…), others will do damage as one-size different from the weapon (see d20pfsrd.com/equipment/weapons/weapon-descriptions/ammunition/…) \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 21, 2017 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras you're right, of course, but since the question only asked about bows and arrows, I didn't feel a discussion of other thrown weapons would be helpful... \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Apr 21, 2017 at 15:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @royalmurder I agree with DanB here. You're on the cusp of an X/Y problem, trying to make the solution work (How can I fire big arrows?) instead of looking for alternative solutions to the problem (How can an archer defeat a wind wall effect?). I mean, the spell wind wall says, "Arrows and bolts are deflected upward and miss," and arguing against that is really difficult, no matter how big the arrows are! Consider posing a third question (I know, right?) to address the real problem head on. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2017 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @royalmurder Fair enough. I look forward to that question. There's more than just wind wall that stops archers cold, and there aren't a lot (but there are a few!) good ways to get around them. You might also be interested my answer here (although nominally for Pathfinder, the same general ideas apply.) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23, 2017 at 10:48

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