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This article is about an older version of DF.
See Weapon for a general overview of weapons and related information.
Sketch by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1500

Crossbows are the only native ranged weapon available to dwarves (although one can also acquire blowguns and bows through trading or looting of failed sieges). While more difficult to set up than melee weapons, crossbows have the distinct advantage of allowing dwarves to fight at range, often killing enemies before they can enter melee distance. They are thus an excellent support weapon, especially if you have already filled out your meat shields melee squad(s).


Crossbows can be made from a variety of materials, be they wood, bone or metal. Wooden and bone crossbows are made at a dedicated bowyer's workshop using the bowyer skill, whereas metal crossbows are made at a metalsmith's forge using the weaponsmithing skill. Making a crossbow from bone takes only one bone off a stack.

Crossbows shoot bolts, which are made in stacks of 25 (for wood and metal) or 5 (for bones); wooden and bone bolts are made at a craftsdwarf's workshop, metal bolts are made at a metalsmith's forge.

Ranged combat[edit]

Crossbows shoot bolts as their ammunition, and will engage targets up to 20 tiles away, including shooting down z-levels. Shot bolts may miss the target and fly a bit further than intended, potentially striking another foe (but never a friendly soldier on the other side).

The material that the crossbows are made of are irrelevant to ranged combat, where the quality of the craftsmanship and skill of the marksdwarf determine accuracy, and the quality and material of the bolts themselves (metal being better than bone being better than wood) determines damage. If you are confident your melee soldiers can keep your marksdwarves safe from melee engagements and have a skilled bowyer, then easily-produced, high-quality wooden or bone crossbows are excellent equipment for your marksdwarves.

As can be expected, targets that are stationary are much easier to hit then those that are moving. Since marksdwarves can down targets at range, they do a much better job taking down fleeing thieves and goblin ambushes that your regular soldiers might not be able to catch.

Melee combat[edit]

Nonetheless, marksdwarves that are approached by enemies will engage in melee combat with them, using the butt of their crossbows like hammers. Because of this it is useful to cross-train your dwarves with hammering skill, so that they will be better able to stand their ground in a fight, but a marksdwarf fighting a similarly armed and armored enemy with a melee weapon will usually lose either way. Focusing their training in defensive skills such as Blocking and Dodging is much more convenient, since it lets them at least hold off the enemy long enough to give a soldier more suited for melee combat a chance to surprise the enemy and dispatch them quickly.

The denser the material, the more damage a crossbow butt-strike will do in melee combat. Metal, specifically copper with its SOLID_DENSITY of 8930, performs the best and feather tree wood the worst. Silver crossbows are even better, but these can only be acquired through trade and rarely have good quality multipliers. Equipping your fortress guard with light wooden crossbows will reduce the severity of the beatings they deliver while still allowing them to pincushion enemy soldiers with masterwork steel bolts.


Crossbows require bolts to fire, otherwise they are tantamount to useless. Bolts are typically carried in quivers, which can be made of leather from leatherworking, obtained from caravans, or as goblinite.

When shot, one of two things will happen: either the bolt will shatter on impact with the ground or the target, or it will stay whole and, when all's said and done, be retrievable. This is a bit difficult, however, as shot bolts are automatically forbidden by default; in the orders screen, under [F]orbid, you can change it so that shot ammunition is automatically claimed. Otherwise, the easiest way to reclaim spent ammunition is to find them in the stocks screen and unforbid them.

Military barracks for marksdwarves require archery targets for training. Bolts will be a constant demand from a training marksdwarf squad; it is recommended to create a large stock of wooden bolts for training purposes, and reserve metal bolts for actual combat use.


Hunters use crossbows when hunting; migrant hunters automatically arrive with a free crossbow and a small number of bolts, and hunters will automatically pick one up from your ammunition stockpile when they go hunting, as well as the necessary quiver and bolts. Hunters have a special section in the military screen, from which you can modify their ammunition allotment. Disabling the hunting labor will cause them to drop their weapon and equipment at the nearest applicable stockpile, and is absolutely necessary if you have embarked in a particularly fun location. Hunters usually give up on hunting if they run out of carried ammunition.

Forging and Melting[edit]

  • Metal crossbows cost one metal bar to forge, or three adamantine wafers.
  • When a non-adamantine metal crossbow is melted down, it will return 0.9 metal bars, for an efficiency of 90%.
  • When an adamantine crossbow is melted down, it will produce 0.9 wafers, for an efficiency of 30%


  • If squad is assigned multiple ammo types, dwarves with "individual choice ranged" carry wrong ammoBug:1374.
  • Crossbows can regularly pierce even adamantine armor with wooden bolts. Copper and other low-grade metals can do so virtually every time.Bug:5516

See Also[edit]


Ranged and ammunition
Blowgun and blowdart · Bow and arrow · Crossbow and bolt
Flail · Mace · Maul · War hammer · Whip
Edged (slashing)
Edged (piercing)
Dagger · Morningstar · Pick · Pike · Spear
See also: Attack types