Crossbows differ from bows in a number of ways. They use different ammunition, projectiles are loaded instead of nocked, and they provide a number of advantages and disadvantages compared to the standard bow.
Crossbows are ready to shoot as soon as a bolt has been loaded, and will stay ready to shoot, whereas all bows have to be manually drawn before shooting an arrow.
A readied crossbow does not affect walking speed unless the crossbow is raised and kept in its firing mode without letting the bolt go,[note 1] whereas a readied, fully drawn bow slows down the wielder.
Crossbows fire projectiles at a higher velocity than most bows, making them better for hitting moving targets.[note 2]
Ammunition varieties also include exploding bolts in each of the 3 elements (fire, ice, and lightning).
Crossbows are more powerful than most bows, with the most basic crossbow having the same base damage as a Daedric Bow.
Crossbows have a higher base value than most bows, with the standard crossbow having a base value of 120 , and with the standard Enhanced version beginning at 200 . The Dwemer versions are significantly more valuable, with the standard Dwemer version having a base value of 350 , and the Enhanced Dwemer version starts at 550 . By comparison, the Dwemer Bow starts at only 270 .
Crossbows can help the Dragonborn raise their Archery level much faster than most bows.
Zooming in and slowing down time can be done with crossbows by pressing the corresponding button, provided the relevant perks are selected.
Crossbows have a built-in 50% chance to stagger opponents. If combined with the Power Shot perk, it will stagger 75% of the time.
The Enhanced variety ignores 50% of enemy armor.
Bashing with a crossbow will cause a greater stagger chance than standard bows, as well as dealing more damage than bashing with a standard bow.
Crossbows can be given to followers, and there is a chance that the follower will prefer to use them instead of bows.
Some followers may attempt to fire a crossbow but never be able to shoot a single bolt. Additionally, they must have at least one bolt in their inventory to use a crossbow, and they will use one bolt per shot. They will stop using a crossbow when all the bolts are gone. In comparison, followers do not actually use any arrows from their inventory to shoot with a bow.
There are only four types of crossbow but all of them can be forged, whereas many bows cannot be forged. Furthermore, all crossbows benefit from either Steel or Dwarven smithing perks, whereas not all bows benefit from smithing perks. Those that do not benefit from smithing perks cannot be upgraded past "Flawless" quality without a potion or enchantment that improves smithing.
Enhanced crossbows can still be enchanted. If combined with the Extra Effect perk, it is possible to have up to three effects at once.
By the time a kill camera is finished, the crossbow will have already reloaded itself ready to fire. This is because crossbows do not need to be manually drawn.
Faster recovery after falling, unlike normal bows which must be nocked and drawn again.
After the Dragonborn joins the Dawnguard, 400 bolts, of which slightly more than 80% are steel bolts, can be inexpensively purchased per trip to Fort Dawnguard at any time. These bolts cannot be purchased if the Dragonborn later sides with the Volkihar Clan.
Crossbows reload slower than it takes to knock and draw bows.[note 3]
Crossbows are heavy to carry, with their weight ranging from 14 for a standard Crossbow to 21 for an Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow. In comparison, the weight of bows range from 5 to 20 .
The Dragonborn may be briefly vulnerable to melee attack during reload, since reloading cannot be cancelled and it is impossible to run. This can be avoided if the Dragonborn keeps moving and bashes with the crossbow.
Crossbows have a shorter default arc range than a standard bow, sometimes requiring the wielder to aim higher.
Because holding down the block control is not required for bashing, Stamina can be drained quickly.
There are only up to four types of crossbows to choose from whereas there are a wider variety of bows.
Bolts are crafted in groups of only 10 while crafting arrows produces 24 at a time.
Crossbows can only be forged at Fort Dawnguard, whereas standard bows can be crafted at any blacksmith forge, with the prerequisite perks and smithing materials.
Crossbows can only be purchased at Fort Dawnguard, whereas standard bows can be purchased from many merchants.
Fired bolts are less likely to be retrievable than arrows, even with the Hunter's Discipline perk.
Bolts are much smaller than arrows, meaning that ones that miss a target may either be difficult to find or more easily clip through geometry and gaps in the cell.
Unenchanted steel bolts deal 10 and Dwarven bolts deal 14 , whereas the damage from arrows range from 4 (not including Practice Arrows) to 25 . By using the best arrows, high-end damage bows may offset the damage bonus of crossbows per shot, albeit only slightly. However, explosive bolts are significantly easier to acquire than the highest damage arrows and can negate this advantage in damage, but the extra damage of exploding bolts is fixed, subject to the target's magic and elemental resistance, and does not benefit from sneak attack multipliers.
Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow – After finding a Dwarven schematic for Sorine Jurard, a heavier Dwarven crossbow is available for creation and purchase. It has a combat advantage of ignoring half of a target's armor rating when detracting from its health. It can be upgraded at a grindstone with a dwarven metal ingot. It is the strongest crossbow available to the Dragonborn.
Two types of crossbow bolts are available—steel bolts and dwarven bolts, along with their magical variants. Crossbow bolts can be created at a forge, with one firewood and one of the appropriate metal ingot. Recipes yield bolts in batches of ten.
Unlike arrows, crossbow bolts are stored in a quiver at the hip.
There are also exploding bolts which can only be made by finding their respective schematics. There are exploding fire, ice, and shock bolts which do 10 damage of whatever element the bolt is. These can be found by doing the "Ancient Technology" quests for Sorine Jurard. Doing so unlocks them for forging and purchasing.
This section contains bugs related to Crossbows (Dawnguard). Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:
Please reload an old save to confirm if the bug is still happening.
If the bug is still occurring, please post the bug report with the appropriate system template 360 / XB1 , PS3 / PS4 , PC / MAC , NX , depending on which platform(s) the bug has been encountered on.
Be descriptive when listing the bug and fixes, but avoid having conversations in the description and/or using first-person anecdotes: such discussions belong on the appropriate forum board.
Click to see the list of bugs encountered
PC 360 Movement while having a crossbow loaded will occasionally slow movement even though the fire command is not being held.
PC (Fix) 360 (Fix) Sheathing the crossbow or firing a bolt may fix this.
PC 360 A graphical glitch in first-person view while reloading a crossbow shows the left arm being half there, as if the inner forearm was removed.
PC 360 While in third person and reloading the crossbow, the bolt is hovering just out of the Dragonborn's hand.
PC 360 Standard followers do not fire when given a dwarven crossbow or enhanced dwarven crossbow. However, normal crossbows and enhanced crossbows function normally.
PC 360 When a crossbow is equipped, the quiver for the bolts hovers in mid-air instead of sitting on the hip.
PC 360 PS3 Bolts do not sink into enemy bodies. The metal tip can be seen just touching their body, but not penetrating.
PC The crossbow, no matter which type, does not shoot.
360 NX Swapping from a crossbow to another weapon in third person will sometimes cause the sword and shield to be held like the crossbow.
360 (Fix) NX (Fix) Swinging the sword or blocking may fix this. If the incorrect animation was triggered while walking, stop walking.
PC 360 When you get a kill camera when firing a crossbow directly while being loaded, the crossbow will not fire and the Dragonborn will just stand there for several seconds before the kill camera fades.
PC 360 PS3 Occasionally performing a bash attack with a crossbow will make the noise of a bolt hitting a target and do as much damage as a normal crossbow shot.
360 PS3 When at close range, a kill camera may activate, treating the crossbow as if it were a one-handed sword.
PS3 When standing half way in a body of water, shooting the crossbow may result in rapid launching of bolts.
360 PS4 When first starting the game or loading a save with a crossbow equipped, there is a third person glitch where a bolt appears between the Dragonborn's middle and ring finger on their right hand.
360 (Fix) PS4 (Fix) Ready then sheath the crossbow, change weapons, or go airborne to fix this.
PS4 Speaking to a character who is aiming a crossbow may cause them to stop firing and freeze. They will still respond if spoken to, however.
PS4 (Fix) Leaving the area and returning will return the character to their normal routine.
↑Holding down the attack command while holding a loaded crossbow will put the crossbow in firing mode which will reduce walking speed.
↑Though the bolts travel at a higher velocity than arrows, archers will have to compensate for gravity at long range more than they would with bows. This is due to the bow's tendency to arc arrows slightly upward. The crossbow does not share this, and fires bolts straight forward.
↑The Creation Kit quantifies the speed of both bows and crossbows as "1" despite one being faster than the other, as they rely upon different papyrus scripts to calculate the speed of animations and their relative triggers and variables.
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