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No Arc in Archery
"The Archer's Paradox: Because a perfect arrow flies forever, and that's impossible. I'm Daenlin, and I have no perfect arrows."
Daenlin, owner of the shop "The Archer's Paradox", The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Projectiles, like all matter, are subject to gravity.

Therefore, while it makes sense to shoot horizontally at point blank range (which is the literal meaning of "point blank"), the shooter usually needs to fire above the target. Likewise, archers will shoot at an angle, somewhat upwards. In Real Life, group archers would fire massive volleys of arrows which functioned as a form of indirect fire, much like modern artillery.

This is often portrayed on screen incorrectly: the angle often stays the same regardless of the distance. On one hand, we have bullets and arrows that are shot straight across the battlefield and still don't fall on the ground halfway through, and scopes with the sole purpose of compensating for the screen's inferior resolution, while on the other hand, if a video game does try to portray archery realistically, often the angle stays the same regardless of the distance, so we have archers shooting upwards to hit targets right in front of them, so the arrows should really fly over them.

If the arrow is shown in a close up or slow-motion, it will always travel straight as, well, an arrow. Real arrows don't: they bend back and forth and also spin, the direction determined by the angle of the fletching (the feathers at the end of the arrow, though most are now plastic). This is often also ignored because the trope tends to occur when trying to emphasize the archer ideal; wobbles and arcs that make the Arrow Cam face up at the blank sky don't help that. Contrast that with Rain of Arrows where this trope will be averted with gusto when fired by a large faceless military unit and where it is now cool to obey the laws of physics. It also gets averted a lot in Video Games due to the fact that the player is the one firing the arrow and the technique of arcing is used as a skill challenge and to make the player feel personally competent.

Just as other tropes have transferred from the archer to the Cold Sniper, we find this can happen for firearms. For firearms, the sight is calibrated for a specific distance, 200 meters for an assault rifle, for instance. At distances up to this (ammunition-specific) limit, the deviation of the bullets path from the straight scope-line-of-sight is less than about 5 cm/2 in., so it can be ignored. Going beyond this limit, however, will cause in increasingly rapid drop of the bullet's path. If the enemy is 400 meters away, one needs already to aim way above the head. Sniper scopes have a knob to adjust the distance (among other things). This is arguably their main feature as anyone can aim for a head at 400 meters through a good scope; estimating the distance, and hence the drop, is the tricky bit. Even then one must also take the difference in altitude into account, not to mention the wind. Grenades, including those fired from Grenade Launchers, seem to be the one kind of projectile that near-universally avert this, even in video games that use Hit Scan for most firearms.

Like firearms, arrows suffer from dispersion, which is to say that the exact same weapon firing the same ammunition with the same aim will land the arrow in a slightly different place. Dispersion is often much greater in archery (especially the preindustrial kind), due to greater variation from shot to shot in the bow, the arrow, the bowstring, and the draw of the bow.

Not to be confused with The Straight and Arrow Path.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    All Genres 
  • Robin Hood is often portrayed this way. Remarkably averted in the 1950s live-action Disney movie, wherein everyone sights, then aims upward before releasing.

     Anime & Manga  
  • Averted epically in Sanzoku Ou. When ambushing a caravan, a straight arrow can be traced back to the shooter, so the main protagonist thought about everyone aiming their arrows with a very high angle, so that the arrows would seem to appear from above.
  • Bleach:
    • Played completely straight with The Quincy. Their arrows aren't physical and therefore don't follow our rules.
    • During the Hollow Bait competition after Uryu first shows up: his arrows arc at only 30 degrees when launched most of the way across Karakura, so they aren't likely to arc noticeable at thirty feet or so.
  • Digimon: Averted in the first movie. In the scene where the giant Agumon fires his fireballs at the giant bird Digimon circling above, the fireballs have a distinct ballistic curve.
  • Averted and subverted in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Borgoff manages to shot an arrow from a hand-mounted crossbow in a sideways parabolic trajectory to hit a vampire on the other side of the hill.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Possibly the only series ever to have Humongous Mecha avert this. Their BFGs can't hit Arael from orbit, so the Lance of Longinus must be sacrificed.
    • This aversion also happens in the much earlier episode which involves the use of an improvised sniper rifle against Ramiel. Even though it fires a particle beam, not a bullet, it is mentioned that the targeting system will have to compensate for the Earth's rotation, gravity and magnetic field as well as normal sniping factors due to the immense distances involved.

     Comic Books  
  • Green Arrow, while sometimes following the laws of physics, has a way of making an arrow with a standard-issue boxing glove for a head follow the same trajectory of a normal arrow with a much lighter point. It's explained at some point that the glove pops out of the previously-pointed arrowhead at the last second, allowing it to fly like a normal arrow but hit like, well, an arrow with a boxing glove attached to it.
  • Reversed in a recent Punisher comic. Frank Castle is targeted by a Skrull sniper using a laser weapon to shoot at him from over a kilometer away. Although a laser would be capable of moving in a straight line, the artist draws the beams striking at a severe angle. Grade-school geometry demonstrates the angle of the beams is not consistent with the distances described. If drawn accurately, the beams would appear almost parallel to the ground.

    Film 
  • Almost any shot where the camera follows the arrow to the target will always function this way. Notable examples can be found in The Fellowship of the Ring (where it is also at other times averted) and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
  • The Lord of the Rings series:
    • The Fellowship of the Ring: There's a classic example in an Arrow Cam shot by Legolas in which the arrow travels straight from bow to target, with the arrowhead staying dead on as though attached to a line while the back end wobbles around like a normal arrow. The cast and crew (and IMDB) have acknowledged this. They said that if they were to move the arrow in a realistic fashion, it would have required a lot more re-shoots and effects editing, and could have potentially confused the audience, or caused motion sickness. On the other hand, most of the arrows in the movies otherwise arc; for example, when the Fellowship are firing shots at the orc archers on ledges, their arrows are shown arcing upwards and just starting to fall when they hit the orcs.
    • Averted in The Two Towers, when the defenders at Helm's Deep "give them a volley" from behind the wall, arcing their fire over the wall en masse (and one arrow isn't arced enough and hits a defender on the wall square in the back, killing him)
  • Rat Race showed that you can do this with a bullet. Two characters were in a supersonic vehicle designed to break the land speed record and a bullet is fired right next to them. The bullet stays next to the vehicle for several seconds without falling (or slowing down) in the slightest.
  • The DVD commentary for Shooter notes that the film's assassination scene is inaccurate. From the distance the shot was taken, the bullet would be traveling steeply downward through the body. The director found this too gruesome and apparently unrealistic to depict.
  • King Arthur (2004) Both averted and played straight, sometimes within seconds of each other in the same scene.
  • Jennifer Garner's titular Elektra throws a sai over an extraordinary distance in defiance of gravity. Although this is not an arrow the physics involved are much the same. Throwing an object this distance would have required her to pitch it upward in an arc.
  • Wanted: Inverted to the other extreme; the Fraternity's assassins are able to make bullets curve in paths far more severely than gravity and windage would cause.
  • Nicely averted in the 2010 version of Robin Hood. Except at extreme close range, the archers always arc their shots.
  • In The Avengers, every one of Hawkeye's long-range shots shows some notable arc, which he is shown compensating for almost automatically (and in one case, without even looking at the target). One of his most impressive shots involves using the wind and the movement of the aircraft he's riding to arc an arrow into an engine of the Helicarrier from the opposite side of the airship. A close-up of an arrow flying also shows it spinning as it should be.
  • Brave doesn't have any shots at a great enough distance to require this, but still shows its work in the way arrows fire; the three champions of the other clans show errors in their technique that novices often make, and this would be noticed by any experienced archers in the audience. Also, the slow-motion close-up of Merida firing her third arrow clearly shows the arrow bending and flexing as it accelerates, as it would in real life.
  • Averted in Hercules. Iphitus points his arrow at the target straight and misses. When he complains, Hercules tells him an archer must compensate for factors like gravity and wind. Ulysses follows his instructions and hits a bulls-eye from a much greater distance.

    Literature 
  • In The Odyssey, Odysseus shoots an arrow through twelve axes (a specific kind of axe that had holes or rings in them, or something like that; the translation varies on this). It's implied that all twelve axes are of the same length and set up at the same height, and therefore in a straight line, though it's never stated how far apart they are. Since the axes are set up in a hall, it's presumably a short total distance. The bigger part of the test was being able to string the bow (which had the massive draw strength required for this feat) to begin with.
  • Averted in the Deverry cycle. Elves specifically arc their arrows, and a shapechanger is out of range because of the arc.

     Video Games  
  • Largely played straight in Bladestorm The Hundred Years War. They do arc if you fire from an extremely long distance, but most fights take place up close so you may not notice it. Averted with one ability longbowmen receive, where their shots do arc and can be fired from a much farther distance than a regular straight shot.
  • Early first person shooters with fantasy weapons, such as Heretic and Hexen, avoided gravity effects entirely; the fights took place at such close range that the computations involved were generally not worth the processing time. Besides, you were firing magic arrows.
  • The vast majority of gun-using First-Person Shooters play the trope straight with bullets. This is generally an Acceptable Break from Reality.
  • Bloodline Champions averts this for the Seeker... because the arrows disappear after a short range before gravity would be noticeable. Other examples tends to be played more straight in it.
  • In Dark Messiah the arrows DO have arcs, though it's not as pronounced as in real life. However, one rarely notices this because if they're using the bow and arrow at all, most of the time they're sniping or otherwise close enough that the arc never comes into play. If you try to fire from a reasonable distance, you will become aware that your arrows do not travel in a straight line - often at the same time you realize that you missed and your arrow attracted the guard's attention. Ouch.
  • In Warhammer Online archers always shoot at around a 30-degree angle, even in close combat(from about 5ft.)
  • Warcraft III archers always shoot at an angle. At a .15 angle, apparently...you can change it to 0 in the World Editor, or you increase the arc to truly ridiculous levels, so that if an enemy is attacking the archers in melee, and your camera is above them, the arrows are practically saying hi to you through the screen before going back down...
  • Far Cry 3 plays with this. All bullet firing weapons shoot completely straight no matter the distance, but arrows fired from the bow need to be fired at an arc at distances beyond a certain point. The bow has an attachment in the form of a sight that has multiple markers calibrated for distance.
  • A somewhat smallish plot point in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, where Shinon/Rolf has to do The Good The Bad And The Ugly and shoot the rope to prevent someone's hanging with an arrow (which is even more implausible with an arrow), and when he shoots the arrow, it goes completely straight. Though the angle he was at was above the target, he was aiming down at it, so the arrow would effectively hit the person being hanged rather than the rope.
  • In The Legend of Zelda titles, Link always fires straight. Interestingly enough, the arrows are subject to gravity in Super Smash Bros. yet he still fires parallel to the ground. Ocarina of Time, the first 3D title and thus the first to which realistic physics can apply, justified this by it being a "fairy bow", thus implicitly magical. The same in Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, where Moblin arrows do arc, but Link's don't.
  • Super Smash Bros.: the series has both cases covered as well, although the straight arrow variety tends to be magical (Pit's arrows, Zelda's Final Smash). The Cracker Launcher item from Brawl lets you adjust the angle freely. Diddy's Peanut Popgun also functions like Link's arrow in that regard, and items are all thrown at plausible angles.
  • Both used straight and averted in Suikoden. In regular combat, party members with bows fire straight shots. In army battles, however, your archers will fire in volleys. Which makes sense, really, since regular combat is fought at short range, so the arrows don't need to travel farther than a few feet. In war, they're shooting from long range.
  • Thief averts this for the most part. Garret's standard, rope, water and moss arrows follow the laws of physics, while the gas and fire arrows play the trope straight. The former can be seen as justified since it's an air-elemental arrow, while the latter is basically a medieval missile.
  • Played straight in Fable: The Lost Chapters'', where arrows fly on a flat path, then inexplicably plant themselves in the ground once they get out so far.
  • In BioShock, the crossbow item is essentially a stand-in for a sniper rifle, complete with zoom functionality. Its bolts fly perfectly straight, although there is a small time delay before they hit their targets, so it's necessary to aim slightly ahead of moving enemies. Possibly justified in that a crossbow fires its bolts with more force than just a regular bow. Frequently done with missiles as well as arrows.
  • In most Tales Series games, archers seem to shoot directly forward, unless that is, it's a technique. The 2D Tales games, especially Destiny and Phantasia don't arc at all but they probably weren't able to program it like that. However, in Tales of Vesperia, Raven shoots his arrows at angles - rather weird angles, at that.
    • Natalia also averts this somewhat. Her straight-fired special techniques aren't subject to gravity, but her normal shots are, limiting her normal range.
  • Averted to some extent in Heroes of Might and Magic V. Most archer units will normally shoot at a small angle, but when shooting over castle walls, they will aim at a much higher angle.
    • Weirdly, this arch also applies to Projectile Spells.
    • It's played straight in the first four Heroes of Might and Magic games, but then, the graphics in those games are so stylized it hardly matters.
    • The human (Haven) archers in the fifth game also have a unique ability, not found anywhere else in the series, to spread their arrows for lesser damage over an area. Strangely, this ability is not shared by any other bow-wielding units, such as undead and elven archers.
  • Dragonriders of Pern: Although you never see the actual projectile, the variables are taken into account in the otherwise horribly done game. All ranged weapons are done from a first-person point of view when everything else is 3rd person. Your aim wavers just like a normal person's would and what you fire does not go exactly where you aim it, although with the game mechanics it's usually hard to tell in which direction you missed it. Since the ranged weapon in the game consists of a hand-crossbow with either bug darts or mini-bolts, this is believable.
  • In Worldof Warcraft, ranged weapon users don't have to actually aim, and so don't tend to change their angle of shot, but many of the siege weapons introduced in Wrath of the Lich King have projectiles that follow very distinct arcs.
    • There are also several boss abilities that arc, but this is more of a visual effect.
  • Dynasty Warriors archers always shoot straight and level. Then again, they only shoot at point-blank range. Except in cut scenes, where the arc is usually quite visible.
  • In Dwarf Fortress arrows and bolts travel in straight lines. Parabolic flight paths are in development, but put on hold because of difficulty in how the player character in Adventure mode must aim.
  • Team Fortress 2 zig-zags this trope: while the Huntsman is literally a medieval-style bow that fires arcing arrows, the standard sniper rifle (as well as anything that shoots bullets) fires dead straight no matter the distance. There's even a Laser Sight.
    • Syringes fired from the Medic's syringe guns (and projectiles from his crossbow), baseballs launched from the Scout's "Sandman" baseball bat, flares from the Pyro's flaregun, and all of Demoman's bombs also arc, while rockets travel in a straight line.
  • In Vantage Master, the Blexe fires straight shots, although it uses a powerful crossbow and has fairly short range, whereas the bow-using Amoltamiss has no excuses. It's also averted with Ae-Ferrion, which fires (from a bow) a heavy arrow with a mace-like head; the shot arcs. This is actually an advantage, since it can be used to hit a target when a direct path would be blocked by other units. Additionally, standing in an elevated position extends the range.
    • Amoltamiss actually has a 'medium' arc, which has a very very slight impact on play. It's likely that they didn't give her Ae-Ferrion's 'high' arc for balance reasons — she's a flying unit, and allowing her to extend her range by reaching high points on the map (which she can do easily) would be a Game Breaker.
  • From Monster Hunter Freedom 2 onwards (when the Bow weapon class was introduced) the arrows of the bow do arc slightly, although the monsters you are fighting are generally so large as to make little difference to aiming. Similarly the Bowgun shots also dip with distance.
  • Strongly averted in Bungie's Myth games: arrows arc and are even effected by strong winds. The archers also visibly aim higher to shoot farther, and gain increased range from high ground.
  • Stylishly averted in Dragon Age: Origins' 'Urn of Sacred Ashes' trailer. When the resident archer chick takes a shot at a enemy spell caster, she aims straight while reciting a religious scripture, but then raises the angle of the bow before releasing it, causing the arrow to arc right into the thing's skull.
  • Averted in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. One must compensate for bullet drop at long range.
  • Both used and averted in Call of Duty games, including Modern Warfare titles. While bullet drop is a non-issue, Granada will always arc, even when fired from launchers. The Arrow Cam reflects this.
    • In the sniper mission in Modern Warfare, where you have to compensate for bullet drop, wind, and the Coriolis effect. After which the Bullet always lands in the same spot.
    • In the Black Ops games, crossbow bolts have both travel time and arc.
  • Averting this is a key part of strategy in the Tactics Ogre games. Arrows fired on lower parts of the map have less range and chance of hitting specifically because they arc down. Animation-wise, the arc also lets you shoot over characters and hit an enemy.
    • This is true of its spiritual successor Final Fantasy Tactics, as well. The Gameboy Advance and DS installments still have the arrows fired at an arcnote , but the range on a bow is permanently fixed, regardless of height. Bow guns (i.e. crossbows), however, shoot straight, have more limited range, and can be blocked by stage geometry, just like guns.
  • Averted in the Mount & Blade games. Arrows, bolts, thrown weapons; all need to be properly aimed taking into account distance, relative speed and altitude. The game's log even rates the shot, based on these elements, out of 10 if you hit: a shot against a close-by, stationary target would be a 1-2; a distant shot against a target riding fast on horse-back while you are doing the same: 6-10.
    • Using third person view along with any ranged weapon plays the trope even straighter in that you have to aim well above your target even at point blank range. Yes, you can miss someone you're close enough to kiss.
    • Played straight, however, when your character's archery skill is high enough - the arrows fly in almost a straight line. This could be partially justified by the character being able to handle a bow with a heavier draw weight, but the difference is really too dramatic for that. This isn't as noticeable if your character is built as a horse archer.
  • Averted with the Bow in the Turok series.
  • Both averted and played oddly straight in Dominions: arrows fly at an angle (which increases the further the target is), however because of the rudimentary graphics engine the arrow itself remains perfectly horizontal throughout the arc.
  • Averted in Stalker. All the game's firearms demonstrate realistic bullet drop, which must be corrected for if the player wants to hit anything at longer ranges. This is most noticable in weapons chambered for the heavy, subsonic 9x39mm ammunition, such as the VSS Vintorez and the AS Val. If you choose the Vintorez instead of a Dragunov as your go-to Sniper Rifle, the Very Definitely Final Dungeon will always contain instances of not whether or not to compensate for bullet drop it'll be a matter of how much.
  • Averted in Minecraft for both the playes and the bow-wielding skeleton mooks. The latter may seem to play the trope straight at first, but it's just that their farthest shooting distance is small enough that the arc isn't promptly visible.
  • Somewhat averted in Guild Wars. Although the game auto-targets so it doesn't affect your aim, different types of bows have different arrow flight arcs, and each provides certain advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation. Additionally bows will be more effective firing downward from above or downhill (with gravity) than upward from below or uphill (against gravity.)
  • Averted in Wii Sports Resort, where the physics of the arrows take gravity into account in addition to the wind. At least one achievement requires you to fire over a hill at a target you can't see.
  • The Elder Scrolls has gone from straight to averted. Due to the nonexistent physics engine, Arena and Daggerfall played it straight. Morrowind was also a straight example, although arrows would visibly tumble if fired with a weak pull. Starting with Oblivion and continuing into Skyrim, arrows do drop, though usually they fly pretty far before dropping too low.
    • Unlike most videogame arrows, however, in Skyrim the arrow will actually arc up slightly in relation to the crosshair, so trying for a traditional headshot will just make the arrow fly over an opponent's head unless they're pretty far away. It is also possible to hit stationary targets with arrows fired into the sky, but very difficult.
  • Chrome Hounds: Every single projectile obeys the laws of gravity. From the most basic machine gun bullets to long range sniper cannons. However if you are using kinetic rounds(as opposed to chemical rounds), the damage decreases dramatically beyond their effective range, as does the rate of drop. It is, however, possible to destroy enemy HOUND's from halfway across the map with a shotgun!
  • Angry Birds is built entirely around the aversion of this trope.
  • Arrows and crossbow bolts do this in Dark Souls. They fly perfectly straight until they hit their maximum range and plummet to the ground.
  • Total War series averts this, with arrows, slings, catapults, and even cannons having an arc. This is actually an advantage in many places, with archers being able to arc arrows over obstacles such as hills, while gun troops have to crest the hill before being able to return fire.
  • Sniper Elite V2 notably averts this — the player often has to aim above their intended sniping target to compensate for bullet drop. The highest difficulty even forces you to consider the wind. The various rifles each have a certain muzzle velocity stat that dictates how much they're effected by those factors; generally the ones with high muzzle velocity have a lower level of zoom (and vice versa) to balance things out.
  • Played painfully straight in all the ARMA games: all rockets and recoilless projectiles travel in a perfectly straight line until they explode. It's especially puzzling since ARMA's predecessor, Operation Flashpoint, handled the same weapons perfectly.
  • The older Delta Force games averted this, with the rounds dropping over distance.
  • Secret of Mana: arrows shot from the bow (and thrown javelins) travel in an arc and are one of the few weapons that can hit flying enemies.
  • Legend of Mana: while regular attacks fired from the bow travel in a straight line, they are shown to curve (and even home in on the enemy) in some of the Limit Break special attacks.
  • Pretty much every Metal Gear game played this straight until Ground Zeroes arrived and added a liberal dose of realism in the form of "effective range". Every gun in the game has a preset range limit (marked by red crosshairs), after which the projectile from said gun quickly loses altitude. The crosshair shape helps in determining how the bullets drop, but it still mostly comes down to trial and error.
  • Averted in Trine; Zoya the Thief's arrows follow a curved trajectory, allowing you to kill enemies over boxes...but also making more than a few puzzle-solving shots difficult because you can't just point the bow straight at the target.
  • The first Magic And Mayhem game had an elf unit that would play this trope straight and avert it with every alternate shot. A particularly ridiculous example, since in practice it meant that they would be shooting their melee allies in the back with every other arrow.

    Webcomics 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court used a variant — while the distance the arrow traveled wasn't enough to create significant arc, hitting another arrow in flight along the way should definitely have changed its direction.
  • The Order of the Stick uses this most of the time. Though they are often at ranges where the arc would be negligible.

    Web Original 
  • Justified in Worm, in which Flechette has a superpower that explicitly allows her to imbue projectiles with an effect that lets them ignore gravity, as well as several other laws of physics.

    Real Life  
  • Older Than Feudalism: Aristotle in his Physics claimed that arrows would move in a straight line until their momentum had been used up, and then fall straight down; rather than an arc, the path traveled would be a triangle. Despite being easily refuted by observation (try tossing a rock) it stood as canon for about two millennia.


Nigh-InvulnerabilityOlder Than FeudalismNo Hero to His Valet
MultishotWeapons and Wielding TropesRain of Arrows
Nominal ImportanceAcceptable Breaks from RealityNo Stat Atrophy
More DakkaArtistic License - PhysicsNo Conservation of Energy

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