Rain of Arrows

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Incoming -- 300. Up close -- Hero.

"Our arrows will blot out the sun!"

"So much the better, we shall fight in the shade."
Dienekes, The Histories, Spartan warrior at the Battle of Thermopylae. [1]

Bows and arrows are cool. Say what you will about Guns and Badasses going together like bread and X-treme butter, but without copious amounts of Bullet Time, you can not see the bullets in flight. Guns are, by and large, an invisible (and noisy) killer. Not so with arrows; a simple twang, a blurred shaft, and bad guys fall down.

Up the scale a bit. You have a firing line of armed mooks; again, you'll see the gun smoke but not the bullets. Being cooler collectively than individually, a group (or a single!) archer can cause a rain of arrows to descend upon their foes like Death From Above. Add in some Arrows on Fire for extra burny goodness. By definition, the Rain of Arrows trope is mutually exclusive with No Arc in Archery.

This is a case of Truth in Television; archers in medieval warfare were used in exactly this way.

Compare Macross Missile Massacre and Flechette Storm; see Death in All Directions.

Examples of Rain of Arrows include:


  • Mages in Mahou Sensei Negima will occasionally fire massive salvos of magic arrows at their opponents. Often with Roboteching.
  • Occurs in One Piece Movie 6, from a hideous mutant flower...thing. The movie is somewhat controversial.
  • Basara from Samurai Deeper Kyo is a one-man longbowman army.
  • Giant Robo: A character pulls this off in the last OVA. The area goes from sand dunes to looking like a wheat field.
  • Bleach: Ishida, who after making his kung fu stronger, is able to release a good hundred thousand or so arrows with just one pull. Episode 169 is a notable example. Unlike other examples when he uses this, every arrow is going to hit something
  • Takamasi in Shikabane Hime specialises in this.
  • At the beginning of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Borgoff Markus manages to do this with a single-shot, hand-loaded crossbow. The mechanics remain a mystery.
  • Zero no Tsukaima: It took an extended one of these to down Saito while fighting the 70,000 Army. He survived, so said army then resorted to the same thing but with fireballs. He got better.
  • In Yes! Pretty Cure 5GoGo!, Cure Aqua displayed the ability to produce a Rain of Arrows any time it was useful (which was less often than you'd think). Although her "bow" is a magically summoned arc of water floating in midair which produces arrows (which seem to be made of ice) from nowhere, so we can probably call this justified.
  • Genesis of Aquarion: Silvia takes her Lunatique Archery technique Up to Eleven to destroy the Shadow Angel Titania with a Rain of Arrows in the 9th episode.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka does this twice with an Energy Bow. The first time, it's a single arrow that blows away the black storm clouds and reveals a beautiful blue sky. The arrow then bursts into an infinite number of arrows that transcend space and time. The second time, she instantly fires thousands of arrows at a planet sized witch, blowing up everything else in the process.

Comic Books

  • Warren Ellis' historical novel Crecy explains how it's done in real life. Basically, you teach all your soldiers to shoot at the same range, then everyone fires together and something's bound to get hit.
  • The last issue of the short-lived Gargoyles continuation featured a magical version of this.


  • The movie 300 does this twice. The first time is a case of ineffective Annoying Arrows. The second time is directed primarily at a single, extremely tough individual.
  • Pick a Jidai Geki film. Most will do.
    • Exceptions being e.g. The Seven Samurai
  • The Battle of Gaugamela in the film Alexander involves a veritable rain of Persian arrows on the advancing Macedonian phalanx.
  • Hero has this happen a few times, and couples it with two kung fu masters using their skills to stop the hail of arrows from killing calligraphers. In the end, there's even a Knife Outline of the titular hero's silhouette - of course the outline was made not by the archers pinning him so much as pin-cushioning him and removing his body - his death isn't shown, just the outline. At one point master Broken Sword, doing some calligraphy of his own, has his brush broken by an arrow. He then catches an arrow and uses it as a brush.
  • The otherwise average Michael Crichton movie Timeline was worth the price of admission for these words: "Fire the Night Arrows!"
  • Happens in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers during the siege of Helms Deep, elves are pretty good at raining arrow-y death on orcs. It's entirely possible the Battle of Helm's Deep would have been much less tense if Saruman hadn't sent bombs along...because while the Rohirrim only had about 300 men (most of them not soldiers), a couple hundred elves, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, they had enough bows, and probably enough arrows, to outfit every single one of them, and an enormous stone wall to hide behind. Legolas isn't able to pull off a literal rain, but he manages to create veritable stream of arrows at times.
  • In Red Cliff, Zhuge Liang (The Strategist and The Chessmaster) manipulates an opposing army into firing a Rain of Arrows at a fleet of decoy ships filled with straw, in order to meet a challenge to produce 100,000 arrows for his side within three days - the arrows were used, but still good.
  • In Van Helsing, the titular character has an automatic crossbow fed by a drum of bolts, using which he can shoot practically nonstop.
  • Braveheart: Shown a few times. At the battle of Stirling, the Scottish taunt the English archers into firing their arrows. The Scots then quickly hide under their shields for protection, with mixed results.
  • Throne of Blood (1957): The final moments of Akira Kurosawa's Jidai Geki Macbeth adaptation features a Rain of Arrows directed at a single, cornered dude. Most of these arrows were allegedly "live"—fired by expert archers just inches away from Toshiro Mifune. Needless to say, he looks pretty damn terrified.
  • Henry V: The 1944 version (Olivier one) has a rather pretty one of these during the Battle of Agincourt. The 1989 version (the Branagh one) was not so pretty.
  • King Arthur 2004 provides a bit of Truth in Television example of how this was used in it's final battle. The Woad archers create confusion and chaos in the Saxon ranks whilst thinning the numbers, which the knights then exploit, retreat and after a second volley return to finish the job. Traditionally European medieval armies (especially Frankish and later English) that employed archers used them in exactly this manner: To disrupt the enemy line and sow confusion and chaos that mounted knights could exploit.
  • Gladiator: The opening battle.


  • S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series, in which one character is trying to bring about the return of feudalism, features a group who intentionally train their militia to produce this effect. He calls it an "arrow storm", and describes the deadly effects with typical gusto and precision.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.
    • In Guards! Guards! (about a dragon attack on the city of Ankh-Morpork), Captain Vimes observes that so many bounty-hungry amateur archers are manning the roofs of Ankh Morpork, the dragon "was going to think it was flying through solid wood with slots in it".
    • Discworld also gives us The Piecemaker, a ballista used as a handweapon for a troll. It fires a bundle of arrows at once that ignite from air friction and turns into a fireball after some airtime. With a safe place being one hundred meters behind the weapon, preferably with some sort of wall between. The first time Detritus used it, the entire shooting range was devastated (along with a few seagulls who happened to be on the wrong place, AKA directly above Detritus). Needless to say, any thug in Ankh-Morpork surrenders before Detritus even starts to aim.
  • In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhuge Liang uses one of these to replenish his ammunition supplies in the lead up to the battle of Red Cliff.[2] With Zhuge's ships hiding in a fog, Cao decides that its too risky to attempt boarding them and instead relies on a hail of arrows to kill anybody who happened to be on deck. Zhuge used mats and straw dummies to collect the arrows. Once he was satisfied with his haul, Zhuge sailed off, only to reuse them in his attack against Cao's army. So famous is this maneuver that the Chinese saying "孔明借箭“ came directly from this. Translated literally, it means "Kong Ming (Zhuge Liang's nickname) borrows arrows."

Mythology and Religion

  • Dhanur-veda ("Knowledge of the Bow") has advice on penetrating force, notes that good aim is more important (so the draw strength is best limited to the level that doesn't require too much strain, impairing precision), but also:

1857: An archer, who thinks his arrows are [light] like grass, his bows [consuming] like burning fuel and the bow-string [attractive] like his life, is considered to be a best archer.


Live Action Television

  • The MythBusters constructed and fired a replica hwatcha (see the description below under Real Life) to test its reputation. It stood up to it.

Tabletop Games

  • Exalted: "Rain of Feathered Death" is a Charm allowing a character to replicate this Trope. All by themselves. Because they're just that awesome.
  • Magic: The Gathering
    • The card Hail of Arrows , complete with very fitting flavor text.
    • The classic card Elvish Archers, with flavor text paying tribute to the Battle of Thermopylae quote that serves as one of the page quotes.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The fourth edition makes rangers the dedicated archer and multiple-attacks-per-turn class, giving them multiple powers to help them embody this trope if they so choose as they advance in level. At seriously high levels, they can get things like Hail of Arrows—usable once per encounter and automatically targeting each enemy in range.
  • Warhammer Fantasy
    • The Hail of Doom arrow. When fired, it splits into between 3 and 18 arrows.
    • High Elves can provide a Rain Of Arrows fire in two ranks, instead of just the front rank. Repeater bolt throwers can fire four large arrows at a time.[3]

Video Games

  • The Disgaea series typically involves a rain of arrows in at least one bow skill per game. In particular, Zielregen in 2 rains exploding arrows on the target(s), and Dart Trap in 4 somehow creates an explosive pitfall under the target with a rain of arrows.
  • City of Heroes has this as the most powerful attack available in the Archery powerset. The game tends to work entirely in Comic Book Tropes and action tropes anyway.
  • Suikoden
    • The series has the archery units in your army do the Rain of Arrows if you order them to attack.
    • In Suikoden II, the evil Prince Luca is only killed by his own army betraying him, the heroes forming three parties just for him, and multiple Rain of Arrows. Everyone wanted him really, really dead.

The exact sequence was Rain of Arrows (killed his bodyguards), Rain of Arrows (he laughed it off), fight with party #1 (he laughed it off), fight with party #2 (he gets angry), fight with party #3 (he gets well and truly pissed), Rain of Arrows (this time he's visibly hurt), one-on-one fight with the protagonist (gets tired), Rain of Arrows (even more visibly injured), Rain of Arrows (dead after a short speech). Holy hell.

  • Ina from Samurai Warriors has a rain of arrows attack, although it is one of the most useless (and I suppose realistic) attacks since the arrows do piddly damage and land in a completely random spread. There are also several instances of arrow raining in the dynasty warriors and samurai warriors games during cutscenes.
  • In Dynasty Warriors 6 (and possibly some of the previous ones, haven't played them all), several characters can create this effect with the 'Barrage' special attack, raining down arrows all around them. Two of the playable characters - Yue Ying and Sun Shang Xiang (AKA 'The Bow Princess') - are also capable of pulling this off with their ordinary attacks. Interestingly enough, they're generally considered to be the best characters for fighting on Chaos Mode... the Rain of Arrows is just that powerful.

In the crossover series, Warriors Orochi, this attack becomes incredibly useful, due to effects that make projectiles stronger, the fact that she can charge the attack to fire more arrows, and a delay between when you fire and when you hit, which you can use to fire other arrow-swarm attacks.

    • In the online variation "Dynasty Warriors: Online", you can get the movesets of the original characters from 5, and Huang Zhong is the appointed bow user. One of the 6th charge variations on his moveset is this very attack. The fighter using the attack will charge up, shoot upwards, and then stagger out of the way as a hail of deadly arrows rains down where they were just standing. It's strong, but even more deadly if you have an elemental attack bonus on you, causing rains of flaming, frozen, electrified, semi-magical, or forceful arrows on a person. If you are lucky, it has a good charge up time for this amazing attack.
  • In Rogue Galaxy, one of Lilika's special moves, called 'Wild Thing,' resembles the Zielregen from Disgaea greatly, right down to the arrows exploding when they hit the ground. The only major difference is that she doesn't shoot a dividing arrow—she just charges up her bow in midair, and then launches a rapid-fire stream of oddly-arcing arrows.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, Edgar's first "tool" is a fully automatic crossbow, which pelts every enemy with a generous helping of arrows.
  • Jeanne D'Arc: One of the cheapest Skills is the Archer ability "Salvo", an area-effect attack that showers the entire selection with random, full-power arrows. It's offset slightly by the randomness of the squares that actually get hit, but use this in confined quarters, thus forcing the CPU to target only the available squares...
  • Total War: Easily done in any of the games in the series. Archers tend to come in companies of around 60-100 that rain arrows down on other companies. Their effectiveness depends on the game, how tight the enemy formation is, the distance, the relative elevation, and good the archers are in relation to the enemy unit. In some games and situations, archers are extremely effective; in others, they're considerably nerfed.
  • Tales of Phantasia had one of these as well, Chester's "Wild Rain" attack.
  • Fate/stay night: Strangely for a supposedly bow using class, the Archers don't actually tend to do stuff like this much. Gilgamesh on the other hand, uses historic weapons of mass destruction as arrows because he has so many of them and doesn't see a need to actually use them properly. Hence, why his class is Archer.
  • World of Warcraft: Hunters once got the Volley spell, which fired a large number of arrows at a target area, even if the character is using a gun. Volley has since been removed and replaced by Multi-Shot, which hits everyone in an area in front of the hunter.
  • In The Lord of the Rings Online Hunters get a skill called "Rain of Arrows", which consists of shooting an inordinate number of arrows into the sky and having them fall around the target. There is also the "Rain of Thorns" counterpart which does the same thing but pinns the targets in place.
  • In Mount & Blade you can get the medieval version, just get enough archers and its a good ol' rain of death.
  • Persona 3 and 4 have this as a physical skill.
    • There's also a variation called "Aeon Rain", which combines this with Beam Spam.
  • The Einherjar archer party members in Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria all share the same Limit Break attack.
  • Human archers in Heroes of Might and Magic 5 have an ability called Rain of Arrows that covers several squares instead of one at the expence of the damage per square. Only human archers, though, not undead or elven ones. Don't ask why.
  • In the later stages of Stronghold you usually have so many archers/crossbowmen on your walls that they reach this level.
  • In the unit-to-unit turn-based combat sections of SaGa Frontier 2, having an archery unit next to your main attacking unit unleashes a hail of arrows before either side can do anything. (And the enemy can do this to you as well.)
  • In Dissidia Final Fantasy Ultimecia has the attack "Knight's Arrow", where she summons a multitude of (stylized, magical) arrowheads to shower the enemy. Depending on input, they either swarm the enemy right away, or hang in the air and aim, delaying the attack. She also uses these arrows during her EX Burst/
  • Massed archers can be used in strategy games like Age of Empires, but tend to be rather fragile and only effective against enemies with relatively low hitpoints/armour.
  • In God of War 3, Kratos is able to do this after leveling up the Blades of Exile a few times.
  • In Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and Revelations, Ezio can get the novice Assassins to do this, called an Arrow Storm. The narrator for one official video refers to it as an airstrike, and The Da Vinci Disappearance adds an achievement/trophy called "Airstrike" for killing ten or more guards in a single Arrow Storm.
  • Romancing SaGa series have this as one of abilities that bow users can learn.
  • Runescape has Sagittare Bolton, who, every time he teleports around the boss chamber, yells out the page header and launches several arrows straight up, which can cause some pretty heavy damage when they come back down.
  • During the Battle of Ostagar in Dragon Age Origins, the darkspawn charge is met with a rain of arrows that are also on fire.
    • The Awakening expansion introduces an archer talent called Rain of Arrows that mimics this trope. Scattershot does it less spectacularly but more effectively.
    • Archers in Dragon Age 2 have a talent called Hail of Arrows where they fire a bundle of arrows into the air and it comes down in a veritable storm of pointy shafts.
  • One of the many hazards in Happy Wheels is a crossbow that can be attached to different surfaces (much like the harpoons). It is rather odd how a middle aged cyclist can survive twenty arrows to the ass and eyes though.
  • A BoobyTrapped cake dispenser in Minecraft as seen here.
  • The Ranger in Maple Story gets a skill called Arrow Rain. On the other hand, the Sniper, their crossbow-wielding counterparts, get Arrow Eruption, which is the same but with the arrows coming from BELOW.

Web Comics

  • In the Blade of Toshubi the Tiger army used this to soften up the village of Koho.
  • Order of the Stick does this, complete with a parody of the page quote.
    • This also happens earlier when the group is attacked by a incredibly large bandit force.
  • Brian Clevinger of Eight Bit Theater fame had a mini comic on his site called Dynasty Memories, but it seems to have been taken down. It featured a strip in which the hero evaded an attack from a single arrow and declares that they have nothing to worry about, then the next panel is filled entirely with arrows. Although the main character, Lao Zhe, says "Those mofos got like a million archers!" but it's actually only one archer firing VERY fast.

Western Animation

  • Samurai Jack, in the episode with the well and three jackal archers. Though only three, each was capable of rapid firing dozens of arrows per second. The three were able to annihilate an entire army in mere minutes. Furthermore, they were all blind, and tracking their opponents on sound alone. Ownage commenced on that mechanical army.
  • In Teen Titans, Speedy seemed to be a one-man Rain of Arrows during most of his guest appearances. Where he pulls all the arrows from remains a mystery...
  • Kung Fu Panda:
    • Both featured and subverted; Chorh-Gom prison has hundreds of ballistae lining the ledges and battlements, each capable of firing frickin' enormous, spear-like arrows...but Tai Lung not only uses these to break open his manacles, he's able to toss them right back at the guards, then kick a volley to stab into the rocky walls, providing him with a way to ascend out of the pit.
So the Rain of Arrows starts off as a cool motif for the good guys, only to be snatched away and showing off the bad guy's Crowning Moment of Awesome instead.
    • Similarly, the rhinos also send down an eye-popping hail of Arrows on Fire, only to have Tai Lung avoid these too by dodging underneath the only protection available, the wooden elevator.

Real Life

  • During the Hundred Years' War, the English achieved major victories thanks to their longbowmen launching massive clouds of arrows, as in the Battle of Agincourt. This signaled the end of feudalism in France since French knights were being cut down in massive numbers. For an understanding of just how massive, consider the casualty reports from Agincourt. According to the best historical accounts currently available, the English (armed with primarily longbows) lost a minimum of 112 men, while the French knights and footmen suffered losses of approximately 6,000.
This was the result of an almost obsessive focus on longbow training in England, to the point that sports like golf were at one point banned to prevent them from taking time away from archery. How obsessive? Arming the English longbowmen exhausted the country's entire usable supply of yew. In the 14th and 15th centuries any European ship arriving in England to trade had to pay a toll in yew bowstaves.
The English at Agincourt had an army that was about five sixths archers. A kind of middle-ages Min-Maxing, with Henry V as royal Munchkin. The French, on the other hand, were the Scrub of the piece, convinced that their rules of chivalric and noble combat were the only proper way of making war. Still, despite the English being rather outnumbered, it ended up something of a Curb Stomp Battle.
  • As shown by 300, the preferred tactic of the Persians was to sit back and rain arrows on their opponent, then send in the cavalry to finish them off. This failed spectacularly at the Battle of Marathon in 390 BC, where the Greek phalanxes, instead of slowly marching towards the Persians, ran at full speed. This so surprised the Persians that they fired their arrows in panic-and missed by a large margin. Also, no Persian cavalry; the Athenians appeared to have waited until the horsemen were sent off (after 5 days' standoff) before attacking.
  • Worth noting that while the trope namer is quoted in Herodotus's Histories (and therefore still Older Than Feudalism), attributed to a Spartan named Dienekes, it may have been apocryphal.
  • A hwatcha is a historical Korean weapon that launched an impressive 200 rocket-powered exploding arrows at the opponent. Reportedly, they were so deadly in their ability for numbers-control, that they became the first line of defense for a city or stronghold against any invading army.
  • Subverted then played straight at the Battle of Hastings, several rains of arrows by the Normans at the start of the battle did very little to the English shield wall, but after an ill-disciplined charge got a number of the English killed the shield wall wasn't nearly so effective.
    • True, but at some point in the battle (it's debated when), as is the popular tale told to many British school children, William ordered his archers to fire in an arc, falling upon the rear ranks instead of straight into the English shield wall, playing the trope straight. This is supposedly how Harold I was killed, but this is highly debated.
  • The Roman legions applied a variant with their pila (specially made Roman javelins with high piercing power): right before entering in contact with the enemy army, the legionnaires shot two javelins each, hitting the enemy lines with a brief but intense barrage of javelins who, upon piercing the shields of whoever managed to raise the protection, would break in such a way to not be removable in the heat of the battle, unbalancing the shield (assuming the enemy had not been killed when the javelin pierced it) and preventing it to be thrown back at the Romans.
  1. Or Herodotus making cool stuff up.
  2. Yes, the same one as the one above in the Film section
  3. The very quickly removed the high elves ability to fire in multiple ranks after realizing it was a bit good. As of the current edition, everyone can shoot in two ranks while three men per rank can fire with bows past that point. They still aren't particularly effective.