A Weapon PCs Can Love To Hate

I love weird weapons, the stuff that NPCs use but players would find worthless. I find that it gives the game a good appeal to add stuff off of the cuff. One of my favorite odd weapons is the bola. Now these things have made a comeback in recent years, but more as an outdoor toy called Ladderball. The toy ones are made of plastic, and the players compete against one another to see how many points they can make by wrapping the bolas around rungs of a short ladder. IT’S FUN! And very challenging, and the great thing about it is that it is a level playing field; kids have a good chance at beating an adult, it doesn’t rely on strength or intelligence but finesse and dexterity.

Bolas were ancient weapons, two or more hard balls tied to a rope, but instead of dishing out damage like a regular weapon, these things provide other nasty functions, namely hampering an enemies movement.

To use the bola, one simply twirls it over their head until they are ready to let go. The balls do the rest! These things are dangerous, the balls are much heavier then the toy ones that we use today. Typically the weapon used against man-sized targets are made of leather, the strap is about 56 inches, on the ends are 4 inch pockets for rocks or metal balls.

A simple weapon, but effective when working together as a team with spearmen. On a regular attack, a hit holds the victim fast, and they must spend a round trying to get out by making a successful STR check, else stay immobile.

Of course in the hands of an expert, these things have many other uses. Called shots against a targets legs not only prevents movement, but the target must make a DEX check (if they are moving at the time of the hit, there is a -3 penalty to the check) else fall prone.

Called shots against the arms causes the bolas to entangle either the enemies weapon hand or shield hand (attackers option), this stops either all attacks or removes the AC bonus for the shield until a successful STR check is made with a -2 penalty for the lack of leverage.

A successful Called Shot to the victim’s head can cause a knock-out, the victim must make a Saving Throw vs. Paralysis or be knocked unconscious for 1d4 rounds, plus additional rounds due to DEX bonuses of the attacker.


Bola cost 5sp to make, weigh 2lbs. Are M size weapons of the B type. They have a speed factor of 8. If you are a stickler, and the proper save is made by the victim, you can still have it inflict damage (though I never do) it can do 1d3 to Small or Medium targets, and 1d2 to large foes.

Bola has a rate of fire of 1/1. Short range is 6, Medium range of 12, and a long range of 18.


Weapon grade bolas require room to get the thing going, almost 5 feet of room (an entire square), thus this is primarily an outdoor weapon. Individually, the weapon is practically worthless, but working with a team the bola can give spearmen an opportunity to attack targets without fear of being counterattacked, or at least giving them an edge. A good mixture of 20% proficient bola fighters, 5% bola specialists, and 60% spearmen could easily be a formidable lot!

Because this is such a simple weapon to construct, humanoids would have access to it. The bola can also be thrown while running, a typical bola fighter would have at least 3 bolas on his person, throw them and then leave the field while the spearmen or melee fighters do their jobs. Bolas must be retrieved before they can be used a second time, if this is possible, the bola fighters may stop and pick them up to continue fighting.

Alternatively, the bolas can be used by the fighters themselves as they rush an enemy and close for melee combat. In cases like this, they would typically all have 1 or 2 bolas, throw them, and then draw their primary weapons.

These weapons are non-lethal, a successful hit on a lone target would be in a heap of trouble as a full company of spearmen could have him surrounded in moments. Monsters could use this to slow down the retreats of pesky humans who are faster then they are. These are just some ideas on how to utilize these simple weapons, and while wizards may take a fancy to using them, the other classes would probably consider them worthless, relying on more traditional weapons.


Timeshadows said...

Good fun! :D

Anonymous said...

Awesome post! I really do appreciate the under appreciated weapons in games.

The hunting boomerang is my personal favorite - a meter long, hardwood, was used to break the legs on kangeroos for hunting! You figure that has to be a nasty D6 or D8 in damage, plus, probably a really mean weapon to use in groups against a calvary rush...

Valandil said...

This weapon was invented by the natives of my land, in Patagonia, Argentina. I've tried to use a real one, several times, but its really difficult to get the thing to work. The tehuelches here used to use it to hunt ostriches, entangling their long legs while running or riding horses.

Allen Thomas said...

LOL bolas are AMAZING. Personally, I've always been a fan of the Urumi...this guy is basically a wood handle with about 4 or 5 razor sharp metal whips. It's used in India I think.

Adult Roleplayer Guy said...

So, basically: Use a bola and you've just secured instant badass appeal. Especially if you're in a corridored dungeon. I suddenly feel like making many characters possessing many, many bolas. I want so many bolas equipped to my character that he has to roll dexterity checks just to walk around.

Anonymous said...

I think you missed the bit where Bolas with heavy balls (Stone or metal) were used to target necks in order to strangle a target and beat them about the head with the equivelent of multiple club hits that might cause unconciousness.

Unfortunatly that will likely be proven when some kid playing bola goes a fellow human...

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