Dungeons and Dragons is full of mystical artifacts and magical items. Of course, not everything has to have insane abilities to make its way into the lore we know and love.
Today, we’re going to be discussing the Yklwa, a weapon from the Chultan peninsula. We’ll be explaining what exactly this weapon is, how good it is, and of course we’ll be covering some of the lore connected to it.
What Is a Yklwa
A Yklwa (pronounced YICK-ul-wah) is the traditional weapon of Chultan warriors. It is a simple melee weapon with the thrown property that deals 1d8 piercing damage on a hit.
While very similar to a spear, there are some key differences that make this a unique weapon.
Yklwas are short spear-like weapons, consisting of a wooden shaft of about 3 feet with steel or stone blade on the end that extends roughly another 18 inches.
First, let’s clear up some common misconceptions.
People tend to see that this has the thrown property and assume that it can only be thrown. This is so far from the truth.
Not only can the Yklwa be used as a melee weapon, but its main purpose is for up-close combat.
This is a weapon that has the thrown property because it can be thrown, not because it should be thrown. In fact, if you look at the range, you’ll see 10/30.
If you’re not familiar with the language for ranged weapons, that first number is the normal range, while the second number is the long range.
When attempting to throw a weapon its long-range distance, you actually make your attack roll at disadvantage.
The reason for this horrible range (compared with the spear’s 20/60) is that Yklwas are not balanced for throwing.
So sure, you can toss it the distance you could strike someone with a reach weapon, but after that it gets real dicey.
As with most D&D weapons and items, there is a real-world analogue for the Yklwa, an iklwa.
Iklwas are a very real and very dangerous weapon of the Zulu people. It is a shortened version of the thrown assegai spears and the main weapon used for close combat.
This weapon was one of many key factors in the African revolution against the British colonizers. The weapon itself may have done a small portion of the work, but it gave rise to many military tactics.
Real world events often have an impact on the stories we create.
While Chult doesn’t have any oppressors we know of (aside from some nefarious forces you might encounter in Tomb of Annihilation), it wouldn’t be surprising if the Yklwa is known for much the same reasons that the Iklwa has become an item of legends.
Using a combination of long and short spears is a tactic that allows a military force to push their opposition into small areas.
If adventurers end up on the wrong side of a Chult militia, they might see many variations of spears used in creative, highly strategic fashions. Doing so further cements the Yklwa as a weapon with a rich history.
How Good Is the Yklwa
The Yklwa is a decent weapon, dealing more damage than a spear but not quite cutting it when it comes to its thrown ability.
It is exclusively a one-handed weapon, which means it can be used with a shield. This only brings it closer to its real world counterpart.
If the Yklwa’s only direct competition was the spear, it underperforms in just about every category that counts.
Used as a one-handed weapon, a spear only deals 1d6 piercing damage, but it is versatile, which means it will go up to 1d8 if you use it two-handed.
The spear can also be thrown double the distance (both normal and long range), meaning you’ll get more value in controlling the battlefield as a whole.
The Yklwa then, is only a great choice when you use it as a one-handed weapon and equip a shield or perhaps go the dual-handed route. At least then you can get a bonus to AC or make some extra attacks on your bonus action.
The other competition for the Yklwa is a javelin. Javelins only deal 1d6 and are solely one-handed weapons, but they have a range of 30/120, which is pretty fantastic.
The question then becomes: “Would I rather deal more damage, or would I rather be able to cover more ground?” The answer is entirely up to you.
Javelins tend to come in a set; you’ll likely carry around multiple in place of a ranged weapon and ammunition.
The yklwa, a weapon you could definitely afford multiple of, probably isn’t something you’ll carry a plethora of on your back.
So when is the Yklwa the right choice?
Well, if you don’t have access to martial weapons (which nullify most of what we’ve talked about) the yklwa is an excellent weapon for dealing piercing damage at close range.
It will function similarly to a weapon with reach, where you can deal with enemies within a 10-foot radius with ease.
Equipping a shield so you can play the defensive as you go to retrieve your thrown weapon is an excellent start to a build, and you can certainly enhance this as you go along.
The yklwa may not be the best weapon out there, but it certainly adds some distinction to a character that wields it. When combined with strong tactical strategy, this weapon can be a huge aid to any martial combatant.
I hope this article has answered any questions you might have had, and as always, happy adventuring.