One hand clutching the red, wet wound in his thigh, Hoga used his remaining energy to groan. The sound ricocheted off unseen stone worn smooth by water and time.
“Quiet,” Sil hissed, clutching her weapon’s haft in one hand, eyes on the dark.
“A warren of kobolds,” Hoga whimpered, “and all we have is your stupid little spear.”
Yklwa 5e stats
Type: Simple Melee Weapon | Cost: 1 gp | Weight: 2 lbs
|Yklwa||1 gp||1d8 piercing||2 lbs||Thrown (10/30)|
The Yklwa in D&D
The yklwa (pronounced YICK-ul-wah, also written iklwa or ixwa) is a light, one-handed spear consisting of a 3-foot wooden shaft with an 18-inch stone or steel blade. Its name comes from the wet, sucking sound made when pulled from a wound.
As a one-handed melee weapon, its d8 is comparable to the morningstar’s piercing damage but at half the weight and a fraction of the cost (1 GP). The yklwa is a simple weapon, making it an accessible and relatively high-damage option for PCs lacking martial proficiency.
The yklwa’s 10/30' range adds versatility. It lacks the distance and accuracy of the damage-comparable longbow and light crossbow, but in close quarters, a yklwa is a handy projectile. Its relatively low cost and weight (2 lbs.) make it a qualified higher-damage/shorter-range alternative to javelins (albeit at twice the price per unit).
Comparison: Yklwa vs Spear
The table below compares the yklwa to the standard long spear.
|Cost||1 gp||1 gp|
|Damage||1d8 piercing||1d6 piercing|
|Weight||2 lbs||3 lbs|
|Properties||Thrown (10/30)||Thrown (20/60)|
The Zulu Weapon of Choice
The yklwa became prominent under the military leadership of Shaka kaSenzangakhona (also known as Shaka Zulu). Previously, warriors used these short spears to stab retreating enemies’ backs. Shaka implemented the yklwa as a primary weapon used in tandem with a relatively small cow- or ox-hide shield. A soldier used their shield to hook their opponent’s and pull it aside, exposing the enemy to attack. The yklwa’s long blade can puncture vital organs, making it a lethal melee weapon.
Prior to Shaka’s military reforms, combat emphasized intermittent volleys of thrown long spears. Avoidance of close combat and the protection provided by large, heavy hide shields resulted in extremely low-mortality battles that lasted only as long as combatants’ stockpiles of spears.
Shaka instead focused on aggressive melee combat. After an initial barrage of long spears, soldiers would close and attack with the “bull’s horn” maneuver: one group engaged head-on, another flanked, and a third waited in reserve to attack any enemies who broke free.
Using these tactics, Shaka consolidated the Nguni-speaking ethnic group (of present-day KwaZulu-Natal in the Republic of South Africa) into the Zulu nation, which he led to conquest over the larger Mthethwa and Dingiswayo. To this day, Shaka’s expansion of the Zulu kingdom and its power continue to be emblematized by the efficient, deadly yklwa.
Roleplaying the Yklwa
“We’re done,” Hoga whispered again, mouth dry, words cracking.
“Hold the torch steady,” Sil said.
“We’re going to die—”
“We will if you don’t—”
The kobold lunged from the side, shrieking. Sil stepped, pivoted on her heel, and as its crude stone sword glanced off her cuirass, she set her feet and thrust. Her spear’s blade—nearly the length of her attacker’s arm—found soft scales.
“—shut up!” Sil pushed, forcing steel through flesh and into its gut.
Gibbering became a shrill screech then descended to a dull gurgle that died along with the kobold. The little corpse slid from the blade to the ground. Beyond the wet slurp and the dull thud, Sil heard more chattering voices approaching, and closer still, a skittering in the dark. Claws against stone.
“Let’s go,” Hoga urged, his bloody hand reaching for hers. “Before more come.”
“No.” Sil glanced around the shadowy perimeter. There, a glint at the light’s edge. Her arm rose.
As her eyes narrowed, Hoga’s widened. His outstretched hand contorted into a silent plea for her not to—
She stepped and threw. The spear sailed into the dark. Another shriek, another thud.
“Now we run.” She grabbed her brother’s arm, pulled it across her shoulders. “Before more come.”
“I can’t believe it,” Hoga groaned, eyes and teeth clenched against the pain in his leg. “That stupid little spear.”
“It’s called a yklwa,” she reminded him, pulling his weight toward the cave mouth, “and you’re buying me another when we get back to town.”