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Basic Information

The atlatl is a device designed to add range and power to a javelin or other throwing spear by acting as an extension of the thrower's arm. The heel of the javelin fits into a socket in the atlatl and the user grips a handle at the other end, flinging the shot with a slightly adapted technique to account for his altered grip.

The name is Amerindian, although similar devices appear in other cultures - the Australian aborigines call their version a woomera and the javelinmen of the ancient near east and Mediterranean used a strap attached to the base of their javelins to a similar effect.

Although the atlatl adds considerably to the effect of a javelin, it still doesn't change the essential character of the weapon - which is short ranged1 and large as rounds of ammunition go - and requires a deal of skill to use effectively. Longer ranged and more user friendly weapons displace the javelin, atlatl assisted or not as they become available2.

Similar devices can be used to throw darts and spears (arguably vaying only in their size from the javelin throwing version) and even blunt objects such as stones or grenades.



Game and Story Use

  • for very low-tech campaigns, this may be a significant piece of kit, otherwise issue it to primitive tribals. Particularly good for your reptilian-humanoids, whose swampy homes may be hard on bows.
  • Interesting for PCs who originate from a culture in which the javelin is a marginal weapon (the Spanish Conquistadors might count - jinetes were still using them from horseback long after the 1500s3) and who might be impressed by the added lease of life that it gives.
    • Most atlatl users used them afoot - a mounted user might be an interesting variation (if it's possible, which it might not be).
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