Red Box Armory: Bolas

Git along little birdies!

Bolas are an exotic weapon from faraway lands. They consist of a cord or chain with weights at the ends, meant to wrap around a target’s legs to entangle them.

When attacking, treat bolas as a thrown weapon with the same range increments as flaming oil or holy water. A successful hit inflicts no damage but binds the target’s legs together. An entangled target can only move 3’/round and must save vs. paralysis each round or fall prone. Removing the bolas takes a full round of action and requires at least one free hand. (If a character is in no position to unwrap the bolas manually, he may attempt to snap the cord or chain with an Open Doors check.)

As a rule, only classes that can use all weapons, such as fighters, halflings, dwarves and thieves, may use bolas, and even then they require some training in their use.

17 Responses to “Red Box Armory: Bolas”

  1. September 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    I like those rules! Bolas were always my favorite “new” weapon from the Mentzer Companion set.

  2. 2 cr0m
    September 27, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Could the thrower aim high and bind up a sword arm? -4 to hit until a successful save vs Poison (freeing an entangled arm is easier than untangling legs)? An off-hand dagger can automatically free the entangled arm, or an Open Doors roll (at +1 if your off-hand is free, normal if using a Shield).

    By the way, there are shades of 4e in this “ongoing condition until save”. Which, IMO is one of the best features they introduced in 4e. Conditions are interesting and dramatic in a way that hit point damage is not.

  3. 3 Naked
    September 27, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    I feel like I have impacted the world in a small, yet significant way.

    By the bye, I feel border halflings from a certain part of the world might find bolas pretty conducive to hunting, since it allows hampering larger game when overpowering them is out of the question. (I won’t push for blowguns.)

    To me this is a situational weapon. Most monsters/fighters are strong enough to defend themselves without full mobility, but it can really help when mobility is key. Entangle him! Now push him over the pit!

  4. 4 Naked
    September 27, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Oh: Range?

  5. September 27, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    I’m doing a bit of internet research to check how bolas were actually used in combat rather than for hunting. While it’s clear that bolas were actually used for this purpose, I haven’t found any specifics yet. For my part, I suspect that bolas would be ineffectual as an arm-entangling weapon; whereas the legs are held parallel, in combat the arms are unlikely to be in position to snare against the body. The bolas would most likely wrap around the arm, possibly smacking the target with the balls in the process.

    In addition to going for the legs, I’d also allow bolas to be used as a normal damage-inflicting thrown weapon, as the metal balls on the ends seem like they could do serious damage, and wrapping the cord around the throat would also be unpleasant. (And no, I wouldn’t have special rules for strangling someone or breaking their neck with bolas. Damage is damage, and if it’s lethal you can assign a colorful description to it.)

  6. September 27, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Oh: Range?

    In the original post, they have the same range as a flask of oil or holy water (5-10/11-30/31-50). Upon further consideration, it may be better to give them the range of a dagger or throwing axe (5-10/11-20/21-30).

    Also, as with some other weapons like nets and two-handed swords, they needs lots of space to use—you have to whirl the thing around your head before throwing—so they can’t be used in enclosed spaces. This is the sort of thing that the rulebook doesn’t cover because we’re expected to visualize things and apply common sense.

  7. 7 Naked
    September 27, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Missed the part about the range. I agree, it would be hard to use beyond 30 feet. The question might be, what exactly is an enclosed space? Perhaps a single figure in a 10′ corridor could get one off with some trouble, depending on how long the straps/chains are, and nothing can be between the thrower and the target, furniture, allies, or other enemies. Certainly not a 5′ corridor, but a 10′ corridor might be okay — 4′ long straps would be effective.

  8. September 27, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    According to my sketchy online research, bolas were typically 5 to 6 feet from end to end. I’m not sure how much impact a reduction in size would have on their effectiveness; a shorter cord might be dramatically less effective at entangling the target.

    Whether a 10′ wide corridor is sufficient probably depends on how realistic the DM wants to be. Maybe it’s fine, maybe the thrower suffers a -4 penalty, maybe it just can’t be done.

    And as you note, you can’t use bolas when there are any obstructions.

  9. 9 Naked
    September 27, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    It really seems like a situational weapon. If ever used in a warlike situation (there seems to be a Patagonian tribe that did) it was likely in the open against mostly unarmored opponents. The gauchos use it in a kind of lasso manuever, where moving feet are easy to trip. Older groups have used it as much to stun birds and smaller animals — a bola thrown into a flock will have a chance to take out a few lightweight fliers.

    Dungeons don’t seem a great locale for their use. Your average humanoid might be tripped in only certain circumstances — an orc’s legs are going to be stronger than even a rushing bull’s. But there could be situations where it might be of use. I’d carry one or two, if allowed, just in case.

  10. 10 Charlatan
    September 27, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Don’t forget the great effect to which they were employed by ewoks.

  11. September 27, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Don’t forget the great effect to which they were employed by ewoks.

    But I’m trying so hard!

  12. 12 Naked
    September 27, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Great. Ewoks with bolas on Thursday. Thanks, Ben.

  13. 13 Charlatan
    September 27, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    In our campaign, we call them “Torch Bears”.

  14. 14 Nerkad
    September 28, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Before you get all smug in your triumph, know that in vaudeville days the straight man often got paid more than the jokester. It takes more skill to set them up.

  15. 15 Charlatan
    September 28, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I’m not in it for the money.

  16. 16 maldoor
    September 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    > In our campaign, we call them “Torch Bears”.

    How long does the light last, once you set them on fire?

  17. September 28, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    How long does the light last, once you set them on fire?

    Less than twelve parsecs.

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Past Adventures of the Mule

September 2010

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