Creating a 16th Century Philippines-inspired D&D World – Weapons and Armor

If you play fantasy RPGs, chances are you loved “swordfighting” with sticks, or miming all kinds of medieval weaponry when you were younger. Kid me was like that, and I remember especially loving the kampilan longsword Lapu-Lapu is often depicted wielding.

I had a love for ancient Filipino weaponry, and reading about them in more detail rekindled that love. It also bothered me why I never heard of Filipino heroes wearing carabao horn chainmail. We had the technology! And it must have looked badass!! I know Pintados from Visayas took great pride in showing off their tattoos and wearing no armor gave them more freedom of movement in the battlefield, but c’mon. It’s an injustice that I never heard of such armors until recently.

Anyways, here’s a list of war technology derived from what the Ancient Filipinos used.

Weaponry

Baladaw: Leaf-shaped daggers with a cross-shaped hilt, designed to be wielded protruding in between the index and middle fingers.

Bolo: Machetes, originally used for agricultural work.

Kris: Shortswords with a wavy blade, designed that way to confuse the enemy.

Yantok/Pamalo: Sticks typically around 2 feet long. Yantok made of rattan are used for training, but ones made of hardwood like kamagong will break bone before it cracks.

Kampilan: Longswords with a forked edge.

Bunang: Crescent shaped axes, mostly used by men from the mountains.

Tungkod: Walking staves, but can be a weapon in the right hands, much like the yantok.

Bangkaw: Spears, a most important weapon in anyone’s arsenal. These are attached to a rope so that the user can easily retrieve it after throwing.

Songil: A cross between spears and polearms, its blade is double-edged and 30 centimeters long.

Sugob: Javelins made of bamboo. They are often fire-sharpened or with a partition filled with sand for extra weight.

Busog at Pana: Bows and arrows, respectively. Arrowheads are either made of steel or fishbone.

Sumpit at Kalway: Blowguns and darts. Blowguns are made of a long hollow cane, often fitted with spearheads after all ammunition has been used. Darts are as long as 20 centimeters, and tipped with fishbone.

Luthang: Muskets that came from a never-ending island in the northeast.

Armor

Barote: Armor made of abaca or bark cords, braided so tightly together that cuts did not spread.

Batung-batung: Chainmail plated with hardwood, carabao horn, elephant or octopus hide, or sharkskin; the material depends on the resources available.

Kalasag: A general term for shields. Some shields are made of fibrous wood and cordage to enmesh blades that penetrate them, others are as big as a person and made of hardwood.

Despite my enthusiasm for the different flavors of Filipino chainmail, I still want to be somewhat true the ancestors’ war culture. Warriors charged into battle without armor because they felt weighed down by it. Perhaps a bonus in initiative would give players enough of an incentive to do as ancient Filipino warriors did.

This mechanic would have more of an impact in combat if initiative is rolled every round, which I tend to do nowadays (Professor Dungeon Master has a great video on this topic).

EDIT: Replaced colonial terms for more native terms, added some descriptions, and added the Bunang. I can’t believe I forgot about the Bunang.

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