The Hoopak - History and Today

by Larnir Haigh

(With cooperation from Virlya Deshalaine and Astrina Luckytoe)

Since time out of mind, Kenders and their Hoopaks were inseparable. Being more than just a weapon, Hoopaks mean more for Kenders than even Dragon Lances to Solamnic Knights.
Now probably everyone knows what a Hoopak looks like - in general. This article is for those anxious for fine points. As a sage with a humble knowledge of weapons collected in years of travelling over Krynn, I feel now it would be adequate to relay to you what has been learned.

The first evidence of Hoopaks is as ancient as of Kenders themselves - whether it meant that whoever became Kenders after the Graygem accident wielded them already or (for those who don`t believe in that kind of stuff) Kenders had their Hoopaks as long as Elves their bows or Dwarves their axes. It would be well founded to presume that Hoopaks originated in the Stone Age; their form was perfected long before the advent of iron and steel and not changed since. The Hoopak of the famous Tasselhof Burrfoot, Hero of the Lance actually was not iron, but copper-shod, a most classical design to be imagined.

Hoopaks are commonly about their wielder`s height; although a longer staff would be of better use in melee combat, giving full polearm reach and probably being of use to set against charging opponents, it is seldom used. First of all, a seven-foot Hoopak is difficult to carry about in dense forest, underground or indoors; then it would be too difficult to reach the sling. These reasons keeps the size proportional to Kender`s build.

I will use the word "tip" for the ferrule or attachment on the ground end of Hoopaks. Although many are inclined to suppose that Hoopak tips are in effect speartips, those are wrong. Common Hoopak tips are either pyramidal in shape or resemble tubes cut off slantwise. Such shapes provide a better grip on the ground and are sturgier.
The fact that the Hoopak is used for a walking staff accounts for its relative bluntness; tips are forged from a rather soft steel to prevent cracking and never attain the sharpness of real spears. However, the tip of a well-cared Hoopak is sharp enough to lodge in a wooden wall or a tree trunk a pair of inches deep, with corresponding damage if a living body happens to be the target.
Hoopak tips do piercing damage only. Few consider the trouble of keeping a sharp blade near one`s feet worth the benefits of a small dagger mounted on a short pole.

As some know, there are two types of Hoopaks (this will be discussed later), and, correspondingly, two basic types of staves: flexible and rigid.
Flexible staves are just that: a piece of flexible wood (there are rare instances of composite Hoopaks), smoothened, treated against moisture and that`s all. Rigid staves are often reinforced with strips of metal, making them not only harder to break, but more useful in parrying enemy weapons and, if the Hoopak is heavy enough, a rigid staff can do damage as a blunt weapon, which is extremely useful against undead.

Hoopak staves terminate in a fork, usually a natural branching. A leather sling is attached to the prongs, and here`s where the difference between two Hoopak types - flexible and rigid matters.

If the leather strip is fixed onto the prongs immideately, the Hoopak is a flexible one. Such Hoopaks use the force of the staff as it straightens from a bent shape to launch the projectile.
When shooting this variety, one braces the tip of the staff in the ground or with one`s foot, grips the staff with one hand by the middle and draws back the charged sling with another. Some especially fine examples of flexible-staff Hoopaks even posess composite staves of layered wood, horn and sinew to enhance the strenght of the draw and improve the sharpness of the release.

Other Hoopaks have stripes of elastic material tied in place between the sling and the prongs. Those Hoopaks are the rigid-staff variety and employ the force of contracting elastics.
When shooting this variety, one braces the tip of the staff on the ground or with one`s foot, grips the staff with one hand just under the branching and draws back the charged sling with another. The materials used to provide power to such Hoopaks are rubber (not too good; liable to tear, requiring time to replace), a more reliable latex gum and the ultimate - dragon wing sinew.
Rigid-staff Hoopaks are considered simper to master and giving better results with not-too-heavy projectiles; they also work better in melee, while flexible Hoopaks allow larger and heavier objects to be launched.

As a common sling, a Hoopak will throw anything loaded in it. The unending supply of stones and the ability to shoot a variety of projectiles were two of the factors adding to the weapon`s popularity.

Stones: Rocks about egg-size are most common natural projectiles for the Hoopak. Throwing with precision a larger (fist-sized) stone is a tricky shot, requiring a chance of luck or high mastery, but a sucsess will have much more devastating results.

Bullets: Metal, commonly lead sling bullets are very useful, since they concentrate the weight of a large stone in a small size, and many Kenders never miss the opportunity of obtaining some, you know usually how... The ceramic, baked or dried clay, sling bullets have the weight of a small stone and a size of a large one, and so are not a favourite; actually the purpose of clay bullets is to shatter on impact to prevent their being re-used by enemy slingers - something that troubles Kender adventurers little.

Others: It would be simpler to list what HASN`T been launched from a Hoopak! Some ingenious kinds of Hoopak ammo that come to mind include Holy Water vials, stale eggs, rotten fruit, flasks of acid and oil, stones wrapped in cloth, soaked in oil and lit, live toads, caltrops et cetera.

Most Hoopaks are decorated with little bells, dangling pendants of fur and feathers, colourful twine wrapped around the shafts, ribbons and beast claws - all that not counting the possible cut or inlaid decoratons on the Hoopak itself. Sometimes those decorations - pieces of real beauty - are found under a layer of old leather straps wound to keep the hand from slipping, but that`s Kender mentality. Although common decorations do not improve a Hoopak, exept in its posessor`s eyes, keep in mind that a small pouch or case tied to the branching most usually contains special ammo - an enchanted stone or explosive pellets. The shabby wraps on many a Hoopak conceal garrotes, stilettoes and lenghts of tripwire. A good Hoopak is as inpredictable as its owner, for short.

Disclaimer: This text may be distributed freely. The author intentionally does not associate it with any gaming system or setting, although a concise AD&D version may follow.

About the authors:

Larnir Haigh is a Red Robe Wizard whose interests in combat styles and weapons of Krynn and other realms earned him a quite a sage reputation. Presently can be found in Aecto`s Arcane Emporium (the passage just left of Pallantas City gates).

Virlya Deshalaine is a shop attendant at the same emporium and apprehentice mage. Pity she exists only in DL...., not in RL.

Astrina Luckytoe was kind enough to drop in on her way back to Kendermore (not that her Wanderlust is through!).

Wander Home