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D&D 5E Improving the Spear

The spear was pretty commonly used throughout history but seems well below par in 5e. I want to encourage players and monsters to use the spear in my next campaign (which will have more of a dark ages feel than high medieval). Does anyone have any thoughts on how to improve it?

I am thinking of making it a martial weapon. 1d8/1d10 versatile. In previous editions it did double damage when set to receive a charge. That cannot be easily modelled in 5e as there isn't really any charging as such.

So I am thinking of giving the wielder an attack as a reaction when an enemy closes to melee and the wielder isn't engaged in melee with anyone else. Thoughts?
 

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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Martial weapon: you're contradicting the reason why the spear was pretty commonly used. It's simple: stick pointy end in opponent. Now, that's not to say that there aren't advanced techniques for using a spear! (See: polearms.)

The reaction idea is a good one, but I'd avoid the isn't-already-engaged condition. It should be this simple: if an opponent using a shorter weapon than yours enters your threat range, you can use a reaction to attack.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
WotC had a feats UA a bit back that improved the spear. While I'm not suggesting giving all of the bonuses a feat would grant, if this is a thematic weapon your ideas fit right into it.

Spear is a simple weapon as per the PHB. If you are proficient with martial weapons it gains the following:

  • Damage becomes d8 (d10).
  • You can set your spear to receive a charge. As a bonus action, choose a creature you can see that is at least 20 feet away from you. If that creatures moves within your spear’s reach on its next turn, you can make a melee attack against it with your spear as a reaction. You can’t use this ability if the creature used the Disengage action before moving.

The feat gives a few other things, including bonus damage for a charge. I took that out because you're already getting an extra attack with your reaction, a special no other weapon grants, and the damage boast already made it as good as a longsword so we don't want to pile too much more on top.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Shorten the haft to maybe ten inches long and make the blade longer. Use it in one hand, and maybe hold a shield in the other. Historically, that's how they improved it.
 
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Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
Here's something I'd like to see. Simple weapons should be the simple weapons, ones invented early in time, one's widely used, ones that don't take much skill to use effectively. The spear is one of them.

Then, martial weapon proficiency gives you proficiency in martial weapons, but also boosts your ability with simple weapons. A spear in the hands of a militia member is an effective weapon, but a true warrior knows how to use it better. A simple +1 to hit would make simple weapons very functional in the hands of a warrior.

But, I also would love to see "martial cantrips" for special attacks with different weapons. There's lots of tricks that can be done with weapons, even simple weapons.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Here's something I'd like to see. Simple weapons should be the simple weapons, ones invented early in time, one's widely used, ones that don't take much skill to use effectively. The spear is one of them.

Then, martial weapon proficiency gives you proficiency in martial weapons, but also boosts your ability with simple weapons. A spear in the hands of a militia member is an effective weapon, but a true warrior knows how to use it better. A simple +1 to hit would make simple weapons very functional in the hands of a warrior.

But, I also would love to see "martial cantrips" for special attacks with different weapons. There's lots of tricks that can be done with weapons, even simple weapons.

I really like this idea. You should develop it and work it out and pitch it to EN5ider. It would be a really awesome/useful article.
 

Here's something I'd like to see. Simple weapons should be the simple weapons, ones invented early in time, one's widely used, ones that don't take much skill to use effectively. The spear is one of them.

Then, martial weapon proficiency gives you proficiency in martial weapons, but also boosts your ability with simple weapons. A spear in the hands of a militia member is an effective weapon, but a true warrior knows how to use it better. A simple +1 to hit would make simple weapons very functional in the hands of a warrior.
Best way to view that is to remember that a corollary to Martial weapon proficiency is Shield Proficiency. The true warrior gets better use out of the spear by pairing it with a shield to protect themselves. Or uses a more military version of the spear like the Pike.

But, I also would love to see "martial cantrips" for special attacks with different weapons. There's lots of tricks that can be done with weapons, even simple weapons.
Thats . . . tricky. Its hard to define what can be done with one weapon but not with another, and if you grant a special trick that you can do to a specific type of weapon, it is going to imply that you can't do that same trick with a weapon of a different type.
I think the weapon mastery feats in the UA were a better take on this, granting the ability to do above-and-beyond tricks with a weapon as a function of the character being special, not the weapon.
Adding generic combat tricks could be done in the same way as the current generic combat tricks: shoving, grappling, disarm etc: they're something anyone can attempt. If you feel the need to distinguish martial from simple, require martial weapon proficiency to apply your proficiency bonus when attempting a combat trick.
 

AmerginLiath

Adventurer
Rather than replace the Simple Weapon spear, why not simply add a Martial Weapon longspear (with the damage/versatility at the cost of throwing) to the mix as an additional option?

The other possibility is not to change the spear's stats, but add it to the list of weapons for Polearm Master (using the example of the quarterstaff as a precedent). That should give it more cachet.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
In Celtic myth the spear was very favored Cuh Culaine had a feat that allowed him to ride the spear (flyin across the battle field on a hurled spear or it might be a flamboyant description of using the spear to pole vault). So perhaps making the spear better could involve fun things of that sort.
 


Ganymede81

First Post
There is no need to give wacky rules to the Spear and Trident: save the wackiness for feats.

Just up the damage of the Trident to 1d8/1d10. Problem solved.
 

Valetudo

Explorer
Here's something I'd like to see. Simple weapons should be the simple weapons, ones invented early in time, one's widely used, ones that don't take much skill to use effectively. The spear is one of them.

Then, martial weapon proficiency gives you proficiency in martial weapons, but also boosts your ability with simple weapons. A spear in the hands of a militia member is an effective weapon, but a true warrior knows how to use it better. A simple +1 to hit would make simple weapons very functional in the hands of a warrior.

But, I also would love to see "martial cantrips" for special attacks with different weapons. There's lots of tricks that can be done with weapons, even simple weapons.
its called 4th edition.
 

Valetudo

Explorer
I say just add spears and tridents to thePM feat. That alone makes them way better and I feel like they belong there more than the staff does.
 

Simonb1

Explorer
If you are running a dark ages era game, then remove most of the martial weapons, explaining that they have not been invented yet.

Simon
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Conceptually I like the idea that there's a "simple" spear doing 1d6/1d8(2H), and a "martial" spear that does 1d8/1d10(2H). Maybe it's really exactly the same weapon but in more expert hands. But, as the OP says, you should be able to choose the spear as your primary weapon and not feel like you have to make a tradeoff to do so.
 

Cyvris

First Post
But, I also would love to see "martial cantrips" for special attacks with different weapons. There's lots of tricks that can be done with weapons, even simple weapons.

Martial Cantrips you say? They aren't "finished" but I've been working on something pretty similar for some time. Most were lifted from 4e At-Wills, though my next pass will probably add material from Tome of Battle.

http://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/share/H1Q4-pCu

Kobold Press also has a nice "Beyond Damage Dice" option they published that links weapons and attacks, though I feel it doesn't really go as far as I think it should.


Spears have always been one of my favorite D&D weapons. I'd suggest the name "Greatspear" as it has precedent in name from 4e. Two-Handed 1d10. I'd also love to see a finesse spear; one handed-1d8.
 
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Aaron L

Hero
As Blue said, the Spear Master Feat from the Feats Unearthed Arcana article takes care of everything you asked for, which I think is the best way to handle it. Those abilities of the spear are due to training and drilling with the weapon.

My current character is a Favored Soul Sorcerer with the Acolyte Background; he's a Sorcerer-Priest of the God of the Sun, Magic, and Enlightenment, whose favored weapon is the Spear. He has the Spear Master and Shield Master Feats, and wears Half Plate... very Greco-Roman in flavor, as is his god. Even though he is a Sorcerer, he can fight as well as anyone in the party, thanks in no small part to that Feat (and the features of the Favored Soul Origin.)

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Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
Rather than replace the Simple Weapon spear, why not simply add a Martial Weapon longspear (with the damage/versatility at the cost of throwing) to the mix as an additional option?

The other possibility is not to change the spear's stats, but add it to the list of weapons for Polearm Master (using the example of the quarterstaff as a precedent). That should give it more cachet.

It could even be the same weapon. Martial training teaches you how to use it differently?


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The spear is one of the most damaging simple proficiency weapons already (tied with greatclub at 1d8 damage two-handed). I'd leave it as is, I think it is already a great simple weapon.

Where I see a problem is with the trident. The other versatile martial weapons do 1d8/1d10 damage (warhammer, battleaxe, longsword) but the trident is left at 1d6/1d8. I suspect that this is to balance the fact that it can be thrown. I'd change it to something like the following.

Heavy spear or trident, martial melee weapon, cost 5gp, damage 1d8 piercing, weight 4lb, thrown (range 20/60), versatile (1d10).

This way a martial character has a piercing weapon that is on par with warhammer (bludgeoning) and battleaxe/sword (slashing). They can throw it as well, which makes it better than sword and axe. It isn't as good as a javelin, however, because it doesn't have the range (being twice the weight).
 

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