log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Spear houserule

Stalker0

Legend
You could also just downgrade sword damage. The typical side-arm type sword of the time was similar to a D&D shortsword. Just get rid of, or limit, longswords, greatsword and the like. Make 1d8 2-handed swords the norm and 1d6 sword the norm.
Absolutely true, I also wanted things to be a little deadly for this game hence the damage boost rather than nerf, but both work in terms of highlighting the spear
 

log in or register to remove this ad

dave2008

Legend
This is tangential to Spears in particular, but I'd suggest against this. Every time we limit one form or another of martial ability because of 1) allusions to realism, or 2) balance concerns between the various weapons, one has to consider whether weapon-based combat on a whole needs more limitations. I say this because both monks (who don't need weapons) and casters (who engage the game in means other than weapons) still exist as alternate player options and the later (casters) certainly already threaten to run away with the game. I say that even as someone who is really, really annoyed that the best options seem to be gimmicks --sharpshooting, XBE-ing people with ahistoric/barely historic hand crossbows; using the but end of halberds (definitely something that showed up in the treatises, but certainly not a primary combat type); PAM one-handed quarterstaves and shields; etc. Those shouldn't have such oversized capacity amongst the weapons, but IMO the solution is to bring the other options up to their level, not dilute all martial ability (which will only make the latest HexbladelockCoffeeTwilightSimalacrumMinionMasterCheezelikeproduct build all that more powerful compared to martials in general.
Good point. Personally I think upgrade most melee weapon damage would help.
 


embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
Except that 5 feet is way too short for spear that isn't an iklwa, and unless there are a lot of Zulu themed Fighters being played that I'm not aware of, I don't think that's what people want from their spears. For reference, a standard competition wushu qiang starts at 200 cm, or about 6'6".

And if you want to talk about being cinematic, then compare this scene from Hero (2004):


Or The Legend of the Condor Heroes (2017), starting around 5:00

Rewatching, at least to my eyes, just illustrates my point. Can you point to any particular point where the spear, even in the hands of epic-level fighters, reach through the adjoining 5' spot and into the 5' spot beyond it?

The spear, as used in an infantry scenario is held about 2/5 up the shaft. So 2' is behind the hand, bolstered by the forearm, and the remaining 3' feet goes forward. This is comparable to the length of a longsword. This is the one handed spear-and-shield method demonstrated in "300."

PAM+shield+spear is already one of the uber martial builds of the game and boosting that doesn't seem necessary to me.

No. It's not necessary. And in fact, if you boost it, you will break the game. Because adding reach means that you can stop pretty much any attack from pretty much any Medium creature.

Let's take the spear and give it Reach without making any other changes to it.

It's 1H so you can use a shield. Now take that and put it in the hands of a Human (Variant) Battle Master. In plate mail. With a shield. And the PAM/Sentinel combo. With the PAM/Sentinel benefits plus Brace (which is "within reach" not within 5 feet and doesn't have to be willing) and Lunging Attack (also based on reach, not just within 5 feet) maneuvers.

There is now an AC20 character who can attack anything in a 10' radius and who can extend that to 15'.

To quote a certain genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, "We have a hulk."

Giving spears (wielded in two hands) reach

Doesn't work. Used two-handed, a 5' spear is held like a quarterstaff. Here, the hands are placed one third down from the point and one third from the base of the shaft. So now you have a weapon that can be wielded like a quarterstaff as a double-ended blunt weapon with the added benefit of also being able to pierce. However, because of how the spear is held, you still don't have a reach weapon.

The wuxia scenario involves the spear being held by the base in one hand and swung wide. But even with this exceptional attack method, the reach is limited to less than 10'.
 

Rewatching, at least to my eyes, just illustrates my point. Can you point to any particular point where the spear, even in the hands of epic-level fighters, reach through the adjoining 5' spot and into the 5' spot beyond it?
If that's your argument, then wouldn't the same apply to glaives and halberds? They also tended to be around 6-7 feet long, and I'd argue would have less effective range than a spear due to being used primarily for slashing and hooking rather than stabbing, as well as having a heavier blade. And yet they have the Reach property in 5e, while spears don't despite being of similar length.

Compare the choreography of this scene where it's glaive vs greatsword:


EDIT: okay, I think I might have gotten confused, so let me restate my point and see if I'm on base with everybody else:

The point I was trying to make is that a spear that is 5 feet long is a spear that is too short outside of a few specific contexts. Most types of spears I know of, even spears intended to be used in one hand and paired with a shield like the Greek dory, were at least 6 feet in length. The weapon may have a normal 5 foot reach under 5e rules when used in one hand, or even two outside of desperation lunges, but the weapon itself shouldn't be as short as 5 feet.
 
Last edited:

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
If that's your argument, then wouldn't the same apply to glaives and halberds? They also tended to be around 6-7 feet long, and I'd argue would have less effective range than a spear due to being used primarily for slashing and hooking rather than stabbing, as well as having a heavier blade. And yet they have the Reach property in 5e, while spears don't despite being of similar length.
RAW, they are also Heavy, 2H, and Martial.

If you add Reach to a Spear and change nothing else, as the OP suggests, you now have a weapon that is Light, 1H, Simple, and Reach. Which means that, except for druids and wizards, everyone could have a reach weapon.

If you look at what weapons have Reach, it is pretty clear that they were meant to be kept only in the hands of martials.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Here, the hands are placed one third down from the point and one third from the base of the shaft.

There are several traditional grips for spears, and that is only one. More common is to have one hand near or at the butt of the weapon - this takes advantage of the weapon's length. Also, unlike with quarterstaff, you point the end of the weapon at the other guy (remember, the pointy end goes in the other man). So, like this...

1628198310702.png


(The spear that guy is holding is 9' long, by the way. The man in blue on the right is holding one that's more like 6', just a little taller than himself, but the same techniques can be used.)

You see this basic stance repeated time and again in various martial traditions from around the globe. You see it in the martial arts videos above, you see it in Kali/Escrima/Arnis, and in European fighting as well.

From here, there are three basic ways to strike with the spear - which we might call push, slide, and lunge.

In the push, you keep your hands gripped as above, you just shove them both forwards. It isn't the most powerful shot, doesn't have the longest range, but it keeps you under guard.

In the slide, you bring the hand at the butt of the weapon pushes forward forward, extending the spear, while the front hand guides the spear to its target, which gets you a few feet of range.

1628199369907.png


1628199553509.png


Finally, there's the lunge, which is a slide, but at the end of the maneuver you let go with the forward hand. You may step forward with the back foot to get even more range.

1628199742706.png



Standing behind a row of folks with shields, a 2-handed spear wielder can generally still hit the front row of opponents in a formation - while formations are generally tighter than D&D's 5' squares, this is effectively using reach in a D&D sense.
 

Quartz

Hero
So here is the spear houserule: Remove the Thrown property; add the Reach property. Everything else stays the same.

Just give the spear reach when held two-handed.

Personally, I’d set the spear (pun intended) to have the Thrown property when used one-handed, but when used two-handed, it has the Reach property. It then becomes a half-step between javelin and pike and really versatile (pun intended again).

Or this.
 


ECMO3

Hero
While doing research for the mass combat rules I may or may not end up successfully creating, I kept running into something that has always bugged me about the 5e weapons: the spear.

To start, we have a javelin, a spear, and a pike in the rules to represent the three real-world categories of spear-like weapons. So far, so good.

The spear is a cheap simple weapon, as it should be. The problem is that, more than most other simple weapons, it is a weapon that is also used as a primary weapon by more skilled warriors and trained armies. Mechanically, it isn't on par with martial weapons, and it's a bad choice you probably aren't going to take for a PC. And when I look at the guard NPC statblock with its pitiful spear, I just feel bad.

In addition, there are conceptual issues because an essential part of the historical spear was its reach. Based on my cursory research, real spears were of similar length to glaives and halberds, which do have reach in 5e. But the spear doesn't, for some weird reason. While this is just an annoyance at the normal D&D scale, when you start messing with mass combat considerations, spears don't work. They need to both be usable in one-hand and have reach so they can be used for the actual spear and shield tactics that people used spears for.

But I found something interesting in my research. Apparently there are supposed to be two types of (sub-pike) spears. Thrusting and throwing. Javelins are for throwing, and thrusting spears aren't.

. . .

That was the revelation. What's holding back the spear is that it's being given the Thrown property unnecessarily. Sure, if you throw it it might fly better than if you throw a flail or scimitar, but so would a shortsword and that doesn't have the Thrown property. The thing is that you don't throw your thrusting spear except in extreme situations, because then you don't have it anymore. If you want to throw spears, that's what javelins are for. Carry 7 of them like the Romans.

So here is the spear houserule: Remove the Thrown property; add the Reach property. Everything else stays the same.

Conceptually this puts spears in their correct place on the javelin-spear-pike continuum.

Javelins can be used in melee, but are designed for throwing. (1d6 damage, ranged or melee)

Spears are designed for thrusting, have reach, and can be used either one-handed with a shield or two-handed. (1d6 damage melee reach with shield, or 1d8 damage melee reach two-handed)

Pikes are too big for one-handed use (and obviously have reach). (1d10 damage melee reach two-handed)

Mechanically, they now have a meaningful niche and are still balanced properly with other weapons. PCs and NPCs alike have a reason to choose a spear either at the personal or mass combat scale. This does put them on par with martial weapons, but I'm probably okay with that. Spears have been one of the most popular weapons in history, and this rule makes that hold up.

I'm hoping it works out the way I like. If everyone gives up on longswords and battleaxes and converts to spears, then I've screwed up. Otherwise, I think this should fix it.
"Spear" covers a lot of ground to include metal-tipped spears used by professionals like a soldier, but also the sharpened sticks used by barbarians and colonial-era native Americans.

Like "shortbow" a wide variety of weapons from very primitive to very modern.

As far as thrown, I think a spear can be thrown a lot easier than a dagger can be (assuming we are talking about an actual dagger and not a knife).

A lot of that is flavor I think and not really intended to be realistic.
 

I hadn‘t come across the idea that reach only applied when used two-handed, but if that‘s the case it is an easy adjustment to the houserule. At that point the properties become: Versatile (1d8), Special. Then you have an entry specifying that it has the Reach property when wielded in two hands, and the Thrown property when wielded in one hand (if desired).

That could resolve the NPC battlefield ramifications, but wouldn‘t really do much from the PC side, since if you wanted to play a two-handed spear you would use a pike for superior damage, and if you wanted to use one handed with spear and be able to throw it you would use javelins. The Versatile property almost never comes up after character creation, because it is almost never worthwhile to switch between one-handed and two-handed with the same weapon.

At that point the house rule doesn’t accomplish half of its intent, because on the PC side it just effectively makes a pike that does less damage but can be used by Small creatures—and the intent wasn‘t to improve Reach access for Small characters but to improve the spear for Medium warriors.

I’m less concerned about the effects of Polearm Master and Sentinel, since, because we are already using house rules, I think it‘s more desirable to make the basic game work well without feats and change a feat if it breaks something than the other way around.

How does the balance look to giving it one-handed reach if the feats aren‘t an issue? (Pretend that the spear’s Reach only applies one-handed when you take the Attack action (not on opportunity attacks), and that PAM’s first bullet point only works with a spear or quarterstaff when wielded with two-hands.)
 

ECMO3

Hero
I hadn‘t come across the idea that reach only applied when used two-handed, but if that‘s the case it is an easy adjustment to the houserule. At that point the properties become: Versatile (1d8), Special. Then you have an entry specifying that it has the Reach property when wielded in two hands, and the Thrown property when wielded in one hand (if desired).

That could resolve the NPC battlefield ramifications, but wouldn‘t really do much from the PC side, since if you wanted to play a two-handed spear you would use a pike for superior damage, and if you wanted to use one handed with spear and be able to throw it you would use javelins. The Versatile property almost never comes up after character creation, because it is almost never worthwhile to switch between one-handed and two-handed with the same weapon.

At that point the house rule doesn’t accomplish half of its intent, because on the PC side it just effectively makes a pike that does less damage but can be used by Small creatures—and the intent wasn‘t to improve Reach access for Small characters but to improve the spear for Medium warriors.

I’m less concerned about the effects of Polearm Master and Sentinel, since, because we are already using house rules, I think it‘s more desirable to make the basic game work well without feats and change a feat if it breaks something than the other way around.

How does the balance look to giving it one-handed reach if the feats aren‘t an issue? (Pretend that the spear’s Reach only applies one-handed when you take the Attack action (not on opportunity attacks), and that PAM’s first bullet point only works with a spear or quarterstaff when wielded with two-hands.)
It isn't. A whip is reach and is 1-handed. BUT it is a martial weapon AND only does d4 damage.

The real problem with spears being reach mechanically is those with simple weapon proficiency can stay back behind the fighters and make attacks with their proficiecny bonus and get AOOs at range without being in melee combat themselves.

I think when the rules say "spear" they mean a simple weapon used by peasants which does not have abilities like reach. I think Pike can pretty easily fill the role of a professional-grade "reach spear" (that is really what it is). If that is the build you want just use a Pike and call it a long spear. If you are not proficient, well that is kind of the point right?
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
In previous editions in D&D, reach was broken.

In 5e, reach is balanced, and makes sense.

The difference is, in 5e, there is only one reaction per round, thus only one opportunity attack. It matters less if the one attack is adjacent or at reach.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
If the "grid" was 3-foot squares, instead of 5, there would be more granularity to better represent weapons.

But in the meantime, allowing spears to gain reach while two-handed, seems like a fine simplification. The spear is an important weapon. It even deserves "plot protection" like a sword does. It having reach is appropriate.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I hadn‘t come across the idea that reach only applied when used two-handed, but if that‘s the case it is an easy adjustment to the houserule. At that point the properties become: Versatile (1d8), Special. Then you have an entry specifying that it has the Reach property when wielded in two hands, and the Thrown property when wielded in one hand (if desired).

That could resolve the NPC battlefield ramifications, but wouldn‘t really do much from the PC side, since if you wanted to play a two-handed spear you would use a pike for superior damage, and if you wanted to use one handed with spear and be able to throw it you would use javelins. The Versatile property almost never comes up after character creation, because it is almost never worthwhile to switch between one-handed and two-handed with the same weapon.

At that point the house rule doesn’t accomplish half of its intent, because on the PC side it just effectively makes a pike that does less damage but can be used by Small creatures—and the intent wasn‘t to improve Reach access for Small characters but to improve the spear for Medium warriors.

I’m less concerned about the effects of Polearm Master and Sentinel, since, because we are already using house rules, I think it‘s more desirable to make the basic game work well without feats and change a feat if it breaks something than the other way around.

How does the balance look to giving it one-handed reach if the feats aren‘t an issue? (Pretend that the spear’s Reach only applies one-handed when you take the Attack action (not on opportunity attacks), and that PAM’s first bullet point only works with a spear or quarterstaff when wielded with two-hands.)
I am thinking the versatility itself should bump up the dice twice.

Longsword 1d8 slash (versatile 1d12)
Spear 1d6 pierce (versatile 1d10, reach if two-handed)
etcetera

For historical reasons, I would rather see players wield a longsword (claymore) or a spear, than a "greatsword" or a pike.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Yeah, I think errata’ing Polearm Master to only work when using the weapon 2-handed rather than giving up on spears with reach is the way to go.

But quite honestly, when wizards can drop AoE fireballs 20 feet in diameter that do damage even when you make the save at 5th level, is a Sentinel/PAM fighter with spear & shield really that bad?
 

Willie the Duck

Adventurer
Yeah, I think errata’ing Polearm Master to only work when using the weapon 2-handed rather than giving up on spears with reach is the way to go.

But quite honestly, when wizards can drop AoE fireballs 20 feet in diameter that do damage even when you make the save at 5th level, is a Sentinel/PAM fighter with spear & shield really that bad?
I alluded to the base notion up above. Casters don't need weapons or weapon feats, and tend to dominate the game unless the DM has an truly solid grip on not allowing a 5/15-minute workday. That's why my preferred solution isn't to nerf the existing uber martial builds so much as boost the less impressive ones (letting PAM work with spears actually was one of these boosts, now we need something similar for two-weapon fighting, martials with maces, other sword-and-board options, etc.).

That said, I don't think it is fireball*, nor the 1/2 damage on saves, is the primary reason. For direct damage I'd look at Spirit Guardians or Animate Objects, and the real killers are (as always) battlefield control, minionmancy (including Simulacrum and Planar Bindings), character swapout (such as polymorph), entire-encounter-negating divinations, and of course Wish.
*Which I will say at the 5th level you specifically mentioned is something of a runaway hit, but overall is certainly not the biggest contributor to caster dominance.
 

Tinker-TDC

Explorer
The real problem with spears being reach mechanically is those with simple weapon proficiency can stay back behind the fighters and make attacks with their proficiecny bonus and get AOOs at range without being in melee combat themselves.
This seems like it should not be the problem but the goal of spears. Letting big lines of untrained people double-up.

However, my personal fix is just upping spears to d8/d10 if the user has Martial weapon proficiency. No problem with it as of yet. Originally we considered a possible issue of it being the only d8 thrown weapon but DEX already had the rapier as their sole d8 finesse weapon and STR can really use any boost it can get.
 

RAW, they are also Heavy, 2H, and Martial.

If you add Reach to a Spear and change nothing else, as the OP suggests, you now have a weapon that is Light, 1H, Simple, and Reach. Which means that, except for druids and wizards, everyone could have a reach weapon.

If you look at what weapons have Reach, it is pretty clear that they were meant to be kept only in the hands of martials.
So wait, are you arguing for realism or for gameplay balance now??? I'm confused.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Personally, I’d set the spear (pun intended) to have the Thrown property when used one-handed, but when used two-handed, it has the Reach property. It then becomes a half-step between javelin and pike and really versatile (pun intended again).

Reasonable. Though, I think that means that when a character is not specifically doing something with the off hand, the spear effectively has both, as swapping between two and one handed when both hands are free should be effortless. I think I'd be okay with that, though. Being the only simple weapon with reach would make it very attractive in the world, even if most PCs have better options.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top