War spear - a few thoughts

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War spear - a few thoughts

Postby Lagavulin » Fri Feb 22, 2008 12:00 pm

Just clarifying a few things for my campaign and how I am going to arm some of my npc troops and I have slight difficulty with spears. This is based on Atlantean edition - I don't have second. Several of my players have a wargaming background and the way spears are presented here will cause a few raised eyebrows.

Lots of ancient troops had long spears 8-10 feet was not unusual and used one handed alongside a large shield. Greek hoplites are the best example. That would give them a one handed reach weapon. As I read the current spear descriptions I dont see anything that looks like this.

The hunting spear is too light, seems too short and can be thrown - more like the sort of thing used either by primitive troops or light infantry.

The war spear is an oddity, a poor mans pike. It has the right sort of length but needs to hands.

For my campaign I propose to upgrade to the war spear. As a martial weapon it can be used one handed. Does anyone see any major issues with this ?

In addition to this are there any rules for using a shield with 2 handed spears ? having a small shield straped to the left arm while using a pike 2 handed was fairly standard ancient practice. I wa thinking something along the lines of adding 1 or 2 to the DR for npcs using a shield this way but no parry bonus.

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Postby Spongly » Fri Feb 22, 2008 2:54 pm

Gunderland pikemen (the finest in the Hyborian Age) get a feat that allows them to use a two handed pike with a strapped shield - I think it's called Gunderland Pike fighting or something - take a look at that for ideas.

I wrote a few rules for running a game set in Dark Age Britain using the Conan rules and made the war spear a one handed weapon, so that most warriors used a war spear in one hand with a shield as their standard weapon, only drawing swords and axes in real close combat. Worked well enough, although the heavy preponderance of reach weapons made working out Attacks of Opportunity a nightmare when I did my wee playtest.
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Postby Dante » Fri Feb 22, 2008 9:56 pm

I have also thought about the use of war spear in one hand. Turning it to one handed martial weapon is one solution, maybe give the ability as a racial bonus (Corinthians come to mind). Another solution could be to make a feat for it: Exotic weapon - One handed war spear.

The Gunderland pike and shield style is a good feat if you want to make troops fight like the Macedonian phalanx, two handed pike + shield strapped in the left arm. The problem is that in the Hyboriand Age only the Gundermen had mastered this technique. But that is up to the gamemaster of course :wink: .
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Postby Yogah of Yag » Sat Feb 23, 2008 2:10 pm

I don't like any requirement that mandates a war-spear (stabbing-spear, as it's called in the Táin: pp. 35, 118, 189, 210, 226, 231, 232, et al. [Kinsella trans., OUP paperback ed.]) must be used with two hands. I would insist on a weapon proficiency feat similar to the Gunderland Pike stuff mentioned above.
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My own...

Postby Gist_Engine » Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:50 pm

I would just make up my own weapon with the exact specs I wanted. There is no problem with that. If there is something missing in the rules, fill it in yourself. You could even call it a Giggle Spear or a Goofy-Ass Spear if you want. Nobody will try to get you in trouble with the Rule Police.
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Postby tarkhan bey » Mon Feb 25, 2008 10:22 pm

In first edition there was a special rule for the targe which allowed it to be used with a lesser defensive capability but permitted the use of an off hand weapon in the same hand. I remember that I game ruled that the warspear could also be used like this.
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Postby Clovenhoof » Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:50 pm

Hm, just saw this thread, but recently was pondering the same thing.

For a very long time, "spear and shield" was the absolute standard in melee combat. And we are talking large shields here. Think of the Roman legionary or his contemporary Germanic adversary.
BUT those were not Reach weapons. Those spears were maybe 7' long, and of course you didn't hold them at the last few inches of the shaft. So 5' reach seems perfectly right for these.

Phalanges were a different story. They had much longer spears combined with a large shield. These were highly trained (read: feat) professional soldiers, and still the Phalanx was a slow and cumbersome formation. One Phalangite all by himself was hardly a threat. I reckon that a single 12'-spear wielded one-handed can be displaced pretty easily by an opponent with a less cumbersome weapon.

If you want to have a one-handed Reach weapon, I could think of two options:
1) allow the War Spear to be wielded as One-handed Exotic Weapon (which would naturally allow any Barbarian to do so for free)
2) implement a different feat ("Phalangite") allowing to wield War Spear and Large Shield simultaneously. Different from the Gunderman feat, which is wielding the spear two-handed with strapped shield.
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Postby Spongly » Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:37 am

Clovenhoof wrote:Hm, just saw this thread, but recently was pondering the same thing.

For a very long time, "spear and shield" was the absolute standard in melee combat. And we are talking large shields here. Think of the Roman legionary or his contemporary Germanic adversary.
BUT those were not Reach weapons. Those spears were maybe 7' long, and of course you didn't hold them at the last few inches of the shaft. So 5' reach seems perfectly right for these.
Using a spear of that length though, I can fairly easily outreach someone armed with almost any one handed weapon like an axe or sword, and keep them at a distance by threatening an attack as they close in - AoO from reach simulates that pretty well. Also, you can get the full length of the spear into play - you hold it in the middle, but when you lunge you let the spear haft slide through your hand as you thrust, increasing the reach. You then sort of shuttle it back into its original position.
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Postby Clovenhoof » Thu Apr 24, 2008 9:05 am

When fighting against a spearman, you "just" need to displace his weapon before you close in; at least that's how I'd imagine it. Also, when you let the haft slide through your hand, you don't get much power behind the thrust.

Mechanics-wise, this is D20 and not RuleMonster or The Dark Eye. The latter features Facing and about 4 reach categories (like "dagger, one-handed, two-handed, polearm"), which makes combat extremely slow and cumbersome. So when in doubt, I'd rather keep it simple. In my experience, the more realistically you try to simulate combat, the less realistic it turns out.
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Postby Sutek » Thu Apr 24, 2008 7:18 pm

'Don't rule out the Finesse capability of the War Spear. This plus reach makes it very nasty because it can get around armor easily, and with a d10 damage, it can really hurt.

There is no Pilum, and that would have reach anyway. Javelins are more tossable Hunting Spears, but they're 1sp more and break slightly more easily. But for a 30ft range increment, they're the throwing kind.

To reconcile things, I'd say that if the PC spends a full round action setting his Hunting Spear, the threat range doubles and the Critical increases to x3. I wouldn't be trying to add another Spear type that has reach just to fit an Earth historical reality.

Hunting Spear description entry says that "some warriors...use a a hunting spear and shield in war."
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Postby LucaCherstich » Wed Nov 19, 2008 9:44 pm

I know this is a old topic now but, since I've become recently interested in Black Kingdoms adventures, I was wondering about the usefulness of the war spear.
What if we make the Assegai from Tito's more frequent in the Black Kingdoms?
It really looks like a more usable form of war-spear, and not just for Black Kingdoms but maybe (with different names) for northerners like Cimmerians or Nordheimr.
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Postby LucaCherstich » Thu Nov 20, 2008 9:42 am

I know this topic does not interest anyone anymore but I was thinking to introduce a "stabbing spear".
It should be a kind of minor war spear without reach and which acts as a middle position between Hunting spear and War Spear.
It canniot be mimicked with the Assegai since its large blade (good for both slashing and piercing) is improper for our spear (too large blade).
Our stabbing spear should be something like typical Barbarian or Greek (pre-Hellenistic phalanx) spears, which means not good throwing weapons, not very good reach, but large spearheads to wound the enemy in melee battles, to be used together with large shields.
We are not speaking of Roman-like pilum spears which should be identified as the Hunting Spear (good throwing weapon, no large damaging spearhead).
So I propose to use the War Spear statistics without the reach.
Not so sure about the finesse possibility.
So, including the stabbing spear my new table of spears, not including pikes (a.k.a. Macedonian sarissae for hellenistic phalanxes) and lances (for using from horseback) should be something like this:


Simple weapons:

One-handed

name damage critical AP Range Inc. Details
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Javelin 1d8 x2 1 30 ft. Piercing
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Spear,
Hunting 1d8 x2 1 10 ft. Piercing
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Assegai 1d10 x2 3 — Piercing/Slashing
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Stabbing
Spear 1d10 x3 2 — Piercing, Finesse (?)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------


Two handed:

Spear,
War 1d10 x3 2 — Piercing,
Finesse, Reach
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Postby kintire » Thu Nov 20, 2008 10:17 am

While not a bad idea in and of itself, it is unbalanced as a simple weapon. Make it Martial. Given that you are simulating a spear used largely in war, I think its not unreasonable.
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Postby Clovenhoof » Thu Nov 20, 2008 1:14 pm

And I think a better name might be "Thrusting Spear", because "stabbing" sounds so much like toothpicks to my ears.

Another idea:
We have precedence for weapons that can be wielded in different ways as either Martial or Exotic weapon. Mainly the War Sword. Why not just say that any Spear can be wielded as Simple or Martial weapon, granting it better stats in the latter case?

This is based on the original D20 concept that the weapon class has nothing to do with the complexity of the weapon itself, but on how difficult it is to wield effectively. That's why crossbows should be Simple and bows Martial weapons, as in standard SRD (and how I've houseruled it in Conan). In case of the Spear, using it as Martial weapon would reflect the special training a warrior has received.

I see absolutely no problem in having a Martial Spear with stats equivalent to the Battleaxe. Just switch the Damage type from S to P. Maybe reduce AP a bit to make up for the ability to Throw it.

I think I'm going to write that into my house rules right now.
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Postby LucaCherstich » Thu Nov 20, 2008 3:20 pm

I just tried to make a "piercing version" of the Assegai (which is a piercing/slashing weapon) and it is a simple weapon.
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Postby Yogah of Yag » Thu Nov 20, 2008 8:04 pm

Clovenhoof wrote:And I think a better name might be "Thrusting Spear", because "stabbing" sounds so much like toothpicks to my ears.
Um, I'm sorry but toothpicks are not a reach weapon! :lol:
You could try to throw them as a ranged weapon, but you suffer a -8 without the Flying Toothpick of Death feat [Hyboria's Restaurants, p. 25ff.].
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Postby Sutek » Sat Nov 22, 2008 11:38 am

I'd say decrease the damage back to 1d8, x3 crit, finesse, but drop the AP to nil. If you really want it to do heavy damage (1d10) I'd suggest a special note that pertains to the weapon getting stuck in armor easily. You're essentially creating a pilum, and those were use to thrust, jab into enemy sheilds and weigh them down so they could no longer be used properly. The also did nasty damage because they had a very long pointy bit (lol), but it was primarily a de-shielding weapon.
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