From prehistoric times to the World Wars, the spear has been common weapon whenever and wherever humans have fought. In the real world, there have been many variants that could have been called a spear: javelins, pikes, lances, bayonets, etc. In the 5e world, however, what qualifies as a spear falls within certain limitations.
Spear 5e Guide: Bottom Line
A spear is a D&D weapon that is usable by most player characters, NPCs, and monsters. It can be used in many different ways: single-handed (1d6), two-handed (2d8), melee, and ranged.
What is a Spear in 5e?
- Simple weapon – Unlike martial weapons, spears are usable by most classes.
- Versatile – It does 1d6 damage and can be used with a shield when employed single-handed. It does 1d8 when used two-handed, in which case no shield can be employed.
- For ranged attacks, it also does 1d6 damage and has a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet.
- Its damage is always piercing damage, regardless of whether it is employed single-handed, double-handed, for melee, or for ranged attacks.
Who Can Use a Spear in 5e?
As per Player’s Handbook (PHB) rules, it can be used by the following D&D classes:
The only PHB classes excluded from spears are sorcerers and wizards.
What are spear properties?
Within PHB rules, spear properties include:
Spear properties NOT included are:
For game purposes, the reach of a spear is 5 feet, the same as a dagger. Obviously, this reach aspect is for the game only and has nothing to do with the real world.
Are Spears Polearms?
Yes. Despite not having the reach property, spears and quarterstaffs are considered polearms for purposes of the Polearm Master feat.
Furthermore, there is nothing in RAW (rules as written) within PHB that says the spear needs to be used two-handed when using the Polearm Master feat. Therefore, the only polearms within PHB that could be used with shields would be spears and quarterstaffs.
You might find this interesting: Comprehensive Guide to Polearm Master Feat in DnD 5e.
Within the Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG), there are magic weapons listed, including spears. However, there are no magic spears listed within DMG that have unusual properties. These are what I can find within DMG:
- Spear +2
- Spear +3
Your DM could, of course, homebrew the rules.
Spear Character Build
Having a spear and maximizing a spear are not the same thing. Even though many classes can use spears and any class can buy the Polearm Master feat, not all classes can do that and use shields.
Below is an example of my choice for creating a character that can maximize a spear.
Darkchain the Duergar Battlemaster (Fighter 8)
Darkchain is male duergar fighter that has chosen the Battlemaster archetype:
|4th + 6th Lvl. ASI||+4|
|Ability Scores Total||20||10||18||8||16||8|
|8||26||76||25||Spear +3, 2 +3 hand axes, +10/+8 Dam 1d6+10 (11-16)||+3 shield, +2 plate, +3 spear, 2 +3 hand axes, 2 +1 daggers, 2 Healing Potions|
|Herbalist’s kit||Student of War||Tool||Wisdom||+4|
- Dueling Fighting Style +2 to damage in melee
- Second Wind
- Action Surge
- Extra Attack (3 attacks)
- Know Your Enemy
- 5 Superiority Dice
- 5 Maneuvers
- – Lunging Attack
- – Pushing Attack
- – Riposte
- – Sweeping Attack
- – Trip Attack
Speed: 25 ft/turn and no speed penalty for heavy armor
Darkvision: 120 ft
Poison: Advantage on poison saving throws and resistance on poison damage
Duergar Resilience: advantage on saving throws against illusions and against being charmed or paralyzed
Languages: Undercommon, Common and Dwarvish
Spear Tactics: Duergar vs Drow
The uneasy truce between Gracklstugh, the Duergar City of Blades, and the famous drow city of Menzoberranzan has come to an end. While a full-scale war hasn’t erupted yet, raids and skirmishes are now completely legal.
Darkchain loves killing. His favorite kills are mind-flayers, but drow definitely take 2nd place. If he’s hunting alone, mind-flayers are still out of his league. Drow, however, are just right for one his solitary strolls.
There is a fungi forest where the drow are known to patrol. He decides to hide behind a giant mushroom and set up an ambush.
On the grid at the right, the following block letters have the following meanings:
S = soldier (drow)
D = Darkchain (our duergar player character)
M = giant mushroom the size of a tree
The drow patrol is moving in V formation, spaced 10 feet apart. Due to the obstacles created by the giant mushrooms of the fungi forest, the drow will have to change their formation if they want to pass through. Darkchain has picked his hiding place with this in mind, and hopes to spring his ambush right during the time window of their formation change.
The DM says,
“That’s fine, but you’ll have a disadvantage for Stealth because you’re wearing plate armor.”
Darkchain’s player Paul politely protests,
“But I’m not moving anywhere, I’m waiting behind a mushroom, sitting on a smaller mushroom.”
Paul places his figure on the battlemap behind the mushroom and has it face Menzoberranzan.
“My back is to Gracklstugh, my own city. If they are coming from Menzoberranzan, the mushroom would provide me cover and I should see them before they see me. We are in the Underdark after all, and drow and duergar have the same Darkvision, 120 feet.
If there’s a squad of them and they’re moving at normal speed, and I’m hiding in a mushroom patch by myself and stationary, there’s no way they’re sneaking up on me. Wouldn’t you agree, Dungeon Master?”
The DM agrees.
“As soon as they get within sight, I’ll cast Invisibility.”
RAW (rules as written) Hide action is a Stealth check. The DM could still make Paul roll at a disadvantage for Stealth, but the DM decides not to. This DM wants the players to come up with good tactics and problem solutions. The DM rules that visible Darkchain hiding behind the mushroom is lightly obscured and invisible Darkchain is heavily obscured.
When the drow get within 120 feet of Darkchain, they are allowed a Passive Perception check (12) at disadvantage, which they fail.
When Darkchain turns invisible, he is considered heavily obscured. Heavily obscured means that for the purposes of seeing Darkchain, the drow are blinded and any ability checks to detect him while hiding and not moving (Passive Perception) automatically fail.
The DM rules that the ambush is successful and Darkchain gets a surprise round.
Meet the Drow
10 drow with equal stats.
dam 1d6+2 (5)
|10(+0)||14 (+2)||10(+0)||11(+0)||11(+0)||12 (+1)||30 ft.|
- Skills: Perception +2, Stealth +4
- Senses: Darkvision 120 ft, Passive Perception 12
- Innate Magic: Dancing Lights (cantrip),
- 1x/day: Faerie Fire, Darkness
- Shortsword (piercing), Hand Crossbow (piercing)
- Crossbow bolts are poisoned: save on a DC 13 or be poisoned and unconscious for 1 hour.
As you can see from the map on the left, the drow break up into 2 teams. The 1st team team on the left pulls security while 2nd team on the right passes through. They can no longer maintain 10 feet distance between each other due to the obstacles presented by the giant mushrooms.
Darkchain, as a dwarf, has 25 feet of movement during his surprise round. While invisible, he uses 10 feet of movement to attack the 2 drow that are on the far right of the 2nd team.
Of course, after he attacks them, he is no longer invisible, but it takes a few seconds for the others to process his sudden appearance and react, so he still gets to attack the rest of the 2nd team as if he were invisible.
Darkchain uses his Action Surge to gain a 2nd action and target the 2nd half of the 2nd team, 3 drow. He uses another 10 feet of movement to enter the square of the soldier in the middle. His action would allow for 3 attacks (2 from Extra Attack and 1 from bonus action with butt end of his spear).
“I wait until they walk past me and use Action Surge to attack with my spear. Because I have the Polearm feat, I can attack with the butt end of my spear as a bonus action.
2 attacks per action, 2 actions because of my Action Surge equals 4 attacks. Plus, my bonus action attack with my Polearm Master feat equals 5 attacks, all at an advantage because I’m invisible and attacking from behind.”
Because the drow have AC 15 and Darkchain has +10 attack bonus, he would need a 5 or higher on d20 to hit. Because he is attacking at an advantage, he hits all 5 drow.
Darkchain has a +10 damage bonus: +5 Strength, +3 magic spear, +2 Duelist Fighting Style = +10.
He does 11-16 points of damage with the point of his spear 11-14 points with the butt of his spear.
He kills 1 with the butt of his spear and 3 with the point of his spear. 1 of the 5 drow the duergar hits takes 12 points of damage and is left with 1 hit point. There are 6 of the 10 drow remaining on the battlemap.
Paul then says,
“I cast Enlarge as a bonus action.”
There has been some discrepancy regarding whether Duergar can use Enlarge and Invisibility as a bonus action or as an action. Obviously, it would make a big difference in combat if Darkchain would have to spend an entire turn just to transform. The DM rules that these Innate Magic abilities are a bonus actions but replies,
“You can’t Enlarge this turn because you’ve already used your bonus action to make an extra attack with the butt of your spear. You can Enlarge as a bonus action on your next turn, if you’re willing to give up your butt-stroke attack for that turn.”
Paul accepts the DM’s ruling.
The DM’s ruling screws up Paul’s strategy. He had intended to Enlarge himself not only for the purposes of doing an extra 1d4 damage, but also for the purpose of increasing the reach of his spear, effectively turning it into a 1-handed pike.
“Now, it’s the drow’s turn.”
“Respectfully, Dungeon Master, you said it was a surprise round. They don’t get a turn. Now, we roll for initiative. Correct?”
The DM accepts Paul’s correction.
They roll for initiative. The drow get the initiative because of their Dexterity bonus.
4 drow were holding hand crossbows and 6 were holding shortswords. The DM decided that of the 4 drow holding crossbows, 2 had been killed by Darkchain, 1 had been wounded, and 1 had been left untouched.
As an Innate Magic ability bonus action, one of the drow casts Faerie Fire Spell on Darkchain, making all attacks against him at an advantage.
The wounded drow fires from 10 feet away and the unwounded drow fires from 25 feet away. Because Darkchain has an AC of 26, the only way any of these drow are hitting him is with a natural 20. Of course, all attackers are rolling twice because they have an advantage due to the Faerie Fire Spell.
The wounded drow scores a hit with a natural 20. Of course, the hit is a critical hit and the drow rolls 2d6 +2 piercing damage (9 total). Because it is a poison crossbow bolt, Darkchain has to roll a saving throw. Because Darkchain is duergar, his saving throw is at an advantage and he makes his saving throw.
The DM tells Paul to roll a Perception check. He passes.
The DM explains.
“You notice that of the drow you’ve been fighting one of them is female. She fires a beam of light at you before stepping back a few feet.” On the grid, this particular drow soldier has been changed from S to C. (C= Caster)
The DM rolls twice because all attacks against Darkchain have an advantage due to Faerie Fire.
“The light bounces off your shield.”
“After the drow lady steps back, 3 drow men charge you with their shortswords.”
The DM rolls 3 times. Again, 1 of them is a natural 20.
“Those rolls don’t count!”
“Why?” asks the DM.
“I get to attack first because I’m a Polearm Master with a spear!”
Paul is referring to the opportunity attack feature that Darkchain has whenever enemies enter the reach, 5 feet, he has with his spear, due to his Polearm Master feat.
“As a Reaction, I attack all 3 with my spear and I get to attack first because I was provoked when they entered my square.”
The DM checks the Reaction section on PHB p. 190.
“I’ll allow you to attack first but you only get 1 reaction attack.” The DM cites the YouTube vlogging channel XP to Level 3.
Paul challenges that ruling,
“XP to level 3 is wrong!” Paul cites PHB p. 190,
“When you take a reaction, you can’t take another one until the start of your next turn.”
The DM retorts, “That’s why you only get 1 reaction attack.”
Paul continues to press,
“It doesn’t say 1 reaction attack per round. It implies 1 reaction attack per turn. I get 2 reaction attacks. 1 on the drow’s turn and 1 at the start of my next turn. Since the drow have the initiative, my next turn is right after their turn, within the same round, Round 2.”
The DM realizes that a rules lawyer is at the table. However, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The DM doesn’t want to create a DM vs players mentality.
The DM wants players to use strategy as part of their role-play and that is exactly what Paul is doing when he maximizes his character and his character’s weapon, the spear. The accepts Paul’s objection and asks,
“Ok. You get both reaction attacks. Whom do you target first?”
“The one that got a natural 20.”
The DM laughs, “Don’t worry, I’ll reroll it.”
Paul picks his targets for both reaction attacks. Darkchain hits and kills both. The DM clears them from the battlemap and there are now 4 drow left: 1 wounded crossbowman, 1 unwounded crossbowman, 1 unwounded swordsman engaging the duergar in melee, who attacks Darkchain and misses, and 1 caster at a 30-foot distance.
Paul decides that the biggest threat is the caster. Paul asks,
“How’s the terrain?”
“The terrain’s normal.”
“Can I use my full 25 feet of movement to get to within 5 feet of the caster and use Lunging Attack to cross the other 5 feet?”
“Yes, but the swordsman you’re facing gets an opportunity attack against you.”
“Do I get Riposte?”
“No. You’ve already used your turn’s reaction on your last kill.”
“Once I use my Lunging Attack, will I be within the caster’s square and be able to use Trip Attack on my 2nd attack?”
The DM checks the Maneuvers section on PHB p. 74. RAW, “increase your reach for that attack”, but again, the DM wants to encourage strategy among players.
“I’ll allow it.”
“Ok. I use my full movement and my Lunging Attack to make my first attack on the caster. “
The DM rolls for the swordsman, who misses his opportunity attack and responds,
“Ok. Roll your 2 attacks.”
Paul gets some high rolls.
“Roll a Perception check.”
Paul gets a good roll.
The DM explains,
“Your spear passes through the caster’s form as it would through a beam of moonlight. Out of the corner of your eye, you notice something. Standing 10 feet to your right, you see an identical image of the caster.”
“Can I get to her?”
“You’ve used up all your movement and your turn.”
“I still get a bonus action.”
“Yes, you do.”
“Yes, you do and that’s your turn and that’s the end of Round 2.
Ellastra is the real leader of the patrol, not the drow soldier walking point. She blends in with the other 9 drow and isn’t one of the drow hit by Darkchain’s ambush in the surprise round.
She is a priestess of Lolth and therefore, has some understanding of trickery.
Ellastra the Priestess of Lolth (Clorcerer 6th level: Trickery Domain Cleric 2nd level and Wildmagic Sorcerer 4th level)
|4th Lvl. ASI||+2|
|Ability Scores Total||8||10||13||14||14||18|
|6||17||43||30||Shortsword +2, hand crossbow +2, +7/+5 Dam 1d6+5 (6-11), Casting +7||Shortsword +2, hand crossbow +2, +2 chain shirt|
Innate magic spells due to drow heritage are italics. Spells from the Trickery Domain are underlined. Cleric Spells are in normal script. Sorcery spells are in boldface.
|Cantrips (3) 5 +1||Guidance, Mending, Sacred Flame, Mage Hand, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, Shocking Grasp, Message, Dancing Lights|
|1st level (3) 4 +1||Charm Person, Disguise Self, Create or Destroy Water, Guiding Bolt, Healing Word, Comprehend Languages, Detect Magic, Magic Missile, Thunderwave, Faerie Fire Slots: 3 Cleric 4 Sorcerer|
|2nd level (2) 3||Mirror Image, Misty Step, See Invisibility Darkness Slots: 3|
|Sorcery Points 4||Metamagic: Quicken Spell (2), Twin Spell (1)|
|Channel Divinity||Invoke Duplicity|
|Wild Magic||Wild Magic Surge, Tides of Chaos|
What Darchain thought was the caster was really an illusory duplicate created by Ellastra’s Invoke Duplicity class feature. The real caster, Ellastra, is standing about 10 feet away. Due to a successful Perception check, Darkchain knows this at the beginning of Round 3. On the grid, I = illusory duplicate.
The 2 drow killed in Round 2 have been cleared from the grid, and other than Ellastra, there are 3 drow remaining.
Ellastra had spent 2 sorcery points in Round 2 to use Quicken Spell to allow her to use Invoke Duplicity and Guiding Bolt in the same turn. For her turn in Round 3, she uses her remaining sorcery points to employ Quicken Spell again.
She uses both actions to cast Magic Missile, twice. She can’t use Twin because requires you to attack 2 different targets.
Because she has buffed both spells with 2nd level spell slots, she has a total of 8 missiles.
The DM narrates,
“8 darts magically appear around the caster. She points to you and they all fly into your body and you take 32 points of damage.”
Paul is a little surprised,
“No roll to hit? No saving throw?”
The DM smiles,
Paul smiles back. With an 8th-level character, he’s been playing long enough to know what Magic Missile is. Paul has to roll a Constitution check at DC 16 to maintain his Enlarged state. Because of Darkchain’s +3 Constitution bonus, Paul has to roll a 13 or higher. Paul rolls high and passes the check.
The DM continues,
“She laughs and says, ‘Chew on that, duergar scum!’ before moving back 30 feet.”
“Not so fast! I get an opportunity attack.”
“She’s not within 5 feet of you.”
“No. She’s within 10 feet of me and my reach is now 10 feet because I’m Enlarged and so is my spear. We agreed in Round 3 that my Enlarged spear is effectively a 1-handed pike.”
“Ok. You get 1 opportunity attack.”
Darkchain hits Ellastra for 13 points of damage. Darkchain’s turn hasn’t even started yet but when it does, he will still have all of his action and bonus action.
After Darkchain executes his opportunity attack, Ellastra uses the rest of her movement to move 30 feet away. That puts a total of 40 feet distance between Ellastra and Darkchain.
The three remaining drow are up next.
One of them casts Darkness as a bonus action against Darkchain. There is no saving throw and the duergar is blinded.
The drow wielding a shortsword switches to his hand crossbow. All three drow fire at Darkchain, at an advantage and miss due to the duergar’s 26 AC.
Paul knows that he doesn’t have enough movement to reach Ellastra and attack her in the same turn, so he executes a new plan. He asks the DM,
“Which of the three drow has Darkness on me?”
“You don’t know.”
“Why don’t I know? He used his Innate Magic right in front of me. Don’t I even get a Perception check?”
“Ok. Roll a check.”
Because Darkchain has the Perception skill, he passes his check.
“Ok. It was the one closest to you.”
Because Darkchain and his spear are still Enlarged, he can attack a target 10 feet away. Because he is blinded with the Darkness spell, his attack is at a disadvantage. Of course, disadvantage doesn’t mean that much when you only need a 5 or more to hit. The duergar hits, killing the Darkness-casting drow and regaining his sight.
With his movement, he gets behind the nearby mushrooms to take cover. In tandem with his movement, Darkchain drops his spear behind the mushrooms and draws one of his hand axes.
With his remaining attack, he hurls his axe at one of the 2 surviving drow soldiers at a distance of 30 feet. Because it’s a long-range attack, the duergar must roll at a disadvantage, and does so, hitting and killing his mark.
Ellastra assesses the situation. All but one of her soldiers are dead, she’s out of sorcery points, and she’s lost about 1/3 of her hit points. Her action is to cast Message Cantrip and contact her one surviving soldier,
“Cast Darkness and hide behind the 2 mushrooms near you. Don’t fire your crossbow. Wait for me instead.”
She then uses her 30 feet of movement to head towards the large grove of mushrooms on the right-hand side of the grid.
Her soldier does as she commands and Darkchain is blinded again.
It’s Darkchain’s turn. Paul asks the DM,
Do I know where my 2 enemies are?”
“You have a general idea, but you don’t know the exact square. If you want to attack while blind, you’re going to have to pick the square on the grid and hope you guess correctly.”
Paul decides that it’s not worth throwing his weapons out of reach.
He remains behind cover, activates Second Wind on himself, and drinks one of his Healing Potions. He knows that the Darkness Spell will only last 10 minutes. The DM knows that by then, Ellastra and the drow will be partially healed, and on their way back to Menzoberranzan.
Question: Could You Combine Striking with the Butt end of a Spear as a Polearm Master Bonus Action with the Sweeping Attack Maneuver?
ANSWER: Yes. Had paul been a more experienced player, he could have not only combined the sweeping attack maneuver with the buttstroke of his polearm bonus action but also with his other attack features during the surprise round (extra attack and action surge).
Had he been willing to spend all of his superiority dice, he could have had 10 attacks in the surprise round and would have wiped out most of the drow patrol in round 1.
QUESTION: DOES PHB TALK ABOUT ENLARGED WEAPONS GAINING THE REACH PROPERTY?
ANSWER: No. That’s a house rule proposed by paul and accepted by the dm.
The spear in 5e is a weapon that does 1d6 damage and has the following properties:
- Versatile (1d8 damage)
- Ranged 20/60
From Darkchain’s battle with the drow, we can see that the use of the spear was a factor. Darkchain could have used a sword or some other melee weapon instead, but the battle could have played out differently.
Obviously, the largest difference the spear made over some other melee weapons was in the additional attacks, not only due to the buttstroke bonus action but due to the opportunity attacks whenever enemies entered and exited his square. Combining his spear with Enlarge gave his spear the reach property.
The fact that he used a spear rather than a 2-handed polearm made a big difference to his AC (5 points) and is the reason he didn’t get hit by Ellastra’s Guiding Bolt. Pretty much every attack against was at an advantage and yet most of them still missed.
He could have thrown his spear instead of his axe. The spear was such a valuable weapon to him, however, that he wanted to keep it close by at all times.
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