Spear 5e D&D Guide

From the Stone Age to World War II, spears were a common weapon used by people when they fought.

In the real world, there have been many different kinds of weapons that could be called spears, such as javelins, pikes, lances, bayonets, and so on.

In the world of 5e, though, what counts as a spear is limited in certain ways.

Spear 5e

  • melee weapon (simple, spear)
  • Category: Items
  • Damage: 1d6
  • Damage Type: Piercing
  • Item Rarity: Standard
  • Properties: Range, Thrown, Versatile
  • Range: 20/60
  • Weight: 3

What is a Spear in 5e?

  • Spear: A spear is a simple weapon that can be used by most classes.
  • It can be used one-handed and does 1d6 damage. It can also be used with a shield. When used with both hands, it does 1d8 damage, and no shield can be used.
  • It also does 1d6 damage to ranged attacks, and its normal range is 20 feet and its long range is 60 feet.
  • It always does piercing damage, whether it is used with one hand, two hands, in close combat, or at a distance.

Who Can Use a Spear in 5e?

Player’s Handbook (PHB) rules say that the following D&D classes can use it:

Sorcerers and wizards are the only classes in the PHB that can’t use spears.

What does a spear have?

In the PHB, the following are spear properties:

  • Versatile
  • Melee
  • Ranged
  • Simple

Spear properties NOT included are:

  • Reach
  • Finesse
  • Special

For game purposes, a spear has the same reach as a dagger, which is 5 feet. This reach thing is obviously just for the game and has nothing to do with the real world.

Are Spears Polearms?

Yes. Even though spears and quarterstaffs don’t have the reach property, the Polearm Master feat treats them as polearms.

Also, nothing in the PHB’s “rules as written” says that the spear must be used with two hands when the Polearm Master feat is used.

So, spears and quarterstaffs are the only polearms in the PHB that can be used with shields.

Magic Items

Spear is one of the magic weapons listed in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG). But the DMG doesn’t list any magic spears that have strange properties. I can find the following in DMG:

  • Spear +2
  • Spear +3

The rules could also be made up by your DM.

Spear Character Build

Having a spear and making the most of it are two different things. Even though any class can buy the Polearm Master feat and many classes can use spears, not all classes can do both.

Here’s an example of a character I chose to make who can make the most of a spear.

Darkchain the Duergar Battlemaster (Fighter 8)

AbilityStrengthIntelligenceWisdomDexterityConstitutionCharisma
Standard Sequence15141312108
Customized Sequence15101281413
Racial ASI+1 +1 +2 
4th + 6th Lvl. ASI+4     
Ability Scores Total2010188168
Ability Modifiers+5+0+4-1+3+1
LvlACHPMoveWeaponEquipment
8267625Spear +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
ProficiencySourceTypeAbilityTotal Modifier
Smith’s toolsRaceToolStrength+8
StonecunningRaceSkillIntelligence+6
PerceptionClassSkillWisdom+4
SurvivalClassSkillWisdom+4
AthleticsBackgroundSkillStrength+8
IntimidationBackgroundSkillStrength+8
Mason’s toolsBackgroundToolStrength+8
Carpenter’s toolsBackgroundToolStrength+8
Herbalist’s kitStudent of WarToolWisdom+4

Fighter Features:

  • 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 feet per turn, and heavy armour doesn’t slow you down.

Darkvision: 120 ft

Poison: You have an advantage on saving throws against poison and resistance to poison damage.

Duergars with the Resilience trait have an advantage on saving throws against illusions, being charmed, or being paralyzed.

Undercommon, Common, and Dwarvish are all languages.

Spear Tactics: Duergar vs Drow

The peace between the Duergar city of Blades, Gracklstugh, and the famous drow city of Menzoberranzan, Menzoberranzan, has ended. Even though there hasn’t been a full-scale war yet, raids and skirmishes are now legal.

Darkchain loves killing. His favourite things to kill are mind-flayers, but drow are a close second. Mind-flayers are still too strong for him to hunt alone. Drow, on the other hand, are just right for one of his walks alone.

The drow are known to walk through a fungi forest. He decides to set up a trap and hide behind a big mushroom.

The following block letters on the grid on the right mean the following:

S = soldier (drow)

D = Darkchain (our duergar player character)

M = a huge mushroom as tall as a tree

The drow patrol is moving in a V shape, with 10 feet between each member. The giant mushrooms in the fungi forest will make it hard for the drow to get through, so they will have to change their shape.

Darkchain has chosen where to hide based on this, and he plans to attack during the time they are changing formation.

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Says the DM,

“That’s fine, but since you’re wearing plate armour, Stealth won’t work as well for you.”

Paul, who plays Darkchain, protests,

“But I’m not going anywhere. I’m sitting on a smaller mushroom behind a bigger mushroom while I wait.”

Paul puts his figure on the battle map behind the mushroom, with Menzoberranzan facing it.

“My back is to my own city, Gracklstugh. If they are coming from Menzoberranzan, the mushroom would hide me, and I should see them before they see me. We are, after all, in the Underdark, and both drow and duergar have the same 120-foot Darkvision.

If there’s a group of them moving at normal speed and I’m hiding by myself in a patch of mushrooms and not moving, they can’t sneak up on me. Dungeon Master, don’t you think so?”

He or she agrees.

“I’ll cast Invisibility as soon as I can see them.”

RAW (rules as written) (rules as written) Stealth is used for the Hide action. The DM could still make Paul roll for Stealth at a disadvantage, but he or she chooses not to.

This DM wants the players to think of good plans and ways to solve problems. The DM says that Darkchain is lightly hidden behind the mushroom if he can be seen, and he is heavily hidden if he can’t be seen.

When the drow get within 120 feet of Darkchain, they can make a Passive Perception check with a disadvantage of 12 and fail.

When Darkchain makes himself invisible, he is said to be heavily hidden. Heavily obscured means the drow can’t see Darkchain, and any ability checks to find him while hiding and not moving (Passive Perception) fail automatically.

The DM says that the ambush worked, so Darkchain gets a round of surprises.

Meet the Drow

10 drow with equal stats.

Weapon StatsACHP/HDSTRDEXCONINTWISCHASpeed
+4/+2 Att/Dam dam 1d6+2 (5)1513 (3d8)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.

Round 1

From the map on the left, you can see that the drow are split into two groups. The first team on the left is in charge of security while the second team on the right gets through. Because of the giant mushrooms, they can no longer stay 10 feet apart.

As a dwarf, Darkchain can move up to 25 feet during his surprise round. Even though he is invisible, he moves 10 feet to attack the two drow on the far right of the second team.

After he attacks them, he is no longer invisible, but it takes a few seconds for the others to realise what happened and react, so he can still attack the rest of the second team as if he were invisible.

Darkchain uses Action Surge to get a second action and go after the 3 drow on the other half of the second team. He moves another 10 feet to get to the soldier in the middle of the square. His move would let 3 attacks happen (2 from Extra Attack and 1 from bonus action with butt end of his spear).

Paul announces,

“I use Action Surge to attack with my spear when they walk past me. I have the Polearm feat, so I can use the pointy end of my spear to attack as an extra action.

Two attacks per action, plus my Action Surge, which gives me two actions, means I can do four attacks. Plus, my Polearm Master feat gives me a bonus action attack that gives me 5 attacks, all of which are better because I’m invisible and attacking from behind.

Because the drow have AC 15 and Darkchain has a +10 attack bonus, he would need a 5 or higher on a d20 to hit. Since he is stronger when he attacks, he hits all 5 drow.

+5 Strength, +3 Magic Spear, +2 Duelist Fighting Style = +10 damage bonus for Darkchain.

With the tip of his spear, he does 11–16 points of damage, and with the shaft, he does 11–14 points.

He kills one person with the shaft of his spear and three people with the tip. One of the five drow the duergar hits takes 12 damage and has only 1 hit point left. On the battlemap, only 6 of the 10 drow are still there.

Then Paul says,

“As a bonus action, I used Enlarge.”

There has been some confusion about whether Enlarge and Invisibility are actions or bonus actions that Duergar can use. Obviously, it would make a big difference in battle if Darkchain had to wait a whole turn to change. The DM says that these “Innate Magic” skills are extra actions, but the player says,

“You can’t Enlarge this turn because you already used your bonus action to make an extra attack with the tip of your spear. If you are willing to give up your butt-stroke attack for your next turn, you can use Enlarge as a bonus action.”

Paul agrees with what the DM says.

Paul’s plan falls apart because of what the DM says. He had planned to Enlarge himself not only to do an extra 1d4 damage, but also to make his spear reach farther, turning it into a 1-handed pike.

“Now it’s the turn of the drow.”

“Dungeon Master, with all due respect, you said it was a surprise round. They can’t do anything. Now, we’re taking the lead. Correct?”

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The DM agrees with Paul’s change.

Round 2

They roll to see who goes first. Because of their Dexterity bonus, the drow get to go first.

There were four drow with hand crossbows and six with short swords. The DM decided that two of the four drow with crossbows were killed by Darkchain, one was hurt, and one was left alone.

As a bonus action for their Innate Magic ability, one of the drow casts Faerie Fire Spell on Darkchain. This makes all attacks against him more effective.

The hurt drow shoots from 10 feet away, while the healthy drow shoots from 25 feet away. Because Darkchain has an AC of 26, these drow can only hit him if they roll a natural 20. All attackers are rolling twice because the Faerie Fire Spell gives them an advantage.

The hurt drow rolls a 20 and makes a hit. It’s a critical hit, so the drow rolls 2d6 + 2 piercing damage (9 total). Darkchain has to make a saving throw because the crossbow bolt is poisoned. Because Darkchain is a duergar, he has an advantage on his saving throw, and he makes it.

Paul is told to make a Perception check by the DM. He passes.

The DM tells why.

“You see that one of the drow you have been fighting is a woman. She sends you a beam of light and then moves back a few feet. This drow soldier has been changed from a S to a C on the grid. (C = Thrower)

Faerie Fire gives all attacks against Darkchain an advantage, so the DM rolls twice.

“The light goes straight through your shield.”

“After the drow woman moves back, three drow men with shortswords come at you.”

Three times, the DM rolls. Again, one of them is a 20.

Paul speaks up,

“Those aren’t real rolls!”

The DM asks, “Why?”

“Because I’m a Polearm Master with a spear, I get to attack first!”

Paul is talking about Darkchain’s Polearm Master feat, which gives him a chance to attack when an enemy comes within 5 feet of him and his spear.

“As a Reaction, I use my spear to attack all three of them, and I get to go first because they angered me by entering my square.”

The DM looks at page 190 of the PHB, which is called “Reaction.”

“I’ll let you attack first, but you can only do one attack in response.” The DM uses the YouTube channel XP to Level 3 as an example.

Paul disagrees with that rule,

“Don’t give XP to level 3!” Paul cites PHB p. 190,

“Once you take a reaction, you can’t take another one until the start of your next turn.”

“That’s why you only get one reaction attack,” says the DM.

Paul continues to press,

“It doesn’t say that you can only react once per round. It means one reaction attack per turn. I get two counterattacks. 1 when it was the drow’s turn and 1 when it was my turn. Since the drow have the initiative, my turn will come right after theirs, in Round 2 of the same round.”

The DM sees that there is a rules lawyer at the table. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. The DM doesn’t want to make it seem like DM vs. players.

The DM wants players to use strategy in their role-playing, and Paul is doing just that when he makes the most of his character and his character’s spear. The agrees with Paul’s argument and asks,

“Ok. You get both of your reactions. Who are you going after first?”

“The one who got a perfect score of 20.”

“Don’t worry,” the DM says with a laugh, “I’ll reroll it.”

Paul chooses who to attack in both of his reactions. Both of them die when Darkchain hits. The DM takes them off the battlemap, leaving only 4 drow: 1 wounded crossbowman, 1 unwounded crossbowman, 1 unwounded swordsman fighting the duergar in melee, who attacks Darkchain but misses, and 1 caster 30 feet away.

Paul decides that the caster is the most dangerous thing. Paul asks,

“How is the land?”

“The land is average.”

“Can I use all of my 25 feet of movement to get within 5 feet of the caster and then use Lunging Attack to cross the last 5 feet?”

“Yes, but the swordsman you’re up against will have a chance to attack you.”

“Do I get Riposte?”

“No. You’ve already used the action that comes with your turn on your last kill.”

“Once I use my Lunging Attack, will I be in the caster’s square and be able to use Trip Attack on my second attack?”

The DM looks at page 74 of the PHB, which is called “Moves.” RAW, “extend your reach for that attack,” but the DM wants players to think strategically.

“I’ll let it go.”

“Ok. My first attack on the caster uses all of my movement and Lunging Attack.

The game master rolls for the swordsman. He misses his chance to attack and says,

“Ok. Roll both of your attacks.”

Paul gets a lot of good rolls.

“Make an Intelligence check.”

Paul gets a good roll.

The DM tells us:

“Your spear goes right through the shape of the caster like a beam of moonlight. You see something out of the corner of your eye. When you stand 10 feet to the right of the caster, you see an exact copy of the caster.”

“Can I get to her?”

“You’ve moved and turned as much as you can.”

“I still get an extra move.”

“Yes, you do.”

“I Enlarge.”

“Yes, you do, and now it’s your turn. Round 2 is over.”

Meet Ellastra

The drow soldier walking point is not the real leader of the patrol. She looks like the other nine drow, so Darkchain’s ambush in the surprise round doesn’t catch her.

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She is a priestess of Lolth, which means she knows how to trick people.

Ellastra, who was Lolth’s priestess (Clorcerer 6th level: Trickery Domain Cleric 2nd level and Wildmagic Sorcerer 4th level)

AbilityStrengthIntelligenceWisdomDexterityConstitutionCharisma
Standard Sequence15141312108
Customized Sequence81013121415
Racial ASI   +2 +1
4th  Lvl. ASI     +2
Ability Scores Total81013141418
Ability Modifiers-1+0+1+2+2+4
LvlACHPMoveWeaponEquipment
6174330Shortsword +2, hand crossbow +2, +7/+5 Dam 1d6+5 (6-11), Casting +7Shortsword +2, hand crossbow +2, +2 chain shirt

Italics are used for drow magic spells that come naturally to them. The Trickery Domain spells are highlighted. Cleric Spells are in normal script. Spells of magic are written in boldface.

Cantrips (3) 5 +1Guidance, Mending, Sacred FlameMage Hand, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, Shocking Grasp, MessageDancing Lights
1st level (3) 4 +1Charm 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) 3Mirror Image, Misty Step, See Invisibility Darkness  Slots: 3
Sorcery Points 4Metamagic: Quicken Spell (2), Twin Spell (1)
Channel DivinityInvoke Duplicity
Wild MagicWild Magic Surge, Tides of Chaos

Round 3

What Darchain thought was the caster was actually a fake copy made by Ellastra’s class ability, Invoke Duplicity. Ellastra, the real spell caster, is about 10 feet away. Darkchain knows this at the start of Round 3 because he passed a Perception check. I stands for “illusory duplicate” on the grid.

The two drow who were killed in Round 2 are no longer in the grid. Other than Ellastra, there are only three drow left.

Ellastra spent 2 sorcery points in Round 2 to use Quicken Spell so she could use Invoke Duplicity and Guiding Bolt in the same turn. In Round 3, when it’s her turn, she uses the last of her sorcery points to cast Quicken Spell again.

She uses both of her actions to cast Magic Missile twice. She can’t use Twin because you have to attack two different people at the same time.

She has a total of 8 missiles because she has improved both of her second-level spells.

The DM tells us,

“Eight darts appear around the caster by magic. She points at you, and all of them fly into you, doing 32 points of damage.

Paul is a bit taken aback,

“No hit roll? No chance to save?”

The DM is happy,

“Nope.”

Paul also smiles. With an 8th-level character, he’s been playing long enough to know what a Magic Missile is. To keep his Enlarged state, Paul has to roll a Constitution check at DC 16. Because Darkchain gives Paul a +3 bonus to his Constitution, Paul must roll a 13 or higher. Paul gets a high roll, so he passes the check.

The DM goes on,

“She laughs and says, “Chew on that, duergar scum!” before moving 30 feet away.

“Wait a minute! I have a chance to attack.”

“She’s at least 5 feet away from you.”

“No. She’s about 10 feet away from me, and because I’ve been Enlarged, so has my spear. In Round 3, we agreed that my Enlarged spear is basically a one-handed pike.”

“Ok. You get one chance to attack.”

Darkchain does 13 points of damage to Ellastra when it hits her. Even though Darkchain’s turn hasn’t started yet, he will still have all of his actions and bonus actions when it does.

After Darkchain does his chance attack, Ellastra moves 30 feet away with the rest of her movement. That gives Ellastra and Darkchain a total of 40 feet of space between them.

The last three drow will be up next.

As an extra move, one of them casts Darkness against Darkchain. The duergar has no chance to save himself, and he is blinded.

The drow who was using a short sword now uses a hand crossbow. All three drow shoot at Darkchain, but because the duergar has a 26 AC, they all miss.

Paul realises that he can’t get to Ellastra and attack her in the same turn, so he comes up with a new plan. The DM asks,

“Which of the three drow has the Darkness on me?”

“You have no idea.”

“How come I don’t know? Right in front of me, he used his Innate Magic. Is there no Perception check?”

“Ok. “Send me a check.”

He passes his check because he has the Perception skill.

“Ok. It was the one that was nearest you.”

Darkchain can attack a target 10 feet away because he and his spear are still Enlarged. Because the Darkness spell has made him blind, his attack isn’t as good as it could be.

Of course, being at a disadvantage doesn’t mean much when all you need to hit is a 5 or higher. When the duergar hits, he kills the drow who was casting Darkness and gets his sight back.

He moves so that he can hide behind some nearby mushrooms. Darkchain drops his spear behind the mushrooms and pulls out one of his hand axes at the same time.

With his last attack, he throws his axe 30 feet at one of the two drow soldiers who are still alive. Since it’s a long-range attack, the duergar has to roll at a disadvantage, which he does. He hits his target and kills it.

Round 4

Ellastra looks at what’s going on. All but one of her soldiers is dead, she’s out of sorcery points, and she’s lost about a third of her hit points. Her next step is to use Message Cantrip to get in touch with the one soldier who is still alive.

“Cast Darkness and hide behind the two mushrooms near you. Don’t shoot the crossbow. instead, wait for me.”

She then uses her 30 feet of movement to head towards the big group of mushrooms on the right side of the grid.

Her soldier does what she tells him to do, and Darkchain is again unable to see.

Darkchain’s turn has come. Paul says to the DM:

Do I know the locations of my two enemies?”

“You have an idea, but you don’t know the square exactly. If you want to attack when you can’t see, you have to pick a square on the grid and hope you’re right.”

Paul decides that putting his weapons out of reach is not worth it.

He stays hidden, gives himself Second Wind, and drinks one of his Healing Potions. He knows that the Darkness Spell will only last for 10 minutes.

The DM knows that Ellastra and the drow will be on their way back to Menzoberranzan by then, and that they will be partially healed.

FAQs

Could You Combine Striking with the Butt end of a Spear as a Polearm Master Bonus Action with the Sweeping Attack Maneuver?

Yes. Paul could have combined the sweeping attack move with the buttstroke of his polearm bonus action and his other attack features during the surprise round if he had been a more experienced player (extra attack and action surge). If he had been willing to use all of his superiority dice, he could have had 10 attacks in the surprise round and killed most of the drow patrol in the first round.

DOES PHB TALK ABOUT ENLARGED WEAPONS GAINING THE REACH PROPERTY?

No. That’s a house rule that Paul came up with and the dm agreed to.