Since ancient times, the spear has proven itself as an effective and versatile weapon on battlefields around the world. From mighty hoplites in phalanx formation to English longbowmen with polearms guarding their flanks, few weapons can match the spear's simplicity and reliability.
Yet in many Dungeons and Dragons games, the iconic swords and axes get all the love while the humble spear is overlooked. But any adventurer willing to master this ancient armament will find it can skewer foes as well as any sword in the right hands.
What Makes Spears Effective
In 5th edition D&D, spears have several unique traits that make them deceptively strong options:
- Versatility – Spears can be wielded one-handed or two-handed. Use with a shield for defense or two hands for 1d8 damage. No other simple weapon offers this flexibility.
- Control – Feats like Polearm Master and Sentinel allow spear masters to lock down enemies approaching their range. Stop foes in their tracks before they can even attack.
- Thrown – With a 20/60 range, spears can be tossed when melee is disadvantageous. Switch seamlessly between ranged harassment and close combat.
- Availability – As a 1gp simple weapon, spears are available to practically any character regardless of class or wealth.
In skilled hands, a spear's versatility enables adaptable, control-focused tactics. But to maximize its potential, specific builds are needed…
Optimal Spear Builds
The best spear masters combine class features, fighting styles, and feats to enable unique combat roles:
- The Phalanx – Fighter or Paladin wearing heavy armor and wielding a spear and shield. Stay planted on the front line controlling the flow of battle.
- The Skirmisher – Fighter using equipment and feats to increase mobility. Dart in and out of combat whittling down foes.
- The Battle Mage – Eldritch Knight with Polearm Master and War Caster. Weave spellcasting and opportunity attacks to wreak havoc.
- The Javelineer – Fighter with Thrown Weapon Fighting and Returning Weapon infusion. Relentlessly pelt your enemies from afar.
- The Shock Trooper – Booming Blade cantrip and Polearm Master. Movement causes extra thunder damage on every strike.
Tactics for Spear Mastery
To fully utilize 5e's spear potential, incorporate these key combat tactics:
- Capitalize on range before enemies can engage
- Combine Polearm Master and Sentinel to lock down space
- Use Pushing Attack to reposition foes away from allies
- Adapt to the situation by switching between one and two handed grips
- Throw spears from afar when melee is unfavorable
- Cast spells and make opportunity attacks with War Caster
- Focus on consistent damage over risky power attacks
With skill and strategy, a spear wielder can control the battlefield, create openings, and overcome stronger enemies through smart positioning and dirty tricks.
Magic Spears – Unique Rewards for Masters
While the Dungeon Master's Guide lacks interesting magic spears, DMs should reward dedicated spear masters with customized magic weapons:
- Grant bonus damage against certain monster types
- Create intelligent spears with personalities and goals
- Give spears of sworn enemies that reveal their presence
- Allow spears to shatter shields and pierce armor
Magic spears that play into spearfighting tactics or represent quest rewards from their god can become cherished relics that spear masters treasure for their entire adventuring career.
The Spearmaiden's Triumph
Brynn the Spearmaiden prepares for her duel with Arkos the Swordmaster, whose greatsword strikes harder but lacks her tactical versatility.
As Arkos repeatedly charges her, Brynn uses her spear's reach to make opportunity attacks that halt his movement. Arkos grows enraged as he tries unsuccessfully to close the distance.
When he finally corners Brynn near lava, she casts Ensnaring Strike to entangle his legs, then Thunderwaves him away and follows up with devastating spear strikes as he tries futilely to approach again.
In the end, Brynn's mobility and battlefield control carry the day, a testament to mastery of the humble spear.
An Ancient Art Revived
With versatility, control, and cunning tactics, spear masters can overcome mighty foes that rely solely on brute force. This ancient art lives on for those patient and wise enough to master it.
So don't underestimate the spear's potential in your next 5e campaign. Embrace this ageless weapon, and you may just change the course of history.
Ideal Party Roles
While any class can benefit from spears, they shine the most in certain party roles:
- Frontline Defender – Fighter or Paladin builds that use spears to control enemies, protect squishies, and enable Opportunity Attacks.
- Skirmishing Striker – Mobile Fighters that use hit-and-run tactics, throwing spears to soften targets before swooping in for the kill.
- Ranged Striker – Dexterity-based thrower builds like the Javelineer who hang back launching endless spears at the enemy's weak points.
- Support Caster – Eldritch Knights or Bladesingers that use spells to bolster allies and War Caster to punish approaching enemies.
A spear master occupies the gray zone between frontline tank and backline artillery, adapting their role as combat evolves.
Multiclassing and Synergies
Some multiclass combinations greatly enhance spear mastery:
- Fighter/Rogue – Sneak Attack paired with Riposte maneuver makes Opportunity Attacks extra deadly.
- Monk/Ranger – Bonus action attacks combine with Hunter's Mark and Colossus Slayer for excellent sustained damage.
- Warlock/Sorcerer – Quickened and Twinned Spell metamagics empower control spells like Booming Blade.
- Cleric/Paladin – Smite spells cast as a bonus action combo with your melee spear strikes.
Leaning into these synergies creates spear masters that are far deadlier than single classed builds.
Sample Character Concepts
To inspire your own spear specialist, here are some sample character concepts:
- Argen Swiftstrike – An elven Fighter with the Alert feat. He relentlessly pelts foes with thrown spears before closing into melee.
- Thorin Shieldbreaker – A dwarf Paladin seeking fallen SPEAR 5E GUIDE kings' weapons to defeat evil. His Spear of Vengeance grants advantage against orcs.
- Eva Nightchaser – A human Monster Slayer Ranger using specialized ammunition like bane spears against favored enemies.
- Xu Li Riverstorm – A triton Cleric who fights with a Spear of Storms that channels air and water elemental power against abominations.
Notable Figures and Tales
Finally, don't forget the legendary historical and fictional spear masters who can inspire your own journey:
- Fionn mac Cumhaill – Mythic Irish hero whose Spear Luinne could ignite with sacred fire.
- Lancer of Red – Fate/Apocrypha's lightning-fast spear fighter able to match blades with legendary swordsmen.
- Guan Yu – Chinese general revered as a god of war and nobility, famous for his long beard and Green Dragon Crescent Blade glaive.
These icons reached mythic status thanks to their spears. What legends will you write with your own mastery of this ancient weapon? The story awaits.