The Spear. In its simplest form, a sharpened pointy stick. Archaeology suggests it is one of the first tools used in hunting. Ancient cave paintings often show scenes of hunting, the spear is one of the tools being used. It didn’t take long for the humble pointy stick to have a metal tip put on the end. It’s reach extended, the spear evolved into an essential weapon of warfare.
Used by every type of army throughout history in some way, perhaps the most famous users of the spear were the ancient greeks.
They developed a way of fighting using the spear in a formation known as the Phalanx. It became the main way of fighting amongst the greek city states until eventually, the Romans finally conquered Greece. The Roman Legions with their short stabbing Gladius were able to out-manouvre the cumbersome Phalanx which had to stay in rigid formation to be effective. The Battle of Cynoscephalae saw Phillip V of Macedon heavily defeated by the Legions of Rome.
The spear has remained in constant use in warfare. One reason? Because it’s cheap. Any untrained person could hold the sharp end in the direction of an enemy. Hastily formed militias and villagers could easily band together to defend their homesteads from maurading bandits or enemies at little cost or training for themselves. Around the gaming table as I write this, a group of adventurers are being run out of town by angry villagers and the weekend warrior militia. All waving their home made spears!
In the hands of an expert warrior trained in its use, the Spear was a deadly weapon. The main advantage of the spear is its reach. Whilst the shaft was often made of wood, the tip is still sharp! So which would fair better? The spear or the sword?
Aside from being an effective melee weapon, the humble spear has a couple more tricks up its shaft. This is because it can also be thrown at an opponent. Therefore, as a result of its reach it’s also good for keeping mounted combatants at bay.
The rules of engagement for spears in a game setting vary. Dungeons and Dragons 5E classes them as a simple weapon however they can also be thrown and used with two hands (versatile) to increase damage. Interestingly there is no modifier for extra reach like their Halberd counterpart.
The spear evolved from a humble pointy stick into a mulitude of lethal weapons over the ages. That simple long stick with an iron tip became an essential weapon of warfare. I hope that roleplaying games will always have a place for the spear in their rulebook!