Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Long Live the Fighters!

As part of my thoughts on the classes, I've been thinking about how weapons can help define the archetypal fighter.

On the classic B/X covers, the fighter is a spear-and-shield type. Interesting, given that in my experience most of the pre-3E fighters I encountered in games (myself included) tended toward the "sword/longsword + shield in close combat, longbow in ranged combat" type.

To that end, I'd like to list some of my thoughts on the default fighters archetypes by weapon in the preliminary Enigmundia setting area:


I'd like to argue that these are actually more prevalent that the sword-swinging type. The long spears are pole arms that allow fighting at a distance from your opponent, are useful as walking sticks, allow the triggering of traps, and are relatively low expensive metal requirements. You can make one, fire-and-smoke-hardened, if you really need to.

You can also throw it in desperate times or -- perhaps more common to the jungle dwellers -- when hunting the next meal.

Probably best to assume that, in war, they'll have shields. But outside of war, they can carry them around just because they look cool. It's arguable that this would also be the weapon of some fighter/mages due to the mystical importance of spears in mythology.

And let's not forget that it's considered the king of weapons in Chinese martial arts circles.

Bolo men

This is taken from Fire in the Jungle, and refers to a bolo -- sort of a local short sword -- used to kill things, but also used for practical matters in the jungle like clearing brush from a path and cutting open coconuts.

The martial artists would be more than capable of using two of these at the same time, but for day-to-day use they'd carry this and maybe a knife when travelling.

Bow men

Rare due to specialization. Shortbows are more prevalent inside the jungle, due to numerous line-of-sight obstructions and the inherent portability issues of the slung bow and arrows.

Backup weapons for close-in fighting would be knives and daggers.

Sword men

We're talking longswords and broadswords here. Normally a sign of nobility or importance, because a well-crafted blade using that much quality metal indicates a source of money or very wealthy friends and family.

We can also assume some kind of ritualized drills, training, and more formal rules of engagement -- which can make them less dangerous or more dangerous depending on the setting (and the skill and temperament of the wielder).


  1. I've always wondered why the spear gets so little love in D&D. In many cultures the spear was the primary weapons, and as you've pointed out a spear is very versatile. Maybe it's the 1d6 damage and the relatively high cost, as much as a shortsword in the Rules Cyclopedia.

    If I were to make the spear more attractive, I'd give it a lower price, a +1 bonus to either initiative or AC at the player's will, changeable every round. I'd also allow players to purchase spears in pairs at a discounted cost - it at least gives the user up to 2 shots if he wants to throw.

  2. Given the love to polearms in the AD&D books, I always wondered why there were so few spear / polearm artifacts.

    I know the Spear of Destiny was probably left out due to the religious implications...

  3. Perhaps because Gygax saw the D&D oikumene as High Medieval, and the spear as a Dark Age/barbarian weapon?

  4. Or maybe there just weren't that many magic spears in his literature?

    You've got Excalibur, Stormbringer, and Narsil as well-known named swords in popular fantasy literature, after all.

    Even Glamdring and Sting...

  5. True. Probably because, compared to a sword, a spear is considered disposable. You are really likely to lose it, or at least lose hold of it, in combat.

    Still, I'll have to point to Odin's Gungnir and Cuchulainn's Gae Bulga as examples of kickass magic spears :) And in Philippine epics, I really love the image of Aliguyon trading spears with his opponent for hours or was it days on end because each fighter was so good he just caught every throw made by the other.

  6. Yes, the spears figure prominently in those myths, and in ours as well. Shame...


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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