This was the first in a series of short articles designed to highlight different weapons. My hope was to provide general knowledge in bite-sized pieces, and encourage people to pursue new and different weapons for their characters. (It's not that I mind the katana, it's just that it's such a common choice that it's becoming a cliche.) So, I started with the best possible choice of weapon skills: the spear.
Feel free to respond with questions, comments, clarifications, or whatever. Think I'm wrong about how cool the spear is? Tell me why. Have a suggestion for a better weapon - or a weapon you want to know more about? Throw it in - it might be an upcoming article.
Spear is absolutely the best weapon you can learn. The length alone gives you a tremendous advantage over a swordsman – you can attack him while he’s still too far away to attack you. That length also gives you an advantage in leverage: you’ll have an easier time pushing his blade aside, or changing the direction of your own attacks. Finally, all that reach gives you the ability to attack the legs (particularly the shins and feet) as easily you can attack the body, arms, or face. It’s a lot easier to attack the legs with a spear than it is to defend them with a sword. The spear also has an easier time switching between low and high than a sword does.
The spear emphasizes point-work (attacks with the tip, such as stabs and thrusts) but you can chop or slice with the edges as well. For that matter, you can use the butt much as you would a staff, to strike or jab an opponent. Spears tend to be lighter than polearms*, so they don’t hit as hard with a swing… but the combination of lightness and an emphasis on thrusting techniques makes spear-work very fast (not unlike fencing). Being on the wrong end of a spear is an eye-opening experience.
If your opponent is armored, you have a nice sharp tip to use against his weak points – and, again, you can probably attack him before he gets close enough to attack you. If he gets in close, you can move to a middle grip and attack with both ends of your weapon. That keeps you on a pretty even footing with most mid-length weapons (single sword, mace, etc.) The combination of reach and the ability to brace the butt of the spear makes the weapon very effective against mounted opponents as well.
Study the spear. Learn the spear. Love the spear. Teach your enemies to fear the spear.
* It’s a little hard to generalize about polearms – there are a lot of different weapons that fall under than category. Some of them are fairly lightweight, and some spear designs are heavier than others, so take that generalization with a grain of salt.