One of the few persistent complaints I've seen regarding ACKS is that we may Spears slightly *too* awesome: Useable with one or two hands, throwable, able to attack from the second rank, able to set for charge, their only downside is that they are encumbering and easier to sunder. While I can make arguments for the reality that the spear was the ultimate weapon of ancient warfare for thousands of years, it still might be too much for your campaign. Therefore I offer the following houserule:
Spears May Be Shattered
When attacking with a spear, an attack throw of natural 1 results in a nomagical spear's haft being broken. A magical spear's haft is damaged. A magical spear can be damaged a number of times equal to its bonus before its haft is broken. A spear with a broken haft can be used as a dagger or a quarterstaff, but no longer functions as a spear.
A nonmagical or magical spear can be repaired by setting the spearhead onto a new shaft, which costs 1gp and requires 1 rank of Craft (weaponsmithing).
Spears are awesome … en masse. They’re really hard to use without support on your sides – you have to run a lot. How about an AC penalty for using a spear unsupported?
Otherwise, “Spears May be Shattered” is flavorful. I always envisioned the haft of magical hafted weapons being resistant to damage as well as the head, although the old movie Dragonslayer would agree with the “magic” being in the spearhead.
While it makes perfect sense, I think the second option crosses a bit beyond the rather abstract nature of ACKS combat and into a more fiddly realm. In which situations is the spear wielder unsupported? How close to a wall, obstruction, or other spearman? What if you’re supported on one side but not the other? I see an awful lot of back and forth at the table between player and DM. Fine, even preferred, for some tables, but when DMing I wouldn’t want to keep track like that.
An if/then off a die roll is easier to remember and straight to adjudicate.
In the interest of simplicity, how about a flat -1 to AC?
Or, “Hafts may be shattered”? For me, singling out spears from other two-handed hafted weapons, especially polearms (which includes sarissas and pikes), crosses from abstract to gamey.
Of the strengths mentioned of spears, attacking from the second rank is the most powerful, I think. Perhaps any weapon with that power should be subject to “Spears May Be Shattered”?
Or, perhaps attacking from the second rank should be removed from spears? I don’t have any special knowledge of this, but I would guess folks that used spears on foot, out of formations, did not use spears long enough to reliably attack from a second rank.
That would be a simple option for the spear, and I wouldn’t have to pay attention as a DM.
Players I know would be on the same page as you, I think, asking why only the spear is penalized in this way. Why aren’t all polearms subject to the same dangers?
I’m no expert on medieval history - were there short spears and long spears? Can the benefits be split by two similar spearlike weapons, while the second rank attack of the longspear would make it susceptible to “hafts may be shattered”? The short spear would lose the attack from the second rank ability and perhaps have a reduced damage die.
There were spears of all lengths from a few feet up to twenty-five or so. The latter were obviously not throwable, but would be able to attack from 3 or 4 ranks back. (Aside: why no actual pikes in ACKS? Will they be in the War supplement?)
If you want a slightly less brutal suggestion, you could use the same rule but restrict it to when the weapon is used to make (or receive) a charge.
I just want to show my support for the spear rules just as they are. I think the 1 stone encumbrance without the damage bump to 1d10, plus the fact that most the cool magic weapons are swords, more than makes up for the spear’s advantages.
Put me down in support of spears as they are. The existing sunder rules for them are sufficiently brutal already, IMO, and even if they weren’t, I don’t mind having an obvious weapon choice - most of history has been dominated by one or another obvious weapon choice, with a handful of alternatives for specific situations.
My players, for example, have eschewed the spear in favor of specific weapons that are better at each element. They have polearms in the back ranks for that extra die size, and less sunder-able weapons in the front rank. They usually mix bludgeoning and stabbing weapons. And they go for bows and slings over spears for ranged, because you get more shots and less encumbrance that way.
Spears are the cheap, “does a little bit of everything” weapon, if you can’t afford to have one of everything. And since you can almost carry one of everything for the same 1 stone encumbrance …
Thanks for all the feedback, guys! I personally have run spears using the Rules As Written, but I'm using this forum as a way to test ideas.
Regarding the points above:
1) Definitely "Spears May Be Shattered" needs to be "Shafts May be Shattered." Anything else is quite disassociated from reality. I just to have to plead guilty to a "duh" moment on that.
2) Pikes are represented as polearms in Domains at War. In Domains at War, all attacks do 1 point of mass combat damage, and higher damage weapons are reflected in being given more attacks. Because of how the math works, a pike-using unit will end up getting 50% more frontal attacks than a spear-wielding unit.
3) In DAW, spear- and pike-using infantry are a special type of infantry called "phalanx foot". Phalanx foot are less mobile and more vulnerable on their flanks than other infantry. However, they absolutely grind up anything in front of them.
4) Allowing spears and polearms to attack from the second rank is a crucial part of ACKS combat, so I wouldn't remove it.