[Spears of the Dawn] Making Spears viable

Jaochai

Vagabond
No, no, when I mean 'Spears,' I mean the actual weapon, not the PCs.

I am probably going to start a Spears of the Dawn campaign soon; the evocative setting and simple-yet-effective mechanics appeal to me a great deal, especially since part of my group are a) new to gaming and b) do not speak our language of use as a first language. If you don't know anything about Spears of the Dawn, then don't worry about it; you don't need any in-depth knowledge to understand what I'm getting at here.

As an 'old-school'-style game, Spears of the Dawn is heavily reliant on combat. Players have the full run of low-medieval style weapons: spears, swords, etc. For setting reasons - the PCs are literally called 'Spears of the Dawn' - spears predominate in the game's art, imagery, and setting. There's only one picture of anybody ever using anything other than a spear or, possibly, a big, two-handed whomping staff.

Problem? The PCs are supposed to spend a lot of time fighting, well, undead - re-animated corpses. (It's essential to the setting; it's what PCs are supposed to do.) And spears do limited damage to undead - whereas they usually roll 1d8 damage, spears and piercing weapons only ever do 1 damage to undead. There are other weapons (swords, and the aforementioned whomping staffs) that do similar damage profiles, but don't have that restriction.

As it stands, there's no reason to ever use spears. Swords have the exact same damage (1d8) but do full damage to undead. Axes come in two varieties - a one-hander for 1d6 and a two-hander for 1d10. The great club does 1d6+2 and has less encumbrance, if that matters. The Spear skill gives access to a Glaive, which is 2d6, but that's two-hands by default and then we're not Spears of the Dawn, we're Glaives of the Dawn. (You can throw your spear, but I consider that strategy beneath contempt.)

I am toying with the idea of allowing the player to switch between one-handed or two-handed use of the spear, or making it more effective against armor, or something of that ilk, but I want to keep this as simple as possible. It is the setting's signature and most evocative weapon, and I would like it to be a viable strategic choice for a player's arsenal.

Any suggestions? Or any information I can provide to make myself clearer?
 

Zeea

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I'd say to just drop the damage limitation against undead if they're a common enemy and you want spears to be a signature weapon.
 

Snoof

Time-Travelling Layabout
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I'd say to just drop the damage limitation against undead if they're a common enemy and you want spears to be a signature weapon.
That was my first thought. There are other possibilities. You could make spears _good_ at fighting the undead. There's loads of reasons why: Undead can only be properly "killed" if their hearts are pierced, and spears are _ideal_ for this purpose. Undead have a foul miasma/life-draining aura/drip infectious goo/infestation of flesh-eating maggots, and you want to stay as far away as possible, so the reach on a spear is handy. Undead, being abominations against the cycle of life and death, are best harmed by weapons shaped from (once) living materials, like wood and bone - therefore, spears. Undead basically don't ever stop trying to kill you, even if hacked to pieces, so you need to pin them into position somehow until they can be killed properly (by the sun, or proper rituals, or burial in the living earth, or whatever) - once again, spears. A properly crafted spear, representing the rays of sunlight shed by the sun, is sacred to an appropriate deity, and burns undead at its touch.
 
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Robert A. Rodger

Aspiring Kermit
Validated User
That seems... poorly thought out by the designers, then. I know this doesn't actually help with your question, but I'm very curious. Does the art show characters fighting the undead with spears that aren't effective against them?

Knowing nothing more about the setting off the top of my head I'd say give 'em magic spears that are blessed to be effective against undead. Or let them treat spears like clubs or staffs or something when not thrusting with the pointy end.
 

Simon W

Registered User
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That was my first thought. There are other possibilities. You could make spears _good_ at fighting the undead. There's loads of reasons why: Undead can only be properly "killed" if their hearts are pierced, and spears are _ideal_ for this purpose. Undead have a foul miasma/life-draining aura/drip infectious goo/infestation of flesh-eating maggots, and you want to stay as far away as possible, so the reach on a spear is handy. Undead, being abominations against the cycle of life and death, are best harmed by weapons shaped from (once) living materials, like wood and bone - therefore, spears. Undead basically don't ever stop trying to kill you, even if hacked to pieces, so you need to pin them into position somehow until they can be killed properly (by the sun, or proper rituals, or burial in the living earth, or whatever) - once again, spears. A properly crafted spear, representing the rays of sunlight shed by the sun, is sacred to an appropriate deity, and burns undead at its touch.
If it has any bearing, I like some or all of the answers here. :cool:
 

The Storyteller

Devil's Advocate
Validated User
What if you just allowed spears with broad heads to be used as slashing weapons, thus ignoring the piercing penalty? Or you could just allow spears to be turned around and the butt end could be a "whomping stick."
 

KemperBoyd

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I'd say to just drop the damage limitation against undead if they're a common enemy and you want spears to be a signature weapon.
This seems like the most obvious solution and the most elegant one. Various forms of damage by different weapons is pretty much something that has never ever added anything to a game.
 

The_kerrins

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There is also the boar spear - if you really don't want undead to walk up your weapon and then hack off your head while your sword is stuck in them then the boar spear is ideal - the side prongs allow you to keep them at long range

for those who are not sure - Boar spear - a spear that has a guard on it a few inches below the blade which stops boars - running up the bade and disembowling you during a charge
 

DisgruntleFairy

Active member
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I'd say to just drop the damage limitation against undead if they're a common enemy and you want spears to be a signature weapon.
Seems the easiest answer by far.

Does the game have some sort of hold or knock down mechanic? If so add that to spears to make them more desirable. Or you could make them 1d8+1 or if you want them to do less damage than a sword 1d6+1, 1d8+1 gives them higher average damage where as one 1d6+1 gives them similar damage but much more regular damage. This is all in addition to just dropping the damage limitation of piercing weapons.
 

Cerulean Lion

Social Justice Christian
Validated User
What if you just allowed spears with broad heads to be used as slashing weapons, thus ignoring the piercing penalty? Or you could just allow spears to be turned around and the butt end could be a "whomping stick."
This, or letting them use the spears like staves, or just dropping the damage limitation against undead.
 
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