Saturday, December 6, 2014

OD&D and The Spear

I have noticed over the years that very few players from outside our original group ever selected a spear when starting out. Now those of my original group when we started together, naturally gravitated towards swords when playing a fighting-man; however, when we rolled poorly and had very minimal gold to equip ourselves to start out a spear was only 1 GP and we added javelins to the list at the same price giving us some cheap distance weapons when we could not yet afford bows. It was not uncommon for a veteran fighting-man going out on his first few adventures to have a sword, several javelins and a spear. Facing just a charging wild boar, a spear was the weapon of choice.

Then Gary placed the following in The Strategic Review and we expanded our horizons just a bit more, at least in our understanding of the weapons if not in the actual use of the weapons, we still rarely ever used the lance or pike, although we did do some experimenting with mounted combat (and still do have mounted combat in the game) we find it to be considerably more complicated:

"The Spear in Man-To-Man Combat:
Several players have asked why the spear is so (seemingly) ineffective in the Chainnmail "Man-To-Man" combat system. There is no question that the Melee Table shows it as the least effective weapon statistically, although due to its length it usually allows figures armed with spears to deliver the first attack. However, before discussing its seeming ineffectiveness further, I believe a short discussion of the weapon itself is in order.

A spear is a sharp-pointed weapon with a shaft of considerable length which undoubtedly derrived from nothing more than a pointed stick. By Medieval times there were several types of weapons which were spear-like:
- The javelin of 4' or 5' length for hurling;
- The spear for thrusting or hurling, ranging from about 6' to 9' in length;
- The lance of 10' or 12' length for use by horsemen; and
- The pike of 15' to 20' in length.

The spear was a weapon primarily of barbaric peoples or poor ones. The Vikings of the early Medieval period used it extensively, but it was abandoned for more effective arms whenever possible in most cases. The Scots used it throughout the period, but the Scottish version of the spear was very long indeed, and was more nearly a pike. The various peasant levies used it little by the middle of the period, carrying instead combination-type pole arms, i.e. the halberd which combined axe and spear and similar weapons with which both the thrust and the chop were possible. Those weapons which did not combine those two types of attack were either pike-like or broadly hooked so as to otherwise catch opponents not penetrated by the thrust. AlI of the latter class had hafts longer than that of the typical spear.

With this in mind, it is easy to note that a spear-armed man is unlikely to be pitted against any armor class greater than chain-type, with or without shield. At first glance this still seems to put the spearman at a serious disadvantage. However, I suggest the following: As the spear was ineffective against better protected fighting men, the proper employment historically should be sought by those fielding such troops. When they are confronted by foot troops in superior armor the spears should be hurled and the figures then considered to have drawn secondary weapons. This is what spear-carrying Vikings did historically, for example. When confronting mounted troops the spearmen are then of utmost importance, for unless the horsemen are all lance-armed the spearmen will I have first attack, and the effectiveness of a spear against even a barded horse is indicated clearly on the Melee Table. As the spear is unlikely to turn up in games beyond the eleventh century or so, I am certain that a re-evaluation of the power of the spear will prove that it isn't so terribly ineffective as it appears at first."

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