[Runequest] Getting to the point.

Steve Perrin steve.perrin at gmail.com
Sun Aug 11 09:03:38 EST 2013

Boy does this sound familiar. Fifty years ago I was watching the same 
discussion in the pages of AMRA, the preeminent Conan/REH fanzine of the 

The advantages of the spear are obvious and have, at this point, been 
repeated several times.

At the height of the Zulu Empire, Shaka Zulu trained a regiment (an 
impi) of his warriors with the spear and shield - the Zulu traditional 
weapon. He trained another impi with the Assegai and shield. Assegai is 
a word used throughout Africa for spear, but in this case they were 
using the short Assegai, or Iklwa, which is essentially a sword made 
from a long leaf-shaped spear head and a short shaft, used one-handed 
(as were the Zulu spears). The Iklwa-using troops cleaned up on the 
spear-wielders. Since these were Zulus, and Shaka did not fool around, 
the spearmen took a lot of casualties. Of course, the Zulus were not big 
on shield walls. Whatever weapon they used, they moved around a lot and 
depended on man-to-man combat. In that situation, the sword/Iklwa is 
vastly superior because it can be used for both cut and thrust and being 
next to your opponent is a good thing. The spearman who is 
grill-to-grill with his foe is in a lot of trouble unless the foe is 
another spearman.

Also, when the Greek Phalanx, the epitome of the shield wall and spear 
concept, ran into the Roman Legion, which was javelin and sword, it lost 
because the legion had far more flexibility.

In short, spears have their advantages but mostly when massed, so there 
is a hedgehog of points for the foe to negotiate. For man-to-man and 
fast maneuvering, you want a sword. That's why it is the superior 
adventurer weapon.

Steve Perrin

On 8/10/2013 8:27 AM, Styopa wrote:
> Spears' advantages are many:
> -reach...in the real world, it's not just abstract hit points, it's 
> pain and death.  The idea of inflicting that at a distance is 
> powerfully attractive.
> -simplicity...yes, I believe that training a spear is probably more 
> intuitive and simpler than a sword.  Further, it's probably with 
> mentioning too that the spear it's a much more natural, instinctive 
> thing: poking a stick at something to keep it further away from you 
> seems to be more reactive than the sort aggressive, deliberate 
> step-into-combat method that would be required to deploy a sword.
> -cost: most important, whether you are a king outfitting an army, or a 
> cottar wanting something better than a stick to protect your family, a 
> spear can be as cheap as a sharpened stick; at most, even a good spear 
> is short work for a simple Smith. Spears are expensive in materials 
> and manufacturing time.
> On Aug 10, 2013 9:32 AM, "Asher Royce Yaffee" <ashersensei at gmail.com 
> <mailto:ashersensei at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     Hi, All,
>        Yes, the subject line is, indeed, a rather dull pun.  Nyuk
>     nyuk.  Anyways,...
>        I was wondering about spears.  At an RPG session the other
>     night, some fellow spoke glowingly in praise of spears, and I
>     thought to myself, if spears are so great, why swords?  (I mean,
>     aside from the social aspect of doing one's shopping with a sword
>     sticking out from the hip instead of a spear poking into almost
>     everything.)
>        Am I right in assuming that spears have greater reach than swords?
>        Did I hear correctly that spear training is easier than sword
>     training?
>        Why do I feel more confident about defending myself when I pick
>     up a sword than when I pick up a spear?
>        Obviously, our hard-fighting ancestors considered swords to be
>     a good choice for war.  How would they have answered the question.
>        Any other thoughts or insights along the sword versus spear line?
>        Any and all answers are warmly welcome.
>        If I may switch from the comparative to the pointless, here is
>     another question:  What are the stats for the bayonet?
>        For both RQ3 (which I grok) and RQ6 (which I now run), what
>     would be the stats for a fixed (mounted, or whatever the term is)
>     bayonet in melee combat?
>        I'd like to consider the muskets of the American Revolutionary
>     War and US Civil War, but also the 20th century musket (of rather
>     harder steel, I imagine).  Reach, damage, armor points,
>     encumberance, etc.  A table somewhat like this:
>     MUSKET             RQ3 stats                  RQ6 stats
>     1776-1865
>     20th C.
>        If anyone knows where these stats are to be found, or knows
>     what they should be, your advice would be warmly welcome.
>        Well, I should go, as the kids (aka the players) will soon be
>     up & about.
>        Sincerely,
>     Asher
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