Talysman very kindly wrote a lengthy and detailed reply to my comments on his search for a middle-ground between a cumbersome weapon vs. armour table and no weapon differentiation. I was going to comment on his response, but I got a little carried away, so I'm putting it here. Quotations are from Talysman, unless otherwise noted.
The GoalAs he so often does, Talysman perfectly encapsulates one of the central problems of designing a combat system (and I quote):
That's sort of the holy grail, and a particular bugaboo of mine, so I'm always delighted to see other people chipping away at this problem. Now, the spear became sort of a central issue to the discussion, and I think it merits discussing the spear a little more in depth.
- Weapons seem different,
- Each is good at different times,
- There are hardly any rules specifically implementing 1 and 2, and
- They're easy to remember.
Now, there's a few problems I see with Talysman's approach, some logical, some verisimilitous, and some mechanical.
- Pole Weapons Nerfed
- Shields Can Hurt Your Defense
- Longer Reach Not Always Advantageous
King of Weapons
There's a couple of reasons why the spear was the most popular weapon right up through the early gunpowder era - one is that it's cheap, and the other is that it is really, really good. Like, really good. There's a reason the spear is known as "The King of Weapons", and it's not because it wears a crown.
Now, for dungeoneering, the spear is essentially useless unless you're forming a mini shield wall. So there's good reason why everyone doesn't just use spears all the time. I talked about that here before.
But in one-on-one combat in an open space, the spear is peerless.
Spears - This One Is Supreme
"Tom Hudson said almost the exact opposite on a previous post about this. "poleaxe = good against plate, but spear = not so much"."
With respect to Tom Hudson, he's wrong. I would point to the Italian Master Fiore dei Liberi's opinion on the subject, from the end of his section on the spear in his 1400-ish combat manual:
And here ends the art of the spear, / With harness and without, this one is supreme.What he's saying is that the spear is awesome, whether or not your opponent is wearing plate.
Fiore also specifically depicted plate armour in the illustrations for the spear section in the Getty MS, which he only does for the halfsword (i.e. using a sword like a spear to defeat armour, with one hand on the blade), the poleaxe (essentially a spear with a hammer on it), and the spear (noticing a spear-theme here?):
Spears and Plate Mail, c. 1400
So, no offense to Tom Hudson, but I'll defer to a man who literally lived by the sword and was one of the great masters of the art of combat.
Spears - Massive Force, Tiny Point
"And my gut instinct is: a spear is a knife on a stick. Stabbing/slashing weapons don't have increased force if attached to a longer shaft; they just have a longer reach. It's the hacking/bashing weapons that have increased force."
The problem with gut instincts is that they're so often wrong.
A spear delivers a great deal more force than a dagger, as you can put both arms on it and thus get much more of your body weight behind the blow as well as double the arm strength. I've worked with swords and spears doing pell drills (i.e. hitting a wooden target), and I can definitively say that a spear packs many times more wallop than a single-handed thrust.
All of this force is concentrated into the point of the weapon, and that point can do some serious damage.