Red Box Armory: Pikes

No, not that kind.

The pike is a very long spear, typically 15 feet in length, intended for use in mass combat. Pikemen gather in large ‘hedgehog’ formations, so called because they bristle with spearheads like a hedgehog’s spines.

Pikes may be used to attack opponents 10 feet away (or farther, for especially long pikes) and always gain initiative against an attacker who’s closing to melee range while using a shorter weapon. However, they may not be used at closer range, nor may they be thrown. A successful pike attack inflicts 1d6 damage.

The unwieldiness of the pike makes it impossible to casually swing it about in melee. Instead, its wielder must specify in which direction he or she is pointing it. If there are other characters within 10 feet, it takes a full round to maneuver the pike around them in order to change facing. (A group of untrained peasant levies must make a successful morale check each round in order to accomplish this task.) The wielder may only attack opponents within a 90 degree forward arc.

It is rarely possible to bring a pike into a dungeon, as it’s hard to fit around corners in narrow passageways.

Treat pikes as spears for purposes of weapon proficiency.

Cost: 5gp.

11 Responses to “Red Box Armory: Pikes”

  1. June 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Can a pike be set to receive a charge, the way a spear can?

  2. June 14, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    The limitation on attacking at close range and delay in maneuvering just begs to be resolved with a magical telescoping pike/spear.

  3. June 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    @James: Certainly, in any D&D variant that has mechanics for setting a spear to receive a charge.

    @GDorn: Sounds great! Perhaps we could add a few more weapon functions and call it a Rod of Lordly Might. :-D

  4. 4 richardjohnguy
    June 15, 2011 at 8:09 am

    You say that the pike is hard to fit around corners, but the diagonal across the 10′ cube (standard published dungeon spatial module) is a little over 17 feet: just as eminently practical as the 10′ pole, for which it can double (while foiling all those standard traps meant to catch 10′ pole users!).

    If I were a generous DM, after watching Ip Man (polearm fun starts at 2:58) I’d let a trained fighter move that pike around quickly, and have a chance to keep the enemy at distance.

  5. June 15, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Sure, but you also have to get all of the other PCs out of your way while you’re doing it, which can be a real pain — especially if you need to get around that corner during a fight. More importantly, you have to hope that the ceiling isn’t too low, that the passage is indeed a full 10′ wide (given that the walls separating passageways, rooms, etc. aren’t mathematical abstractions, so-called 10′ corridors are probably closer to 8′ in width), and that you don’t have to go through twisty 5′ passages like the ones that lead into the moathouse dungeons in T1. Doorways may also cause problems.

  6. 6 Bargle
    June 16, 2011 at 4:25 am

    Ahh! But can pikes attack from the 2nd row?

    Great post.

  7. June 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Sure, they can attack from the second row. Pack your guys tightly enough and they can attack from the third row. Just watch out for cavalry charges and fireballs!

  8. June 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    “Just watch out for cavalry charges and fireballs!”

    Hmm. I though pikes were designed to stop cavalry charges?

  9. June 16, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Oh, and how fast does that “magical telescoping pike/spear” move, anyway? I can see it having a chance to cause instant death if expanded right behind someone…

  10. 10 Bargle
    June 17, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Indeed, they attack as armored foot in Chainmail and then add 1d6 shock dice per 2 figures. So 10 Swiss pikemen attack as 15 men. Additionally they cannot be attacked from the front unless by same lengthed weapon while in a 1″ formation.

    A fireball would mess them up though. Or attacks from behind as they only defend as lightfoot from behind regardless of their armor type.

  11. 11 Bargle
    June 17, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Indeed, gygax specifically says while knights with a lance can attack a close order halberd formation from the front, he specifically rules out a pike formation.

    Seriously though, tough luck to the porcupine hireling formation with 15′ pikes who receives an Orc charge from behind in a 10′ dungeon.

    The answer of course is to drop the pole arms and draw swords at that point.

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Past Adventures of the Mule

June 2011

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