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I want to make a dexterity based support character that uses weapons mainly for self-defence and not for offence. She will be multi-classed as a Monk/Cleric and themed as a Japanese shrine maiden.

For that, I want her to use a polearm with Reach so that she can keep enemies at a distance with the Polearm Master and Sentinel feats. But being a dexterous character with very little strength it would be useless if she has to do strength based attack rolls.

For this to work, I need a polearm with the Reach property that fulfils either of these conditions:

  • Simple weapon which lacks the Heavy and Two-handed properties. (Monk weapon)

  • Simple/Martial weapon which lacks the Heavy and Special properties. (Kensei weapon)

I wouldn't mind taking Way of the Kensei as her monk tradition to achieve the result I want, but a Simple weapon would be preferable since Way of Tranquillity fits the character much better.


So, I came up with an idea for a homebrew weapon that would allow me to play out the above character idea, but I want to make sure it is balanced.

The weapon is basically a longer quarterstaff with Reach, and Two-handed instead of Versatile. It may as well be Martial since the Two-handed property disqualifies it from being a monk weapon.

Is this weapon with these properties balanced?

If so, would 1d6 damage (two-handed) be an appropriate damage for it?

Alternative suggestions are welcome.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jan 23 '18 at 0:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that, technically, such a weapon won't allow you to benefit from Polearm Master at all. Polearm Master doesn't work with "all polearms" or "all reach weapons" - it lists specific weapons that benefit from it, of which yours isn't one. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Jan 23 '18 at 3:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not like they could have listed weapons that weren't included in the PHB. \$\endgroup\$ – Kapten-N Jan 23 '18 at 7:37
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Heavy is used to gate higher damage weapons

Typically only high damage weapons are Heavy, or moderate damage with reach. Compare the Greatsword (2d6) to the Halberd (1d10, Reach). Note that the difference between a Heavy Two-Handed weapon and a Non-Heavy Two-Handed Weapon is only about one die size. A Longsword in two hands is 1d10, and a Greatsword or Greataxe is 2d6 or 1d12.

Non-Heavy Reach Weapons are a thing

The Whip is a Non-Heavy Reach weapon, with Finesse. To compensate it does only 1d4 damage. Note that the difference between a Heavy Weapon, and a Heavy Reach weapon is only about 1 die size. Compare the Halberd (1d10) with the Greatsword (2d6) or Greataxe (1d12).

Non-Heavy Polearm-like weapons are also a thing

Although not called out in Polearm Master, the Spear and Trident are both polearm-like, as well as the Quarterstaff. All three do 1d6, with versatile (2h) for 1d8.

Given this precedent, it doesn't seem it would be unbalanced

Consider asking your GM to houserule the spear or quarterstaff to be considered a Polearm with reach. Traditionally, there was a wide range of long spears and staves utilized by monks (particularly in a defensive style) in Asia.

If we're looking for a Non-Heavy Reach weapon, let's start with the Halberd. If we were to remove the Heavy property, we should bump the damage die down by one. This would give us a 2h weapon with 1d8 damage. One note is that generally the difference between a Martial weapon and Simple Weapon is roughly 1 die size as well. If this weapon is Simple, you may want to limit it to 1d6. If it is Martial, you can easily have it be 1d8.

Final Note: Polearm master's bonus action attack will quickly fall behind your bonus action unarmed strike from martial arts (albeit at only 5 foot range), which makes this less problematic from a GM perspective.

Proposed Weapons

Long Spear
1d8 Piercing damage
Reach, Two-Handed, Martial

Long Staff
1d6 Bludgeoning damage
Reach, Two-Handed, Simple

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jan 23 '18 at 0:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ There are no Simple weapons with Reach property for a reason, I think this should be addressed as well. \$\endgroup\$ – AntiDrondert Jan 23 at 12:31
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There may be a workaround, if you're willing to ignore one of your criteria (and engage in some light cheese).

Polearm Master says, in part,

While you are wielding a glaive, halberd, pike, or quarterstaff, other creatures provoke an opportunity attack from you when they enter your reach.

This is not RAI - see below - but the feat never says that the opportunity attack must be made with the polearm you're wielding. If you were to wield a quarterstaff in one hand, and a whip in the other, and someone approached you from reach distance, you could potentially do what one must when a problem comes along - Whip It.

Whip it good.

As a DM, I'd give this trick some side-eye, to be sure. But the rules lawyer in me loves finding a loophole.


Not RAI

Okay, as pointed out by Rubiksmoose, my cheese has been previously debunked by Jeremy Crawford:

The intent is that any OA triggered because you're wielding a polearm is then made with that polearm.

That being said, someday I will defeat Crawford in mortal combat, and overturn all of his rulings. So you have my blessing. Crack that whip.

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Let's look at the summary of the abilities, and answer the core question you are asking: Is this balanced?

Heavy: Small creatures have disadvantage on attack rolls with heavy weapons. A heavy weapon's size and bulk make it too large for a Small creature to use effectively.

Reach: This weapon adds 5 feet to your reach when you attack with it, as well as when determining your reach for opportunity attacks with it.

Special: A weapon with the special property has unusual rules governing its use, explained in the weapon's description (see “Special Weapons” later in this section).

In specific reference to Special, only the Lance has special. (The net does also, but it does not do damage and does not fit your requirements).

Lance: You have disadvantage when you use a lance to Attack a target within 5 feet of you. Also, a lance requires two hands to wield when you aren’t mounted.

Looking purely at these, having Reach without Heavy or Special, would be unbalanced. It seems Heavy/Special are purely the disadvantage traits. However Heavy is only an issue for small creatures. Likewise, we look and see that there is Reach weapons (Whip) which also includes Finesse. The difference between them seems to only be the damage they deal (e.g. 1d4 vs 1d10).

Smaller characters have advantages in other areas, and giving them a powerful weapon as well would be fairly unbalanced. However, a low damage weapon with the traits you mentioned would likely be acceptable.

My ruling as a DM: I would allow you to change Versatile for Reach on a quarterstaff. This fixes the higher damage from other Heavy/Reach weapons but suits your character.

RAW: it is unbalanced without any modifications.

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While this is too far after the fact to likely be of help to the OP, I think the main flaw with the proposed weapon isn't a matter of balance, but rather one of thematics. If what is truly being aimed for is a "long staff" that is specialized to be wielded like the "short staff" but with reach, taking away the versatile trait and adding two-handed to a quarterstaff makes it's too dissimilar to the base weapon to share its flavor.

I believe a far more elegant solution to making what would basically be a Kensei exclusive monk signature weapon that demonstrates a better real world "long staff" equivalent is to have a martial version of the quarterstaff with all its same original properties plus reach (except weight 5lb and a cost of 1 or more gp probably). Basically, the longer staves require additional training to be used as effectively as a simple weapon quarterstaff, but they share a large pool of the same techniques and stances beyond that.

It'd still be technically balanced, as it would be weaker than the other martial versatile weapons as the trade-off for the extra feature, and wouldn't have finesse natively like the whip does, which is what balances it down to such a low damage die. Mostly after that it comes down to the fact that any actual Str based fighters have better options than it, since only a Kensei could use it with Dex. I could also see it being at least as logically wieldable by a Small creature as a Lance is, so it also still thematically makes sense to not be Heavy.

.....Although, all that said, if it were me, I might not even homebrew a new weapon, but rather homebrew the Monk being able to use it's Monk Weapon polearm(s) as a Reach weapon in one way or another. For instance, the ability to use a quarterstaff at Reach(10ft) but only at its one-handed value (or only at the Martial Arts damage die) by the default Martial Arts feature, or as a later level class feature such as "spend 1 ki to be able to wield quarterstaves, javelins, and spears as Reach(10ft) weapons for one minute" added as an additional level 2 Monk default Ki ability.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome! You can take the tour to learn more about the site. Note that answering a question a long time after it was asked is perfectly fine, there's even a badge for it. Thank you for contributing and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Jan 22 at 18:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the idea of home-brewing the Monk to use Monk Weapon polearms as if they had the Reach property, but it doesn't feel balanced to add something like that without taking something else away. Would it not make more sense to add it to the Kensei specifically rather than the whole class? Adding it to the class would be beneficial for me though, since it would let me take Way of Tranquillity instead, which is more fitting for the character. It would also be more fitting to use a quarterstaff, since she's quite short in stature and a longer weapon would be unwieldy to walk around with. \$\endgroup\$ – Kapten-N Jan 23 at 11:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's unlikely that the DM would agree to modify the class. Home-brewing a balanced weapon would be more likely to be accepted. I already figured that making it a Martial weapon would be necessary, or I wouldn't have to pick Kensei. However, I think that your suggestion of making it a longer quarterstaff and keeping the Versatile property makes no sense. Wouldn't such a long polearm be too unwieldy to use with only one hand? Aside from that, it's pretty much the weapon I proposed, but with a higher damage die. \$\endgroup\$ – Kapten-N Jan 23 at 11:43
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No such weapon exists in the game as it is currently written.

If I was your DM, I would run this as a goal of your character to create such a thing. Maybe it's as simple as using mithril to make a pike that isn't Heavy, and selecting that as your kensai weapon. Or maybe magic is involved. Or maybe your homebrew 1d6 two-handed non-versatile quarterstaff with reach, as you described (which I do not find to be unbalanced) is the answer.

Or maybe your path to having this effect in a character is to make a bugbear monk with high Dex, and just use a regular quarterstaff with the bugbear's extra reach.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A Bugbear monk? XD That would conflict with the character. Her race and background is already decided. I always decide on the character first and choose classes after. \$\endgroup\$ – Kapten-N Jan 23 '18 at 7:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course that's your decision. I don't know what your character concept includes and excludes. I was just pointing out a way in the game mechanics that would give you the effect you are looking for, in case that would be an option for your character build. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Boncer Jan 23 '18 at 18:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, but the question is about the balance of a weapon that gives that effect, not about how I can achieve that effect in any way. That's why I had already decided to make her a kensei monk; it's the only way to use a Two-handed weapon with dexterity. Unless we homebrew a Two-handed weapon with Finesse, but that seems absurd. \$\endgroup\$ – Kapten-N Jan 23 '18 at 22:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ And I included in my answer that I did not find your homebrewed weapon to be unbalanced, and noted it was one of the possible reasonable solutions. Any of these proposals is homebrew, and will have to be worked out with your DM, so he is the one you have to convince, both for what the solution is, and how your character achieves it. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Boncer Jan 23 '18 at 22:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know. I was not criticizing you. I just said that your bugbear monk idea was amusing, but ultimately circumvented the stated requirements rather than adhere to them. \$\endgroup\$ – Kapten-N Jan 24 '18 at 7:27
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Is such a weapon necessarily unbalanced?

No.

This answer is clearly subjective. But no it doesn't look to be clearly unbalanced given that you have also stated it could do zero damage and you would be happy. The party composition could potentially lead to this being unbalanced though.

I suggest speaking to your DM about this. Explain what you are trying to accomplish, and why, and see if you two can agree on a way for this to work.

I will point out that this feels a bit odd, given that handling a long staff with only a single hand is not really practical. Even so, you might be able to get your DM to give you some form of a quarterstaff minus versatile, plus reach, and plus finesse.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Making it Two-handed is okay. It doesn't need finesse as long as it can qualify as a kensei weapon. \$\endgroup\$ – Kapten-N Jan 22 '18 at 18:09

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