Imagine a hoplite phalanx formation where every spear/pike & shield wielding warrior has Polearm Master.

While you are wielding a glaive, halberd, pike, or quarterstaff, other creatures provoke an opportunity attack from you when they enter the reach you have with that weapon.

I know spears aren't listed as option for Polearm Master, I know pike normally is used with both hands in 5th Edition so usually they don't work with shield together. Because historical tactics & formations like phalanx this exists with our GM due to a historical accuracy 'errata' house rule.

The "bonus action to make a melee attack with the opposite end of the weapon" part of the feat is not used when wielding the weapon and a shield together. Every warrior is Medium size, the formation has two lines, weapons have reach.

Question: When an enemy moves to attack one of the warriors in the phalanx, how many of the hoplite warriors can attack the incoming enemy considering their reach and Polearm Master feat use?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you using grid-based play? Do your homebrew spear/pikes have the Reach property? \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Mar 2, 2018 at 9:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman We rarely use grid-based play but I believe this situation requires positioning clarity. The pikes, spears have reach yes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Drake
    Mar 2, 2018 at 10:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman The hoplite situation is explaining the actual situation in the game for the reason to not leave it out as I fear I might miss some detail otherwise or gain an incomlete answer, but going full 'raw' the same situation could happen instead of hoplites using pikemen who wield it with 2 hands and still having Polearm Master feat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Drake
    Mar 2, 2018 at 11:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This depends largely on the size of the enemy moving in range. You should probably specify \$\endgroup\$ Mar 2, 2018 at 13:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Answers can & should explain how that affects the answer, if it matters. We can have an answer of "it varies" if we explain what it varies to and how. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 2, 2018 at 18:05

1 Answer 1


10 if the weapons have Reach

When you move within 10 feet of the front rank you enter the reach of the creature in front of you and the 2 to the left and 2 to the right of it. When you move within 5 feet of the front rank you enter the reach of the 5 creatures in the second rank immediately behind those in the front.

3 if they don't

When you move within 5 feet of the front rank you enter the reach of the creature in front of you and the one to either side of it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good answer, but worth noting is that the enemy itself can have reach as well, in which case the answer is '1'. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Mar 2, 2018 at 10:42
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ So, if I understand it correctly, using reach weapons hoplites can attack an enemy which itself isn't using a reach weapon the following way: 5 hoplites when getting 10 feet close to first line, 5 more when getting 5 feet close and into reach of the second line (for a total of 10 attacks). If the incoming enemy has a 10 feet reach weapon as well doesn't that mean in that case there are still 3 or 5 hoplites which can also attack it from 10 feet range? \$\endgroup\$
    – Drake
    Mar 2, 2018 at 11:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Drake that is accurate. Three creatures are within 10 feet if the enemy is within 10 feet (on a flat plane) since diagonals are not considered on 5e grids. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 2, 2018 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dale can you please add to your answer variables depending on what size the incoming enemy is? thinking here goblin, troll, or war elephant. With that I will click to accept your answer, thank you :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Drake
    Mar 2, 2018 at 19:07
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Good answer. It might be worth mentioning that the attacks by the back rank will be made with a +2 to the moving target's AC, since they have half cover (RAW) from the front line of the phalanx. It also might be worth noting that if the Phalanx is made up of Bugbears characters (not MM version but Volo's Guide version), which are medium but have 5' extra reach, the numbers for each answer go up considerably. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 2, 2018 at 19:16

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