I cannot find a single bit of info on this subject. My group shares around the DMing between our three different on-going and concurrent campaigns, and twice now this issue has come up.

Granted there is the DM fiat which I always abide by, even though if grudgingly. So without any RAW or RAI that I can point to, it has been ruled that "...historically, lances in combat were mainly used as a mass calvary charge weapon designed to disrupt a phalanx of infantry, knocking prone most that are hit and with only a few taking some serious injury, due to the oft breakage of the lance upon forceful contact", as happens during jousting and thus renders the weapon useless. So another lance is then taken up from a squire, for another "run".

But here's my misgivings on said breakage. It is also historically known that lances designed for jousting had the metal piercing tip removed and were purposefully blunted, then capped with carved wooden or pourly cast (read as brittle) iron fists, balls and even small hand-sized shields. This was done to remove the armor-piercing possible death. Thus, when the blunt force of the lances in jousting made full contact, it could more easily bend and break.

So, in our game, after the initial charge attack (w/ or w/o my using the Charger feat), and upon landing a hit, it is my lance has deeply impaled the creature and I this must drop it or back my mount away to pull the lance out. And if my roll was a miss, it's a d2 roll that instead the lance broke upon impact to their armor.

I know of no other weapon in 5e that has such a cost, in both the heat of battle and at the armory. My only hope of salvaging these two costs are to [1] always hit, then 'No-Action' drop it, followed by a Free Action to pull my Warhammer, 1 and [2] always roll a 2 on the d2.

I need help folks, are lances supposed to be single use?

1: I play a Human Cleric (War Domain) Noble (Knight Variant) designed to be riding a Warhorse into most battles, or on foot if inside or underground, hence the Warhammer.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ regardless of the RAW (there are answers for that), I would like to note that, in reality, it would be pretty much impossible for you to pull your lance out of your enemy if you're riding past him at full speed. Of course, if you were to hit in this case, you would probably impale and instantly kill your opponent, and not deal a mere 1d12 damage. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Jan 20 '20 at 18:46
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster Depends heavily on the era, the exact type of “lance” in use, and how the charge itself went. And the lances intentionally used as one-offs were for formation charging—an unlikely choice of armament for a knight errant. So I kind of doubt that’s the lance that D&D is referring to. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 21 '20 at 18:53

They are not single-use

The only thing close to something being 'single use' is if it is concerned ammunition such as arrows. But even those have rules around recovery.

The lance is simply another weapon, like a longsword, longbow, or spear and follows the same rules regarding it's ability to be used more than once.

There are even some weapons, like the net, which can be destroyed as a means of removing them from a creature who has been attacked with it. The lance does not have language like this.

DM ruling single-use would be a house rule

This makes the RAW indicate that the lance is usable again and again, just like longswords, javelins, or spears.

If your DM wants to houserule that they are single-use, that is well within their power to do so, but it is adding a mechanic that doesn't actually exist within the rules around those weapons.

There really aren't any hidden rules, so if your DM is coming up with a rule, it's a houserule.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So, like I believe it's the same with javelins or spears, but without RAW or RAI it's back to the DM fiat. \$\endgroup\$ – OnceAndAgainDnD Jan 20 '20 at 17:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, 5e D&D. Not strictly AL rules, but we only have very few exceptions. This being one of them. \$\endgroup\$ – OnceAndAgainDnD Jan 20 '20 at 17:48
  • 21
    \$\begingroup\$ @OnceAndAgainDnD What do you mean "without RAW or RAI"? You don't need a written rule that says "Lances do not break"; they don't break unless you have a specific rule that says they do. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jan 20 '20 at 19:02
  • 14
    \$\begingroup\$ Additional note, if your DM makes lances single-use only weapons, he should strongly consider reducing the cost significantly. They are priced with the intention that they can be used indefinitely, so changing them to single use while also maintaining the same cost isn't reasonable. \$\endgroup\$ – RevanantBacon Jan 20 '20 at 20:44
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon Or at least make them recoverable after the fight, like arrows. \$\endgroup\$ – Mast Jan 21 '20 at 12:54

Lances do not normally break on hit in D&D 5e.

The rules of D&D 5th edition assert that the DM can always invent their own house rules, or make rulings that aren't necessarily supported by the rules-as-written.

However, there is no rule in the core rulebooks that says a lance breaks or is lost on a hit. It's just another melee weapon.

The only special rules for a lance are described on page 148 of the Player's Handbook:

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.

There's no rule that says a lance breaks on a hit or embeds itself into an opponent. This appears to be a rule invented by your DM, probably with the intent of adding realism.

Wikipedia's take on whether or not a lance breaks or impales in reality:

The centre of the shaft of [jousting] lances could be designed to be hollow, in order for it to break on impact, as a further safeguard against impalement. They were often at least 4m long, and had hand guards built into the lance, often tapering for a considerable portion of the weapon's length. These are the versions that can most often be seen at medieval reenactment festivals. In war, lances were much more like stout spears, long and balanced for one-handed use, and with sharpened tips.


Talk to your DM

None of the mechanics you described exist in D&D 5e, so your situation is deep into homebrew territory. Simply pointing out it's against the rules likely won't change the mind that came with such system, so I'm providing arguments.

Misaimed Realism

D&D is neither a wargame, nor a life simulator. In D&D, a lance is normally an unbreakable, un-embeddable weapon, great for mounted combat, with an appropriate cost. It keeps things simple. More complexity means less doing fun stuff. Fighting with a warhammer on horseback like a TES4: Oblivion NPC is not fun.

Balance Issue

Mounted combat is supposed to be superior to footmen. The idea is to get within lance reach, hit and ride outside creature's movement range. Requiring resupply runs would make standing in place a better option - wasting turns means not killing enemies and getting hit with ranged attacks and risking your pricy mount if you lack the proper feat.

Alternatively: change the lance

If breakable lances are unavoidable, try to persuade the DM to make them much cheaper and lighter, sold in bundles. Ask him to allow strapping some to your saddle like you would a banner.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks to all for your responses. I have already asked to allow my lances to come in a set of 3 at purchase and he is considering such. \$\endgroup\$ – OnceAndAgainDnD Jan 20 '20 at 18:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil, I will go back and add the quotation mark, where appropriate. As to being a Knighted Cleric, the campaigns are 5e. There are not AL, as there are a few DM fiats in play, and yes, mostly for realism. I play a Human Cleric (War Domain) Noble (Knight Variant) designed to be riding a Warhorse into most battles, or on foot if inside or underground, hence the Warhammer. \$\endgroup\$ – OnceAndAgainDnD Jan 20 '20 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OnceAndAgainDnD Neat, I added that as a footnote to the question. As a matter of the site though, do note that each post has a seperate comment thread that has nothing to do with eachother, so try to answer in the same thread (this makes things followable and makes the notifications work) \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jan 20 '20 at 19:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.