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Spear are wildly effective weapons, in small-ish Combat Groups. In particular, when used defensively, they can keep melee attackers at bay with no ability to retaliate relatively easily. You would, for example, be able to hold a 5ft-wide bridge against a mass of opponents pretty easily if they weren't willing to rush you and sacrifice themselves.

I was disappointed to find that in DnD 5e, they really aren't very effective or interesting weapons. They don't even have Reach.

I'm planning to come up with some ideas for a homebrew additions to them, and propose them on here, but before I do, are there any existing official ways to make a spear behave like this?

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Polearm Master

The Polearm Master feat gives spears some nice features:

  • When you take the Attack action and attack with only a glaive, halberd, quarterstaff, or spear, you can use a bonus action to make a melee attack with the opposite end of the weapon. This attack uses the same ability modifier as the primary attack. The weapon’s damage die for this attack is a d4, and it deals bludgeoning damage.
  • While you are wielding a glaive, halberd, pike, quarterstaff, or spear, other creatures provoke an opportunity attack from you when they enter your reach.

So you get a way to use your bonus action for another attack, and you can take opportunity attacks when enemies enter your reach, instead of just when they try to leave.

It is worth noting that spears were added to the Polearm Master via an errata to the Player's Handbook, so early editions may not contain spears as eligible weapons for the feat.

Combining with the Sentinel Feat is one of the strongest available combos.

The first bullet of the Sentinel feat says:

When you hit a creature with an opportunity attack, the creature's speed becomes 0 for the rest of the turn.

Combined with Polearm Master, you can stop creatures from moving for the rest of the turn when they enter or leave your reach, depending on when you take the opportunity attack.

This combo really shines when combined with Reach polearms, the lance, glaive, halberd, and pike. With Reach, Polearm Master and Sentinel allow you to stop approaching enemies before they can even reach you. You are able to stop them 10 feet away from you, beyond the reach of many enemies.

Unfortunately, spears lack the Reach property, but the lance is a Reach weapon, and more importantly, it does not have the Heavy property, though it does require two hands to wield unless mounted.

Unearthed Arcana: Spear Mastery

There was a feat called Spear Mastery included in a 2016 Unearthed Arcana article. It has been passed over in two significant splatbooks since then, Xanathar's Guide and Tasha's Cauldron, so it seems quite unlikely it will ever see print in an official book. Nevertheless, it can still be found in this UA Article, and I will reproduce it here for convenience:

Though the spear is a simple weapon to learn, it rewards you for the time you have taken to master it. You gain the following benefits:

  • You gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls you make with a spear.
  • When you use a spear, its damage die changes from a d6 to a d8, and from a d8 to a d10 when wielded with two hands. (This benefit has no effect if another feature has already improved the weapon’s die.)
  • You can set your spear to receive a charge. As a bonus action, choose a creature you can see that is at least 20 feet away from you. If that creatures moves within your spear’s reach on its next turn, you can make a melee attack against it with your spear as a reaction. If the attack hits, the target takes an extra 1d8 piercing damage, or an extra 1d10 piercing damage if you wield the spear with two hands. You can’t use this ability if the creature used the Disengage action before moving.
  • As a bonus action on your turn, you can increase your reach with a spear by 5 feet for the rest of your turn.

In the article, Mike Mearls goes on to give some personal commentary on why he likes the feat:

This feat looks a little different from the other members of the weapon mastery family because it focuses on a simple weapon. It grants the same +1 bonus to attack rolls as the other feats, but it also boosts the spear’s damage to make it equal to martial weapons.

The third element focuses on making the spear a useful defensive weapon. Given that fifth edition D&D doesn’t have a specific action for charging, the ability to skewer an incoming enemy requires a bit of finesse. This feat sets up a situation that requires an opponent to move a noticeable distance toward you. Shutting off your attack with Disengage allows a creature to approach you carefully by forgoing its action to attack, even as forcing you to commit to a specific opponent makes the benefit faster to resolve. This way, the DM doesn’t need to check whether you want to attack every single creature that moves up to you.

The extra reach is a minor ability, but one that reflects the spear’s nature in a simple, easy way.

As always, Unearthed Arcana material can be used only at the DM's discretion.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan, Quotation marks don't provide the readily visible formatting of "I'm quoting your text", that is standard in text-based forums (and indeed, demonstrated in the answer) and actual quote-formatting isn't supported in comments on SE (boo!). Using code formatting for quotes in comments is standard on several exchanges. Which users do you think will find code-formatting less accessible? Is code-formatting "rendered" in a problematic way by screen-readers? \$\endgroup\$
    – Brondahl
    Mar 6, 2021 at 6:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Brondahl See Is there a functional purpose to putting things in code text here? re code formatting. Though using quotations in comments is usually more noise than its worth and comments generally just get to go away :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Mar 6, 2021 at 11:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why is the Lance not being Heavy more important than it having Reach? Heavy is only a problem for Small characters. In fact, I'm not sure why you brought up the Lance at all since it doesn't work with Polearm Master. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 7, 2021 at 4:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KamilDrakari Yep, I’ll rearrange and add details in the morning. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 7, 2021 at 6:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm curious, any reason to not mention the Piercer feat? \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Mar 16, 2021 at 0:48

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