I made a half-orc slayer to use in a DnD 4E Neverwinter campaign. I got him all set up to use a longspear. The Spear Expertise feat adds damage on a charge, half-orcs' Swift Charge feature gives them +2 speed when they charge, and the Berserker's Charge Fighter stance gives +2 to speed and attack rolls when charging. Sounds fun: +11 to attack, 1d10 + 8 damage, and 9 speed on a charge at lvl 1.

The Problem

Then I looked over the rest of the stuff you get as a Heroic Slayer, and I see that at lvl 7 you get a feature called Weapon Specialization. This feature grants extra controlling effects when you hit with Power Strike. If you're using a 2H Axe, you can knock the target prone. If you're using a 2H blade, you can slide each adjacent enemy 1 square. Wax Eagle pointed out that there's an additional Staff Specialization introduced in Dragon Magazine 391 which does your Dex modifier dmg to adjacent enemies.

Thing is: that's it. Those are the only weapon types listed. Regardless of whether other weapon groups are quality options or not, it seems ridiculous that a Slayer would be limited to using a weapon that qualifies as an Axe or Blade in order to get any benefit from one of their class features. Wizards improved this a bit by adding a staff expertise, but there are still multiple weapon groups not covered.

The Solution

So the idea is to houserule an additional option for 2H spears.

It should be just like the others in that it triggers when you use Power Strike and that it imparts some sort of control effect or small damage.

It should also make sense, in the way that the current ones make sense. If I hit a guy with a big axe, it would make sense for him to fall over. If I make a big swing with my sword and hit real hard, it makes sense I might sweep some guys while I do it. Spears stab. If I stab someone real hard then... they're going to bleed?

Possible Effects

Bleeding would be ongoing damage, but that's not a control effect and I'm not sure it would be balanced. Maybe it could cause a condition, like Weakened? With the staff expertise in mind, perhaps a little extra damage would be okay. Like ongoing Dex or something.

Maybe it's not bleeding. Maybe I stab them and can then push them around a little bit since I have my spear in their side. Perhaps I could push or slide the target 2 squares?

Maybe I can deal damage to an enemy adjacent to the target, like my spear pierced through and stabbed him too. That's not exactly control, but it does make sense.

Maybe they just grant combat advantage for a turn, I don't know.


The best answer will have an effect that makes sense in terms of the game world and is well balanced with the other options. If you feel a spear is underpowered compared to a greatsword or axe, then maybe it's a slightly stronger option, or vice-versa if you feel the opposite. Either way, justification would be great. You don't need to limit the effect to one I proposed in this question.

In addition, if anyone has ideas for other weapon groups that aren't covered, like Maces or Hammers, those would be useful as well.

For the future, it should be noted that Slayers get another feature at lvl 12 called Greater Weapon Specialization, which adds an Encounter Utility power associated with the weapon. I'll have to figure out one of these at some point as well, as this feature also only has options for Axes and Heavy Blades, with an additional staff option from Dragon Magazine.

  • \$\begingroup\$ How important is reach to this build? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12, 2014 at 1:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton There's nothing I can think of that makes reach totally necessary, but it would be nice to have. I've never played a character with reach and this seemed like a good opportunity to try it out. It has definitely occurred to me I could switch to swords and get Heavy Blade Expertise. The +AC vs OA would be useful on charges as well. That misses the point though. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Jun 12, 2014 at 1:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please do NOT answer in comments. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12, 2014 at 1:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ To put it in perspective the Scout subclass needs to use axes or light blades to key off starting class features for them. I asked if a spear was required because you could easily use another, more optimized weapon type and refluff it as a spear in the fiction of your character, but mechanically its a halberd. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12, 2014 at 20:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaAslanSmith I think it makes sense for some classes to have limited weapons, as that's part of their flavor, but it seems like a fighter ought to be able to use any weapon. That's part of their flavor. Also, I know that refluffing like that is a common suggestion for these kind of issue that works for a lot of people, but personally I find it lazy and would rather use this type of approach. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Jun 12, 2014 at 20:52

4 Answers 4


I'm going to base my answer on the following criteria:

  • We want something unique to the Spear
  • We want something that captures the flavor of it being a Spear
  • We're looking for something that's not incredibly overpowered fora 7th level character to have, and for higher level characters to have several times an encounter.

Looking at the riders commonly associated with Spears for fighters, we see extra damage, pushes, slides, and an interesting one on the L13 Fighter power Talon of the Rock:

  • The target cannot shift until the end of your next turn.

This is a snazzy encounter power for a Fighter to have in their bag, it's some nice hard control and it fits nicely with the flavor of a spear (stabbed foot makes it hard to shift for a minute?). The L13 power does a long of damage and also slows, so it doesn't seem over leveled to add a no shift bit to this at L7 (it also shows up as a non-weapon rider on a L1 fighter encounter). It's a single target thing so it doesn't seem insane to have multiple times an encounter either.

I'd say that you'd make this your Spear Expertise:

When you use Power attack with a Spear, the target cannot shift until the end of your next turn

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    \$\begingroup\$ I was going to go with a daze, but hammers should daze, not spears. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Jun 12, 2014 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, that's pretty good. Similar to but not quite as powerful as the grab, but that might be a good thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Jun 12, 2014 at 20:55

Proposed Spear Weapon Expertise Feature

I got the idea for this Weapon Expertise from Monty Wild's answer.

Although impalement is not part of 4E explicitly, there is a condition that indicates physical control over another creature's position: Grabbed.

There are already rules for grabbing which describe moving the target and allow the target to attempt to escape the grab.

Impaling Spear: Your powerful spear thrust impales your opponent, momentarily giving you control over his movements.

Benefit: When you use power strike with a two-handed spear, you grab the target. This grab automatically ends at the end of your next turn, or when the target is no longer within your weapon reach. The grab cannot be sustained.


Grab is a control effect in that it limits the targets movement.

Grab is more powerful than Prone, since a move action always lets you get up from prone, but a move action is required to attempt to escape a grab. On the other hand, prone doesn't automatically end, whereas the grab effect I've proposed does.

An alternative to grab, suggested by Wax Eagle is that the target cannot shift. This is also good, but is less powerful than grab, and seems to me to be weaker than prone.

A number of people have suggested using a different weapon other than a longspear because spears don't have a lot of support. This says to me that the spear could use some stronger stuff to balance it versus the other weapon groups, so I think the 'grab' option sounds better than the 'can't shift' option.

Proposed Spear Greater Weapon Expertise Feature

This is for the level 12 feature Greater Weapon Expertise:

Sharp Spear, Mythic Slayer Utility 12
Your spear thrust misses your mark, but leaves a deep cut on your enemy.
Encounter, Martial
Free Action, Melee Weapon
Trigger: You miss an enemy with a melee attack using a Spear
Target: The enemy you missed.
Effect: The target takes ongoing 5 damage (save ends).


I thought Wax Eagle had a great idea looking at the riders that currently exist for spears. Included in that list is damage, and -- as was also pointed out by Wax Eagle -- there is a Slayer option for Weapon Expertise with Staffs, and that provides as much as 8 Dex dmg in the heroic tier. So, I think that in the Paragon tier it would be appropriate to add the bleeding effect I considered in my question.

Ongoing 5 might be a bit much, but they'll probably save after taking the damage once or twice. The alternative I considered was just doing Dex damage right off the bat, similar to the Axe option which does Str damage, but by the time you get this option your Dex modifier could easily be 5 or more, and eventually your Dex modifier can be expected to be greater than 5, so I'm not sure if that's really much weaker. Also, I think ongoing damage is a better representation of bleeding.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Don't play 4e so I can't comment on balance, but have a +1 for a neat and clearly organized answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 12, 2014 at 2:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Don't forget grabs can be broken by an Athletics vs Fort check or Acrobatics vs Reflex. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12, 2014 at 12:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaAslanSmith Yeah, that's why I mentioned there are already rules for escaping the grab. Do you think I need to add what those rules are? \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Jun 12, 2014 at 18:58

Since we're talking about making up house rules, an idea that occurs to me (inspired by Runequest) is that spears impale, i.e. you stick the spear into an enemy, and it hangs up in his body. The enemy - or the wielder - must then withdraw the weapon in order to get free from it, and in the process can take extra damage if the roll to get free fails - and/or if the wielder is worrying the wound with the spear to do more damage. This means that until the spear is removed, it does damage every round. It also prevents the target from doing much maneuvering, potentially leaving them more vulnerable to other attacks.

On the other hand, unless the spear has a cross-piece (such as a boar spear), the target could pull himself along the shaft of the spear and attack the wielder, who would also not get any movement-based defense unless he dropped the spear (ala the movie Excalibur (1981), near the end, where Mordred spears Arthur, and Arthur pulls himself up the spear shaft and stabs Mordred with his sword).

To put this on the same footing as the other Power Strike effects, you could rule that the target gets free at the end of the next round.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That sounds pretty cool, but it might be a bit elaborate compared to 'knock the target prone'. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Jun 12, 2014 at 1:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe grab the oppponent? \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Jun 12, 2014 at 1:49


Now that the character that originally prompted the question has actually reached level 7, and that I've had about 9 months of DM experience, I've revisited this question to see what we came up with.

I think that the answer I originally gave is pretty decent, it has some upvotes, and I don't want to remove it, but I don't think that it's what I'm actually going to go with. So, I thought I would post what I'm going to use as a separate answer.

Even though the existing answers have greatly influenced what I eventually came up with, I'll try to avoid discussing their merits, even my own. If someone thinks that going into greater depth regarding my thoughts on previous suggestions would improve this answer, let me know.

I plan on actually using this feature starting mid-March, so if anyone has any suggestions on improving it, I would be more than happy to hear them.



I think Wax Eagle put together a great summary of the criteria, and I'm going to use it as well:

  • We want something unique to the Spear
  • We want something that captures the flavor of it being a Spear
  • We're looking for something that's not incredibly overpowered for a 7th level character to have, and for higher level characters to have several times an encounter.


Stab and Release
Your spear impales your opponent, and you push them off.

Benefit: When you use power strike with a two-handed spear, push the target up to 1 square and they are slowed until the end of your next turn.

Balance and Rationale

The 2H-Blade feature lets you push all enemies adjacent to you up to 1 square. That's up to eight enemies being pushed. So most of the time it's probably 1 or 2, but sometimes more. This ability pushes one, and never more.

The 2H-Axe feature lets you knock an enemy prone. Most of the time, this will require them to burn a move action to stand back up, without actually going anywhere. This ability slows them, so that their move action is less effective, but doesn't completely rob them of it.

So this combines a lesser version of the effects from each of the other weapon groups, but does so in a way that makes sense for being stabbed really hard with a spear.

Note that if you attack the target with reach and push them one square, they can probably still move back to you and counterattack on their turn, similar to if they had been pushed back one or if they had been knocked prone while adjacent to you.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The other answers are good, but I'm accepting this one since I actually used it. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Oct 20, 2015 at 4:46

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