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First, let's take a look at the Spear (D&D 5e Player’s Handbook p. 149):

Spear (Simple Melee Weapon)

Cost: 1 gp
Weight: 3lbs
Damage: 1d6 piercing
Properties: Thrown (range 20/60), Versatile (1d8)

I ask this because, when you check the Trident (D&D 5e Player’s Handbook p. 149)...

Trident (Martial Melee Weapon)

Cost: 5 gp
Weight: 4lbs
Damage: 1d6 piercing
Properties: Thrown (range 20/60), Versatile (1d8)

It does the same thing, but it's more expensive and heavier.

So... Is there any reason for you to use a Trident instead of a Spear? I mean mechanically speaking, of course. Because everybody knows that tridents are way cooler.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Now with 300% the stab wounds!" \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 17 '15 at 20:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Tridents: When you need to stab things in triplicate. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Nov 8 '17 at 16:12
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No

Every class proficient with martial weapons is also proficient with simple weapons, so there would be no mechanical advantage to using a trident over a spear (unless in some unforeseen circumstance you needed the extra 1lb).1

There would be a reason to use a spear (simple weapon) and not a trident (martial weapon), but not the other way around. Bards, clerics, druids, monks, rogues, and warlocks are proficient with simple weapons but not martial weapons. For them, their proficiency bonus would be an advantage of the spear over the trident.

However, these are not the only weapons with the same mechanics (other than price and weight). The following martial weapons are mechanically identical:

  • battleaxes and longswords are both versatile weapons causing 1d8 (1d10 two-handed) slashing damage
  • morningstars and war picks both cause 1d8 piercing damage

  1. The "Variant Entertainer: Gladiator" background (PHB, p. 131) allows a player to "replace the musical instrument in your equipment package with an inexpensive but unusual weapon, such as a trident or net." RAW this only gives the trident as equipment. However, a DM could house rule that it also grants proficiency (in place of the music instrument from the Entertainer background). If allowed and taken by a sorcerer or wizard, they would have proficiency with tridents but not simple weapons (i.e, spears).
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please do not argue in comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jan 18 '15 at 0:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's also a new unearthed arcana feat that gives unique benefits for spears, but no equivalent feat for tridents. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Dec 14 '17 at 21:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you want another example, look at the glaive and the halberd. They both weigh 6 pounds, cost 20 gold, do 1d10 slashing, and are heavy, two-handed weapons with reach. (PHB, 149) \$\endgroup\$ – J Nason Jan 1 '18 at 4:58
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The RAW statistics of each weapon are the same, except the Trident is heavier. Based solely on this, on the base mechanics of the weapons as asked, considering encumbrance is the only reason.

However there are still possible mechanics based reasons to choose one over the other:

  • You have a magic weapon of one type or the other
  • Your DM allows you to use the trident to aid skill based tasks more than a spear, such as giving a bonus to survival checks used to fish
  • Your DM allows a bonus to disarm opponents if using the Disarm Action Option in the DMG (DMG p.271) or for a battlemaster using disarming attack (PHB p.74)

And non-mechanics based reasons, just for completeness:

  • It makes thematic sense to use a trident over a spear, such as choosing a weapon for a triton character or to use as part of a disguise as a creature that stereotypically uses one weapon or the other
  • One weapon fits your imagining of the character more than another, or perhaps better stated as: you think it makes your character look cooler

In case it needs referencing it is not necessarily for it to be a house rule for the DM to apply bonuses as noted above, as stated in the rules on Advantage and Disadvantage (PHB p.173):

The DM can also decide that circumstances influence a roll in one direction or the other and grant advantage or impose disadvantage as a result.

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With the newest November 2018 errata, it is also important to note that spears can now benefit from the Polearm Master feat, while tridents do not, giving even less of a reason to use a trident over a spear.

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Statistically, no.

As far as stats are concerned the Spear is a lighter version that does the same amount of damage, the only real reason to not use a Spear instead of a Trident is if your DM has Houserules in place about other polearms or if you're playing an aquatic character who wants to put a spin on Poseidon or Triton.

Technically speaking in real life a Trident does have an advantage over a spear because it has two recesses in the blade with which you can catch a weapon in which would normally assist you in parrying, deflecting, or catching a weapon aimed at you better than a spear could. This functionality could prompt a houserule to make it better than its PHB counterpart.

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protected by Community Jun 21 '15 at 10:19

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