Pg 70 in the 5th edition Player's Handbook shows an illustration of a fighter holding what looks like a longspear with a wooden shield lashed to its midsection (it looks as though the spear doubles as a grip for the shield). Was this just the artist's imagination or were weapons like this ever used outside of a tabletop game?

snipped illustration: phb5e p.70

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about real-world history research with no relation to RPG expertise. See our on-topic help, specifically the heading "This is not the right site for questions about". This should instead be asked on History. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30, 2016 at 1:49

2 Answers 2


It looks like the artist’s... misconception? of a Zulu spear-and-shield combo. The Zulu shield a shallow oblong dome with a large staff attached to opposite edges of the dome, along its longest axis. For example, the Wikipedia page has this sketch by Lt. James King:

Lt. James King sketch of Zulu warrior

In many rest poses (which that image certainly is), the warrior is depicted holding the spear in the same hand as the shield, the spear’s shaft against the spear’s grip. I say “is depicted” because I see a number of fantasy drawings, RPG/wargame minis, and so on with this pose in a quick Google search, but nothing that appears historical.

From there, we have the artist apparently missing that even though the spear and shield are being held in the same hand, they are still separate shafts. Then again, with the heavy shadows on the drawing, I suppose it’s possible that we are missing a separate shaft for the shield handle.

It’s also notable that a number of these depictions also have the Zulu warrior wielding one or two additional weapons, long-handled maces mostly, where either the spear or the mace is being held in the same hand as the shield (presumably for storage, not truly wielding it), which also matches the sword-and-spear-and-shield that this guy has. Again, though, these images appear to either be ceremonial or straight-up fantasy.

Either way, I can find no evidence that a spear-with-a-shield-attached was ever seriously used as a weapon.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So, just a regular Zulu shield but with spikes? :) \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Dec 12, 2017 at 12:59

While shields did see many variations, experimentations, and special use cases, I have not found any evidence that such a spear+shield combination weapon was widely used, or was used at all.

Now, there are shield styles where there is a central, vertical grip/support in the middle, such as those used by the Zulu:

Zulu Shield!

and it would be very easy to carry a shield with another weapon in the hand, such as Hastati did in roman armies:

Hastati with Javelins

I don't think this shield is supposed to be strapped to the fighter's spear. I have good reason to suspect that this was wishful thinking on the artist's part. As far as fantasy weapons go, though, this is actually quite viable, although it may be a bit boring.


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