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I get why they have different damage types, but it seems to me the role of the short spear in D&D 5e (versatile, throwable) really sets itself up for a fighting style not unlike a quarterstaff. Meaning that anyone proficient in the weapon should be able to effectively use the butt end to strike or smash if the situation calls for it (e.g. skeletons).

I guess it just doesn't make sense to me that the weapon wouldn't be equally effective at either damage type. Has a designer given a reason why it should not be?

I know my table could house rule it, but I don't like tossing rules out until I understand them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do not answer in comments. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 4 '17 at 13:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this question should be reopened as-is; I believe it was too hastily closed. The fact of the matter is that this question has two good distinct frame-challenging answers that are not based on opinion, relying heavily on official source material (the PHB). \$\endgroup\$ – Dyndrilliac Jan 5 '17 at 8:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's also worth nothing that there is precedent for these types of question, where the querent is specifically asking for evidence of why the designers did what they did \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Jan 5 '17 at 10:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Asking for designer intent is objectively answerable. We have plenty of those questions. It may take a while before an answer is provided that proves designer intent but it's not off-topic nor is it opinion-based. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Jan 6 '17 at 6:25
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Improvised Weapon Rules handle this well.

To answer your first part: weapons don't have multiple damage types for simplicity sake, and because their damage type is based off of their original, primary function. However this doesn't stop you from adding things to the game and working with the DM. For example, forging a mace that has a spiked head, so that it indeed deals both piercing and bludgeoning damage.

The closest the rules have to approximating this, is improvised weapon rules.

PHB pg. 147-148 (only the significant part quoted below, emphasis mine)

Improvised Weapons

An object that bears no resemblance to a weapon deals 1d4 damage (the DM assigns a damage type appropriate to the object). If a character uses a ranged weapon to make a melee attack, or throws a melee weapon that does not have the thrown property, it also deals 1d4 damage. An improvised thrown weapon has a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet.

With this rule, it's perfectly logical for you to treat the non-pointy end as a club that deals 1d4 bludgeoning. At the end of the day though, it's up to the DM to assign the damage type, and to permit it's use in this fashion.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree, if the spear was also somehow modified to have a bludgeoning end (like an iron ball at the bottom end) it could also be much more damaging than normal. You could also give it a throwing penalty as a trade-off. I'm liking this idea... \$\endgroup\$ – John Hamilton Jan 4 '17 at 8:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's fair, and a great idea by @JohnHamilton. I had a character a few editions ago that did just that, by modifying the double-sword in the rules such that one end was more mace-like. \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Jan 4 '17 at 13:02
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The behavior you are describing is supported by the rules. It was not left out.

The training to perform the type of attack you are describing is granted by the Polearm Master (PHB, p. 168) feat, and does indeed deal 1d4 Bludgeoning damage as a Bonus Action. The only wrinkle is that officially this only applies to the Glaive, Halberd, and Quarterstaff. Presumably the Short Spear is too short to reasonably perform such a maneuver. However, nothing prevents a DM from house-ruling that it works with the Short Spear. Polearm Master has additional benefits, and is not something the DM wants to be giving out for free to every Short Spear user.

As an alternative to house-ruling the details of the feat to make it more accessible for all Short Spear wielders, you could use Polearm Master as the basis of an alternative attack action and allow the wielder of a Short Spear to deal 1d4 plus the relevant modifiers of Bludgeoning damage by striking with the blunt end instead of the usual thrusting with the pointy end. This produces a functionally identical solution as treating the blunt end of the weapon as a distinctly separate weapon using the Improvised Weapons Rules, as detailed in Lino Frank Ciaralli's excellent answer.

Between the Polearm Master feat and the Improvised Weapon Rules, there are at least three different ways well-supported by the rules to arrive at the desired functionality.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, I totally get the ability to houserule things. As I said in my initial post, though, I want to work within the rules first and understand why I'm breaking a rule, if I'm going to. I think this is a logical answer, but since it really only involves houserules (e.g. modifying Polearm master, which actually grants a bonus attack rather than an alternate attack in any case), I had to grant the answer box to the other poster. \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Jan 4 '17 at 13:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a side note, and possibly other question, it also makes no sense to me that even a 'short spear' wouldn't be able to get PoleArm master benefits if Quarterstaff does. In all the pictures in the books, spears are clearly about the same size as a quarterstaff, rather than the zulu-style assagai. \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Jan 4 '17 at 13:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Paul That is of course your prerogative. I would like to stress though, that what I describe above is such a trivial bit of homebrewing that the vast majority of DMs would not consider it homebrewing. \$\endgroup\$ – Dyndrilliac Jan 4 '17 at 20:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ From a realism standpoint, I suspect the shaft of a weapon meant for throwing it somewhat thinner than that of the melee-only weapons. They may have decided it was not appropriate for use with Polearm Master on that basis. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Jan 17 '17 at 9:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dyndrilliac actually, the text is updated in the PHB errata to include spear as a viable weapon for the feat. see media.wizards.com/2018/dnd/downloads/PH-Errata.pdf \$\endgroup\$ – jamesb Jun 21 at 19:36

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