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Polearms in 5e: Halberd vs Glaive vs Spears & More

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using Polearms in DnD 5e.

From Halberds to Glaivers, we’ll highlight the differences between these weapons and how to get the most from polearms, both in and out of combat.

Great for combat, and even better for roleplaying, polearms are much more than a “blade on a stick.”

Characters that specialize in these weapons gain additional roleplaying opportunities, as well as access to special feats that extend their abilities in combat.

What are Polearms?

A polearm is a melee weapon composed of a long shaft and a fighting component, usually a blade or spike. These weapons typically require the use of both hands and extend the character’s reach and fighting power.

There are many polearms to choose from in 5th edition, including spears, halberds, and glaives. Characters using polearms can gain extra benefits by taking the Polearm Master feat.

The Best Polearms in 5e

There are many polearms for adventures to choose from. While most players will be familiar with spears and quarterstaffs, lesser-known weapons such as glaives and halberds are also available. 

The best polearm will be the one that works well for your character. A soldier with a haunted past may be inseparable from his spear, never letting it out of sight. Another character’s trusty glaive may be a treasured family heirloom.

Many polearm weapons share similar properties. For example, long spears, glaives, halberds, and pikes all have reach, are heavy, and require two hands to use. Some of these weapons are made for thrusting, while others are good for chopping. This accounts for their varying damage types.

  • Long Spear:  1d10 damage – Heavy – 2 handed – Reach + – Finesse – Piercing     Damage
  • Halberd:  1d10 damage – Heavy – 2 handed – Reach + – Slashing Damage
  • Glaive:  1d10 damage – Heavy – 2 handed – Reach + – Slashing Damage
  • Pike:  1d10 damage – Heavy – 2 handed – Reach + – Piercing Damage
  • Lance:  1d12 damage – Heavy – 2 handed – Reach + – Piercing Damage
  • Spear:  1d6 damage – Thrown (range 20/60) – versatile (1d8) – Piercing Damage
  • Quarterstaff:  1d6 Damage – versatile (1d8) – Bludgeoning Damage

Players can find information about polearms and other weapons in the Player’s Handbook (p149). 

Spear

The spear is a popular polearm for a reason. This versatile weapon can be wielded with two hands or used in combination with a shield. And as a ranged weapon, the spear is deadly up to 60 feet.

On top of being a popular choice for its roleplaying potential, the spear is also quite common. Whether the party is in a town or deep in an underground dungeon, it’s practically guaranteed that one is nearby.

Glaive

The glaive consists of a single-edged blade mounted on a pole. This weapon is around seven feet long and requires two hands to wield correctly. Glaives are heavy weapons with an extended reach.

They have the potential to deal massive combat damage in the right hands.

Halberd

Useful against mounted combatants, the halberd consists of an axe blade attached to a wooden or metal shaft. Tipped with a spike, the halberd requires the use of both hands.

Similar to a glaive, this heavy weapon offers an extended reach. And it deals 1d10 slashing damage.

Quarterstaff

This versatile weapon is an excellent choice for spellcasters and polearm masters alike. Quarterstaffs deal bludgeoning damage and are versatile, meaning they can be used with one or two hands.

Pike

Similar to a halberd, the pike resembled a battle axe mounted on a long pole.

The pike is tipped with a longer spike than the halberd, making this weapon excellent for thrusting attacks. Use the Pike to pierce an enemy’s defenses.

Halberd vs Glaive

In DnD, the difference between a halberd and glaive is mostly aesthetic, at least as far as combat is concerned. In the Player’s Handbook, these weapons share identical properties, damage, weight, and cost. 

However, DnD isn’t just about combat, and neither are weapons. A player can tie a banner to a glaive and waive it to signal an ally. The hook on the backside of a halberd can be used to hang a lantern or a decapitated head.

Halberd vs Pike

A pike is similar to a halberd. Both consist of an axe blade and a thrusting spike. The difference is that the spike on the halberd is considerably larger than the one on the pike. As a result, the pike deals piercing damage rather than slashing damage.

The pike, however, suffers in that it isn’t included in the list of weapons that benefit from the first property of the Polearm Master feat. For characters looking to take full advantage of the benefits of this feat, the pike is to be avoided.

Glaive vs Spear

While at a distance these two weapons may appear similar, they function very differently in combat. The glaive is much heavier than the spear and has a longer reach.

The spear is more versatile than the glaive, and can be thrown or wielded with one hand.

Quarterstaff vs Trident

The three-pronged trident is a favorite of watery gods and DnD adventurers alike. Unlike quarterstaffs, tridents can be thrown for a ranged attack. The versatile trident can also be used for two-handed fighting.

Quarterstaffs, however, gain benefits from the Polearm Master feat that the trident does not.

How to Play a Polearm Master

Players wielding polearms can take advantage of the properties of these weapons in combat in several ways. Some polearms, such as a glaive or halberd, offer characters an extended reach in combat.

With these weapons, characters add an extra 5 feet to the range of their melee attacks.

Players who want to dedicate their characters to polearm weapons should consider taking the Polearm Master feat. With this feat, characters wielding certain polearms can use a bonus action to deal an extra attack that deals 1d4 damage.

Also, this feat allows characters to take an attack of opportunity when another creature enters their reach.

Best Feats for a Master of Polearms

Characters who take the Polearm Master feat can benefit from additional feats. The Sentinel feat and Great Weapon Master feat are great choices for taking polearm fighting to the next level.

Used in conjunction with Polearm Master, these feats offer additional advantages on the battlefield.

Sentinel

The Sentinel feat is an excellent choice for any melee-focused character, but it’s especially good for those with Polearm Master. When a character with sentinel hits a creature using an attack of opportunity, that creature’s speed is reduced to 0.

The motto of the Sentinel is “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” This wicked combination allows characters to tactically control enemies and protect teammates.

A character with Sentinel, Polearm Master, and the 10-foot reach of a glaive is almost scary.

Great Weapon Master

With the Great Weapon Master feat, a character using a heavy weapon can choose to take a -5 penalty on an attack roll. If the attack lands, the character can add +10 to the attack’s damage.

Characters who find a way to mitigate the penalty will routinely deal massive combat damage.

Can You Dual-Wield Polearms in 5e?

No. Large polearms require two hands to use properly. A glaive, for example, has a heavy steel blade. A character needs to use both hands to swing this weapon. The same is true for a halberd or a pike. 

Some polearms are versatile and can be wielded with one hand. For example, quarterstaffs and spears share this property. Characters are free to use a shield in their off-hand when using these weapons.

Two-weapon fighting, however, is normally only possible when characters are using light weapons. Even though quarterstaffs and spears are versatile, they do not count as light weapons.

But by taking the Dual Wielder feat, characters can bypass these limitations. With this feat, players can use two-weapon fighting techniques even if their weapons are light. 

Using Polearms Outside of Combat

Weapons aren’t just for combat. This is true for polearms as well. Imaginative players have come up with a variety of ways to use weapons outside of battle. 

The best part of a polearm is its length. Use a polearm to reach high places, or to prop open a door. Spot a trap in the ceiling of a tunnel? Use a spear to safely trigger it from a distance. 

It’s not uncommon for a soldier to tie a banner or flag to their polearm. This makes an excellent signal. And if a fight is going really bad, waving a white flag is pretty useful. 

But it’s as tools of roleplaying that polearms really shine. After all, what’s a Wizard without his trusty quarterstaff, or a town guard without a spear? And where would the Druid be without her gnarled staff?

A character’s weapons can serve as a defining feature. When we think of many heroes and heroines, we often identify them by their weapons of choice. A whip or a shield can be iconic and memorable. The same goes for polearms. 

Players will remember when a fighter cuts a ship’s rigging with her glaive, helping the party to escape the bloodthirsty pirates.

And when the group’s Paladin fearlessly charges at a dragon waving his family’s ancestral halberd, you can be sure he’ll leave a lasting impression, even if that’s all that he leaves. 

Adventures Await

Polearms have a long history in DnD. Brave Fighters and Paladins have brandished these weapons in the name of honor and glory, but not all have lived to tell of their adventures.

Perhaps your party will be different. Perhaps you’ll play the game well, overcoming the challenges ahead, gripping your trusty halberd in the face of all that’s dark and terrifying.