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joshuaslater

The Spiked Chain

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Here at the world famous Philadelphia Museum of Art there is a large display of Medieval weapons and armor, from the Dark Ages through the Renaissance. Nowhere in that exhibit is there anything like the spiked chain currently found in D&D.

 

In Asia, there are some chain weapons, but these were not battlefield issue, really being more for stealthy ninjas needing to conceal something to disarm, smack or strangle someone, and be used for a climbing aid.

 

Where did the current fascination with this never before seen weapon enter into D&D?

 

Okay, before you lay into the fantasy aspect of the game, and the suspension of disbelief, is there some real world equivalent throughout history that resembles this weapon in the game? I doubt any chain weapon, spiked or otherwise, would even make a dent in a suit of plate armor commonly worn by Knights in a European/Medieval fantasy setting.

 

I plan on buying the Chain set #3076 when it comes out, but really more to make flails and morning stars. I think it's a great idea for those wanting to give their D&D mini this strange weapon, but I'm still left wondering what inspired it.

 

Thoughts?

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It's a natural progression from a flail, where you continue to increase the length of chain to increase velocity of the mass at the end to it hits harder. You remove the handle and make it less a weapon of leverage and more and more reliant on angular velocity. Make it pointy so it can punch through metal plates, or keep it blunt and heavy so it still causes damage against chain or cloth armor that cannot deflect the blow. And like a vast majority of weapons, they are all based off old agricultural/farming tools that just get oversized and weaponized. And heck, if a big heavy weight on the end of a chain would sound and look cool, why wouldn't a small axe head for cleaving attacks or a spear head/knife for slashing/piercing?

 

In real life, think of an escaped criminal or slave that had their arms or legs shackled. Using the dangling chains would just make sense since you couldn't drop it, and it was there. It's a weapon of opportunity. Now spend some time thinking about how to make that even more deadly - add weight, a cutting edge, etc.

 

In real life, it wouldn't be exactly practical in a large skirmish because honestly, by the time the weapon gets up to speed people can close in on you, and once it hits, there is a huge risk of entanglement in an opponent. If you're using an AD&D spiked chain, and you can hit something 10 ft away - You figure a person has a 6ft wingspan, so their arm is about 2.5- 2.75 feet long, plus another 3-4 feet of chain to give the extra distance. You need a large area to use it. Just not very useful against a large mob in a real fight. Would probably work well as a defensive tool to keep people at bay, because no one would want to be that first sacrifical SOB that takes the weight or blade in the head.

 

But it's also a fantasy setting, so things like that are often not taken into consideration. It looks cool. You see a lot of them in Kung-Fu movies, and D&D battles often take on the sense of a WWE match or a battle in a Kung-Fu Movie. Even though most D&D is based on Western European traditions and folklore, does not mean it will stick exclusively to them. And D&D is far from historically accurate when it comes to things like warfare and combat. Don't look for the historical or real life analogue. Sometimes, it's in there just because it looks or sounds cool.

 

In game terms it's a wonderful weapon to exploit for the power gamer/rules lawyer. Using the Feats you can turn yourself into a sick beast. Make a Dex based Human Fighter that still has decent Strength:

Level 1: Weapon Finesse, Exotic Weapon Prof - Spike Chain, Combat Reflexes

Level 2: Weapon Focus - Chain

Level 3: Dodge

Level 4: Weapon Specialization - Chain

Level 6: Mobility, Spring Attack

 

At level 6 you have a guy with a 10ft reach weapon making 2 attacks per round, capable of making multiple Attacks of Opportunity to anything within 10 feet of it, using your Higher Dex Modifier to hit, plus still using Strength to add to damage. Who can leap into and out of combat without fear of Attacks of Opportunity themselves from their target not only because of Spring Attack, but also because of their Reach. It's also one of the few Reach Weapons that allows you to attack both adjacent squares AND those 10ft from you.

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Looking cool is the answer I knew was coming. I prefer dark fantasy, more grounded with weaponry we've seen here on Earth.

 

Our D&D game has already had the chain wielding monk/fighter wreak havoc with everything you've laid out, but D&D is losing its allure the older I get. Now it's getting together with the boys, bs'ing and beers. The mechanics bore me to tears.

 

I'm not looking for too much realism from a fantasy game, but the spiked chain would be far less deadly in other games I play. The sheer weight of it would insure that you would need massive strength, and no encumbering armor to swing it, plus any martial artist or trained fighter would rush in to the wielder as soon as the arc passed them. All the really harmful velocity is at the end. I find the D&D mechanic of allowing it to be a whip a la Indiana Jones kinda silly.

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In game terms it's a wonderful weapon to exploit for the power gamer/rules lawyer. Using the Feats you can turn yourself into a sick beast. Make a Dex based Human Fighter that still has decent Strength:

Level 1: Weapon Finesse, Exotic Weapon Prof - Spike Chain, Combat Reflexes

Level 2: Weapon Focus - Chain

Level 3: Dodge

Level 4: Weapon Specialization - Chain

Level 6: Mobility, Spring Attack

 

At level 6 you have a guy with a 10ft reach weapon making 2 attacks per round, capable of making multiple Attacks of Opportunity to anything within 10 feet of it, using your Higher Dex Modifier to hit, plus still using Strength to add to damage. Who can leap into and out of combat without fear of Attacks of Opportunity themselves from their target not only because of Spring Attack, but also because of their Reach. It's also one of the few Reach Weapons that allows you to attack both adjacent squares AND those 10ft from you.

 

 

 

Another good reason not too play D&D. <_<

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Another good reason not too play D&D. <_<

 

Any game mechanic can be exploited and kill a game if you want to munchkin it.

 

Of course, there are a ton of ways for a good DM to get around dealing with this. Make it tight quarters so you can't take full advantage of the reach. Have enemy opponents target the player with missle fire or magic. Don't make everything in the game about combat. Hell, give them opponents that will powergame just as bad.

 

Most impiortantly, just don't play with guys that will do that. Put an emphasis on role playing not roll playing, and you will find a lot of the uber power gamers just get bored and don't play.

 

 

I can create in a matter of minutes a combat juggernaut with the Feats, but it's going to be a very one dimensional, limited character, who can only be successful in combat.

 

 

That's a pretty boring character in my mind.

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The munchkin approach is now built into the game. What's the use of a good 'ol +1 weapon in a game where feats are the core, everyone ends up amped up on haste and bull's strength spells, etc. I've come to terms with that aspect of the game.

 

I just find the spiked chain a silly weapon. If it were viable, we'd have seen it here on good old Earth, which, in my opinion, every fantasy setting has a good deal based on.

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See, our group just took the theory behind the "spiked chain" and the essentials of the mechanics, and altered it to suit our vision of the fantasy world we were in.

 

Spiked Chain is an Exotic Weapon, thus it requires a feat to learn. In exchange for this feat, you gain access to a reach weapon that can also be used "close" - additionally, the spiked chain has three additional "extras" that make it nice - bonuses to trip, to disarm, and you can use it with weapon finesse.

 

In our campaign, it's a bit more "gritty" than regular, as such, we wanted pole weapons to take dominance again.

 

We created an Exotic Weapon proficiency (Polearm Fighting) which allowed any and all 2 handed pole based reach weapons to also be used close. When used close, it functioned as a quarterstaff (1d6 bludgeon damage, x2 on a crit, 2 handed weapon for strength bonus)

 

Glaives and Guisarm already get the trip benefit

Ranseur already gets the disarm benefit

Longspear doubles versus charge

 

So, we wanted to bring a couple other weapons back to their predominance, as such, when we imagine the "pole weapon" user in fantasy - invariably we imagine the quarterstaff, the spear and the halberd.

 

So, in our games, the Quarterstaff gains reach when used with the Polearm Fighting Exotic Weapon proficiency and the Weapon Finesse benefit from the spiked chain

 

likewise the basic Spear gained reach and the weapon finesse bonus

 

and the Halberd gained reach, the trip and disarm bonuses...if you've ever seen (live or via videos) the Swiss Guard drill with Halberds at the Vatican, you'll agree.

 

We saw several things happen in our games after this change..

 

1) Druids and Wizards (and Sorcerers) as well as Monks tended to use the lowly quarterstaff more.. aditionally, they were much more useful while fighting from the rear rank.

 

2) The lowly spear became a favorite - reach, finesse, and the ability to be thrown... we started seeing spears used again.

 

3) The castle guards actually had a reason to use the Halberd and were quite effective with them

 

4) The Spiked Chain did still sometimes see users, because it remained the only weapon that granted reach as well as all 3 types of bonuses. However, it was a lot more rare since there were other weapons that could grant "just the particular bonus the character needed."

 

The key to the system is that the game mechanic requirement of a character to expend a feat to gain both Reach and "close" fighting was maintained... the difference being we applied that benefit to more traditional weapons in a way that more accurately reflected their use. It also changed the system very very little.

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I teach the use of "exotic" weapons in my taijutsu classes. One of these is the ketsushoge. Pointy dagger with a gaffing hook and about fifteen feed of cord or chain on it with a large-ish iron disk atht e end of that.

The chain/ cord may not be what does the initial damage, but it sure binds things up well with the iron ring at the end of it doing smashing and the pointy part and hook tearing plates apart and rending flesh.

 

Everything is a weapon...if you don't believe that, get to Bend with your object and I will teach you how to use it as a weapon...

:)

 

---Todd---

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My point again. These exotic weapons are from a culture that did not have heavy tanks, i.e. a fully armored knight in steel plate riding a Clydesdale size horse in barding. These weapons may have their uses, but I'm highly doubtful of their efficacy in a medieval European fantasy setting.

 

The sword and dagger techniques I learned in Modern Arnis are good for current times, where the armed/unarmed strikes are the same, and people don't wear metal armor, but these fighting styles come from tropical climates, and what might be a killing slash to someone would not penetrate plate armor over chain. As for entangling an opponent, or disarming them, I think they would be more effective against someone in cumbersome armor, but I don't think the game mechanic was designed for realism. It's just for the coolness factor.

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I think one of the other issues is that you're trying to find more realism in a game with magic and elves than there really is.

 

There's a simple fix too. As a DM, just say: No Spiked Chains. It doesn't fit with the world, cool factor not withstanding.

 

If people gripe, point out you're in a western based world and the spiked chain is clearly Eastern influenced and not appropriate to the game setting.

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Slightly more realism. You can't expect realism with Elves and Dwarves runnin' around. I happen to like the Chronopia mechanic for tabletop, and wish there was some better way D&D reflected this. I will have spiked chains in the next game I GM, but I won't be using 3.5.

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If people gripe, point out you're in a western based world and the spiked chain is clearly Eastern influenced and not appropriate to the game setting.

If you do this, you should also be prepared to take out several other Eastern-influenced things as well, if you want to maintain consistency: the monk and all of its associated Eastern-style weapons (kama, nunchaku, sai, shuriken, and siangham) plus other non-Western weapons like the kukri (Nepalese), scimitar (Arabic/Indian/Persian), and repeating crossbow (Chinese)... and I'm not even gonna touch the orc double-axe!

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My point again. These exotic weapons are from a culture that did not have heavy tanks, i.e. a fully armored knight in steel plate riding a Clydesdale size horse in barding. These weapons may have their uses, but I'm highly doubtful of their efficacy in a medieval European fantasy setting.

 

The sword and dagger techniques I learned in Modern Arnis are good for current times, where the armed/unarmed strikes are the same, and people don't wear metal armor, but these fighting styles come from tropical climates, and what might be a killing slash to someone would not penetrate plate armor over chain. As for entangling an opponent, or disarming them, I think they would be more effective against someone in cumbersome armor, but I don't think the game mechanic was designed for realism. It's just for the coolness factor.

So, you are arguing for MORE rules then. It's not just the Spiked Chain you should complain about if that really is your basis.

 

If you want to go there, EVERY weapon will be more or less effective against certain opponents, depending on their armor worn. Plate mail shoud deflect the bows of piercing weapons, while a bludgeoning weapon should be able to hit it more effectively. Chain mail will deflect slashing weapons, while peircing weapons will skewer the fool inside it...

 

Those rules exsisted in 2nd edition. It was another one of the things people complained about...

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If some tinkering is in order, I'll just use the Damage Reduction for armor and the AC bonuses outlined in Unearthed Arcana. Of course, these will have to be tailored.

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