Spear vs. Lance Skills and Mounted Combat

Hey all,
Our group decided to not run with fighting arts for now at least, if only to reduce the complexity of rules-to-learn-in-character-burning. However, this brings us back to weapon skills, which I had some questions about:

The Spear skill entry (Burning Wheel Gold Revised 300) states:

Spears, lances or pikes are versatile and intuitive weapons.

Which implies lances are usable with the Spear skill.

However, there is also a Lance skill in the Skill List (Burning Wheel Gold Revised 280), used for a couched lance from horseback. This seems to be the only way to use a lance, however - they don’t look to be different uses, as far as I can tell.

Since this skill shows up in many squire-ly lifepaths, I would imagine it’s simply a more specialized version of the Spear skill (a la Brawling and Boxing), and you can use either for lances. That said, I don’t know that this is the intent – after all, a skill that is a strict subset of another is not so common!

Another question about lances comes from the mounted combat rules, which say that a Lance test should be followed by a die of fate to drop or break the lance. Can the character willingly drop the lance even if this die of fate does not roll a 1?

While we’re in the mounted combat section, I suppose:
The Weight of Cavalry gives

Downward-stroke hacking, slashing and crushing weapons

+1D to weapon skill while mounted, while The Curved Blade gives curved swords a +2D to weapon skill while mounted. Is this +2D meant to replace the +1D from The Weight of Cavalry, or are they intended to combine to give +3D? I would assume they don’t “stack”, but I’ve been wrong about these readings before.

Also: the rider can script the horse’s actions. What happens if the Horse tries to Avoid or Block while the rider Strikes? Does the rider benefit from this defensive action as well? It’s a bit awkward if they don’t, because the opponent needs to win a Strike before they can move hits from the horse to the rider and vice-versa.

Any guidance?

Correct. It may be used a spear with the spear skill.

Correct. Using the couched technique from horseback requires the Lance skill.

Seems reasonable.

These advantages do not stack.

The horse’s defensive actions only benefit it against actions targeting it. But the possible interactions could probably use a bit more detail and clarity, I agree.


Firstly, do you anticipate mounted combat to play a big role in your game? Those rules are pretty obscure…

The Lance skill is indeed a specific discipline, one that requires specific training and specific equipment. One is that the lance is a different kind of spear: It’s heavy and shaped for its specific use. Just as importantly – perhaps more importantly – use of the skill requires saddle, harness, and stirrup. These make the heavy impact and carry through of the lance charge possible.

Check the page just after where Lances in mounted combat is elaborated on and you’ll see that Spears have their own entry. Note the differences on how these weapons are used: A spear is used over the shoulder and discarded – almost thrown – into the target. Why might that be? A lighter spear – as opposed to a lance – is likely more inclined toward breaking, being wrenched forcefully (and disrutpively/painfully) from your grasp, or otherwise unbalancing you from your seat when couched. The different shape of the lance likely helps with this. (Check out the artwork on that page; could you imagine hoisting that chunky lance over your head and throwing it?) Without the saddle, harness, and stirrup (which led to the development of the lance and the discipline of using it) to brace and absorb the impact, you are likely to have your connection to the horse disrupted or destroyed – i.e. you’ll end up on your ass.

The lance is a costlier, more technologically developed weapon. If you are a Roman Equite of the Republic, you don’t have stirrups. The technological foundation isn’t there for lances to develop… So you’re using spears and the rules for weilding them from horseback. If you’re a 14th century French knight, you’ve likely never bothered learning to use any other type of spear than a heavy one couched on horseback – you’ve got the latest, greatest tech; why learn anything else!? If you’re a cavlaryman, you may not have had access to the special equipment and training (or culture) required to specialize in the lance; you may have had occasion to use both weapons from horseback.

So, my advice would be to look at your setting an character concepts and go from there.

My read on this is that “lance” is a term often confused for its etymology. It has meant “spear” (or a few specific types thereof) historically, and writers have used it interchangeably real frequently. My recommendation is to wipe the word from that skill entry in your mind.

Oh, I don’t know; I’d probably allow it. Dropping stuff is a bit loose in BW timing; I think you can do so without and action. A lance charge is pretty committed, though. Eh, probably.

My read is that curved weapons take more advantage of the weight of cavalry, and so grant an additional die for +2D. In other words, it’s the better version of the same advantage, not a different advantage that compounds.

My read is blocking, no (though I’d love to see it). Avoid… You use the mount’s speed when you Avoid. My read is that this should probably be both of your scripts for the action (roll once), or you don’t benefit (you’re moving the horse away from attackers while leaning into the fray yourself.

Phew. So many question, so… One thread. Hope that was helpful! It’s good to see ya!

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