Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Wonderful World of Iron Spikes

Well, I guess the title explains what this post is about.  A while back, I jokingly commented about writing an article on iron spikes.  Porky commented that he would like to read such an article, or something along those lines.  Then I announced the Reader's Choice Challenge.  Yeah, this topic was suggested by Porky.

I thought I would start with some flavor fiction... yeah about iron spikes.

The outfitters shop was cluttered and disorganized.  Trent was looking at an oddly shaped grappling hook.  Tossing it back into the pile of junk, he heard the shopkeeper returning from the back room.

"Here's the last coil of rope I have.... hmmm... should be about fifty feet long..."  He placed it on the counter.  "Anything else?"

Looking over at Flek, who was examining a shield, Trent grunted,  "Anything else we need?"

Flek, tugged at his impressive beard.  "Spikes... good, sturdy spikes."

"Well, you heard the dwarf, you have any spikes?"  Trent started placing the items in his pack.

"Of course  I do, what kind do you want?"

"What do you mean, what kind?"  Trent shaking his head, and rolling his eyes, he couldn't believe the shopkeeper.  "You know, IRON SPIKES... metal, blunt on one end, and pointy and sharp on the other?"

The shopkeeper shrugged, and bent down and reached under the counter.  Grunting with effort he stood back up, holding a very long iron spike.  Dropping it on the counter it made a loud thud.  "There you go..."

"That's a too large... I meant regular sized iron spikes...  who needs a spike that big anyway?"

Lighting his pipe, the shopkeeper, puffing out a small cloud of smoke, which took the shape of a flying dragon, and flew off.  "Dunno, but the group ordered about 10 of the durn things.  I had to have them made special.  Think they mentioned something about a nasty trap."

"I see... well we just need spikes about this long... " Trent held up his hands to indicate the length he needed.

"I see, okay, with or without holes in the end?"  Chuckling, the shopkeeper blew another cloud of pipe smoke.  This time it took the form of a castle floating in the clouds.

Trent, running his hand down his face, let out a breath.  "Uh... some of both..."

"Let me check..."

Now, I'm by no means an expert on iron spikes, especially in gaming systems, so I'm sure some rule sets, and supplements might have covered many different varieties of iron spikes, but the fiction was just a way of saying, not everyone's iron spikes are going to be the same.

In a fantasy setting, a smith is going to handcraft these things one at a time, and there is going to be differences in size, shape, and quality.  One smith's iron spike is going to be different than anothers.  Some people are going to say that this is getting a little too realistic, or not worth the trouble to keep track off, and that's fine.  Also, in most cities, it's probably an item that isn't in that big of a demand, and those that are made, are probably made to order.  A group of player characters would most likely have to ask a smith to have them made, and if the smith is busy it might take a while.

Of course you can also have the spike made out of different kinds of metal, even enchanted metal, but those are going to cost much, much more. 

I think I've written as much as I care to about iron spikes.  Here's a website with a list of 101 uses for an iron spike.  Well, I didn't read it all, so there might not be 101 uses.  The writer stopped at thirty something ( I don't blame him ), and people started leaving more uses in the comments.

Okay Porky, are you happy now?


  1. Happy! Good job - the fiction, comments on manufacture and the list. I'm thinking now about the metal and its implications.

    I'm also thinking about the keeping track. When you look through Necromunda, you'll see record-keeping for ammo is simplified by using an 'ammo roll'. Each weapon is given a rating based on quality, complexity and rarity. On a certain number when rolling to hit - a six I think - this rating must be equalled or beaten on a second D6 or the weapon becomes useless. Nice mechanic, although I've always thought that the user should get one extra shot to represent their knowing the ammo is getting low.

    This would be a good mechanic to carry over into other more casual games, and is great for iron spikes, especially if they're going to be as heavily used as that list of 101 uses suggests.

    There were 111 I think, but it seems a few duplicates. Some were clever and will have me pondering long.

    In summary, thanks and very well done!

  2. Nice post!

    Iron spikes were always a staple of Holmes BD&D games I played in. We spiked everything: doors open when exploring a new room to avoid being trapped by monsters, doors closed when camping out in the dungeon for that extra bit of security, doors with suspected traps, doors with actual traps (*gasp* "Poision!"), doors with monsters behind them, doors in a door maze, doors into rooms full of pools, doors that slammed shut with a great wind that extinquished our torches, turning walls, to hold the rope (assuming the spike had a hole), and more. Everyone carried between 5 and 10 of them (plus the mallet to knock them in) in a large sack (for ease in dropping when running away), and when AD&D came around, we worried about the weight encumbrance they added to our already overburdened PCs.

    Now, do you have a post on 10 foot poles?