Hoplite Combat


Hoplite Combat


This section will cover the mechanics of using the famous Greek phalanx in game. While there is a Hoplite class, any martial class that takes the right feats can serve as a member of the phalanx. Almost all Greek warriors of the historical era are Hoplites. A properly equipped Hoplite, fit to form a phalanx alongside his comrades in arms, needs a bronze corset, a Corinthian helmet, a Hoplite shield and a spear. Many Hoplites also carry a short sword as a backup weapon, in case an enemy comes too close for the spear’s reach. This standardization of equipment is the key to the phalanx’s effectiveness. If one member of the phalanx did not have a suitable shield or a long enough spear, the efficiency of the whole group would be compromised.



Phalanx Equipment

This is the standard equipment used by a hoplite in a cities phalanx. While there are some other armors and shields that work with the phalanx, these are by far the most common and standard issue for Hoplites of this period.


Bronze Plate Corselet (Heavy)
This armor is a stiff, bell-shaped cuirass, made from a breastplate and a back plate. It offers good protection but is cramped and confining to wear. It is the early version of the bronze plate armor that was excavated at Dendra and was in use between the sixth and the fifth centuries BC until the lighter scale girdle supplanted it. Any Hoplite active during this time period is expected to outfit himself with this armor.

  • Construction: Worked bronze plates.
  • Cost: 300 silver drachmas.
  • Hit Points: 60.
  • DR/DA: Piercing 6/2; Slashing 6/3; Bludgeoning 8/1.
  • Coverage Bonus: +8.
  • Armor Check Penalty: -8.
  • Maximum Dexterity Bonus: +0.
  • Special: Running speed is reduced in a bronze plate corselet. (See Adventuring.) This is the reason why it was phased out in favor of the bronze scale girdle. Hoplites opted to forego protection in favor of additional maneuverability.

Corinthian Helmet (Heavy)
The Corinthian helmet is an integral part of the armor of a Hoplite. It is instantly recognizable as the helmet most commonly depicted in Greek art, with a high crest of horsehair and a T-shaped opening in the front, with a long nose guard. Corinthian helmets are made from a single sheet of beaten bronze. They offer excellent protection to the head and face. The trade-off is the limitation they place upon vision and hearing.

  • Construction: Beaten bronze.
  • Cost: 100 silver drachmas.
  • Hit Points: 40.
  • DR/DA: Piercing 4/2; Slashing 4/3; Bludgeoning 6/0.
  • Penalty To Perception Checks: -4
  • Special: The great crest that tops a Corinthian helmet was said to be a terrifying sight by commentators of the ancient world. It seems to have been added for intimidation purposes as much as for decoration. This helmet grants+1 circumstance bonus to any Presence check made to intimidate a foe during combat.

Hoplite Shield (hoplon) (Heavy)
The hoplon or round shield gives its name to the warrior who bears it in Ancient Greece, the Hoplite. It is a splendid example of the armorer’s craft that altered the nature of battle forever afterwards. A hoplon is made from wood faced with bronze, is convex in form (allowing blows to be more easily deflected) and measures approximately one yard in diameter. Unlike earlier forms of shield, it is borne upon the whole arm rather than held in the hand. It is customary to personalize your hoplon by paying the craftsman to fit metal ornaments to the front. This then serves to identify your heroics on the battlefield, as your helmet hides your face.

  • Construction: Wood frame with bronze facing.
  • Cost: 80 silver drachmas.
  • Hit Points: 30.
  • DR/DA: Piercing 7/3; Slashing 5/6; Bludgeoning 5/10.
  • Coverage Bonus: +5.
  • Armor Check Penalty: -3.

Bronze Tipped Long Spear (Reach)
Commonly referred to as the 8 footer, this is the spear used in a phalanx, the primary weapon of a Hoplite. A long spear has reach. You can strike opponents 10 feet away with it, but you cannot use it against an adjacent foe. If you use a ready action to set a longspear against a charge, you deal double damage on a successful hit against a charging character. Bronze tipped spears have a +1 enhancement bonus to their damage rolls.

  • Cost: 10 Silver Drachmas
  • Damage: 1d8
  • Critical: 20/x3
  • Weight: 9lbs
  • Length: 8ft
  • Type: Piercing
  • Special: Reach


Phalanx Feats

These are the feats necessary for a character to participate in the phalanx formation. There are also a few feats that are not needed for the basic formation, but that are commonly taken and greatly increase the effectiveness of the army.


Spear Combat [Combat]
You live by the shield and the spear.

  • Benefit: You treat spears and long-spears as one-handed weapons, instead of two-handed weapons. You add just your strength bonus to damage, as apposed to 1 and 1/2 when wielding a spear with two hands.
  • Special: You cannot dual wield when using a spear or long-spear as a one handed weapon, but you can use a shield with your off-hand normally.

Spear Master [Combat]
You have mastered the Greek style of wielding a long spear in one hand.

  • Prerequisite: Spear Combat
  • Benefit: When wielding a spear or long-spear in one hand, you add 1 and 1/2 your strength bonus to damage rolls.

Short Haft [Combat]
You have trained in polearm fighting alongside your comrades in arms, sometimes reaching past them while they shield you, and sometimes shielding them while they attack from behind you.

  • Prerequisites: Proficiency with a reach weapon, Weapon Focus with a reach weapon, base attack bonus +3.
  • Benefit: As a swift action, you can choose to lose the benefit of wielding any reach weapon other than a spiked chain or a whip. In return, you can use that weapon to threaten and attack spaces adjacent to you. With another swift action, you can give up this feat’s benefit in order to regain the use of your weapon’s superior reach.

Phalanx Rear Rank [Formation]
You have been trained to fight in the rear rank of a phalanx and are competent to defend the rear against arrows by raising your spear. Warriors trained in phalanx combat can assume a front or a middle rank position. Selecting Phalanx Front Rank gives you Phalanx Rear Rank for free.

  • Benefit: When a full phalanx is formed by a large group of warriors, only the front two ranks of a phalanx have their spears lowered. Ranks behind the first two have their spears held upright. Any warrior with his spear upright in a phalanx rear rank formation gains a +4 cover bonus to Passive Defense against missile attacks, as the forest of spears breaks up missile fire.
  • Formation: To be in phalanx rear rank formation, a characters must be standing both beside one character with the Phalanx feats and behind another one. They must be adjacent to their neighbors; if they are as much as five feet away from them, they do not count as part of the formation. The rearmost rank of any phalanx does not gain any benefit from this feat.
  • Special: Characters in a phalanx can opt to move as one, to avoid breaking up the line. See Phalanx Front Rank for details.

Phalanx Front Rank [Formation]
You know how to fight alongside a fellow trained warrior so that your shields defend each other as well as yourselves. Warriors trained in phalanx combat can assume a front or a middle rank position. Selecting this feat gives you Phalanx Rear Rank for free.

  • Benefit: The famous phalanx formation allows warriors to band together side by side for mutual defense. The large shields used by Greek Hoplites are perfect for this purpose. You cannot form part of a phalanx if you are wielding a shield with a Coverage bonus of less than +4. When in phalanx formation, warriors are tightly bunched and covered by each other’s shields, allowing little chance for an enemy blow to penetrate. Characters in a phalanx formation receive a +3 coverage bonus to Shield Defense checks and to coverage checks made against blows that have not been actively defended against. The person on the right hand end of a phalanx does not gain this benefit, though he does contribute to the formation.
  • Formation: To be in phalanx front rank formation, a character must be standing alongside another character with this feat. Such characters must be adjacent to their neighbors; if they are as much as five feet away from them, they do not count as part of the formation.
  • Special: Characters in a phalanx can opt to move as one, to avoid breaking up the line. In such an arrangement, characters may take a standard action on their own initiative counts, then a simultaneous move action on an initiative count of 1. Any character who leaves himself unable to take a move action or who is rendered incapable of doing so, does not move forward with the rest of the phalanx that round. The commander of the phalanx may order the warriors not to move forward under such circumstances. It is up to each individual warrior whether he chooses to move with the phalanx or not.

Meat Skewer [Formation]
You have been trained to attack from the second rank of a phalanx or further, past the man in front of you. This formation feat is only available to Greeks

  • Benefit: The meat skewer – a toned down version of the original term that the Greeks used for the formation, which was much more obscene – involves the use of long spears to stab past the man in front of you in a phalanx. A warrior wielding a spear in a meat skewer formation gains a +1 circumstance bonus to attack rolls.
  • Formation: A character using a reach weapon from directly behind an allied character is in meat skewer formation

Group Charge [Formation]
You have been trained to charge into combat alongside others, attacking as a single force.

  • Benefit: Characters with this formation feat are trained to charge and attack as one. The overwhelming force of a group charge enhances the effectiveness of the attack. When the group charge formation feat is used, the targets who are attacked by the charging characters suffer a –2 penalty to Active Defense checks made against such attacks. As with the usual rules for charging, only melee attacks benefit from any bonus. Charging characters using this feat still suffer the usual penalty to Active Defense checks and the bar to Shield Defense checks.
  • Formation: The formation necessary for a concerted assault must contain at least three characters. Each character involved must be within five feet of another with this feat. The formation may be of any shape.
  • Special: All characters in the formation must move and attack on the same initiative count for the benefits of this feat to be applied, which means that some characters must delay their action (see the Combat chapter for more information on delaying actions).

Concerted Assault [Formation]
You are trained in attacking alongside others, forming a single decisive strike.

  • Benefit: This formation feat allows multiple characters to attack at the same time. The inertia of a simultaneous attack makes the blows harder to block or dodge. Melee attacks and damage rolls are made at a +1 circumstance bonus. These bonuses stack with those derived from other formation feats, such as Meat Skewer.
  • Formation: The formation necessary for a concerted assault must contain at least three characters. Each character involved must be within five feet of another with this feat. The formation may be of any shape.
  • Special: All characters in the formation must attack on the same initiative count for the benefits of this feat to be applied, which means that some characters must delay their action (see the Combat chapter for more information on delaying actions).


Applicable Rules


Forest of Spears
Part of the effectiveness of the phalanx as a battle formation is that although the long spear is a reach weapon and cannot attack adjacent targets, the sheer number of spears sticking out in front of a phalanx means that an opponent cannot easily approach without being skewered. There is simply no room to maneuver between the protruding spears. A square that is filled with spears in front of a phalanx counts as an obstacle, for which see below.

If a creature is in a square threatened by a reach weapon and moves towards the wielder, then he still provokes an attack of opportunity for moving out of the threatened square. In this way, an opponent can be held at bay by a reach weapon. In a phalanx, where multiple reach weapons threaten the same squares, a creature attempting to move towards the Hoplites provokes multiple attacks of opportunity. This is one reason why the phalanx is such a devastating formation to use. A character may attempt to Tumble through a forest of spears and avoid attacks of opportunity.




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Hoplite Combat

Age of Heroes TolsimirWolfblood