The giant loomed over Robin, precariously balanced on a log that spanned the rushing stream; he must have been at least seven feet tall. His fists were easily the size of Robin’s head, and were curled around a thick staff of oak. “None get by me,” the giant growled.

“You’re a big ‘un,” Robin said. “What do they call ye?”

“They call me Little John,” the giant snorted, “on account of me being so tiny.”

“Well, Little John, I needs to gets past, so hows about I duel ye for the right?”

Little John smiled, and began to heft his quarterstaff—but in the blink of an eye, Robin Hood had his sword out and had flayed the hapless giant to ribbons.

I was leafing through the Player’s Handbook the other day, thinking about generating a new fighter character, when I noticed something unusual. Not only are dwarves unusually blessed with racial benefits and choice of class, but their traditional weapon groups—particularly axes—have an unusually high number of feats and fighter exploits associated with them. Hammers, maces, spears and light and heavy blades are also well represented. In fact, if we compare data on the standard melée weapons groups from the D&D Compendium:

Weapon Group Fighter Exploits Heroic Feats Paragon Feats Epic Feats
Axe 24 6 2 2
Flail 8 2 2 2
Hammer 22 1 2 2
Heavy Blade 17 8 1 2
Light Blade 18 8 2 2
Mace 24 1 2 2
Pick 7 2 1 2
Polearm 9 3 2 0
Spear 19 6 2 2
Staff 0 1 0 1

By “associated exploits”, I mean those that either require a weapon from a particular group, or which have additional, weapon-specific advantages. Note also that I’ve only included feats that a fighter might be capable of taking without multiclassing. I’ve ignored racial prerequisites as I’m not necessarily restricting this argument to dwarves.

As you can see, flails, picks and polearms aren’t particularly well catered for, but staves have been just about forgotten entirely. I haven’t included data from Martial Power 2—I don’t have a copy yet—but the combat style and feat lists on Wizards’ site show no staff-specific styles and only one Paragon-tier feat; the Player’s Handbook 3 feat list indicates one additional Heroic-tier feat in that book.

Wizards find quarterstaves useful in that they double as implements, but they’ve had a long and distinguished history as weapons in the British Isles, Portugal, China, Japan and New Zealand. Although used to train soldiers to wield spears, polearms and two-handed swords, they were also capable and versatile weapons in their own right. (See the British Quarterstaff Association’s YouTube channel for some examples of staff practice.)

The Staff Fighting feat (from Dragon #368, reprinted in the Dragon Magazine Annual) allows a wielder to use a quarterstaff as a double weapon, opening up a number of additional powers, but at the end of the day, it’s little different from taking a Weapon Proficiency feat for a superior double weapon—save for the lesser damage and proficiency bonus.

I therefore suggest allowing staves to receive additional benefits from the following exploits:

Exploit Level Source Notes
Weapon Master’s Strike 1 D#382 Treat staves as spears or polearms.
Advance Lunge 3 MP Treat staves as light blades or spears.
Dance of Steel 3 MP Treat staves as heavy blades or polearms.
Pinning Smash 5 MP Treat staves as axes, hammers or maces.
Savage Parry 7 MP Treat staves as axes, hammers or maces.
Trip Up 7 MP Treat staves as polearms or spears.
Weapon Master’s Gambit 7 D#382 Treat staves as polearms or spears.
Silverstep 13 PH Treat staves as light blades or spears.
Crumpling Slam 13 MP Treat staves as axes, hammers or maces.
Weapon Master’s Tactics 17 D#382 Treat staves as polearms or spears.
Buffeting Torque 17 MP Treat staves as axes, hammers or maces.
Earthquake Smash 25 MP Treat staves as axes, hammers or maces.
PH=Player’s Handbook; MP= Martial Power; D#=Dragon Issue #.

It might also be worth creating a Heroic-tier feat to replicate the effects of the “Polearm Vault” Warlord Utility Exploit whilst using a staff. And quarterstaves make great weapons for rangers and rogues—but that’s another story.

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