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Version 0.21: This article may not be up to date for the latest stable release of Crawl.

Although polearms are numerically less powerful than some of the other weapon types, their reaching attacks help make up for this. Reaching is the ability to make standard melee attacks against targets up to two spaces away, often allowing you to get in an attack or two before your victim can even begin fighting back, or letting you strike targets that are hiding behind an intervening monster (or while you hide behind an ally).

You will automatically make reach attacks when appropriate while auto-attacking with Tab, and you can manually make a reach attack by evoking your wielded polearm with v (in spite of this, the Evocations skill has no impact on your ability to reach). Apart from their increased range, reaching attacks only vary from standard attacks in a few ways:

  • You will never trigger any of your auxiliary attacks while making a reach attack. Your weapon may be long enough to hit a distant target, but your claws and fangs aren't.
  • You cannot be injured by an enemy's spines while making a reach attack.
  • If there is a monster or obstacle between you and your target, there is a chance that your reaching attack will fail. See below for details.

Reach Attack Failure

The chance of a reach attack failing varies based on your position relative to the target and what exactly is in the way. When there is exactly one avenue of attack (e.g., the attack is exactly vertical, horizontal, or diagonal; or when a wall partially intervenes), and there is an intervening, non-submerged monster, there is a 50% chance your attack will not reach your target. If the intervening monster is friendly, the attack fails completely; if the intervening monster is neutral or hostile, the attack is instead made upon this intervening monster (See Example 1).

When there are two avenues of attack (i.e., the attack is like a chess knight's move [1]), but both avenues are occupied, the attack again has a 50% chance of failure, and is resolved as above with the avenue chosen randomly (See Example 2).

When there are two avenues of attack and only one is occupied, there is a 50% chance you'll wind up attacking through the clear avenue. Thus, there is only a 25% chance of failure (See Example 3).

 A reaching attack on Monster M:
 Example 1:                      Example 2:                    Example 3:
 .......  .......  .......       .......                       .......
 ..@....  ..@AM..  ..@A...       ..@A...                       ..@A...
 ...A...  .......  ####M..       ...BM..                       ....M..
 ....M..  .......  ####...       .......                       .......
 With A interposed.              With A and B interposed.      With A interposed, plus
                                                               one free avenue of attack.
  • Example 1: There's a 50% chance that the attack on M fails. If A is friendly, the attack fails outright. If A is hostile, the attack is redirected to A.
  • Example 2: There's a 50% chance that the attack on M fails and is instead directed on the intervening monster at A/B (randomly chosen). If A/B is friendly, the attack fails outright. If A/B is hostile, the attack is redirected to A/B.
  • Example 3: There's a 25% chance that the attack on M fails. If A is friendly, the attack fails outright. If A is hostile, the attack is redirected to A.

The message given when an attack fails due to a friendly monster blocking your attack is less than informative:

"You could not reach far enough!"

Immobile and/or neutral monsters like bushes and toadstools are treated like mobile, hostile monsters when determining whether they block an attack. Reaching attacks may be freely made through inanimate statues with no penalty. However, reaching attacks may not be made through trees or iron grates.


  • Even when you consider the 50% failure rate of attacks made through friendly units, reach attacks can be extremely useful for characters with access to summoned or permanent allies. When dealing with monsters capable of casting Banish or Malmutate, letting your summoned units block the enemy's line of fire while you poke it from the back row is a perfectly reasonable behavior.
  • If you can both move and attack faster than your enemy can move, it's possible to kite opponents with reaching melee attacks. Simply flee the enemy until you're two spaces away, then stab at the enemy until it closes the gap. Repeat until the enemy is dead. Centaurs are particularly good at this, as they move faster than most opponents and aren't restricted from wielding powerful two-handed weapons. Reach kiting obviously only works on monsters without ranged attacks.

Reaching Attacks by Monsters

Any monster wielding a polearm can make reach attacks, just like you. However, there are also some monsters that have inherent reaching attacks:


  • Prior to 0.14, reaching was also available as a brand which could generate on whips and demon whips.
  • Prior to 0.10, polearms did not have intrinsic reaching. They would only be capable of reaching if they had the reaching brand.
Melee weapons AntimagicChaosDistortionDragon slayingDrainingElectrocutionFlamingFreezingHoly wrathPainProtectionReachingReapingReturningSpeedVampiricVenomVorpal
Launchers ElectrocutionEvasionFlameFrostPenetrationSpeedVenomVorpal
Throwing weapons ConfusionCurareDispersalExplodingFrenzyParalysisPenetrationPoisonedReturningSilverSleepSteel