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Daggers and Reach
18th Feb, 2008

I was reading through my copy Dark Heresy and noticed that the conventional wisdom of RPGs continues in that there are no reach rules for weapons, and that daggers have once again been knobbled to the point of ridiculousness. In this case 1D5 (Rending), which doesn’t mean much unless you have the book, but it’s the same as a shield.

Daggers are lethal: a stab to the eye will kill, even a 4” blade can slit a throat with ease, and a mere 2” stab to the solar-plexus will take away the victim’s breath, incapacitate them and kill them as every Roman knew back in the old days.

A dagger thrust into a person’s body will hit as hard as a sword thrust or a one hand spear thrust. There is no leverage. When a person hews (swings) with a weapon like a sword, the length of the weapon adds leverage to the swing and this increases speed and enhances power of the impact, but a thrust is as hard as a person can push, and a long weapon does not make you push any harder.

The only limit to the dagger, the only thing that relegates them to the role of backup weapon and not a primary weapon is the fact that they are short. That’s it. As a backup weapon they excel: in a grapple the dagger is king. It is short enough to be used up close and personal, they are the only effective weapon when two combatants are rolling around in a death grip. The dagger is the last line of weaponised defence, even knights used them and they were the lords of combat, they totally ruled combat.

Knights carried daggers, because that is often how you finish off an enemy. Longswords are great for mowing down the peasants but against another knight they are pretty poor, and a knight had to resort to half-swording and morte striking. However, his opponent was more often than not just as skilled, and many a contest went strait to a stalemate bind, followed by a bit of grappling at the sword before the pair are rolling about in the dirt.

This is where the trusty backup comes in handy. A dagger, often no more than a narrow spike (or stiletto), has not problem fitting between the gaps in a knights visor. This allows the wielder to jab it though the slit, into the soft eye and right into the brain with virtually no resistance. The dagger can also avoid tough plate armour in general by fitting through the gaps between the plates. A stab under the arm, into the arm pit, is another easy to find spot that takes the air and kills. The dagger is lethal, and chainmail offers no resistance, even the layers of canvas backing offer no help, and a dagger will go straight through.

In comparison to a shield the dagger is far more dangerous, and up close far better at killing.

When are RPGs going to take dagger seriously? Warriors carry these weapons with damn good reason, the reason is that if you encounter a warrior of similar skill and they fight you to a draw the dagger is the one thing that could save you, and you can bet your adversary is carrying one.

I think daggers should have a special rule ‘find weakness’ and if a PC wins a grapple, they can stab their opponent in a weak spot, avoiding armour and this results in an auto kill (or auto critical).

I also think there should be better rules for a bind, any successful parry can be converted into a bind, and a bind allows for a grapple. Basically this is like step one of the grapple rules on page 197. Once grappled, whip out the dagger and finish them.

Lock and dagger.

No messing about.

Philip

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