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Basic Information

A dagger is a short, bladed weapon similar to a small sword or large knife.
Unlike a knife a dagger is normally specialised as a weapon at the expense of more practical uses.

The dagger was a popular sidearm for most of the pre-gunpowder era, eventually being superseded by the bayonet1. The amount of use they saw varied and it was not unknown for them to be primarily decorative weapons (such as the Roman pugio) - but equally some users had practical but very specific uses for them2. Despite this the "bollock dagger" - popular around the late middle ages - was so named for the shape of its handguard rather than any intended application.

An even more interesting use was the "virtue dagger" - a highly decorated blade carried by highborn ladies, theoretically intended to allow them to kill themselves if they were about to be "dishonoured". Many of these seem to have been purely ornamental and useless even for their intended purpose … it's not entirely clear how seriously they were ever taken.

Despite the assumptions of many fRPGs these were neither "civilian" weapons, easily concealed nor throwable. For any of those you probably want a knife.

For convenience we've classified it as a slashing weapon even though many historical examples (such as the punch dagger) had at best a poor edge to their blades and were primarily piercing weapons. That said, some of the larger variants - such as the grosse messer, hanger and the katsbalger (all pushing into the category of short swords) were certainly edged and intended to be used as such.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • One common use for these would be to be carried as a symbol of status by people of armigerous rank for whom it might be inappropriate or inconvenient to wear a sword - such people as women, children and courtiers. Such daggers might well be more decorative than useful and would like as not be supported by a more utilitarian knife.
  • Also a fairly common back-up weapon for someone better armed.
  • Someone carrying multiple daggers and/or knives may excite a certain amount of comment…
  • Many two-weapon fighting styles exhibit a dagger in the left hand and a sword in the right, but other combinations are entirely possible.
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