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Basic Information

The knuckleduster, or brass knuckles, is a bludgeoning weapon consisting of a metal bar that fits across the knuckles of the wearer's hand, often held in place by rings around each of the fingers. 'Dusters serve a dual purpose of preventing the user's hand from breaking on impact (a particular hazard when hitting harder parts of an opponent) and adding mass and focused impact to a punch. The bar may also be ridged, or even spiked, to make it more likely to break skin and bone on impact, and general makes the impact of the wearer's fist more damaging than it would otherwise be, but might still be considered a less lethal weapon compared to many.

This is generally considered a weapon with low status (even criminal) connotations and may well be prohibited even in places where weapons are not generally banned. Even where technically legal, local law enforcement will probably consider it a sign that the user is some kind of criminal … unless they are the sort of law enforcement that use such things themselves (and probably even then).

Various kinds of glove or gauntlet may well come with build in knuckledusters (for example the "smash glove", much favoured by street thugs with its brass studs) - even into the modern era where many police forces use gloves with pockets of powdered lead (or similar weighting) build in.

For those who wish to use knuckledusters, but also wish to advertise their status (especially career criminals), a fistfull of heavy duty rings can serve the same purpose. At one stage a hand or two with a gold "sov ring" (a heavy duty ring mounting a gold sovereign coin) was virtually uniform for "old school" London gangsters … it was not unknown for the faces of the rings to have a certain amount of wear and impact damage.

A more lethal version of the knuckleduster is a weapon such as the bagh nakh ("tiger claws") - a set of short spikes or blades set on a bar kept inside the hand and protruding between the knuckles when the wearer makes a fist, thus allowing him to make a cutting/tearing attack with his punch instead of a bludgeoning one.


Game and Story Use

  • Use the "sov rings" for gangsters in your campaign.
  • 'Dusters are better suited to seedy, urban low fantasy and are not likely to be much help down a dungeon.
  • The class aspect plays up here - armigerous types (or, in the modern era, those who work for the state) can wear gauntlets to beat people up with (and look like they're being restrained by not drawing a weapon), whereas the unfree (or, in the modern era, those who don't work for the state) have to rely on a taboo (and probably illegal) device for the same effect.
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