Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Dagger: Some variants

Daggers are, in my opinion, pretty much the least sexy of the basic fantasy weapons. Okay, sure, there's the club, but that one at least has the longest history of usage. It's traditional. It has gravitas. The dagger, well, it's just a knife with pretensions. It's a wizard's weapon in D&D, but often plays second fiddle to the staff. In DCC, the dagger gets a bit more love, as it increases its damage for the thief's backstab ability. That's a nice little update, and makes it a weapon worth using, at least by that class and in that game. That said, why else would you use one? To pick your teeth and clean your fingernails?

When it comes to plain old damage-dealing ability, and you're not a thief, the dagger lags well behind most weapons, making it a second or third option, at best. Even when you have a magical dagger of some kind, unless it's especially powerful or has additional abilities (e.g., intelligence, poison, etc.), it's still not quite the "persuader" that a good long sword is. As a missile weapon, it's perhaps a bit better, but lacks the range of many others doing the same damage (e.g., a sling). So, again, the dagger is... a laggard.

Still, though, I like daggers, and I think they are underused. Here are a few ways to make this basic armament more consequential for your DCC game (or other game, of course).

Idea 1: The Law of the Land

Make it impossible for your characters to wear armor and carry larger weapons when in civilized places. Really, what kind of city guard allows random strangers of great power and ability to walk around fully armed and armored, and doesn't do something to nerf their ability to cause mayhem? Try this: Most towns, and especially larger cities, may frown on people who carry anything beyond a dagger. They are suspicious of armored folk, and may call out the guard to ensure they don't cause trouble. Guardsmen may not be high HD foes, but a whole bunch of them with crossbows and polearms, especially if supported by a wizard, can wreak havoc on the average adventuring party. So, when you go into the city, you need to have a good dagger, or maybe a few of them.

Idea 2: Elf Killer

This suggestion come from Zehra the Archer, a little-known thief of Ur-Hadad.
A good dagger is your friend, sure, but nothing beats a rusty dagger when you go up against an elf. Those pointy-eared cookie makers go down quick when you put a little rust into that blue blood of theirs. Acts just like poison, it does. It's painful, too, so it makes for a fine threat when you need information and the mark won't give it to you.
Sound advice, surely, from one with experience.

Alternately, one could simply use another type of poison against another type of foe. Frankly, thieves don't seem to do nearly enough of that, and I for one would like to see more of it. The Poisoned Dagger is a trope for a reason, people. Use it.

Idea 3: Weird Magic

With the right enchantment, a dagger can do marvelous things. Still, magic is always a forked path, and with each benefit there should be at least one danger. Here are a few suggestions for magical daggers:

Ability Drain

Instead of (and/or in addition to) simply doing damage, a dagger might drain a particular attribute, just like spellburn. Maybe it takes a little bit of Stamina, or even Intelligence. How much? That depends on the dagger. What happens to that drained ability? Ideally, it should accrue to the wielder, adding (temporarily) to that person's score in the same attribute. Also, because this is such a useful ability, what are the drawbacks? I think this sort of thing sounds pretty addictive, don't you? Maybe the dagger has to be wielded frequently against someone other than the owner, or the owner gets a point of that ability drained permanently.


There is a spirit of some kind in the dagger. Maybe it's happy to be there, and maybe it wants to be released. It can provide knowledge of things beyond the ken of the owner, but demands something in return. Maybe it can be a patron, but only while in the possession of the person who wishes to secure such patronage. This would make it something worth stealing, of course. Maybe it's malevolent: It pretends to be helpful, but ultimately seeks to destroy its user. In such a case, it might already belong to a more powerful being that seeks to corrupt others and enslave them to its will.

One-trick Pony

The dagger has a magical property, but its magic is very, very specific. It could be very powerful and very useful in the right circumstances, but more or less ordinary in others. However, it is still a magical weapon, and can be used to harm creatures when a magical weapon is required to do so.

Example: The dagger can detect the presence of undead creatures within 50 feet. It may also be a beacon for such creatures.

Another example: The dagger has a jewel or sigil in its hilt which can be detached from it. It can then be used to track that item, no matter where it might go. It may also work in the opposite direction, so a foe who detected the "tracker" could use it to home in on the person who is tracking him or her.

So, there you go. Daggers may not be the best weapon in the armory, but circumstances, poison, and magical properties can make them a bit more exciting. Plus, they're stabby little guys you can use to make your enemies bleed, and that's always nice. They also are easy to conceal, and generally are socially acceptable to carry, even in the presence of royalty.

So, what are you waiting for? Buy one now! Buy two and give one as a gift (blade first or hilt first, depending on your preferences)!

Some offers may not apply for some characters. Daggers are not legal in some territories or city-states. Individual results may vary. Manufacturer not responsible for misuse of daggers for non-stabby purposes. Use at your own risk.