Daggers in LARP

disclaimer: This post is more of a “what if”.  I’m surmising ideas that I have not seen in practice.  I tend to only write about the stuff I have experience with, but this idea came to me, and I’d like to play with it.  I will attempt to make the suggestions rules neutral.

Axiom #1 — Daggers in LARP suck.  

  1. They are horribly ineffective, compared to RL daggers, since in LARP, you have to hit things more than once.  They are very bad defensively as well, although I have seen them used almost entirely defensively in the point-down grip.
  2. They are borderline, if not outright, unsafe* to use in LARP.  They put you in a proximity that asks for grappling, pushing, punching, elbowing, slapping and tripping.

*Unsafe is relative to the game (a medium combat larp would laugh at daggers being unsafe, but most medium combat larps kill you with one hit)

Axiom #2 — Daggers in LARP should not suck.

They are a huge part of the fantasy/medieval genre, with entire characters being defined as “dagger” people.

How to make daggers not suck.

idea #1 — backstabs with daggers should be better

I haven’t seen backstab implemented well enough in the multitudes of LARP rules I’ve played or browsed.  Yes, many LARP rules have backstabs, and many of them require a “short” to perform said backstab.  Unfortunately, that backstab is lackluster in some (if not all) regards.  As a result, almost nobody takes it, or if they do take it, they train out of it pretty quick when they realize how lame it is.  They will finally get off a backstab, and subsequently get foam-raped for standing there with a dagger in their hand.

The key here is to make that post-backstab foam-rape go away.  The best tool for that would be some kind of stun/knockdown (depending on your rules) that will enable the backstabber to land a backstab with their dagger, and then run away in the window offered by that backstab or stun.  All of sudden, you’d have a new archetype of combatant, outside of the melee/packet/archery/point effect archetypes. The backstabber becomes a fun skirmisher to play for somebody with good cardio and fast legs, but little stick-jock skills.

The other angle is to really make the non-combat use of daggers even better.  Many systems have a “waylay” or the like, but they can performed with pole-axes if you wish.  A dagger should get a buff to this effect, simulating the fact that in a surprise moment, you can prison-shank somebody a dozen times in about a second.  You cannot do that with a foam stick that is meant to only slice with safely, hence the simulation.  Effectively, the system should allow a ridiculous amount of damage for a dagger attack initiated outside of combat.

idea #2 — there should be situations where daggers are required or optimal

Encounters should be designed where a dagger (or short) is the only effective way to fight.  This could be a tight sewer tunnel, a crowded bar, or other situation where fighting with a 3′ swinging weapon wouldn’t work, or work well.

The important thing to note is that you don’t need to actually represent this (i.e. have the tunnel, have the crowded bar, etc.) since in most cases this is logistically unsound, and in some cases would be a safety issue.  Instead, it’s simply a “daggers/shorts only” fight.  Make sure that your players know this could happen before the game, so they can be prepared, or in the case of the bar fight, have shorts (or makeshift shorts) available as bar stool legs and broken bottles.

if this seems heavy-handed to outlaw swords (etc) altogether, you can state that using a sword (or other long weapon) in the environment is at a damage penalty (if you game has the design space for that), or some other consequence (a room festooned with spore pods that could explode with poison if you’re not careful).


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