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Modeling query: What's the difference between a dagger and a shortsword?

Tadatsune

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The obvious parallel to a first strike tag would be a last strike tag, where you are guaranteed to attack last unless your opponent also has one. It's simpler, it usually doesn't come up, and it encourages some dagger appropriate tactics (ambushes where only you get to attack in a round means you get to attack first).
Yeah, that's the idea.
 

Tadatsune

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Another possible idea is factoring reach into a "guard" or "melee defense" stat, such that longer weapons would make you harder to strike in combat. Not quite sold on this, but its something to think about.
 

PeteNutButter

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I suppose it depends on what level of simulation-ism you're going for. While it's true that a strike from any weapon in a vital area can be deadly, the sheer weight and size of larger weapons means they'll cause significant harm even in non-vital areas. Someone might easily walk away with a gash in their arm from a dagger, but not so easily walk away with much arm left if it'd be a big sword or axe.

That being said, I think you're on the right track with the guard/defense tact. Another option would be to consider various pairings. You mentioned the shield/shortsword combo of roman fame. Why not lean into that and make a category of weapons that are better when paired with a shield?

Or perhaps daggers should be in a separate category from "handaxe" and "shortsword." Those traditional D&D light weapons which get their spotlight for two-weapon usage are far bigger than a dagger. It seems like daggers are the outlier, not the short sword. If those two are light, does that make the dagger lightest? lol Concealable? meh. I don't know about naming categories, but there seems to be a design space for the tiny weapons perhaps.
 

Sirharrok

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Another use case for daggers historically was to despatch downed knights (c.f. Agincourt) since the daggers were narrow enough to slide into the gaps in their armour.

I wouldn't if this shouldn't be considered as the basis of an additional tag?
 

Tadatsune

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Another use case for daggers historically was to despatch downed knights (c.f. Agincourt) since the daggers were narrow enough to slide into the gaps in their armour.

I wouldn't if this shouldn't be considered as the basis of an additional tag?
This is part of the whole grappling thing. Against a fully armored opponent, a dagger is often more effective than say something like a sword. (There are, of course, armored fighting techniques that a sword-wielder can employ, like half-swording, pommel strikes, or murderstrokes with the hilt of the sword, but if you can get the upper hand simply grappling the foe and then shoving a pointy dagger through a gap in the armor might be more effective method.)

Though, again we are talking about the many merits of daggers here, and not the merits of shortswords, which is sort of the problem.
 

fheredin

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I am not much of a simulationist and this dabbles into that field. However, I think the real distinction between the dagger and the shortsword is parrying. It's almost impossible to parry with a dagger, so using D&D lingo, the dagger provided damage while the shortsword provides both damage and boosts Armor Class.

As to range, anyone with any HEMA experience will tell you that if you have a dagger and the other guy's got a short sword, you don't attack. This is not a point of balance...it's a character being either suicidal or foolish. Others have suggested first or last strike rules...I suggest if you want to follow that path, a strike order stat would be better than a series of keywords. However, the best way to emulate range is probably giving the character with the more appropriate weapon an action economy imbalance, such as free actions or attacks of opportunity or whatever. Imagine if you used cards to class weapons; the suit could dictate what situation the weapon provides advantages in and the number might give you a degree.
 

Faethor

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A shortsword may be clumsy and lack the range in the swing compared to a regular sword but it is primerally a thrusting weapon, the militaries 'logical enhancement' of a dagger - fast and deadly but with more reach and more weight to allow parrying of other swords. A precise thrust is far quicker then a regular swords cut and harder to parry... in dagger vs dagger combat you are just as likely to get gutted yourself in the exchange, the shortsword reduces the chance of this by its increased length and wheft.

I would add that the lighter thrusting shortsword is less exhausting in prolonged combat, being a lighter weapon then a swinging sword about - like an axe the weight carry into overswing until more sophisticated swords were developed.

Roman soldiers, most famous for the use of a gladius in combat used to repitition practice their thrust with a wooden gladius thrust into a wooden post, building speed, explosive aggression and power. It was a skill that easily transfered to the use of the more nimble dagger in civilian life, especially where swords and armed soldiers were prohibited (such as across the Tiber in Rome - other then the Praetorian guard obs). Anyone could carry or even conceal a dagger, a soldier, through dedicated practice, could thrust one with even more considerable might.
 
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Tadatsune

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However, I think the real distinction between the dagger and the shortsword is parrying. It's almost impossible to parry with a dagger, so using D&D lingo, the dagger provided damage while the shortsword provides both damage and boosts Armor Class.
...not meaning to doubt your HEMA experience, but "parrying with a dagger" is something that, to the best of my knowledge, was a rather regular occurrence. The dagger is easily the most common "off-hand" weapon in any sort of fencing (if you don't count shields and bucklers as weapons). So, parrying with daggers should be a pretty prominent feature of any melee combat system. Now, I am of course talking about using the dagger in addition to a (likely longer) primary weapon, so that's not exactly the same thing as using a dagger as your primary weapon against a longer opposing weapon (where the dagger obviously puts you at a disadvantage).

What does this mean for us? Well, for one thing, I think that the rules for primary weapons and off-hand weapons should probably be different. I did propose further back, though, that the "parrying" bonus to "guard" (one of the planned features of "blade" class weapons) for using a dagger as a primary weapon be less than or those of a shortsword, on removed entirely. This lines up pretty well with your proposal, I think.
 

Knaight

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Parrying with only a dagger is a whole different matter. Parrying daggers were useful for a handful of specific angles, often fairly straight stabs that just needed to be swept away in particular. When you can attack at a wider variety of angles they're a lot less useful (though this actually leaves a surprisingly effective niche against spears.
 

Ormologun

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So, that brings us back to the original question... namely, what can the guy with the shortsword do that he can't do with a dagger? I'm thinking some sort of parrying bonus to guard values that you can get with "swords" and "shortswords" but not with "daggers." I'd be curious to hear what other have to say on this matter, so if you have any ideas please let me know.
Well yes, you can realistically flatten the damage values, just as long you want combat that is really deadly (for good simulative combat in this spirit, see The Riddle of the Steel).

Instead the handling is a different problem. Sure, even a knife is really deadly, against an unarmed opponent. But just imagine a guy with a knife against a guy with a longsword. Now that's a much different situation.

I think Harnmaster tries to simulate this with some sort of weapon aspect table, that crosses five types of attack/defense values. That means that a knife against a long weapon (or a good shield) would have a pretty decent penalty to the hit roll. BUT the interesting part of this rule is that if the guy with the knife manages to hit the opponent (despite the penalty), then the conditions would be inverted. This to simulate the fact that the guy with the knife managed to get very close and inside the space of the long weapon. Now it's the short weapon that has the advantage, and the guy with the long one that instead struggles with a penalty since he doesn't have enough space to maneuver. Whenever the guy with the long weapon happens to land a hit, then he would invert the situation back to how it was, because it means he was able to regain the space he needs and push back the guy with the knife.
 
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