The caveats, the chapters listing and the technical discussion are in Chapter 0 of the Weapons Locker – Melee Weapons document.
This article is a repository. That is, we add weapons to it when the need arises, rather than attempt systematic coverage from the get-go.
Table of content
Common, small melee weapons were covered in another article.
Special-purpose, small, sharp melee weapons
Special-purpose, small, blunt melee weapons
Special-purpose, small, other melee weapons
Special-purpose small, sharp melee weapons
They are still used in some wushu forms.
These are essentially sharpened metal rods that end in arrow-like points, mounted to a metal ring used to spin, manipulate, and conceal the weapons.
They are typically used in pairs. Emicei are wielded to poke or stab, often with the element of surprise.
The Japanese suntetsu is similar.
M&M Emeicei [Strength-based Close Piercing Damage 1, Improved Critical 1, Feature 1 (easily concealable)]. Typical wielders will also have Feature (an additional emeicei) and experts may have a fighting style (Improved Feint; Enhanced Sleight of Hand 1, Limited to concealment; Easily Removable – requires emeicei)].
Ice pick and coup de grâce daggers
A slim steel spike, with a screwdriver-like handle. Similar tools exist in woodworking. And some slim medieval rondel daggers are almost like ice picks.
These tools were used before refrigerators. Back then, perishables had to be packed with ice. Which means that somebody had to break the blocks of ice so they’d fit with the product within the ice box.
Being widespread, these tools often ended up used in street or domestic violence. They excel at assassination, when stabbing by surprise at a vital bit. It can also pierce through a human skull, which isn’t easy for a light weapon.
Or a cartoon cat’s skull. Comix character Fritz the Cat, by Robert Crumb, met his demise in this way.
The medieval versions are also good at striking death blows (coup de grâce) through chain mail, or even through the chinks, eyeholes, etc. of plate armour.
This type of medieval dagger is often called a miséricorde (“final mercy”).
DCH Ice pick [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 05), Sharpness (EV): 01, Descriptor: Piercing, Limitation: Sharpness only when it’s reasonably feasible to ram the blade through a suitable gap, such as chainmail links.]
A butchery tool to hang carcasses, move large pieces of meat (say, on a farm), etc.. It’s a steel hook, larger than a hand, jutting from the middle of a wooden handle.
These have ended up being used in street fights. Back when they were a large, manpower-heavy industry, young butchers could be a rowdy lot.
It’s not a super-convenient weapon. A lot of its value instead lies in intimidation. It looks scary, yes ?
DCH Large hook [BODY 03, Charisma (Intimidation): 02, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 03), Enhance (STR): 01 (cap is 04), Descriptor: Piercing, Limitation: Enhance (STR) only for Grappling (not Wrestling) Manoeuvres].
For English-as-a-second-language folks, it’s the kind that was used before safety razors. Safety razors started becoming common in the US in the 1920s. And the nefarious French introduced disposable safety razors during the 1970s.
Razors are fragile blades, but they can perform focused incisions. Their uses (at least in fiction) are thus :
- Attacks aimed at the throat or an artery. This is normally only possible on a subdued person, or by surprise. The latter relies on attacks from behind, on hiding the razor blade within clothing (say, a beret or an apron).
- Called shots during a fight, relying on pain and bloodletting. Such as slashing at a hand to disable it, or at a brow so blood will get in the eyes.
- General intimidation, and opportunity slashes to make people bleed. Losing blood tends to trigger instinctive reactions of shock and fear. There’s also the fear of permanent damage if slashed in the face.
This is not weapon-specific, though. “You *are* going to get cut, accept it” is one of the main rules of knife-fighting.
In fiction, straight razors tend to be associated with vicious, sadistic characters. Quite often with a racist angle, and/or with such weapons being seen as unmanly.
A notable wielder was humble narrator Alex from the A clockwork orange novel. In this setting it’s called a britva, likely from the Czech “břitva” (“razor”). Other notable wielders include George Stark in Stephen King’s The Dark Half, and several versions of the Joker.
In the real world, some capoeira styles retain it as one of the taught weapons. As do various prison violence techniques.
And of course, pre-safety razor, it could be found in most every home. And having one in your suitcase wasn’t objectionable.
Small, concealed razor blades
Concealing razor blades is a thing in stories taking place in tightly-controlled environments. For instance, inmates hiding a small blade under their tongue, among long hair or under a Band-Aid. Or street gangs sewing blades within their flatcap, or some sort of tie or ribbon.
In TTRPG terms, this doesn’t quite do “damage”, unless surprise makes it possible to reliably hit a sensitive part. It’s painful, it’s scary, and it might force the victim to seek help to stop the blood loss. But the efficacy against an experienced and determined fighter isn’t that great.
DCH Heh. Razors wholly rely on elements that DCH doesn’t do – called shots that aren’t +2CS difficult (though Blindside helps), blood loss, pain/shock, disabled body parts… A whole lot of new rules would be necessary.
If you wanna dig, the Injury to a Limb material and the Limited Penetration Limitation.
A military fighting knife whose handle doubles as robust brass knuckles. It’s not unlike smaller types of a cutlass with a heavy hand protector.
The traditional example is the 1918 Mk1 US Trench Knife. It mates the Avenger military knife from France with an intimidating knuckle duster. Plus a small spike on the pommel.
Another example — that I remember from old Punisher armoury comics — is that tanto-style piece by reputed knifemaker Dr. Fred Carter.
This WWI design is meant for very close quarter fighting in poor conditions. Stealthily raiding enemy trenches could only be done in the dead of the night, the terrain was often muddy and slippery, and any fighting would likely occur within grappling range.
A trench knife therefore remains firmly in hand thanks to the finger guards. And it can be used to strike even in confusing situations where nobody can see what they are doing. Plus, it remains useful even if the blade breaks.
In practice, it seems that the 1918 and other WWI designs saw very little use. But as always we’re concerned about fiction here. Plus, the concept was proven sound through roughly similar designs used by the British Commandos during the 1940s.
DCH Trench knife [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 05), Descriptor: Blunt, Piercing, Slashing, Bonus: +1CS OV/RV to resist Disarm attempts].
M&M Trench knife [Piercing Damage 1, Enhanced Advantages (Improved Critical 1, Second chance (dropping the blade/being disarmed), Variable Descriptor (can also do Bludgeon)].
French tack aka French nail aka clou français
This is, to my knowledge, the original trench knife – from 1914. French troopers wanted to have a fighting-grade knife, but there weren’t enough. So they made do.
- Some came from long-arse rifle bayonets, broken in two or three pieces and reforged as knives.
- Others were done by blacksmiths – there were many, many horses in the 1910s armies. Typically they’d heat and hammer into shape one of the German poles used to hold concertina wire. But you can do something similar with many sorts of scrap metal, really.
This was nicknamed le clou français. That’s usually translated as “French nail”, but since “French nails” mean something entirely different — and more manicured — for the vast majority of people, I’d suggest “French tack” instead.
Is this different, in game terms, from any other knife ? Not really, no.
But, for storytelling purposes, this weapon is great for suggesting that things are a tad desperate. I could be good for atmosphere in, say, a low-powered post-apocalyptic setting. Or a bleak low-fantasy region. Or a civilian space station suddenly beset by outworldly horrors.
Stats and pictures
DCH (Traditional) French tack [BODY 03, EV 03].
DCH (WORG) French tack [BODY 03, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 05), Descriptor: Piercing].
Nekode ninja claws
Nekode (猫手, literally “cat’s hands”) are metallic claws that can be worn on hands and feet. A metallic bar is strapped across the upper palm, opposite the knuckles, and bears four or five curved, cat-like claws.
They are also called “shuko”.
This gadget is popularly associated with ninja. Its main uses are :
- Making it easier and faster to climb over obstacles, particularly wooden fences.
- Making hand strikes more painful and able to make the (unprotected) target bleed.
- Being able to block swords and the like using the metallic bar. But if that’s all that you have to block sword strikes, the situation presumably ain’t too peachy.
Here are two sets of stats. The first is vaguely realistic – it’s primarily a climbing aid. The second is flashier – for a character in comics, video games, etc. who uses nekode as a fully viable weapon pick.
DCH (WORG) NEKODE (semi-realistic) [BODY 02, Enhance (Climbing AV): 01 (cap is 09), Enhance (unarmed EV): 01 (cap is 04), Enhance (Blocking AV against words and similar swung melee weapons): 02 (cap is 10)]. When used to Block, a nekode is human-hand-sized (+1 CS OV/RV), though the last Enhance erases about half this penalty. The Descriptor of strikes remains Unarmed. Note that “unarmed EV” also enhances Wrestling and Grappling Manoeuvres.
DCH (WORG) NEKODE (exaggerated) [BODY 03, Enhance (Climbing AV): 01 (cap is 09), Enhance (unarmed EV): 01 (cap is 05), Misc.: when blocking swung melee weapons such as sword, this variant is treated as a small shield on the object size Blocking table]. Descriptor and unarmed EV notes as per above.
Special-purpose small, blunt melee weapons
Blade-catcher sap gloves
This is an exaggerated version of real-life leather + Kevlar gloves. Say, the LawPro Slashguards in the photo below.
The exaggerated version can catch even most swords in mid-swing, and has a pocket of lead shot over the knuckles.
Batman (Bruce Wayne) often uses similar gloves. Because he is the night. He is vengeance.
DCH BCS gloves (skilled use) [BODY (Hardened) 04, Enhance (Disarming AV): 01 (cap is 07), Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 05), Bonus: No Unskilled Penalties, can use unarmed AV, Descriptor: Blunt, Note: OV/RV bonus when using the Block Manoeuvre is 1 AP, Limitation: both Enhance (AV) and the Block bonus are only against Slashing and Piercing melee attacks)].
Fist load / palm sap
A small, hard, heavy object held in your fist to make it heavier and to keep your fist formed correctly to reduce the chance of injury.
Some characters use rolls of coin for that. Of course, as the last punch is thrown and the fight is won, the paper container finally rips open and the coins fly off in slow motion.
It isn’t as efficient or protective as brass knuckles. But it’s smaller, and doesn’t look like a weapon.
DCH Fist load [BODY 03, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 03), Miniaturisation: 01, Bonus: No Unskilled Penalties, can use unarmed AV, Descriptor: Unarmed].
Improvised brass knuckles
This is usually a climbing carabiner, with the inner loop being slightly broader than your palm.
Aside from mountaineering, it is commonly used to keep a mess of large keys readily accessible on your belt. For historical reasons, this also became a signifier of gals being pals.
One variant is a stout leather belt, with a large buckle. It is wrapped around the hand, with the buckle atop. A less common variant was the heavy gold wristwatch worn by Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which could be also used as a knuckle duster.
These are clearly not as efficient as actual brass knuckles. But it could feature in very low-powered stories. Especially those that precede widespread self-defense sprays.
DCH Improv knuckles [BODY 03, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 03), Bonus: No Unskilled Penalties, can use unarmed AV, Descriptor: Unarmed, R#03].
These are long gloves made of a latex-like substance that becomes rigid and steel-hard on impact. Then quickly softens back to its normal state.
Such weapons have all the advantages of sap gloves but do not impair manual dexterity. And they can be used to parry blows. Plus, the material can be fireproofed.
The main example of this is the “karatand” in John Brunner’s classic sci-fi Stand on Zanzibar. But the Knights in the 1980s run of DC Comics’ Checkmate also had a uniform using it.
DCH Karatand [BODY (Hardened) 05, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 07), Flame immunity (hand/forearm only): 02, Bonus: No Unskilled Penalties, can use unarmed AV, Descriptor: Blunt, Note: OV/RV bonus when using the Block Manoeuvre is 1 AP]
Sap, blackjack, twistjack, etc.
A semi-flexible weighted short baton. It often looks a bit like a beaver’s tail. Key components :
- A dense metal weight (say, lead shot) at the business end.
- A wrapper made of somewhat stiff leather, that doubles as a handle.
A sap can also be improvised by, say, filling a tube sock with wet sand. And some models are disguised as large coin purses.
That the weapon is somewhat flexible allows it to store then release kinetic force when swung. And the front-loaded weight allows for bone-breaking blows.
On the other hand, one loses the fine control and multiple uses that a baton can allow.
On the gripping hand, blackjacks are shorter than an equivalent truncheon, and easier to hide under clothing.
Saps frequently include a hand strap.
The niche isn’t unlike brass knuckles. You can carry it around, and if you have to hit somebody it’s markedly more efficient and safer than punching.
Ideally, such a strike (or rather, series of strikes) is done by surprise and to a sensitive area. Say, under the jaw or onto the clavicle. It’s a “end the brawl before it begins” weapon.
Saps were common during the XIXth century, and most of the XXth. People expecting to get into pub brawls, street violence and police violence carried them. They did show up in a number of pulps stories, dime novels, Golden AgeSuper-hero comics from the late 1930s to the early 1950s comics, etc..
Victorian muggers (“sandmen”) would also use saps to knock out their victim from behind.
DCH Improvised sap [BODY 01, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 03), Miniaturisation: 01, Bonus: No Unskilled Penalties, Descriptor: Unarmed].
DCH Sap [BODY 03, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 04), Miniaturisation: 01, Bonus: No Unskilled Penalties, Descriptor: Unarmed].
A sort of weapon-grade riding crop. A good example is the French nerf-de-bœuf (sometimes jonc).
Originally made from a dried bull penis, later forms were built using tendons from cattle, woven together as a heavy rod (about 15″ long) and then left to dry. Shorter models will have a weighted end.
Such a weapon is wielded much like a truncheon. But it bends backward when swung, then forward when hitting something. The blow thus merges the characteristics of a light baton strike with that of a heavy whip hit.
Hitting a random hard object with a nerf-de-boeuf produces a loud, intimidating impact.
It has been used as a scourge-like punishment tool. But was often found in the hands of police, street thugs, butchers and cattle workers, etc..
It’s easy to conceal in a jacket, down your trousers (fittingly) and the like.
A higher-tech equivalent is the spring cosh. It’s shorter, but heavier, and it uses a steel spring with a weighted end rather than dried ligaments.
It’s sometimes called a blackjack. Since what “a blackjack” means tends to vary across space and time.
Pulps-era “hotel detectives” or the interwar German police are notable users of spring coshes. Like nerf-de-boeufs, it inflicts scary and painful blows that rips skin, but are unlikely to break bones or inflict fatal wounds.
DCH Flexible truncheon [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 03), Charisma (Intimidation): 02, Descriptor: Unarmed].
Yawara / kongo / pasak / kubotan / etc.
A yawara is simply a small handle held in the fist. It protrudes by about an inch both at the top and the bottom of the palm. Some are dumbbell-shaped, but being pen-shaped is more common IME. There’s often a small loop of string for retention.
“Yawara” is the Japanese name for the concept ; this weapon is usually seen in jujitsu practice. “Pasak” is Filipino. “Kongo” is the term used by the most famous fictional user of this weapon – Modesty Blaise.
This small tool is used within grappling range. It is used for :
- Hammering strikes with the tips. This focuses the force of a punch into a small, hard surface, so it’s markedly more efficient than a fist load.
- Pressure on nerves, joints, the throat and other sensitive points when grappling. This is an efficient way to do pain compliance.
- Grabbing with the yawara-holding hand. This is why the small loop of string attaching the yawara to a finger is there. This too provides a hard surface to crush puny flesh with, when doing pain compliance holds or throws.
Essentially, it’s a pain and force multiplier for very close range “unarmed” strikes and locks. But it’s not that useful if said techniques aren’t mastered… except as a fist load.
DCH Pocket stick (skilled used) [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 05), Enhance (STR): 01 (cap is 04), Miniaturisation: 01, Descriptor: Unarmed, Limitation: Enhance (STR) is limited to Wrestling and Grappling Manoeuvres].
Other special-purpose, small melee weapons
Garrote (or garrotte, depending)
A piece of wire, preferably with handles near the end. It is used from behind and by surprise – wrapped around the throat to strangulate.
It is chiefly an assassination weapon, though it also sees use for sentry removal. Though from the sentry’s POV, the difference is slim.
Improvised garrotes usually lack handles. They can be as simple as a telephone cord or a suitable tie. More professional garrotes use the likes of steel wire, piano wire, some types of fishing wires, etc..
As with razor blades, garrotes can be sewed inside clothing for concealment. For instance, DC Comics’ WWII Mademoiselle Marie had a garrote hidden inside her red beret. The kind you find at a Résistance store.
Game stats for fictional garrotes aren’t super-impressive. This is because in pop fiction, strong characters can easily snap necks with their bare hands. Which is usually depicted as faster and deadlier than using a garrote.
Perhaps the most famous garrote scene in classic Western cinema. The other big example would be James Bond baddie Red Grant, who had a trick watch with a garrote hidden behind the crown.
DCH Improvised garrote [BODY 02, Enhance (STR): 01 (cap is 03), Limitation: Enhance only for Grappling Manoeuvres, and only when doing a Blindside Attack from behind)].
DCH Professional garrote [BODY 04, Enhance (STR): 01 (cap is 04), Limitation: Enhance only for Grappling Manoeuvres, and only when doing a Blindside Attack from behind)].
M&M Enhanced Advantage (Chokehold).
Custom-made garrotes for affluent assassins can raise Enhance’s cap to 05 or even 06. But they are certainly not standard equipment, and garrote-using killers often aren’t that beefy. Mind, writeups.org has many exceptions — Mister Phun, Janissa the Widowmaker, Mister X, Ravan servant of Kali, etc..
Vial of acid
A small vial used to splash somebody’s face with a liquid corrosive (say, vitriol), by surprise and at close range.
Usually found in lurid early XXth century crime novels, such as Les Mystères de Paris.
It’s not unlike a defence spray, but — as Harvey Dent can attest — the burns are actual tissue damage.
DCH Vitriol to the face! [BODY 02, Acid: 03, Ammo: 01]. This assumes a stout container (to avoid accidents) that gets refilled between uses.
Source of Character: Fiction.
Helper(s): Pawsplay, Darci, Pufnstuff.
Writeup completed on the 28th of October, 2020.