Does Dual-Wielding = Double Damage?

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
It came up again: a PC with two weapons wants to do two-times the damage.

This time, I didn't think about the rules-answer, I wondered about the real life answer. Is someone twice as likely to die when getting jumped by a thug with two knives? Twice as likely to get cut? What if the victim is wearing armor? What if the thug is a swordsman with two swords? Don't you lose momentum when your next attack is from the opposite side of your body? What about reach?

How are we feeling about this lately?
 

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This time, I didn't think about the rules-answer, I wondered about the real life answer.

In real life? I don't think there's much serious justification for increased damage. In any form of real fighting style I can think of, the main benefit of the second weapon is defense. In fencing, it's a shield. In eastern martial arts, it's done with weapons like tonfa or sai where the weapon can be used to block attacks. Even with what D&D would consider "double weapons" like the staff, the larger size is used to shield you. Having weapons in two hands does give you the option to attack from either side, which can have tactical advantages. But speed is more due to the base weapon itself, not if you're carrying one or two.

Two weapon fighting sure is cinematically cool, though. And from a gamist standpoint it gives the options of many low damage attacks instead of one big one.
 
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Yora

Legend
Yeah, I'm with that. You can't really control two weapon points at the same time, and pretty much every fighting stance I can think of has one shoulder towards the enemy and the other away from him.
The only way that seems plausible to attack with both hands in rapid, alternating succession is boxing when you're already in each other's face.
 

Haiku Elvis

Knuckle-dusters, glass jaws and wooden hearts.
As above I was going to reference boxing as boxers are duel welding all the time. If there was a way to effectively attack with both at once someone would have figured it out and we would see it.
Using one weapon to set up the other in combinations is clearly a thing so you aren't expecting both to hit more like if they dodge the first it puts them in position where the second attack is more likely to hit. And also as mentioned above using one weapon as defence was a common thing and so there are clearly perks but double damage seems wrong.

How about if the first attack misses they get a second with a to hit bonus (with second weapon damage) but if the first hits the second attack is left as a reaction/AC bonus to help defend?
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I’ve seen dual weilded weapons irl where both hit but in all cases one hit is far weaker than the other (which is kinda modelled by the rules). No way is it double damage though.
nonetheless in DnD Id be happy for fighters to get both hits in
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
In any form of real fighting style I can think of, the main benefit of the second weapon is defense. In fencing, it's a shield. In eastern martial arts, it's done with weapons like tonfa or sai where the weapon can be used to block attacks. Even with what D&D would consider "double weapons" like the staff, the larger size is used to shield you.
This is my earlier conclusion - the second weapon aids in defense. But maybe these guys know something I don't:

Having weapons in two hands does give you the option to attack from either side, which can have tactical advantages. But speed is more due to the base weapon itself, not if you're carrying one or two.
Agreed that it's about options. There's easy-ish stuff like, "do I use this dagger to parry, or throw it as a preemptive strike?" But a more detailed game, maybe GURPS, might give different weapons advantages against opponents in different armor, or against opponents at slightly different ranges.

Two weapon fighting sure is cinematically cool, though. And from a gamist standpoint it gives the options of many low damage attacks instead of one big one.
This is one thing I was wondering about. Wouldn't using two weapons effectively lower each one's damage?

Yeah, I'm with that. You can't really control two weapon points at the same time, and pretty much every fighting stance I can think of has one shoulder towards the enemy and the other away from him.
The only way that seems plausible to attack with both hands in rapid, alternating succession is boxing when you're already in each other's face.
Dual-wielding makes more sense to me in armor-less situations, like boxing. If any old slash is dangerous, why not make a lot of them?
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
There are a few double strike techniques in martial arts, but the thing you really need to consider with dual wielding is that doing that has a major impact on defense. Unlike in a video game, you really don't want to have a large profile in combat, which is exactly what trying to hit one guy with two weapons is generally doing. I've seen some fancy acrobatics done where a guy whirls around to strike with one sword right after the other, but while that looks cool, it seems of fairly dubious value.

I personally like how Legend of the Five Rings handles it; the Mirumoto school (not unlike the real life Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu) does teach you to use both the Katana (long sword) and Wakizashi (short sword), but the primary benefit is defensive, giving you a second way to defend yourself.

Then it moves into making your opponent unsure of which weapon you're going to strike with (analogous to granting advantage to your attack), and only masters gain a second attack.

It's interesting the ups and downs D&D has had with dual wielding; in 2e, you had serious attack penalties, but very quickly warriors found ways to negate them, and dual wielding became godly if you had any kind of damage bonus (such as high Strength). 3e kept the accuracy hit, made it very hard to get rid of it, and halved your Strength bonus with the off hand weapon, keeping them largely worse than using a two handed weapon. 4e required specific attack powers to do it, and the most common of these (Twin Strike) removed any stat mods to damage.

And now we have 5e, which requires a bonus action, takes away the stat buff to your off hand weapon without a specialized Fighting Style, and prevents you from using weapons of equal size without a Feat; this stops being efficient by level 5.

Someone saying that two swords should do twice the damage reminds me of Lloyd from Tales of Symphonia: "If one sword has a power of 100, then two swords have a power of 200!".
 

Dausuul

Legend
I’ve seen dual weilded weapons irl where both hit but in all cases one hit is far weaker than the other (which is kinda modelled by the rules).
This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. A slash or thrust using only the arm muscles is extremely weak; a fighter learns to deliver blows with the strength of their whole body -- driving off the legs and pivoting the torso. And you can't pivot left and right simultaneously*.

The second weapon gives you the option to strike on either side, which could let you exploit more openings; and if your weapons are "short and long," which is the most common form of dual wielding, you can fight effectively at different ranges. But you're still not usually going to be striking with both weapons at once. That's why you typically use the off hand for defense.

The only way "double weapons equals double damage" makes sense is if you have a weapon whose capacity to inflict damage is unaffected by the force of the blow... and if you have the coordination to manage two at full accuracy. Which leads to the conclusion that all Jedi should fight with dual lightsabers. But if you're fighting with old-fashioned steel, not so much.

*Of course, this raises the question, "But what if I want to bring the strength of both arms into play as well?" That's what two-handed weapons are for.
 
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SpringRoll

Villager
I do fencing and Renaissance fencing, following old italian swordplay style formulated by Achille Marozzo that, guess what, is doubled.
The facts are:
  • Actual fighting isn't a fair exchange of hits. If my "entrata" (attack intent) is good enough, you don't do any "risposta" (attack on your round). The goal is to lock you in defence and get increasing advantage until I touch. It's unfair. That's mean you cannot exactly replicate it by a d20 system without making players mumble.
  • The "seconda mano" (secondary weapon) isn't made just to parry. Many of maneuvers are made to hit with the "prima mano" (main weapon), get parried or move the opponent where you want, damage with seconda mano. So, the second weapon is made to hit. But any combination is legit and having a varied set of maneuvers is what make the style efficient.
  • Once you touch, you stop. Piercing something with both blades mean you're stretched without any defence left. You dunno if the opponent retaliate or there are other duelists near.
It's quite impossible to replicate the thing with a fair engine that allow for HP, doesn't consider pain, stretch, body physics, and give scarce weight to fighting proficiency.
So, to me, giving another attack with a penalty (an heavy one hopefully) is a correct broad abstraction. It's just harder to parry twice in a row = more chances to deal a blow.

Probably what your player is thinking is the hero swinging his weapons at the same time. So two axes = two axes swinging each attack. You can kill his dreams by telling him to wield two pens and show you how he'll chop a tree this way (he can't).

But a more detailed game, maybe GURPS, might give different weapons advantages against opponents in different armor, or against opponents at slightly different ranges.

GURPS do consider my points, you have a -4 penalty after the defence action. I'll attack, you parry, I'll attack again, you parry at -4. If I touch, the damage is again a penalty to your next action, leading to lock you in defence and in a death spiral that's exactly how you win a fight.
De facto, the most skilled duelist is the horse to bet to. Next to the stronger one. The "lucky one" doesn't survive for long.
Dual-wielding makes more sense to me in armor-less situations, like boxing. If any old slash is dangerous, why not make a lot of them?
My style use armor. Helmet and light padded armor, that was the renaissance swordplayer setup on fields. We practice with fencing masks and football protections.
You get the point: IRL, you want to make a lot of slash, but the moment you do a bad slash, you get pierced and you die. A martial style teach you how to deal the larger number of slashes without losing composture. Is the same as boxing, it's not a rumble with a flurry of fists. But the moment an exchange begin, a lot of punches are delivered in short time. Each punch try to connect but doesn't leave you totally offguard. This is maxed out in oriental martial arts, where each attack maneuver contain a defence stance too.
IRL, you can do a flurry of attacks, but the moment you face a more skilled opponent, he laugh at you: style is about how to kill the "flurry attacks" guy.
 
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I do fencing and Renaissance fencing, following old italian swordplay style formulated by Achille Marozzo that, guess what, is doubled.
I take it that this style pits you against other dual-wielders. Do you think you would have a tactical advantage against someone who was wielding a single weapon against you? You have been trained to wield and fight with two blades, and you know what maneuvers and stances to use while dual-wielding. But I can imagine that if you went up against an opponent with a single blade and who never fought a dual-wielder before, you would stand a better chance at winning than them.

I wonder how common are dual-wielders are in RL and in a fantasy setting such as D&D.
 

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