Does Dual-Wielding = Double Damage?

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
It came up again: a PC with two weapons wants to do two-times the damage.

The iconic 5e version of this is the two-weapon rogue, and no, they don't want to hit twice to do double damage. Rogues do most of their damage via Sneak Attack. They want more chances to land the one Sneak Attack damage a round they can produce.

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

In real life, a second weapon isn't about making a second attack. It is more about being able to parry and feint. D&D doesn't (imho) suitably model parrying with two-weapon fighting, but the effect of feinting is there, in that getting two attacks makes you more likely to land at least one, which is what feinting is about.

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?

Momentum is important for attacks relying on Strength. Two-weapon fighting is more often a Dex-based approach, which is more about precision. D&D doesn't get into small differences in reach, so that's not really material.

How are we feeling about this lately?

I'm feeling the idea that using two weapons is wanting to do twice the damage is not really accurate. And, to within the level of realism D&D normally provides, it is fine.
 

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FitzTheRuke

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

I think that one of the things that make dual-wielding less common IRL is that it takes a lot more practice to get any good at (that and the natural fact that not everyone will get truly good at anything no matter how much they practice). Not only are people generally lazy, but their time is just better spent learning to do things that they will get good at quickly.

This is also why crossbows are "better" than bows (they are not, but they are much easier to use) and why the gun ever replaced archery. (Guns didn't start out very accurate, and they were expensive to make and use, but you could "suck" skills-wise and still kill someone).

Dual-wielding is just difficult to do well. D&D doesn't model how much work it is to learn anything. Most other games don't either, and even if they do, it's not consistent with the IRL fact that not everyone is even close to equal when it comes to picking up skills. Aptitude is a thing.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I wonder how common are dual-wielders are in RL and in a fantasy setting such as D&D.

In real life? We use guns these days. We have very few bands of roaming adventurers expecting to get into melee weapon combat.

And we don't have an idea of how common it is "in a fantasy setting" in general. We may see it as a common thing among adventuring PCs, but the PCs are not representative of the setting as a whole. And our real world does not have an analog to these people.

Historically, two-weapon fighting becomes a common study in dueling cultures. The techniques are commonly seen in historic fencing manuals - double-sword, sword and dagger, sword and cape, for example.
 

I think that one of the things that make dual-wielding less common IRL is that it takes a lot more practice to get any good at (that and the natural fact that not everyone will get truly good at anything no matter how much they practice). Not only are people generally lazy, but their time is just better spent learning to do things that they will get good at quickly.

This is also why crossbows are "better" than bows (they are not, but they are much easier to use) and why the gun ever replaced archery. (Guns didn't start out very accurate, and they were expensive to make and use, but you could "suck" skills-wise and still kill someone).

Dual-wielding is just difficult to do well. D&D doesn't model how much work it is to learn anything. Most other games don't either, and even if they do, it's not consistent with the IRL fact that not everyone is even close to equal when it comes to picking up skills. Aptitude is a thing.
I can imagine dual-wielding would also less common in any D&D setting for the same exact reasons you mentioned. It takes a lot of practice to wield two weapons, and not everyone is up to the task of wanting to learn that fighting style. It's easier to wield just one weapon in your dominant hand.

Since it is less common in RL and in D&D, a melee combatant with a single weapon might not know how to defend themselves very well against a dual-wielder. A slight plus, but nothing more.

I have to agree with you on how D&D hasn't done a very good job on modeling dual-wielding. Especially with the 5e Fighter, whose Extra Attacks become very lop-sided for anyone using the Two-Weapon Fighting Style. I like the direction One D&D is taking this fighting style.

Now if only D&D will bring back Double Weapons like the the two-bladed sword (aka swordstaff).
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
Now if only D&D will bring back Double Weapons like the the two-bladed sword (aka swordstaff).

Gotta disagree with you there (generally when it comes to D&D double-weapons). The double-axe was the dumbest thing I've ever seen. That said, I don't mind the idea of some weapons that are used two-handed but work like dual-wielding: like the kusarigama.

I've trained with a naginata and many maneuvers involved the "other end". Certainly the use of the quarterstaff is better modeled as a two-handed double-weapon than it is as a one-handed weapon as 5e does. Or at least all staff-fighting that I have done would be.

Speaking of which, in my experience (25 years of Japanese martial arts, some better than others) - I'd much rather have a single weapon that I use in two hands (even if that weapon can be used to attack with either end) than a weapon in each hand.

(Though I enjoy using two 'wakizashi', but like everyone here has described - it's defensive and opportunity-based.)
 
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Gotta disagree with you there (generally when it comes to D&D double-weapons). The double-axe was the dumbest thing I've ever seen. That said, I don't mind the idea of some weapons that are used two-handed but work like dual-wielding like the kusarigama. I've trained with a naginata and many maneuvers involved the "other end". Certainly the use of the quarterstaff is better modeled as a two-handed double-weapon than it is as a one-handed weapon as 5e does. Or at least all staff-fighting that I have done would be.

Speaking of which, in my experience (25 years of japanese martial arts, some better than others) - I'd much rather have a single weapon that I use in two hands than a weapon in each hand, even if that weapon can be used to attack with either end.

(Though I enjoy using two 'wakizashi', but like everyone here has described - it's defensive and opportunity-based.)
It's cool. I developed an interest in Double Weapons after seeing Darth Maul in action in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. ;)

So does the Polearm Master feat in 5e make the Quarterstaff into a double weapon?
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
It's cool. I developed an interest in Double Weapons after seeing Darth Maul in action in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. ;)

So does the Polearm Master feat in 5e make the Quarterstaff into a double weapon?
Presumably that's the idea, but the oddness of the Quarterstaff in 5e lead to an interesting infamous RAW situation that WotC never really addressed- the fact that Polearm Master never specifies how you have to wield the staff to get the benefits, and staves can be used as clubs in one hand.
 

What's a weapon? It's something that you can strike, deflect or block with rather than using your body. You can hit people with a shield. You can hit them with different parts of a weapon, you can even engage them with your body while you hold a weapon. You can deflect a strike with your sword instead of your shield.
But that's not the same as doing double damage because a lot of the time you're striking with one of those weapons while defending with the other. Actually trying to attack with both weapons at the same time simply because the balance you need is different depending on which hand you attack with. You won't be able to attack twice as often as before just because you're holding two weapons, although you will have an advantage in that attacks can come from either hand and it'll be harder to defend that. Depending on how detailed you want to get in modelling weapons this might matter.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
What's a weapon? It's something that you can strike, deflect or block with rather than using your body. You can hit people with a shield. You can hit them with different parts of a weapon, you can even engage them with your body while you hold a weapon. You can deflect a strike with your sword instead of your shield.
But that's not the same as doing double damage because a lot of the time you're striking with one of those weapons while defending with the other. Actually trying to attack with both weapons at the same time simply because the balance you need is different depending on which hand you attack with. You won't be able to attack twice as often as before just because you're holding two weapons, although you will have an advantage in that attacks can come from either hand and it'll be harder to defend that. Depending on how detailed you want to get in modelling weapons this might matter.
Well you can strike with a shield in real life. In 5e, not very well.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
You can hit people with a shield.
That's one of the things I always find funny/annoying when it comes to Shields in D&D. IF the rules ever let you strike with a shield, (and 5e doesn't have this, AFAIR), then they always make you take a feat (specialty training) to do it.

IRL, if you can't strike with a shield, you really, really don't know what you're doing. You are not even close to "proficient" with a shield.
 

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