Improving Two-Weapon Fighting

Xeviat

Explorer
Two-Weapon Fighting has long been my favorite fighting style in D&D. I read "Legacy" at too young of an age. I lamented when Baldur's Gate didn't let me use TWFing and cheered when BG2 added it in. I watched with sadness when I started running 3E and the TWFing ranger in the group was constantly out damaged by the party Barbarian. I cut my teeth on D&D damage statistics in an effort to rebalance TWFing in 3E, and had my own house rules that produced a few fun TWFing characters (I got to see it in action on a Barbarian, Fighter, and that original Ranger at higher levels).

4E baked TWFing into class powers, but it worked (the feat was terrible, though).

And then we get to 5E. At low levels, the Fighter performs well with TWFing, but it falls to the wayside at 5th level and just goes downhill after that. The Rogue does very well with it, gaining an extra shot at landing a sneak attack; the Rogue also has a really interesting trade-off between using a bonus action for an extra attack or using it for Cunning Action. The Ranger can get some mileage out of it if they're careful with their use of Hunter's Mark, but this is a lot harder to test for. Barbarians ... they don't do well with it.

The fact that the style is weak on Barbarians and Fighters upsets me. I wish it was decent. I wish it was on par with using a Two-Handed Weapon, possibly a little weaker because of it's ability to split damage. But using spells as a guideline, attacking 2 creatures instead of 1 should be about a 2/3rds reduction in damage, not a 1/2 reduction in damage, so I'm not sure splitting damage is as big of a deal as people treat it.

So, I've set out to "fix" TWFing. I think my changes put it in a good place for the Fighter but it will probably require some changes to things like Hunter's Mark.

First, I'd like to point out that a greatsword's 2d6+Str is equal to two shortsword's 1d6+Stat +1d6+0, no matter how many extra attacks the character gets. And, a fighter with GWFing's 2d6*+Str (8.33+stat) is reasonably close to two longsword's 1d8+Stat +1d8 (9+stat), and the +2 damage bonus there is equal to Duelist's damage bonus.

What I suggest is have TWFing not require a bonus action AND have it give off-hand attacks equal to main hand attacks, but the style wouldn't grant stat bonus to off-hand damage. The style would instead allow the wielding of non-light weapons (and the feat would need to be changed). This would allow it to improve with Extra Attack, and it would work with a Fighter's Action surge. The ability to wield two magic weapons to stack a little extra damage may be moot since the GWFer could just as easily be using gauntlets of ogre power or a belt of giant strength to up their damage too.

I think this is balanced for the Fighter, but what would it do to the rest of the classes? Would I find all Rogues using TWFing and never see a single rapier wielder (I've thought to buff sneak attack dice to match weapon damage dice, so a rapier wielder would deal more damage while the twfer has higher chance of landing sneak attack)? Would it push the Ranger's damage too high to get an extra hit of Hunter's Mark at 5th level and higher (and make it easier for them to cast Hunter's Mark and other spells in the middle of combat)?

What would break if I took away TWFing's bonus action requirement and changed the TWFing Fighting Style to "You can make off-hand attacks even if both weapons are not light" (rather than it adding stat bonus to damage)?

An addition after doing some new math:

After testing the Ranger with and without hunter's mark, with and without the bonus action, and with my initial TWFing suggestion, my rules flatten out the damage difference between Duelist and TWFing. On a single classed fighter, this would be even across the board (barring weird interactions with subclasses, but I'm not seeing them).

My rules would make TWFing the optimal choice while a barbarian is raging (which means all the time at higher levels). The monk's martial arts would need to be rewritten. I'd also need to decide what I want to happen to the Rogue. I could partially avoid some of that by making the removal of the bonus action part of the style as well, but these classes could pick that up with a 1 level fighter dip (not sure that would be the best for all of them, though).

Thoughts?
 
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Zardnaar

Hero
Easiest might be to make it an action. A TWF using hex or hunters mark starts looking better.

Feat support as well, -5/+10 warps things but maybe an extra attack if both attacks connect.

I allowed some 3pp feats as well that let you stack strength and Dex to damage so it aids twf a lot.
 
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jaelis

Explorer
I changed it to: you can attack with both weapons simultaneously, as one attack with combined damage. But if you choose to attack with only one weapon, you can later attack with the other as a bonus action. So with two short swords and extra attack, you could attack twice for 2d6 + stat, or three times at 2d6+stat, 1d6+stat, 1d6 (no stat). That balances the damage, keeps some flexibility, and doesn’t bog down the game.

Style lets you use non-light weapons. Feat adds half stat to offhand damage, plus use both weapons for opportunity attacks.

I’ve been happy with it.
 

Quartz

Explorer
First, I'd like to point out that a greatsword's 2d6+Str is equal to two shortsword's 1d6+Stat +1d6+0,
So far so good.

no matter how many extra attacks the character gets. And, a fighter with GWFing's 2d6*+Str (8.33+stat) is reasonably close to two longsword's 1d8+Stat +1d8 (9+stat),
No, it's nearly a full point worse.

and the +2 damage bonus there is equal to Duelist's damage bonus.
No, you're getting a +3.5 damage bonus so the Duellist's +2 is 1.5 points worse (for a d6 weapon).

What I suggest is have TWFing not require a bonus action AND have it give off-hand attacks equal to main hand attacks... The style would instead allow the wielding of non-light weapons (and the feat would need to be changed).
Since the greatest difference is with Duellist, let's look at a putative 11th level fighter. The Duellist rolls 3x (1d8 + stat +2) whereas the TWF rolls 3x (1d8 + stat + 1d6) for a difference of 4.5 damage. And then there's the fact that the TWF fighter is getting six attacks, each with the potential for some secondary effect whereas the Duellist gets only three. And if the TWF gets a Bonus Action, is she getting one attack or two?

As written in the PHB, TWF is strictly better than Duellist for anyone with a damage stat of 14+ until 11th level anyway. Assume a 16 stat. A first level duellist does 1d8+2+3 (average 9.5); a first level TWF does 2d6 + 2x 3 (average 13). That's a huge difference, BTW. A 5th level Duellist does 2d8 + 2x 3 + 2x 2 (average 19); a 5th level TWF does 3d6 + 3x 3 (average 19.5). An 11th level Duellist does 3d8 + 3x 3 + 3x 2 (average 28.5); an 11th level TWF does 4d6 + 4x 3 (average 26). And how many campaigns get to 11th level?

Let me address the other big issue: the use of the Bonus Action. Just as Duellist trades lower damage for greater security (because she can use a shield and get +2 AC), so TWF trades the Bonus Action for increased regular damage. The TWF user always get to use her BA; other fighting styles do not.

So that's a solid no from me. TWF does not need improvement.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
To me, the trade-offs between fighting with two light weapons and one big weapon have been giving up some damage overall but gaining an extra attack roll, often throw able weapons, often simple weapons, more concealable weapons and dex-based weapons (reducing you to SAD).

Each of these matters (some more circumstantially than see in white rooms or spreadsheets) but it boils down to at it's most basic in my experience the question of are you relying on the weapon type for damage or is the main damage going to come from something else added to an attack - smite, sneak, etc.

I think it's not accidental that the perception of twf being sub-par stems often when looking at the one class (fighter) that stacks more and more attacks beyond that of say pally and ranger and barb and rogue etc.

So, rather than changing TWF across the board to fix what is perceived as a weakness (if we ignore those other things) for its use with high level fighters, fix the higher level fighters.

Change extra attack-3 and extra attack 4 to include an extra attack from twf's bonus action.

Basically, dont use a described problem that stems from the combo of TWF and the fighter class at high level to buff the rogue, pally etc.
 

Ristamar

Explorer
My only "fix" is adding a single benefit to the Dual Wielder feat (inspired by Elven Accuracy):

  • Whenever you have advantage on a melee weapon attack roll while you are wielding a separate melee weapon in each hand, you can reroll one of the dice once.
 

S'mon

Legend
A 2 hand axe wielding barbarian applies Rage to all attacks. At level 1 that's 2 more damage than a greatsword. It gets weaker once they have 2 base attacks, depending on item bonuses etc. A couple flaming hand axes would be nice. :)
 

S'mon

Legend
I think the best approach is for level 11 fighter with 2wf style to get 2 off hand attacks with the bonus action.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
I only made two small changes to DWing.

For the fighting style, I removed the requirement to spend a BA to get the extra attack.

For the feat, I added the ability to attune to two weapons that meet the criteria for DWing, as if they were one weapon.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Saying "I don't think TWF is so poor it needs improvement" is fine.

Saying "since you get to use your bonus action with TWF, it's actually fine" is, on the other hand complete nonsense of course.

If TWF can only match other styles by using up the bonus action, it is trivial to conclude it is actually far worse than those other styles.

After all, finding a good use for your bonus action is perhaps the minmaxers first priority in 5E, so you should assume it gets used frequently.

At level 11, what TWF really needs, is that the extra attack becomes a free action instead of a bonus action, freeing up the bonus action to enable the character to go on the same hunt for "best use of bonus action" as everybody else.

(The suggestion to make the bonus action yield two off-hand attack instead of one is along the same lines and not too shabby, if simpler and more constrictive)
 

jaelis

Explorer
Yes, it is possible the 11+ level fighter needs improvement, but not TWF.
Here's what get's me. I agree that, with the fighting styles, the level 5-10 GWF and TWF fighters are balanced OK. But from 1-4 the TWF is considerably better, and from 11+ the GWF is better. So you could say, fix 11+ separately, and you don't care about 1-4 because it's over quickly.

As for other classes: paladins, war/tempest clerics, valor bards and barbarians don't get the TWF style, which means TWF is no good at all past level 5. Rogues don't get TWF style, but want it so bad they are kind of handicapped if they don't dip into fighter for it. Monks can't really use TWF at all, which means they are handicapped if they don't use a staff or spear until their martial arts damage gets good enough. Rangers I think probably work the best, since they spend the most time in the configuration where TWF is reasonably balanced.

That's why I think a more fundamental fix is better than a class-specific tweak.
 

Quartz

Explorer
Level 11+ fighter?
The TWF still gets a guaranteed extra attack with the opportunity of added effects.

BTW if you assume a 20 stat at 11th level the Duellist is doing 3d8 + 6 + 15 for an average of 34.5 damage and the TWF fighter is doing an average of 4d6 +20 or 34 damage.

No, TWF does not need tweaking.
 

Quartz

Explorer
Saying "since you get to use your bonus action with TWF, it's actually fine" is, on the other hand complete nonsense of course.

If TWF can only match other styles by using up the bonus action, it is trivial to conclude it is actually far worse than those other styles.
I completely disagree. It's a trade-off. TWF trades your BA for extra damage, just as Duellist trades damage for AC. You don't have to use that Bonus Action for an attack, but unlike all other fighting styles it's there if you want it. Unlike all other fighting styles the TWF PC always has a Bonus Attack.

BTW take a look at a Fighter / Paladin with TWF and Improved Divine Smite and a 20 stat: base damage of 3d6 + 15 + 3d8 or 40 damage verses a Duellist Paladin of 2d8 + 10 + 2d8 or 28 damage. That's a difference of 12!

And let's not forget the Fighter's Action Surge. Under this proposed change the TWF fighter gets further extra attacks; currently the bonus attack is part of the Bonus Action and therefore not subject to Action Surge.
 

jaelis

Explorer
The TWF still gets a guaranteed extra attack with the opportunity of added effects.


BTW if you assume a 20 stat at 11th level the Duellist is doing 3d8 + 6 + 15 for an average of 34.5 damage and the TWF fighter is doing an average of 4d6 +20 or 34 damage.

No, TWF does not need tweaking.
So you feel that the +2 AC from the shield is fairly balanced by the opportunity to have added effects? (Like what?)
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
For "normal" usage, this isn't a bad fix. But there are so many way to increase damage per attack that this rule could be easily abused, just like in 3.5.

This is the type of solution I'd put in place with a specific table and "if you abuse it, it's going away".
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
The difference in damage potential is minimal as others have pointed out, the other aspect is the +1 to AC from dual wielder and the flexibility it gives. My wife's swashbuckler thinks it's great that she can not only get two chances at sneak attack but also avoid attacks from two opponents when moving away even if the second opponent doesn't take a lot of damage.

Is it as good as a barbarian with GWM? Depends on the campaign and how you crunch the numbers. I admit I had some really cheesy/semi-broken PCs in previous editions that used two weapon fighting. My own 5E dual wielder felt powerful but not overpowered. Would he have kept up with a barbarian? Probably not, but most builds can't especially depending on the campaign. Can the barbarian rage every round because you only do a handful of fights between resting? Did you allow people to roll for stats until they had extremely high numbers in their core stats? Are you always facing opponents with low AC that never attack with damage other than weapons? Well, it's not surprising that the barbarian dominates combat.

Feel free to tweak things for your own preferences, making that easier is a feature of 5E not a bug. But I don't think you can have a game with the style of 5E that perfectly balances all builds, there are just too many variables.

Last, but not least, the rules don't always have to cater to the power gamer. The difference in damage from some of these builds largely require a lot of assumptions and even then only result in relatively minor power differences that are heavily dependent on campaign and style.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Here's what get's me. I agree that, with the fighting styles, the level 5-10 GWF and TWF fighters are balanced OK. But from 1-4 the TWF is considerably better, and from 11+ the GWF is better. So you could say, fix 11+ separately, and you don't care about 1-4 because it's over quickly.

As for other classes: paladins, war/tempest clerics, valor bards and barbarians don't get the TWF style, which means TWF is no good at all past level 5. Rogues don't get TWF style, but want it so bad they are kind of handicapped if they don't dip into fighter for it. Monks can't really use TWF at all, which means they are handicapped if they don't use a staff or spear until their martial arts damage gets good enough. Rangers I think probably work the best, since they spend the most time in the configuration where TWF is reasonably balanced.

That's why I think a more fundamental fix is better than a class-specific tweak.
So, now to be clear, to you the problem with TWF is how bad it us for the non-fighter classes- the ones with only one or two attacks per attack action?

Interesting, often it is portrayed as problematic when compared to the three or four attacks fighter.

To my way of thinking, for rogue, psladin and the others who get yo add in a big extra DMG on z hit or less but noticable extra dsmage on every hit the extra attack free bonus action thing is enough of a benefit especially once you add in the other bonus factors you get for free in many cases (SAD with dex, thrown for some, concealability, etc).

As for not wanting class specific "fixes" - since TWF (action, not style) is free to all but every class has differences in how they can impact damage vs number of hits, I myself cannot see anyway for a global change to not be class specific and have a hope of doing anything other than shuffling around what the top best option is based on whatever white room spread sheet one uses.

For my money, if you want homogeneous output, you need more homogeneous system. They could have done that, they chose to have actual differences and meaningful choices.

One "simple option " - change the 2dx two-hznded weapons to 1d... so instead of 2d6 the great sword does 1d12 (more sames). Then have shortsword snd dagge be d6+d4 on a hit. Apply ability bonus once, period. Apply one weapon's magic period. Treat it as one hit period. Now the only difference at the core is the roll of the dice (oh and one can be thrown, one can be easily concealed but that doesnt vount in white rooms.)

But, my bet us that eont be enough for those wanting to get both core dsmage yo match and have fighting with two weapons be the more reliable too.

But
 
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Quartz

Explorer
So you feel that the +2 AC from the shield is fairly balanced by the opportunity to have added effects? (Like what?)
Like Sneak Attack, Battlemaster maneuvers, additional damage from magic weapons, smites, greater distribution of damage ...
 

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