D&D General What is two weapon fighting good for?

Olrox17

Hero
Dual wielding. It’s not the greatest 5e combat style, but it clearly does have its niches, as is (rogues, for instance).

But everywhere I read that, historically, two weapon fighting wasn’t really useful. It generally wasn’t worth giving the defense of a shield (especially vs missiles) or the reach and anti-armor power of a two hander.
Even the few examples of duel wielding in fencing seem to relegate the off hand weapon to the role of a defensive implement, which is a far cry from the d&d incarnation of dual wielding, which is all about offense.

One of the only things that two weapon fighting seems to be historically good at (at least according to my limited research) is fending off multiple lightly armored opponents at once.
Because of that, I was considering to house rule TWF and make it all about attacking multiple opponent at once. It would become the AoE weapon style, so to speak.

What do you think? I’m specifically NOT making this a + thread, because I’m also interested in negative feedback about this.
 

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First thing I'd add would be a buckler or main-gauge style weapon, that can be drawn as a weapon and comes with simple weapon proficiency and just add +1 to AC.

I don't think area attacks as a general feature are that useful, but I could see a whirlwind attack feat as a possibility.
 

D&D is not a simulator of anything other than the platonic ideal of D&D. If you want any kind of realism look at other games.

You are correct about off hand weapons. I did some combat fencing years back and a dagger was usually better for defense than offense, but it did still have its uses on attack. Though it could be easily argued that a free hand in a no-rules fight could be better if you know how to grapple. (Used as a generic term for any unarmed martial art)

But to properly model it, you have to have rules about light weapons vs heavy, make weapons destructible, add variable AC modifiers and all kinds of stuff that are easy in a CRPG but hard at a table.

Even at its simplest. what you want to do would require variable modifiers. Yes, a TWFer could block attacks from different directions, but that is still harder than blocking from one direction so it shouldn't negate flanking entirely.. So that either creates a modifier table (-5AC while flanked, -3AC of flanked with TWF, etc) or conditional AC (+1 melee, +0 vs ranged, etc) or some other leaps.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
I think you're gonna run up against the "D&D isn't realistic/a simulator" issue with this.

I would consider that due to 5E's game rules, attacking multiple opponents at once is generally a much worse strategy than focusing fire on one opponent at at time in order to bring them down. This is because, unlike in real life, wounding opponents doesn't decrease their combat effectiveness at all.

The main game advantage of dual-wielding in 5E is to give the character two chances to hit one opponent. A rules modification that nullified that would cause me personally to just not duel-wield. The class most hurt by this change would of course be the rogue.
 

Oofta

Legend
There were historical periods when rapiers became popular for both self defense and duels, starting in the late 16th century. There were schools dedicated to fighting with rapiers and a few did teach two weapon fighting. But there are other instances of two weapon fighting throughout history, typically with what D&D would consider short swords. It was unusual, but people have been quite creative about how to kill each other for a long time. Unlike D&D the off-hand weapon was primarily defensive.

So from a historical perspective it did exist and there are historical exceptions for even things like fighting with two broadswords [1], even if it was uncommon.

In D&D? I think it works as intended. I wrote a combat simulation app for this a while back that pitted the core fighting styles against various monsters. Two-weapon fighter came out on top for the other core fighting styles at most levels. Shield master is slightly better at some levels if the DM let's you attempt to knock people prone before making any attacks. I think people tend to overestimate the utility of GWM considering the lower AC and negative to hit.

So I don't see an issue with it. Yeah, you never saw people in full plate dual wielding but D&D is far too abstract and simplified for combat details like that to be simulated. Historically it was used, even if it was rare. From a game perspective it's quite effective, something I've also seen playing Solasta which records all sorts of stats for your PCs over the course of a campaign.

NOTE: My simulation looked at simple mano-e-monster combat of course, so battle masters just did extra damage, I didn't attempt to simulate things like rune knight's abilities.
 

Dual wielding. It’s not the greatest 5e combat style, but it clearly does have its niches, as is (rogues, for instance).

But everywhere I read that, historically, two weapon fighting wasn’t really useful. It generally wasn’t worth giving the defense of a shield (especially vs missiles) or the reach and anti-armor power of a two hander.
Even the few examples of duel wielding in fencing seem to relegate the off hand weapon to the role of a defensive implement, which is a far cry from the d&d incarnation of dual wielding, which is all about offense.

One of the only things that two weapon fighting seems to be historically good at (at least according to my limited research) is fending off multiple lightly armored opponents at once.
Because of that, I was considering to house rule TWF and make it all about attacking multiple opponent at once. It would become the AoE weapon style, so to speak.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "historically".

Historically as in real-world history, two-weapon fighting was popular mainly for personal defense. Nobody wants to wear armor or carry a shield. That's battlefield equipment. It's simply not done. But any gentleman can carry a cane or rapier, and everyone carries a dagger or knife. It wasn't that it was better against multiple opponents. It was just that you could be expected to have those things on you.

Historically as in AD&D, two-weapon fighting was popular because you got extra attacks. A lot of extra attacks at higher level. And the -2/-4 attack penalty was offset by the Dex reaction adjustment, meaning high (16-18) Dex characters could reduce or negate it. And at higher level with supernatural strength and magic weapons, your attack bonus was so high you'd be hitting all the time anyways. Further, the benefits of a shield could be dubious, and two-handed weapons were not particularly appealing. Shields only provided a +1 AC bonus, and that bonus relied on facing rules. Shields sucked until they were magical. Additionally, 1e Ranger got some pretty crazy bonuses to damage against the most common enemies of the game, and more attacks is the easiest way to make flat damage bonuses better. Same reason that boots of speed were a top tier item. 2e Rangers lost that damage bonus, but instead gained a way to offset the attack penalty, meaning they were still encouraged to use the option. Finally, in AD&D magic weapons were often the best magic items in the game. They often got special powers, and being able to use multiple of them was extremely potent.

Historically as in 3e D&D, two-weapon fighting was terrible because of the [in hindsight now more clearly stupid] requirement that you needed a full-round action to attack more than once per turn, plus the fact that you needed two or more feats to be able to do it, plus the fact that iterative attacks already had severe penalties. In some cases like rogue's sneak attack the damage bonus meant all those penalties could be worth it, especially if you could dip for ranger to get all the feats. But in general it just didn't help often enough to matter. There were other things to spend feats on, and two-handed weapons were just a better choice because you'll often only be able to make one attack anyways.
 

MarkB

Legend
A good argument could be made that, if you want to make dual-wielding offensive rather than defensive, it could be better modelled as a bonus to your main-weapon attack rather than an extra attack, since it's forcing an opponent to split their attention guarding against two angles of attack.

But in the end, that sort of fine detail doesn't really combine well with D&D's turn-based nature or the concept of armour class. And when you add in things like individual weapons potentially having their own magical properties, it gets messier still. The implementation of getting an extra attack may not be realistic, but it's straightforward.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Dual wielding. It’s not the greatest 5e combat style, but it clearly does have its niches, as is (rogues, for instance).

But everywhere I read that, historically, two weapon fighting wasn’t really useful. It generally wasn’t worth giving the defense of a shield (especially vs missiles) or the reach and anti-armor power of a two hander.
Even the few examples of duel wielding in fencing seem to relegate the off hand weapon to the role of a defensive implement, which is a far cry from the d&d incarnation of dual wielding, which is all about offense.

One of the only things that two weapon fighting seems to be historically good at (at least according to my limited research) is fending off multiple lightly armored opponents at once.
Because of that, I was considering to house rule TWF and make it all about attacking multiple opponent at once. It would become the AoE weapon style, so to speak.

What do you think? I’m specifically NOT making this a + thread, because I’m also interested in negative feedback about this.
Your house rule would make a lot more sense, so it sounds great to me. But the real purpose of duel weilding in the game and in literature to my mind is to show off, and because it's cool. I can't think of a fictional example where that isn't the case, at least.

I used to do Amtgard (a SCA-like LARP group) and even there, people who chose duel weild did it for the flash.
 


Oofta

Legend
I'm not quite sure what you mean by "historically".

Historically as in real-world history, two-weapon fighting was popular mainly for personal defense. Nobody wants to wear armor or carry a shield. That's battlefield equipment. It's simply not done. But any gentleman can carry a cane or rapier, and everyone carries a dagger or knife. It wasn't that it was better against multiple opponents. It was just that you could be expected to have those things on you.

Historically as in AD&D, two-weapon fighting was popular because you got extra attacks. A lot of extra attacks at higher level. And the -2/-4 attack penalty was offset by the Dex reaction adjustment, meaning high (16-18) Dex characters could reduce or negate it. And at higher level with supernatural strength and magic weapons, your attack bonus was so high you'd be hitting all the time anyways. Further, the benefits of a shield could be dubious, and two-handed weapons were not particularly appealing. Shields only provided a +1 AC bonus, and that bonus relied on facing rules. Shields sucked until they were magical. Additionally, 1e Ranger got some pretty crazy bonuses to damage against the most common enemies of the game, and more attacks is the easiest way to make flat damage bonuses better. Same reason that boots of speed were a top tier item. 2e Rangers lost that damage bonus, but instead gained a way to offset the attack penalty, meaning they were still encouraged to use the option. Finally, in AD&D magic weapons were often the best magic items in the game. They often got special powers, and being able to use multiple of them was extremely potent.

Historically as in 3e D&D, two-weapon fighting was terrible because of the [in hindsight now more clearly stupid] requirement that you needed a full-round action to attack more than once per turn, plus the fact that you needed two or more feats to be able to do it, plus the fact that iterative attacks already had severe penalties. In some cases like rogue's sneak attack the damage bonus meant all those penalties could be worth it, especially if you could dip for ranger to get all the feats. But in general it just didn't help often enough to matter. There were other things to spend feats on, and two-handed weapons were just a better choice because you'll often only be able to make one attack anyways.


I agree for the most part, but I have to disagree about 3e two weapon fighting to a degree. Based on my personal experience, 2WF combined with high crit weapons could be devastating. Especially if you had supporting spells cast by other PCs. It was one of those builds that for a while was just decent but then went from average to an 11 on a scale of 1-10. Couldn't compete with high level casters after a while of course, but then again no one could.
 

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