Rules: Two-Weapon Fighting

Lets explorer the rules around Two-Weapon Fighting (TWF) and some other rules that affect its use.

First, there’s the Rule As Written (RAW) in regards to TWF.

RAW (Players Handbook (PHB) p.195)
Melee Attacks: Two Weapon Fighting
When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon that you’re holding in the other hand. You don’t add your ability modifier to the damage of the bonus attack, unless that modifier is negative.

If either weapon has the thrown property, you can throw the weapon, instead of making a melee attack with it.

With nothing, as long as you are wielding two light one-handed weapons, you get a bonus action to attack with your off-hand weapon. If one of those weapons is NOT light, you don’t get the bonus action. Also, your off-hand weapon doesn’t get to use your Strength or Dexterity ability modifier to add to the weapon damage.

RAW (PHB p.165)
Feat: Dual Wielder
You master fighting with two weapons, gaining the following benefits:
• You gain a +1 bonus to AC while you are wielding a separate melee weapon in each hand.
• You can use two-weapon fighting even when the one-handed melee weapons you are wielding aren’t light.
• You can draw or stow two one-handed weapons when you would normally be able to draw or stow only one

You get to draw two weapons and use two weapons, they don’t have to be light anymore.

RAW (PHB p.72)
Fighting Style: Two Weapon Fighting
When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack.

You get to add your Strength or Dexterity to your off-hand weapon damage.


Character Example.

Level 1 Human Fighter (Str 16, Dex 14) with standard array stats, Two Weapon fighting style and the feat Dual Wielder.

  1. Using a Rapier in my main hand, and Whip in my off-hand. Rapier +5 to hit, 7 (1d8 + 3) dmg; Whip +5 to hit, 5 (1d4 + 3) dmg.
  2. Using a longbow and as things get closer I draw my rapier. I then attack with my Rapier +5 to hit, 7 (1d8 + 3) dmg; and my off-hand weapon (improvised weapon) with +3 to hit, 5 (1d4+3) dmg. Granted, I could have dropped my longbow, and drew both Rapier and Whip to increase the potential to hit and dmg, but then I’d need to drop the bow… and pick it up again later.
  3. Using a Rapier in my main hand, and a Shield in my off-hand, I have the same to hit and dmg as above, but now I have a +2 to my AC. My AC doesn’t change if I use the shield as an improvised weapon in my off-hand to bash someone. If I wanted to shove my opponent I would either need to take my action to Shove (PHB p.195), or have the Feat: Shield Master.

There is also no provision for removing the defence bonus. In fact, Shield Master improves the shield with attacks without removing the defence bonus so there seems no need to import that rule from a prior edition.

RAW Sage Advice Compendium p.6

If you attack with a shield—most likely as an improvised weapon—do you keep the +2 bonus to AC? Attacking with a shield doesn’t deprive you of the bonus to AC.

You can become proficient in bashing by taking the Tavern Brawler feat (PHB p.170), now you’re able to add your proficiency bonus to your bow and shield when smacking someone with them.

RAW (PHB p.147-148)
Improvised Weapons
Sometimes characters don’t have their weapons and have to attack with whatever is close at hand. An improvised weapon includes any object you can wield in one or two hands, such as broken glass, a table leg, a frying pan, a wagon wheel, or a dead goblin.

In many cases, an improvised weapon is similar to an actual weapon and can be treated as such. For example, a table leg is akin to a club. At the DM ’s option, a character proficient with a weapon can use a similar object as if it w ere that weapon and use his or her proficiency bonus.

An object that bears no resemblance to a weapon deals 1d4 damage (the DM assigns a damage type appropriate to the object). If a character uses a ranged weapon to make a melee attack, or throws a melee weapon that does not have the thrown property, it also deals 1d4 damage. An improvised thrown weapon has a range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet.

RAW (PHB p.170)
Tavern Brawler
Accustom ed to rough-and-tumble fighting using whatever weapons happen to be at hand, you gain the following benefits:
• Increase your Strength or Constitution score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
• You are proficient with improvised weapons and unarmed strikes.
• Your unarmed strike uses a d4 for damage.
• When you hit a creature with an unarmed strike or an improvised weapon on your turn, you can use a bonus action to attempt to grapple the target.

Now, this all goes with RAW and RAI (Rules As Intended), but I wish there were some provisions, Errata, or Sage Advice that would flush out some details.

A few things I would argue about:

A) The Shield Master feat lets you shove an opponent as a bonus action. I’d take that further in allowing you to shove OR bash someone. Using your proficiency attack roll and adding your Str modifier to the 1d4 [bludgeoning] damage. You are a Master with your Shield, aren’t you?

B) I would argue that anything that is 2lbs or lighter could be a “light weapon” in regards to Two-Weapon Fighting. This allows for more improvised items to be utilized creatively.


Alternative “House” Rules

Duncan at posted some house rules for Dual Wielding:

When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand, you can make an additional attack against the same target with a second light melee weapon that you’re holding in the other hand. You can make this additional ‘offhand’ attack a maximum of once per Attack action (no matter how many attacks you have). Alternatively, you may use a bonus action to attack a different target using your second light melee weapon. In all cases, you don’t add your ability modifier to the damage of this additional attack, unless that modifier is negative.

Two-Weapon Fighting (Hipster Fix)

I agree that this is an elegant and balanced solution. My only concern being that is it simple enough for 5e and ease of reference?

If you’re holding light weapons in both hands, you can attack the same creature twice. You can make another attack with your off hand weapon, either against your current opponent or a seperate one using your bonus action. You do not get to add your ability modifier to the damage (unless you’ve taken the Dual Wielding feat).

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