Just as there are all manners of combat styles in the real world, there are just as many in the fantasy realms of DnD. Fighting two-handed, wielding a weapon in each hand, is just one.
It lends itself to some memorable images, a fighter eschewing the protection of a shield to fight with a short sword in one hand, an axe in the other, carving his way through the enemy ranks.
Read our guide to Two-Weapon Fighting 5e.
What is Two-Weapon Fighting 5e (TWF)?
Fighting with two weapons at once is something that any character can do, though some are better at it than others as it lends itself naturally to those of the fighting classes. But, it can be learned by anyone to varying degrees of success. The Player’s Handbook explains how it works thus…
- Taking the attack action whilst wielding a light weapon in each hand, you can make an additional attack with your offhand weapon as a bonus action.
- Do not add the modifier you’re making the attack roll with to damage from the offhand weapon attack, only the designated primary weapon.
- If your weapon has the properties of a missile weapon, you can throw it instead of making a melee attack.
Getting the Most Out of Two-Weapon Fighting
Whilst anyone can attempt TWF, some will find it more natural than others, but there are many choices that a character can make during their build, and as they rise in levels that will help develop such skills.
Two-Weapon Fighting 5e
This is a fighting style choice, one which will be selected by any character interested in mastering said skills. By opting for this fighting style, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of your offhand attack, not just your primary weapon, increasing your damage by up to +5!
Dual Wielder 5e is a feat that can be selected. It comes at a reasonably high cost but is often worth paying for as the benefits are impressive.
Firstly, it allows the character to draw two weapons at once, ignoring the object interaction rules that generally apply in such situations. The character also gets a +1 to their AC because they are more mobile, not weighed down with a shield, able to dodge and parry, and harder to hit.
The final bonus is that this feat means that you are no longer limited to light weapons, meaning that you can wield weapons with impressive damage capability.
The Pros and Cons of Two-Weapon Fighting
The obvious benefit of TWF is the damage you can dish out. If one weapon is good, two have got to be better. Right? It not only means that you get to attack at least twice in turn but is also helpful if you are utilizing an ability, such as Sneak, which requires you to hit your target to be successful. Twice the attack, twice the chance of success.
It is also a great way of ramping up other combat abilities, such as the additional damage that comes with Rage or the effects of a Divine Smite. TWF is also beneficial for breaking the concentration of enemy spell casters.
Again, twice the attack means twice the amount of saving throw successes needed to stay focused on the spell at hand. It is hard to maintain your full attention on conjuring a Lightning Bolt when some pesky Ranger is whacking you with a shortsword and dagger!
But there is always a downside. The most obvious one is losing the +2 AC bonus that comes from carrying a shield. Also, because many characters will be limited to using only light weapons when using this fighting style, it means that the average damage of each weapon is significantly less than if you had just one nastier one.
There are also certain feat combos that don’t work with TWF. Because of the restriction that you are required to use light weapons, feats such as Great Weapon Master and Polearm Master don’t stack with it.
Who Should Choose Two-Weapon Fighting?
Some characters, especially the party tanks, might already have abilities that deliver more damage with one weapon than the TWF does with two.
So it is really a matter of personal preference as to the style of combat you wish to adopt. Such a style favors characters with high Dexterity scores as they will often already be using lighter, finesse weapons.
Rogues may wish to choose this style to double their chances of a Sneak attack, and the Swashbuckler subclass should always go for this. Fighters, especially the less cautious types, should take this to make them very competitive, especially when delivering damage.
Even Paladins should consider this. It might not fit with their traditional image, but it does double their ability to deliver things like Divine Smite and Divine Favour. Barbarians can combine this style with Rage and get the damage bonus on every successful hit.
Two-Weapon Fighting in Adventures
DnD allows you to live in a world of great deeds and legendary events, and there is nothing more memorable than the sight of an adventurer wielding a weapon in each hand as a wave of foes surges forward. It’s a neat development style, but one that comes with specific issues.
Essentially, you are swapping potential damage dealing for your own protection. This means that it is best used in situations where you can get in fast, mess your enemies up, and get out again before too many blows head your way.
It is a skill for the less cautious Fighter and, ironically, the sneaking Rouge pouncing out of the shadows to strike multiple times before disappearing again. Choose this style if you want to be in the thick of combat but make sure that you don’t stay in-range of enemy attacks longer than you have to. There is a reason why people opt to carry shields.