I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Monday, January 08, 2018

D&D 5e fighting styles: Two Weapon Fighting

"Fixing TWF" seems to be an usual concern among 5e homebrewers.

I analysed the issue here and, like many people, concluded that TWF in underwhelming, basically because:

* The Dual Wielder feat is bad when compared to other weapon feats such as GWM, PAM, and SS, or even +2 to your Dexterity.
* It doesn't interact well with the fighter's multiple attacks, action surge, and other fighting styles.
* You'd need twice as many magic weapons to make full use of TWF, and each might require attunement.
* Wielding a lance or quarterstaff in each hand is ridiculous.

But TWF has some upsides:

* Can target multiple enemies.
* More chances of applying sneak attack damage for rogues. Paladins, barbarians and even battle-master fighters will get some perks too (but not enough to compensate). Rangers are being revised by WotC anyway, but better TWF would be nice. Champions do not usually miss the bonus action anyway. And so on.
* The damage does not fall behind most fighting styles until you get your third attack (level 11) - which most classes don't - and even at level 20 (and most campaigns do not go that far...) the difference is not that great if you disregard feats like GWM.

As you can see, there is a pattern there: most of TWF problems come from feats.

By itself, TWF might be a bit lackluster damage-wise but makes up for it in versatility. Which makes plenty of sene.

In short, TWF does not need fixing, the Dual Wielder feat does!

I'm not even sure it NEEDS fixing; it would be more accurate to say that it could benefit from an overhaul.

And not all classes need a better mechanic. It is mostly a fighter thing.
In any case, fixing a feat is easier fix than remaking the whole mechanic.

So, here is the Dual Wielder 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.

Point 1 is ok, 2 is comparable to +1 damage and looks silly (two quarterstaves etc.), and 3 is situational at best.

Here is one proposed fix:

Two Weapon Master
You master fighting with two weapons, gaining the following benefits:
* While you are wielding a separate melee weapon in each hand, you gain +1 to hit with both weapons.
* You can use two-weapon fighting even when one of the one handed melee weapons you are wielding isn't light. 
* As a bonus action on your turn, you can can take a defensive stance an gain +1 to AC until the beginning of your net turn.
* If roll a natural 2 for an weapon attack when wielding two weapons, you can choose to ignore this attack and roll again to attack with the other weapon. You must use the second roll. 

I think this basically fixes TWF because:

- The "main hand" stuff scales well with multiple attacks, and benefits you even when you don't attack with your off-hand.
- The defensive part cost your bonus action.
- The "to-hit" bonus make TWF even more reliable, which is the whole point.
- The "natural 2" thing (that is from 13th Age, BTW) will encourage you to use both weapons frequently.

The best part? You can add the second feat as an alternative to the original feat, or even use both, since they are not completely redundant nor become overpowered when stacked. Dual Wielder will be good for some characters (specially if you want to throw daggers) and Two Weapon Master is a better picks for rapier + dagger fighters (although it is a bit better overall IMO).

As you can see when comparing this post to the last one, a pattern is beginning to emerge. It has a bit of 3e and a bit of 4e in it. I will eventually explain that in detail. But, first, let us talk about double weapons.

All images copyright of Wizards of the coast.

UPDATE : I released a book (5e Manual of Arms: Weapons) that deals with weapons in 5e. Check it out below!

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  1. In all the various D&D clones I play, I have a couple houserules for two-weapon fighting that keeps it pretty simple. The two-weapon wielder benefits in two ways: they get a +1 to AC versus a single melee opponent of their choice (same rule I use for bucklers), and if they hit, they roll damage for both weapons and take the higher roll.

    Now I don't play 5e or any D&D with feats. They end up being mechanical clutter. IMO, a particular dual weapon combo should be a weapon proficiency, not a feat. I don't even get the idea of a general affinity for dual wielding that spans all weapons. If it costs two weapon proficiency slots to be competent in a specific weapon pair, that seems like a reasonable trade-off to me.

    1. I like those, especially "if they hit, they roll damage for both weapons and take the higher roll" - something I"ve considered for 5e too.

      Weapon proficiency and feats are two different ways of dealing with weapon specialization. I'm thinking of a system that might work for both TSR-D&D and 5e, let us see how it goes.

  2. Cool. Neat.
    Thank you for 'fixing' the lackluster Dual Wielding rules in 5e.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Let's try that again...

    In regards to the quarterstaff bit:
    I feel like the quarterstaff being one-handed is a type-o. Yes the spear is also considered one-handed but logic says that using a pole to poke with is easier then trying to bludgeon. You can't get the power required with just one hand. So quarterstaff should have the two-handed property.
    It's just like the Greatclub. Its the only weapon weighing more then 6-lbs. that doesn't have the "heavy" property. So once more I feel it to be a type-o.

    The thing that does concern me is that you don't need TWF style as a prerequisite for the "Duel Wielder" feat. It seems to be a cheat for fighters to get 2 fighting very quickly. Get GWF as a fighting style and then get the DW feat that gives you a better version of TWF, not being restricted to light weapons. Making a fast switch when needed, just drop the off-hand weapon and move straight to GWF.

    1. Interesting stuff. Yeah, I think these were mistakes during weapon design.
      About the Dual Wielder feat.. I hadn't thought of the combo you mention, but TBH it sounds cool, not unbalanced. DW is not a great feat anyway.

  5. As a fan of combat realism done with sleekly I am a fan of the Dual Wielder feat. It is actually a really effective representation of how historical two weapon fighting works whilst still getting the extra attack in to appease the 3rd edition fans.

    A small critic of your revised feat. The third addition for the official feat exists for a reason. By RAW, drawing and sheathing weapons is usually handled by your free object interaction as a part of your main action, however it only allows you to draw or sheath one weapon. This means, if you are surprised and you have to draw your weapons in combat, your first turn will either be dedicated to drawing your weapons and not attacking or you will draw one weapon the first round then your second on the next.

    1. Yea, I agree Dual Wielder is realistic, kinda, but I think it should get a bit more love because it looks kinda cool in fiction.

      I am aware of the second point, but I don't like RAW in this matter. I think a knife-thrower fighter to be a cool concept and a bit more sensible than firing a heavy crossbow that quickly.

      However, TBH, the "useless" mace bothers me more than both these problems.

    2. I feel you should always include considerations for RAW in your design. You don't have to use that component but it means that if people use your homebrew they can slot it in without concern.

      The problems with dud weapons in 5e is in large part because of the lack of differentiation between weapons. A way to improve the mace (and the flail, morningstar, maul and maybe warhammer) is to give it an anti armour property.

      Here's an example:
      Heavy hitter: When you hit an enemy that is wearing heavy armour (maybe include medium as well) roll your damage dice twice and take the higher result. You might also want to include natural armour as well, just to increase it's usefulness.

  6. Personally I think the biggest problem with TWF in 5e is the fact that PAM stacks with GWM and DW doesn't, so DW is a trap damage-wise, for all strength based melee characters.

    Also, as you say, it's harder to attune to two weapons at once and fine them, although much easier in practice to put a spare looted magic weapon in one party member's off hand than finding a magical polearm. Still, there are ways to make magic weapons and even some weapons can transform into polearms, or buff the polearm wielder's attack bonuses enough (Sacred Weapon, Bless, Reckless Attack) to make the -5 / +10 tradeoff work out. It seems Sacred Weapon in particular is the nail in the coffin of anyone who wants to make a dual wielding paladin ala Sword of the Morning aka Arthur Dayne in GoT.

    For the life of me I can't understand why there isn't a GWM option for single-handed weapons (say -3 / +6), which can be indeed quite heavy. The addition of such a feat would instantly make TWF a much more viable choice.

    Just as in 3rd edition, the designers seem to have put in booby traps in the character selection process.

    One last thing, I disagree with 5e's elimination of the -2 / -2 to hit penalty to dual wielding. I'd much rather that (with feats / styles reducing the to-hit penalties) than telling people "NO" they can't equip two magic longswords in a game without feats or unless you've taken it. You may not be effective without practice but I can't see the hard proscription against it. Dual wielding two short swords is an automatic no-brainer for rogues in 5e, and this bugs me. Rogues should be all about ways to gain very good to-hit bonuses to ensure landing their sneak attack damage, using sleight of hand or the like (see Aria vs Night King). Five years after 5e came out, and after all this time these weird corners in the rules keep getting in the way. Maybe PF2 will be better.

  7. In my opinion the biggest problem with Dual Wielding in 5e is that it takes your bonus action, and we have a lot of really good things to spend our bonus action to the point that if you are playing "optimally" you will barely use the second weapon, and it would be better if you just used a shield instead (if able).

    If dual wielding allowed for making an extra attack with your off-hand when you take the attack action and/or allow to use both weapons when taking a opportunity attack I already believe that this style would be played more, just out of the fact that you can use both weapons during all levels of play.

    I would still prefer something that made me feel that I was always using both my weapons to attack, but that can be solved with other feats.

  8. Interesting! I just found your blog on Monday, and you seem to have come to many of the same conclusions I have with regard to D&D as a language, and making ability scores be more useful as mechanical shorthand.
    Anyway, back when I was trying to fix 5E rather than just write the 'system modules' game it once billed itself as, I spent a *lot* of work fixing TWF in particular.
    A big part of that is because the fighting style seems a lot more broken than you realize?
    It's a huge damage boost compared to Duelist or Great Weapon Fighting (even with Maul or Greatsword), but the only class that can stick with it rather than needing its' bonus action for other features is the Fighter, for whom it clearly isn't designed.
    Maybe these are things you solved in your book, but, um, it's not obvious that that would be the case? I'm trying not to be rude here, but you seem like you might appreciate ad feedback, and this draft in particular is maybe not the best advertisement for your paid stuff. (It *would* work quite well as an ad for a Pay-What-You-Want thing, though - seeing how you've improved is worth a look, and encouraging you with money might then seem very reasonable, at least if doing so is effortless enough. But perhaps that's just me?)

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      Well, the fighting style might seem too powerful at early levels (GWF, otoh, is really bad IMO), but as soon as you get more attacks, maybe a magic weapon (or the magic weapon spell), etc., I don't find it particularly broken.