During our game sessions I have gotten increasingly confused about dual wielding weapons (known in the rules as Two-Weapon Fighting) and I’ve seen our group make some similar mistakes and have overlooked some limitations. This is meant as a reminder. At the end, I house rule dual wielding slightly to accommodate our game somewhat without drastically changing the game.
According to the Player’s Handbook, it says the following on 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.
This means that anyone can use two weapons, regardless of class. Keep in mind that in order to cast a spell which has a somatic component does require you to have at least one free hand, as per the somatic Component rules in the Player’s Handbook.
So while you can use a bonus action to make an off-hand attack, you can only do so if both your main hand weapon and off-hand weapon are light. Also your off-hand attack does not benefit from ability modifier bonuses to damage (strength modifier or dexterity modifier in the case of finesse weapons), unless that modifier is negative.
Light Ranged Weapons
While the rules explicitly state that only light melee weapons can be dual wielded, the Hand Crossbow is also designated as light, which suggests that any light weapon can be an off-hand weapon, even ranged weapons.
Feat: Dual Wielder
The Dual Wielder feat in the Player’s Handbook provides 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.
This means that only with this feat you can draw two weapons at once, and fight with two weapons where one or both weapons aren’t light.
Fighting Style: Two-Weapon Fighting
The Two-Weapon Fighting fighting style in the Player’s Handbook provides the following benefits:
- When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack.
The only three classes that can learn fighting styles are Fighter, Paladin and Ranger, and only the Fighter and the Ranger can choose the Two-Weapon Fighting fighting style.
While dual wielding, the main hand weapon can be either a light or finesse weapon, while the off-hand weapon should always be a light weapon.
- Dual wielding will become easier, allowing weapons like the rapier as well as the whip to be the main hand weapon with another, light weapon as the off-hand weapon.
- The Dual Wielder feat will diminish slightly in value, as the group of weapons that can be used to dual wield is expanded by the finesse weapons as main hands.
- In the event of someone using a finesse weapon to dual wield, then we’ll have to be mindful of how D&D Beyond responds to it. We might have to create a custom weapon which has all of the same properties but also has the light weapon property.