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So as we all know in 5E, dual-wielding is pretty underwhelming. It's actually incredibly effective at earlier levels, if just doing raw damage is your game, but at higher levels when the action economy gets a bit more cluttered, it becomes counter-intuitive.
This is especially true for the Ranger, the de facto dual-wielder from days of yore, where dual-wielding becomes almost impossible. Between Hunter's Mark, subclass features, and spells, there's just no point. For example, the average lifespan of a creature in 5E is somewhere around 3-4 turns, save for against tougher bosses who maybe can stick around for 7-8, depending on party composition.
So this is my take on how to insert dual-wielding with as few changes as possible:
How TWF works now:
When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you're holding in one hand, you can make one additional attack with a different light melee weapon that you're holding in the other hand. While holding a melee weapon in each hand, you have a -5 penalty to all attack rolls you make with either weapon.
If either weapon has the thrown property, you can throw the weapon, instead of making a melee attack with it.
So basically you move the attack to the main action, but every attack has a -5 penalty now.
Why have a penalty?
Because I think fighting with two weapons should not be the default way to play in 5E. If everyone could hold two weapons, with no downsides, then everyone would do it. You'd never see a Rogue with a rapier again because holding two shortswords would just be mechanically better. Similarly, Monks would never punch with their main action when they can just attack with 3 shortswords instead of 2 unarmed strikes. I think there needs to be a trade-off so TWF is not the default way to play.
What the Two-Weapon Fighting Style does now:
When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you only suffer a -5 penalty to attack rolls you make with your off-hand melee attacks.
What the Dual Wielder feat does now:
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.
- When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can make one additional attack as a bonus action with your off-hand weapon.
Keep in mind that bonus action is still with a -5 penalty.
So running some calculations on how this compares to something like Polearm Master, we'll look at a level 11 Fighter.
According to the DMG, the average monster at 11th level has 17 AC. So we're going to use that as our base.
At 11th level, while Two-Weapon Fighting, against 17 AC, it's likely at least 2 of your main-hand attacks will hit. I'm going to round here because I am the dumb. Numbers here.
So now we're sitting at 19 (2d8+10) since you're 70% likely to hit at least twice.
With two off-hand attacks at -5 each, you're most likely only going to hit with one. Numbers here.
So that brings us to 28.5 (3d8+15) damage per round.
At 11th level, a Fighter using a halberd with Polearm Master, you're probably going to hit with at least 2, and you've got an almost 50/50 shot at 3. Numbers here.
Meaning you're going to be somewhere in the ballpark of 21 (2d10+10) or 31.5 (3d10+15).
To me, that looks fine. Because PAM+GWM is still a great combination, and this gives two-weapon fighting a slightly "safer" way to gain extra damage albeit at the cost of being a bit more technical. It also opens up TWF to working with more bonus action features.
"This is too complicated for 5E"
It's no more complicated than how PAM+Sentinel+GWM all interact with each other.
"Dual-wielding would be too good at lower levels"
-5 hurts a lot more at level 5 than it does at level 11. See here.
"Wow Hunter's Mark/Hex/Hexblade's Curse so op now"
I mean you're still taking a -5 hit with your off-hand attacks, and the only bonus is that you're getting a single additional attack 1 round earlier. If you want to run the calculations of those features + this homebrew TWF, and compare to something like PAM+GWM, go ahead.
"Wow you want to give Fighters SIX attacks??"
Well they can already have 5 attacks with zero downsides, so I don't think giving them 6 with penalties on two of them is that bad.
So all of that being said, what do you all think?
- Dual Wielding in 5e
- Dual Wielding Hand Crossbows: Definitive discussion thread
- Zealot Barbarian / Echo Knight Fighter echo damage calculation
More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "My alternative take on dual-wielding." specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
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