The Dungeon Coach is one of the best D&D 5e homebrewers out there, in my opinion, and in this video he talks about the inferior damage output of two weapon fighting (aka dual-wielding) in 5e, vs. two-handed weapon fighters, and why he feels that’s unfair. After all, both these offensive styles require using both hands and sacrificing the use of a shield.
I am not so down on two weapon fighting in general, as the Dungeon Coach. While the overall damage output in hit points is not as good as with great weapon fighting, the ability to split your damage between multiple opponents is underrated.
With dual wielding, if I need to do 4 hp to kill off a badly injured opponent, I can do that and still take my next attack elsewhere. The two-handed weapon fighter has to waste a bunch of damage just to kill that near dead foe and has one less attack than the dual wielder to deal damage that counts to a new opponent. In short, more damage gets wasted when you deal less, more powerful attacks (note: the Great Weapon Master feat does fix this scenario for two-handed weapon users, as reducing an opponent to 0 hit points grants a bonus action attack… however, you have to take the feat to get that ability of course).
Some other advantages of two weapon fighting is that it gives you an extra chance to score a critical hit each round, you can potentially wield weapons with different properties (having a hand-axe or dagger with the thrown property can come in handy), and if you have access to the Two-Weapon Fighting Style then, of course, you can apply your damage modifier an additional time per round vs. the two-handed weapon user (again certain feats, like Polearm Master enable you to do that with a two-handed weapon, but it’s not built into the style).
Having an extra attack each round, also means you use an additional divine smite (excuse me while I puke!) or superiority die per round, or apply your rage damage bonus again if you’re playing a barbarian.
Still, I think there’s a general consensus amongst D&D players that two weapon fighting could use a little boost. The Dungeon Coach suggests that the secondary weapon attack should simply be part of the same action as the primary weapon attack, and shouldn’t require expending a bonus action. I’m almost on board, but then he goes too far for me by saying that when Extra Attack comes online, he’s going to keep granting an additional offhand swing for every primary attack. When combined with Action Surge, things start to get a bit silly for my liking! A fighter could be making 8 attacks a round at level 5, using their Action Surge! (It’s not fully explained in this particularly video, but it seems that the Dungeon Coach has other homebrew rules that brings this all into balance, including 1.5 x Str modifier for two-handed weapon users and reducing fighter’s number of attacks in general).
So, I won’t go as far as the Dungeon Coach with my own homebrew fix, but I will lean into the idea of reducing the load on the two weapon fighters’ action economy (…at least on one condition!).
Two-Weapon Fighting (Hipster Fix)
Ok, so here’s my remix of the rules given on p.195 of the Player’s Handbook:
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.
I feel like this fix is good news for everyone without getting overpowered. The two-weapon fighter doesn’t get any more attacks a round, but now when they action surge their offhand attack is also doubled (giving them a total of 6 attacks instead of 5, vs. the 4 attacks of a two-handed weapon user), and they can keep their bonus action for something else. The rogue (usually considered an underpowered class) gets to use their cunning action more often on account of having their bonus action freed up more often. The barbarian can enter a rage using their bonus action and still attack twice, keeping up with their two-handed weapon users. A ranger can find more synergy with hunter’s mark. The monk gets a much needed boost.
Of course in each case, to avoid expending their bonus action, the character is losing some of the versatility of being able to attack different targets, but that’s kind of the point. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
In my imagination it also makes sense. Swinging a blade at a target you were already focused on feels like it could be done as part of the same action. Attacking a separate target, using your weaker hand, feels like it should require some additional focus and action economy – and with my ruling it does, as then you go back to using a bonus action.
So there we go! What do you think? Convinced? Or not quite… hit the comments section below!
More Martial Fun…
I love a bit of swordplay… here are some other articles I’ve penned about martial mechanics, often featuring some fun new homebrew.