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I am currently GMing a Pathfinder game and the following situation came up: One of my players wanted to have his two-handed weapon held in his off-hand, while having a throwing weapon readied in his main hand. I told him that he was not allowed to do this because he cannot wield a two-handed weapon in one hand, but he technically is not wielding it. This brought up several scenarios which I will go over.

Before I begin, I hold the following to be true: Switching how your hands are used to hold weapons is considered Not an Action, unless doing so would require you to drop a weapon (a free action) or draw a weapon (move action).

The first scenario is moving with the two-handed weapon in the off-hand and a throwing weapon in the main-hand. I house ruled that he must take a non-stacking Medium encumbrance penalty while he is not gripping his two hander with both hands, as the weapon is cumbersome. He countered that a high strength character should be able to hold it without penalty, but I countered that it is the size of the creature holding the weapon and the weapons encumbrance (not its weight) in relation to the ability of the creature to manage it that determines this. A two handed weapon is just too awkward for a medium creature to hold without two hands. My understanding of the rules is that he should not be allowed to move at all unless the weapon is held in two hands or strapped on in some way, but I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. First question: Are there any RAW that specify whether or not moving is possible with a two-handed weapon held in one hand?

The second scenario is the same hand setups as the first, only he is throwing his weapon with his main hand while holding a two-handed weapon in one hand. I told him that he should take two-weapon fighting penalties for his ranged attack. Second question: Are there any RAW that specify whether or not you are allowed to make a ranged attack with a throwing weapon with a two handed weapon held in the off hand? Is it even possible to do that?

Lastly, the Quick Draw feat seems to allow you to switch weapons as a free action, which would reduce the need to try to do something like hold a two hander in one hand to squeeze an extra attack out, or have to options to attack with. It is the same mechanically (not thematically) as the above scenario, but fits into the rules.

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I think the issue here might be 'style' related. You seem to have a more 'simulationist' style, where you want the game to be as close as possible from reality. While it is not bad in itself, and some games are based on that mindset (Rolemaster, Shadowrun before 4E), this is not Pathfinder mindset. Pathfinder has a more 'gamist' mindset, where rules try to be 'balanced' and comprehensive. It is somewhat similar to boardgames: the rules tell you what you can and cannot do, and how close to reality it is is not especially relevant. Both styles are good, but difficult to combine. –  Cristol.GdM Apr 5 '13 at 5:16
It's important to note that Paizo, like Wizards before them, would like to pretend their system is simulationist, because they'd like to get money from simulationist players. The system has claims to simulationism, but they are poorly thought-out, woefully incomplete, and very inconsistent. Mostly, the system itself lies to you about this (and a number of other things). Even some developers at Paizo seem to believe it is a simulationist system. It is not, and runs very poorly for simulationist players who pay much attention. –  KRyan Apr 6 '13 at 14:13
"A two handed weapon is just too awkward for a medium creature to hold without two hands". FYI, historically a big Zweihänder might weigh around 3kg (7lb). Of course this isn't a historical simulation, it's a fantasy game. But the claim that you can't comfortably carry (as opposed to wield) this in your off-hand probably isn't very true. Especially if you hold it in the middle instead of one end, that's much easier on the wrist :-) –  Steve Jessop Jan 16 at 14:27
... as for whether having your left hand on the centre of the blade can realistically be considered having the weapon "readied", requiring only a Not An Action to put your right hand back on the weapon and wield it, take a look at these fellows from Talhoffer en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ms.XIX.17-3_16v.png –  Steve Jessop Jan 16 at 14:43

2 Answers 2

Well, as you were asking from a RAW answer, here is from the FAQ:

Two-Handed Weapons: What kind of action is it to remove your hand from a two-handed weapon or re-grab it with both hands?

Both are free actions. For example, a wizard wielding a quarterstaff can let go of the weapon with one hand as a free action, cast a spell as a standard action, and grasp the weapon again with that hand as a free action; this means the wizard is still able to make attacks of opportunity with the weapon (which requires using two hands).

As with any free action, the GM may decide a reasonable limit to how many times per round you can release and re-grasp the weapon (one release and re-grasp per round is fair).

—Pathfinder Design Team, 03/01/13

Note the lack of penalties when having the two-handed weapon in one hand. Now to answer your questions:

Are there any RAW that specify whether or not moving is possible with a two-handed weapon held in one hand?

Nope, movement is affected mainly by armor. A wizard is able to run with his staff in one hand, and the game makes no difference in RAW between a quarterstaff and a greatsword, they are both considered two-handed weapons.

Are there any RAW that specify whether or not you are allowed to make a ranged attack with a throwing weapon with a two handed weapon held in the off hand? Is it even possible to do that?

Yep, as in above quote. Free action to switch the greatsword to one-hand, throw weapon as a standard action, free action to grab back the greatsword. Quick Draw would be helpful to draw the throwing weapon though.

Also, this question and other sources seem to indicate that Quick Draw can't be used to switch weapons as free actions.

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@Sheph, you are welcome to house rule how you like, but you asked about the RAW. It isn't mentioned explicitly in the rules, so there is no penalty for holding a two-handed weapon in one hand. There are penalties for holding too much weight, but none for how it is distributed. –  starwed Apr 4 '13 at 18:36
@Sheph Actually as RAW, throwing a weapon is a one-handed action, and you are not penalized for whatever you are holding in your other hand. –  Cristol.GdM Apr 4 '13 at 20:10
@Steph You and your player may actually find the game more fun if you don't worry about house ruling it. –  doppelgreener Apr 4 '13 at 22:49
@Sheph Pardon me for being the irrelevant old grognard who brings up real life, but a number of historical fighting methods combined throwing things (usually spears) while holding a large shield in the other hand. Some folks also held a bundle of javelins in one hand and threw them one at a time with the other. A bundle of javelins has to be at least as awkward as a single two-handed weapon, other things being equal. –  tex Apr 5 '13 at 3:48
@Sheph: May only be slightly relevant but by RAW you can hold a one-handed weapon in each hand and not get Two-Weapon penalties. You only get them if you use both for multiple attacks in the same round. As such, holding but not using a two-handed weapon may be considered the same and impose no penalty. –  leokhorn Oct 28 '13 at 9:09

Holding a two-handed weapon in one hand is perfectly fine. You can't wield it, so you're not threatening with it, but there's no problem holding a 2h weapon in one hand. It's routinely done with bows, polearmes, staves, etc. and I'm sure you've personally seen it done a dozen times. It's why bucklers exist for bow people, etc.

You will note the lack of rules to address this in Pathfinder as proof that this is operating as intended. Nothing anywhere says you can't hold/carry a two-handed weapon in one hand, to the limits of your encumbrance. Encumbrance is an abstraction, of course - you are welcome to bug your player by house ruling various restrictions, but IMO "you can't hold a two handed weapon just to carry it in an off hand" is a bad one. Many two-handers (esp. bowmen carry their two-handed weapon in one hand and a torch or something in the other till fights start.

You are welcome to house rule your game based on your own take on "realism" but RAW there is no penalty for any of this and it's legal.

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