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I've got a character with the Duelist fighting style that fights with a rapier while keeping my other hand free. I also have a dagger sheathed.

The way I see it, I can perform a regular attack with the rapier (and get +2 damage from Duelist), then as a free action I can draw my dagger and make a bonus action attack with it. At the beginning of my next turn I've got both hands occupied, so in order to get the Duelist bonus I just sheathe my dagger.

But my DM says that I can't attack with my other hand free and then draw a dagger before the bonus action, meaning that if I draw a weapon, I do it as part of my regular attack (therefore losing +2 damage since I got a dagger in off hand).

The rules don't seem to clarify this problem so; can I draw my second weapon before the bonus action attack but after the first initial attack?

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Do you also have the Dual-Wielder feat? If so, that'd be good to include, as the rapier in your example isn't light so requires the feat to incorporate into a two-weapon turn. If not, I'd suggest you edit the question to pretend it were a shortsword, which is light. Right now the answers you're getting look a little muddied by this incongruity. – nitsua60 Jan 12 at 16:07
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I've modified the title to better reflect what I think your question is. Feel free to roll that back if you disagree. Also, welcome to the RPG Stack Exchange! – Premier Bromanov Jan 12 at 22:56
up vote 23 down vote accepted

No, you cannot draw your dagger and attack with it while retaining your Duelist feature

But you can draw your dagger as part of an attack and then use it.

The core argument behind this answer is that you can only attack as a bonus action with your offhand weapon when you use your action to attack.

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. (Basic Rules, p. 74 / PHB. p.195)

You don't have this bonus action otherwise.

You can take a bonus action only when a special ability, spell, or other feature of the game states that you can do something as a bonus action. You otherwise don’t have a bonus action to take. (Basic Rules p. 69)

You can draw your weapon as part of an attack...

You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during either your move or your action. For example, you could open a door during your move as you stride toward a foe, or you could draw your weapon as part of the same action you use to attack. (PHB p. 190)

...but that would remove your +2 bonus

When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon. (Basic Rules, p. 25)

So, here is what you are trying to do.

  1. You declare an attack. (optional draw your dagger)

  2. You can use Two-Weapon Fighting to attack with a weapon that is already in your hand. You can subvert this by drawing your weapon as part of your aforementioned attack declaration.

  3. Since you now have another weapon in your hand, you lose the Duelist feature of +2 damage.

If you forgo drawing your dagger, you are not allowed a second attack since the dagger is not in your hand during your attack action. It's either one or the other, you cannot combine two-weapon fighting and duelist in the same attack action. You can dual wield and drop your dagger as a free action before you attack with it to retain your Duelist bonus for the next turn (turn start, attack with no bonus, attack with dagger, turn end, turn start, drop dagger, attack with bonus)

If you need a logical reason for why this has to be, you can think of a duelist as sort of "fencing" with his body turned to the side, putting all his focus on the one weapon. Dual Wielding is less precise and doesn't allow your character to focus on the one attack, but spreads his focus out over two weapons.

One final note, you cannot use your Rapier for Two-weapon fighting because it does not have the light attribute, unless you have the Dual Wielder feat.

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I think this answer is solid RAW. The "rule of cool" if the Fighter is using a light weapon with duelist might be allow a one time/desperation "dagger attack" as a last gasp. This would require that the free action be to drop the dagger if the desire to return the duelist remains on the next round -- more ruling, not really rules. What I like about your KISS argument is that if you are a Duelist, you aren't Two Weapon Fighting, nor Dual Wielding. – KorvinStarmast Jan 12 at 18:06
    
I would certainly allow you to hold the dagger at all times but drop it whenever you want the +2 damage. – Premier Bromanov Jan 12 at 18:14
    
My only issue with this solid reply is that the question involves the use of a rapier, which voids the two weapon fighting consideration as it isn't a light weapon. – KorvinStarmast Jan 12 at 20:47
    
If the player throws the dagger as the first attack they would get to add the +2 to the second since they now only have 1 weapon. The ability doesn't say anything about attacking, only when dealing damage. – yinzanat Jan 12 at 20:59
    
@yinzanat you can't throw it until you've made an attack with the main hand, since attacking with the dagger is a bonus action that is not part of the main action. Action: Attack with sword, Bonus Action: throw dagger. So no bonus to damage. Your DM might say otherwise – Premier Bromanov Jan 12 at 22:23

TL:DR; Your DM is right, since you don't have a bonus action available.

Rules don't clarify that also (or we're just missing something). So who is right?

You are both missing something (or you forgot to add it to your question).

  1. Bonus Actions

    Where did you get the bonus action? Per your question, you don't have a bonus action.
    Bonus Actions (Basic Rules p. 69)

    You can take a bonus action only when a special ability, spell, or other feature of the game states that you can do something as a bonus action. You otherwise don’t have a bonus action to take. You can take only one bonus action on your turn, so you must choose which bonus action to use when you have more than one available. You choose when to take a bonus action during your turn, unless the bonus action’s timing is specified, and anything that deprives you of your ability to take actions also prevents you from taking a bonus action.

    Simply fighting with the Dueling Fighting Style does not grant a bonus action.

    • Note: "free action" is based on "interact with objects" under "Other Activity On Your Turn" (p.70 Basic Rules / PHB p. 190).
  2. Dueling

    When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon. (Basic Rules, p. 25)

    If you used an Action Surge then you can use an action to attack a second time (why use the dagger? why not uses the rapier?)and do this once before you need a short rest to recharge it. That isn't a bonus action, it is a second action. But if you'd rather use the dagger, then a free action to draw it and then attack with it (perhaps it is has poison on it?) would be a valid use of action surge, if not the most potentially damaging.

    Action Surge

    Starting at 2nd level, you can push yourself beyond your normal limits for a moment. On your turn, you can take one additional action on top of your regular action and a possible bonus action. Once you use this feature, you must finish a short or long rest before you can use it again. Starting at 17th level, you can use it twice before a rest, but only once on the same turn. (Basic Rules, p. 25)

  3. 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. (Basic Rules, p. 74 / PHB. p.195)

    A rapier is not a light weapon (Basic Rules, Weapons Table, p. 46). You can't use Two Weapon fighting with a rapier even if you have enough levels to add another fighting style (Two-Weapon Fighting Style) which would allow the damage bonus for your off-hand weapon. Exception: Dual Wielder Feat.

    If you have the Dual Wielder Feat, then the restriction for Light Weapons Only for Two Weapon Fighting is removed, and you may be eligible for a bonus action with the second attack while wielding the rapier ... though this gets a bit complicated if your begin with the Dueling Fighting Style.

  4. Dual Wielder (Feat)

    •You can use two-weapon fighting even when the one-handed melee weapons you are wielding aren’t light. (PHB p.164)

    If you have the Dual Wielder Feat, then you could argue the case for a bonus action for a second attack at the end of that turn, timed after your "free action" to draw the dagger. But only on that turn in that round(Round 1).

    On the following round, if you don't drop or re-sheath (free action) the dagger, your Duelist fighting style in voided as you now have two weapons in your two hands.

    Your DM may validly rule that you are trying to shoehorn in a two-weapon attack and Dueling fighting style -- a style which specifies the use of one weapon only to get the damage bonus.

    A case can be made that, with the Dual Wielder feat, you could make a one time second attack with a bonus action as the last thing in a single turn (Round 1), and you'd need to drop the dagger or re-sheath it (free action), to have any chance of retaining your Dueling damage bonus on the following turn. (Round 2) That is still open to the DM's ruling.

    I can see the case for the DM arguing "no, Dueling Fighting Style doesn't allow that" and you'd have to wait until the following turn (Round 3, the turn after you re-sheathed or dropped your dagger) to return to Dueling style fighting and its attendant damage bonus.

Your title question, which did not specify rapier and thus could be seen as more general than with a rapier:

  1. Can I draw a weapon before making a bonus action attack?

    You should be able to, once (per the progression laid out under the Dual Wielder feat above) if you start with a light weapon as your main in the first place (Short sword, etc). After that round, you put your Dueling Fighting Style and its damage bonus into jeopardy.

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I would rule "no", on the basis that at the time you attacked with the weapon in the main hand you weren't holding a weapon in your other hand therefore you haven't met the requirement for two-weapon fighting.

My rationale: I believe choices should have meaningful consequences. Choosing Duelling means you are choosing to fight with one weapon. Trying to act like in this question is an attempt to bypass the consequences of the fighting style while still keeping its bonuses. I call shenanigans.

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(Caveat: this answer assumes TWF feat, you can't TWF with the rapier otherwise as it is not a light weapon. The same basic logic applies if you're using a short sword though). (I had made same assumption as Was Eagle, so stole the caveatfrom Wax Eagle...thanks WE!)

Drawing a weapon is considered a free action.

Page 190 PHB:

You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during either your move or your action. For example, you could open a door during your move as you stride toward a foe, or you could draw your weapon as part of the same action you use to attack.

The text states "part of the same action you use to attack." Per your question, your first Action was an Attack Action with your single hand rapier (get dualist bonus.) Your next action is your Bonus Action Attack with your dagger. You are NOW using your free action to draw the dagger and attack (no more +2 damage.) Finally, at the start of your next turn you can sheathe the dagger (free action) and attack with your rapier for the extra +2 damage.

EDIT: Adding an in-response line to Starmast's comment. Anyone can take a bonus action if they have made an attack with a LIGHT melee weapon in one hand if they have a different light melee weapon in their off-hand.

Page 195 of pHB

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.

Anyone can use their bonus action for a Two Weapon Fighting, you just don't get to add your modifier to damage.

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@KorvinStarmast I added my response to my full answer. But unless I"m reading it wrong, anyone who attacks with a Light weapon (not a rapier!) can take a bonus action if they have another light weapon in their off hand.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/73050/… – NautArch Jan 12 at 16:44
    
Got it! Comment removed. – KorvinStarmast Jan 12 at 16:59
    
Of course, you still need a light weapon. Which ain't a rapier. – NautArch Jan 12 at 17:07
    
We are in complete agreement. – KorvinStarmast Jan 12 at 17:15

No, but ...

Two-weapon fighting

When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand [primary weapon], you can use a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon that you’re holding in the other hand [secondary weapon]. (PHB p.195)

The second weapon must be in your other hand when you take the attack action in order to qualify for the Two-weapon fighting bonus action.

However, there is no requirement that the primary weapon must still be in your hand when you make the attack with the secondary weapon. So if you make your attack(s) with the primary weapon and then get rid of it by sheathing/dropping it as part of the attack action or even by throwing it as part of your attack (e.g. dagger, hand axe) the attack with your secondary weapon can benefit from Duellist fighting style.

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