I'm new to D&D, and currently playing as half-elf lvl 5 fighter. I took the "two weapon fighting" and "Dual wielder" feats. My ability scores are:

Str: 8 (-1)
Dex: 16 (+3)
Con: 16 (+3)
Int: 8 (-1)
Wis: 14 (+2)
Cha: 12 (+1)

I have 18 AC when using two weapons, and as weapons I am using two rapiers because they are finesse weapons. I have the battle master archetype, and currently I have Pushing attack, Goading attack and Trip attack.

At level 5 I have noticed that my attacks are not so strong as, say, our paladin's attacks. He deals 40-50 damage each turn. Our archer (ranger) deals like 30 dmg each turn. But I deal like 25 damage in a turn, even if I use my Action Surge.

Is this just how dual fighters work or is this me doing something wrong (either in terms of calculating how things add up or in terms of the choices I made when building the character)?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ How many encounters are you having per adventure day? That will have an impact on how classes with bursty damage compare to those with always on skills. A related question here, in terms of a paladin seeming overpowered. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 11:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ A related question on two weapon fighting, and analysis. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 11:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you have AC? What armor are you using? \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 13:49

6 Answers 6


You are making a few mistakes in your build, and in your analysis

You calculated some things wrong, and also your character is not optimally built.


You have compared your average damage with the nova damage of the Paladin. A 5th level Paladin cannot do 40-50 damage on each of his turns; only when he decides to spend a spell slot on Divine Smite. This is a finite resource, and he has only 6 of those on level 5.
If he uses Great Weapon Master, it greatly decreases his hit chance, and yet you only compared the rounds when you both hit with every attack. This distorts the calculation.


Fighting Style
Dual Wielding is a bit ahead of any other style before level 5, but quickly falls behind Great Weapons from level 5 in raw damage. As a half-elf you could have put your Ability Score Increase and 15 in Str instead of Dex, making Great Weapons viable for you too.
With the Shield Master feat, even Dueling is ahead of Two-Weapon Fighting in DPR, while greatly improving your survivability, and usefulness for your party.

Feat Selection
Dual Wielder is weaker than an ASI, especially if you are building with Dex as your primary ability score. A +2 Dex to would give you the same average damage increase (1d6+4 = 1d8+3), the same AC increase, but would also increase your to-hit chance. Besides this, it improves both your Stealth and your Initiative.

Keeping up

Multiclassing can help, but not much.

Taking 1 level of Warlock for Hex is problematic with your Cha, but 2 levels of Ranger for Hunter's Mark would work. You could get a lot of mileage out of +1d6 on all your hits, but moving the spell to the next target is a bonus action, just like your off-hand attack. So the faster you kill the enemies, the less you can use the spell. At least with your Con save it is hard to end your concentration.

Taking levels in Rogue is a better idea, especially once you have the Riposte maneuver. Sneak Attack can trigger once per turn, so you can use it with your Riposte.

Note that everything listed here could be done with a Duelist, just better.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The PC has 8 Str, I don't see how Great Weapons could be viable for him, unless I'm misunderstanding what you mean. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 2:17
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @daze413 he could just switch Dex and Str, as half-elves have flexible attributes \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 5:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @daze413, I meant the second. He asked what he did wrong, picking two-weapon fighting is one of them, very much in scope of the question \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 7:07
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I suppose it's not in the body of the question, but the title does say "... as a dual-wielding finesse fighter". I just don't think saying that the OP made a mistake in choosing the specific fighting style (which we need him to specify, by the way, in order to narrow the scope of the question) he prefers. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 1:17
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @daze43 Good point, the OP seems to be wanting to get into a DPR contest, but hasn't optimized for DPR. Andras answer points out why that is, so maybe there is a bit of XY problem here? There are some tools for helping out the finesses/dex fighter, which Andras mentions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 16:36

Be careful of how you draw your comparisons. (And wait for level 6)

Your two weapon fighting is always "on" while a Paladin's spells (and a Ranger's spells) are not.

  1. If you have one or two encounters per adventuring day, after which the Paladin's or the Ranger's spells refresh, the difference between your "average damage per round(DPR)" and theirs (since they both have a more pronounced "Nova" based on spells) is pronounced.

  2. If you have adventure days in the "as designed" frequency of ~6 encounters and two short rests, the advantage the Smites offer for Paladin nova damage reduce somewhat. For some fights you'll still be "on" and the Paladin is back to normal damage output.

    I will make a comparison to the Paladin. Feel free to run the numbers versus a Ranger at 5th level using Hunters Mark.

    A note on Action Surge: with two short rests (longer adventuring day) you regenerate two action surges which each provides a single round "nova" of 2 attacks. (Your max "nova" is three per notional adventure day). The problem is, all of this is contingent upon a robust adventure day, which doesn't always happen.

Let's examine a slightly better build first

Had you built your half-elf (using a 27 point buy perPHB) an initial buy of
13, 15, 15, 10, 10, 8 after half elf bonuses yields
13, 16, 16, 10, 10, 10.
Add 2 points to dexterity at 4th level (ASI) rather than take a feat.
13, 18, 16, 10, 10, 10
(While this build is not wholly optimized, it's used to illustrate a point).

Studded Leather gives you AC 16; wearing Half Plate give you AC 17. The Studded Leather offers less encumbrance(if that matters) and no penalty to stealth. (If that matters. Sometimes, achieving surprise gives you a mini-nova before initiative is rolled).

A collateral benefit of this finesse/dex build is that when using a long bow, (1d8 + 4 ~ avg 8.5 damage on a hit) your to hit and damage for ranged attacks is pretty good, and is "always on" while you still have arrows; your Paladin comrade will likely be less apt at dealing ranged damage.

  • One level from now, at 6th level, you will get an ASI that the Paladin does not. Should this build choose the dual wielder feat, (to replace the d6 weapons with 1d8 weapons and +1 AC), or boost Dex (+2) to 20, which will increase to hit by one, bump damage to 1d6+5 per, and boost AC by +1? Run the numbers per the illustration below and see how it looks to you.

GWF Paladin has an edge without spells (at level 5)

That Paladin will tend to do more damage, but the differential between you two is not as large as you describe. On the other hand, combat is swingy in D&D 5e. ON days when the paladin can't seem to miss, or keeps getting advantage on attacks, the differential will be more pronounced.

At level 6 you increase your damage potential due to your added ASI or Feat.

  • Assumptions:

    Paladin uses a great sword, you use two 1d6 finesse weapons. The reason for that is the boost to Dexterity with the ASI, rather than the Dual Wielder feat. (Using my example build). Increasing your to hit chance is important, since you can't damage what you don't hit; you will also increase damage per hit (+1).

    When using GWF, there is a re-roll for any 1 or 2 on the first damage roll, which raises the average damage of 2d6 from 7 to 8.33. Each of your 1d6 swords does an average of 3.5, for a total of 7. You get to swing three times, the Paladin twice.

$$ \text{Avg GWF Greatsword}(2\text{d}6) = 2\left( \frac2 6 \times 3.5 + \frac4 6 \times 4.5 = \frac{25} 6 \right) = 8.33 $$

Against equivalent targets, how does damage compare?

  • Case 1. Enemy average AC = 15.

    L5 vs AC 15:
    (You both have +3 (Proficiency), and +4 (Str/Dex) to hit and (+4) to damage (str/dex) due to ASI's moving your max to 18. You each you hit 13/20 times, so the "over time" damage average is .65 times damage per attempted attack.

    \$ \text{GWF:}\; 2\times(2\text{d}6 + 4) = 2\times(12.33 \times .65 + .05\times8.33) = 16.86 \,\text{DPR} \$
    \$ \text{TWF:}\; 3\times(1\text{d}6+ 4) = 3\times(7.5 \times .65 + .05\times3.5) = 15.15 \,\text{DPR} \$

  • Case 2: L5 vs AC 18. (You both have 50-50 chance to hit on an attack).

    \$ \text{GWF:}\; 2\times(2\text{d}6 + 4) = 2\times(12.33 \times .50 + .05\times8.33) = 13.163 \,\text{DPR} \$
    \$ \text{TWF:}\; 3\times(1\text{d}6+ 4) = 3\times(7.5 \times .50 + .05\times3.5) = 11.775 \,\text{DPR} \$

    Your DPR difference is slightly less for the higher armor class (~1.4 versus ~1.7), but average damage output still favors the GWF Paladin. If the armor class of the opponents is less than the illustration, the gap widens between you a bit more.

Let's talk about "Nova" damage

Your "Nova" using action surge: you get one action that can be two melee attacks (lvl 5 Ftr) if you take the attack action. Sadly, for TWF, your action surge does not allow you to take your usual additional bonus action. If there are more short rests, up to three times per "adventure day" you can attack for average of 2×7.5 = 15, but since you are not guaranteed to hit, that averages out to either 2×3.925 = 7.85 (vs AC 18) or 2×5.05=10.1 (vs AC 15). Between 23–30 average "extra" damage on a full day.

The Paladin's Nova (Divine Smite), even using only first level spell slots, is only effective on a hit, but when he hits it's 2d8 for an average of 9 damage. For the same three novas to parallel your three (short rest dependent) extra attacks, he does 27 average damage compared to (23–30). At level five he still has 3 spell slots to play with. (Had the paladin used 2nd level slots for two of those, the average damage is 13.5 each time). On the same adventure day you had, that's an additional 2d8, and two additional 3d8's, before all spells are expended, presuming the Paladin does not cast any other spell. (Like bless, which would boost the whole party's to hit and saves ...). 8d8 worth of Nova damage is 36 average extra nova damage beyond what you can do, but your party then does not benefit from any Paladin spells (like bless, lesser restoration, cure wounds, etc) which may be an issue based on how your party is built and how much damage you all take during a given battle.

Two Weapon Fighting starts to drop off versus GWF at level 5.

This analysis illustrates a different comparison of TWF versus GWF. In tier 1 play (levels 1-4), TWF looks pretty good. Part of the problem for TWF versus the other fighting styles is the dependency on your bonus action, but the other contributor is the limitation of weapon base damage.

As some of the other answers point out, if you are optimizing just for damage and are a fighter, you are generally better off with a strength based build.

What happens at level six? You get an ASI, the Paladin does not.

If you boost dexterity to 20, you hit the AC 18 target 55% of the time, so versus the tougher target we find ...

$$ \text{TWF:}\; 3\times(1\text{d}6+ 5) = 3\times(8.5 \times .55 + .05\times3.5) = 14.55 \,\text{DPR} $$

Versus the AC 15 target we find ...

$$ \text{TWF:}\; 3\times(1\text{d}6+ 5) = 3\times(8.5 \times .70 + .05\times3.5) = 18.375 \,\text{DPR} $$

At level 6, you'll be doing comparable (or a bit more) damage, and consistently more damage against higher AC targets because you hit more frequently. The Paladin's Nova will still be greater than yours. At 6th level he gets another spell slot to use Divine Smite with. (It's a second level slot, so that's another 3d8 / 13.5 nova potential per long rest).

Run the numbers for your current build

Run the illustrated numbers again, at level 6, to include boosting Dexterity by 2 with your ASI. Your entry for weapons damage will be 1d8 + 4, your "to hit" for AC 15 and AC 18 will be .65 and .50 respectively.

And now for the less cheerful news ... if you are competing in DPR with your Paladin friend

If the Paladin took GWF, and has the feat Pole Arm Mastery instead of using his great sword, he'll benefit from another attack (bonus action) due to that feat. His damage potential will change slightly: 1d10, 1d10 (two attacks, with the re-roll average dmg = 6.3) and 1d4 (bonus action attack, with re-roll avg dmg = 3), he re-rolls any 1, or 2 on any of those (3) dice rolls. Any of those attacks succeeding allows Divine Smite while the Paladin has a spell slot available. For adventure days with few encounters, the nova differential makes a paladin quite powerful as compared to pretty much anyone else, not just you. (See this related question). For adventure days with a lot of encounters, where spell conservation becomes an issue, the damage gap closes since your damage ability is always on. The Paladin is still able to burst down targets with high HP until spells run out.


Multi Classing may help

  • Rogue

    Take a minimum of 3 levels in Rogue; either assassin(PHB) or swashbuckler(Sword Coast Adventurers Guide). It adds +2d6 sneak attack damage.

    Assassins can sneak attack just about anyone so long they have the higher initiative (and can use poisons)

    Swashbucklers when fighting alone (no ally with 5 feet of him) get sneak attack on anyone within melee range.

    If you are looking for another feat, Martial Adept will increase the number of superiority dice you have.

  • Warlock

    The Hex spell can boost your damage. Whomever you hex receives an extra 1d6 damage per hit and you dual wield.

As levels go up, Dual Wielding has some limitations.

Dual wielding is kind of limited in 5e. Should made a great weapon (2 hander) build, get savage strike ....I think... the feat the lets you roll weapon damage twice and use the better and Great Weapon Master lets you take -5 to hit but +10 to damage.


Retrospective look into your build

Looking back, these are the choices I could find which are not helping toward your goal of optimizing your DPR:

  • Picking Half-Elf - only a +1 in Dex, your primary stat and no other racial benefit. You would have had higher damage output as a Human or Halfling, or to a lesser extent, an Elf.
  • Getting Dual Wielder that early - if you were a Variant Human, you could have picked it as your free feat, which is fine; if you had 20 Dex when you picked the feat, it would have also been fine, but that is not the case. The feat is weaker than a +2 to Dex, comparing the Feat to the ASI, you are trading a 5% increased chance to hit plus higher initiative, for the ability to stow and draw two weapons as a free Interaction, which is not that great.
  • Picking the Battlemaster archetype - This archetype, while it could be used to increase DPR for some builds like Great Weapon Master Fighters, is not as optimal with a fast hitting multi-attacking force such as yourself. The limited number of superiority dice means you cannot apply them to all your attacks, if you use them all in one go (similar to how your paladin is doing with his divine smites), you run out of superiority dice after the first attack of your second turn, then you are effectively just a Fighter without an archetype. Choosing the champion fighter archetype would have been better, as it consistently applies an extended critical range no matter if you are on the first or 8th battle in this adventuring day.

How do you keep up, now?

DISCLAIMER: Even optimized, I don't think you can ever catch up to the paladin in terms of raw damage, if you play a dual wielder. You will always be behind the paladin in damage. Take solace in the fact that you 1) have a higher Dex bonus (applying to initiative, stealth, and a major saving throw), 2) are more flexible in spreading out your damage, i.e. you have less overkill, and 3) probably look cooler.

With luck, you can convince your DM to allow you to change your archetype to Champion. If he won't, then I suppose the below still applies:

As a finesse two-weapon fighter, you have one advantage over other fighters: more attacks. Which, honestly isn't much at higher levels as more ways to get an attack from your bonus action, and Extra Attacks open up.

Given that advantage, you want to make your individual attacks hit harder with bonuses that apply consistently on each attack.

With that, we can discard the rogue as an option for multiclass, their sneak attack only applies once per turn. Following that train of thought, we can discard the paladin, you will hit 83651930 times in one session, and you can only apply a limited number of divine smites to those attacks. We may also discard the hunter ranger for the same reasons, colossus slayer applies only once per turn and Hex is superior to Hunters Mark, in terms of level investment.


Warlock. Yes, give in to those Fey whispers in your head, you want to sacrifice one level to be able to cast Hex, which adds 1d6 necrotic damage on every hit, and since you're going to potentially hit at least 3 times in a turn at this level, that's 3d6 added to your damage, at the cost of a level in fighter.

There are downsides to this, Hex is a concentration spell, and since you're primarily in melee, you're going to get hit a lot of times, which is a bit risky; but you get the spell slot back after a short rest, so that is mitigated a little. Hex also requires a free hand and a bonus action to use, as well as to change targets, which is a bummer. Taking the Warcaster feat will help you with all the above issues.

If only you had had different stats...

If you had focused on str instead of dex as a dual wielder, 2 levels dip in Barbarian is worth it for the synergy of reckless attack + extended critical range of a champion fighte. This would synergize well if you were a half-orc, too.

If you had feasibly more int, say 14 or so, you could dip 2 levels in Wizard for Bladesinger tradition, being a half-elf qualifies you for this.


As both paladins and rangers get the same number of attacks as fighters at level 5, the difference you see must come from them using their spell slots. Paladins can get high burst damage with divine smite, while rangers have a more steady source of damage in hunter's mark.

Note, that spell slots refresh only on a long rest and both classes you compared yourself to get only a few of them. This is where the fighter is different. All your resources refresh with a short rest. During an average adventuring day, you should be able to use them 3 times.

This trend will continue at later levels. Secondary casters will mostly get more and higher level spell slots, while in addition to your per-short-rest resources you also get more extra attacks.

So do not compare yourself to them in the first fight of the day, but in the last.


First things first: character generation issues

Str: 8 (-1) Dex: 16 (+3) Con: 16 (+3) Int: 8 (-1) Wis: 14 (+2) Cha: 12 (+1)
18 AC when using two weapons; two rapiers (finesse weapons); battle master archetype using Pushing attack, Goading attack and Trip attack.

So a +2 to Cha and 2x +1 floating skills due to half-elf racial bonuses. At th Level 2 x 1+ to ability scores. If we subtract from what you have:

Str: 8 (-1) Dex: 16 (+3) Con: 16 (+3) Int: 8 (-1) Wis: 14 (+2) Cha: 12 (+1)

We get your rough starting stats.

Str: 8 (-1) Dex: 14 (+2) Con: 14 (+2) Int: 8 (-1) Wis: 14 (+2) Cha: 10 (0)

Total score = 68;

Stock starting scores (standard array in the PHB): 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.
Total score = 72

Conclusion: You rolled poor starting stats with a -4 total point start, crippling your characters potential. Unless that penalty is from the feat, you may have miscounted. (read later on)
Even if you used the min/max point buy system in the Starter Set, which has 15, 15, 15, 8, 8, 8 Total = 69 points... You are handicapped by 1 point.

Now on to build issues

Goading attack is useless if the enemy is attacking only you.

Pushing attack is mostly useless as you can grapple and push something without that attack, and most things you would have to push in an emergency have higher strength than you. So it's close to useless.

(Opinion) Battle master is for experienced players only. It has overall the worst stat line up of the fighter class. Suggestion: you take the Champion Archetype if the DM will let you switch.

I figure you have Fighting style Defense and Chain mail, and the ""Feat""Dual wielder for AC of 18. I see nothing wrong there. (You might have half plate? It would be helpful if you'd have put that in the question).

You only have 16 in DEX. If you are using Finesse weapons you need all the dexterity that you can get and Studded leather armor.
Just because you are a fighter, does not mean that the best choice is always the heavier armor.

Which brings up the next point: with an 8 (-1) on Strength you suffer from disadvantage on all stealth checks as well as -10 to movement speed because the minimum strength for chain mail is 13. Depending upon the DM's ruling, you being so weak, you may also suffer from disadvantage on armor proficiency as you lack the Strength to be proficient (despite your class) causing disadvantage on any ability check, saving throw, or attack roll that involves Strength or Dexterity (and you can't cast spells).

So in short. You started off with poor stat roles. You used armor your character can hardly pick up, let alone use. You chose a half elf that only provides +2 to a mostly useless stat (Charisma) for what you want to do (Combat). Picked poor skills in the Archetype you chose. (Based around strength that you don't have). You picked (arguably) the weakest Martial Archetype "Battle master." You failed to max out DEX when you decided to focus on finesse weapons.

I took the "two weapon fighting" and "Dual wielder" feats.

Not quite: you took the "Dual wielder" ---feat--- Singular and chose the "two weapon fighting" Fighting style from the Fighter class choices. This means that you cannot have Defense fighting style which means you actually have 17 AC. (Or did you pic up some half plate?)

You have succeeded in creating the most badly optimized Fighter I have ever seen. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ (All info is referenced from the PHB, pages 12, 13, 71, 72, 73, 74, 144, 145, 149, 165)

(Recommend) For newbie warrior player: keep it simple.

Human; +1 all stats total +6 = biggest stat boost to any race.
You can get darkvision and stuff from magic items later.

Roll stats that equal or surpass 72 points or trash character and start over... or whatever you chose. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
In any case you need

(Str: 13 <--MINIMUM!(+1) Should be best if using heavy armor and STR weapons. Dex: 15 (+2) Should be best stat if using finesse weapons and light armor. Con: 14 (+2) 3rd most important stat Int: 10 (0) 5th priority) Fighters are not supposed to think much 10 is average human, but thinking IS needed from time to time. Wis: 12 (+1) 4th priority stat)To resist mind control and sense when danger is near. Cha: 8 (-1) 6th priority) Junk stat. Unless you plan on talking a lot and BS through stuff, forget this stat.

Chose skills Acrobatics and Athletics so you can do things physically.

If you put highest stat in DEX then:
Take equipment option b. Leather armor, Long bow and 20 arrows.
So you have armor and a ranged weapon to stay out of direct combat if you have to and still be able to contribute. Go for Studded leather armor soon after. (Do so ASAP!) Remember...Leather and studded leather you can add DEX bonus to AC.

Then get a martial weapon (Rapier) and a shield for a +2 AC
Take "Fighting Style" "Defense" +1 AC

DEX of 16 (+3) Studded leather armor, shield "Fighting Style" "Defense" = 18AC all before LV2 and you lose 41 Lbs of stuff to carry around.

Second Wind
Action Surge

Martial Archetype = Champion which provides a neat feature at level 3: Improved Critical. Now you do double damage with CRITs when you roll a 19 OR a 20.

LV5 +2 to stat DEX 16+2=18 (+4) AC19.

You now crit more and have an extra +1 AC. You are welcome. :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Please don't use expletives in posts here. I suggest you also check out our formatting help. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 14:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Half plate does not require any Str, and would give him this AC \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 15:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a comment on the stat scores: with 27 point buy. 15, 15, 14, 8, 8, 10 . 2 +1's from half elf and +2 charisma. This arrives at Str: 8 (-1) Dex: 16 (+3) Con: 16 (+3) Int: 8 (-1) Wis: 14 (+2) Cha: 12 (+1) if the person chose +2 char with the ASI. So it is a possible point buy choice, if sub optimal. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 18:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Best point buy I could find was 13,13,13,13,13,10. Total score = 75. 2 +1's from half elf and +2 charisma. This arrives at Str: 13 (+1) Dex: 14 (+2) Con: 14 (+2) Int: 13 (+1) Wis: 13 (+1) Cha: 12 (+1) Add the +2 to Dex from LV4. This arrives at Str: 13 (+1) Dex: 16 (+3) Con: 14 (+2) Int: 13 (+1) Wis: 13 (+1) Cha: 12 (+1) This is about as Optimal as I can find. Total score = 81 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 21:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mythril Breastplate or chain shirt solves that too without sacrificing Stat gain for Feats. Only brought up the leather and studded leather as an intermediate step. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 3:35

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