The SRD states on Two-Weapon Fighting:

If you wield a second weapon in your off hand, you can get one extra attack per round with that weapon.

And then goes on to address:

  • actually wielding a second weapon,
  • using a double weapon,
  • using throw weapons,
  • and using a shield.

Which fails to account, at the very least, for the case of Unarmed Attacks or attacks with Spiked Gauntlets, prompting me to wonder whether other special cases could also have been missed.

Other sections never mention a second weapon; for example, the Combat section about Off-Hand damage only states:

When you deal damage with a weapon in your off hand, you add only ½ your Strength bonus.

As a result, I am wondering: could a character wield the same weapon alternatively with his main-hand and off-hand, taking the appropriate penalties for attacking with both hands?

As one might guess, the principal motivation here would be saving costs.

Note: in case switching your grip/hand would NOT be a Free Action, consider the case of a Bloodstorm Blade's Lightning Ricochet ability which states "Any time you make a ranged attack with a thrown weapon on your turn, the weapon immediately returns to you, and you can catch it as a free action"; not specifying that the character should catch it with same hand which threw it. Could such a character use Two-Weapon Fighting with a single weapon?

  • \$\begingroup\$ While there's definitely a rules gap in the (poor) phrasing of two-weapon fighting regarding unarmed strikes and other weapons that needn't be wielded (a term the game never defines anyway), the whole second weapon thing is actually mentioned, making me honestly curious: Must a rule be mentioned multiple times for the rule to apply? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 19:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ you may want to consider the rules-as-written tag; this question seems like the sort of thing that gets me in trouble with some groups, and that tag helps with that. It sounds like you are asking about what the rules say in absence of what people want them to say, here, so that might help you, too. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 22:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Rules Compendium lists "switch hands with an item" as move action. So this can only possibly apply to weapons with special abilities. \$\endgroup\$
    – Giorin
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 1:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Giorin Make that an answer! (You might also be interested in this question.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 2:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener the question is clearly about that sort of thing. The effect I'm describing is not and has never been "magical constraint", but rather a social effect that repells persons from some communities likely to react poorly to questions on these subject matters (e.g. by downvoting the question and all reasonable answers, posting really low quality frame challenges, posting annoying and unhelpful comments about how the playstyle of the question is wrong and should be punished with violence) and attracts experts able to actually address the subject matter (e.g. by answering/vote well) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 21:20

2 Answers 2


It’s implicit, or possibly not even implicit, but I have always understood two-weapon fighting as simultaneous attacks. You cannot switch hands between them, or catch your weapon with a different hand, or whatever, because you have to attack with both weapons at the same time in order to use two-weapon fighting for extra attacks.

But this isn’t actually stated explicitly anywhere that I am aware of. Instead, we have to see it in the initial condition for two-weapon fighting: “If you wield a second weapon in your off hand,” which you cannot meet if you only have one weapon. So even if you swap hands or whatever, with only one weapon you could not do this. But you could get around it by having another weapon, i.e. unarmed strike or spiked gauntlet, to “count” and then swap hands to use the real weapon for all the attacks—which I wouldn’t allow because I would rule that the attacks have to be simultaneous.

(Also, for the record, spiked armor gets around the statement in the general two-weapon fighting section about using another hand by explicitly giving itself an exception to that rule in its description, where it talks about counting as offhand. The general rules don’t list this exception because it is an exception—the whole point of an exception-based ruleset like 3.5 is to allow you to avoid having to cover all the exceptions in the original general rules. And unarmed strikes are weapons that you wield, so wielding one in the offhand isn’t a problem—though the rules do get kind of wonky about how many unarmed strike “weapons” a character has and using two-weapon fighting with unarmed strike for both attacks is a bit unclear.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan: I am afraid I do not find the argument about implicitness being very compelling: I do not see how one would strike with both ends of a double-weapon simultaneously. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthieuM. Fair enough; I suppose I mean “in a single, fluid maneuver,” but ultimately double weapons are kind of nonsense anyway. At any rate, I honestly don’t know what you want from an answer here. Is it a quotation of an explicit rule on this one way or the other? It doesn’t exist. Do you therefore want an admission of the lack of such an explicit rule, and from that the suggestion that you should be able to make all your two-weapon fighting attacks with a single weapon? You won’t get that either, because you shouldn’t. So I don’t know what it is you are looking for. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 0:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess I am naively waiting for a clear ruling. Giorin's find in the Rule Compendium about the cost of switching hand (a Move Action) makes it impossible to use a single weapon in melee alternatively, and cleanly shuts down that avenue (I wish they would make it an answer). If something similar could be found about thrown weapons, then all loose ends would be tied. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 7:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthieuM. Giorin’s find isn’t an answer, though. It’s entirely appropriate to mention in a comment—your question has an error in it. But regardless of whether or not you can do it that way, you won’t ever find anything saying you can’t do it any way. They didn’t spell two-weapon fighting out for us; as with a lot of core concepts, they figured it was self-explanatory which was probably mostly fair enough except, as usual, there are corner cases. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 14:30


You do need a second weapon to employ two-weapon fighting, but the attacks do not need to be made with alternating hands. The second attack must be made with the off-hand, but the first attack can be made with either hand, subject to appropriate penalties. When you attack twice with your off hand rather than employing your primary hand, be aware that you incur the two weapon fighting off-hand penalty on attack rolls on only the second attack, yet incur the off-hand penalty to damage on both attacks. This is probably because the rules very much don't expect you to do that. You do take a -4 penalty to hit to the first attack for using your off hand, like normal, though.

Since you must wield two weapons (or have something special that bypasses that requirement, like a double weapon) to make use of two-weapon fighting, and the off-hand weapon must be the one to make the extra attack, passing a weapon between hands isn't a very viable option. It does work for thrown weapons that can return to a different hand, though, as a special case, though you need to use at least two attacks before you can benefit from Two-Weapon Fighting on any given round in that case.

Basically, if you play strictly by the rules as written, you can do your melee two-weapon fighting at -4/-10 without the feat or light weapons, or -4/-8 with just a light weapon, or -4/-4 with just the feat, or -4/-2 with the feat and a light weapon, with the bonus of using your off-hand weapon twice rather than two separate weapons once each.

(Note that the action cost of passing weapons is weird and controversial. The rules don't actually say anything about it, but Rules Comprendium lists it as a move action, while an earlier Rules of the Game article says switching from one to two hands and vice versa are free actions, which would make passing possible as a free action as well. Pathfinder codifies the Rules of the Game version into its actual rules, while the Rules Comprendium, while not an authoritative source, is probably more authoritative than a Rules of the Game article for 3.5, in general. This doesn't matter because passing weapons doesn't work unless you are throwing weapons, in which case it only works if you get the weapon back and if you get it back the whole passing weapons thing is overriden by the rules for your method of retrieval, but it is a problem should you find an edge case where it'd come up)

Supporting text:

Making an attack is a standard action.

Melee Attacks
With a normal melee weapon, you can strike any opponent within 5 feet. (Opponents within 5 feet are considered adjacent to you.) Some melee weapons have reach, as indicated in their descriptions. With a typical reach weapon, you can strike opponents 10 feet away, but you can’t strike adjacent foes (those within 5 feet).

These rules, from the actions in combat section, are included to illustrate that regular attacks need not be made with one's dominant hand. None of them mention handedness, and they clearly allow you to attack with normal melee weapons you wield.

Normal: If you wield a second weapon in your off hand, you can get one extra attack per round with that weapon. When fighting in this way you suffer a –6 penalty with your regular attack or attacks with your primary hand and a –10 penalty to the attack with your off hand. If your off-hand weapon is light the penalties are reduced by 2 each. (An unarmed strike is always considered light.)

This section, from the Two-Weapon Fighting feat, makes it clear that the restrictions are all on the second attack, which must be made with a second weapon wielded in one's off hand. The same section is repeated nearly identically in the actual two-weapon fighting rules:

If you wield a second weapon in your off hand, you can get one extra attack per round with that weapon. You suffer a –6 penalty with your regular attack or attacks with your primary hand and a –10 penalty to the attack with your off hand when you fight this way.

This goes on to clarify that the same is true for double weapons:

You can use a double weapon to make an extra attack with the off-hand end of the weapon as if you were fighting with two weapons.

But not for thrown weapons:

The same rules apply when you throw a weapon from each hand.

Thrown weapons require you to actually throw a weapon from each hand, instead of wielding them, which generally requires you to have at least two attacks before getting the bonus from Two-Weapon Fighting, and to make at least one of them with your primary hand and another with each off hand. If you only have one hand you just need the one attack (since that then fulfills the 'each hand' requirement), but there is only one race with exactly one arm that I'm aware of. A ravid with Quick Draw or a returning weapon could potentailly make use of two-weapon fighting with its only hand, but that's about it.

Lastly, on page 311 of the 3.5 Player's Handbook, under the entry for 'off-hand', it states:

off hand:
A character's weaker or less dexterous hand (usually the left). An attack made with the off hand incurs a -4 penalty on the attack roll. In addition, only one-half of a character's Strength bonus may be added to damage dealt with a weapon held in the off hand.


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