A situation came up in our last session of D&D 5e where another character wanted to use a single-handed weapon after using a two handed weapon attack.

She made the attack with a two handed weapon on one turn and wanted to draw her single handed weapon and attack with that on the next turn. She didn't want to drop the two handed weapon, but wanted to hold it in her off hand and attack with the single handed weapon in her main hand.

The Storyteller (which is what my group calls the DM) said she had to drop the two-handed weapon.

We argued that she wasn't attacking with it and just keeping it in her off hand as a carry item and the Storyteller wanted us to find a ruling on that specific use, as he was of the understanding that a two-handed weapon required two hands at all times.

Where can we find such rulings? Is there one?

  • Apologies, I'm new to this site and the system and used suggested tags. There were no suggestions for two-handed-weapons. I did add a clarification on the original posting section. – Dragon-Fury-X01 Nov 8 at 17:11
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    @Dragon-Fury-X01 Thank you for clarifying! No need to apologize at all, the site has a bit of a learning curve and we all went through it :) I have edited to make your additions flow better in your question, feel free to tweak them if I messed anything up. – Rubiksmoose Nov 8 at 17:17
  • @rubiksmoose: Thank you, that format works for me and does indeed clarify what I'm trying to say. – Dragon-Fury-X01 Nov 8 at 17:18
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    Related to Holding a longbow (or other 2H weapon) and attacking with a shortsword (or other 1H weapon)? (but not the same question (despite that title), since this is asking about something already known in that question, and that question is asking about a particular action sequence irrelevant to this question). – SevenSidedDie Nov 8 at 17:21
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    @Pyrotechnical Beware that [rules-as-written] only correctly applies to a very narrow, specific set of rules questions. It doesn’t apply to this kind. – SevenSidedDie Nov 8 at 17:56

Yes, she can hold a two-handed weapon in one hand while she attacks with the one-handed weapon

The two-handed feature for weapons says:

Two-Handed. This weapon requires two hands to use.

However there is errata to the PHB which says:

Two-Handed (p. 147). This property is relevant only when you attack with the weapon, not when you simply hold it.

Thus, a two-handed weapon takes two hands only to use, but not to hold.

There are two equally valid sequences of actions they can use to achieve this:

  1. Attack with two-handed weapon (1 action)

    Next turn:

  2. Release one hand from two-handed weapon (non-action)

  3. Draw and attack with one-handed weapon (1 action)

Alternatively:

  1. Attack with two-handed weapon (1 action)
  2. Release one hand from two-handed weapon (non-action)
  3. Draw one-handed weapon (free object interaction)

    Next turn:

  4. Attack with one-handed weapon (1 action)

Either way this sequence is completely allowed by the rules.

Side Note: There is no such thing as "main" or "off" hands in 5e mechanically (in case you were unaware). So it doesn't matter which hand holds the weapon and which hand attacks.

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    Is there any need to release the hand from the two handed weapon on the turn prior? That would limit you from making efficient attacks of opportunity, for example. – Winterborne Nov 8 at 21:34
  • @Winterborne: Nope, there's no need at all, good point. I'll make that clear. – Rubiksmoose Nov 8 at 21:58

The closest ruling that comes to mind is the encumbrance ruling, specifically on page 176 of the PHB:

Carrying Capacity. Your carrying capacity is your Strength score multiplied by 15, This is the weight (in pounds) that you can carry, which is high enough that most characters don't usually have to worry about it.

Push, Drag, or Lift. You can push drag or lift [emphasis mine] a weight in pounds up to twice your carrying capacity (or 30 times your Strength score)...

Given the above and that the heaviest melee weapon in the PHB, the pike, weighs only 18 pounds, per RAW, the character in question can, in fact, lift, drag, carry, or otherwise grip the idle weapon in one hand without dropping it. (Barring any crazy amounts of gear already shouldered by the character or a ridiculously low strength score).

It's also worth noting the rules on two handed weapons (PHB p. 147) and that you only need two hands on it to use it. Nothing is mentioned about a character being unable hold it in one hand or to let it hang or drag.

Two-Handed. This weapon requires two hands to use [emphasis mine].

Assuming that the character had an extra attack to make, is trying to draw the one handed weapon after swinging the two hander, and is not trying to manipulate the Two-Weapon Fighting rules, everything is doable.

I personally disagree with the decision made by the ST/GM/DM in this situation, but they are the one running the game and it is their call. I would politely bring the above rules to their attention and make your case.

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    Welcome to RPG.SE! You may be interested in taking our tour to learn more about us. We're still trying to nail down exactly what OP is asking here, but the rules around encumbrance really aren't the issue here. You can also look at this question to help guide you on what it means to use vs hold a two-handed weapon. – NautArch Nov 8 at 16:32

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