Here is my modified version of the Two-Weapon Fighting fighting style.
- Once per attack, when you engage in two-weapon fighting and before rolling, you can take a -5 to hit for that attack. Until the end of this turn, you can apply a +5 to a two-weapon attack against that same target before rolling. If you have multiple +5's against the same target, you can apply however many you want to an attack.
- Add 2 damage to your off-hand attacks.
- You can draw or stow an additional weapon, provided it is one-handed.
Note, all page numbers come from the Player's Handbook unless stayed otherwise and I'm ignoring any Feats or other house rules that could affect this.
I've been playing D&D for a few different characters and noticed that with the melee types (even with those who've invested in it), fighting with two weapons seems to be discouraged by the mechanics past lvl 4. From the various goodies that you have to abstain from(class features, spells, etc), having stagnancy issues, and awkward action economy interactions; Two-Weapon Fighting, as a mechanic, is littered with issues beyond level 3 and these only become more pronounced as you gain levels and multi-class. Specifically, the problems that plague Two-Weapon fighting as a tactic comes from the base mechanics (the style meant for it is a band aid that fails to address any of the fundamental issues this route has) and can be boiled down to the following: the Free interaction, Style stagnation, and opportunity costs.
The Free Interaction
This issue concerns itself with the base mechanics since the style buffs the extra attack the mechanic gives. Here, a character who has made an investment in fighting with 2 weapons by taking the Two-Weapon Fighting Style has to have (by RAW at least) a feat (pg 165, Dual Wielder) or always have one weapon drawn in order to attack with both on their first turn of combat. Otherwise, they have to attack with one weapon, use their action to draw their 2nd weapon (pg 130), do a utility action (pg 192, Actions in Combat) or wait until their next turn to use the free interaction(pg 190, Other Activities On Your Turn). Admittedly, this is pretty easy to get around and can be a moot point, but deserves pointing out because it sucks when the limelight happens to find it and it just feels weird when you think about it.
What this refers to is that the Two-Weapon Fighting Style will only ever affect one thing, the damage of a single attack (regardless of what they do) because that is all the base mechanics of Two-weapon fighting allows. Only one other style has to deal with a similar type of restriction, Protection. This ends up hurting the Two-weapon folks as they level. The resulting progression of their number of attacks, when compared to other's attack count, is that at lv 1-3 they get 100% of the attacks of everyone else, lv 4-10 it becomes 50% to most other melee characters. For fighters, at lv 11 this become a 33% difference and lv 20 the 'advantage' of the mechanic and thus getting a benefit from this style is a buff to a measly 20% over what your competition can do. That's actually kinda depressing now that I worked that out :/. All of which makes the Two-weapon Style feel even more insignificant when you look at how other styles mesh with their abilities and associated mechanics while your abilities and the Two-Weapon mechanics don't.
The opportunity cost issue stems from the fact that in order to benefit from the Two-Weapon Fighting Style, you have to use your bonus action to get a off-hand attack going. When you look at the other Styles, only Protection is involved with something other than an attack action in the action economy, it using your reaction. The rest require nothing but remembering to apply their affect to one of the most used rolls in the game and those typically passively scale up by affecting an increased number of rolls. This makes getting any benefit from the Two-Weapon style in direct contest with certain spells (ex Hex), class features (ex a battle master's maneuvers, Eldritch Knight's war magic,etc), and any other action that would invalidate you being able to do an off-hand attack (and this isn't even an exhaustive list). As you get higher level this becomes increasingly worse, making your investment becomes more and more costly to try capitalizing on.
This all adds up to a rather disappointing experience for anyone who wants to swing two weapons around better than anyone else and really makes me wonder what made Wizards think that having so many hoops and costs just to buff a single (1) extra attack gotten from a niche mechanic with minor damage and nothing more, was a good idea. But I digress.
With all that in mind, the question(s). Does the alteration above to the Two-Weapon Fighting Style address the outlined problems without making it too strong in comparison to other Fighting Styles? Is it too rigid (i.e. only one way to be a dual wielder) in comparison to other tactics (ex Two-Handed, ranged, sword and board)? Is there an obvious edge case that breaks this sideways?
If you could show the math involved with answering any of these or leaving a link to a spot that does would be very appreciated. Thoughtful answers for issues that this has are welcome though!