In a game I'm playing, I have a Swashbuckler rogue, and my DM gave me the okay on using two-weapon fighting with a rapier and a dagger instead of two shortswords. (But not rapier and shortsword, because that would be directly better.) I also don't want to use the Dual Wielder feat to fight with two rapiers, because of personal taste. What are the advantages and disadvantages of fighting with a rapier (1d8) and dagger (1d4) in comparison to two shortswords (d6+d6)?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I will edit that to make it clearer. \$\endgroup\$
    – KAmber
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 19:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Steve Understandable, but comments aren't for partial answers, either. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 19:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ If we add house-ruling, if you are interested in realism and historical accuracy, dual-wielding rapier and dagger was often used historically, but the dagger's main purpose was not an additional "DPS", but additional defense: they didn't thrust with the dagger every few seconds, it was used almost like a buckler shield (with the additional benefit of being able to be used offensively if an opening presented itself). \$\endgroup\$
    – vsz
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 7:05

3 Answers 3


If you use both your action and your bonus action to attack, then there is no difference.

Since both TWF attacks have the same to-hit chance (if you're attacking the same enemy), the average roll is the same regardless of whether you roll $$ 2d6 \rightarrow 2 * 3.5 = 7 $$ or $$ 1d8+1d4 \rightarrow 4.5 + 2.5 = 7 $$

However, if you only have your action (or only 1 attack / turn for some other reason), then the rapier/dagger combo has the advantage that you can choose to use the rapier for this single attack, increasing your average damage when you hit by 1.

Additionally, you can choose to throw the dagger, should the need arise. With your free object interaction, you can then draw another one to be "fully equipped" again.

Furthermore, a dagger and a rapier only weight 3lbs total, while two shortswords weight 4lbs. Two shortswords, on the other hand, are 7gp cheaper than the dagger/rapier combo. Admittedly, however, these are very minor benefits that cancel each other out (imho).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Minor nitpick: the average damage on a hit is increased by 1, but the overall average damage increase is less due to the miss chance. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 19:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson fair enough \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 19:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ A very tiny thing I mentioned in my answer: If you have advantage on only one attack (say you hid or had invisibility cast on you), the Rapier + Dagger combo will deal more damage because you can choose to attack with the Rapier first \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 19:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also of a very minor note, depending on what you are expecting to fight, one combo may be less-resisted than the other. Rapiers and daggers both deal piercing damage, whereas the shortswords deal slashing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zigmata
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 20:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zigmata shortswords deal piercing. You are possibly thinking of scimitars, which rogues are not proficient with. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 21:50

The Rapier + Dagger combo is better

Since your DM has effectively made the Rapier have the Light property, it has the same weight and properties as the Shortsword, but it deals more damage. However the restriction of being required to also wield a dagger is there so let's compare a few things.

They have identical damage ouput

In terms of damage, you have an equal number of opportunities to activate Sneak Attack (two), and the Rapier + Dagger deals an average of 1d8 + 1d4 = 4.5 + 2.5 = 7.0 while the Shortsword + Shortsword deals an average of 1d6 + 1d6 = 3.5 + 3.5 = 7.0
We can see that these deals the same amount of damage on average, even accounting for Sneak Attack.

The Dagger can be thrown, unlike the Shortswords

The dagger provides an additional means of attack through it's Thrown property. Wielding two Shortswords, you could only attack at melee range, but the Dagger changes this, making it the superior choice.

Technically, there's a weight and price difference

Additionally the dagger does weigh 1 pound less than the Shortsword so you would be carrying one less pound (though this likely does little-to-nothing; it's a single pound after all). Additionally the Rapier + Dagger combo costs 27gp while the Shortswords cost 20gp, this could be good or bad depending on whether you want to buy or sell the weapons (such as once you get magic versions), but the difference is very slight.

If you aren't using Two-Weapon Fighting the Rapier + Dagger is still better

In this case you can use your Attack action on the higher damage Rapier, using your bonus action on something besides the dagger. This is strictly better than if you had used your Attack action on the Shortsword. Note that this same logic applies if you get Extra Attack or any means to make more attacks on the same turn (such as the haste spell).

Critical hits are possibly different

The damage of critical hits is equal only if you crit using the Rapier as much as you crit using the Dagger. Anything that increases only the rapiers crit chance, makes the Rapier + Dagger combination better than two Shortswords.

One way this might happens is if you have advantage but only on your first attack (perhaps through the invisibility spell, or from Hiding); attacking with the Rapier for this one attack and then the Dagger would be stronger than if you'd attacked with two Shortswords.

Metagaming / damage order

There is one final thing, though it does not make either option better, it is just a difference between them and it won't come up at most tables as it requires greater knowledge of enemy HP than most DMs give out.

Imagine an enemy has 7-8 health left, (ignoring modifiers etc...), you could kill them only if you were using the Rapier, allowing you to damage two separate enemies, whereas with two Shortswords, you could only ever damage one.

Now imagine an enemy has 5-6 health left, (ignoring modifies etc...), you could not kill them if you were using the Dagger, meaning you would kill the enemy with the Rapier and deal 1d4 a second enemy, whereas with the two Shortswords, you would deal 1d6 to the second enemy.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Concerning your last point: do bear in mind that most DMs don't reveal the actual HP of the enemies, only something along the lines of "barely hurt", "severely hurt" or "on the brink of death". At least, that's my experience. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster I'll edit it a bit more, but that was why I added that it's something "most tables won't care about." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 19:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 There are a couple of ways to know hp totals, for example the 7th level Battle Master ability lets you reconnoiter enemy hp totals if you can adjust your own to match theirs. Then, since you do probably know exactly how much damage has been dealt to any given target, you can instruct your party on optimal damage spreads. You could even do statistics to figure out whether the rogue should bring homebrew rapier+dagger or shortswordX2 based on probable enemy hp totals near death in combination with the tactics you plan to employ. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 0:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @pleasestopbeingevil I'm aware, though doing anything of that sort would be exceedingly table-dependent and is meta-gaming (again, ask your table/GM) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 0:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ One additional damage order scenario: if one opponent has say 1HP left you can kill with dagger then strike a second target for average 4.5HP damage, and possibly kill an opponent with 8HP. With two shortswords the second target would take average 3.5HP. and kill an opponent only up to 6HP. I might make sense to practice throwing with your dagger hand. Due to a shoulder injury though being right-handed, I can throw well (but not anything else) left-handed. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 6:10

In the long run, the weapons you have won't play a huge part in your overall dps. There are several other factors that have larger, long term impacts to damage

Sneak Attack

As a rogue, you can sneak attack once each turn. Using TWF gives you two chances to get your sneak attack in. At level one, it's 1d6. At level 3, it's 2d6. At this point, your sneak attack is averaging the same as a hit with both of your weapons. It only gets higher from here.

Character Ability Scores and Proficiency

As you level, unless you've already maxed out your dex, your ability scores can and should increase, as well as your proficiency bonus. These greatly increase your odds of hitting your target, which also increases your odds of getting your sneak attack. It also increases your raw damage per hit.

Rakish Audacity

Part of what's really good about the Swashbuckler is that you get more options to gain sneak attack on a target, which GREATLY increases your dps. Positioning is absolutely important for a swashbuckler in order to get your sneak attack more often.

So, my recommendation is to play with whatever FEELS correct for your character. The damage on the die won't matter much over time.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L.i misremembered, updated \$\endgroup\$
    – DForck42
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 14:24

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