Can I declare that a weapon is wielded in my off hand, even if my main hand is free?

The usecase is that I have a class feature (Swordmage Warding perhaps?) that gives me a shield bonus if I have a free hand, and I'd like to wield a rhythm blade in my off hand to boost that shield bonus.

Can I be considered to be wielding the blade in my off hand even if my "main" hand is free? Or must I be dual wielding for a weapon to be considered to be wielded in the off hand?

  • \$\begingroup\$ how can you attack if the weapon is not in your main hand? \$\endgroup\$
    – Colin D
    Aug 23, 2012 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's in your off hand. Most powers don't specify which hand the weapon you're attacking with must be in. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Aug 23, 2012 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ If it doesn't matter which hand you attack with, why do they make the main hand/off hand distinction?... edit: I guess that's the title of the question isn't it... \$\endgroup\$
    – Colin D
    Aug 23, 2012 at 18:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ColinD the distinction exists mostly for dual wielding. This question is seeking to determine if you can remove the dual wielding and still wield a weapon "off handed" even if your main hand is free \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Aug 23, 2012 at 19:02
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Wilerson Actually, in the Forgotten Realms Player's Guide Swordmage Warding says 'if you are wielding a blade in one hand and have your other hand free'. It doesn't say anything about main or off-hand. Is there some errata that makes this distinction? \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    May 23, 2014 at 1:02

1 Answer 1


There seems to be no reason why not.

On page 215 of the Player's Handbook it says:

Some one-handed weapons are light enough for you to use in your off hand while holding another one-handed weapon in your other hand.

The suggestion seems to be that an off-hand weapon is simply one that you are capable of wielding in your non-dominant hand while simultaneously holding one in your main hand, not that you cannot hold an off-hand weapon in that hand unless you are wielding one in your main hand.

Consider sheathing weapons. If you cannot wield a weapon in your off hand if you main hand is free, and you are duel-wielding, you cannot sheath or drop your main weapon without simultaneously sheathing or dropping your off-hand weapon.

The one snag I can find is based on semantics - what counts as the main hand seems to be entirely defined as the hand you wield your weapon in, and the off-hand is the hand you are not wielding your main weapon in.

The Rules Compendium gives:

One-Handed: A one-handed weapon is light enough or balanced enough to wield in one hand. A creature can carry a one-handed weapon in each hand, but doing so does not let the creature make extra attacks in a round. The creature must choose which of the weapons it is wielding when it makes a weapon attack. If a weapon attack power allows the use of two weapons, one of the weapons must have the off-hand property.

Note that it does not specify that the off-hand weapon must be in your off-hand, just that one of them must be an off-hand weapon. This suggests the designation of main and off hand is entirely arbitrary, especially as you can then choose which weapon you are 'wielding'.

  • \$\begingroup\$ right, and that probably makes the hand you are wielding a single weapon in your "main" hand for the purpose of determining this kind of mechanic. (Specially since 4e has no concern for actual handedness) \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Aug 24, 2012 at 3:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ It does have the weird side-effect I mentioned that if you are wielding two weapons, and drop the one in your main hand, then you are holding the other in your main hand. Coupled with the fact you can choose which weapon you are wielding, it should be possible to 'wield' an unarmed attack using your main hand, as an unarmed attack counts as a weapon. Thus you can be unarmed on your main hand and have an off-hand weapon in your off-hand. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ananisapta
    Aug 24, 2012 at 13:38

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