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A new player would like to join a group I've been DMing for a while. His player character has the following characteristics:

  1. He is a fighter who chose Two Weapon Fighting fighting style when he created his character. Two Weapon Fighting Style says, "When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack."
  2. He obviously has Second Wind once per long or short rest, so he gets a Bonus Action on his turn to regain Hit Points equal to 1d10 + his Fighter level.
  3. He has Action Surge once per long or short rest, as well, of course so that on his turn, he can take one additional action on top of his regular action and a possible Bonus Action.
  4. He chose the martial archetype Champion at level 3.
  5. At level 4, he chose the Sentinel feat instead of an ability score improvement.
  6. Beginning at 5th Level, he became able to attack twice, instead of once.
  7. As an aside, starting at 7th level, he became able to add half his proficiency bonus rounded up to any Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution check he makes that doesn’t already use his proficiency bonus. He also could jump further doing running long jumps, but I don't think this part matters here.

Here's my question.

I'm very confused about how many attacks he would get per turn if he's using two warhammers, two longswords, one of each, a longbow, or a hand crossbow. He himself seems to be confident that he gets 4 or 6 attack rolls, which he said are associated with 2 actions - the usual action and one extra one - but, he said, since he wields two weapons, he gets a lot of "swings" with his weapon.

I can see several sides here and just don't want to get off on the wrong footing right at the beginning.

It seems to me that he gets maybe 3 or 4, depending on whether both "swings" with a sword, for example, count as one action or two actions.

Anyway, there was a disagreement among my players about it, some claiming he gets 3 or 4 attacks if he doesn't use action surge, and 4 or 5 if action surge is included. That's less by 1 than the fighter himself believes he gets, and since I myself am not sure at all, I want to think this through carefully. Any ideas?

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I think that most of the confusion here is coming from the Two Weapon Fighting.

Firstly, on page 195 of the PHB, we have the general description of how any character can potentially fight with two weapons (emphasis mine):

Two-Weapon Fighting: When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon that you’re holding in the other hand. You don’t add your ability modifier to the damage of the bonus attack, unless that modifier is negative.

Neither the warhammer nor the longsword is light, so your player's character can't use these weapons for TWF at all. Note that the Dual Wielder feat (PHB p.165) would make this possible, but your player's character doesn't have this feat. The effect of the TWF fighting style is simply to remove the last sentence about the ability modifier.

So with either a longsword or a warhammer, this PC can make two attacks with his action from the Extra Attack feature. If he uses his Action Surge, he can make a further two attacks for a total of four.

The longbow and hand crossbow are not melee weapons, so they also cannot be used for TWF. The longbow gives two attacks on a regular turn, or four attacks with an Action Surge. The hand crossbow also has the loading property, which states (PHB p. 147)

Loading: Because of the time required to load this weapon, you can fire only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

So the hand crossbow does not benefit from the extra attack feature, meaning that the PC gets only one attack on a regular turn, or two if he uses an Action Surge.

What about the Two Weapon Fighting?

If the character either a) gets the Dual Wielder feat, which would allow him to use TWF with the longsword or warhammer, or b) switches to fighting with light melee weapons such as scimitars or shortswords, he can:

  • Make two attacks with his action using the Extra Attack feature, AND
  • Make one attack as a bonus action with his offhand weapon (this is the TWF bit), AND
  • Once per short or long rest, choose to use an Action Surge to make two additional attacks with the Extra Attack feature,

for a total of three attacks without Action Surge, or five attacks with Action Surge. Note that Action Surge does not give an additional bonus action.

In summary:

  • With light melee weapons or the Dual Wielder feat, three attacks (five with Action Surge) OR
  • With his current non-light melee weapons, or with the longbow, two attacks (four with Action Surge OR
  • With the hand crossbow, one attack (two with Action Surge).

Not six. And 'swings' is not a technical term. Best of luck!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Beautifully explained. Thank you!! \$\endgroup\$ – Jamie Watts May 3 at 0:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ By the way, I used the term "swings" because the players kept saying things like, "But he gets two swings per Warhammer per turn." The whole question was getting muddled for all of us. But you're absolutely correct - I shouldn't be using a term like "swings." Once again, thank you for clearing things up. \$\endgroup\$ – Jamie Watts May 3 at 0:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ No problem :) Yes, I find it much easier to keep track of things using the precise terms from the rules, because then everyone can (hopefully) agree on what we're talking about! \$\endgroup\$ – DM_with_secrets May 3 at 9:52
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Your player gets 3 attacks in a standard round:

At level 5 the fighter gets extra attack which is described as being able to make 2 melee weapon attacks when they take the attack action, the key word being action.

What your player is likely confusing is the two weapon fighting strike they can make as a bonus action, which is not the same as the attack action and so is not affected by extra attack.

If the fighter uses their action surge (once per short rest) they can attack 5 times in a turn by using the attack action on both actions.

If an enemy moves out of their combat area they can make an attack do opportunity as a reaction or they may make a single weapon attack as a reaction if a creature within 5 feet attacks another creature that does not have sentinel. As they have 1 reaction per round, they can only do one or the other and this attack is context sensitive and will only happen according to the above listed triggers.

It is also worth mentioning that your new fighter has also misread the rules on two weapon fighting: none of the weapons in your list above have the light key word, which is required to fight with two weapons. The only way he can dual wield longswords or hammers is if he takes the Dual Wielder feat (phb page 165) instead of one of his ability score increases at level 4 or 6. This should be easy to implement before they join the table, just make sure to adjust stats accordingly and if they seem put out by this, it is worth pointing out the benefits of the feat as a two weapon fighter.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Very good idea about approaching the player and discussing adding the Dual Wield feat. That's what I'll do. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – Jamie Watts May 3 at 1:02

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