If a high level warrior, without the feats of Two weapon fighting, and able to do 4 attacks with main hand in a full round action, decides to attack twice with main hand and twice with off hand, would she gets any penalty? Would it be considered as fighting with two weapons? Would it be different depending on the weapons they hold?


1 Answer 1


Not in the v.3.5 revision.

This is one of the big things that changed when they revised D&D 3e and released a new Player’s Handbook.

The revision removed handedness

D&D 3.0e had a concept of “handedness,” so a character was left-handed or right-handed, and the other hand was always their “offhand.” If you attacked with your offhand—even if it was the only attack you made—you took penalties since it wasn’t your main hand. There was a feat, Ambidexterity, that mitigated those penalties. Ambidexterity was also required for the Two-Weapon Fighting feat.

The v.3.5 revision eliminated all of that. Handedness is gone, and all mention of “offhand” is relegated solely to within the two-weapon fighting special attack option—if you aren’t using that option, you would never see the word. The rules never direct you to treat anything as offhand if you aren’t using it. Ambidexterity is also gone, its benefits added to the Two-Weapon Fighting feat since two-weapon fighting is now the only time you’d have to worry about offhand penalties.

The two-weapon fighting combat option is wholly optional

And you only count as using the two-weapon fighting combat option when you explicitly choose to use it. That is, before you begin your full-attack, you say “I’m using two-weapon fighting,” designate an offhand, accept the attack penalties, and get an extra attack.

It must be this way, because otherwise it would be impossible to use a one-handed weapon without two-weapon fighting (because the shield, torch, or whatever else in your other hand—or even nothing, as an unarmed strike—would be a second weapon that could be used for two-weapon fighting). Two-weapon fighting, and all of its drawbacks—attack penalty and limitations on offhand weapons—is entirely voluntary.

Wasn’t asked, but yes, you can do this

There have, at times, been claims that what is proposed in the question can’t be done in the first place—that if you want to attack with a different weapon, you have to use two-weapon fighting. That is not the case.

Nowhere in the rules for making regular attacks is any limitation on what weapon you use when doing so. Nothing in the rules for iteratives, or for bonus attacks, says you have to use the same weapon as you used for any previous attack. You absolutely can attack with a battleaxe with your highest attack bonus, then attack with a short sword at −5, and then attack with the battleaxe again at −10, and then attack with armor spikes at −15 (assuming you have all three iteratives from BAB +16 or better, and the weapons ready to use, of course).

Instead, it is two-weapon fighting that applies restrictions on which weapons you use, saying you can’t use the same weapon (or same end of a double weapon) for the extra attack as you used for the first attack. But if you aren’t using two-weapon fighting (or some other special option with explicit restrictions), anything goes.

The glossary is not a primary source on this question

As for the glossary, it was never intended to be the full and complete rules for any concept; it was intended as a quick reference, a place you could look up a term if you came across it in the main rules. But the only place you come across “offhand” in the main rules, is if you’re using two-weapon fighting. So it implicitly has that context built into it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks you, just to clarify with one examples: in this case the warrior let's say holds a hammer on the right and an axe on the left. He attacks once with hammer, then with axe, then with hammer again, then with axe for a total of four attacks. He does not get any penality on the attack rolls. BUT if the warrior declared TWF she gets another bonus off hand attack but then gets heavy penalities on attack rolls (as not having the TWF feat) \$\endgroup\$
    – Digius
    Jan 6, 2023 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Digius That’s entirely correct, yes. The warrior should probably not do that unless or until the warrior gets the TWF feat. Gloves of the balanced hand (Magic Item Compendium) are pretty cheap at that level and offer it, for example. Or, alternatively, the warrior should get a bigger hammer or a bigger axe, and stop dual-wielding in the first place. Two-handed weapons do much more damage, after all. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 6, 2023 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan The glossary actually was updated from 3.0e and the definition of "off hand" had been reworked (deleting the ambidexterity-part). Is there any reference that the glossary of the PHB is not an integral part of the rules? \$\endgroup\$
    – Peregrin
    Jan 6, 2023 at 19:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeregrinTook The definition of the word “glossary.” \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 6, 2023 at 19:51

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