Is it possible to wield a two handed weapon in one hand? If so, what penalties apply? If not, are there circumstances or abilities that would make it possible?


It is not generally possible

Absent any special feat, class ability, or what have you, it is not generally possible to wield a two-handed weapon in one hand. You can carry one with a single hand, but not fight with it.

Larger creatures can weild smaller creatures’ two-handed weapons in one hand

You can wield the two-handed weapon of a creature one size category smaller than yourself at a −2 penalty. That means you, if we assume you are a Medium creature, could wield a Small two-handed weapon one-handed at a −2 penalty. On average, you generally see a ~1 damage increase for a two-handed weapon over a one-handed weapon, which is not worth a −2 penalty.

Unfortunately, most feats aimed at allowing you to use inappropriately sized weapons without penalty focus on wielding larger weapons. I cannot find any in Pathfinder that work. In 3.5, there were the “web enhancement” kobolds, but as far as I know the Slight Build feature, unique to those kobolds, was literally the only thing that could accomplish it.

Wielding weapons with both hands is typically a good thing

Really must be mentioned: because of the 1½ Str to damage, wielding weapons with both hands is simply better than wielding it in one hand, typically even accounting for the loss of shield or a second weapon.

There may be reasons other than damage that you’re interested in this, but I wanted to point it out.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, the player in question wants to gain the magical benefits of the particular 2h weapon, but not have to sacrifice his magical shield. \$\endgroup\$ – Eric B Jun 7 '13 at 3:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @EricB I'd turn it into a little side-quest to get the sword modified so that it can be used that way. Or the shield, for that matter. The animated property is still a thing in Pathfinder, right? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 7 '13 at 4:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ The damage increase might not be worth the penalty but sometimes wielding two usually-two-handed weapons is nice. Double wielding small spiked chains anyone? \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Dec 31 '14 at 8:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel I'm pretty sure an inappropriately undersized weapon A) were it before is no longer a reach weapon and B) can't be used with the feat Weapon Finesse. I mean, there might still be benefits, but they are few. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 31 '14 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel Yeah, a Small spiked chain is a reach weapon for a Small creature, but I'm not sure that makes a Small spiked chain a reach weapon for a Medium character. Yeah, I know that's weird. Also, I don't know why B either except that Weapon Finesse mandates you use a weapon "made for a creature of your size." \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 31 '14 at 18:23

Add on to KRyan's wonderful answer.

The only class that can wield 2 handed weapons in 1 hand is the Titan Mauler (Barbarian archetype)

Jotungrip (Ex)

At 2nd level, a titan mauler may choose to wield a two-handed melee weapon in one hand with a –2 penalty on attack rolls while doing so. The weapon must be appropriately sized for her, and it is treated as one-handed when determining the effect of Power Attack, Strength bonus to damage, and the like.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for being an accurate statement and a previously-unmentioned option, but good god is it a terrible option. Please, no one ever do this. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 31 '14 at 14:33

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