The Pathfinder FAQ states that:

Power Attack: If I am using a two-handed weapon with one hand (such as a lance while mounted), do still I get the +50% damage for using a two-handed weapon?


—Pathfinder Design Team, 05/24/13

and that

Weapons, Two-Handed in One Hand: When a feat or other special ability says to treat a weapon that is normally wielded in two hands as a one handed weapon, does it get treated as one or two handed weapon for the purposes of how to apply the Strength modifier or the Power Attack feat?

If you're wielding it in one hand (even if it is normally a two-handed weapon), treat it as a one-handed weapon for the purpose of how much Strength to apply, the Power Attack damage bonus, and so on.

—Pathfinder Design Team, 07/19/13

Is this completely contradictory or am I reading this wrong? Has the team addressed this elsewhere?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ That sounds like a contradiction, yeah. (I wonder if the first was intended but not said to be specific to lances, which are designed to be used one-handed when mounted.) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 3, 2013 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ It could apply only to cases where a feat or special ability says to treat it as a one handed weapon specifically, rather than a more general "you're using that weapon in one hand" case. Or it's a contradiction. It's hard to tell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Oct 3, 2013 at 19:20

2 Answers 2


I’m not a huge fan of using the FAQ or developer posts on the forum as a rules-source; on numerous occasions the statements made have made little sense, contradicted the rules or previous statements, and so on. And ultimately, I don’t really care what Paizo thinks the correct answer is so much as I care what’s best for my game. For the purposes of improving my game, I also care about what the rules actually say, so I know when I have to let players know that things are working differently.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to just stick to the wording of Power Attack itself:

This bonus to damage is increased by half (+50%) if you are making an attack with a two-handed weapon, a one handed weapon using two hands, or a primary natural weapon that adds 1-1/2 times your Strength modifier on damage rolls.

Emphasis mine. A two-handed weapon, even wielded in one hand, gets this benefit from Power Attack. Maybe that’s a good ruling, may it’s not, but it’s what the rule says; if I wanted to change it, I’d explicitly note it as a houserule.

Now, when you wield a two-handed weapon in one hand, there are two possibilities. Either the rules say “you may wield a two-handed weapon using one hand“ or “you may wield a weapon that’s normally two-handed as a one-handed weapon.” In the first case, it is still a two-handed weapon: it gets the 50% extra damage from Power Attack. In the second case, it is now no longer treated as a two-handed weapon, and thus does not receive that bonus.

In my own game, I’d happily houserule that anything that lets you wield a two-handed weapon “ as a one-handed weapon” still lets you apply the damage bonus, and furthermore that this situation lets you use two-weapon fighting normally even though it might still be treated as a two-handed weapon, because these sorts of abilities are very minor, and are often outrageously overpriced. The classes that receive them, or care enough about them to take them as feats, are grossly underpowered. Since I find that such power disparities make my game less enjoyable for all involved, I’d change it in a heartbeat.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So for example, a bastard sword wielded one-handed would not get the 50% bonus since it begins life as an exotic one-handed weapon. However, it would receive that bonus if wielded two-handed as a martial weapon. Correct? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ellesedil
    Oct 3, 2013 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ellesedil Correct. Note that even a regular one-handed weapon (rather than a hand-and-a-half weapon like the bastard sword) gets the bonus damage from Power Attack when wielded with both hands. That’s because of the separate entry (“, a one handed weapon using two hands,”) in the feat for those weapons. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 4, 2013 at 0:12

Note that one BIG problem here is that VERY few two-handed weapons can be wielded in one hand, by any means at all.

The most common example is the bastard sword - only that's not a two-handed weapon. It's an exotic one-handed weapon that has the special property that it can be wielded as a two-handed weapon with only martial weapon proficiency.

The other common one is the specific case in the FAQ you reference: The lance has a special use case where it can be used one-handed while mounted. This isn't because the lance is magically lighter on a horse, it's because while mounted you have extra support for it.

The only other reasonably common scenario is using a size-smaller two-handed weapon - but the rules specifically say that this changes the weapon to the next category down - so a medium character using a small size greataxe is no longer a two-handed weapon, it is a one-handed weapon. (And you still have the -2 penalty to hit for it being the wrong size for you.)

This strikes me as "refusing the FAQ or developer post for the simple reason that it doesn't produce the result I like." The developers have spoken - the FAQ entry on the lance, to me, reads as they meant it to apply ONLY to the lance - and/or only to when a two-handed weapon has a specific documented special use case that allows it to be used one-handed. That it DOESN'T apply to any random two-handed weapon used one-handed. (Again, it wouldn't apply to a medium character using a small greatsword or small greataxe in one hand.)

There is an official FAQ on this as well, that addresses the "exotic one-handed as martial two-handed" rule: http://paizo.com/paizo/faq/v5748nruor1fm#v5748eaic9qut It also reiterates that if a weapon is (for you) a two-handed weapon (either due to size or lack of training, even if others can use it one-handed,) then you CANNOT USE IT ONE-HANDED AT ALL. This isn't a matter of penalty, this is a matter of being completely unable to use it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ -1: You ignore the contradiction between the dev posts. The 'lance' post says "such as a lance", which says that they're asking the question about other cases like this other than the lance. If you were to expand the part of your answer where you say that the lance question only referred to lances, I'd remove the downvote. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Nov 11, 2014 at 0:51

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