So I got inspired to think about a fighter or rogue character that uses Two-Weapon-Fighting with two very light weapons and using a buckler strapped to each arm, or at least some lengthy advanced arm-guard covering the whole forearm and hand. What boons and penalties with sufficiently picked race, stats and feats would one get with that setup, as well as: Is that even allowed?

As far as I went for a level 1 character:

  • Stats: 16 STR, 16 (14+2 Human) DEX, 13 CON, 12 CHA
  • Feats: Two Weapon Fighting, Double Slice, Bonus Feat
  • Equipment: Short Sword + Dagger + Buckler + Buckler

Leads to:

  • Attack Roll: Main Hand: +4 -2 = +2 , Off Hand: +4 - 4 = +0
  • Damage Roll: 1d6 + 4 , 1d4 + 4
  • AC: 10 + Armor + 3 (DEX) + 1 (Shield) + 1 (Shield) - Though the Shield bonus falls if I do an attack as far as I read the rules about bucklers ...

What ways are there to improve this concept?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why do you have a −4 listed for the offhand? The TWF penalty for both main and offhand attacks should be −2 if you have Two-Weapon Fighting and are using a Light weapon in the off hand, which you are (actually, you're using a Light weapon in both hands, which you don't have to do). \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 29, 2014 at 0:46
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Leaving mechanics aside you would be practically unable to fight with proper bucklers on both arms, as they would keep getting in the way. There is something similar in concept and I can't place its proper name but you can find it on google under "Zulu War Spear" but such a weapon would only be practical in one use at a time (meaning probably not getting both benefits in a round, they way D&D works). \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30, 2014 at 2:48

2 Answers 2


You cannot benefit from two shields at once. They both provide Shield bonuses to AC, which do not stack with one another. Moveover, as you note, those bonuses become void the moment you actually attack: rather than give a bonus to AC, the bucklers start giving you penalties to attack.

Your attack routine therefore looks like this:

Main: +1 (BAB) +3 (Str) −2 (TWF) −1 (Buckler) = +1

Offhand: +1 (BAB) +3 (Str) −2 (TWF) −1 (Buckler) = +1

AC: 10 + Armor +3 (Dex) +0 (Shield)

When not attacking, your AC is 10 + Armor + 3 (Dex) + 1 (Shield).

A +1 attack bonus is very bad, even at level 1. Do not expect to reliably hit much of anything with that attack bonus; a typical low-AC target is still looking at AC 14 or so. You’d only have a 64% chance to hit even once against that target. Meanwhile the barbarian’s looking at around a +7 attack bonus, for a 70% chance to hit, for a whole lot more damage. Your odds of hitting with both attacks, 16%, is so low that you might as well not even have Two-Weapon Fighting.

That said, you really do not need to take these penalties to play the character you want to play.

Armor in Pathfinder is fairly heavily abstracted; one type of armor can actually cover quite a lot of fairly-different sets of protective gear, all of which is simply abstracted into a single armor bonus, a single armor check penalty, a single maximum Dexterity bonus to AC, a single weight, a single cost, and so on. Thus, while one person’s chain shirt might be literally that, a shirt made from chain links, I see no reason why you couldn’t describe yours differently: lighter protection on the body, perhaps, but heavier arm bracers, used to deflect blows.

Thus, your description becomes just that: description. There is no need to fall into 3.x’s “you need the feat [item] for that” fallacy. Simply describe your character the way you wish to describe him or her, and use the items that most effectively represent that description mechanically.

I cannot vouch for how nit-picky your PFS DM will be on this, however. Some DMs are incredibly nit-picky about completely unnecessary things, and in PFS they have some institutional backing for that. I personally dislike the PFS immensely, largely for this reason. Normally, I’d say if a DM gave you a hard time about this, that is a DM you’re better off not playing with, but here you may not find one who will. Ultimately, you may not be able to effectively make the character you want to make, at least no without taking absolutely pointless penalties (as with the paired bucklers).

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for not playing with DMs that don't support minor(!) fluff descriptions. It is definitely not endorsed to give players a hard time for that. My VC told me that Mike Brock (the PFS Campaign Coordinator) stated that even a characters gender is fluff and can be described however you want, and changed in between sessions (personally, that goes a bit far for me, though) \$\endgroup\$
    – MrLemon
    Jun 29, 2014 at 10:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I say that in a world where there are characters that can permanently change shape into any form they like, I think there might be a cheap potion you can drink to change your sex ... or pay 14.99$ to take the character redesign service ... wait ... anyway; So there is no way to boost a characters armor while using two weapon fighting effectively (while still staying nimble)? \$\endgroup\$
    – salbeira
    Jun 29, 2014 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @salbeira There are plenty of ways; you can apply enhancement bonuses to your armor, you can use a ring of protection, and no doubt various other specific items. That would really be a whole ’nother question, though, since it doesn’t have much to do with bucklers. Unfortunately, Pathfinder nerfed the animated property badly so it no longer helps much (though it never would have helped with the buckler penalty), and did not print a version of Improved Buckler Defense that would allow you to keep the shield bonus. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 29, 2014 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @salbeira Eventually, you may want a buckler just for all the magic you can put on it, but that’s only when a −1 becomes really minor compared to the cost savings of splitting magic between armor and shield. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 29, 2014 at 21:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I am thinking about a level 1 character that I might get to play once a month or so - so thinking about long term setups on higher levels is of no concern right now. \$\endgroup\$
    – salbeira
    Jun 30, 2014 at 16:19

First off, you can benefit from only one shield, as has been stated by @KRyan.

Armor/Shield Bonus: Each type of armor grants an armor bonus to AC, while shields grant a shield bonus to AC. The armor bonus from a suit of armor doesn't stack with other effects or items that grant an armor bonus. Similarly, the shield bonus from a shield doesn't stack with other effects that grant a shield bonus.

Most gaming circles I've been involved with certainly wouldn't mind a completely cosmetic aspect for some of what you have listed. Your character's primary hand being covered with an armoured gauntlet having no game effect still gives the same look, and it would be free. Some groups may not allow this, but it can't hurt to check.

Once you can afford having the buckler be masterwork, you can ignore the armor check penalty, and only take the -1 to hit when swapping from using the shield's AC bonus and attacking with the off-hand weapon. Adding Animated to the shield will allow you to make use of both the shield and the offhand attack for 4 rounds at a time during emergencies, but it is expensive.

The first few levels will be a bit rough, since the lighter weapons will end up doing less damage to start, and the penalties for two weapon fighting will mean you hit less frequently. This does eventually level out, though. Especially if you use weapons with higher crit ranges (18-20) like scimitars and rapiers for a larger weapon, and kukri for light off-hand weapons. Making these Keen or taking the Improved Critical feat will increase this to a (15-20) threat which is nearly a third of the time. Adding Critical Focus can make confirming the crits more likely. Ability draining poisons will help even more. Str drain will defend against retaliation, Int/Wis/Cha drain will help with casters. If you have enough feats, you can work up to Shatter Defenses, which can drop some enemies to Flat-Footed, but it requires adding other status effects which are hard to rely on without cooperation from a caster in the party willing to help.

Everything else depends on what class you take.

Warriors will benefit from dual wielding kukri, with Weapon Specialisation adding to your hit/damage rolls for both hands with just one feat. Same goes with only needing to take one of the Greater Weapon Focus skills to apply to both weapons.

As a rogue, it may be good to swap Str and Dex, if possible and make use of Weapon Finesse to hit more and make better use of Dex for AC. This can be added with Rogue Talents starting at level 2. Dispelling Attack can be added later to de-buff enemies. Combat Reflexes may also be good here, giving even more attacks as things wander by. The rogue build will be much more of a swashbuckling/fencer style, relying more on speed than strength. Sneak Attack dice will make up the difference in damage, when possible.

Rangers start getting dual wielding with their Combat Style Feats at level 2. Or you can start with dual wielding and get Double Slice for free at level 2. Favoured Enemy will also help with the attack/damage rolls, even against things that you cannot crit on.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Animated is, unfortunately, a complete waste of time in Pathfinder. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 29, 2014 at 21:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not completely, but yeah, it's pretty bad. It's the only way I've ever gotten a shield bonus with a shield while dual wielding. The only other option is to make the shield slotless, potentially increasing the price even more. \$\endgroup\$
    – Falsenames
    Jun 30, 2014 at 8:39

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