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During the latest gaming session our level 3 Rogue was Two-Weapon fighting with a Rapier in the main-hand and a scimitar in the off-hand. At the completion of our gaming session I contested the application of the Two-Weapon fighting rules as it seemed unbalanced.

Once I got home I reviewed the PHB and various RPGStack and Reddit but couldn't find a concrete answer.

My interpretation of the PHB Reference rules below is that although any class/character can technically wield a weapon in their off-hand, only those who have been granted a Bonus Action for which no explicit bonus action have been defined would be allowed to actually attack. So in the case of a Rogue the Bonus Actions granted under Cunning Action allow for specific actions (none of which are attack).

The alternate interpretation would be the rules under Two-Weapon Fighting, perhaps it should be written

you receive a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon that you’re holding in the other hand.

This would, in my opinion, explicitly grant the Bonus Action to any character/class who is Two-Weapon Fighting.

After thorough review does it boil down to application of the rules-as-written and determining a house-rule to apply in our campaign?


References

Page 189 of PHB : Bonus Actions

Various class features, spells, and other abilities let you take an additional action on your turn called a bonus action. The Cunning Action feature, for example, allows a rogue to take a bonus action.

You can take a bonus action only when a special ability, spell, or other feature of the game states that you can do something as a bonus action. You otherwise don’t have a bonus action to take.

You can take only one bonus action on your turn, so you must choose which bonus action to use when you have more than one available. You choose when to take a bonus action during your turn, unless the bonus action’s timing is specified, and anything that deprives you of your ability to take actions also prevents you from taking a bonus action.

Page 96 of PHB

A Rogue receives cunning action at level 2, You can take a bonus action on each of your turns in combat.

This action can be used only to take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide action.

Page 195 of PHB

Two-Weapon Fighting (Combat Rules)

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. If either weapon has the thrown property, you can throw the weapon, instead of making a melee attack with it.

Page 165 of PHB

Dual Wielder (Feat)

You master fighting with two weapons, gaining the following benefits:

  • You gain a +1 bonus to AC while you are wielding a separate melee weapon in each hand.
  • You can use two-weapon fighting even when the one-handed melee weapons you are wielding aren't light.
  • You can draw or stow two one-handed weapons when you would normally be able to draw or stow only one.
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    \$\begingroup\$ As an aside, there is nothing stopping the Rogue having a scimitar in one hand and a rapier in the other hand and attacking with them in alternate rounds. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker Apr 22 '15 at 11:04
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Anyone wielding two light weapons can attack with one weapon and use a bonus action to make an offhand attack.

The Rogue's having Cunning Action as an option does not prevent them from instead choosing other bonus actions. The restriction only applies to Cunning Action itself - if the Rogue chooses to use Cunning Action, only Dash, Disengage, and Hide can be used. Otherwise they may use any other Bonus Action which is available to them. This distinction is there because the Thief and Arcane Trickster archetypes later expand the options provided by Cunning Action.

The bottom line:

  1. The Rogue needs the Dual Wielder feat to use Two Weapon Fighting with a rapier, since the rapier is not a light weapon.
  2. The Rogue can use either Cunning Action, or an offhand attack, but not both.
  3. Having the Cunning Action class feature does not prevent the Rogue from choosing other bonus actions instead.
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    \$\begingroup\$ So the Bonus Action rule: You otherwise don’t have a bonus action to take. Is explicitly overridden when you wield a light weapon in your main and off-hand, thereby granting a Bonus Action to attack. \$\endgroup\$ – CapitalBoo Oct 18 '14 at 4:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Correct. That is a feature of the game which states you can do something as a bonus action. \$\endgroup\$ – Strill Oct 18 '14 at 5:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nacht If you have a new question (“What is the point of that Bonus Action rule anyway?”), please ask it by using the Ask Question button at the top of the page. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 17 '18 at 14:46
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The misconception here is that you don't have "a bonus action" just lying around that you "fill" with a Bonus Action. When something says that you can use a bonus action, that means you have that bonus action lying around. Any time a rule talks about having or using a bonus action, that is both making it available and permission to use it, not just permission to use it if you have a "blank" one lying around to "spend" on it.

So when TWF says:

you can use a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon[…]

… that is all you need to be able to attack with the off hand. You don't get "blank" bonus actions that you "spend" to do "Specific Bonus Action Name" all maybe granted separately — the specific bonus action is simply available, and there is nothing otherwise to spend.

The only reason bonus actions are all called "bonus actions" is so that they can be limited to one of any kind per turn. Don't think of "bonus action" as an empty slot into which a specific bonus action can be placed. Instead, think of the term "bonus action" as a type-identifier for something the rules are saying you can do. Its only purpose is to provide a keyword that other rules can "hook" in order to control how often you can do (keyworded thing) in a turn.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't see that there is a difference. If I think I get a "blank" bonus action, but have no class/race options with which to use it, then I still can't use it. \$\endgroup\$ – Nacht Oct 17 '18 at 0:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nacht The difference is that if people think they get “blank” bonus actions, when they read an ability that takes a bonus action they then wonder where to get a blank one to “spend” for the ability. That’s what’s going on in the question. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 17 '18 at 8:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think your explanation just confuses things further. Every player does have a "bonus action slot". Exactly one per turn. And various rules, abilities, and class features grant specific "bonus actions" that can fill that slot. \$\endgroup\$ – Klay Oct 17 '18 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Klay See, that’s the second misconception this is trying to correct. (1) is that generic bonus actions aren’t created and “spent”, (2) is that 1 per turn is a limit you count up to, not an amount you spend down. (The 2nd misconception is real because it causes people to go look for more per-turn “slots” to do more things, missing that a universal per-turn limit is the rule that’s operating, and much harder to overcome.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 17 '18 at 14:32
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From page 69 of the Player's D&D Basic Rules:

You can take a bonus action only when a special ability, spell, or other feature of the game states that you can do something as a bonus action.

Emphasis mine. This doesn't grant you a bonus action, but instead grants you something to do with your bonus action, which you always have, whether you can actually use it or not.

So, as long as you're wielding two light melee weapons, you can attack, and then attack again using your off-hand weapon. You don't need any other spell or feature to grant you this ability.

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There has been a lot of confusion around this point. You can only take one Bonus Action per turn. A Bonus Action isn't something you have or don't have, or are granted by spells or class features in the game. It's just that there are only certain things that you can do with a Bonus Action. See here for another (probably clearer) explanation of this issue.

If you have taken the Attack action with a light melee weapon in one hand, one of the things you can do with a Bonus Action is to attack with a light melee weapon in your other hand. You don't need to have a Bonus Action or be granted one to do this.

Think of it like this: there is a list of things you can do with your regular action. Attack, cast a spell, Dodge, Dash, Disengage, and so on. Your Bonus Action works exactly the same way, except the list consists of whatever you have that says it can be done with a Bonus Action.

So for a 1st level Rogue that list might just contain dual wielding. For a 2nd level Rogue who has Cunning Action, that list might consist of dual wielding, Hide, Dash, and Disengage.

If you want to fight with two shortswords, you can. Take the Attack action with one, then use your Bonus Action to attack with the other. If you want to throw two daggers at enemies, use the Attack action to throw one, then use your Bonus Action to throw the other.

Switching between your shortswords and your daggers might cause you some more problems, but that's a whole 'nother issue.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting, so D&D's bad wording is the cause of the confusion. A bonus action is something that could probably be better worded to be an "Additional action". Maybe not even that, because I feel that name would further confuse. I understand now, Bonus action isn't like an "Action" or a "Movement" it's just something you can do under circumstances that allow you to use it for something in a specific situation. \$\endgroup\$ – Blade Dec 3 '14 at 6:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Blade Right, it's just like a reaction in that respect. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 3 '14 at 6:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ The phrase "bonus action" is a compound noun. It is not an "action" (noun) you get as a "bonus" (adjective). \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Apr 25 '17 at 12:52
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Page 189 of the PHB:

Bonus Actions

Various class features, spells, and other abilities let you take an additional action on your turn called a bonus action. The Cunning Action feature, for example, allows a rogue to take a bonus action. You can take a bonus action only when a special ability, spell, or other feature of the game states that you can do something as a bonus action. You otherwise don't have a bonus action to take.

Even though the handbook doesn't describe it well, everyone can take part in Two Weapon Fighting and is allowed a bonus action to attack with the off-hand. The misconception is that you don't have the bonus action unless it is listed in your class features.

However, in the Melee Attacks section it explicitly states the following on page 195 of the PHB:

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. If either weapon has the thrown property, you can throw the weapon, instead of making a melee attack with it.

This is that 'other feature in the game' that says you are able to take a bonus action to perform this off-hand attack. Without the fighter, paladin, or ranger's two weapon fighting style you do not get to add an ability modifier to the off-hand attack damage, but you can still make the attack. Just keep in mind that a player can only make ONE bonus action per turn.

The Dual Wielder feat adds some more bonuses to the two weapon fighting. Again, you still only get the most out of this as a fighter, paladin, or ranger.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @qorinthian That’s a comment you should be leaving on the deficient answer, not the one that you see no problem with. The author of the other answer will not see that comment. It’s off topic here so I’ve removed it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 5 at 16:50

protected by Oblivious Sage Nov 11 '15 at 14:12

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