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A fighter in a campaign I am running has the Two Weapon Fighting Style and I am having some trouble with finding details on how it works.

  • Does he have to wield two light weapons? Or can he use (for example) a sword and a battleaxe?

  • Can he strike two different targets within his range for one attack (e.g., sword attacks a goblin, off-hand weapon attacks another goblin)?

  • What exactly is the penalty — is it that the damage modifier only goes to weapon #2 and weapon #1 gets no damage modifier?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What have you read to find the answers? As best as I can tell those are all explicitly answered in both the PHB and the free Basic PDF... \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Oct 20 '14 at 23:22
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In D&D 5E, specific rules take precedence over general rules. Since the two-weapon style, available through the fighter and ranger classes, is a specific rule, let's start by reviewing the general rule:

Two-Weapon Fighting: 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. (PHB, p. 195)

According to this rule, attacking with a second weapon requires :

  1. The use of a bonus action.
  2. That the weapon in your main hand possesses the "light" quality.
  3. That the weapon in your off-hand also possesses the "light" quality.

Note that these rules do not specify that you must attack the same target, nor that the weapons used need to be identical. Normally, you would add your ability modifier to the damage of your attacks. However, these rules also include a specific ruling that only applies to two-weapon fighting :

  1. You don't add your ability modifier to the damage of the bonus attack, unless that modifier is negative.

    This does not normally affect your attacks granted by the attack action, only those granted by this specific use of a bonus action. This, however, is then affected by the specific rules introduced by the two-weapon fighting style:

    Two-Weapon Fighting Style: When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack. (PHB, p. 72)

    As such, a fighter with this fighting style can apply his ability modifier on all of his attacks, including off-hand ones. However, he is still subject to the general ruling stating that he must wield two light weapons to do so.

  2. To wield weapons that are not light, one would require the "Dual Wielder" feat, found in the optional feat rules presented in chapter 6 of the PHB. This would allow a fighter or a ranger, for instance, to wield a pair of longswords or a longsword and a battle axe. This feat also has the added perk of allowing the drawing and sheathing of both weapons as a single item interaction, as well as granting a +1 to AC while wielding two weapons.


TL;DR

  1. You can only wield two light weapons (unless you possess the dual wielder feat)
  2. These weapons do not have to be identical (nowhere is that stated in the rules)
  3. Attacking with the off-hand requires the use of a bonus action, but otherwise acts as a regular attack (no penalty to hit, can select any target), except for...
  4. You do not add positive ability modifier to your off-hand damage, only negative ones (unless you possess the two-weapon fighting style from the fighter or ranger class)
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Two weapon fighting works differently in 5e than it has in previous editions.

By default, you have to use light weapons in both hands. You can then take your action to make a normal melee attack(s) with one weapon, and then use your bonus action to make an additional attack with your other weapon. The bonus action attack does not get your ability modifier added to damage. This is the only penalty.

These attacks can be against any creature in your reach, and you can even move between taking your action and bonus action (And actually if you have additional attacks as part of the action, you can move between those as well).

The class feature "Two Weapon Fighting Style" available on the Paladin, Ranger and Fighter, allows for the addition of your ability modifier to the bonus action attack's damage. That's the only difference in the feature from the normal mechanic.

So to answer your bullets with bullets

  • Not without a feat
  • Yes, and he can move to gain access to new targets
  • No penalty to to-hit or damage if using the class feature
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    \$\begingroup\$ The first line stands out as odd to me. Were previous editions mentioned in now-deleted comments? I don't see what it's rebutting otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 21 '14 at 6:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie no. However the reference to penalties for TWF is reminiscent of prior editions (4e notwithstanding) \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Oct 21 '14 at 9:59
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You can only wield two light weapons. From the PHB, page 191:

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.

With RAW, I assume you can attack multiple targets, one per Attack action. Since an Opportunity Attack only triggers when you move, attacking multiple targets won't trigger one.

There are no penalties on the attacks. Moreover, with the Two-Weapon Fighting style, you add your ability modifier (presumably Strength) to the damage of both attacks.

Taking the Dual Wielder feat will allow you to wield non-light weapons (in both hands); as well as giving you other bonuses.

As ever with 5e, comparing it to the rules of earlier editions actually hampers rule-reading. The rules are very straightforward.

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Everyone else have pretty much answered this besides this part:

Can he strike two different targets within his range for one attack (e.g., sword attacks a goblin, off-hand weapon attacks another goblin)?

As standard you can make a melee attack against a creature within range. So yes he can strike one goblin and then hit another with the same action as long as he is within range when he wants to hit them.

Example: 5th lvl. Fighter kills goblin 1, then uses his movement to get to goblin 2. Then he uses his bonus action (since he already did one attack) to attack goblin 2. No penalties are involved in this process.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.se. Please take our tour when you have time. We ask for answers to be self-contained and completely answer the whole question - currently this answer does not. The reasoning is that if the other answers get deleted, for example, your answer still should be able to answer the question. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 24 '18 at 19:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would note that Wax's answer does state that, though - "Yes, and he can move to gain access to new targets". \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 24 '18 at 19:21

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