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Part of the wording under double weapons is confusing:

A creature wielding a double weapon in one hand can't use it as a double weapon—only one end of the weapon can be used in any given round.

The reason this is confusing is all double weapons are two-handed

Two-Handed: "Two hands are required" to use a two-handed melee weapon effectively. Apply 1-1/2 times the character's Strength bonus to damage rolls for melee attacks with such a weapon.

So are double weapons capable of violating the two handed rule? If so shouldn't double weapons qualify as one-handed weapons? or is it possible to wield all two-handed weapons in one hand with some form of penalty? If applicable please use examples in your answers.

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This dates from 3.5e (or earlier?) - the quote below is from the d20 SRD, and is the same in the PF SRD.

Double Weapons

Dire flails, dwarven urgroshes, gnome hooked hammers, orc double axes, quarterstaffs, and two-bladed swords are double weapons. A character can fight with both ends of a double weapon as if fighting with two weapons, but he or she incurs all the normal attack penalties associated with two-weapon combat, just as though the character were wielding a one-handed weapon and a light weapon.

The character can also choose to use a double weapon two handed, attacking with only one end of it. A creature wielding a double weapon in one hand can’t use it as a double weapon—only one end of the weapon can be used in any given round.

This is open to interpretation, but my opinion is that, as double weapons are already a special case that differ from the general rules for two-handed weapons, that WotC intended for them to be wieldable one-handed as this implies, as well as the explicitly stated two-handed or two-weapon methods.

However...

It appears that Paizo took a different view. There is a feat to specifically allow a character to wield a quarterstaff (a double weapon) one handed.

Quarterstaff Master (Combat)

You can wield a quarterstaff as either a two-handed or one-handed weapon.

Prerequisites: Weapon Focus (quarterstaff ), base attack bonus +5.

Benefit: By employing a number of different stances and techniques, you can wield a quarterstaff as a one-handed weapon. At the start of your turn, you decide whether or not you are going to wield the quarterstaff as a one-handed or two-handed weapon. When you wield it as a one-handed weapon, your other hand is free, and you cannot use the staff as a double weapon. You can take the feat Weapon Specialization in the quarterstaff even if you have no levels in fighter.

While the value of the feat is argued (due to the "WotC" interpretation of the double weapon rules), Paizo's official position is that you can't wield one handed without it.

Hey there folks,

You cannot normally use a double weapon in one hand unless it is sized smaller than you. This feat allows you to get around that restriction.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

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  • \$\begingroup\$ And that is a statement I can support; a tougher +1 than most, I imagine, but you have it. This is a good and thorough answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 21 '15 at 3:12
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The first quote implies that double weapons are all hand-and-a-half weapons, à la the bastard sword, and can be used as one-handed weapons. It does not, however, outright state this, and that is confusing. It does not state that you can ignore the “Two hands are required” clause for two-handed weapons, and double weapons are definitely1 two-handed weapons.

Strictly speaking, the first quote is insufficient to allow you to do this. It does not state that you can wield the double weapon with one hand, it just says that if you do, you can only use one end. It is extremely unlikely that they would intentionally print a rule that would never see use, however; more likely, it was intended that double weapons be allowed to switch between being two-handed, one-handed, and one-handed-plus-light at will, with all that each of those states implies. But this is not stated, so as likely as it seems, we cannot say for sure.

  1. Kinda sorta. The rules define double weapons as two-handed weapons, with a special exception that allows you to use double weapons for TWF, in which case your TWF attack penalties are determined as if the ends were separate weapons, one-handed and light respectively. However, almost all tables treat double weapons used to TWF as one-handed and light for all purposes, not just for the TWF attack penalties, and this does seem more consistent with how double weapons are treated and referred to in the rest of the rules.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does a weapon's double weapon quality trump the weapon's effort when using a double weapon designed for a creature 1 size category smaller than the weapon's wielder? That is, can a Medium orc use one-handed as a double weapon a halfling's quarterstaff? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 21 '15 at 13:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I wouldn’t think so; that would even be a case where the when you do this thing you usually couldn’t would actually come into play under even strict RAW. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 21 '15 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Bulmahn's note that Adeptus cites mentions inappropriately sized weapons specifically so I thought it might be a thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 21 '15 at 14:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Sure, a smaller double weapon can be used as a one-handed weapon, but when you do that, you can’t use both ends. That seems consistent. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 21 '15 at 14:16
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Having done some research, you cannot use a two-handed weapon with one hand, even if it's a double weapon. This question on the Pathfinder FAQ states definitively that you can't use a two-handed weapon in one hand, effectively or not.

However, the rules for double weapons apply to exceptions that allow you to use a two-handed weapon with one hand. For example, the Titan Mauler Barbarian Archetype can use two-handed weapons with one hand by taking a -2 penalty, but if they were to use a double weapon with one hand, they could only use one end of the weapon at a time. This also means that using a double weapon smaller than your current size category (such as a Small Dire Flail used by a medium creature), you could only use one end at a time.

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I've always understood that a double weapon used with two hands are actually two weapons, like when your character uses a sword and a dagger or a couple of scimitars.

When you use the weapon with a single hand means that the usage is restricted, so you must count it as a single weapon and also you can apply only part of the character strength.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Joshi your mostly inaccurate. As clearly stated all double weapons are two handed weapons. They can be wielded as though they are two different weapons. However after a number of things being searched a double weapon can only be wielded in one hand under special circumstances, such as if it's a smaller size, class abilities that allow you to wield a two handed weapon in one hand, or feats like quarter staff master that specifically allows you to wield the quarter staff with one hand \$\endgroup\$ – Codytr777 May 25 '15 at 1:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ In any case there is no rule that forbids the usage, you just have to apply the right bonus/penality to it. To me that's clear by the rules and this does not mess with my writing (even when other answers are better than mine). \$\endgroup\$ – Joshi Spawnbrød May 26 '15 at 17:00

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