I'm quite confused about attacking with two weapons in both hands and wondering what is required to be able to do to (in Pathfinder).

1. Base Attack Bonus Looking at the base attack bonus tables for different classes (e.g. the Ranger) it seems like up to +5 you get only one attack per full action but starting from base-attack-bonus of +6 you get a second attack with +1.

2. Feats There is a feat Two Weapon Fighting. The existence of the feat sounds like you could not do two-weapon-fighting without it. However, in the description of "normal" it says:

If you wield a second weapon in your off hand, you can get one extra attack per round with that weapon. When fighting in this way you suffer a –6 penalty with your regular attack or attacks with your primary hand and a –10 penalty to the attack with your off hand. If your off-hand weapon is light, the penalties are reduced by 2 each.

3. Core Rulebook Chapter about combat If I understand the Core Rulebook chapter about combat correctly it says that you need a full-round action do attack with both weapons in two hands.

So how do these things interact? Can I only attack with my off-hand weapon if my base-attack-bonus is high enough that I get second one with +1?

If not, how does the "multiple attacks from high base-attack-bonus" interact with dual-wielding? Assuming I reached a state of base-attack-bonus with +11/+6/+1 and have a full-round action to attack. Does that mean I can either attack with my primary weapon three times or use the primary weapon and off-hand weapon to attack only twice? Why would I then ever choose dual-wielding? Or can I attack three times with both weapons (leading to a total of 6 attacks with heavy malus) Or would I get 3 attacks with the primary weapon + 1 attack with the off-hand weapon? If so, what attack bonus do I have to use for each of the attacks?


3 Answers 3


You’re missing the two-weapon fighting combat option rules. Without those, the feat et al. won’t make very much sense.

The two-weapon fighting combat option allows you to get an extra attack when you full attack, but all of your attacks in that full attack take a penalty. The extra attack has to be with a different weapon from your regular attack (“offhand” weapon), and the penalties you take depend on whether or not that offhand weapon is light or not.

The Two-Weapon Fighting feat reduces those penalties to a point that this option is actually usable.

Another key thing to realize is that having two weapons in hand does not automatically mean you are using the two-weapon fighting option. You have to choose to use it, to get an extra attack and take an attack penalty.

As for the +6/+1 thing, that’s called an iterative attack, and that’s free just for having BAB that high. It is separate from, and can be combined with, the two-weapon fighting option. So, assuming you have the Two-Weapon Fighting feat and a light weapon in the offhand (the only case in which the two-weapon fighting option is a good idea), with +6/+1 BAB you could attack normally, for +6/+1, or you could choose to use two-weapon fighting, taking a −2 penalty. Then your attacks would be +4/+4/−1, where the second +4 attack has to be with the offhand weapon. If you take the Improved Two-Weapon Fighting feat, that becomes +4/+4/−1/−1, because Improved Two-Weapon Fighting gives you a second bonus attack with the offhand weapon, at −5 (matching the penalty on the iterative attack).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I find it easier to parse when the attack sequence is presented as one hand, then the other ("+4/-1/+4"). Is there a consensus that one presentation is cleaner than the other? \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @fectin I have never seen it presented in any order but descending order. For iteratives (not necessarily bonus attacks), the rules in fact require descending order. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @fectin - I've seen both, unofficially, but official books either list +4/+4/-1 or +4/-1 & +4, depending on how the damage is broken out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bobson [Citation Needed] I have never seen that latter format. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 16:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan - I was abbreviating a bit more than I probably should have. See any monster with two separate weapons, like the Balor: +1 vorpal longsword +31/+26/+21/+16 melee (2d6+13/19-20) and +1 flaming whip +30/+25 melee (1d4+6 plus 1d6 fire plus entangle) could be abbreviated (in this BAB/attack-bonus specific context) as +31/+26/+21/+16 & +30/+2 \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 17:17

First of all read PHB p.160 really well. Then look at table 8-10. There you can see the following roughly:

Circumstances       | Primary Hand | Off Hand  |
Normal penalties    |      -6      |   -10     |
Off-hand weapon is  |      -4      |    -8     |
light               |              |           |
Two-weapon Fighting |      -4      |    -4     |
feat                |              |           |
Off-hand weapon is  |              |           |
light and Two-Weapon|      -2      |    -2     |
Figthing feat       |              |           |

I prefer to work with an example here so let’s say I am going for a Rogue:

The premise Rogue:
level: 8
feats: Weapon Finesse
STR: 19 DEX: 15 CON: 10 INT: 18 WIS: 15 CHA: 8

So he has an AB of +10 (+6 BAB +4 Str).

So let's test some good weapons:

Let's say I have taken an Exotic Weapon Proficiency feat for the Bastard Sword (D10 damage die) to use it as a one-handed weapon.

So single-handed I have a +10 to hit on a normal weapon attack.

Now I want to attack with two weapons (two Bastard Swords). I get -6 to hit penalty for my main hand and -10 penalty for the off hand.
Making it +4 to hit with my main hand and +0 to hit with my off hand.

This means I would probably never hit with my off hand.

Let's change the weapon in the off hand to a dagger:
Making it +6 to hit with my main hand and +2 to hit with my off hand.

Still pretty hard to hit something.

Now we'll take the Two-Weapon Fighting feat:

Now I can hit a bit easier with just two Bastard Swords.

It's now a solid +6 to hit with both off hand and main hand. Nice but we can do better.

Let's change the off hand weapon to a dagger again.

And now my "to hit" will be a solid +8 which is a whole lot better.

I suggest reading up on the combat rules in general. This is quite basic :)> as KRyan already wrote down. Just my 2 cents to add.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Where does the +4 to BAB come from? \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 20:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Tried to leave formatting as close to the original's as possible. But feel free to roll back if I missed something. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 6:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @annoyingimp your edits make sense to me, and answer my objection. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 14:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @annoyingimp its all good, not a native speaker. And still have a hard time to get somting good written here thx for the edit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thadir
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 8:08

If you want to make more than one attack per round (because of your base attack bonus etc.), you have to make a "full attack" (which is a full round action) to do those extra two attacks.

So assume your normal attacks (with your main weapon) is +6/+1. Making a full attack this way is a full round action and you only attack with the weapon in your main hand. If you decide make to use two weapons, without any feat, you get 1 extra attack with your off hand with the corresponding base attack bonus. Let me elaborate...

When you decide that you will also attack with the light weapon in your off hand (without the TWF feat), your attacks becomes +2(main)/-3(main)/-4(off). Now, when you take the two weapon fighting feat, with a light weapon in your off-hand, your attacks become +4(main)/-1(main)/+4(off). You cannot take this trait without the +6 BAB.

Improved two weapon fighting works this way as well. However the last example KRyan gave is wrong. Because you cannot get improved two weapon fighting without having +11 BAB.


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