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I was playing with my group, and we had a Rogue that held a Rapier and a Quarterstaff at the same time and kept swapping between them. This started an argument about the Two Weapon fighting rule within our group, but he wasn't using Two Weapon Fighting as he only attacked with one at a time, instead of both. As they are not two handed weapons, it seems that he was within his right to do so. I just wanted to get someone else's opinion on the matter.

If he holds two weapons, but only uses one at a time, does it count as Two Weapon Fighting?

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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.

In D&D 5e there is no Two Weapon Fighting Style in the way that many other RPG define fighting styles.

Instead you are eligible to make another attack with a off-hand weapon if you met the requirements. In this case you have a light melee weapon in primary hand and a light melee weapon in the off-hand. This makes the character eligible to use their bonus action to make another attack with the condition that your ability modifiers doesn't apply to damage unless it is negative.

If the character is grasping two weapons but doesn't meet the criteria above then he can not take a bonus action to make a off-hand weapon attack per the above rule. Otherwise holding two weapons doesn't have any other effect.

As for the specific tactic the Rogue character use. You have to keep in mind that D&D 5e does not detail which hand is dominant for a PC. Many RPGs, for example GURPS, note that character will have a dominant hand and penalizes attack made with a weapon in the off hand. D&D 5e doesn't deal with this. Hence if you are grasping two weapons, you can do anything that you are eligible to do with either weapon. Including as stated in your example, attack with a Rapier in round one and with the staff in round two. In both rounds the character takes only the action he is eligible for except he using a different weapon held in a different hand.

I will note that because both hands are occupied then both weapons are considered gripped by only one hand. This may be important for specific weapons.

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    \$\begingroup\$ to be clear, in this instance, the rogue can switch between the weapons on alternating turns, but cannot make use of a bonus action attack with the off hand (unless the rogue has the dual wielder feat), since neither the rapier nor the quarterstaff are light weapons. \$\endgroup\$ – Shem Aug 16 '16 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ The only thing I'd add is that as part of your turn (move/action), you can interact with one item - such as sheathing/unsheathing a weapon. I'd count switching weapons around to be covered by that, with the caveat that he can't switch hands and take some other minor/free action without consuming the actual action for the round with it. \$\endgroup\$ – James Alday Aug 17 '16 at 18:55
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No

Two-weapon Fighting allows you to make an additional attack as a bonus action. Nothing forces you to take this bonus action, and as a Rogue, Cunning Action gives you more options with your bonus action such as Dashing, Disengaging, or Dodging. In addition, Sneak Attack only activates once per turn, so even if he did hit multiple times, it would only do 1 weapon die's additional damage (since he doesn't have the TWF fighting style, he can't add his Dex or Strength to the damage of the bonus attack). It's not only perfectly legal for him to not avail himself of the full benefits of TWF, it's preferable.

(Though I must ask why he feels the need to use a quarterstaff when the 5e SRD tells me a quarterstaff is not a Finesse weapon and therefore cannot Sneak Attack.)

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Nope

Two-Weapon Fighting only comes into play when attacking with both weapons on the same turn using a bonus action. Since he's alternating between two one-handed weapons, he's not using TWF, and so doesn't hit any snags.

D&D 5e doesn't have rules for handedness, either, so there's no reason from RAW that this can't be done.

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