In GURPS 4E if you're armed with a sword and a shield you can attack twice with the All-Out Attack maneuver or both block and parry the same attack with the All-Out Defense maneuver. However, if you're armed with two weapons the rules don't allow more attacks and you're less able to defend yourself!

Am I reading the rules wrong? Is it really pointless for an ambidextrous character to wield two weapons?

Please limit answers to the the basic rules.


2 Answers 2


What a second weapon can offer you, using only basic rules, is a second parry.

If you're highly skilled with a weapon type, let's say Rapier, then you will have a high Parry score with that weapon. Parrying twice with the same weapon is at -4(-2 for fencing weapons like the rapier) and therefore usually a terrible(fairly bad) idea, but with a second weapon you can parry a second time at no penalty*! This is useful against multiple enemies, in particular.

What All-Out Defense allows you to do, is to apply two defenses against the same attack.

In non-basic rules there are more things, like a Dual-Weapon Attack or Cross-Parrying.

It doesn't really benefit your offense, which is realistic, but it does help your defense.

*With Ambidexterity. Otherwise -2 for off-hand parrying.

Edit: After seeing your edit, I want to add that this will not cost you a lot more points. Ambidexterity is useful for all kinds of stuff, and this way you'll likely need to keep up one less skill...

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    \$\begingroup\$ Which in dueling/fencing is exactly what a main gauche (left hand dagger) was for; parrying. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Aug 27, 2016 at 8:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely - that's why a main gauche receives a bonus to parrying in GURPS, unlike most knives. \$\endgroup\$
    – MarkZ
    Aug 28, 2016 at 18:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Look at B417 then: Dual-Weapon Attack. Optional rule from the Basic Set, which lets you attack with two weapons, both at -4 to hit (plus any off-hand penalties) can attack one or two adjacent enemies and if you focus on one guy, he gets -1 to defend, because it splits his attention. You can also improve that by learning a technique. There's your situational offensive bonus. It's still not amazing, but there you go. \$\endgroup\$
    – MarkZ
    Sep 6, 2016 at 8:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ -2 to skill, giving -1 to defense is the standard trade-off, though: Deceptive Attack works the same way, for example. It's a smaller penalty than Rapid Strike's -6/-6, certainly with Ambidexterity, and you can train it up, unlike Rapid Strike, iirc. It's not really good, but that's just realistic. Maybe there is stuff in Martial Arts, using cinematic options, that lets you make dual-wielding awesome, but realistic. There's a reason that everyone went with X and Shield, or later perhaps X and Pistol - those combinations really give you greater benefits than a second melee weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – MarkZ
    Sep 9, 2016 at 21:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Les I'm starting to think we should take this to chat or, preferably, the GURPS forum at forums.sjgames.com - You'll get even more, even better input there. All I can say is that yes, all things equal, the Sword&Board guy has an advantage over the 2-Swords guy and that is the way it should be. Although I have to say, if your character is supposed to be a competent fighter, he should be able to take the -2 to skill to reduce your opponents defense. In GURPS, getting past your enemy's defenses is usually the most important thing in a fight. \$\endgroup\$
    – MarkZ
    Sep 10, 2016 at 12:51

With two weapons, you can attack with them both, by using All-Out Attack (Double), from p365 of Basic. The sole advantage over attacking twice with the same weapon is that you can do it with weapons that need to be readied after use. However, most characters who use such weapons only use one, plus a shield, and expect to use the shield as their main defence.

The real usefulness of two weapons comes if you buy Extra Attack, from p53. This is not cheap, at 25 points, and you'll want Ambidexterity as well, if you're limited to Basic, but it does give you potentially twice the damage output. It is available to normal people, but as always, consult your GM.

GURPS Martial Arts is full of advanced combat rules and options, plus real-world and fictional martial arts styles. For example, the Off-Hand Weapon Training perk allows you to buy off the -4 off-hand penalty for a single point, for a single type of weapon.

  • \$\begingroup\$ If I recall correctly, Extra Attack requires "another limb" by default (to reuse a limb costs extra) \$\endgroup\$
    – Drejzer
    Oct 20, 2021 at 22:10

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