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I've been toying with various approaches to making Two-Weapon Fighting interact better with other class features that use a bonus action. I am considering removing the bonus action requirement of Two-Weapon Fighting, either outright or as an addition to the Dual Wielder Feat. The additional attack is still limited to once per turn.

Does experience with this house rule reveal exploits or that it makes things unbalanced?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note: you speak in comments of a Barbarian under Frenzy not being able to optimally use TWF which made me thing => do you want to change the rules, or the style? D&D is not upheld by the WYSIWYG rule (What You See Is What You Get) that some figurine tabletop games are, so you can perfectly have a Barbarian character wielding two hand-axes for style points, but then use the rules & damage of a great axe. Just consider that he always strike with both hand-axe at the same time. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 3, 2017 at 8:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mrm, maybe that could be more workable. There's always fluff, after all. The thing is, the game has rules for two-weapon fighting, and it just feels weird not to use them--- but then they don't mesh well with certain martial archetypes. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 3, 2017 at 22:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Isn't this question kind of opinion based? I am not sure how the guidelines are on what you can do and can't, but the answers that can be given may be less factual & more off opinions? \$\endgroup\$
    – MemeMan
    May 21, 2021 at 0:37

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Unequivocally: Yes

The single biggest limitation on PCs (or any creature) is the restriction imposed by the action economy, specifically:

  • one move
  • one action
  • potentially one interaction (free)
  • potentially one bonus action
  • potentially one reaction

Mess with this at your peril

In a combat, the side that can consistently make the better choices for the use of these limited opportunities to act will, all else being equal, win.

There should be pressure on a PC to struggle with if the Attack, Disengage, or Hide action is the best choice right now. Similarly, PCs should always be looking for ways to trigger a bonus action rather than not and making decisions about which bonus action is optimal.

With particular reference to two weapon fighting, there is an inherent trade off between making another attack versus using a more damaging weapon or getting extra protection from a shield: this doesn't change under your proposal. Notwithstanding, two weapon fighting is powerful - it doubles the potential damage output of low level martial characters and while it's utility lessens for characters that get extra attacks it is still a solid bonus action choice. Which is really the point: it should remain a choice - not something with no cost.

However, to consider just one potential abuse of your system: I will play a rogue who uses daggers (light finesse melee weapons that can be used for two-weapon fighting and trigger sneak attack). At second level I get cunning action - if I use the bonus action to hide I will get advantage on my first attack and trigger my sneak attack damage. Under the published rules I have to make a choice: hide and make one attack with advantage and sneak attack damage or make two attacks. Under your proposal I will always hide and make my first attack with advantage and sneak attack and get my second attack as well. A difficult choice becomes a no brainer and that is not a good thing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is it really that much of a problem? If anything, I'm more worried about the monk using TWF and Martial Arts/Flurry of Blows. I'm mostly considering this because there seems to be a lot of features, like the Berserker Barbarian's Frenzy, where the character is hampered if they use TWF. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 3, 2017 at 2:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Barbarian's Frenzy (and many other features) are not designed to be used in tandem with TWF. Just because a character build is possible (such as a Barbarian with both Frenzy and TWF) does not mean it is viable or optimal. The fact that TWF is rendered mostly useless in some builds does not mean TWF is broken: it means that some builds should eschew TWF. Dale is very thorough with his explanation of how your house rule would effect the action economy. It would seriously change the balance of the game, and not in a uniform way for all characters. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 3, 2017 at 2:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ TWF seems to be designed to grant a second attack to characters that would not normally receive additional attacks. Like a Ranger or Rogue. It's especially useful for a Rogue in that you now have two chances to trigger your Sneak Attack against particularly nasty foes that are hard to hit. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 3, 2017 at 3:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess TWF is really niche, then. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 3, 2017 at 3:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Percival - getting the SA bonus as a rogue is incredibly easy in 5e. The point is simple: Having two attacks as a rogue is beneficial in that it gives you a second opportunity to trigger a failed SA attempt. But more importantly, the finer points of how to engage in SA combat with a rogue has very little to do with the question that was asked. Personal opinions on min-maxing are fine, but comments aren't the place to hash them out. If you don't like the answer post your own. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 5, 2017 at 16:33
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For a STR-based character in tier 1 play (or otherwise without extra attack) with no damage bonuses, feats, or fighting style, this is already slightly better than wielding a greatsword:

  • Any time you finished off one opponent with your main attack, you would be able to target a different creature with your other attack.
  • Two smaller attacks provide a more reliable source of damage, and reliability tends to favour the party.
  • Two smaller attacks are also better for breaking a caster's focus or inflicting failed death saves.

The only real drawback would be weaker opportunity attacks, which can't be relied on to come up very often.

A bigger issue comes up with damage bonuses such as from barbarian rage or spells like Hunter's Mark, since those would now be applied twice per turn instead of only once.

It's also worth noting that the "two-weapon" fighting style provides a larger damage bonus than any other style, if you are two-weapon fighting every turn.

Once tier 2 is reached and STR-based characters gain the Extra Attack feature, it balances out a little more with greatsword builds having higher damage if not boosted in any way, but two-weapon fighting being able to achieve higher damage.

Another problem is DEX-based weapons, since DEX already offers many advantages over STR, allowing DEX characters to attack for 2d6+DEX damage as an action makes these builds much stronger.

Then there's features such as a rogue's sneak attack or a paladin's divine smite, which depend less on weapon damage and more on how often you hit - which makes two-weapon fighting more valuable.

TWF is currently niche, but not completely unused and often not terrible even when it is slightly sub-optimal. Buffing it across the board may make it "viable" in cases where it currently isn't but is likely to make it slightly OP in cases where it is currently slightly sub-optimal, and very OP in cases where it is currently viable.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't see how any of this is an argument for having TWF cost a bonus action. Everything you described is currently possible with unmodified TWF, and nothing is significantly improved by having TWF be free. \$\endgroup\$
    – sptrashcan
    May 20, 2021 at 0:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @sptrashcan except everything I described is not possible if you needed to use your bonus action for something else (like entering a barbarian rage or casting hunter's mark). TWF is mathematically better than swinging a greatsword or a rapier, but only so long as you have an available bonus action to use it. Which means the cost is the only thing that currently prevents it from being OP. Take away thay cost, and it's just straight-up better than any other option, period. Which is pretty much the definition of "over-powered". \$\endgroup\$ May 20, 2021 at 12:51

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