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Dual Wielding and Two Weapon Fighting in 5e: Complete Guide

A rogue draws a second dagger as a snarling cave troll charges through an ancient crypt, a barbed club shaking in its raised fist.

With both daggers in hand, the rogue moves into a fighting stance. “Bring it on,” she whispers through gritted teeth.

Two weapon fighting can add style to any DnD 5e character, but it’s especially suited for certain classes and player options. 

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about two weapon fighting and take an indepth look at which classes make the best dual wielders.


Is Two Weapon Fighting Good in 5e?

With two weapon fighting, players can use a bonus action to make an extra attack. Fighting with two weapons gives players a chance to make an extra attack each round.

Two weapon fighting can be great depending on the situation. For some characters, dual wielding will offer a chance to routinely deal extra damage. 

Especially at lower levels, two weapon fighting can give players an advantage in combat.

Simply having the chance to make a second attack each round could be the difference between a crushing victory or a near defeat.

However, using two weapons isn’t for everyone. In fact, some characters and classes won’t benefit from it at all.

That’s why it’s important to carefully choose your character class and feats if you plan on making a dual wielder.

How Does Two Weapon Fighting Work in DnD 5e?

In DnD 5e, there are special rules for using two weapons simultaneously. Dual-wielding gives the player a chance to make an attack with each hand, but only under certain conditions.

According to the game rules, a character can only fight with two weapons if both weapons are light, and they won’t be able to add a damage modifier to the second attack.

If the weapon in their off-hand also has the thrown quality, characters can choose to make a ranged attack with that weapon.

Here’s the downside: dual-wielding requires the use of a player’s bonus action.

Each turn, a character will need to use their bonus action to make that additional attack.

Here’s a short overview of the rules for Two Weapon Fighting in DnD 5e:

  • Any class can dual wield in DnD 5e
  • Two weapon fighting requires light weapons unless a character takes the Dual Wielding feat
  • Unless a character learns the Two Weapon Fighting feature, they can’t add a damage modifier to attacks made with their off hand

We can see from the ruleset that two weapon fighting is only possible with light weapons.

And when a character makes an extra strike using their bonus action, the attack is made without a damage modifier.

These limitations, however, can be overcome by acquiring additional feats and abilities.

Is Two Weapon Fighting Worth It?

Whether or not two weapon fighting is worth it depends on several factors, including a character’s class and ability scores.

Some characters will benefit more from using a single heavy weapon or playing more defensively

The following chart compares the Fighter and Ranger classes. Using average rolls, we can approximate the damage in various scenarios.

The following table compares damage after 4 rounds of combat between various classes. The table assumes characters are using optimum weapons and abilities.

For example, the Barbarian uses Rage and the Rogue uses Sneak Attack once per round.

The Fighter and Ranger are both assumed to have chosen the appropriate fighting style for the class the weapons they are wielding (Two-Weapon Fighting, Defense, GreatWeapon Fighting, etc…).

Characters are fighting Goblins (AC 11).

Level 1 Two Weapon vs One Handed vs Great Weapon Damage:

Class (1st Level)Two Weapon Fighting Damage*One Weapon and Shield Damage*One Great Weapon Damage*
Ranger 471634
Fighter372632
Barbarian (w Rage)502737
Rogue524013
* Damage after 4 rounds of combat.

At level five, characters have improved abilities. For instance, the Ranger is assumed to have enabled Hunter’s Mark.

The Fighter uses Action Surge on the first round of combat. Characters use extra attacks if they have them. 

Weapon choices include shorstwords, longswords, or greatswords. Characters using a shield gain +2 to their AC. Characters are fighting Drow (AC 15).

Level 5 Two Weapon vs One Handed vs Great Weapon Damage:

Class (5th Level)Two Weapon Fighting Damage*One Weapon and Shield Damage*One Great Weapon Damage*
Ranger (w Hunter’s Mark)785956
Fighter (w Action Surge)694690
Barbarian (w Rage)685765
Rogue (w Sneak Attack)715315
* Damage after 4 rounds of combat.

We also recommend this video if you’re looking for more on Dual Wielding:

Does Dual Wielding Count as Two Attacks?

When wielding two light weapons, characters who make a melee attack can use their bonus action to make a second attack with their off-hand. In 5e, each player gets a single bonus action per turn. 

For this reason, using a bonus action to make an extra attack doesn’t count as two attacks. It counts as an attack, and a bonus action. 

Characters who gain extra attacks will still be able to use their bonus action. For example, a second level Fighter with two shortswords can use Action Surge and a bonus action to make three attacks in a single round.

Can Any Class in DnD Dual Wield or Two Weapon Fight?

Some classes gain access to special rules about two weapon fighting, but any class can use their bonus action two make a second attack, provided they are using light weapons.

Wizards, clerics, and druids can even take advantage of two weapon fighting. While Rangers and Fighters can both learn special two weapon fighting techniques, any class is free to dual wield if they want to.

While it’s true that any class can fight with two light weapons, it’s not always a good option.

As we’ll see later, some classes will benefit much more from this technique than others.

Dual Wielding vs. Two Weapon Fighting?

In DnD 5e, dual wielding and two weapon fighting are not technically the same things.

Most players will use the term interchangeably, but it’s important to note that there is a difference between characters with the Dual Wielder feat and those that learn the Two Weapon Fighting style

While it’s true that 5e allows  any character to take advantage of two weapon fighting, some classes have the option of learning the Two Weapon Fighting feature.

Characters with this fighting skill can add their damage modifier to attacks made with their off hand strikes. 

Using the Dual Wielder Feat

Unlike two weapon fighting, dual wielding nay refer to characters with the Dual Wielder feat.

Learning the Dual Wielder feat allows any character to take their two weapon fighting skills up a notch.

With this feat, characters using two weapons get to add an extra +1 to their AC.

What’s more, characters with Dual Wielder can fight with any one handed weapon (even if they aren’t light).

Becoming familiar with the rules for dual wielding in DnD 5e can help avoid confusion in this area. For example, the dual wielder feat allows a character to draw two weapons simultaneously.

Some GM’s may not strictly enforce this rule, but others may require characters to take the Dual Wielder feat if they wish to draw two swords with an action.

What Weapons can I Dual Wield in DnD 5e? 

Most characters can only dual wield light weapons in DnD 5e. Unless a weapon has the light property, it usually can not be used for two weapon fighting.

Weapons with this property include shortswords, daggers, clubs, and handaxes. 

As long as characters are using light weapons in both hands, they are free to use their bonus action to make an extra attack when they make a melee strike using their action.

In order to dual wield other weapons, players must take the Dual Wielder feat. This feat allows players to use medium or heavy weapons for two weapon fighting, but only if the weapon can be wielded with one hand.

Many heavy weapons require the use of both hands, and therefore can’t be used for two weapon fighting at all.

Extra Attack When Two Weapon Fighting: What Happens?

Each player gets a single bonus action per round. When characters gain an extra attack, this doesn’t change.

If a player has the option of taking an extra attack, that player still only has a single bonus action.

For example, a 5th level fighter can take an extra attack. If the fighter was using two weapons, he or she could use a bonus action to make a third attack each round. 

If a character uses their bonus action, they do not get another bonus action no matter how many extra attack actions they may have. Even a 20th level fighter can only use a bonus action once per turn. 

Which Classes are Best for Two Weapon Fighting?

Some classes in DnD 5e gain extra abilities that make two weapon fighting especially potent. And while anyone can pick up two shortswords and swing them, players who want to deal big damage will need to plan ahead. 

The Fighter

The Fighter gains access to the Two Weapon Fighting style at level one.

Characters with this feature can add a damage modifier to attacks made with either hand. Depending on a character’s stats, this may add significant damage over the course of a fight.

Strength is usually a fighter’s major asset. Having an extra attack can be a game changer in low level campaigns.

The benefits of this style do taper off at higher levels, however. Because Fighters get extra attacks anyway, they may be better off using a two-handed weapon.

The Ranger

Like the Fighter, the Ranger can learn the Two Weapon Fighting style and deal extra damage with this technique.

A Dexterity based Ranger will also benefit from two weapon fighting, gaining extra attacks each turn to make use of finesse weapons.

Unlike Fighters, Rangers need their bonus action to activate signature spells, such as Hunter’s Mark.

Because Hunter’s Mark takes a bonus action, Rangers will need to carefully juggle their actions.

The Barbarian

Barbarians have abilities that can greatly improve the effectiveness of two weapon fighting.

For example, Barbarians can use the Rage ability and add extra damage to melee strikes. A raging Barbarian can dual wield shortswords and add Rage Damage to every blow.

The Rogue

Dual wielding can be a surprisingly potent choice for the Rogue class.. Generally, Rogues use Dexterity based attacks that deal less damage than classes that rely on strength, so having another attack can really help.

With two weapon fighting, Rogues also get a second chance to trigger their Sneak Attack ability!

For most Rogues, triggering Sneak Attack is the goal of each round of combat. At lower levels, having a second chance to trigger Sneak Attack will significantly increase the damage output of the Rogue. 

Multiclass Characters

Lastly, multiclass characters can specialize in two weapon fighting by taking levels in Fighter or Ranger.

Doing so will improve the damage output of any character who wants to do more than just look cool swinging two swords.

Which Feats Are Good for Dual Wielding?

Because two weapon fighting is available to any class, it doesn’t take much to start dual wielding.

Pretty much anyone with two light melee weapons can take an extra swing each turn.

The Dual Wielder feat is an obvious choice for characters that rely on their strength.

Dexterity-based characters might be better off choosing other feats, however, even if they are planning to use two weapons.

Another good choice is the Mobile feat. Because dual wielders are usually in close-quarters combat, having extra mobility on the battlefield becomes even more important.

With the Mobile feat, a character’s speed increases and they don’t provoke attacks of opportunity from creatures they attack.

If Dual Wielding Is So Great, Why Doesn’t Everyone Use It?

Characters with high strength scores will usually deal more damage using heavy weapons.

Monks get a bonus attack from their Martial Arts, so they wouldn’t gain anything from two weapon fighting. 

Because two weapon fighting requires using a bonus action, some players might be better off using a single weapon.

For example, even though Fighters can learn the Two Weapon Fighting style, fighting with two shortswords may be less potent than using a single greatsword.

Which Classes Should Avoid Two Weapon Fighting?

For the most part, spellcasters will gain little from wielding two weapons. While it might wow an audience when a wizard draws a pair of scimitars, a spell would almost always be a better choice.

In general, Clerics, Wizards, Sorcerers, and Druids are probably better off using a single weapon, whether it’s a bow, sword, or staff.

Of course, there’s no reason why any of these classes can’t use two weapons. The rules definitely give them the option.

If a player wants a wizard to run into battle swinging two swords, that’s not my business. I just hope they’re lucky.

Conclusion

Dual wielding instantly increases the cool factor of any DnD character, but it’s not always the best decision.

While all characters have the option of two weapon fighting, some classes are better suited to the technique than others.

Characters that take the Dual Wielder feat have more options when it comes to fighting with two weapons.

Those employing the Two Weapon Fighting style will probably benefit from this archetype more than anyone else. Rogues are also an excellent choice for anyone looking to deal massive damage with two weapons.

While wielding two weapons will make any adventurer more intimidating, it’s not always the best option.

Be careful to choose the right class and feats if you plan on making a character of this type.