Thursday, 28 March 2013

Dual Wielding

The munchkin's delight, fighting with a weapon in each hand needs to be balanced against using a shield or a two-handed weapon.
Go go spell checker!
Here's my usual solution.

 It got some attention when I posted the 52 Pages, and commenter Picador noted a few emergent properties of the rule ... namely that attacks with a shield getting a maximum +2 strength bonus to hit can complement using a normal sword, which only gets +1 ... and the potential for awesome comboing with my "feats" for fighters and rogues that let you roll an extra damage die on a max or min roll.

The slight update clarifies that the higher damage roll is checked after adding bonuses like Strength and extra dice. This privileges the rogue's extra damage die feat, which activates on a high roll, over the fighter's, which has more chance of being irrelevant because it boosts the lower roll.

This scheme isn't perfect. It requires a fiddly choice each round whether to bash with the shield, forgoing AC bonus, or not- and when does that get decided? Also, it may not matter that much. I worked out numbers (ignoring the bonus dice for the moment) for damage ...

A d8 weapon does average of 4.5 damage/hit
Fighter with d8 and d6 weapon: average of 5.23 damage
Anyone with d8 and d4 weapon: average of 4.81 damage
Anyone with d8 weapon and shield (d4-1): average of 4.63 damage

So, stacked up to the benefit of using a shield defensively (+2 AC), the off-hand dagger isn't looking so hot, although the d6 weapon gives the fighter a respectable half-point plus of bonus damage, not quite reaching the +1 average damage from using a two-handed weapon (more if you're super-strong) but without the drawbacks of a wide swing. The shield bash is going to be beneficial only rarely, but that factor further argues for the shield, which especially against weak opponents can cut your chance to be hit by a half to a third.

Some ideas to make the dagger more attractive off-hand, especially for the iconic rogue ...

* It gives +1 AC in the off-hand.
* When ambushing/backstabbing with dual weapons (except shield), roll the bonus d6 twice as well and take the higher.
* Rogues can use a dagger for d6 damage.

Anything else?


  1. Aha, this highlights a further misunderstanding of mine: I didn't realize that one had to choose between using the shield defensively (-2 AC) or offensively (use dual-wield rules). I thought you just got all the benefits all the time. Which I guess is a bit overpowered, maybe, but hey, shields are hella useful in real-life fighting, or so all my viking friends tell me. Also, they're really heavy, so that's a bit of a re-balance. Also: you get the -1 AC bonus from a staff when you're using it to attack, right? Or no?

    As for the proposed Rogue-with-dagger benefits: I'm not a huge fan. How about give a general backstab/ambush bonus for any use of a CLOSE weapon (dagger/shortsword)? Or say that you ONLY get the bonus with missiles or TIGHT weapons (i.e. stabby things and hatchets).

    Actually, how does a grapple with a CLOSE weapon work out from behind? Looks like an attacker attempting to brawl when not being engaged by the target automatically gets to move into the same space and attack with a CLOSE weapon. The only real benefit, I guess, is that the target can't fight back with a normal weapon until they disengage from brawling range. Maybe Rogues should continue getting their Backstab bonus for the entire brawl if they initiate the brawl from behind?

    Also of note: in a brawl, the only two weapons you can use (dagger/shortsword) also have identical damage (1d4 piercing), so you're just as well off with the lighter, more concealable one. This might do the trick in terms of privileging dagger use.

  2. I do not have such an informative comment as mr Picador above me, I just wanted to say how incredibly entertaining this blog is.

    Thank you!

  3. Not sure on maths here, but the only bonus I allow with daggers is the ability to automatically hit while in a successful grapple. You need an opposing Strength test every round, unless opponent wants to stay in the grapple (like you both have daggers) but you do an auto 1d4 as long as it persists.