[RPG] Confused about fighter’s Two Weapon Fighting Style


A fighter in a campaign I am running has the Two Weapon Fighting Style and I am having some trouble with finding details on how it works.

  • Does he have to wield two light weapons? Or can he use (for example) a sword and a battleaxe?

  • Can he strike two different targets within his range for one attack (e.g., sword attacks a goblin, off-hand weapon attacks another goblin)?

  • What exactly is the penalty — is it that the damage modifier only goes to weapon #2 and weapon #1 gets no damage modifier?

Best Answer

In D&D 5E, specific rules take precedence over general rules. Since the two-weapon style, available through the fighter and ranger classes, is a specific rule, let's start by reviewing the general rule:

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. (PHB, p. 195)

According to this rule, attacking with a second weapon requires :

  1. The use of a bonus action.
  2. That the weapon in your main hand possesses the "light" quality.
  3. That the weapon in your off-hand also possesses the "light" quality.

Note that these rules do not specify that you must attack the same target, nor that the weapons used need to be identical. Normally, you would add your ability modifier to the damage of your attacks. However, these rules also include a specific ruling that only applies to two-weapon fighting :

  1. You don't add your ability modifier to the damage of the bonus attack, unless that modifier is negative.

    This does not normally affect your attacks granted by the attack action, only those granted by this specific use of a bonus action. This, however, is then affected by the specific rules introduced by the two-weapon fighting style:

    Two-Weapon Fighting Style: When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack. (PHB, p. 72)

    As such, a fighter with this fighting style can apply his ability modifier on all of his attacks, including off-hand ones. However, he is still subject to the general ruling stating that he must wield two light weapons to do so.

  2. To wield weapons that are not light, one would require the "Dual Wielder" feat, found in the optional feat rules presented in chapter 6 of the PHB. This would allow a fighter or a ranger, for instance, to wield a pair of longswords or a longsword and a battle axe. This feat also has the added perk of allowing the drawing and sheathing of both weapons as a single item interaction, as well as granting a +1 to AC while wielding two weapons.


  1. You can only wield two light weapons (unless you possess the dual wielder feat)
  2. These weapons do not have to be identical (nowhere is that stated in the rules)
  3. Attacking with the off-hand requires the use of a bonus action, but otherwise acts as a regular attack (no penalty to hit, can select any target), except for...
  4. You do not add positive ability modifier to your off-hand damage, only negative ones (unless you possess the two-weapon fighting style from the fighter or ranger class)