[RPG] How does two-weapon fighting work


I'm quite confused about attacking with two weapons in both hands and wondering what is required to be able to do to (in Pathfinder).

1. Base Attack Bonus
Looking at the base attack bonus tables for different classes (e.g. the Ranger) it seems like up to +5 you get only one attack per full action but starting from base-attack-bonus of +6 you get a second attack with +1.

2. Feats
There is a feat Two Weapon Fighting. The existence of the feat sounds like you could not do two-weapon-fighting without it. However, in the description of "normal" it says:

If you wield a second weapon in your off hand, you can get one extra attack per round with that weapon. When fighting in this way you suffer a –6 penalty with your regular attack or attacks with your primary hand and a –10 penalty to the attack with your off hand. If your off-hand weapon is light, the penalties are reduced by 2 each.

3. Core Rulebook Chapter about combat
If I understand the Core Rulebook chapter about combat correctly it says that you need a full-round action do attack with both weapons in two hands.

So how do these things interact? Can I only attack with my off-hand weapon if my base-attack-bonus is high enough that I get second one with +1?

If not, how does the "multiple attacks from high base-attack-bonus" interact with dual-wielding? Assuming I reached a state of base-attack-bonus with +11/+6/+1 and have a full-round action to attack. Does that mean I can either attack with my primary weapon three times or use the primary weapon and off-hand weapon to attack only twice? Why would I then ever choose dual-wielding? Or can I attack three times with both weapons (leading to a total of 6 attacks with heavy malus)
Or would I get 3 attacks with the primary weapon + 1 attack with the off-hand weapon? If so, what attack bonus do I have to use for each of the attacks?

Best Answer

You’re missing the two-weapon fighting combat option rules. Without those, the feat et al. won’t make very much sense.

The two-weapon fighting combat option allows you to get an extra attack when you full attack, but all of your attacks in that full attack take a penalty. The extra attack has to be with a different weapon from your regular attack (“offhand” weapon), and the penalties you take depend on whether or not that offhand weapon is light or not.

The Two-Weapon Fighting feat reduces those penalties to a point that this option is actually usable.

Another key thing to realize is that having two weapons in hand does not automatically mean you are using the two-weapon fighting option. You have to choose to use it, to get an extra attack and take an attack penalty.

As for the +6/+1 thing, that’s called an iterative attack, and that’s free just for having BAB that high. It is separate from, and can be combined with, the two-weapon fighting option. So, assuming you have the Two-Weapon Fighting feat and a light weapon in the offhand (the only case in which the two-weapon fighting option is a good idea), with +6/+1 BAB you could attack normally, for +6/+1, or you could choose to use two-weapon fighting, taking a −2 penalty. Then your attacks would be +4/+4/−1, where the second +4 attack has to be with the offhand weapon. If you take the Improved Two-Weapon Fighting feat, that becomes +4/+4/−1/−1, because Improved Two-Weapon Fighting gives you a second bonus attack with the offhand weapon, at −5 (matching the penalty on the iterative attack).

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