Two-Weapon Combat (1e)

So a recent post over at Grognardia got me thinking about the old set of debates on two-weapon combat and how that works in AD&D. So, there is the Grey Mouser in the old Deities and Demigods who used two weapons (Cat’s Claw and Scalpel, IIRC, in the grand tradition of named weapons for hero’s) and then there is the bit in the DMG that equated using dual weapons as being a function of Dexterity rather than skill (or rather, that the skill was subsumed within the hit matrixes of the character).

To be truthful, this never made any sense to us. Now the group I DMed for and the group I played with all had a pretty heavy contingent of folks who studied the martial arts, or fencing, or were combat vets, or some combination thereof – so our take on many things was often grounded from a solid “real-world” perspective. Our opinion was that dual-weapon wielding was almost entirely a function of skill and training rather than Dexterity – which already provided plenty of benefits as it was.

So if you wanted to be able to use a Longsword and a Dagger together in combat, you had to use a weapon proficiency to do so. The nomenclature went something like this:

Weapon Proficiencies: Longsword, Dagger, TW: Longsword/Dagger, Crossbow

Or if you were specialized in one of those:

Weapon Proficiencies: Longsword (Spec), Dagger, TW: Longsword/Dagger

We allowed anyone to dual-weapon train, though Fighter-types were pretty much the only folks who did, with the odd Thief or Assassin choosing dual-dagger, or dagger/shortsword. This rule pretty much seemed to keep the ability to dual-wield in check, because a character who was not trained to do so would incur not just their non-weapon proficiency but then also the penalties as assigned in the DMG.

Combat-wise it was pretty simple – this would double the number of attacks that a character had. Fighters who had multiple attacks per round would simply double this and “simplify” – so a fighter getting 3/2 attacks, would not get two attacks on one round and four the next, instead the fighter would get three attacks every round, alternating which weapon they attacked twice with. Similarly, when parrying, a character could choose to parry an attack with each weapon (using two of their attacks) and subtract the combined “to-hit bonus” for each weapon from the attacker’s roll.

Character-class-wise, there were another couple of ripples when you ignore the DMG rules. To preserve the flavor of Duelists, we just declared that characters were assumed to have “blanket” training in dual-weapon training for whatever style of dueling weapons the character operated out of (fencers with Rapiers, Smallswords, Daggers, Main Gauche, etc.; “Tyrsfarian Knifefighters” with daggers and shortswords; etc), that Gladiators while being trained in how to use all weapons had to spend proficiencies on leaning to dual-wield like everyone else, and that Monks were trained to dual-wield any reasonable weapon they had proficiency with by virtue of their superior and very specific training and skill.

None of this seemed to unbalance the game because people were either reasonable, or because they took the ruling of the DM as final and with good graces. So I remember an old character of mine with 18/76 Strength who dual-wielded a Shortsword and a Longsword, nobody questioned that after I brought up things like double Chinese Broadsword as a martial arts form – there was a paladin who wielded twin longswords that we all winced at a bit, but he had like an 18/9+ Strength and a 17 or 18 Dexterity IIRC and he actually took that proficiency as a high enough level character that we really didn’t care. The ability of one melee character to deal damage in this manner still didn’t even come close to the mages or the monsters we tended to fight. The damage he could deal out (even under a Haste spell, even doubled Haste spells) was limited by his reach and one good Fireball or Lightning Bolt was generally viewed (truthfully) as more useful…

Hmmm… That brings to mind a whole potential post about combat tactics in AD&D that I may need to write.


Categories: Game Design, Game Play, House Rules | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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