Two handed v dual wielding (pathfinder)

One perennial argument in every fantasy game system I’ve played (online and pen and paper) is in regard to dual wielding. Does it do more or less damage than the Big Honking Sword? As always It Depends. It depends on system and mods from feats and skills and so on and so forth.

(Bottom line up front: in pathfinder the big honking sword beats all the dual wield combinations, assuming only TWF for mods.) But it’s worse than that – see the post for why.

And again, your humble fool is going to try to answer despite ‘it depends’. I’ll do so again by staying in one system (Pathfinder), and answering just at the core with minimum mods.

Minimum. One, to be precise. TWF without which smashing things with your face is almost as effective.

I’m going to only show some weapons – basically ‘best’ (bastard, long, and short swords) plus a shield combo for the people who recommend TWF with sword and shield. I’m doing to show greatsword and singles of the weapons for comparison.

Let’s get the table out of the way first.

Weapon DPR at 14 DPR at 20
Greatsword 2.695 0.385
Bastard only 2.1175 0.3025
Bastd+Short 1.99375 0.380625
Long only 1.7325 0.2475
Long+Short 1.71875 0.328125
Long + Spiked Lt Shld 1.565625 0.301875
Twin Bstd 1.36125 0.433125
Short only 1.3475 0.1925
Twin Long 1.11375 0.354375

Yes, those numbers are right. They’re the DPRs at 14 and when you need a natural 20 to hit. Now to defend it.

First, keep in mind that using two weapons (with TWF) is -2 for both if the off-hand weapon is light, -4 if not.

Now here’s the math so you can double-check. We start with the original formula and make a couple of changes.
DPR = ((dmin + dmax)/2 * ((21 – tgtnum)/20 – ((21 – pot_crit)/20 * (21 – tgtnum)/20)) + ((dmin + dmax)/2 * X *(21 – pot_crit)/20 * (21 – tgtnum)/20))
DPR = ((dmin + dmax + dmod)/2 * ((21+ hitmod – tgtnum)/20 – ((21- hitmod – pot_crit)/20 * (21+ hitmod – tgtnum)/20)) + ((dmin + dmax + dmod)/2 * X *(21+ hitmod – pot_crit)/20 * (21+ hitmod – tgtnum)/20))
Changes are in italics, and there are really only two (done several times).
+ dmod. Add any damage modifiers to the average damage. This isn’t going to come into play in this post but will be happening soon when I look at some other feats.
+ hitmod. This lets us add the ‘to hit’ modification. It’s intentionally inverting the apparent effect because of where I’m applying it.

Also in the spreadsheet you need an IF statement. IF the mod makes 21-tgtnum+hitmod less than 1 then you need to ignore the hitmod. That’s because a 20 always hits. You also need to make the pot_crit a 20 as well – you can’t crit on 18 or 19 if you can’t hit on 18 or 19.

That’s it. I’m open to people saying the formula is wrong, and if so I’ll be happy to adjust (tell me in the comments). But as it is, the rule is that barring possible special modifications TWF is the worst option between two-handed, single weapon, and TWF. The exceptions are where everyone needs natural 20s to hit.

~ by Kirk on January 24, 2014.

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