... But let's talk about it anyway.

Now, I used the word silly rather than unrealistic for a reason. There are a few effective dual-weapon fighting styles in the real world, though they rarely rely on actually attacking with both weapons (for example, a number of shield-less sword styles have a short sword or dagger occupying the off-hand to parry with). In most cases, due to how war was waged in Middle Europe and how their weapons and armor were designed, using a shield would've been more effective than a second weapon, but magi often push the limits of technology in the medieval setting (for example, Verditius magi inventing the aptly-named Anachronistic Crossbow) so it might well be reasonable coming from them.

So how would you go about statting dual-wielding mechanically? Would you require Virtues or special skills? Perhaps assign penalties and bonuses based on the weight of the off-hand weapon?

(Or am I being ridiculous for even asking, and the rules actually just glanced over this because dual-wielding and getting the normal stats for the off-hand weapon is considered a fair trade for not having a shield, and wasn't thought of as worth mentioning? I can't imagine this is the actual answer, though...)

Pg. 134 of GotF has a ghostly gladiator with combat stats for both "Trident & Net" and "Net". No skills list though.

You can add some more entries about off-hand parrying to the Melee Weapon Table on ArM5 p.176, and list there different parrying methods just like shields.

For example:
Parrying Dagger Ability Single Init 0 Atk 0 Dfn +2 Dam 0 Str n/a Load 0
Shortsword Off-hand Ability Single Init 0 Atk +1 Dfn +1 Dam 0 Str -1 Load 1

You would use these modifiers like shield modifiers, just adding them to the character's combat scores together with his main weapon modifiers.

This may not be very adequate for early 13th century characters, and perhaps require specific background or training there. But it could become verrry useful, if you play in Mark Shirley's 1470 from subrosa #16.


Note that the empty hand in "single-handed" weapon is used all the time - to punch or grapple or throw things or whatever. So it's not like mideval folks didn't use the off hand for stuff.

That being said, I'd model any sort of off-hand weapon use as a flat +1 bonus to defense (for a sturdy parrying dagger), and to use Brawling (which covers the use of the dagger) when someone tries to grapple you and you have to use that dagger offensively.

For wielding equally-long weapons, I'd personally rule it as a separate Ability based on Single Weapon, but with a flat +2 to defense. Here's my reasoning.

(Martial art sword geek digression time!)

Dual wielding is something of a misnomer: a spear and shield grog is wielding something in both hands, and if he slams you in the face with his shield before stabbing you, it's certainly going to feel like both were weapons. as you mentioned, if you're going into combat, your best bet (as a melee-based foot soldier) cross-culture, is almost universally a spear + shield, with some sort of sword for your general-purpose back-up weapon. However, both spear and shield are obviously pieces of military equipment, and crazy-insane annoying to carry around with you every day, so folks usually developed other things if they wanted to kill each other off the field of battle.

So you end up with civilian styles where you may or may not be allowed to carry at best some sort of civilian weapon (such as a german messer - literally a 'knife', by mideval german law, but a 'sword without a pommel' to anyone else). later on, rapiers were similarly civilian weapons designed (out of the evolution of the longsword) to deal with light-to-no armored foes in the streets of Verona and whatnot. And these folks definitely chose to carry things in their off-hands to increase their chances of survival - the main gauche and buckers are both common (and relatively small) things you can carry around with you on a regular basis along with your sword. Or alternately you can just use your cloak, which is actually makes for quite a good defensive block/entanglement/light armor for your off-hand. (swords aren't lightsabers - you can grapple them through heavy cloth without cutting yourself. obviously you can't block a full-on swing with your forearm, but for indirect parries it works just fine.)

However, you may note that there really wasn't much use for carrying around two full broadswords or two rapiers to use simultaneously. There are descriptions of folks doing so in the middle ages and beyond - but almost always in the context of sport competitions or something similar, where a master wanted to try something difficult: the so-called "brace of rapier" style of fighting.

The main issues are as follows:

  1. It's hard to carry two full-sized swords around with you. In a civilian context, ease-of-carry and quick-draw are more important that cutting power, which is why no one really carried two-handed swords on a regular basis for duelling.

  2. It's hard to quick draw two swords at the same time, which is context in which civilians usually end up fighting.

  3. Even if you did get them both out, the one in your rear hand will always be six inches to a foot shorter than the one in your lead - just because almost every trained melee fighter stands with one side that much closer to the opponent. To counter that you'd have to stand completely square to your opponent - and in doing so, you'd present a much larger target for them to swing at, and you end up being relatively flat-footed. So it's not all that great to strike with.

  4. Finally, having an empty hand in an urban brawl is usually more useful than having another full-length weapon.

So most folks are left with "the long and the short" - usually having a smaller, defensive tool in the rear hand that doesn't NEED the range of the lead hand weapon. This has the advantage of being significantly easier to carry (and put away when not needed) , and more suited to the reality of civilian urban combat.

If you do attempt to dual wield, say, sabers, the reality is that the sword in the rear is still almost always out of range of your foe, who is basing HIS strike distancing off of the lead weapon. You do have the advantage of being able to lead-switch faster (ie, attack in both the right lead and the left lead). You also end up with a long, thin, metal shield to hide behind. So you end up with lots of blocks and counterstrikes that you wouldn't otherwise be able to do - which, again, is probably justified just fine with a flat +2 defensive bonus.

Striking, however, isn't significantly faster - you strike primarily with your hips and your legs (like a boxer), and that power is transmitted just fine with a standard fore-hand and back-hand strike with a single, one-handed weapon. In contrast - holding another weapon in your off hand won't make your hips turn any faster. That being said, you can go for a bit more speed - but you end up loosing a lot of the power of half the strikes that you would otherwise have. So from a game mechanic standpoint, it's probably a wash to model that aspect of it.

So... yeah. +1 defensive bonus for having something in your off-hand you can deflect blows with, or a separate Ability with a +2 defensive bonus if you want to wield two equal-length weapons. It's very much related to Single Weapon, but Ars Magica doesn't do "defaults to another skill" very well - it's pretty much the equivalent to a D&D Feat. Alternately, call it a minor virtue that can be learned over the course of a season, and be done with it.

EDIT II - as OneShot mentioned - I'd say just treat the parrying dagger as a 'regular' shield that a One Handed Weapon Ability would reasonably have been trained with - but dual-wielding is arguably a different Ability, albeit one closely related to One Handed.

EDIT - for an interesting discussion of historical mideval swordsmanship, I'd recommend scholagladatoria, on YouTube - he's a british historian-type person who is involved in HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts), and he puts out a lot of short videos about the techniques and texts of mideval fighting. Here's his discussion on dual-wielding: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=scholagladiatoria+dual+wielding

RoP:tD has an example. See this post:


Don't be dissuaded by the prevailing RAW imho; if you like it then use it. I pondered two different ways to handle the mechanics based upon implementations in other RPGs and the "better" of the two was to keep a single attack action with modified stats according to the weapon held in the offhand. It would introduce a new weapon skill called Double.

The attack mods strike slower, harder, do more damage, but also require more strength to use. It also introduces more botch dice and only works well with smaller weapons in the off hand.

Was blogged about here: ironboundtome.wordpress.com/201 ... rs-magica/

It disliked Ambidextrous virtues and other things like weapon specialised fighters in Ars and was trying to allow for the play option without unbalancing or bogging down the game.

In addition to using Single Weapon and adding a small bonus depending on what's in your other hand, I would also use "Dual Wield" as a specialty of Single Weapon.

All this, and for this reason, if someone did want to dual wield, I'd only allow a small defensive bonus, and wouldn't allow an attack bonus. A shield bash followed up with a weapon strike would be as effective, IMO as a off-hand feint followed by a primary weapon hand attack.

I think you would need to expand the combat system a bit. Perhaps add a bind maneuver for nets and perhaps some off-hand daggers/main-gauche

As noted above, the mamluk emir described in RoP:TD is described as wielding two swords (apparently this was historically accurate).

Extrapolating from the stats Niall used, we find that dual wielding gives the following adjustments: +1 Init, +1 Atk, +1 Def, +1 Dam, +1 Load. This seems reasonable enough, but if your character uses a different weapon in each hand, you need to decide whether to apply the stats for the better or worse weapon in each category before adding the modifiers,,,


One thing missing from dual-wielding (and from many other Ability issues) is the ease of learning a technique. In AM, with exceptions for Supernatural Abilities and the like, an xp is an xp is an xp.

Attaining a score of 1 in Law is just as easy as a score of 1 in anything else.

It is just as easy to learn how to fight with a spear as with a bow.

And so on.

This absolutely does not model reality.

Nor does the use of 2 weapons being straightforward, or otherwise usually advantageous, with the exception of weapon+shield (in this era!): It is not a common style in most eras. It is also not usually a "difficult but elite" style in most eras.

No reason not to use it in a game, for reasons of style. But for general use, for vague realism, 2 weapon fighting probably deserves a hefty penalty. Sort of the way that using 2 submachine guns rather than one tends only to work for Chuck Norris.


Spears and improvised polearms should be usable with Brawling.

The Warrior virtue should allow access to one unusual weapon or fighting style. (The Knight virtue provides access to mounted combat.)




HEMA senses tingling!

Duel wielding is fun and all, and while it's fair that in this period duel wielding isn't common it wouldn't be unknown in any era.

Game mechanics wise, I'd say don't try for too much complexity. Things to recall: Let shields maintain their defensive superiority. If someone wants to go without a shield, let them use Brawl vs. arrows instead of Single Weapon :smiley: - because while it's possible to knock an arrow out of the air, it's not very likely.

As an off hand, I'd do the following -

Longsword: Init +1, Att +2, Load +1

Short Sword: Att +1, Def +1, Load +1

Dagger: Att +1

One relatively cheap fix to this would be to change what counts as a success on a skill that is more difficult to learn. So you can answer basic questions about your area of expertise with a 3 with Lore (Area Knowledge), but you'd have to roll a 10 or better to get the equivalent kind of accuracy with Lore (Particle Physics).

Or to flip it around, you could have the skills rated with difficulty modifiers: trivial +6, easy +3, moderate 0, hard -3, extra-hard -6. Probably could just work it into the base ability roll, and forget about it. (ie, lvl 0 with an Easy skill starts at Attribute +3, while a really hard one starts at Attribute -6).

Did not 4th edition have Cloak + Dagger as an weapon type?

Is that considered dual wielding in your eyes and could those weapon stats be transfered to 5th edition?

The thing is that most cases with dual wielding the off hand weapon had complex guards or hilts which made it far more effective as a parrying tool. I also note there are no rules for spiked shield, or any attack modifiers for shields even though people did use them for bashing. so if you think of a dual-armed dagger as being a combination dagger and buckler designed to break certain weapons if it could catch them... yes, it would require some expansion of the rules...

That is incorrect.

1st of all, facing an opponent "square on" can be quite advantageous if you know what you´re doing.
Also, you only really present an easier target if you refuse to move, and that would be very silly and unrealistic.
And importantly, you can move much faster sideways if your front is towards the opponent. Basic fencing uses back and forth movement more simply because it´s common stance makes sideways movement slower.

2nd, your idea of the "rear" sword being "shorter" is again dependent on the user not moving, which again is silly. The most common way of employing dual fullsize weapons is with combination attacks and involves swift movement which makes initial reach 100% irrelevant, because the weapons only remain in similar relative positions/distances while the user is not attacking nor moving.
And in fact, the "rear" weapon would often be much farther away from the opponent than you posit, because it could then be used to make more forceful/longer/slower attacks, while the "front" weapon is used for an initial attack that keeps the opponent busy. It is often intentionally held "behind" the body so that the opponent cannot easily see it. This can cause the opponent to focus on just the visible threat and more or less loose track of the 2nd weapon. When that happens, it´s often an easy win for the dual wielder as you often use the "off weapon" for the strongest attacks.

Dual wielding is certainly a "real thing", and was a real thing at the time as well, even if probably rare.
The problem is that i´m yet to find ANY game that can manage anything even remotely realistic for game mechanics for it.
I would require it to use both Single weapon skill AND a separate Two weapons skill, where the second can´t be higher than the first, and is the skill actually used. This would go well along with what real historic evidence there is, as well as contemporary knowledge of dual wielding(lots of martial arts styles teach some of it, more or less realistically), ie it can be a VERY good way of fighting, but it tend to require a LOT of extra skill, skill which isn´t needed for using a maingauche, a wrapped up cloak or whatever in your off hand.

As for how to use it ingame? IIRC the last time we used it i think we had player choice of +5 to either attack or defense, or +3 to either, or something like that(with two skills needed that is).

I guess you´ve never watched someone actually use two fullsize weapons then. A shieldbash is a pathetically poorer attack.
Only a defensive bonus is not in any way realistic.

Using 2 SMGs is no real problem. It´s if you try using 2 assault rifles, battlerifles or even machineguns, that´s when it gets awkward. And even 2 assault rifles is quite doable for a lot of people. And for a rare few people, like my friend proved, at the time being about 110kg of muscles, it´s even possible to shoot dual machineguns(7.62x51 ammo yes), and the loss of accuracy is much smaller in using 2 MGs compared to 1, than it is for using one and properly aiming it compared to firing from the hip(which is definitely a must if using two).

Shields fell out of use in part because they did NOT have defensive superiority. They were simply far too heavy compared to the defensive bonus they gave.

And continuing from above, except against ranged weapons. That´s where shields really are a benefit. And while cutting arrows down is a perfectly realistic skill to train, it would have to be a separate skill, because it is not something you can just do. In Japan, where shields were not the norm, this skill was often trained, and there were some masters of it renowned for being able to to stand their ground in the middle of battlefield, getting shot at from several directions, with the ground around them quickly getting littered with arrows cut apart. But those were few and very far between, an average warrior trained in the skill was more likely to get himself hit while trying to cut the arrow down. OTOH, part of the skill included how to move when cutting an arrow down, meaning that even a failed defensive strike reduced the risk of taking a lethal hit.

As an addition(since i happened to read it relatively recently), it might be added that Miyamoto Musashi in a quote states that the best way to learn how to wield a sword in either hand was to train with one in both hands(someone known for using dual weapons, types depending on situation).

My friend who is a fencer said something related. He was required to learn to fence with both hands to reach master level. Training with the other hand improved use in the dominant hand. I would think he knows what he's talking about since he was on the Spanish team for six years, is one of the few fully certified refs in the US, and has gone to the Olympics with the US team as a coach.

Serf's Parma, but a shield is an off-hand weapon. It's in the 'weapons' table, and it doesn't get called out as being anything other than a weapon aside from in the name of the weapon itself. So there's dual-wielding in Ars Magica all the time....

But to come back to the original post:

The idea that dual-wielding gives you another whole attack action is definitely silly. :slight_smile:

Things to recall: Let shields maintain their defensive superiority.

Shields fell out of use in part because they did NOT have defensive superiority. They were simply far too heavy compared to the defensive bonus they gave.


I would agree that shields fell out of use... Saying they had done so in 1220 is a bit misleading! Shields only lost their defensive superiority when better armor started coming in. There's plenty of evidence of people using shields even up to the 18th century (though by then I'd say it's pretty unusual!)

In my game, I have done this:

If you have Single Weapon as a skill, you can instead of using a shield have a second weapon. A short weapon like a dagger or main gauch gives +1 ATK while a longer weapon like shortsword or longsword give +2 ATK.

Then I have added a new skill: Two Weapon Combat
You can never have more in Two weapon combat than you have in either brawl or single weapon

If you have skill in this, you get +1 INIT, ATK, DEF and Damage as well as load if you have short weapons, and +1 INIT, ATTK, and +2 in damage, but you get 2 load.