Why use one sword when you can use two? The image of a dual-wielding badass busting through a horde of goblins or orcs, or retreating from an impossible onslaught, a flurry of blades covering retreat for themselves and any party mates as they withdrawal – these are remarkable images that conjure up memories of favorite fantasy novels (some starring a famous dual-wielding drow ranger) as well as serious theater of the mind.
There’s no denying it: that image is amazing. But can that character be built for a 5th Ed D&D game and be effective at high levels? And is the dual wielder feat the way to get there?
The dual wielder feat is not a good feat to use for building a dual wielding character in 5E D&D. This is a weak feat, and players are mechanically better off going for defensive duelist and other feats for a dual wielder melee build.
Why does the dual wielder feat fail? Read on to see with our full breakdown of this unfortunately trashy feat.
Breaking Down the Dual Wielder Feat
Dual wielding sounds great, and some beginning players just take this feat without thinking because, why wouldn’t they? This must be a good feat for building that type of character, right?
Well unfortunately a breakdown of this feat tells a very different story.
Directly from the Player’s Handbook:
You master fighting with two weapons, gaining the following benefits:
- You gain +1 bonus to AC while you are wielding a separate melee weapon in each hand
- You can use two-weapon fighting even when the one-handed melee weapons you are wielding aren’t light
- You can draw or stow two one-handed weapons when you would normally be able to draw or stow only one
How do these benefits hold up once we break them down further?
Benefit #1: Gain a +1 bonus to AC while wielding a melee weapon in each hand.
Extra AC is always a great benefit, and this makes up for half of not being able to use a shield, which is not bad at all. In fact, every point of AC is great when you are are going to be rushing into melee without a shield. While +1 isn’t game breaking or extraordinary, players know how often 1 or 2 points of AC can make all the difference.
Benefit #2: You can use two weapon fighting even when the one-handed weapons aren’t labeled as light.
This basically means you move from swinging 1d6 weapons to 1d8. Assuming your DM enforced the light weapon as a one handed weapon rule for this, which again, is often a rule that isn’t enforced. Why can it be wielded with one hand and a shield but not with one in each hand? That’s the question that trips up a lot of DMs.
By the book, this is again an important mechanical rule. However, with that being said if the DM doesn’t use it then this is a non-benefit because it was never an issue to begin with.
Benefit #3: You can draw or stow two 1-handed weapons when you normally could only draw or stow one.
So in theory this would be an absolute necessity for any player to effectively dual wield. As the rules are written in the Player’s Handbook a player can stow or draw ONE weapon as a free action. However, dealing with a second means using an actual action. So a player in the beginning of combat would have to use their action to draw a second sword. So that’s a problem.
If DMs actually ran things that way. Despite years of DM’ing I didn’t know this was a thing, and the two game masters I’ve learned from dealt with this in a way that made sense to them: you can draw two weapons at once. Why wouldn’t you be able to?
So this is basically a non-feature or non-benefit.
What’s this mean? At most tables this is a feat that basically gives +1 AC and nothing else. That’s not much at all for a feat, especially since you must give up an ability score or a better feat to get it.
5E Classes That Should Take the Dual Wielder Feat
None. It’s a really terrible feat. If you have a DM that is a letter of the law DM and you have your heart absolutely set on a dual wielding character then you may have to. However, even with that said, the number crunchers have shown beyond a doubt that the two-handed weapon wielders do so much more cumulative damage than dual wielders.
This feat is worth around .9 points of extra damage per hit. Yawn.
Meaning mechanically you’d be much more effective going with two-handed weapons anyway.
However if you really are dead set on going with a dual wielder and you rolled really well for stats so you don’t need those ability score boosts so much, then by all means, play your game.
5th Ed Classes that should always take the Dual Wielder Feat: None
5E Classes That Should NEVER Take the Dual Wielder Feat
Any ranged, any spellcasters, and I’d argue that even for the hard core melee characters feats like Lucky, Defensive Duelist, Sentinel, and Polearm Master make a lot more sense. Even Tough is going to give more value as a feat in virtually every campaign.
Dual wielder is just a feat that is almost always worth skipping for something much better.
5th Ed classes that should never take the Dual Wielder Feat:
Final Feat Grade for Dual Wielder 5E
Dual Wielder Feat Grade: D-
Is the 5E Dual Wielder Feat Worth It?
A +1 AC isn’t bad. And from a pure letter of the law mechanical point I’ll tip the hat that this is fairly necessary for that build to start from round one in a combat this situation. But for a feat this is just pretty much trash. It’s not even close to matching multiple other feats designed for melee combat character or the ability score benefits.
When you see this feat just choose to pass. Even for a fighter who rolls high in stats, there will still be more feats or stats that are going to be far more useful.
Dual Wielder Feat FAQ
Why would anyone take the dual wielder feat?
The only reason to take the 5E dual wielder feat is if you have a very strict game master who is letter of the law and your heart is set on building a dual wielder. There’s no good mechanical or effective reason for taking this feat over another option.
Why does 5E dual wielder feat suck?
It’s a feat that fixes annoying mechanics that most DMs don’t use anyway. The end result is generally a +1 AC and +1 damage per attack compared to other light single handed weapons. The feat doesn’t scale and is very underwhelming.
Do you not the dual wielder feat to build a dual wielding character in 5E?
Most DMs will allow a dual wielder build without this feat, or homebrew some slight tweaks to make it more viable. Other feats like defensive duelist make far more sense. If you don’t mind spending round one drawing weapons there’s no need for this feat at all.
Other DnD Articles You Might Enjoy
- 5E Defensive Duelist Feat Guide
- 5E Skilled Feat Guide
- 5E Crossbow Expert Guide
- What is passive perception?
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.