BEOWULF designer diary – Two-Weapon Fighting?!

Work in progress on a two-weapon fighting Hero

Hello, Jacob back to talk about BEOWULF: Age of Heroes today with a discussion about “dual-wielding” (two-weapon fighting) and the design process.

Now Jon is well known for HATING dual wielding. (editor: it is true, I hate dual wielding and I cannot lie) So it was a bit shocking when he raised it as something worth including. After I collected myself off the floor, I took a careful look at things. One of our goals with BEOWULF (and all the work we do) is to make sure things fit within the milieu of the poem. Not every feature of 5e fits BEOWULF. Lots do, some need some tweaking, some need some rescaling, some just don’t belong at all. But we also want to be as inclusive as possible. If you want to take one of our adventures and run a group of four dragonborn sorcerers against our mystery and our Monster then we want you to have fun. So that means that we often consider aspects of 5e that aren’t exclusively prohibited to be ‘out there’ for use, even if we don’t ever make use of them in our pre-generated characters or examples.

And that’s where dual wielding had been living. We hadn’t specifically forbidden it, but we hadn’t encouraged it. We also like to think that, by careful curation of the weapons and armour lists, that we can represent that dual wielding was a dangerously aggressive technique not well-suited to the time period. After all, when I think of practical two-weapon fighting, it’s in the context of rapier and dagger or katana and wakizashi, neither of which fits into BEOWULF.

But Jon’s point was that there was something to that ‘northern courage’ that Tolkien was so enamoured of in the source materials that fit with doing something so bold and reckless. At the same time, we’re also tweaking the equipment lists to make sure that we represent the poem and the setting properly. Helmets and shields are important in the literature of the day, and relatively little attention is given to the other armour. So we’re resolved to make them important. We’ve now given additional properties to shields and helmets, such that a shield can provide up to a +3 for armour class and a helmet up to a +2. That means a Hero can jump up from beside the fire in only their weaponshirt and don a helm and shield and have an AC equal to 16 plus their Dexterity modifier.

It also means that choosing to give up that shield in order to wield a second weapon is even more of a trade-off. After all, you could be giving up 3 points of Armour Class (plus all the neat interactions with other weapons and feats that shields in BEOWULF provide)! For the base version of two-weapon fighting, giving up that shield can really hurt. But what about our bold and reckless Hero?

Feats to the rescue! We already had a couple of feats provided that allowed a Hero to do a bit of Barbarian-like berserking and that seemed a perfect place to add in dangerous and deadly two-weapon fighting. So you can wield any weapon in either hand, as long as it’s not heavy or two-handed. And you get advantage on your attack rolls but attackers had advantage on attack rolls against you. So now you can go berserk with two bearded axes or two swords or a fransiska and a long-seax or other exciting combinations. You’ll do lots of damage, but you’ll be in lots of danger at the same time.

I hope you enjoyed that deep dive into some of the mechanical considerations behind BEOWULF: Age of Heroes. We’re working steadily away on it, and will have more news in the coming months. Stay safe and enjoy all the adventures that gaming can bring you!

The Hermit’s Sanctuary, the introductory adventure to BEOWULF is available FREE here.

And BEOWULF: Age of Heroes is coming to Kickstarter soon!

Check out some fine BEOWULF accessories at our store now. We’ll be talking more about those, and those to come, later in the week!