The third edition of the D&D system offers the following rules for Two weapon fighting:
If you wield a second weapon in your off hand, you can get one extra attack per round with that weapon. You suffer a -6 penalty with your regular attack or attacks with your primary hand and a -10 penalty to the attack with your off hand when you fight this way.
These penalties can be offset if the weapon wielded in the off hand is light, and if the character takes the Two Weapon Fighting Feat. The rules accurately reflect the fact that two weapon fighting is a difficult task that requires training to be able to do well. However the explicit assumption here is that the primary purpose of dual wielding was to gain the capacity to attack more frequently. This would be an advantage both in a battlefield encounter and in a one on one combat encounter… that is if the assumption were sound.
However, though I am no expert in that art of sword fighting from what I can tell this assumption does not seem to be sound. Scholagladitoria has a nice gloss on the topic of historic dual wielding techniques over on his Youtube channel. He points out that while historic examples of dual wielding techniques can be found, it was not a popular or widely utilized style of fighting. The benefit of dual wielding was not that it allowed a combatant to attack more often but rather that it provided better protection against attacks. Typically a combatant is just as quick with one sword as with two. Having an additional sword does however allow an additional instrument to parry with. That said, a shield offers the same general benefit to defense, and does a better job of it as well. This is especially true on the battlefield where a shield can provide cover from missile attacks. What’s more, the coordination needed to dual wield effectively takes a fair amount of practice to achieve, while the same is not true of the sword and board style.
Dual wielding does have an advantage over and against the sword and board style however: it allows more options for simultaneously attacking and defending. A combatant can parry with one hand while attacking with the other. It may also be that dual wielding offers a slight advantage in landing an attack against an opponent: the defender must split their attention to protect against an attack that could come from either weapon, and this makes it more easy to land a blow.
So with this in mind here is a proposal for amending the Two Weapon Fighting rule to better comport with the actual world:
If you wield a second weapon in your off hand you gain a +1 deflection bonus to your armor class but suffer a -2 penalty to attacks made with either weapon.
Further training in the style of dual wielding (e.g. taking the Two Weapon Feat tree progression) would result in an increase to the bonus gained to deflection and a decrease to the attack penalty (at higher stages even offering a bonus to attacks).
Training might also enable a dual wielder to gain an additional attack under certain circumstances, such as when she simultaneously parries and attacks. Here are two different suggestions for modeling this: (a) whenever the opponent makes a melee attack roll that is unsuccessful by a certain margin (say by 5 or more) the dual wielder automatically gains an additional attack; (b) whenever the opponent makes a melee attack against a dual wielder, prior to actually making a die roll, the dual wielder may indicate that she wishes to attempt a ‘riposte’, parrying with one hand while simultaneously thrusting with the other. While making a riposte maneuver a dual wielder loses the deflection bonus gained by the offhand weapon but gains an additional attack with their primary weapon. Both attacks are resolved simultaneously.
I’m considering implementing something like the above amendment (haven’t yet decided between a and b) within the revised 3e rule system I’m working on. Thoughts?