Sunday, 17 September 2017

Dual Wielding rules for Lamentations of the Flame Princess

Yes, the infamous Duel Wielding!

I know, I know, it's a fantasy trope coming especially from videogames and usually is discarded as, well, fantasy.

But dual wielding was actually a thing. In fact, many historical fencing treatises and manuals taught dual wielding techniques, be it sword and dagger, sword and buckler or rotella, cloak and sword or -rarely- dual swords.
Dual dagger on the contrary is, at least in regard to western martial arts, fantasy.

Usually the most common rule for dual wielding in old school rpgs is the following:
Make one attack roll, then roll the damage for both weapons and take the best result.
Sometimes with the addition that if both damage dice results are the same you sum both.

But since I'm studying historical fencing and I'm a picky fellow, this sounded wrong to me because the basic idea behind fighting with an off-hand thingy is to use it to parry and generally not to attack. In fact attacking with both weapons at once is fantasy.
And this is the main reason to create my own rules following (more or less) the techniques of the renaissance fencing masters.

I will not treat buckler and rotella because I consider them as shields and therefore they follow shield rules (except Shields Shall be Splintered which makes them a lot useful).


Sword and Dagger

The dagger is a relatively small and short weapon, therefore not very good at attacking your opponent especially if he's armed with a sword. That's why you will usually your Dagger to parry your opponent's attacks, and (after or at the same time) to try to hit him your sword.

When wielding a sword and a dagger, every round the character can choose to get +1 melee AC bonus -or- a +1 Attack Bonus.

As per Combat Options, Armor Class adjustments remain in effect until the character’s action in the following Round, that ends when the character attacks.

Duel with Swords and Daggers
by Jacques Callot (17th century)

Dual Swords

The use of dual swords is fairly uncommon due to the higher difficulty of wielding them at the same time. On the other hand (no pun intended), having two sword of similar length allows the fencer to be able to attack or parry with either of them at the same time.

When wielding dual swords, the character gets a +1 melee AC bonus -and- a +1 Attack Bonus.

The inconvenience of taking dual swords around to fight instead of a dagger is, of course, a matter of encumbrance (and the high cost of swords).
Anyway since in LotFP sword and dagger encumbering is the same, I will not care about this aspect.

From "A New Art-Filled Fencing Manual on Rapier", Figure 81
by Michael Hundt (16th-17th century)

Sword and Cloak

The idea behind sword and cloak techniques is the same: to defend yourself with the cloak, usually wrapped in some fashion around your arm. Cloaks were used mostly by civilians, as it was a normal everyday garment and, therefore, a lot cheaper than a second weapon.

The cool thing about the cloak, however, is that if thrown at your opponent it can be easily used to distract him or to entrap his weapon. This can help the fencer a lot both when attacking or when trying to wrestle his opponent.

When fighting with a cloak the character gets a +1 melee AC bonus against non-bludgeoning weapons.
Furthermore, when thrown against an opponent, this must Save vs. Paralysis to avoid being distracted or his weapon entrapped under the cloak.
If he fails the roll, the character has two options:
To attack with +2 AB and reducing his opponent's AC by 2 points
To move to wrestle his opponent without expecting his free attack and getting a +2 melee AB for the first round only.

After this action the cloak falls to the ground (or gets wrapped around the opponent's weapon) making it impossible to use it again during that combat.
The character of course can try to snatch it from the floor, exposing himself to the dangers of the combat and the disadvantages that this action implies (a -2 penalty to hit and to Armor Class during the Round that this happens).
And by the way, the Wrestling rules requires the character to have both hands free. I'd allow to wrestle with a weapon in one hand (I've done it quite some times in my fencing lessons!)

This makes the cloak a useful weapon and adds some tactics to its use, but balances its usefulness with some drawbacks.

From "The Fencing of Francesco Fernando Alfieri", Figure 37
by Ferdinando Alfieri (duh!) - 17th century


About Swords, Daggers and other kind of weapons

I used the words "sword" and "dagger" to follow the classic fencing techniques names, but this rules are intended to be used with any kind of suitable weapon.

Following the LotFP weapons classification, the Sword and Dagger rules are used when a medium or small weapon is used in combination with a smaller one, while the Dual Sword rules are used when wielding two weapons of the same size (you decide if this applies also with minor weapons).
With the Sword and Cloak rules you can use medium, small or minor weapons alike.
Rapiers are considered medium weapons for the purpose of these rules.

Therefore, if you'd like to fight with a maul and handaxe using the Sword and Dagger rules, you are welcome! This is fantasy, after all!

Armor Class Modifiers

When dealing with surprise or weapons with special unadjusted AC rules, the AC bonuses by the off-hand weapon or cloak do not count as Armor nor as Dexterity modifiers.

e.g. Lukeshmuck the Fencer has AC 16 (14 of leather armor +1 from his Dex modifier and +1 from the use of the cloak).
He has an unadjusted AC of 14 and when surprised he has an AC of 12.

Never in the battlefield

Finally, I'd like to point out that these fencing styles were appropriate for duels and were never used on the battlefield, where you would prefer to use a shields that offers more protection also against projectiles.
But this is your game of course!

An halfling using the Sword and Dagger fencing tecnique
Duelist with Sword and Dagger
by Jacques Callot (17th century)

I like these rules. I tried to balance their usefulness and to model them according to their real world counterpart, of course trying to keep everything as simple as LotFP rules are.
I hope you'll like them!

And to finish, here you have a couple of good videos depicting the use of these techniques. Enjoy!


  1. Cool post man, nice one!

    I just wanted to point out that in eastern martial arts, specifically Okinawan kobudo, there is sort of a precedent for dual daggers in the form of sai. While they lack sharp edges and points, they're used largely as if they had them, and both hands are used for attack and defense.

    Also, while using the kodachi (short sword) of a daisho pair IS primarily for parrying, you are permitted to attack with it. And the preferred technique is to actually press your opponent's (single) sword away while striking with the longer sword, resulting in what is kind of a simultaneous "dual attack."

    Thought it would be an interesting contrast to fencing...

    1. How interesting! I didn't know these martial arts and combat styles.
      Thank you, I will certainly take a look at that :)