Swordmage Warding & "Free" Hand Confusion

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PLEASE clear up the confusion about the swordmage warding class feature - specifically, state for the record exactly what constitutes a free hand. We need to know which actions (if any) involving your off-hand are allowed while still gaining the full +3 bonus to AC.

Some people think you can make a two-handed attack to get an extra +1 damage before removing your off-hand from the hilt of your weapon, so that you also get the full +3 AC bonus from swordmage warding. Conversely, I think you cannot do anything at all with the free hand, or you only get a +1 AC bonus. I'd like to know once & for all if it's one or the other, or maybe even something in the middle.
I would personally favor the old Bladesinger style: Free Hand means Nothing In It.
Resident Logic Cannon
PLEASE clear up the confusion about the swordmage warding class feature - specifically, state for the record exactly what constitutes a free hand. We need to know which actions (if any) involving your off-hand are allowed while still gaining the full +3 bonus to AC.

Some people think you can attack with a two-handed weapon to get an extra +1 damage before removing your off-hand from the hilt so that you also get the full +3 AC bonus from swordmage warding. I think you cannot do anything at all with the free hand, or you only get a +1 AC bonus. I'd like to know once & for all if it's one or the other, or maybe even something in the middle.

No. Some people think you can attack two-handed with a versatile weapon to get an extra +1 damage before removing your off-hand from the hilt so that you also get the full +3 AC bonus from swordmage warding.

There's a difference.

Using a weapon with the two-handed property is clearly not allowed.
Sebby
"I'm a bonster. Rawr!"
Actually, some people claim it with 2-handed weapons as well, using the reasoning that a wizard could wield a staff as an implement by holding it in 1-hand and only lose the ability to attack with the staff as a weapon. As the reasoning goes, you could swing a weapon, then use a free action to "remove one hand" afterward to have +3 AC until the start of your next turn, when you free action "add a hand," attack, then "remove one hand" again.

Yes, it is lame.
Munchkinism FTW.
Resident Logic Cannon
No. Some people think you can attack two-handed with a versatile weapon to get an extra +1 damage before removing your off-hand from the hilt so that you also get the full +3 AC bonus from swordmage warding.

There's a difference.

Using a weapon with the two-handed property is clearly not allowed.

Take your arguing elsewhere, or better yet, start your own thread.

The issue I have here is the definition of "free hand", since there's lots of things other than attacking that you can do with your off-hand.
Take your arguing elsewhere, or better yet, start your own thread.

The issue I have here is the definition of "free hand", since there's lots of things other than attacking that you can do with your off-hand.

Ask the FULL question then, and I won't care.
Sebby
"I'm a bonster. Rawr!"
Ask the FULL question then, and I won't care.

Fair enough. I'll edit the post, just for you. :P
Fair enough. I'll edit the post, just for you. :P

Thanks.

For what it's worth, I agree with you about "true" two-handed weapons. Claiming the +3 AC in this case is retarded.
Sebby
"I'm a bonster. Rawr!"
I'd like to see the Warding bonus typed, as well. Calling it a Shield bonus would reduce some of the silliness I've seen around about the interaction it has with the Spike Shield (wielded as a weapon).
If someone tries to do it with a two hander, just cite the PHB, say a two handed weapon is too heavy and unbalanced to use (ie wield) in one hand, so they get no warding at all if they try to lug it around that way in between attacks. If they say a staff implement can be used one handed say, no it's the other way around, page 221 in the PHB says a staff (implement) can be used as a quarterstaff (weapon), meaning a wizard can decide to use it as such when holding it in two hands. Although the proficiency is unnecessary for weapon use as an implement (as it is with pact blades and such) a blade needs to be wielded as a weapon in order to be used as an implement by a swordmage or for a swordmage to benefit from warding.

Implications of that argument are that if a giant warlock dropped an oversized pact blade dagger or something, or some crazy warlock wanted a doublesword pact blade, it wouldn't work unless it could be wielded correctly (ie by a giant or two handed). This is good because there are implement powers with [W] damage dice, and it wouldn't make sense if a swordmage could grab a huge novelty longsword by the wrong end, call it the one sword and deal a billion damage with it.

Short version: Staves are a special case, and using them as quarterstaves is a one-way street.

At the same time I don't think it's wrong to get the big warding bonus with a versatile weapon, because dropping or letting go of things is a free action, which can be done any time. It'd be just like if something attacks a swordmage with a potion or something in the off hand (and a blade in the other), I'd let him drop the potion to get full warding as a free action.

That or maybe versatile can have its bonus worded the same as warding: if you have a free hand when you make a melee attack with a versatile weapon, you can deal an extra 1 damage and treat it as two handed for that attack. A heroic swordmage probably knows to maintain his warding until the moment of attack or something, maybe like jedis who randomly force push while parrying with versatile sabers one handed, then hold it two handed to slice through things.

However, if there was an action triggered off of the attack, and the swordmage two handed it, I'd stick them with the itty bitty warding. Maybe a smart enemy could make a speech about the advantage of attacking swordmages when they were at their most brutish. That or while their climbing, or grabbing someone/thing.

The spiked shield thing is cute. Typing the ward as a shield bonus makes sense if you think of the warding as a little forcefield around your forearm, or as a parrying dagger, less so if it's more general magical force field that requires a blade and is enhanced by having a free hand. Also no one with either a shield or twd would benefit at all from being a blade initiate (multiclass swordmage) and that is kind of sad. I'd just say that a swordmage running around with a sharp skillet with an icepick welded to it would probably raise some eyebrows among fellow swordmages, who'd call it "special." only ones who would understand would be shurikenmages (forgot the handle) and katarmages (square handle) and glaivemages (too much handle).

Now for my question: a spiked gauntlet is an off hand weapon, does that mean it interferes with the big swordmage ward? I don't think it does, because there's still nothing in your hand while you're wearing them. Maybe a free hand is one that can grab things.
I have two comments on this:
First, I like that it is an untyped bonus as it produces some possibilities with multiclassing that I like. Namely it can partially stack with a shield. Consider a tactical warlord multiclassing into swordmage which seems a nice and sensible choice. During most encounters, this character may well use a light shield (which warlords start proficient with) or even a heavy shield. It is nice that he doesn't have to spend the standard action stowing his shield to get good use out of the warding feature, instead he can just call on the Warding feature and get the simple +1 on top of his existing shield, which is balanced because he's still not getting more than +3 AC from that arm.

Second, I have a suggested phrasing for those who believe the Warding feature should be downgraded to the +1 version for even temporary off-hand use. "If at any point both hands are full, the shield provides only +1 AC until the start of your next turn." This would allow people with versatile weapons to make that decision on a round-by-round basis without some of the house rules I've seen suggested that involve minor actions. It would also mean that there would be clear temporary consequences for other temporary uses of that "free" hand (drinking a potion, throwing a dagger, climbing a ladder, et cetera.)
I have a suggested phrasing for those who believe the Warding feature should be downgraded to the +1 version for even temporary off-hand use. "If at any point both hands are full, the shield provides only +1 AC until the start of your next turn." This would allow people with versatile weapons to make that decision on a round-by-round basis without some of the house rules I've seen suggested that involve minor actions. It would also mean that there would be clear temporary consequences for other temporary uses of that "free" hand (drinking a potion, throwing a dagger, climbing a ladder, et cetera.)

See, this is basically what I've been thinking, only I'd give the swordmage character the right to use a free action at the very start of their turn to drop or let go of whatever they have in their hand, & then still keep the higher AC. Hypothetically, there may be situations where a character ends their turn with a free hand & then it somehow becomes occupied before the start of their next turn, so it's a compromise that doesn't unnecessarily penalize the swordmage.
Hypothetically, there may be situations where a character ends their turn with a free hand & then it somehow becomes occupied before the start of their next turn, so it's a compromise that doesn't unnecessarily penalize the swordmage.

So, if someone gives the swordmage a high five or hand shake or tosses something at him that he's supposed to catch he loses his warding? That seems rare, and I doubt it's desirable in exchange for making the warding more difficult to use: not a great compromise. On the contrary I think it should be exploited as a way to mess with the warding by enemies of swordmages (it seems at least as clever as what the players want to do), so that you can be a little more permissive this way:

"you can (drop something and) regain full warding as a part of any non-free action on your turn." That would stick them with the little warding if they tried the versatile twohander style as part of a charge, while dazed, or after using their move and minor actions. They can still drop things as a free action on someone else's turn, but they won't get the warding back until they use a proper action to do so. That way swordmages don't lose the warding if they happen to hold anything ever during their turns, unless it's the last thing they were doing.

This makes quickdraw a compromise for getting the warding back after potion use, because if the swordmage attacks (maybe versatile twohanded), uses move action to draw and minor to drink warding would still be small (empty potion in hand), but with quickdraw there'd be a move or minor left to put the big warding back up.

They're still out of luck if they're dazed, of course, and if they're stunned without a free hand.

Also, I'd like to return to this part of my last post:
versatile can have its bonus worded the same as warding: if you have a free hand when you make a melee attack with a versatile weapon, you can deal an extra 1 damage and treat it as two handed

This language has precedent in that of 4e power attack and other weapon style choice abilities. The shield and free action choice things you are talking about sound more like 3.5 power attack (penalties last til the start of your next turn). Adding in my language about regaining the full benefit of warding is a compromise: it means that swordmages are locked out of beneficial free handedness if they end their turns with something in them, and are locked into two handedness (for the purposes of opportunity actions), and forfeit the better warding until the start of their next turns if they use their free hand to make a two handed triggered action (OA, aegis basic attack or encounter attack that can be swapped).

This seems to best model the "at the moment of attack" choice that the players are trying to represent, while making it a choice with actual consequences in line with the benefits.
As a player who is playing a swordmage wielding a bastard sword (a versatile weapon) I have taken the following stance on this issue (since the DM has enough to worry about and I don't cheat):

If I use my versatile weapon in two hands I am giving myself the +1 bonus to AC until the beginning of my next turn.
I do beleive that the intention of the versitile weapon was to allow players to have their cake and eat it too. I honestly think that its almost rude of the DM to expect you to trade 2 AC for 1 damage.
It's not like +1 damage is going to break the game IMO.

They should worry about fixing other stuff first.
The "Free" Hand is pretty simple.

Is your PC holding something in that hand?
Did your PC do something with that hand this turn?

If yes to either of these. He's got a +1 to AC.
If no to both. He's got a +3.
o If you are wielding a Versatile blade in one hand and have nothing in your other hand, you may choose to make the attack "two-handed" and gain +1 damage. You are considered to be wielding a "two-handed" weapon for the duration of the attack -- i.e., your free hand is not empty.

o A Swordmage gets +1 AC, +3 if the free hand is empty.

o So, if a Swordmage is making a "two-handed" attack with a Versatile weapon, and interrupts that attack, the Swordmage still gets the +1 Damage when/if the attack is delivered, *but* the Swordmage is only +1 AC for that interrupt (Immediate or Reaction).

So, for *most* of the time, a Swordmage with an empty free hand gets +3 AC and +1 Damage. But, likely when it counts, someone jacking the Swordmage's attack gets the "bonus" (i.e., Swordmage is only +1 AC v. +3 AC).

See Lightsaber Form IV for details [And yes, I admit to some bias, as I have a Water Genasi Swordmage styled after Aayla Secura]
Well, reading some posts and Swordmage, this is what I Came up with...

1) Must be Weilding a light or heavy blade.
2) Nothing can be in your other hand.
3) Swordwardeing is more of a block, useing your sword as a shield, dont think you can do that one-handed with a full blade.

Just my thoughts on the jubject, however a Versitle weapon could do that, use two hands ans use a free action to remove the hand, but thats not for the Two-handers.
I suppose with that note, in a purely literal sense of the rules a Versatile weapon does indeed allow Swordmages to have their cake and eat it too, as they can use two hands to get the +1 damage bonus and then take their hand off to get their warding back.

Of course, an Interrupt occuring during the attack will not have the +3 AC, only +1, but apart from that it looks like the cake is a truth.
the cake is a truth.

Now where is my grief counseling?
Everyone has made some interesting points, so I figured I'd share how I handled this very situation in my game. My solution was fairly simple and relied heavily on the "DM is God" mechanic of the game. Honestly I don't like doing that very much, but when it comes to munchkinism this is sometimes the only defense one has to run a fair game (especially if your game, like mine, has less experienced players trying to enjoy themselves as well).
Anyway, a player rolled up his first swordmage and happily exclaimed to everyone around the table that he would be using a fullblade and benefiting from the full +3 warding, because he planned on taking one of his hands off the hilt of his sword between attacks. He claimed this was fair because he was sacrificing the ability to make opportunity attacks between his turns.
This was the same player who, the day 4e came out, rolled up a paladin who would put his shield away, make a two-handed Power Attack with a bastard sword, then redraw his shield (this was before we knew that readying a shield is a standard action, mind you).
At that time I ruled that "switching stances" in such a way was in itself a minor action, and thus the whole the whole thing would take more than one round to accomplish. I wasn't comfortable with the ruling (if dropping something is free action, why would this be a minor action?), but it kept the game moving.
More presently, when said player revealed his plan I calmly explained that if you make an attack with a two-handed weapon, you're considered to be holding that weapon in two hands until the beginning of your next turn unless you straight up drop the sword altogether. The player's face screwed up and he exclaimed, "You mean the weapon is effectively STUCK in my hands like that?!" to which I simply replied, "Yes."
Sometimes it's best for a DM to just make a ruling that favors the balance of the game and move the hell along. When you spend time arguing the ins and outs a particular rule, you're indulging munchkins and making the game less fun for people who just want to roll dice and chill with their friends.
All that said, the player remade his character with a bladed shield and insisted that the swordmage warding feature granted an unnamed bonus to AC and would thus stack with his shield bonus. As overpowered as that may be, I allowed it for three reasons; A) it shut the dude up, B) the shield provides a physical barrier against attacks, whereas the warding feature is magical in nature and C) the bladed shield only deals d6 damage and requires a feat to use. Considering homeboy wanted to make an assault-build character, I figured it'd be somewhat of an uphill battle with such a weapon.
Two-handed weapons definitely do not give you your Warding bonus, you can do the 'two-handed attack, take hand off' with Versatile weapons since doing so is a free action and thus perfectly legal, and even appears to be RAI, doing so with two-handed weapons is definitely not RAI. And i don't think the RAW lets you do it either.

And yes, Warding does stack with Shields. If you look at the Warding feature, it doesn't give a type for the AC bonus, thus it's an untyped bonus and stacks with anything.
Two-handed weapons definitely do not give you your Warding bonus, you can do the 'two-handed attack, take hand off' with Versatile weapons since doing so is a free action and thus perfectly legal, and even appears to be RAI, doing so with two-handed weapons is definitely not RAI. And i don't think the RAW lets you do it either.

And yes, Warding does stack with Shields. If you look at the Warding feature, it doesn't give a type for the AC bonus, thus it's an untyped bonus and stacks with anything.

Correct, RAW does not allow the full warding bonus with a two-handed weapon. And if you only get the bonus if you're wielding the weapon you would get NO bonus if you let go with one hand. Why? because wielding is direct, positive control, something that cannot be exerted on a THW with one hand.

Versatile weapons, as previously stated, give +3 AC (assuming no item in the off hand) at all times except during an imediate interrupt that catches the character using two-hands on the blade. This is because immediate interrupts occur simultaneously or before the triggering action and therefore allow no time for free actions. An immediate reaction, on the other hand, would allow for the full +3 as a reaction occurs after the trigger and thus there is time for a free action.

in conclusion: an optimized swordmage probably uses a bastard sword.


As for spiked gauntlets: spiked gauntlets use the "hands" slot, not the "weapon" slot. since other items in that slot don't diminish the warding I see no reason that spiked gauntlets would.
The character is talking about Spiked Shields, not Spiked Gauntlets. He's using a Spiked Shield as his weapon, giving him the shields +1 AC bonus, his Warding +3 AC bonus and his normal armor's AC bonus.

You'd get a fairly high AC Swordmage that way, but his damage would suck.
Given: it is a free action to put a hand on or take a hand off a versatile weapon, thereby, giving or taking away 1 damage.
Given: While you are conscious and wielding either a light blade or a heavy blade, you maintain a field of magical force around you.
Given: This field provides a +1 bonus to AC, or a +3 bonus if you are wielding a blade in one hand and have your other hand free (not carrying a shield, an off-hand weapon, a two-handed weapon, or anything else).
Given: If you become unconscious, your Swordmage Warding benefit disappears. You can restore it by taking a short rest or an extended rest.

My ruling It takes a minor action to change from no warding or +1 bonus, to the +3 bonus to AC. This can be part of some other non-free action, that is used to establish the criteria for warding (i.e. drawing a one-handed sword).

My reasoning
1) While it has been ruled; it is a free action to put on a hand or take one off of a weapon for the +1 bonus determination; this says nothing about the establishment or increasing of a swordmage’s warding.

2) There seems to be a consensus: when a swordmage takes a free hand and puts it on a versatile weapon, his warding goes from +3 to +1 (at least, momentarily). So, the use of a free action can be the cause of lowering the bonus of a warding.

3) To establish the warding, in the first place, requires drawing a light or heavy blade (barring feat/power/etc. allowing the draw to be free or part of another action).

4) Consider the converse of allowing the maintaining of the +3 bonus by switching to and fro from one and two handed damage on versatile weapons. 1) You have a weapon in each hand and have +1 warding.. 2) You drop one weapon (free action) to get the +3 warding. You attack or move (move/standard action). You draw another weapon (minor action) to go back to +1 warding. In this case, you would have to spend a minor action to go back to the conditions of the +1 warding.

5) SPECIAL CASE: If the swordmage had the Quick Draw feat (or something similar), he has trained himself to make these changes quickly and part of other actions. So, he could switch wielding from one hand to the other very quickly. He would only loose the warding for the time of the hit and any immediate interrupt or immediate reaction. There is a limit on how quickly one can move.

Alternate Ruling 1 Simple actions like moving, ranged attacks, etc provide enough of an advantage to an opponent to provoke an Opportunity Attack. Therefore, dropping one’s warding from +3 to +1 should be enough to provoke an Opportunity Attack.

Alternate Ruling 2 Similar to Alternate Ruling 1, but grants enemies combat advantage against the swordmage.

Special Consideration, Spiked Gauntlets: If a swordmage wears spiked gauntlets in his off hand, he can get a +3 warding. This is contingent on him fulfilling the requirements for +3 warding if only the spiked gauntlets did not come into the equation. This is due to the special case of Spiked Gauntlets being unarmed and taking the hand slot. But, as soon as, he uses the spiked gauntlet to attack, the warding is only +1. For, he is using a ‘weapon’ in his off-hand. This special case applies to all unarmed attacks. Otherwise, use whichever ruling of the DM determines for reestablishment/raising of warding.
Given: it is a free action to put a hand on or take a hand off a versatile weapon, thereby, giving or taking away 1 damage.
Given: While you are conscious and wielding either a light blade or a heavy blade, you maintain a field of magical force around you.
Given: This field provides a +1 bonus to AC, or a +3 bonus if you are wielding a blade in one hand and have your other hand free (not carrying a shield, an off-hand weapon, a two-handed weapon, or anything else).
Given: If you become unconscious, your Swordmage Warding benefit disappears. You can restore it by taking a short rest or an extended rest.

My ruling It takes a minor action to change from no warding or +1 bonus, to the +3 bonus to AC. This can be part of some other non-free action, that is used to establish the criteria for warding (i.e. drawing a one-handed sword).

My reasoning
1) While it has been ruled; it is a free action to put on a hand or take one off of a weapon for the +1 bonus determination; this says nothing about the establishment or increasing of a swordmage’s warding.

2) There seems to be a consensus: when a swordmage takes a free hand and puts it on a versatile weapon, his warding goes from +3 to +1 (at least, momentarily). So, the use of a free action can be the cause of lowering the bonus of a warding.

3) To establish the warding, in the first place, requires drawing a light or heavy blade (barring feat/power/etc. allowing the draw to be free or part of another action).

4) Consider the converse of allowing the maintaining of the +3 bonus by switching to and fro from one and two handed damage on versatile weapons. 1) You have a weapon in each hand and have +1 warding.. 2) You drop one weapon (free action) to get the +3 warding. You attack or move (move/standard action). You draw another weapon (minor action) to go back to +1 warding. In this case, you would have to spend a minor action to go back to the conditions of the +1 warding.

5) SPECIAL CASE: If the swordmage had the Quick Draw feat (or something similar), he has trained himself to make these changes quickly and part of other actions. So, he could switch wielding from one hand to the other very quickly. He would only loose the warding for the time of the hit and any immediate interrupt or immediate reaction. There is a limit on how quickly one can move.

Alternate Ruling 1 Simple actions like moving, ranged attacks, etc provide enough of an advantage to an opponent to provoke an Opportunity Attack. Therefore, dropping one’s warding from +3 to +1 should be enough to provoke an Opportunity Attack.

Alternate Ruling 2 Similar to Alternate Ruling 1, but grants enemies combat advantage against the swordmage.

Special Consideration, Spiked Gauntlets: If a swordmage wears spiked gauntlets in his off hand, he can get a +3 warding. This is contingent on him fulfilling the requirements for +3 warding if only the spiked gauntlets did not come into the equation. This is due to the special case of Spiked Gauntlets being unarmed and taking the hand slot. But, as soon as, he uses the spiked gauntlet to attack, the warding is only +1. For, he is using a ‘weapon’ in his off-hand. This special case applies to all unarmed attacks. Otherwise, use whichever ruling of the DM determines for reestablishment/raising of warding.

So to sum up your "logic:" "This is complete cheese and it won't fly in my game!"

And your alternate rulings are pretty terrible. Grant an OA? Why? It's not a ranged attack! No non-ranged spell grants an OA, why should a spell-ish class feature?

Also, grant combat advantage?! That more than offsets your swordmage warding! Again, for a piddling +1 damage for a fairly low-damage class.

And your #4 is a terrible example. He would end at +1 AC not because he used free and minor actions, but because at the end of his turn he had an item in his off hand. That means on the enemy's turn he would have the item in his off-hand meaning he has a +1 AC. Now, if he used a free action to drop his off-hand item in response to an enemy attack he would and should get the full +3 AC.


And a counterpoint to "needing" an action to start your warding: if you sleep (take an extended rest) with the blade in your hand you wake up with your warding! This is a no-action event.

Basically you jump a giant chasm to make this "work." It's fine if you want to house-rule it like that (although a little silly for only +1 damage that doesn't go up at all over the tiers), but don't try to pass off a leap-of-faith argument as logic.
So to sum up your "logic:" "This is complete cheese and it won't fly in my game!"

If by “cheese”, you mean the player is taking advantage of a “technically” feasible action, due to unforeseen consequences of a new game mechanic, then yes this is true. Even though, they have written adding/removing a hand to a weapon is a free action, there has been no official ruling on how these free actions affect warding. We only know, when the wielding the weapon two-handed, the PC’s warding is +1.

And a counterpoint to "needing" an action to start your warding: if you sleep (take an extended rest) with the blade in your hand you wake up with your warding! This is a no-action event.

He had to take some action at some point to have the blade in his hand before starting the extended rest.

And your #4 is a terrible example. He would end at +1 AC not because he used free and minor actions, but because at the end of his turn he had an item in his off hand. That means on the enemy's turn he would have the item in his off-hand meaning he has a +1 AC. Now, if he used a free action to drop his off-hand item in response to an enemy attack he would and should get the full +3 AC.

I didn’t word my #4 very well, to make my point. With the exception of the Hands on/off maneuver(+3 to +1 to +3 warding), I was reversing the warding changes (+1 to +3 to +1). The example was meant to show, you needed to use an action to return to the original condition of +1.

Generally, you have to take some specific action to get the +1 warding. Such as, readying a shield, drawing a second weapon, wield a two-handed weapon, drawing and holding something. The current exception to this rule is the hand on/off ‘trick’.

Basically you jump a giant chasm to make this "work." It's fine if you want to house-rule it like that (although a little silly for only +1 damage that doesn't go up at all over the tiers), but don't try to pass off a leap-of-faith argument as logic.

It seems the consensus is the +1 would apply to immediate interrupts, at least. Technically, you could use a free action to drop your hand from the sword, during an immediate interrupt to regain the +3 warding. Or, an assaulting swordmage could pull the hand on/hand off routine during his aegis immediate reaction attack. I don’t know of a rule: you can’t take a free action during an immediate interrupt or immediate reaction.

People spend feats to get “only +1 damage” in certain circumstances during heroic tier. Examples are:
1) Weapon Focus –limit: weapon group
2) Astral Fire, Burning Blizzard, Dark Fury, Raging Storm limit: power type
3) Two weapon Fighting – limit: weapon in each hand

It’s not just “only +1 damage”, but, how you apply the ruling in other cases. It seems the consensus is the +1 would apply to immediate interrupts, at least. Technically, you could use a free action to drop your hand from the sword, during an immediate interrupt to regain the +3 warding. Or, an assaulting swordmage could pull the hand on/hand off routine during his aegis immediate reaction attack. Or pull this ploy for any opportunity action.

I don’t know of a rule: you can’t take a free action during an immediate interrupt, immediate reaction, or opportunity action (your or another’s turn).

Technically, a swordmage with Quick Draw(QD) feat could:
1) Start his turn with a dagger in hand (+3 warding)
2) Drop the dagger (free action - +0 warding)
3) Draw a greatsword and attack (standard action+QD, +1 warding)
4) Sheath greatsword (minor action, +0 warding)
5) Draw another dagger (Minor action, +3 warding)
It just doesn’t make sense to me, you can have so many changes in your warding feature in a single round without some sort of tradeoff or payment.

And your alternate rulings are pretty terrible. Grant an OA? Why? It's not a ranged attack! No non-ranged spell grants an OA, why should a spell-ish class feature?

Also, grant combat advantage?! That more than offsets your swordmage warding! Again, for a piddling +1 damage for a fairly low-damage class.

First, I like to get a consensus with my players for some rulings. That’s why, I presented, these possibilities.

Second, I think, we visualize the combat differently. During the round, combatants are parrying, dodging, or looking for the best time for an attack. Initiative is only a mechanic to denote, you can take advantage of smaller misstep. A person’s turn is to denote, when one has found an exploitable perceived weakness. The other people’s turns are simply, you defending yourself and recovering from your attack. Also, you wield weapons differently one-handed and two-handed.

The CA ruling I see CA’s, as a minor problem with the opponent’s condition , defenses, or fighting style; which helps you determine when to do your attack. For example, CA from flanking is attacking while the opponent is more focused on your ally. Dropping one’s warding for the hands on/off routine would be a time to attack. This is when an opponent would probably attack. To denote this timing, the granting of CA is the only way to keep the mechanics carrying over to the opponent’s turn.
I picked CA, because, it does denote the time (+2, difference between +1 and +3 warding) of attack. It would apply to those close enough to take advantage of it. It lets me keep the turn order. He would still have +3 against other people. This imposed disadvantage does in effect negate the return to +3 warding, but, I did not want it to stack with other actions/conditions that imposed CA.

The OA ruling Some of the reasoning for the OA, is the same as the CA ruling. In this case, the OA is the way to get outside of the turn order. I don’t know of a game mechanic way to show someone timing an attack to take advantage of a special circumstance, besides OA and CA .

I don’t see much difference between using a bow with the hands on/hands off routine. I think, this is a valid comparison. You are trying to switch your attack mode from one handed to two handed and at the same time drop your warding down.

You did make the argument of comparing a spellish class feature with a non-range spell. While this is an interesting point, you are comparing dropping a defense with a non-ranged spell attack. Expanding on your point, I think, I have a better analogy: WARDING vs SHIELD utility power. Warding does seem like a less powerful, but, longer lasting version of Shield. Shield is a special utility power, that is an immediate reaction. Since, you can only have a single immediate action per round and Shield needs to be triggered. It suggests ,it takes something more than just a free action to create a magical defense, like this.

General thoughts on Hands on/off routine: Most other characters have to give up something to get the +1 damage of wielding a versatile weapon two handed. Such as:
1) Giving up AC and Reflex bonus from using a shield.
2) Giving up versatility of having two weapons /hand held items(especially bad for TWF rangers)
3) Giving up the +1 AC from TWF feat, to do +1 damage.

Summary: Generally, there is a trade-off required for people to take advantage of the hands on/off routine. Whether its from class balancing or giving up a different advantage, makes no difference. So, a swordmage should have some sort of tradeoff. I prefer the minor action required to bring the warding back up, as that trade-off. I don’t think, this is such a severe penalty.

Plus, if you become unconscious, you can’t get your warding back until after a rest. So, its not as simple of regaining positive hp and wielding a light or heavy blade.

I only offered the CA or OA alternative, as a way to denote dropping one’s defenses or opponent timing of an attack. These were also chosen from existing rule mechanics to denote, what is happening behind the scene/visualization of the combat. Personally, I think, they are a bit harsh and would go with the minor action, as the solution to this technically feasible idiosyncrasy.
I assume you realise that this question has been asked for CS multiple times, and every single time they've come back with an affirmitive; yes Swordmages can do this.

I sincerely doubt it was unforseen, in fact i suspect it may be entirely intentional.
If by “cheese”, you mean the player is taking advantage of a “technically” feasible action, due to unforeseen consequences of a new game mechanic, then yes this is true. Even though, they have written adding/removing a hand to a weapon is a free action, there has been no official ruling on how these free actions affect warding. We only know, when the wielding the weapon two-handed, the PC’s warding is +1.

If it is not listed as an action type (which it is not) it is a free action. Or rather, a non-action. It takes no conscious thought on the part of the swordmage to activate the warding, it just activates.


He had to take some action at some point to have the blade in his hand before starting the extended rest.

So the Two Weapon Defense feat now requires an action to prepare? Same logic.



I didn’t word my #4 very well, to make my point. With the exception of the Hands on/off maneuver(+3 to +1 to +3 warding), I was reversing the warding changes (+1 to +3 to +1). The example was meant to show, you needed to use an action to return to the original condition of +1.

Or you could use no actions to stay at that condition. OR you could use a free action to simply put your off-hand on a versatile weapon. A strawman does not an argument make.

Generally, you have to take some specific action to get the +1 warding. Such as, readying a shield, drawing a second weapon, wield a two-handed weapon, drawing and holding something. The current exception to this rule is the hand on/off ‘trick’.

It's not a rule though. It's a (very small data set) trend.



It seems the consensus is the +1 would apply to immediate interrupts, at least. Technically, you could use a free action to drop your hand from the sword, during an immediate interrupt to regain the +3 warding. Or, an assaulting swordmage could pull the hand on/hand off routine during his aegis immediate reaction attack. I don’t know of a rule: you can’t take a free action during an immediate interrupt or immediate reaction.

It's called: time and linear time progression still applies unless otherwise stated. If it's an Immediate Interrupt it occurs before the triggering action. So, no, there is no time to take a free action before an immediate interrupt because the immediate interrupt comes before the attack you already declared. We know what your state is, your action has already been determined. The Immediate Interrupt comes before your action, interrupting it.

People spend feats to get “only +1 damage” in certain circumstances during heroic tier. Examples are:
1) Weapon Focus –limit: weapon group
2) Astral Fire, Burning Blizzard, Dark Fury, Raging Storm limit: power type
3) Two weapon Fighting – limit: weapon in each hand

Yes, but other than TWF, those feats increase in damage each tier. Also, versatile weapons do less damage than their two-handed counterparts, it's a way to bring their Heroic Tier average damage up to par. If you rule as you wish to then you make the versatile property worthless.

It’s not just “only +1 damage”, but, how you apply the ruling in other cases. It seems the consensus is the +1 would apply to immediate interrupts, at least. Technically, you could use a free action to drop your hand from the sword, during an immediate interrupt to regain the +3 warding. Or, an assaulting swordmage could pull the hand on/hand off routine during his aegis immediate reaction attack. Or pull this ploy for any opportunity action.

It would apply to immediate reactions, they occur after the trigger. It would not apply to immediate interrupts as those occur before the trigger.

I don’t know of a rule: you can’t take a free action during an immediate interrupt, immediate reaction, or opportunity action (your or another’s turn).

You cannot take a free action during an immediate interrupt because logic dictates that it's stupid and requires the severe butchering of space-time, and common sense applies unless specifically stated otherwise. You can take a free action during an immediate reaction or opportunity action or any other time.

Technically, a swordmage with Quick Draw(QD) feat could:
1) Start his turn with a dagger in hand (+3 warding)
2) Drop the dagger (free action - +0 warding)
3) Draw a greatsword and attack (standard action+QD, +1 warding)
4) Sheath greatsword (minor action, +0 warding)
5) Draw another dagger (Minor action, +3 warding)
It just doesn’t make sense to me, you can have so many changes in your warding feature in a single round without some sort of tradeoff or payment.

There is a tradeoff or payment. He loses his move for an extra minor action. And has to carry a lot of daggers. But if the guy wants to spend that much time for his bonus, let him. Just make sure to have the enemies make fun of him for looking retarded.



First, I like to get a consensus with my players for some rulings. That’s why, I presented, these possibilities.

Second, I think, we visualize the combat differently. During the round, combatants are parrying, dodging, or looking for the best time for an attack. Initiative is only a mechanic to denote, you can take advantage of smaller misstep. A person’s turn is to denote, when one has found an exploitable perceived weakness. The other people’s turns are simply, you defending yourself and recovering from your attack. Also, you wield weapons differently one-handed and two-handed.

Yes, that's how I visualize combat. But you might as well make QDing or drawing a weapon provoke an OA or cause the player to grant CA. It's "leaving an opening."

And versatile weapons are designed (as far as the game is concerned) to be wielded either one or two handed with relative ease. And if you want weapon realism than how the **** is someone intimately familiar with "all martial heavy blades"? EVERY SINGLE ONE requires a different combat style. Yeah, combat style as a justification is pretty **** poor.

The CA ruling I see CA’s, as a minor problem with the opponent’s condition , defenses, or fighting style; which helps you determine when to do your attack. For example, CA from flanking is attacking while the opponent is more focused on your ally. Dropping one’s warding for the hands on/off routine would be a time to attack. This is when an opponent would probably attack. To denote this timing, the granting of CA is the only way to keep the mechanics carrying over to the opponent’s turn.
I picked CA, because, it does denote the time (+2, difference between +1 and +3 warding) of attack. It would apply to those close enough to take advantage of it. It lets me keep the turn order. He would still have +3 against other people. This imposed disadvantage does in effect negate the return to +3 warding, but, I did not want it to stack with other actions/conditions that imposed CA.

It does more than negate the +3 warding. It allows for monsters to use special abilities and potentially do significantly more damage.

Readied Actions far better simulate what you are looking for (an opponent waiting for the opportunity to attack). Have the monster ready an action to attack as soon as the swordmage puts to hands on their blade (assuming the monster knows what to look for or would know that such a thing even occurred).

The OA ruling Some of the reasoning for the OA, is the same as the CA ruling. In this case, the OA is the way to get outside of the turn order. I don’t know of a game mechanic way to show someone timing an attack to take advantage of a special circumstance, besides OA and CA .

Readied Actions. Learn them. Live them. Love them.

I don’t see much difference between using a bow with the hands on/hands off routine. I think, this is a valid comparison. You are trying to switch your attack mode from one handed to two handed and at the same time drop your warding down.

There's a huge difference. Someone using a bow is pulling out an arrow, sighting in on their target, drawing, and then releasing. And (longbows especially) are not small, they are large and require maneuvering in a manner that does not threaten a target before they can be shot. A longsword just requires you to place your off-hand on it to lend a little extra force to a swing. The magic takes care of the warding. Completely different in every respect.

You did make the argument of comparing a spellish class feature with a non-range spell. While this is an interesting point, you are comparing dropping a defense with a non-ranged spell attack. Expanding on your point, I think, I have a better analogy: WARDING vs SHIELD utility power. Warding does seem like a less powerful, but, longer lasting version of Shield. Shield is a special utility power, that is an immediate reaction. Since, you can only have a single immediate action per round and Shield needs to be triggered. It suggests ,it takes something more than just a free action to create a magical defense, like this.

Shield is a special utility power that is an Immediate INTERRUPT. This means that you are capable of casting it so quickly that you are able to place the barrier in place before the triggering attack lands. So basically your assumptions are incorrect.

General thoughts on Hands on/off routine: Most other characters have to give up something to get the +1 damage of wielding a versatile weapon two handed. Such as:
1) Giving up AC and Reflex bonus from using a shield.
2) Giving up versatility of having two weapons /hand held items(especially bad for TWF rangers)
3) Giving up the +1 AC from TWF feat, to do +1 damage.

TWF gives +1 damage. TWD gives +1 AC. And if you have a Spiked Shield you get +1 damage, +2 AC and +1 Ref AND have two weapons. As for number one: the warding is to make up for the fact that Swordmages start with worse armor proficiency and no shield proficiency. A "base" swordmage using the versatile "trick" will have AC comparable to a fighter. A swordmage going for max AC won't be using a versatile weapon. A swordmage going for max damage won't be using a versatile weapon. And the swordmage still has to give up the things listed in #2, he can't hold a potion at the ready or anything like that.


Summary: Generally, there is a trade-off required for people to take advantage of the hands on/off routine. Whether its from class balancing or giving up a different advantage, makes no difference. So, a swordmage should have some sort of tradeoff. I prefer the minor action required to bring the warding back up, as that trade-off. I don’t think, this is such a severe penalty.

They do, they're not optimizing their AC and they're not optimizing their damage. They're falling in between.

And it's a hugely severe penalty considering they need their minor action to mark a foe. And that it doesn't make sense to impose such a penalty. The opportunity cost of using a versatile weapon vice a two-hander is the two handed weapon will do more damage. Especially since versatile is a flat +1 through all three tiers. The opportunity cost of using a versatile weapon vice a spike shield is a lower AC and Reflex. Ta-dah, opportunity costs abound.

Plus, if you become unconscious, you can’t get your warding back until after a rest. So, its not as simple of regaining positive hp and wielding a light or heavy blade.

Right. There you go. It tells you what is required to gain your warding back if you lose it. A rest. Makes you wonder why they didn't include the action required to make it change from +3 to +1 and back. Maybe it's because it's not an action type at all? It could just be auto-magical.

I only offered the CA or OA alternative, as a way to denote dropping one’s defenses or opponent timing of an attack. These were also chosen from existing rule mechanics to denote, what is happening behind the scene/visualization of the combat. Personally, I think, they are a bit harsh and would go with the minor action, as the solution to this technically feasible idiosyncrasy.

I'd just go with smart enemies using the Readied Action (also an existing mechanic) and stop trying to dick your players over even further when using what would otherwise be a less than optimal weapon.
Why do people instantly assume that these sort of interactions are, for some reason, unintentional?

Remember that 4th takes the attitude of ruling in favor of the players, this sort of shtick is exactly the sort of thing that you'd say "No" to in 3.5, but say "Yes" to in 4e.
I play a swordmage in LFR...I am yet to run into a DM that minds me useing this trick on my longsword...

then again I am also yet to be at a table where I am not the lowest DPR...but far.

Before posting, ask yourself WWWS: What Would Wrecan Say?

And versatile weapons are designed (as far as the game is concerned) to be wielded either one or two handed with relative ease.

I don’t have problems, with the hands on/hands off maneuver to get +1 damage with versatile weapons, generally. My problem is with the warding coming back, yo-yoing so quickly. My general rule of thumb is: it is easier to loose an advantage or give an advantage to your adversary, than gain/regain your advantage.

Plus, if you become unconscious, you can’t get your warding back until after a rest. So, its not as simple of regaining positive hp and wielding a light or heavy blade.

Right. There you go. It tells you what is required to gain your warding back if you lose it. A rest. Makes you wonder why they didn't include the action required to make it change from +3 to +1 and back. Maybe it's because it's not an action type at all? It could just be auto-magical.

Your response gave me a good argument and made me slightly modify my action ruling thoughts. One can become unconscious and healed during an encounter. A swordmage completely looses his warding until he takes a rest. It could be argued both ways: 1) he lost his +3 warding and requiring a rest is way too severe penalty, how about a non-free action? Or, 2) he didn’t completely loose his warding and can freely switch between them.

So, taking your “not an action type’ comment, the wording/intent from Quick Draw feat, and my having problems with the switch occurring almost ‘instantaneously’; I have come up with this modified ruling.

Modified Ruling: The establishment of any warding is considered part of some other action A change in the warding’s bonus is considered part of a non-free action, which can only occur once per non-free action. In the case of multiple possible changes, the least favorable is considered the outcome of that non-free action. This is similar to, how Quick Draw feat allows one to take a minor action (drawing weapons) and make it part of the action to use it. This allows the hands on/hands off technique to occur without the person loosing an action to reestablish it. He just needs to ensure, he spends an action (for whatever purpose) for the warding to re-establish itself. Note: This solution allows some leeway for allowing and determining; if an attack occurs, when the swordmage’s defenses are the weakest or not.

New ruling in practice. On his turn, a swordmage could use the hands on/off mechanic for an attack. As long as, he spends another non-free action (for any purpose); his warding reestablishes itself (+3), as part of that action. Thus, he could go +3 to +1 to +3 on his turn and he would be considered only +1 for immediate interrupts or reaction to his attack.

But, what if he had already spent his minor and move actions, before the standard action used for the +3/+1/+3 attack. Is he at +1 until the start of his next turn? Not necessarily. He has to use a non-free action to re-establish the warding. So, if he gets an immediate interrupt, immediate reaction, or opportunity. This simulates, how long the warding was down. If one of these three do not occur, before the start of the swordmage’s next turn, his warding re-establishes itself on the first action taken on his turn.

Additionally, this allows one to perform the hands on/off during immediate interrupts, immediate reactions, and opportunity actions. The lowered warding would be in effect until the he exercises any or these three actions, before his turn, or the start of his turn’s first action.

I assume you realise that this question has been asked for CS multiple times, and every single time they've come back with an affirmitive; yes Swordmages can do this.
I sincerely doubt it was unforseen, in fact i suspect it may be entirely intentional.

Darn, missed this post until after I wrote my response and refreshed to before posting. No, I didn’t know, it has been asked and answered to/by Wizard’s CS. So, I will accept this, as the default ruling.

I still have problems with the warding yo-yoing, so quickly. So, in games, I DM or play a swordmage, I will offer my modified ruling (above), as a possible house rule.

Why do people instantly assume that these sort of interactions are, for some reason, unintentional?
Remember that 4th takes the attitude of ruling in favor of the players, this sort of shtick is exactly the sort of thing that you'd say "No" to in 3.5, but say "Yes" to in 4e.

Isn’t it better to assume, questions/problems with rules (actual or percieved) were unintentional? Or should we assume; they perceived the problems/questions coming up, and intentionally didn’t address them? The mere existence of errata suggests: Wizard’s personnel are human, make mistakes, and do not always perceive problems/misinterpretations/questions/bad wording of the rules (despite some considering them near gods, myself included).

I agree, 4E’s attitude is ruling in favor of the players. Many of us are previous 3.5 players and have that mindset. We are learning not to say the 3.5 "no" to schticks, in 4E play. It just takes some of us longer to adjust.
I don’t have problems, with the hands on/hands off maneuver to get +1 damage with versatile weapons, generally. My problem is with the warding coming back, yo-yoing so quickly. My general rule of thumb is: it is easier to loose an advantage or give an advantage to your adversary, than gain/regain your advantage.


Your response gave me a good argument and made me slightly modify my action ruling thoughts. One can become unconscious and healed during an encounter. A swordmage completely looses his warding until he takes a rest. It could be argued both ways: 1) he lost his +3 warding and requiring a rest is way too severe penalty, how about a non-free action? Or, 2) he didn’t completely loose his warding and can freely switch between them.

So, taking your “not an action type’ comment, the wording/intent from Quick Draw feat, and my having problems with the switch occurring almost ‘instantaneously’; I have come up with this modified ruling.

Modified Ruling: The establishment of any warding is considered part of some other action A change in the warding’s bonus is considered part of a non-free action, which can only occur once per non-free action. In the case of multiple possible changes, the least favorable is considered the outcome of that non-free action. This is similar to, how Quick Draw feat allows one to take a minor action (drawing weapons) and make it part of the action to use it. This allows the hands on/hands off technique to occur without the person loosing an action to reestablish it. He just needs to ensure, he spends an action (for whatever purpose) for the warding to re-establish itself. Note: This solution allows some leeway for allowing and determining; if an attack occurs, when the swordmage’s defenses are the weakest or not.

New ruling in practice. On his turn, a swordmage could use the hands on/off mechanic for an attack. As long as, he spends another non-free action (for any purpose); his warding reestablishes itself (+3), as part of that action. Thus, he could go +3 to +1 to +3 on his turn and he would be considered only +1 for immediate interrupts or reaction to his attack.

But, what if he had already spent his minor and move actions, before the standard action used for the +3/+1/+3 attack. Is he at +1 until the start of his next turn? Not necessarily. He has to use a non-free action to re-establish the warding. So, if he gets an immediate interrupt, immediate reaction, or opportunity. This simulates, how long the warding was down. If one of these three do not occur, before the start of the swordmage’s next turn, his warding re-establishes itself on the first action taken on his turn.

Additionally, this allows one to perform the hands on/off during immediate interrupts, immediate reactions, and opportunity actions. The lowered warding would be in effect until the he exercises any or these three actions, before his turn, or the start of his turn’s first action.

Wait, what? That's way too complicated. K.I.S.S., my friend.

I maintain that the best simulation of an enemy waiting for a swordmage to lower his guard is to have the enemy wait for the swordmage to lower his guard (readied action).

It's simple. There are no questions. No house-ruling. No five other things to keep track of.

Or: I, in real life, can draw a 9mm and aim it and put two bullets into you in under a second and a half with good accuracy. And I've only shot a handgun four times in my life (and all within the past two years). Are you seriously trying to tell me it takes more time than that for a swordmage to change his warding which, as I said before, is literally auto-magical and something they've been trained to do in combat?

You seem to be under somewhat of a false impression as to how fast combat moves.
Isn’t it better to assume, questions/problems with rules (actual or percieved) were unintentional? Or should we assume; they perceived the problems/questions coming up, and intentionally didn’t address them? The mere existence of errata suggests: Wizard’s personnel are human, make mistakes, and do not always perceive problems/misinterpretations/questions/bad wording of the rules (despite some considering them near gods, myself included).

Ignoring the fact that saying no is the wrong attitude, which you seem to have gotten (well done, you're ahead of many converted 3.5 gamers already :P ), do you really think Wizards didn't see this when playtesting?

I mean, there's a number of truely estoric combos like the Horizon Walker\Epic Warlord path thing that allows characters to take an infinite number of Move Actions which clearly passed under the radar, but this versatile trick is patently ovbious and one of the first things that occurs to almost anyone who reads the Swordmage Warding rules.

I think it's a bit much to assume that nobody at Wizards ever noticed this considering how incredibly ovbious it is.
Actually, some people claim it with 2-handed weapons as well, using the reasoning that a wizard could wield a staff as an implement by holding it in 1-hand and only lose the ability to attack with the staff as a weapon. As the reasoning goes, you could swing a weapon, then use a free action to "remove one hand" afterward to have +3 AC until the start of your next turn, when you free action "add a hand," attack, then "remove one hand" again.

Yes, it is lame.

That doesn't work anyway.

While you could indeed attack with a 2h weapon and then remove 1h to hold the weapon in 1h, you're warding would be +0.

You wouldn't even get the +1 for wielding 2h weapon, you would just get no warding at all.

Warding does require you to wield a weapon, if you hold a 2h weapon in 1h (which is perfectly fine) you are holding a weapon and not wielding a weapon.

Holding a weapon gives no warding at all.
3) Swordwardeing is more of a block, useing your sword as a shield, dont think you can do that one-handed with a full blade.

Not at all. Warding is an invisible arcane force field around your body.
I'd like to see people just simply imagine it.

I've got a Longsword or Bastard Sword in one hand, using my off hand for balance, whilst the enemy decides he wants to attack me. I parry a blow, turning it around, occasionally bringing my spare hand to give me a little extra hand when needed, but then when I go on the offensive, I decide to swing it with both hands for extra damage against my foe.

To me it's fair, on the offensive you're gripping for extra damage, putting yourself at risk to getting hit by immediate interrupts at a lower AC.
But on the defensive, any immediate interrupts you make would be at less damage.

Personally, I'd take it up with the DM when deciding to take this approach. It's easy enough to say yes/no/whatever to and it's his campaign, so let him make the decision.
I think people that want the Versatile hand-switch thing to be eliminated should ask themselves a few questions:

1) Does this capability imbalance swordmage mechanics?
2) Does this capability reduce the amount of fun people are having?
3) Does this capability imbalance item desirability?
4) Does removing this capability streamline gameplay?

From where I am standing, the answers to numbers 1 and 3 are "no" and the answers to 2 and 4 are "quite the opposite".

1) A +1 damage bonus doesn't very much affect how good a defender a swordmage is, and it certainly isn't going to push them into striker damage range. It also doesn't make 1H swordmages do more damage than 2H swordmages.

2) Doing more damage is more fun. Having to worry about losing your class feature to do an extra 1 damage isn't.

3) The "hot items" for a 2H swordmage, regardless of whether the versatile thing applies, are fullblades or glaives. For a 1H swordmage, it's bastard swords or spiked shields regardless. This decision doesn't change the item dynamics of the game at all.

4) Forcing someone to take an AC penalty when they use a weapon a certain way complicates game mechanics quite a bit. All of a sudden, they have to keep track of two different damage modifiers and two different AC values, instead of just the one on their character sheet. It might be worth it if it's a reckless weapon, for +2-+12 damage bonus, but for an extra +1 it's just extra bookkeeping.
Sorry to be a thread necromancer, but there's something I really want to mention here that hasn't been covered.

One of the biggest reasons, in my mind, that versatile weapon hand-switching should allow for both 3 AC & +1 damage is the abstract nature of D&D combat itself. Combat is very fast-paced, and just because you're using a 'basic attack' or even an ability that involves a weapon where you roll once, it doesn't mean that you're only attacking one time. Maybe you took two quick jabs at your opponent to create an opening and then struck harder to score the injuring hit.

Therefore, it's pretty justifiable that your fighting style could involve switching handedness. The numbers are all abstract - what actually happens in the combat is up to your imagination and the GM's.