…in both hands

The Shadow with his iconic twin automatics blazing

Despite having to use the implied handist term set down by our commonly handed overlords, I am pleased to have been born with a reasonable degree of ambidexterity. I suspect it is because of this that I have often found the rules in virtually all the RPGs I have ever played which concern this relatively rare natural, but eminently learnable trait, to be limiting and strangely identical from game to game. Have you ever considered the remarkable similarity in penalties for two-weapon use, and off-hand use in games with relatively little cross-over otherwise?

Do you know your Agrippa?

Until I started to practice and then later teach martial arts, I did not really think about this trait in a broader sense, or have to communicate with others about it. When I did began to discuss it with others who are wired to a specific handedness, it became apparent that there is some confusion about what being ambidextrous (or being bihandual, as my uncle says) actually allows. My own experience of it supports the research on it that I have seen, which is a nice change. I have found that most people expect me and other ambidextrous people to simply be able to do anything with either hand with equal facility, not favoring either hand. While I do not discount that there may be someone out there for whom this is true, I have yet to meet an ambidextrous person for whom it was.

The Spider with his twin automatics

What do seem to be normal conditions of natural ambidexterity are possessing equal facility for learning physical tasks, which if practiced with both hands will allow for a range of equality in application of that task as long as some amount of practice is maintained, and if the design of any required tool or implement accommodates use with either hand. It does not seem to be necessary to practice equally hard with both hands – just that one is not allowed total dominance over the other. Writing is an example where preference and long hours of dedicated practice in school with one hand over the other tends to enforce the writer’s personal bias and teach an imbalance. Throwing is an example where depending on situation the use of either hand is irrelevant, and so with minimal practice with the ‘other hand,’ and the freedom to switch back and forth according to need the relative skill levels can be similar or the same. Effort still needs to be exerted to ensure that both sides of the body are equally strong.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto both with twin revolvers

Learned ambidexterity is another animal entirely, but anyone with the desire to learn can acquire it for a skill or set of skills. They may even surprise themselves, as many of my former students have done, with the discovery of what exact symmetry in efficaciousness their body and mind actually lows versus what their perception has always been.

While I recognize that in the real world the natural trait is rare, and can often pass unrecognized or left fallow due to societal pressures, or lack of need or interest, I find that the rules in most games do not reflect the imbalance this creates in the statistics for heroes. A surprising number of heroes are equally adept with either hand, even if that ability is not overtly emphasized in their iconic representations. Taking that into consideration, the rules by which we play, actually create an unrealistic lack of ambidexterity in the games those rules govern. Further, given that for the more artistic and more combative characters, there is very little chance they could have gotten through training without some attention being paid to their handedness and the improvement of their ‘weak hand’ I tend to think this is one area where we can ‘loosen up a little bit.’

Practice to Perfect



On the other hand, I could just be tired of spending points to allow my character to do something which comes naturally to me.

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