Back when we were playing in the early days, I put very little thought to the way my characters would develop over the course of any given campaign. Back then there were not a ton of options anyway, a fighter was pretty much a fighter differentiated only by the attributes you rolled and the personality you provided him. The only time characters developed in weird ways was when an unusual magic item would popup. If I started the character using a Long Sword and a shield, and a +1 two handed sword came along, you bet your ass I would drop sword and board in a heart beat and still later, if a +4 Spear dropped, that two handed sword got sold off for scrape.
In the current version of D&D, there are a lot of options available. Even at first level, the background you choose or the skills you take can have a lot of affect on a character. As the character levels, he gets to choose his subclass, increase his attributes, and take feats. Two fighters starting out at 1st level together, will probably look very different by the time they are 4th or 5th level, depending on the choices the players make as the characters progress. Most players these days, when starting a new character, generally has a plan as to the type of character they want to play and how they are going to develop that character as the game moves along. I am no different in this respect.
My latest character, Haakon started out life as a pretty stock fighter. I like human fighters, while I certainly play other races and other classes, human fighter is more or less my preferred character type. When I started Haakon, my plan was to build him as a sword and shield type of fighter, concentrating on his ability to sustain large amounts of damage and or avoid damage altogether rather than how much damage he can deal out. The theory being that combination of a good armor class and better than average hit points, would ensure he could outlast his opponents and live to land the finishing blow. Needless to say, I multi classed into Barbarian to get some damage resistance and a few levels of that sweet d12 hit dice. The addition of a flaming sword, was just icing on that cake.
Two games ago, Haakon acquired an animated shield, a shield that dances around you, doing all the things shields are supposed to do, all on its own. This freed up a hand, this was unexpected. I had been developing Haakon as a single weapon fighter, I had taken the Duelist fighting style and I had never considered the possibility of becoming a two weapon fighter. Haakon was simply not optimized for this type of fighting. Now I could just give the shield to someone else and move on, and I may do that, depending on how things shake out in the next few games. In the mean time, this adds some interesting choices to Haakon's development. This would allow me to trade the +2 damage bonus Haakon gets for taking the Duelist fighting style, for an additional 1d8 damage attack. There are pros and cons to this choice, the +2 damage is guaranteed on any hit and could potentially lead to 4 extra damage per turn, as he has 2 attacks, which is more or less the average of a 1d8 die roll. Adding the extra attack could lead to extra damage, as the die roll could be a 5, 6, 7 or 8 and I will roll above a 4 at least half the time, (although I will roll less than 4 at least half the time as well). However, the extra attack also gives me addition chances to roll a critical hit.Going this route also forces me to take the Dual Weapon Fighting Feat, so I can use heavier weapons, and since I chose Battle Master as my subclass, I will not be able to gain the two weapon fighting style.
So over the next couple of games, I am going try it out and see how dual wielding works out, if it is meh!, then I will give the shield away and go back to being a Duelist.