Battle Chess

The idea of D&D-esque chess, or a chess-encounter in D&D has been a popular one, and I took a shot at creating my own ruleset for it.  It uses custom cards, a 6×6 square map (representing one square on the chess board) with obstacles, and rules as follows.  Accessories and rules can be downloaded here.

D&D Battle Chess Game Rules (Version 1.1)

  • BattleCards:

    • The pocket dimension of the chess board invigorates you – your side gets a random buff card each turn. You can only hold one card at the end of any turn, otherwise cards must be used or discarded at the end of the turn.

    • A player can spend their standard (attack) action to draw a BuffCard, subject to the card-holding rules above.

  • Initiative:

    • You still act in initiative order, but each side takes turns moving a piece. This means:

      • Initiative order is only relevant PER SIDE

      • Whichever side gets the highest initiative roll, gets to move their first piece first (variant: white goes first, per chess)

      • You cannot delay to change your initiative (but you can swap initiative using a BattleCard).

  • On your turn:

    • You can move and cast/attack, or cast/attack then move. You cannot double-move. If the movement puts you in Battle Mode, the rest of your action(s) are lost, and you go into a new initiative within Battle Mode.

    • If you do not move AT ALL, you can full attack (no 5ft step) or start casting a spell with a full-round casting time.

  • Movement:

    • You move like your chess piece (bishop/rook/pawn/knight/king). You are assigned to the chess piece and cannot switch (except by using a card).

    • You cannot enter the square of an ally.

  • Attacking on the Mainboard:

    • You can only attack, or target, an enemy piece that is in your piece’s attack arc. For example, if you are a bishop, you can only cast a Magic Missile on a piece diagonal to you.

    • All pieces, except the Knight, can only make MELEE attacks on adjacent enemy pieces that are ALSO in their attack arc. (i.e. bishops can only melee attack diagonally, even if adjacent).

  • Summoned creatures & effects:

    • Can be summoned into your own Battle Mode space, for use in an upcoming battle. Their duration counts down from the time they are summoned.

    • Can be summoned onto an opponent’s square, and remain to threaten/attack the original target on the caster’s turn until the spell duration expires. Summoned things do not act as additional pieces on the main board.

  • Buffing / Healing / Gear:

    • Channel energy does not affect squares other than your own.

    • Can use touch or buff spells only on ADJACENT allies on the main board (or on yourself).

    • You can pass items to adjacent allied pieces (diagonally or orthogonally) on the mainboard, in place of your attack action.

    • If you cast invisibility on yourself on the main board, it doesn’t affect your piece, but the duration starts counting down on each of your piece’s turns. If you are drawn into BattleMode, the invisibility works normally, and runs the rest of its duration.

      • If you do anything other than move while invisible, such as cast a defensive spell, you reveal your location.  This means an enemy can target your square with an attack, and you gain full concealment against the attack (50% miss chance, no bonus to saves).

  • Opportunity Attack and Overwatch:

    • There are no opportunity attacks on the main board, but you can ready a ranged attack or spell as a standard action to interdict movement long ONE of your attack arcs.  That is, you can ready a standard action that is triggered by movement along ONE path that your piece threatens (“overwatch”).

  • BattleMode:

    • If you enter the square of an enemy piece, you go into “Battle mode”, where you will fight that piece to the death in a 30’x30’ arena. “Dead or dying” pieces leave the board. In the case of Zero-Hp Crit rules, you can choose to yield when below 0 hp, and be removed from play. Any bleed or other negative status effects remain in effect even when off the board (hope you have a healing potion!)

    • Each player in BattleMode draws a BuffCard at the start of that BattleMode, which must be used during that BattleMode or discarded.

    • Status effects, including buffs cast during the Battle Mode, end when the Battle Mode finishes.

    • You cannot reduce an enemy piece to less than ½ hp without entering Battle Mode.

    • If a piece is “protected” by another piece, the protected piece gets +1 to hit and AC if it is drawn into BattleMode.

Piece-Specific Rules:

  • Only the King can use AOE spells to affect multiple enemies outside of Battle Mode, and can only affect the squares he threatens (1 square in all directions, maximum).

  • The King may castle as a full-round action.

  • The King cannot put himself in Check.

  • The King gets +2 DR for each regular piece, and +1 DR for each pawn remaining on the board.

  • The Knight can make MELEE or RANGED attacks or cast spells on targets his piece threatens.

  • Pawns can move or attack forward with a 1-square range (straight forward, or diagonally forward on either side).

  • If a pawn is promoted, he is fully healed, gains +2 to hit/dmg/skills/saves/checks, moves as a King, and gains permanent Fast Healing 3 for the rest of the BattleChess game.


Buffs (random card, one per side, 1 / full round). Use card once, then discard once expired:


# Cards

Effect of Card



+2 hit & dmg for 1 round



Fast Healing 5, lasts 3 rounds



Regain 1 spell or ability already used



Burst of Speed: Extra movement action



Revitalization: 2d8+5 healing to one ally



Get +4 on a saving throw



Allow another allied piece to take another turn in place of your turn



Undo one zero-hp crit effect, and heal to 1 hp OR auto-stabilize a dying ally



DR/10 until the start of your next turn (must play on target’s turn)



Bigger is better: Enlarge Person, 2 rounds



Bolt of Lightning: 2d8+2 electrical dmg to an enemy target



One of your allies can assist another ally for 1 round within their Battle Mode.



Teleport: Move ally to any empty square on the board as a full-round action (uses all target’s actions)



Pick a card from the discard pile (must use immediately)



Switch pieces with an ally. This uses up one ally’s full round action. Remove card from game (not into discard)



Shake the board: all pieces on the board take random positions (d8 for row, d8 for column). Roll again if space is occupied. Remove card from game (not into discard).



Everything shall burn: 10 fire damage to every piece remaining on the board



Switch Initiative order with an ally



Switch Current Hp Total with an ally (cannot bring ally above maximum normal hp)



Add +2 to any one ability score for the rest of the BattleChess game (one target)



Optional Rule: Queen

  • The Queen (if used) does not act like a regular piece, but is considered your “avatar of war”. She is invulnerable to all attacks, but can move OR attack each turn.

    • Always moves first in a turn – moved as a Queen-piece normally does, white Queen first, then black.

    • Unleash an attack that hits all squares she threatens, doing:

      • 2d8 force damage (no save), and knocking pieces prone unless they make a DC15 Fort Save.

      • 3d8+3 electrical damage (REF DC15 for half)

Optional Rule: Loot Squares

  • Certain squares could be designated as containing items from previously-fallen pieces / players. These spaces may be searched with a full-round action. The DM may determine what items could be found there.


Enemies (for L8 party):

King: Skeleton King (AntiPaladin L7, undead)

Rook: Skeletal Necromancer on a Tower (Wizard L6, Undead)

Bishop: Human Archer (Ranger L6, Human):, change feats to include Manyshot and Deadly Aim, and favoured enemies to elves and magical beasts.

Knight: Human Knight (Cavalier L6, complete with heavy warhorse) – Use mounted warrior L9 (CR 7):

Pawn: Stone Guardian ( CR 4

Loot: PCs could recover items / weapons from the pieces they defeat, the Skeleton King could have an item of value, or the whole BattleChess could be a puzzle/hazard that protects a nearby vault or some such.

Introduction to Players:

“Welcome to a game of Kings! How nice of you to sit down at my table… I am the Skeleton King! Defeat me, and you may leave with what remains of your companions! Fail, and you shall refill the diminished ranks of my army…”

If Players Win:

Chessboard vanishes & ghostly version of Skeleton King gives PCs information or reveals a secret (that the Chapel must be cleansed, but the means to do so is in the vault, behind the guardians)


Becomes a regular chessboard with cool-looking pieces (Skeletons vs. Player countenances), value ____ gp.


Chessboard breaks in half and pieces crack and shatter (loot inside of Chessboard = key to vault, a valuable gem, a gem with a trapped soul inside, a cursed scroll, a treasure map, etc).

Start: If any player interacts with the chess board (including casting detect magic on it!), they will be drawn into the encounter along with any other nearby PCs.

OR Will knock that PC unconscious (allow a WIL save? DC20?). That player gets a note saying “Something in the room contained such strong magic that the resulting sensory overload (almost – if made save) knocked you out. ”