Chess: The Role-Playing Game

Well, not quite – but here’s a quick idea for those times when you’re stranded on a desert island with nothing but a chess set, a copy of the Monster Manual and a handful of dice for company. Oh, and someone else to play with of course.

Set up the chess set as normal, and assign monster stats to each piece. Then play out the battle, using the standard D&D rules. Roll initiative once at the start of the battle using the King piece’s Initiative bonus, and take it in turns alternating a piece at a time just like chess.

For a little more D&D-ness without the math don’t allow the same piece to have consecutive turns. This’ll stop a playing thinking it’s cool to bounce all over the board with just one piece at a time. Once one of your “Knights” has acted, he can’t act on your next turn – play another piece.

Used this render before. I know. Fits, though.

As there’s six different types of piece in Chess (King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook and Pawn) that’s six sets of monster stats; if you want a little variety assign different stats to both the white and black side to represent opposing forces of Good vs. Evil for that Epic Dwarves vs. Orc slugfest you’ve always wanted. Or Dwarves vs. Elves. Or Aberrations vs. Celestials. Whatever. Either don’t sweat the Balance, or tot up the XP totals (or apply differential calculus to work out the Challenge Ratings if you’re using 3rd Edition) to make sure it’s a fair fight.

Minions make great Pawns – there’s lots of ’em to push around on both sides of the table, and there’s no need to worry about counting hit points for ’em along the way.

Agree the victory condition before you start. This might be as simple as Kill the King, but cool variants could also be Last Man Standing, Capture the Castles (ie, destroy both Rooks before yours are destroyed), Kill the King and Queen, or have at least three pieces (other than Pawns) reach the opposite end of the board. Things work best if both players have the same victory condition unless you’ve a tactical brain the size of a planet :D .

Here’s a few sample chess army builds using just the core 4e Monster Manual to get started.


There’s a lot of mileage to be had pitting two opposing Human Armies against each other in a classic battle of Empires! With the same figures facing each other it’s entirely a battle of tactics and the luck of the dice. Watch out for the Eldarin Twilight Incanter Queen!

Pawns: Human Rabble
Rooks: Human Bandit
Knights: Human Guard
Bishops:Human Berserker
Queen: Eldarin Twilight Incanter
King: Human Mage


Here’s your classic Shadowfell Kobolds, complete with big boss Goblin!

Pawns: Kobold Minion
Rooks: Kobold Slinger
Knights: Kobold Dragonshield
Bishops: Kobold Wyrmpriest
Queen: Kobold Skyblade
King: Goblin Underboss


Here’s the combined might of a small Dwarf clan and their animal servants. Watch out for the King – a Dwarf Hammerer with the Battle Championtemplate applied. Nice.

Pawns: Giant Rat
Rooks: Bulette
Knights: Dwarf Hammerer
Bishops: Dwarf Bolter
Queen: Galeb Duhr Earthbreaker
King: Dwarf Hammerer Battle Champion

I’m sure you get the idea. Build your army, match with an identical or opposing forces and clash swords! Heck, use the Javascript Character Generator to create 6 chess-themed characters (King = Warlord
Queen = Warlock, Bishops = Clerics, Knights = Paladins, Rook = Wizards, Pawns = Fighters with 1hp) and roll your own!

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