Chess D&D

by | Oct 23, 2023 | Artwork #2: Appropriate, Projects


My project appropriates chess and D&D by combining the two, where three players and a DM play out a game of Chess involving role-playing and other D&D mechanics that are far too complex for chess. Three players will each receive character sheets (Pawn, Knight, and Bishop), with various attributes crudely changed to fit Chess closer. The game’s ‘map’ will be a standard chess board (a parody of the maps used in typical D&D) that the players will be able to see and make their movements using the board as intended.


Like standard DND, there is an out-of-combat and in-combat phase. Out of combat, players may move freely and interact with any NPCs they would like. In this phase, squares on the board represent an area of 5×5 feet in the game world. All pieces have a ‘viewing range’ of 1 square around them. If you speak or do something outside this range, unless you attempt to make it widely visible, that action will be unseen by all pieces not within a 3×3 grid around you. Additionally, while out of combat up to 3 pieces may share a single square. 

When a combat encounter begins, players roll for initiate and take turns in typical DND fashion. On their turn, players can take combat actions like standard 5e (move and/or attack), however moving is special in that during combat, players are restricted to moving only how their piece is able to move in a game of chess.  Other than this, the rules are identical to 5e.


The opposing black and white kingdoms are on the verge of war. Three players assume the roles of three white pieces as they attempt to end the conflict one way or the other. Black pawns are on the move, and all looks grim. However, maybe violence is not the answer, and there is a peaceful resolution to this after all? 

DM ONLY: (Players will only be able to see the board and know their starting positions. I used this board as well as the corresponding graph to keep track of characters and who was who.)

  • Player 1 (Pawn)
  • Player 2 (Knight)
  • Player 3 (Bishop) 
  • Nervous White Pawn 1
      1. Very nervous about the war and secretly doesn’t want to fight. 
  • Nervous White Pawn 2
      1. Very nervous about the war and secretly doesn’t want to fight. 
  • Neutral White Pawn 1
      1. Nervous, but loyal and wants to do their duty. 
  • Neutral White Pawn 2
      1. Nervous, but loyal and wants to do their duty. 
  • Neutral White Pawn 3
      1. Nervous, but loyal and wants to do their duty. 
  • Neutral White Pawn 4
      1. Nervous, but loyal and wants to do their duty. 
  • Nervous White Pawn 3
      1. Very nervous about the war and secretly doesn’t want to fight. 
  • Loyal Rook 1 
      1. Fiercely loyal to the King and won’t stand for any treason or slight towards the king. 
  • White King
      1. Very prideful and unwilling to admit that there is any other way than violence. Sees any disrespect to his flawed thinking as treasonous. 
  • White Queen 
    1. Secretly a pacifist, but wants to support the king despite his flaws. Might be convinced that violence isn’t the answer if given a good enough alternate plan. 


Example Character Stats:

  • Pawn (underappreciated footsoldier)
    • Movement: 1 Space Forward*
    • Alignment: Lawful Good
    • Health: 8
    • AC: 11
    • Attributes:
      • Strength: 14 (+2)
      • Dexterity: 12 (+1)
      • Constitution: 14 (+2)
      • Intelligence: 10 (0)
      • Wisdom: 10 (0)
      • Charisma: 10 (0)
    • Skill Modifiers: 
      • Athletics (+4)
      • History (+2)
      • Insight (+2)
      • Survival (+2)
    • Attacks:
      • Capture (uses STR/DEX), 1d6 + 2 damage. [Must be 1 space diagonally to the left or right of the pawn.] 
    • Abilities/Spells:
      • *Haste (on your first turn in combat, you may move 2 spaces forward instead of one.) 
  • Rook (experienced mercenary) 
    • Movement: Unlimited spaces orthogonally (unless blocked)
    • Alignment: Lawful Neutral
    • Health: 18
    • AC: 14
    • Attributes:
      • Strength: 16 (+3)
      • Dexterity: 10 (0)
      • Constitution: 14 (+2)
      • Intelligence: 10 (0)
      • Wisdom: 12 (+1)
      • Charisma: 10 (0)
    • Skill Modifiers:
      • Athletics (+5)
      • Insight (+3)
      • Intimidation (+2)
      • Religion (+2)
    • Attacks:
      • Capture (uses STR/DEX), 2d6 damage. [Must be along the movement path. Goes to target to perform attack.]  
    • Abilities/Spells: (3 spell slots)


Artists Statement:

Seeing the many examples of appropriating existing video games to create new experiences shown in class, I knew that I wanted to create a game that embodied the absurd nature of some of these games- ‘PacManhatten’ and ‘Out Run’ come to mind. Particularly, the idea of creating a game that combined two existing games that had nothing to do with each other seemed like a great opportunity to make a comical and original project. Drawing inspiration from ‘DMPacMan,’ I similarly wanted to find two games that seemed completely incompatible on paper and come up with a hybrid- and thus the idea for Chess D&D was born. Just as PacMan and Unreal Tournament contrast each other so starkly, the idea of the in-depth combat and role-playing of Dungeons & Dragons being used to frame a simple game of chess seemed like a properly absurd idea. 

In playtesting, I found that players responded well to even the basic absurdity of the idea from the start, which led to more fun attempting to work within such an outlandish and silly premise for a D&D campaign. I’m happy with the overall player experience, however, I do feel that the board itself, while a novelty to use in the context of a D&D map as intended, makes the free-form interaction with the world that D&D normally offers significantly more difficult. It was a challenge in all my playtests to decide on how players were allowed to move outside of combat given that I wanted to balance actual playability while maintaining the fact that they were chess pieces that could only move how they were able to move in a standard game of Chess. It also might have helped the experience overall if I had a true chess board, but as I didn’t own one I had to make an imitation board with paper.