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Old School Fisticuffs: Bar Brawls in D&D 5e and OSR RPGs

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Samuel Bennett of Tales of the Lunar Lands wrote two neat blog posts about bar brawls in TTRPGs. I couldn’t agree more with “In a way, bar brawls could be considered a sort of mini-sandbox” – so here are some mechanics I personally use to spice up tavern-centered conflict! These rules are pretty generic, and can be bolted on to D&D 5e, B/X, Into the Odd without any issue.

Barfight Rules

These rules strive to capture the tone of wild barfight: the piano player stopping his tune the moment the first punch lands, pausing for a moment, and then continuing as everyone in the bar starts to air their grievances in a violent percussive manner.

Therefore, all blows are assumed to be non-lethal.

Improvised Weapons

Anything is a weapon!

An improvised weapon breaks once it deals its max damage: A bottle breaks when rolling a 6 on its d6, a chair when rolling an 8, etc.

Throwing Improvised Weapons

Improvised weapons can also be thrown. You do not apply proficiency.

Dramatic Maneuvers

Want to do something flashy and cool that’s not within the rules? The DM decides the relevant skill and DC. Roll twice; if you succeed twice, it goes as planned, if you succeed once, it succeeds partially, if you fail twice, it goes wrong in a horrible way and then some.

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