D&D 5E NPC fighting pit

My players just went into an underground fightclub where people watch and gamble on exotic beasts facing off. The players noted they are interested in participating in gambling. I was just going to run the fights as combats, but I just realized that since this city is littered with places like this, this will likely be a constant thing, and it would take a long time in and out of game to either run several NPC combats and/or script them out.

Does anyone have basically a mini-game version of combat that would work well? Something more abstract will be fine, this is just new territory for me.

One thought I had was have them face off d20 rolls, highest roll wins roll, first to win 3-5 rollls wins (like the crowd favorit crocodile needs to be beat 5 times while the bear facing it iff only needs to be beat 3 times). Part of me says this is way too simple (I've been looking up things like the ToA dinosaur racing for inspiration, even Matt Mercer's lizard racing had a little more), and makes it too easy for normally weaker creatures to mop the floor with stronger foes. Another part of me says I am overthinking this.

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You can give the various monsters bonuses on their d20s. I.e. tat crowd-favorite crocodile (with experience in the ring) gets a +5 to its roll, while the bear only gets a +4.

If my players would enter such a place, they would gamble once or twice, and then proceed to try to rig the game in their favor by sabotaging the entire fight. That would then alter the bonuses (if successful).


Well, you always want to set up a fair fight so if 1 monster is bigger and better than another you just throw more of the wimpy guys, give them some unfair advantage or handicap the big guy somehow.

Other than a fight or two, I'd handle this as a downtime activity. Gambling downtime activity is covered in Xanathar's Guide to Everything.

The character makes three checks: Wisdom (Insight), Charisma (Deception), and Charisma (Intimidation). If the character has proficiency with an appropriate gaming set, that tool proficiency can replace the relevant skill in any of the checks. The DC for each of the checks is 5 + 2d10; generate a separate DC for each one. Consult the Gambling Results table to see how the character did.

Gambling Results​

0 successesLose all the money you bet, and accrue a debt equal to that amount.
1 successLose half the money you bet.
2 successesGain the amount you bet plus half again more.
3 successesGain double the amount you bet.

I'd probably replace insight with nature, deception and/or intimidation with history and animal handling.

However ... there is always going to be a syndicate. If anyone or any group is too successful they're going to develop a powerful enemy. If you're too good at blackjack you get kicked out of Vegas and it doesn't matter if you're cheating or not.


To speed this up at the table, pre-roll all of your checks and have a chart printed...then apply any party-generated modifiers to see if they make a difference.
You can even do it in Excel with =Randbetween(1,20) for your dice rolls. Warning, this recalculates ALL the dice on the page whenever you hit ctrl+shift+f9.


Well, we want boxing type "rounds", so we can have more betting action. You also want narrative to be generated by these rolls.

Betting lines:

Who wins first round
Who wins second round
Win in 2
Who wins


Here is an attempt at generating narrative:

Baseline rules:

Each monster starts out with a specific die size -- 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d12 or 1d20.

To run a round, each combatant rolls their die. The loser is the one that rolled lower.

To find out how badly they lost the round, the loser keeps on rolling their die until they beat the winner. That is how many "hits" they took.

Now, roll the winner's die once for every hit, adding it up. Every 10 points reduces the loser's die by 1 step. If they are dropped below 1d4, it is TKO. If the winner rolls max on their die, roll it again.

Do the same for the loser, but only roll 1 die, possibly causing damage to the winner.

Damage accumulates between rounds

Fights last 3 rounds. Whomever gets a TKO or wins 2 of the rounds wins the fight.


Bear (1d12) vs Wolf (1d8).

Round 1:



Wolf wins round 1.


Bear takes 2 hits.


Bear takes 1 damage. Die is now 1d10


Wolf take 5 damage.


Round 2:



Bear wins round 2.


Wolf takes 2 hits.


5 points, plus 5 before, loses 1 step.


7+12 is 19, bear doesn't lose a step.


Round 3, match tied!



Bear wins round



Wolf takes 3 hits.


Total damage 31, die size drops below d4. Wolf TKO.


Total damage on bear 21, bear reduced to d8.


This might be still too stimulationist.

My goals was to ensure that two 1d4 creature's wouldn't TKO each other all the time, and but a 1d20 vs a 1d4 would quickly result in a TKO.

We could probably simplify things a lot. Give each monster a POW stat.

3 rounds. Start the round with 1d6+POW for each monster, report who is winning. Then roll 1d6 again to determine who wins the match.

6s explode, roll again.

You have to beat them by 2 to win a round.

Every 2 points you beat the enemy POW you deal 1 point of damage. Damage reduces enemy POW.

Best 2 rounds win. If a monster takes 5 points of damage, they are TKOd.

The "intermediate" 1d6 roll can be skipped for faster fights, or included to stretch out narrative.


Wolf 5 vs Bear 7.

Round 1:
5+4+5 (14) vs 7+3+2 (12)

The round starts. The wolf leaps at the bear, but the bear knocks the wolf out of the air. The bear tries to follow up and finish the wolf, but the wolf is too quick and wounds the bear.

Round 2:
5+5+3 (13) vs 6+1+2 (9)

The bear attempts to crush the wolf, but the wolf cuts around behind, and leaps on the bear's back. Bear takes 2 point of damage.

Wolf has won 2. But this is a bloodsport, so we continue to the 3rd round. Bear's only hope now is a TKO.

Round 3:
5+2+6+4 (17) vs 4+1+1 (6)

The two duelists circle around each other, neither giving the other an opening. Then the bear is distracted by a loud sound, and the wolf leaps, tearing the Bear's throat out.


Ok, that works better. The exploding dice add some drama, and the curve of adding up dice make differences increasingly important.

You can also do things like "trollblood monsters heal 1 damage per round", or a creature that rolls 3d4 (exploding) instead of 2d6 (exploding).

TKOs are possible, but far from certain.

3 round matches, 5 round matches, and to-the-death are all possible formats.

Win by round, or win by damage done, are possible bets.

If you replaced the Bear with a 12 power creature:

Round 1: 1 damage to wolf
Round 2: 1 damage to wolf
Round 3: 2 damage to 12 power creature

Even with the impressive rolls above, the wolf can't keep up.
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