Dungeons & Dragons Online

Fishing – A dice-rolling activity for fun and downtime

My first time contributing anything here, criticism and/or suggestions are welcome!


A dice game, where the general idea is that the DM rolls for the fish while the PC fights to catch it. Every DM wants to roleplay as a fish, right?!

Catching Fish – The Basics

First, DM or PC rolls 1d20 and the DM picks a fish from the chart. The 1d4 is a weight randomizer and can be rolled after the fish is caught (IF it's caught).

There are 5 types of fish in four sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Massive. Modifier is half the average weight, rounded down.

d20 Size Type Weight Modifier
1 Small Snackerel 1d4-1 +0
2 Small Daggerfish 1d4 +1
3 Small Dogfish 1d4+1 +1
4 Small Axefin 1d4+2 +2
5 Small Bearfish 1d4+3 +2
6 Medium Snackerel 1d4+3 +2
7 Medium Daggerfish 1d4+4 +3
8 Medium Dogfish 1d4+5 +3
9 Medium Axefin 1d4+6 +4
10 Medium Bearfish 1d4+7 +4
11 Large Snackerel 1d4+7 +4
12 Large Daggerfish 1d4+8 +5
13 Large Dogfish 1d4+9 +5
14 Large Axefin 1d4+10 +6
15 Large Bearfish 1d4+11 +6
16 Massive Snackerel 1d4+11 +6
17 Massive Daggerfish 1d4+12 +7
18 Massive Dogfish 1d4+13 +7
19 Massive Axefin 1d4+14 +8
20 Massive Bearfish 1d4+15 +8

The challenge is to get the fish from where it is hooked (20 ft away) to the boat/dock, where it can be pulled in.

Each round, the player and fish face off with a contested roll to see if the fish moves further or closer, in increments of 10 ft. – If the player wins a contested roll, the fish moves 10 ft closer. – If the fish wins, the fish moves 10 ft further. – On ties, the fish stays put.

Repeat the contested rolls until the fish escapes (PC loses a roll when the fish is 40 ft away) or is caught (the wins a roll when the fish is 0 ft. away).

For each contested roll, the DM rolls for the fish (adding the modifier from the table), while the player rolls whatever skill they can reasonably justify to the DM. While athletics or survival might make the most sense, it's supposed to be fun, so if a player wants to try to Intimidate the fish by yelling, "Get in my belly!" let them go for it.

Recommended optional rule (prevents battles from dragging out, and favors the player catching the fish more often than not): – The fish gets tired as the battle rages on, gaining a cumulative -1 penalty on each turn after the first – Within 10 turns, an "even match" (same PC/fish modifier) will generally result in the PC winning 70% of the time, the fish escaping 15%, and still fighting 15% of the time – It's up to the DM if you want to continue fighting past a certain # of rounds, or just say the PC wins if the fish is closer than when the battle started, and loses otherwise

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Side note – I think it's best if the player doesn't know what kind or how large the fish is until it's caught

That's it for the basic idea, though I highly recommend you consider including one or more of the additional options below.

*NOTE – all math is approximate based on simulations

Additional Fish Catching Options

One or more of these options could be added, in a manner to change the odds for or against the player, to change the odds of catching larger fish, and/or to add some randomness/fun. Using one or more of these is highly encouraged, or come up with your own variations!

Options that change the odds of catching a fish

If the (approximate) math on the basic options isn't what you're looking for, change the game! – Ignore the optional fish tiring out rule – the fish no longer tires (or tires at the same rate as the PC) – Math on this one comes out to, within 10 rounds, PC winning 33% of the time, the fish escaping 33% of the time, or still fighting the remaining 33% of the time – Both the fish and the PC get tired as the battle rages on, gaining a cumulative -1 penalty on each turn, BUT the PC does not start accumulating the penalty until a number of rounds equal to their CON modifier +1 (minimum of 1). – E.g., If you have a +2 CON bonus, you don't begin to accumulate the -1 penalty until after the third round – Math on this if the PC has a +2 CON bonus (i.e., 3 turns before the penalty kicks in), within 10 rounds, the PC wins 50% of the time, loses 15% of the time, and is still fighting 35% of the time – Simple options could make it easier or more difficult to catch a fish, such as: – adjustments to the fish modifiers (lower or higher), might be a good idea for players with higher/lower level parties – setting a round limit, after which a tie will go to the fish or player (DM choice, whichever the fish is closest to, or roll for it) – Shorten things up! Instead of needing a win after moving 20ft, the PC can win by getting the fish to 0ft; similarly, the fish escapes as soon as it gets to 40ft away (no additional roll required) – E.g., the player can win in two rolls, and the fish could escape in two rolls – I didn't do the math for this one, but it SHOULD slightly favor the fish, as the cumulative penalty is more difficult for the fish to overcome as the battle goes on

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Options to change the odds of catching certain / larger fish

If you're interested in changing the odds of catching certain types of fish, or a certain size of fish, you could use one of these options. – My personal favorite, you can get a bell curve distribution on the fish chart (fish in the mid-range are more common, smallest and largest fish are more rare) by rolling 3d20, drop the highest and lowest – With this method, you could let the PC roll 1 of the d20s and keep the other 2 as a hidden DM roll, so they have a hand in hooking the fish without giving too much away – Bait could be used, and in many different ways – bait for a certain type of fish (more bearfish please!) – e.g., replace some or all of the entries on the fish table with the fish targeted by the bait – bait for a certain size of fish – e.g., roll with advantage with choosing the fish – e.g., drop a category (e.g., small fish) from the fish table – bait can have certain drawbacks/balancing – e.g., the bait for bearfish might be equally likely to get you daggerfish – Change the initial d20 roll to change the distribution of fish (e.g., to make it more likely to catch larger fish) – e.g., roll 2d20 and keep the highest – e.g., roll 2d10 instead

Options to add randomness / fun

So many ways to spice up the game, here's a few ideas… – PC's have to choose a different skill check each round, and cannot repeat! – Brute athletic strength didn't cut it, neither did your survival skills, maybe you could persuade the fish to come closer? It's supposed to be fun after all, so let the player get creative – Note – this has the side effect of placing a natural limit on how many rounds a battle can go on, and possibly even adds some strategy to it for the player (is it better save that high skill check for later?) – After the fish is caught, the DM or player can roll a percentile to add up to an extra pound to the fish – My massive Axefish came in at 16.55lbs, while yours was only 16.21lbs, ha! – This can be especially fun to track the largest fish – When a Nat 1 or Nat 20 is rolled – Nat 1 = automatic lose, Nat 20 = automatic win, and/or – Three wins in a row is an automatic win! – The momentum is real – Fish traits/abilities! Can be randomly selected (d6) or purposely chosen: – Desperate Dash. Once per battle, the fish can make a desperate maneuver, gaining advantage on its next roll, but disadvantage on the following roll – Brutal Fish. The fish automatically wins on a 19 or 20 – Tireless. The fish is in particularly good shape, and the -1 penalty only accumulates every other round – Sly Fish. Once per battle, the fish can re-roll its check AFTER seeing the player's roll – Momentous Mover. Once per battle, the first time the fish wins a round, it moves 20ft away instead of 10ft – Jumping Fish. Once per battle, after losing a round, instead of being reeled in 10 ft., the fish jumps out of the water and halts progress, staying in the same place – Player traits/abilities! Could re-flavor any of the fish abilities above for the player to do be able to do something similar.

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I'll stop there before I write an entire fishing TTRPG, but there could be tournament rules, legendary fish, weather effects…. maybe later…?


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