BITS of D&D

You – through game references or celebrities or the show Stranger Things – of course have heard of Dungeons & Dragons, the tabletop roleplaying game synonymous now with, well, “RPG.”

Yet, this system is complex. Really complex. I often refer to D&D as a great example of simulation play – track every detail possible to simulate as precise of a result as possible.

Regardless of how accurate the simulation, doing all that is… A bit much for a casual game played for enjoyment, especially given the time-strapped lives people lead.

Thus, I have developed the BITS system. Directly inspired by D&D, BITS is fast, modular, genre-less, and emergently complex. Being a descendant of the classic, I found it fitting to convert a BITS of D&D for that streamlined play 🔥

The Core Mechanic

A rolled 20-sided die (d20) plus a modifier or special reroll is D&D‘s resolution mechanic for all dangerous, failure-has-consequence situations. Each situation has its own difficulty, which D&D helpfully suggests as every 5 on the d20 that a roll needs to meet or beat to succeed.

BITS is 2d6, or, roll 2 6-sided dice added together at or above a target with modifiers. I will save you the math comparison between 2d6 and d20 – just know that any D&D roll has a compliment in BITS:

DifficultyD&D d20 RollBITS 2d6 Roll
Very Easy55
Easy107
Moderate159
Hard2011
Very Hard2513
Godly, Near Impossible3015
Roll Conversions

A quick, casual game needs only Easy, Medium, and Hard results, but discussing that is a tangent –

Further, D&D expects all players and the Game Moderator / Dungeon Master to roll dice. BITS needs only other players to roll on the regular.

Special rules for rolls center around the concept of “Advantage” and “Disadvantage.” Skipping how a roll gets this special rule applied, D&D says to roll 2d20 and take the highest or lowest result, respectively. BITS can do the same, but to reduce rolls, BITS prefers to take the highest or lowest die of the first roll and duplicate it, e.g. a 2-5 becomes a 5-5 when there is Advantage.

Advantage and disadvantage get calculated after critical successes or failures in both D&D and BITS. In D&D a crit success happens when an unmodified / natural roll of 20 happens, a crit fail on a natural 1 roll.

BITS scales criticals with the difficulty – the more difficult the obstacle, the greater chance there is for critical failure, less for success crits, and vice versa. Crits are any natural same-faced roll – 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6. Crit successes are pairs above the number expected to be over, crit failures rolling below the number.

An example of BITS criticals would be to roll a 3-3 failure when a 7+ is needed, or that same 3-3 being a success when the only requirement is 5+.

D&D fails to handle criticals gracefully or apply solutions for every occasion. Critical successes for a BITS player means the player’s character can act again, immediately, regardless if they were the one taking or preventing action.

When acting in BITS, critical failure means a player character cannot do the same thing again without some work – whether that is needing to switch to a new quiver of arrows, freeing a stuck sword, or getting out of the puddle of acid from the vial they dropped. When preventing or defending against action, critical failures mean the consequences happen in the extreme, e.g. armor is bypassed or effect doubled.

1) Roll at or above the target number.
2) Check for automatic, critical success or failure.
3) Use Advantage or Disadvantage if present.
4) Add modifiers.

The Stats

D&D has Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intellect, and Charisma as the primary “ability scores,” aka stats, with a raw value and a bonus value (the bonus is added to appropriate rolls).

Why use all 6 when not all are equivalently useful? When fewer will do?

To bring D&D stats to BITS, do the following to convert D&D ability bonuses into BITS’s Body, Insight, and Thought:

  • Body – Average Strength and Constitution bonuses.
  • Insight – Average Dexterity and Charisma bonuses.
  • Thought – Average Wisdom and Intellect bonuses.

No fuss, no muss – what you see is the roll modifier you get in BITS.

Character Creation

With a set of rolls, stats get assigned at character creation. D&D has rules for how many dice to roll, extra modifiers, dice that get ignored, point distributions, and a myriad other ways to write numbers on paper. Many times an entire play session (1-4 hours) needs to be dedicated to making a D&D character!

In practice, BITS is 5 minutes and less for bringing creations to the game 👀 But perhaps a made D&D character or other content is going to be moved over to BITS – there are a handful of tables of that!

To roll for stats for BITS, do the following to get the same kinds of bonuses D&D produces:

2d6 RollStat Bonus
2-4
3-3
4-2
5-1
6 to 8+0
9+1
10+2
11+3
12+4
Stat Rolling

D&D allows the ability to remove a low roll when it come to stats, so to do the same in BITS is to reroll the lowest d6 and keep the higher result.

Next, D&D allows for a “point-buy” system, where stats are assigned from a pool for each character. While not fully explored in BITS, 10 points seem to balance nicely with D&D expectations, allowing a player to spend points on increasingly expensive stats along with wealth (briefly discussed later in this post):

Point CostStat, Skill Number, or Wealth Class
11
32
63
104
BITS Point Costs

And if going negative on stats, those buy points back to spend elsewhere!

HP

HP (Hit Points) represent how long a character can prevent seriously bad, sometimes permanent outcomes for itself.

When it comes to HP, D&D is a bit complicated – first a species and class profession needs to be picked, each with a hit die that is rolled, adding the Constitution bonus rolled for previously. This HP grows and grows in a manner that can make higher-level characters able to literally jump off a mountain and survive, making later-game balance an oxymoron.

BITS develops HP in a more straight-forward manner: roll 2d6. That’s it. Average of 7 HP for all players. Roll 2d6 every level-up – higher number than before? Increase HP by 1.

Being modular, BITS HP can also be the absolute (negatives become positives) sum of all Body-Insight-Thought bonuses plus the number of Skills acquired, with a minimum of 1 HP. Example: A B+1 I-3 T+0, 2-Skill character has 1+3+0+2=6 HP.

(Inspiration for B+I+T+S taken from Soulbound, a game with its own post coming later.)

The Classes

Class is a huge part of D&D. It defines what a character can and cannot do, what they own and can own, and how they get better at things.

Stick with me when I say BITS throws a lot of that out.

Instead, the idea of class in BITS revolves around the Skills “S” in BITS. Each skill, profession, calling, what-have-you is an area of expertise the character has developed through training and understanding.

An example would be a Thief or Rogue class in D&D – you can be this one thing, or with extra rules, this class and one other with detriment. In BITS, a person is not exclusively a thief – being good at thieving is but part of their identity.

A skill describes what a character is good at. Should they do anything that in good-faith could be understood to be a part of that skill, that character has advantage in the action.

Back to the thief: A BITS thief would arguably have advantage in burglary, pickpocketing, slinking about, and general footpadedness.

D&D classes come with special abilities too, so at the discretion of the Game Moderator and a player, the character can get one too. E.g. a thief can slip out of being hit or caught once a day, no roll required; or, a thief can pawn their lowest-value item at one more wealth-class than its worth once a transaction.

Magic

D&D class defines what kinds of magic – if any – a character has access to. BITS can roll with that.

However, magic in D&D is typically extremely powerful with little or no consequences. BITS adds in a bit of ‘spice’ to balance magics in the system as a whole.

For BITS, rolls for magic need to roll higher than the magic being cast vs. the difficulty of the target. Magic is expected to be instantaneous at point of origin if successful, so there is no dodging against a blast of fire or wave of cold.

The kicker comes when magic critically fails. On such, the magic does the harmful or opposite intention to the caster. Fireballs target and ignite the mage, healing the sick harms the healer, a monster summoned smites not foes but friends.

The Gear and Wealth

The following about effectiveness really applies to weapons, but armor and other items can follow the same guidelines.

Weapons in D&D have hit dice for how much damage they do, a measure of their effectiveness towards an opponent. Some weapons have special rules or abilities too, adding to their prestige.

To get a D&D weapon into BITS, take the hit die average, divide it by 2, and round, + or – 1, e.g.:

Weapon StatMathBITS Value
Sling d4Round 2.5 / 21
Sword d6Round 3.5 / 22
Glaive d10Round 5.5 / 23
Greatsword 2d6Round 7 / 24
Example Weapons Conversion

Each BITS value for a weapon or object is also its wealth tier (with each special ability adding to the tier), i.e. how much wealth is needed to buy the thing. This is further explored in BITS – The Equipment.

Pregen Examples

Above has been making a character. D&D offers various beginning sets of stats and equipment that skip the creation process (pregen characters).

BITS can, in brief, make that happen:

Fighter, B+2 I+0 T+0 HP 7, Battle Axe 3 or Hammer 2 and Shield 1
Mage, B+0 I+1 T+2 HP 3, Sword 2 or Longbow 2
Rogue, B+0 I+2 T+0 HP 3, Sword 2 or Dagger 1
Cleric, B+2 I+0 T+1 HP 6, Mace 2 or Spear 1
Example Pregenerated Characters

The above get some wealth and armor too, but lets keep this post lite.

Everything Outstanding

I am making the choice to skip wealth, ranges, the exactness of how armor behaves, non-player character creation, and other topics because they are either already covered in other blog posts or are modular enough both others and I have provided a robust collection of options to choose from for play.

Dungeons & Dragons is a very complex and a very popular game. There is no arguing that it does a lot of things right. While the game fits a niche for many, BITS fills a niche closer to my own expectations of fun and play, and statistically, yours too!

What did I leave out that should be included? Let me answer your questions or shore-up some of my own answers to make BITS of D&D even more robust.

Cheers to your games! 🎲🎲

Published by

Jimmy Chattin

Processor of data, applier of patterns.

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