Posts Tagged ‘random encounters’

My Tarokka deck needs something to do.

It’s not that I don’t love the purchase. It’s a wonderful item with a lot of great art. Worth every penny. But I feel like I can make it worth more.

As I mentioned in my one-shot Strahd post, I’m not currently playing Curse of Strahd. Even if I were, I’d want to make expanded use of the Tarokka deck. It’s great for readings, but wouldn’t it be awesome if it could be used for random encounters, treasure tables, and more? It totally can.

Tarokkas and Random Tables

Whether you’re playing Curse of Strahd or not, you can draw cards from your Tarokka deck instead of rolling dice on a random table for encounters, treasure, and more. I’ve made it super easy for you and myself by writing out the numbers on a table below.

I’m aware that other than the d6 column, these cards don’t perfectly correspond to the same probability as a throw of an actual die. If this were a saving throw, ability check, attack or damage roll, I wouldn’t allow it. For a DM’s random table this is close enough. It’s as good as it’s going to get without adding extra cards to the deck!

Making players draw these cards themselves for treasure and encounters is especially fun. It adds a moment of drama at the table as you whip out the cards and ask them to draw. Psychologically it also shifts the onus of the result on the player as the others watch, hoping for a good result.

Check out the table below, or grab it in the link below as a PDF or from the Free Game Resources section of this site.

Tarokka Deck as Dice

Tarokka Deck as DiceA Little Preview

This post is actually a little preview of an upcoming DMs Guild product I’m working on. It’s a recurring encounter for Curse of Strahd that involves a magic Tarokka deck. To learn more about this side trek, you’ll have to wait for next week and watch my game with Chris Perkins during…


If you haven’t heard about Roll20CON yet, the info is below!

The free, online-only celebration of the Roll20 Community will take place on June 3rd, 2016 for just 24 hours – but you can start preparing, listing, and joining games now! From 12AM – 11:59PM Pacific time, there will be games galore played on my favorite virtual table. You’ll want to join in the action and get to try some of the Plus and Pro subscription features for free. That’s right. Dynamic Lighting (and tons of other awesome features) will be free during Roll20CON.

During the convention, some of your favorite streamers, publishers, podcasters, and I will be live on Twitch helping raise money for Cybersmile, the international non-profit supporting victims of cyberbullying.

If you haven’t seen the schedule for Roll20CON check it out below. You’ll notice I’m running two games during the 24-hour live stream with some of the biggest names in Dungeons and Dragons including my good friend Rudy Basso of the Tome Show’s D&D V&G podcast and Have Spellbook, Will Travel, Nadja Otikor of Misscliks D&D Prophecy, Greg Bilsland of Wizards of the Coast and member of the Dungeons and Dragons team, and, oh yeah, Chris Freakin’ Perkins, a Wizards of the Coast D&D employee who needs no introduction.

Needless to say I am thrilled about this and nervous. I’d love your support and love on game day. So if you’re around at 5AM or 2PM Pacific time on June 3, 2016, check out Twitch and watch us play D&D!


If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Over the last couple weeks on this blog I dove deep into my campaign setting, Exploration Age. First I wrote about the design principles behind the setting and then I gave you my hex crawl tips, since Exploration Age was built for that sort of adventure. Now it’s time to blog about building random encounter tables to give your hex crawls some extra awesome.

I find hex crawls call for huge varied encounter tables. The more variety you can inject into a table, the more interesting your game play will be. A lot of different encounters will keep your hex crawl from becoming a predictable grind. Pages 85 – 87 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide have some great advice for building your own random encounter tables, so I won’t rehash what’s already been written.

Check for Encounters

When my players embark on a big hex crawl, I create three different tables – a hostile encounters table, a exploration encounters table, and a story encounters table. In general I check from random encounters twice per day during a hex crawl. Once during the travel day and once when the PCs stop to take a long rest. If they take any short rests, make a lot of noise, try to take a short cut, or do anything else that might attract attention (or if I just feel like it), I’ll check more than the usual twice. Use your discretion and roll whenever you feel it is necessary. Sometimes you may just want to make a particular type of encounter happen, in that case just skip the “check for encounters” step, roll on the appropriate table, and get going.

I check for a random encounter by rolling a d20. On a roll of 1-16, no encounter occurs. On a roll of 17-18, a hostile encounter occurs, on a roll of 19 an exploration encounter occurs, and on a 20 a story encounter occurs.

If I feel too much of a particular type of encounter has occurred, I’ll change the numbers to give a new kind of encounter a greater chance of occurring. Heck, if there’s a particular encounter I really want to occur, I’ll just make it happen and won’t even roll. The point is, you can easily adjust the numbers if your group prefers a particular type of encounter over the others. I have a better chance of hostile encounters occurring more than story or exploration because those are what my group likes. Combat encounters make hex crawling dangerous fun. You can do whatever you like and change midstream to fit your game!

One of my groups is currently crawling through the blank area of The Sprawling Jungle in Verda, so I’ll be using jungle encounters as examples.

World Map of Canus

World Map of Canus

Hostile Encounter Table

For a combat encounters table, I follow the advice in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, but I make every encounter on the table a hostile encounter. It’s that simple.

The big question you have to answer… will you build your random encounter table so that each encounter falls within the easy – hard encounter difficulty rating for your party (as the Dungeon Master’s Guide suggests) or will you build a random encounter table that includes encounters difficulty ratings well above and below what the party can handle?

I know many old school gamers may prefer the latter. After all, why would The Sprawling Jungle care what level the PCs are? They might even call it realistic. If that’s what you want to do, by all means, go ahead. Just make sure your players know what they’re in for. This is not my preferred method, but if it works for your group, game on.

In my experience having a single random encounter with a challenge rating well above the party’s level end in a party wipe just stinks. I want my players to feel like the heroes of the story. How crappy would The Lord of the Rings be if the Fellowship got entirely wiped out by a group of 1d6+4 owlbears at the start of the journey? I understand it may not seem realistic, but neither do dragons, magic, or mind flayers, so I’m good with it.

Here’s an example of a hostile encounter table below for The Sprawling Jungle in Exploration Age. The encounters are tailored for a group for four level 11 PCs. Remember that a hostile encounter doesn’t have to be resolved by combat. Let the PCs tackle the encounter with diplomacy or attempt to avoid it, especially if they see the enemy before the enemy sees them.

d12 + d8 Encounter
2 1 behir
3 1d2 Tyrannosaurus rex
4 1 hydra
5 1d6+3 saber-toothed tiger
6 1d2+1 shambling mounds
7 1d2+1 trolls
8 1 orc war cheif, 2 orogs, and 1d6 orcs
9 1d2 giant apes
10 1 lizard king/queen, 1 lizardfolk shaman, and 2d6 lizardfolk
11 1d4+4 swarms of poisonous snakes
12 1 gnoll fang of Yeenoghu, 1 gnoll pack lord, and 2d6 gnolls
13 1d6+2 giant scorpions
14 1d10+6 giant spiders
15 1d6+3 mystuak-inhanbited berserkers
16 1d3 cyclopes
17 1d2+1 green hags
18 1 yuan-ti abomination, 1 yuan-ti malison, and 1d4 yuan-ti purebloods
19 1d2 morchia
20 1 adult green dragon

Exploration Encounter Table

My exploration encounters include interactions with non-hostile NPCs and locations the PCs may meet along the way. These encounters could lead to side quests, provide challenges or rewards, or give flavor to the world. As each encounter occurs, I cross it off the list. In general it isn’t very fun for a specific of exploration encounter to occur more than once. I usually keep these tables smaller since these encounters take a lot more prep than a random encounter. I add new exploration encounters between sessions to fill-in the ones I’ve crossed off the list. Checkout my example for The Sprawling Jungle below.

d6 Encounter
1 A wagon surrounded by decomposing humanoid corpses wearing rainbow colored cloaks. The wagon contains a hidden compartment (DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) to notice) which holds 4d6 x 100 doses of orange spice inside.
2 Hidden mud pit 20 feet deep with a 10-foot-square opening. DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) to notice. A creature which enters the mud pit must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be submerged 5 feet in the mud, restrained, and continue to sink at the end of its turn at a rate of 5 feet per round. Once the mud covers the creature’s head it is blinded and it begins suffocating if it requires air to live. A submerged creature can make a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) check as an action to climb 5 feet out of the pit and also not sink at the end of its turn. A nonsubmerged creature can aid a submerged creature by lending it a hand or long object (such as a branch), which gives the submerged creature advantage on its Strength (Athletics) check.
3 A grove of casgrove fruit. The fruit is worth 500 gp. Harvesting the fruit takes 2 hours. There is a 50% 3d6 mystauk with no host inhabit the grove as well.
4 A band of adventurers from the Explorers’ Guild (50%) or the Society of Seekers (50%) looking for a nearby aberrant ruin. They will pay the adventurers 50 gp for any information which could aid them in their search.
5 An aberrant ruin. Use Shuzal or roll on the aberrant ruin table.
6 The nomadic panther tribe comes through. Their chief, Bergonthal the Brave, has contracted slug snot after exploring a a cave which leads to the Underdark. If the PCs heal the cheif, the tribe’s shaman, Ferix the Wolf, reward the PCs with a charm of victorious armor.

Story Encounters Table

Story encounters are more abstract. They inject PC backstories and past campaign events into the game. A story encounter should help introduce new story elements into your campaign or move a particular story forward. When a result on the table calls for a particular PC you can randomly choose one character by rolling a die or by picking whichever PC’s story makes the most sense at the moment given the time and location of the encounter. You could also simply pick a PC who hasn’t been in the spotlight for a time.

Some of the results on the table call for a NPC to ask the players for help. If you’re stuck on what the NPC should ask for, roll on your hostile encounters table and have the NPC ask players for help defeating that enemy which is chasing the NPC, has stolen something which belongs to the NPC, or raiding a nearby settlement.

A NPC offering aid could offer their own services as an adventurer, healing spells, food, or equipment. A few potions never hurt anyone (and a few cursed potions really make the game interesting).

d6 Encounter
1 A hostile creature from a PC’s background
2 A hostile creature that got away from the PCs or has returned from the dead after they killed it
3 A friendly creature from the PC’s background asking for help with something or offering aid
4 A henchmen or assassin hired by a villain the PCs are working against come to kill the PCs or infiltrate them as a spy
5 A NPC the entire party has met before asking for help with something or offering aid
6 A NPC who knows someone the PCs know or has heard of them who needs help or is asking for aid

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Last Thursday I posted a piece about tiny dungeons and I promised you an example of one of these bad boys. I’ll have the dungeon on Tuesday next week. Right now I’m going to show off some hooks, and random encounters for the area surrounding the dungeon and on Thursday I want to show off some of the new monsters I’ve designed for the dungeon.

The Wererat Den is a short fifth edition adventure for a party of four to six fifth level characters. This adventure takes place in the campaign setting of Exploration Age, but can easily be adapted for any setting you choose.

Adventure Background

In the elf and halfling dominated republic of Taliana, a band of terrorist lycanthropes known as the Brotherhood of the Moon have a covert cell hiding at the Dromadas Inn, a roadside establishment halfway between Waynana and Pricillia in The Great Wood on the East Bank of the Vumba River.

The lycanthropes haven’t always run the Dromadas Inn but they recently infected the establishment’s proprietor and staff. Their plan is simple. Infect any who stop to rest at the inn with lycanthropy and then let those unfortunate souls carry the disease to their final destination.

The leader of the lycanthrope gang is a elf wererat mage, Alcaeus Branthom. Alcaeus is working his way up the ranks of the brotherhood and hopes his triumph at Dromadas will catch the eye of the organization’s leaders. The mage is never without his halfling wereboar bodyguards, Reconda and Elvani Iustabar, the howling sisters.

Recently a group of halfling and elf adolescents were making their way along the road from Pricillia to Waynana. These children are the sons and daughters of some of Taliana’s wealthiest and most influential merchant families. They were headed to Waynana to learn more about Taliana’s bustling lumber economy and enjoy the nightlife the party city has to offer. Along the way the group stopped at the Dromadas Inn.

The lycanthropes seized the opportunity, killed or infected the adults and guards within the group and imprisoned the children in the inn’s basement. Now Alcaeus is torn. He is unsure if he should infect the adolescent children or use their imprisonment to blackmail their powerful parents into becoming lycanthropes. He is using the Brotherhood of the Moon’s complicated channels to ask leadership about what he should do with the children and is currently waiting for a response.

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 6.01.00 AM

The pink star shows the location of the Dromadas Inn. Each hex = 50 miles. This map was made using Hexographer.

Brotherhood of the Moon

The Brotherhood of the Moon are a band of lycanthropes who believe lycanthropy is the next stage of humanoid evolution. These lycanthropes view their curse as a gift and constantly scheme to inflict lycanthropy upon others. They have a long history of operating within Taliana in Exploration Age, but the Brotherhood of the Moon can easily be brought into any campaign setting.

Adventure Synopsis

Using one of the hooks from the Hooks section of this adventure or by some other scheme you cook up, the characters arrive at the Dromadas Inn. They have a chance to interact with the incognito members of the Brotherhood of the Moon who try to asses if the PCs might willingly join the operation or if they’ll need to be forcibly infected. The characters can then work their way through the inn either by force, stealth, or bluff. They eventually learn the children of some of Taliana’s influential merchants and political figures are being kept as prisoners in the basement of the Dromadas Inn and must decide what to do about it.


The characters begin the adventure in Waynana.

Waynana (City Population 50,000) Waynana is one of three sister cities, the other two being Pricillia and Fraya. The lumberjacks living in The Great Wood bring their hauls to Waynana so they can be transported to Pricillia and Fraya for travel. Waynana is a testament to Talianan woodworking skill. Beautiful log and wood carved buildings line the streets, giving the city an inviting and rustic feel.

Waynana parties harder than any other city in Taliana. The lumberjacks love to blow off some steam and often get into rowdy drinking contests with one another. Bar fights are a common occurrence in the taverns and seem to occur just for the fun of the participants at times. Waynana is home to several breweries, distilleries, and vineyards that are all proud to have the elves and halflings who call the place home imbibe their products.

For all its partying Waynana is a bit short on law enforcement and the citizens know it. It’s not that the city doesn’t have the coin, it’s that the city council has trouble convincing folk to sign up. They always have a backlog of cases and solicit adventurers to investigate crimes for a reward.


The following adventure hooks can be used to get your players to the Dromadas Inn.

Save the Children

Dreas Mercor, the proprietor of the hugely successful Mercor Lumber Company in Waynana, contacts the adventurers because he has heard of their past deeds. The purple-clad, mustached halfling is a nervously fidgeting as he tells the characters that he has been waiting for a wagon train of friends’ adolescent children to come from Pricillia as he is supposed to be their caretaker during their stay. The wagons were supposed to arrive five days ago and he hasn’t gotten any word since hear they had left Pricillia. He’s sure everything’s fine, they were traveling along the road after all, but Dreas would like some people he can trust to look into it. He offers to pay the adventurers 200 gp each plus the cost of food and lodging expenses to search along the road to Pricillia for the children and escort them to Waynana safely.

Attack of the Lycanthropes

The beleaguered Waynana police force has recently noticed a pattern of increased lycanthrope attacks. Over the past few months several travelers coming by way of Pricillia into the city have suddenly transformed and violently attacked the citizens of Waynana. Police investigator Mira Ventulos approaches the characters based on their reputation for past deeds or the characters see a posting advertising the job directing them to Mira. She offers the characters 100 gp each plus the cost of food and lodging expenses to search along the road to Pricillia for any signs of lycanthrope activity and to report back when they learn. She offers them an additional 10 gp each for every lycanthrope they slay.

A Stay at the Dromadas Inn

If the characters are journeying along the road to Waynana to Pricillia for any reason they might stay in the Dromadas Inn. If they stay here the characters are attacked by wererats in their room at night.

The Road to the Dromadas Inn

The road from Waynana to the Dromadas Inn is contained within The Great Wood. Within these woods halfling and elven lumberjacks roam, cutting lumber for the cities of Taliana and exporting boards and wood across Canus. Of course the woods have hungry beasts and vicious monsters who might see a few adventurers as an easier target than a troop of lumberjacks.

Fast Travel

Taliana’s roads are lined with magic speedy cobblestones installed by The Arcane College. These roads allow for fast travel between towns and cities when using special swifty boots, swifty horseshoes, and swifty wheels. The speed of the traveler is tripled when using these items along the special roads. Travel along these roads is safe, thanks to the swift speed. If PCs are traveling quickly along the road at tripled speed, there is no need to roll for random encounters, until they stop to rest. Prices for the swfity gear is below.

Gear Price Notes
Swifty boots 50 gp Pair of two
Swifty horseshoes 200 gp Set of four
Swifty animal shoes 400 gp Customized for mount of choice
Swifty wheels 500 gp Set of four
Random Encounters

While traveling in The Great Wood the characters may encounter all sorts of people and monsters. Roll a d20 three times for each day the PCs are traveling in the forest, once for morning, once for afternoon, and once for night. On a roll of 18-20 a random encounter occurs.

Use the table to determine what type of encounter occurs. For encounters marked with an asterisk use the descriptions provided after the tables.

d12 + d8 Encounter
2 1 fleeing wererat victim*
3 basilisks
4 1d4 giant boars
5 1 green hag and 1d4+2 giant poisonous snakes
6 1d4+2 dire wolves
7 1 shambling mound
8 1 troll
9 1d4 wererats*
10 1 bandit captain and 2d6 bandits
11 lumber merchant caravan*
12 1d4 orogs
13 2 owlbears
14 4 druids*
15 1d4 + 2 giant spiders
16 1d8 + 7 wolves
17 1 hill giant
18 1d4 ettercaps
19 1 banshee
20 1 unicorn*
Fleeing Wererat Victim

On the road the characters run into a disheveled, starving elf woman named Betra Closo. She is half mad, raving about being in the Dromadas Inn when she woke up to a strange creature gnawing on her shoulder. She pushed the creature away and fled the inn, but is afraid that whatever the thing was that bit her is still after her. If the characters approach her she is cautious but trusts them out of necessity.

Betra is infected with wererat lyncathropy, but doesn’t know it yet. If she stays with the adventurers, during the next full moon she transforms into the hybrid form of a wererat and attacks the adventurers.


This band of four wererats were infected at the Dromadas Inn and now stalk the road for potential prey. If they are overwhelmed they try to flee back to the inn, but if captured and interrogated, only a successful DC 20 Charisma (Intimidation) gets them to reveal the location of their base. The wererats fear the wrath of Alcaeus and in most cases would rather die than give up their brethren.

Lumber Merchant Caravan

The characters pass a caravan of lumber merchants resting along the road. If they stop to talk with the merchants, the characters learn the merchants are looking forward to reaching the famous Dromadas Inn on the Vumba River because it is famous for its suckling wild boar and soft feather beds.


The characters pass a group of druids meditating near the road. These druids are friendly and if the characters seem to be respectful they offer them a chance to meditate and commune with nature with them. Any character who spends an hour meditating gains Inspiration.


A unicorn passes by the road and touches a random good-aligned character with its horn gently. That character gains the Charm of Beast Speech.  The unicorn then runs off into the forest.

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