Random Encounter Table (Not combat specific)

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So I've looked around for awhile for something like this.  I'm looking for a table or generator for random encounters, not just combat.  I mean things my players might encounter during travel, while resting, high perception check roll, etc.  Some examples off the top of my head; finding a traveling merchant selling cursed items, discovering the aftermath of a battle with some scavengables, stumbling into a cave or bandit chache, you can see where I'm going with this, right?  I saw the 1001 random encounters thread, and while there are some usables there, I was hoping for something more specific/practical.

Any ideas?
Not to sound like a jerk but if you want an encounter that is practical and specific, then you should probably make a practical and specific encounter table. Only you know what that means to you. 4e doesn't have random tables like that as it is assumed that every encounter is specifically tailored to your party. It would be fairly easy however. If I were to make an encounter table that was not combat specific I would:

Divide encounter tables into terrain.
Make 20 possibilities for each terrain.
I would list out generalities like CR+1 encounter, or High perception check or medium insight check or minor plot hook or random event.
Then I would take those generalities and flesh them out based on the terrain the list is for. So for example terrain: cold plains. a high perception check would be something like

Cold Plains encounters.
1. High perception check: Success off in the distance you see a band of orcs heading towards the village you passed yesterday.
2. Medium insight check: You find a man sitting along the road, he tells you he would like you to escort him to town. Success: He is lying to you and actually seems more like he intends you harm.
3. CR+1. You notice a cheetah stalking you from the tall grass.
4. Plot hook. You pass a strange man in odd clothing, when you do he begins to follow you. (He is really a messenger from a far away land.)
5. Random event. You come upon a wagon train full of gypsies who offer you wares.
6-20. so on and so forth.

I would throw in different kinds of extended skill checks and maybe a skill challenge or two. Throw in an encounter or two ("CR+2 or new ally" bandits stop as they ride up on horses, a man jumps down from his horse and it is the notorious bandit leader The Dashing Blade! Who charmingly chats at you as he robs you.)

Again that's just how I would do it, and if you're looking for something specific then you are probably better of crafting it yourself.
So I've looked around for awhile for something like this.  I'm looking for a table or generator for random encounters, not just combat.  I mean things my players might encounter during travel, while resting, high perception check roll, etc.  Some examples off the top of my head; finding a traveling merchant selling cursed items, discovering the aftermath of a battle with some scavengables, stumbling into a cave or bandit chache, you can see where I'm going with this, right?  I saw the 1001 random encounters thread, and while there are some usables there, I was hoping for something more specific/practical.

Any ideas?

I was off the idea of random encounters for a while, until I realized that they don't all need to be combat encounters.

Traveller, or at least the 2008 rules from Mongoose, have tables for random encounters in various types of locations. The one for Rural Encounters just say things like "Wild animal," "Lost child," "Monastary." Except for things like "Grounded spacecraft," it could be used in a D&D game immediately.

And those are all the details. The referee is expected to come up with everything else about the situation. He or she can, of course, plot things out ahead of time, crafting a unique encounter for each entry (including the six times "Wild animal" comes up). But what I take from this table is that an encounter can be something as minor as simply seeing the thing that's rolled without actually engaging with it. The encounters add flavor to the environment and the world.

I don't recommend that you buy the Traveller Core Rulebook just for these tables, but if you find a copy you might take a look. And I can recommend it as a fun game in its own right.

Something else you might look into are the D&D board games. At least two of them have "Event" decks, which serve some of the same purpose as random encounters, but the "Events" are never combat, at least not as it's portrayed in the rest of the game. It might be something like "An imp raids your camp. On a roll of 5 or more it steals one item." Now imagine this as a full "random encounter" in D&D. The DM checks to see if the PCs notice the imp. If not, the just lose an item. If they do, then they chase it around the camp and either drive it off or lose an item. It comes down to the same thing, but in the D&D game we liven it up, add more rolls, and make a bigger event out of it. The point is that combat as such doesn't need to enter into it and you can simply have a fun encounter that teaches the players about the world they're in.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

...Traveller, or at least the 2008 rules from Mongoose, have tables for random encounters in various types of locations. The one for Rural Encounters just say things like "Wild animal," "Lost child," "Monastary." Except for things like "Grounded spacecraft," it could be used in a D&D game immediately.....



Sounds like a great idea.  And even "Grounded spacecraft" isn't too hard to adapt to a D&D game... it's pretty easy even for me to translate that off-the-cuff into "wrecked sailing ship", "stopped caravan", or something similar, and more creative DMs than me could quickly plug an actual grounded spacecraft right into a D&D game, for that matter.

I recently moved and left all my RPG books back in storage in my old state, so I can't look it up, but I'm pretty sure that D&D 3.5E had tables for that sort of thing in them.  I'd be surprised if the 4th Edition books didn't have an equivalent, at least the non-Essentials books (the Essentials books seemed to omit a lot of that sort of thing in the interest of using the limited space of the paperback format efficiently.)

I'm sure that a little time with Google will turn up some online random encounter tables that will work quite well, too - I know there is/was an RPG site out there somewhere that had a large number of such tables on it.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
I don't think any 4th Edition books have actual random tables in them. I'm no longer quite sure why these fell out of favor, but I think it might be due to the fact that people often see them as "random combat" tables, and the game was trying - rightfully - to get away from that. But, if you read some of the environment books closely you can find suggestions as to the kinds of things the PCs might encounter in particular regions. These "things" include not just monsters, but environmental features, flavorful sights, and NPCs. From these, you can generate your own tables fairly easily, or just develop a rapport with the setting that allows you to pull out flavorful details whenever you feel they're needed. That's all random table is meant to do, after all - provide inspiration where it's lacking.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I'm looking for a table or generator for random encounters, not just combat.

1 -    Unusually warm/cold day for season or brutally cold/hot day in accordance with season.
2 -    Extremely windy day. Light gear becomes difficult to keep strapped down.
3 -    Come across other travelers suffering from some problem. (Broken wagon, injured horse, etc.)
4 -    Site of recent natural disaster: flood, forest fire, lightning strike, etc.
5 -    Lost child who wandered too far from home/village or someone's lost pet.
6 -    Animal tracks or droppings.
7 -    Shepherd and his flock.
8 -    Lumberjacks.
9 -    PC discovers new hole in his boot, possibly via a mud puddle.
10 -    PC or horse gets rock in shoe/boot.
11 -    One of the PCs has a "bad day". Minor inconveniences plague him. (Trips over ruts in the road, gear difficulties, animal steals his lunch when he turns away for a moment. Etc.)
12 -    One of the PCs has a "good day". Minor perks all day. (Find a copper piece lying in the road. Figures out how to repair some damaged item, the inn they stay at that night has one of his favorite meals as a special, etc.)
13 -    Find an animal in a trap.  
14 -    Run into local 'recruiters'.
15 -    Find an empty cave.
16 -    Come across a way haven on the path.
17 -    Find an old marker/sign.
18 -    Bridge washed out/ river flooding.
19 -    They camped on/near a fire ant colony.
20 -    An army ant colony on the move.
21 -    Find a hive.
22 -    Someone stepped into a yellow jacket nest.
23 -    Raccoons invade camp (steal/ruin items and rations)
24 -    Spot a herd of deer or other food on the hoof.
25 -    Spot a herd of wild horses.
26 -    Run across wild young.
27 -    Stumble into a blessed glade.
28 -    Snowball fight or terrain/weather equivalent
29 -    Wild, non-dangerous animal approaches closer for an inspection
30 -    PC's must cross a rickety old bridge or ford a wide stream.
31 -    Rainbow spotted or other lucky omen
32 -    Break a wagon wheel or a horse throws a shoe
33 -    Black cat crosses path, or other unlucky omen
34 -    One PC start whistling or humming, then another, and then everyone joins in.
35 -    Food forgotten at bottom of pack goes bad and smells horrible
36 -    A PC gets a toothache, an earache, or a stomachache.
37 -    A PC realizes they are gaining/losing weight.
38 -    Find strange trash in the road, such as a wagon wheel or a chest of clothing
39 -    Strangely shaped clouds seen on the horizon
40 -    PC finds a hidden detail in recently acquired or purchased item, such as a
41 -    Hidden compartment.
42 -    Beautiful secluded beach and possibly a warm swim
43 -    PC has digestion problems (fill in your own details)
44 -    Minor piece of equipment is nearly worn out & should be replaced ASAP.
45 -    Stumble into Poison Ivy (just for kicks, dwarves are immune)
46 -    Find a fully ripe fruit tree or other easy food source
47 -    Find evidence of recent combat, possibly including decaying bodies.
48 -    The PC's have lost some very minor item, such as soap, a pot, or chalk.
49 -    Discover one of the horses is pregnant or ill
50 -    PC finds a tick or leech on their body.
51 -    Thick fog or dust storm blows in
52 -    Road kill: local animal dead in the road, natural causes, scavengers nearby
53 -    Pass a small shrine or holy grotto
54 -    Horse has a leg cramp, needs hour-long rubdown to continue.
55 -    Minor earthquake, small avalanche, or freak storm
56 -    PC gets a song stuck in his head all day
57 -    Mosquito swarm
58 -    It just really feels like today was a lot shorter/longer than a normal day.
59 -    PC awakes from sleep after vividly dreaming that the group was being scryed on
60 -    Someone has an allergic reaction to something in the area.
61 -    Toll station
62 -    Beautiful scene, such as waterfall or breathtaking view
63 -    A PC is getting shaggy and needs to get a haircut.
64 -    Pass the ruins of an old outpost or small tower, still 75% intact.
65 -    Pass a roadside grave or the site of a past execution
66 -    An eclipse occurs, a comet flies past, or other astronomical event.
67 -    Quicksand, sinkhole, or other natural ground hazard
68 -    The PC's find money or valuables left in the road.



@mvincent

Thanks for this Table

Regards
thegroo
I don't think any 4th Edition books have actual random tables in them. I'm no longer quite sure why these fell out of favor, but I think it might be due to the fact that people often see them as "random combat" tables, and the game was trying - rightfully - to get away from that. But, if you read some of the environment books closely you can find suggestions as to the kinds of things the PCs might encounter in particular regions. These "things" include not just monsters, but environmental features, flavorful sights, and NPCs. From these, you can generate your own tables fairly easily, or just develop a rapport with the setting that allows you to pull out flavorful details whenever you feel they're needed. That's all random table is meant to do, after all - provide inspiration where it's lacking.



None of them do?  Far out.  I've only seen the Essentials books and it didn't surprise me not seeing random tables and stuff there, but it does surprise me that the rest don't have them.  Maybe there's something in DDI?

I'd kind of miss them in the books, though.  I've never actually USED them and preferred inventing my own stuff, but then I was kind of a strange DM, and the tables seem like the sort of thing that normal DMs could get a lot of use from with very little extra time, trouble, and effort from the publishers (I mean, a couple pages of random non-combat encounter tables today wouldn't be very different from similar tables 10 or 20 years ago, right?)  And, even if I didn't actually need them, it was nice knowing they were there in case I ever did need a little back-up....

In any case, looks like mvincent provided a nice one.

Actually, a contributions to an unusual random encounter table sounds like it would be a fun DM challenge....
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
None of them do?  Far out.  I've only seen the Essentials books and it didn't surprise me not seeing random tables and stuff there, but it does surprise me that the rest don't have them.  Maybe there's something in DDI?

Maybe. With Essentials they brought back a few legacy concepts but I never saw random tables, or even guidance on how to make them, crop back up.

I'd kind of miss them in the books, though.  I've never actually USED them and preferred inventing my own stuff, but then I was kind of a strange DM, and the tables seem like the sort of thing that normal DMs could get a lot of use from with very little extra time, trouble, and effort from the publishers (I mean, a couple pages of random non-combat encounter tables today wouldn't be very different from similar tables 10 or 20 years ago, right?)  And, even if I didn't actually need them, it was nice knowing they were there in case I ever did need a little back-up....

Only recently did I come to understand the use I might get out of them. For me, it was learning how to improvise that did it. Anyone can get on stage and try to be interesting, but it's often much more interesting (and for the actor as well) to get a semi-random idea from an audience and try to make it work. It can go terribly wrong, but works often enough to be fun.

If random tables do make a comeback, I just hope they come with advice on how to use them and how to make them.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Good point on the advice on how to use and make them.  I'd never thought of it before, but the tables in 3.5E were just there, presented as if we already knew how they work.  I guess the DMs who'd been there through earlier editions probably didn't give them a second thought and those of us used to a computerized DM in video games would find it pretty easy to translate what a computer does to pen-and-paper tables with varying degrees of success, but I could imagine that folks new to RPGs in particular would find the notion of world-building in general to be mystifying, and randomized inspiration to be very confusing.

I guess that improv all around gets a rather skimpy treatment in traditional RPGs, come to think of it....

Edit to add:  Apparently, they are taking suggestions for fifth edition elsewhere in these forum.  Maybe it would be a good idea to recommend a more detailed treatment of improv for the 5E DMG....
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
Good point on the advice on how to use and make them.  I'd never thought of it before, but the tables in 3.5E were just there, presented as if we already knew how they work.  I guess the DMs who'd been there through earlier editions probably didn't give them a second thought

Right, whether they were used to them, or (like me) dismissed them. Back when my players and I understood random encounters to mean combat and wandering monster checks to be punishment for being too noisy or taking too long, I really didn't like them.

and those of us used to a computerized DM in video games would find it pretty easy to translate what a computer does to pen-and-paper tables with varying degrees of success, but I could imagine that folks new to RPGs in particular would find the notion of world-building in general to be mystifying, and randomized inspiration to be very confusing.

The random encounters dealt out by a computerized "DM" don't always seem like what they are, but every time you pass a townsperson, or an animal, or a swarm of insects, or it rains, or whatever, those are all random encounters. I actually didn't think of it that way until just now. In a D&D game, much of that is subsumed in description, but a DM needing inspiration could get a "Wild animal" result and flavor it in a ton of different ways from an attack to some ducks settling into a pond.

I guess that improv all around gets a rather skimpy treatment in traditional RPGs, come to think of it....

4E did more than any other edition I've seen. The guidance to DMs to say "Yes, and..." whenever possible is directly lifted from Improv 101.

Edit to add:  Apparently, they are taking suggestions for fifth edition elsewhere in these forum.  Maybe it would be a good idea to recommend a more detailed treatment of improv for the 5E DMG....

I don't dare post on the forums here, but I'm talking plenty on Twitter. I think the idea of random encounters has come up once or twice there.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Uh oh, 'don't dare'?  Is it that bad?

I haven't been over there yet, didn't know there was a 5th Edition officially in the works until a few days ago.

Come to think of it, I imagine the Edition Holy Wars are going to be epic...
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
Uh oh, 'don't dare'?  Is it that bad?

People have strong opinions. I recognize that I do too, and that we're all better off with me not putting myself into a position to be provoked into sharing them.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

If I only I had so much sense

[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri