Below you can find 1d20 random wilderness encounters for D&D 5e. If you read to the very end, I have a special offer for you. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on using GPT-3 API to create random encounter tables for Dungeons & Dragons (and Pathfinder too). If the examples on this page whet your appetite, be sure to check out the ebook or print book versions. It’s over 300 pages of fantasy RPG goodness. Now, on to the wilderness encounter examples.
Random Wilderness Encounters
Roll 1d20 to find a suitable wilderness encounter for your campaign.
- Players see a large, open area with the remnants of a crackling fire. In the center of it all is the corpse of an orcish shaman, pierced by arrows and painted with tattoos. Those who raid the corpse will find that everything on him has been removed and strewn around his body.
- The players hear the high, drawn-out whistle of a bird, coming from the woods. If they follow the sound, they see that it comes from a young hawk flying overhead, sparsely dressed in feathers. He is sprinting across the sky, eyes locked on an arrow-shaped lure held by a short, elderly looking man. This bravo is signaling for his falcon to return to his wrist via the lure.
- A clearing contains a massive deer, its tanned flesh giantly hung from a structure made from saplings and vines. It looks like some sort of ceremonial space for hunters. At the entrance, the players will find pieces of paper and animal bones laid out on a little stone pergola near the hanging carcass. These seem to be prayers to some kind of nature god.
- If the players make enough noise while traveling through the forest, they will attract a group of 1d12 goblins, wearing hand-made armour and weapons made from crude metal. The goblins are led by Guron the Green, a sling-wielding brute and a Green Goblin Chieftain. Upon deaths, Guron will have his warriors take the weapons of the fallen and repair them, also adding bits and pieces of metal on it to make it more fitting for battle with humans. Once his troops are outfitted with new weapons, they move deeper into the forest to assault another Elf village or trading caravan.
- As the players traverse a dusty trail with your horses, they would hear the soft ticks and rustles of large animals moving just ahead on the path. Each time movement is made, a young bear (treat as 12 HP monster) will collide with you and continue on his journey. He is slightly smarter than most normal wildlife, taking different routes and circling back around instead of following the same path. If killed, he will have nothing on his body except fur that can be used for warmth during cold nights in the wilderness.
- A pair of elves traveling cross country notice a human party traveling through their home forests. With their feathered caps and full breastplates adorned with feathers, these woodland warriors appear to be proficient at what they do. After chasing their prey down through a labyrinth of thickets and dells, they suddenly find their target taking cover by suspended vines in a huge old dead tree’s hollows, threatening them with threats of death if they come any closer. The PCs will hear the voices shouting in an elvish tongue before fleeing because they have not seen any humans here before and only wish to conduct trade across the borders.
- At night while camped out in the wilderness, players hear dripping water from somewhere above them nearby. A careful investigation will reveal that the source is rainwater that has made its way into small cracks in a rock outcropping above them. Falling into the cleft and pooling outside, it is carrying with it twigs, berries, and animal dung. It flows to a small pond beneath the party’s campsite, where it feeds a colony of minnows. Next to them is a Moss Toad that was separated from its parents as a tadpole and has survived by feeding on insects that fell into the pond, instead of growing into its full amphibian form.
- Players walking through a thicket hear the sound of vigorous movement coming from inside the leaves. They will see 1d4 kobolds squatting inside a bush in a huddle, their hands vigorously moving together to form some sort of pattern on a flat leafy surface. Every now and then they speak something in their own language before all of them stop moving and returning to normal movement. When this happens they go off in different directions having completely different looking patterns on their leaves, as well as different hair ornaments.
- A lone orc walks by, cowering if noticed by the players. The orc’s name is Grogg, and he is being punished by his tribe for some great crime. He has to travel seven miles to the next tribe camp and present himself to the chief, who will then cut off Grogg’s lower left tusk. He is not allowed to use any weapons while being escorted in this manner. If attacked, he will reveal his misfortune, then run away crying in shame.
- Traveling through a dense forest which is known for a high elf population, players see what appears to be a moss-covered tree until they get closer. They find what looks like a screaming human face singing wildly with two mouths at the top of the tree, one a young girl’s and the other belonging to an old man. The players recognize it as an elven tree spirit that has finally found its freedom after a hundred years of imprisonment in this forest and wishes to spread its name across the land by going from tree to tree, doing things that it hates doing like breaking shit and killing humans. The players must find a way to stop the elven tree spirit before it’s too late.
- Suddenly a large group of goblins appear from behind rocks outside of a small town at night. They have surrounded the area where everyone is sleeping in houses or tents and pound on pots and pans furiously. Two goblins walk out with torches made out of sticks lit on fire, frightening all of the heroes who will be forced to sprint away from their camps into the night. The goblins will continue their acts around town for several hours before melting back into shadows as if they were never there at all. To date, no one knows who is pulling these pranks on them or why.
- A shadowy figure with eyes glancing like bright orbs is seen flying above the treetops ahead as the players look up from walking. This creature bobs and weaves through branches at incredible speed while propelled by its flat bat-like wings made for catching insects. Over the course of several minutes they will see this creature soar multiple times over them before landing on an upside-down broken tree trunk on top of a tall tree somewhere out ahead. If they approach it, they will notice that it is built with only one entrance and exit that is below instead of above like most nests would ordinarily be placed. The inside wall is coated with loose twigs and leaves just waiting for dust or fallen bugs to fill the belly of this thing during its daytime slumber.
- The woods contain two large men sprawled out on boulders by a campfire smoking pipes while their bearlike mastiff guards them silently. The men are heavily scarred up veterans who tell tall tales with laughter about their time spent at war with Elves just recently. There are dozens of beautifully crafted iron arrows decorating the trees around their campsite due to a recurring problem with Elves causing trouble with them and their kin as they pass through on hunting trips; these arrows were gifted to them by Dwarves as thanks for their creating the first permanent human road through the forest from town to town.
- The players come across a bear sitting on a log near a cliff which leans out over a small year-round river. If he notices the players, this bear will growl and stand to charge in their direction with a crazed look in his eyes. This bear has been watching people move about freely without having to worry about any panthers or other predators creeping up on him and his family while drunk on wine berries. He has decided to try it for himself and jumps off the cliff into the river laughing all of the way down and floating to shore while falling down drunk. The players may try and save him from drowning if they want, in which case he will quickly thank them by thanking them with his life.
- Swarms of bats suddenly start flying over the heads of the party while they walk through an open area outside of a forest at night. If players attack, the bats will defend themselves by crashing into people as well as flying directly into their eyes and mouths. The bats will fly away for a while and leave the players alone before returning at a later time during the night. No one knows where these bats come from or why they travel with the forest they have come to call home.
- Players see a colossal tree that has fallen over and is half submerged in a lake miles from any other trees. If everyone tries to climb it, they realize it is too slippery and must make an arc around it so that only one person climbs it without using magic or ropes. This person will see that the tree is hollow within as though something carved it out recently while the rest of his group waits near its roots. Inside is a small, damp bedroom with many round foot prints all over the ground. A tiny door leads to a U-shaped tunnel winding down through the damp earth, carving through part of a hill until it opens up into another circular room carved out of stone lit by torches attached to the rocky walls. This room has drapery ropes hanging from the ceiling made of animal fur that block out any light seeping in from above; when the players move to pull them, spiders swarm out of their hiding spots in the stone wall behind them and begin climbing down the sides of their finely made webbing to attack.
- An injured woman dressed in ripped clothes crawls along an open field with little foliage; she looks up and cries when she sees people approaching quickly towards her. Upon getting close she motions for them to help her stand up but while her hands look like those of a woman, her nails have merged together to form dangerous looking curved claws. The players can pull her to her feet but once up she will attack like a wild animal screaming and swiping with her hooked hands at anything that comes close enough for her to reach after they let go. When she’s dead from injuries or magic, she reverts back into what appears to be a normal woman but soon becomes skeletal bones inside of a cloud of dark fog and fades away. This is happening across large fields around this forest as undead creatures escape their graves through a magical effect only the elves know about. They can see from their scouts that these undead are making a beeline towards the setting sun where an elven settlement rests in the distance, meaning they must be heading to attack it!
- The sound of a crashing tree in the distance leads players to come across a scene where there are many people from the village placing heavy stones around an otherwise normal looking tree. A few villagers stand with axes and other tools in hand forcing the tree to collapse onto itself while an elderly couple holds hands as they watch this entire event with a pained look in their eyes. When the players get close enough to ask what is going on, they all give the same answer: “The Tiefling came down from his mountain and said this forest must be destroyed, the elves must be killed, and that outsiders will come because of our actions. We have no say in it.” When the players ask if everyone in the village is forced to do this or only those who work in the lumberyard they are shocked to hear none of them enjoy killing trees and doing so breaks their hearts every time; they are under heavy guard by The Tiefling and his army of two-headed trolls who enforce orders while keeping everyone locked down within the small village walls.
- A small group of villagers are eager to tell players of their discovery while out hunting deer through the forest. Whether asked or not, the villagers will tell a tall tale about a fiersome white dragon that destroyed an entire village about a week or two’s travel away to the south west. According to them, the dragon has been moving along a seemingly random path, burning down forests and killing anything he comes across and is headed this way for some time now. The villagers are lying because they don’t want newcomers moving into their village. If pressed about the whereabouts of the dragon, the villagers will only say it left their direction a few days ago. They will not be happy if players notice them lying and trying to cover up for this imaginary threat.
- A great fire blazes in an open area outside of the forest, a pumpkin-sized ball of flame dances along the ground where a man in fancy clothes with long hair made from living flames stands shouting in the middle of it holding up his hands as he conjures magic. Two heavily clothed half-Elves with wizard robes wrapped around them have beams of light pointed at him from the trees above as they watch his actions. This is a careful recreation of several ancient paintings that show wizards learning how to summon a familiar from scrolls found in the ruins of powerful civilizations which used impressive fire magic. One of these Elves will come out from hiding while asking the players if someone has seen their two pets: a leopard and a lion which they are certain disappeared into the woods. He will offer to reward them with gold if they help him or his sister find them. If the players offer to help, the elven mages will decline the offer, saying the players are much too inexperienced to offer any assistance.