Spice Up Random Encounters

I'm a dragon!

Yes, you can have this be part of an encounter.

The random encounter table has been a part of table top RPGs for a long time, and for the most part they have stayed the same for much of their history. You have a percentage table with a list of animals, monsters, and humanoids that the party could come across and fight. They typically attack the party, often while they are trying to sleep, and are never really filled with anything interesting outside of combats. While this has worked to provide additional XP and treasure, it never really allows the encounters to further the story or provide more detail to the environment. So what changes can be made to prevent additional work for the GM and continue to allow the players to earn additional experience and treasure?

I already did most of the work, and we can use the chart below as a framework when working to adapt this system to your game. But let us start with the traditional table, where the most important parts of this system is found.

Without monsters to encounter, nothing will work. There are whole articles and discussions on how to build a table, as well as space in hard cover books about it. I recommend searching out and reading those if you don’t know how to build one of these tables. My only change is making sure that you have a good mix of friendly and unfriendly creatures on the list, as well as several that could serve as NPCs. This mix will ensure a more varied experience, and that means more opportunities to allow every member of the party to have their time in the spotlight with random encounters.

If you are running a game from a pre-written game and they have a monster table, you should consider expanding it. For the most part those tables have only about 20 creatures on them, and you want to have close to 60 for my system. Having that many will give you more options to pull from, and can also present a better ecosystem for the wilderness or dungeon you are using the table for.

Now, look over the table below and make any changes you feel you need. I suspect that there will be few of them, but every campaign is different and has their own needs.

1 – Monster Sighting
2 – Signs of a Monster
3 – Past Victims
4 – Dead Monster
5 – Monster Stalks Party
6 – Monster Attacks
7 – Monster Lair
8 – Friendly NPC
9 – Hostile NPC
10 – Non-hostile, close encounter

The last step is to take some general notes on how to use each part of the table above. For some of the entries, it is easy to imagine how to use them. For example, the Monster Sighting is pretty easy to use. With some of the other entries, like Friendly NPC, it might be a little harder. In the Pathfinder game, this entry could still be used with animals and creatures with low intelligence by using spells like awaken, but you could also reroll or hand pick creatures from the monster table.

Once you have both tables set up, you have the workings for more interesting random encounters that give the players just as much flavor as fight. This is also simple enough to adapt to any game, and easy enough to use to prevent any slow down of the game.

So go out and explore the wilderness! Who knows, you may spot the victim of blink dogs or the lair of a young dragon. Whatever happens, be sure to tell us of your experiences and how you used this system in your game.

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About TCHubler

Growing up, I have always had an active imagination and a desire to create fantasy worlds. When I was 12, I found my opportunity in a local game store when I bought one of the last AD&D box sets to ever be released. My brother and I took it home and soon I was sharing my new found hobby with friends. From there it has been journey of imagination and creation as I either ran a game or played one. Most of my games have completely self written, and by the time I became hooked on the Pathfinder RPG I was writing rules material for my games.

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