Monday, December 1, 2014

5e DMG Encounter Tables - Vulture Hills

The 5e DMG offers an elegant example of a random encounter table driven by a d8+d12 roll.  The outliers of the table represent very rare encounters/events, and the entries nearer the center of the table are more common ones.  The table contains several plain old monster encounters, but it also has a fair number of environmental encounters, and even an NPC.  The encounters, taken together, form a kind of story that has the potential for occurring in the sylvan forest that the table was constructed for.

The DMG contains only one example table, a sylvan forest.  The idea is that you (the DM) create one of these tables for each region in your world that the PCs have a chance of wandering into.  The story potential in the table drives the campaign forward into new and exciting directions.  The random nature of this system means that not even the DM knows in advance exactly how that story will unfold.

When constructing a random encounter table, be sure to have a few different factions present in the target region.  I present an example of my own below, of one of the hill regions in my campaign, the region of Vulture Hills.  I had previously established that these hills were subject to flash floods, and home to a variety of unsavory denizens, including tribes of savage ape-men.  I introduced a group of dwarf miners establishing a colony named Pickfarther as another faction, and also make liberal use of the region's namesake vultures.

Vulture Hills Encounters (d8+d12)

  1. Zixius (adult black dragon) flying overhead, DC20 Perception Check (+11) to spot party.  2d6 rounds to arrive, they'd better find a hiding place before he does!
  2. A spontaneous thunderstorm erupts.  Unless party indicates they are seeking high ground, a flash flood sweeps them away.  DC15 DEX save or character is swept away.  Each character swept away must make a DC15 CON save or take 2d10 bludgeoning damage (save halves).  Must also make a DC10 DEX save or lose what they were holding.  A roll of 1 indicates they lose their backpack as well.  The swept away characters are deposited in an unknown area, lost.
  3. A small side cave contains figures and maps painted on the walls.  A crude representation of a dragon, and the rough location of Zixius' lair.
  4. A number of vultures are seen circling in the distance.  If investigated, they are seen eating the remains of an adventuring party.  Characters can fight off the 2d6 vultures, of wait them out (1 day).  On the remains are found several pieces of mundane gear, some silver, and a map to a nearby tomb.
  5. 2d4 red ape-men bringing tribute to Zixius' lair
  6. 2d4 ape-men hunting party carrying their catch (goat, elk, etc).
  7. Remains of 2d4 ape-men dissolved in a huge pool of acid.
  8. Two rival ape-men tribes fighting, 2d6 in each group.
  9. Narrow, winding gullies confuse the party.  Navigator must make a DC20 WIS(Survival) roll or the party becomes lost.
  10. 3d6 hungry and aggressive blood hawks.
  11. 2d4 elk (75%) or 1d2 giant elk (25%), grazing peacfully.
  12. 1d4 giant goat, running from 2d4 ape-men hunters.
  13. Unstable slope gives way.  Each character must make a DC15 DEX save or suffer 1d10 bludgeoning damage as they tumble down the side.
  14. An ancient ice dwarf shrine carved into the side of a vertical cliff.  A DC20 INT(Religion) check allows a willing character to undertake the proper ritual and receive a boon of 1 extra inspiration token.
  15. 1d4 giant vultures.
  16. 2d4 dwarf prospectors, lost, looking for way back to Pickfarther base.
  17. A dying dwarf peppered with crossbow bolts.  Was ambushed by ape-men.  Can be stabilized with a DC15 WIS(Medicine) check, or magical healing.  If characters escort him back to Pickfarther base they are rewarded with 2d6x10 gold.
  18. Flies buzz around the remains of a gutted dwarf staked to a tree.  (Ape-men don't like dwarf flesh).
  19. Front rank characters detect this natural pit on a Passive Perception check of 15+.  Failure leads to collapse, DC15 DEX save or fall down 20' shaft into the entry chamber of a new dungeon.

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