There’s always a chance that a party makes a decision so unexpected that even experienced DMs need to stop to figure out what’ll happen next. In the event of total DM brain melt, I always keep a small collection of random D&D encounter ideas to fill in the blanks. So for today, I’m happy to share these ten Random D&D encounter ideas in case your party decides to take the unplanned path!
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Ten Random D&D encounter ideas
- The trees around a small hamlet begin to form fearsome-looking faces. While initially harmless, small animals and eventually children begin to disappear. An evil druid and their dryad companions want the land the hamlet resides on, and will do anything to take it.
- Rain falls from the sky on a sunny day which burns unprotected skin! This dangerous squall continues off and on for thirty minutes, causing creatures to make a DC 14 Con save to resist the rain unless cover is found. An apprentice mage is experimenting with elemental forces nearby and is unaware of the damage they’re causing.
- A passing beggar asks for unusual trinkets instead of money or food. They are a young silver dragon under a curse that prevents them from changing back into their original form, as well as forbids them from asking for help. The dragon hopes to find a curio that will help break the spell.
- A bookseller in town is having a one-day-only auction on antique books, one of which contains a particularly powerful enchantment. An assassin wishes to purchase the book legally at the auction, but will take deadly steps to obtain it if opposed.
- Two goblin children argue and tumble out of a nearby bush. They stop fighting as they realize they are separated from their tribe, and plead with the adventurers to help them find their way back home. The children constantly bicker among themselves and draw attention from all kinds of nearby monsters.
- A trio of semi-intelligent scarecrows stalk the inhabitants of a small farming commune, attacking anyone that leaves their home after nightfall. The residents try to send for help, but the scarecrows slay anyone who comes to aid. A teenage boy unwittingly controls the monsters, as they act out through his fears and emotions.
- A scared and very confused minotaur appears in the space in front of the adventurers. It pleads with them to help it return to its labyrinth a far distance away. In return it promises to lead them to its treasure once they arrive.
- The adventurers happen upon a weary and wounded band of soldiers returning from a nearby skirmish. The captain (veteran) claims that they were ambushed recently, and could use the extra help to see them to their next post. He offers the party a generous stipend to travel with the wounded soldiers and help fight against their foes.
- Gray mist flows over the ground, causing ethereal skeletons to rise from the earth en masse. The undead attack is unending, and the only defensible location is a small wooden cabin nearby. The adventurers must take shelter and survive the night.
- The ground opens up beneath the feet of the adventurers, dropping them thirty feet into a lost and buried dwarven ruins. The ruins stretch further underground some distance into what was once a manor home. A pack of basilisks live within, as well as an untouched collection of dwarven treasure surrounded by life-like statues.
It may be a quick one, but I hope you might find some use with these random D&D encounter ideas! I love coming up with little encounter snippets like these, so be on the lookout for more soon. Please let us know in the comments if you’d like to see encounters taking place in specific areas, like the Nine Hells or the Underdark. You can also drop a comment on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Discord ! If you’d like access to maps and content, including downloadable PDFs of our adventures, check out our Patreon. We’re able to do what we do because of all our amazing Patrons!
4 thoughts on “Ten Random D&D Encounter Ideas”
Hey. Great encounter ideas. However, they all have a major flaw imo. Encounters like this should always have the potential to Tell a Story. When I present an encounter like The ones above, my experienced players will try to find out their backstory. As These encounters dont have one, i’d have to come with ideas for that on my own. I’d prefer if the encounters above came with a backstory that explains the encounter from the get go.
Hey, that’s great feedback. I include backstories and reasons in all our Side Quests, which you can find below. For this post, I kept it simple because I purposely wanted to provide short, quick prompts to inspire DMs to “write their own stories” as to why a minotaur would ask for help or how a party might escort two lost goblin children home.
Side Quests: https://www.lightheartadventures.com/side-quests/
I love these ideas. I am working on an app that will need links to random encounters like these. I really appreciate the inspiration. I’m going to have an illustrator ( my brother ) paint an image for each encounter and render it along with the description….. and a dice roller that I am creating linked also. It’s just for practice and learning as I build. Would it be ok if I used these ideas in the practice project? Just as place holders while I elaborate on them. Great random side track encounter ideas btw. Awesome job!
Sounds like a cool project! You can certainly use these; we just ask that if you wind up publishing or sharing it anywhere that you credit any of the encounters you use back to this post. We’d love to see the illustrations your brother comes up with!