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Foreshadowing Random Encounters


In the game I'm currently running, the PCs are travelling through various terrain types, and there's a chance (which varies in frequency, depending on the terrain and level of inhabitation) of a random encounter. So far, I've only rolled on the actual random encounter table for the terrain to find out what sort of creature's encountered if I first rolled a 1 on a d10 or whatever, indicating that the encounter happens at that time, at which point it sort of comes out of nowhere (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). If I roll something else, nothing happens, and I move on.

It has occurred to me, however, that it might be more interesting if, upon entering a new type of terrain, I first roll on the encounter table for that terrain to select the encounter that will occur if a random encounter results from any checks made while in that terrain. and then foreshadow that encounter when describing the area to the players. For example, if upon entering a plains area I roll giant wasps on the encounter table, I can describe some abandoned giant wasp nests around the area before the PCs end up meeting the wasps or even of they never do so because an encounter in that area never happens.

If the encounter does happen, then I would cue up the next possible threat, and begin foreshadowing that type of creature being in the area as well.

Has anyone ever tried this sort of thing with random encounters, and how were the results if you did?

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P.S. What makes me somewhat reluctant to try this is the players might decide that such an encounter is desirable and go off looking for it, at which point I might feel obligated to produce it.


I haven't used a «Wilderness Random Encounter» in ages.

Instead I prepare vignettes that I can pull out when needed. When I roll for a random vignette, I roll 2 dice. The first (d20) tells me if there is an encounter (1-2 on 20). The second die (d6) tells me if it's positive (1-2), negative (3-4) or neutral (5-6).

Exemple of vignette:
The party stumbles on a trappers camp in the middle of the woods. If it is positive the trappers will be helpful going so far as offering meal and over night stay. If it is negative the camp looks deserted. A creature (bear, owl bear, etc) has killed the trappers and attacks the PCs. If it is neutral the trappers are battling the creature. The PC decide if they will intervene or ignore it.


Random encounters are one of those elements that really allow games to shine at producing unexpected emergent narrative. As such, it's best to be flexible in your approach to what form the encounter takes, but to not fudge the dice.

For example, I was once running a convention game hexploring The Isle of Dread and I rolled a ghost encounter. Instead of having angry dead attack the party, I had them witness the spirit of a young woman throw first something then herself from a cliff to the rocks below. When they climbed down to investigate they found her bones and an engagement ring. They followed up later, discovering that her fiance had been a cad and were able to put her to rest. Note I didn't have any of that prepared. I just ran with the first thing that came to mind when the dice came up "ghost."


One of the random encounter tables I did had a geothermal area where encounters included things like
1 ”Dropping over the ridge into the steaming valley you come across a tall carved pole, upon which sits the painted skull of some large malformed humanoid (Int check to identify it as an Ogres skull and the pole as a warning)
2 You hear the sound of drums and a droning chant coming from somewhere to your the ”east”
3 You approach a large bubbling geothermal pool and see that a loaded net has been lowered into it. (checking inside the net PCs find the cooked bodies of 2 dwarfs, stuffed with herbs and root vegetables)
4 the ground beneath your feet proves to be unstable and your can feel the heat beneath rapidly rising (a new geyser will burst up in 1d6 rounds)
5 Running straight towards you is a naked dwarf, bloody and bruised, his hands still bound and screaming in terror at something chasing him...
6 A band of Ogres rumbles in from the “east”, heading towards the hot pools, they scan around and ...

I like the idea of foreshadowing it. At least sometimes. And if the players go off hunting the wasps, let them. Doesn't mean they will find them (tracking a flying creature is tough) and if they do maybe they get themselves in over their head. And as someone else said, who knows if they have any treasure?

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