Improving Encounter Tables - Three Orcs are Washing a Sheep

On our quest to improve Encounter Tables, we follow on from why the creatures are here and focus on what they are doing or state they are in.

Active Monsters

Which sounds like a more interesting encounter to you?

"You see 6 fire giants with 9 hell hounds",


"you see 6 fire giants, two of them are teaching hell hounds to fetch with flaming brands"

Giving the creatures in your encounter something they are currently doing or is currently affecting them gives:

  • you some way to work them into the current adventure
  • gives your players options for interacting with them
  • makes the encounter distinct

Avoid "Four Lions Engaged in Some Sort of Craft"

My original table was one size fits all, with entries equally applied to orcs, goats, griffons and earth elementals...

I split the encounters out into Sentient/Not Sentient and Solo/Group to give four groupings - Sentient Group - Sentient Solo - Beast Group - Beast Solo

I then split out activities and added new ones, deciding that it was ok for goats to be fatigued or making a lot of noise, but not to be drunk. And three orcs might be "arguing amonst themselves", but a lone orc would find it hard.

I ended up with

Expanding the Options

My initial table had ten or so options, and I wanted more.

So I looked for inspiration in the ENWorld Forums and AEG Ultimate Toolbox, adding emotions, diseases, games and everyday activities into the tables.

My current favourites are "engaged in a duel", "conversing with a local" and "investigating a dead body" as these conjure up many possibilities.

And I added the option for not just one but two activities for an encounter!

5 Galeb Duhr are...

Last is an example of our results...

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Someone has really annoyed the earth elementals! Maybe they tried to get past the guard of the galeb duhr and now the PCs want to do the same.

Luckily there seems to be some sort of religious earth-festival on among the guardians of the path....

More Complications

We've added reasons for encounters being there and current activity, next time we look at complications / possible extras and all that could involve!

Leave a comment here with suggestions for encounter activities or tweet @chaosgenerators.