Dungeon Mastery with Random Encounter Tables

Greetings adventurers, and welcome to the first Tome of Summoning blog post! It is our hope that Nayan and I can use these occasional articles to entertain and enlighten you in our little corner of the internet with everything from in-depth creature lore to silly random encounter tables. Speaking of which...

Random Encounter Tables

There are many ways to craft an interesting and exciting DnD 5e adventure, each one unique and tailored to the specific play style of the game master and their players. Many use the random encounter tables found at the back of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, which is packed to the brim with unique creatures and interesting exploration prompts. These massive tables are an incredible tool, but if you’re hoping for something more customized to your setting, you may need to make your own.

If players are going to be spending enough time in an environment to warrant multiple encounters, you may want to create your own rollable encounter table filled with relevant creatures, NPCs, and prompts. Start by brainstorming what experiences you’d like your party to have while in this particular environment. Maybe while crossing the desert, you’d like to see them save a caravan, fight a blue dragon, or run from a sandstorm! If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, you can gain inspiration from our community submitted random encounter tables later in this article.

Get Dicey

Using dice to decide your fate is one of the most engaging aspects of DnD, especially when players get to roll them. With this particular table design, the dice roll can provide a spectrum of difficulty when determining a random encounter, adding a sense of excitement to a natural 20 or doom to a natural 1. The lower the roll, the more dangerous the encounter. Order your encounters based on their difficulty and assign dice roll ranges to them based on how frequently you’d like your party to encounter them. Be sure you take into account what will happen if the same encounter is rolled twice, whether that means a reroll or maybe the encounter is augmented by the previous experience.

Determining the difficulty level of your encounter is far from an exact science. Challenge ratings are helpful in establishing a ballpark, but it ultimately comes down to how the encounter is handled by the dungeon master and players. Take a look at chapter 3 of The Dungeon Master’s Guide or chapter 2 of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything for guidance on balancing an encounter. You can also find a variety of apps on the internet that will automatically determine the difficulty of your encounters, like Kobold Fight Club or DnD Beyond's Encounter Builder.

Random encounter tables are powerful tools for dungeon masters when used well, especially ones designed for your particular setting. Maybe you want your encounters to be fully fleshed out mini-quest prompts, or perhaps a simple combat scenario generator, maybe even just some key words to challenge your DM improvisation skills. Whatever shape they take, a well curated table can reduce prep time and bandwidth usage, allowing you to focus on the important part of tabletop roleplay gaming; the gaming!

Free Encounter Tables

Before you go charging off to meet your doom --- I mean destiny, take a look at our collection of Print & Play Random Encounter Tables made with submissions by our wonderful Tome of Summoning community. They’re free to download and are packed with delightful and deadly encounters that are sure to spice up your campaign (or give you a few dastardly ideas of your own)! Check back for more as we generate them, or submit your own ideas on our Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter!

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