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Creating Encounter Tables by Modifying an Existing One
Random Tables in RPGs Making Random Tables D&D Encounters

Creating Encounter Tables by Modifying an Existing One

Duncan Thomson

Using other people's random tables is great, but making or tailoring your own is better.

Making Your Own Tables

You can tailor an existing table to your own, helping your world building and giving ideas if your players go their own way. It also works for solo play or Hexcrawl.

You can also build a new one but we'll look at that in a future article.

There are many encounter tables out there, from a mix of list so monsters to more detailed encounters.

If you can find one for the same game system and general terrain that's a great start.

Details About the Encounters

We'll be building the Lizardskull Woods. A haunted forest inhabited by lizardfolk.

I'll want several encounters with lizardfolk or related to them, plus a couple with the trolls and several pointing towards ghosts and a mystery as to why it is haunted.

We'll use D&D 5e as that's the most popular RPG around.

Also I've written a fair few encounter tables for 5e so here's a forest one I made earlier.

d8+d12 Forest Levels 1-4
2 1 shambling mound or 1 wood woad (VGtM)
3 1d2 werewolves or 1 girallon (VGtM)
4 1d4 scouts with 1d4 blink dogs or 1d4 grung wildlings (VGtM)
5 2d4 orcs or roll on Orcs lvl 1-4
6 2d4 kobolds with 1d2 giant weasels or roll on Kobold Encounters
7 1d4 sprites and 1d4 pixies or roll on Sylvan Creatures
8 1d6 goblins on wolves or roll on Goblinoids lvl 1-4
9 2d4 twig blights and 1 vine blight or roll on Plant Creatures
10 1d2 owlbears or roll on Forest Monsters lvl 1-4
11 2d4 satyrs or roll on Sylvan Creatures
12 2d4 giant badgers or roll on Beast Encounters
13 1d4 lizardfolk with 1 lizardfolk shaman or roll on Lizardfolk Encounters
14 1d4+1 giant spiders or roll on Beast Encounters
15 2d4 scouts or roll on Humanoid Encounters
16 2d4 giant wasps or roll on Beast Encounters
17 1d4 gnolls and 2d4 hyenas or roll on Gnoll Encounters Level 1-4
18 1d2 yuan-ti malisons or roll on Yuan-ti Encounters Level 1-4
19 1d3 apes or 1d2 flail snails (VGtM)
20 1 unicorn or 1 oaken bolter (MToF)

Getting Started

To start lets decide on the die roll. Many people like d100 tables and I'm a fan of bell curve tables such as 2d6, 2d10 or d8+d12. d6 is one of the simplest and quickest options. But recently I've been tending towards using d20 (which is simple to convert to d100).

On things to keep I'm happy with forest beasts and a few forest monsters unrelated to the main themes.

Lets make it d20 and strip out references to other tables. for "1" we'll add in 1d3 lizardfolk and 1d3 giant lizards to add more lizardfolk. Leaving...

d20 Lizardskull Woods 0.1
1 1d3 lizardfolk and 1d3 giant lizards
2 1 shambling mound
3 1d2 werewolves
4 1d4 scouts with 1d4 blink dogs
5 2d4 orcs
6 2d4 kobolds with 1d2 giant weasels
7 1d4 sprites and 1d4 pixies
8 1d6 goblins on wolves
9 2d4 twig blights and 1 vine blight
10 1d2 owlbears
11 2d4 satyrs
12 2d4 giant badgers
13 1d4 lizardfolk with 1 lizardfolk shaman
14 1d4+1 giant spiders
15 2d4 scouts
16 2d4 giant wasps
17 1d4 gnolls and 2d4 hyenas
18 1d2 yuan-ti malisons
19 1d3 apes
20 1 unicorn

Adding in Spirits and Lizardfolk

Next looking at Kobold+ Fight Club for appropriate creatures, we'll add in some spectres, a ghost, skeletons and a banshee. Plus a larger group of lizardfolk and a lizardfolk NPC to add to the two existing lizardfolk encounters.

Last is an encounter to mix the two themes.

Deciding what doesn't belong it's easy to get rid of other humanoids and powerful creatures. Goodbye orcs, kobolds, goblins, gnolls, shambling mound and unicorn.

d20 Lizardskull Woods 0.2
1 1d3 lizardfolk and 1d3 giant lizards
2 1d4 specters
3 1d2 werewolves
4 1d4 scouts with 1d4 blink dogs
5 2d6 lizardfolk
6 1 lizardfolk mage
7 1d4 sprites and 1d4 pixies
8 1 ghost
9 2d4 twig blights and 1 vine blight
10 1d2 owlbears
11 2d4 satyrs
12 2d4 giant badgers
13 1d4 lizardfolk with 1 lizardfolk shaman
14 1d4+1 giant spiders
15 2d4 scouts
16 2d4 giant wasps
17 2d4 skeletons
18 1 banshee
19 1d3 apes
20 1 lizardfolk shaman commanding 1d3 specters

Deepening it

These are currently pretty uninteresting encounters. Usually I like to combine them with a "details" table to get more information.

Here we'll add some details to the lizardfolk and haunted creatures to give more context and a few potential clues as to what is causing the haunting.

Plus a banshee is a terrifying low-level monster so we'll make sure it's something that can be heard from far away.

Lizardskull Woods

d20 The Lizardskull Woods
1 1d3 lizardfolk and 1d3 giant lizards which are laden with bulging packs
2 1d4 specters guarding a cave mouth with markings in Draconic
3 1d2 werewolves
4 1d4 scouts with 1d4 blink dogs
5 2d6 lizardfolk singing and dancing in a ritual to a forest spirit
6 1 lizardfolk mage who is outcast from their tribe
7 1d4 sprites and 1d4 pixies
8 1 ghost of a lizardfolk chieftain who has a warning for the characters
9 2d4 twig blights and 1 vine blight
10 1d2 owlbears
11 2d4 satyrs
12 2d4 giant badgers
13 1d4 lizardfolk with 1 lizardfolk shaman who will try to follow the characters from a distance
14 1d4+1 giant spiders near the body of a lizardfolk warrior
15 2d4 scouts who are searching for a friend who went missing
16 2d4 giant wasps
17 2d4 skeletons tending to a strange garden around a runed stone obelisk
18 1 banshee constantly screaming from an ancient grove of trees shrouded in darkness
19 1d3 apes
20 1 lizardfolk shaman commanding 1d3 specters who appear to have been lizardfolk in life

Finishing Up

We could add more detail to each encounter to personalise them and may be add a tie to the Characters or NPCs the group knows. We could also add suitable monsters from other sources such as a lizardfolk necromancer...

But that's for another time...