I came to a realization the other day while planning a session that would involve my players trekking through some rough hills.
Random encounters are only for DMs.
For example: Your PCs are walking along when they get ambushed by evil gerblins. They fight the evil gerblins, defeat the ambush, and continue on their way.
Was that important?
It depends on how you present it.
If, at the table, you roll a d12 and it lands on a 12 and you say “oo … y’all get a random encounter! Let me see what it is … evil gerblin ambush!! Roll initiative!!!,” then your players will know that it’s simply a meaningless combat solely for the purpose of randomness. That gets boring quick. Just ask Vaarsuvius.
What if, ahead of time, you rolled on some random roll table, got evil gerblins, and said to yourself “hmm … now why would the party encounter evil gerblins here?” That’s a step up. Now you can incorporate it into your story and world and have Reasons and present it as something that was Supposed to Happen.
Or what if, instead of random encounters, you say “hmm … what could be in these dangerous hills? What can I use to show the party that this is a rough area that’s only gotten worse because the dragon has moved in nearby?” And you look down a random roll table and pick something (like evil gerblins) that fits the exact purpose that you need. Planning ahead and all that.
Don’t get me wrong: it is a lot of fun to roll on random encounter tables, see what you get, and make it work. But just know as you do so that the only person appreciating that random fun is probably you, the DM.
Busy weekend in the world of D&D!
Return to the Barrier Peaks – Deck I – Dyson’s Dodecahedron
Updated Collections – Dyson’s Dodecahedron
D&D Monster Monday: Shadow – Dungeon Solvers
Combining the D&D Starter Set and Essentials Kit – Sly Flourish
Beyond the Audience: Take Your Supplements – Kobold Press
Four Common Pitfalls for New GMs – Roleplaying Tips
On Stat Blocks and Adventure Presentation – Merric’s Musings
Blood Hunter Class for D&D 5e (2020) – DMsGuild – $8.00 (<< Update from Matt Mercer)
D&D Essentials Expanded: Martial Sidekicks – DMsGuild – $7.95
The Armorer’s Handbook: Equipment Upgrade and Rune Magic System for 5E – DMsGuild – $9.95 (<< I highly recommend this! This whole supplement is brilliant, honestly…)
Now get out there and tell a story!