111 Random Forest Encounters
From Darren Blair
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #580
- The party encounters a young man attempting to protect an injured and horrified young woman from a mob / bandits / hitmen. Although he appears to be normal, the man gives off an intimidating aura, such as that of a powerful spell-caster or an elite fighter. It soon becomes obvious that, regardless of the reason why the young woman is in danger, the young man is not only willing to slaughter the pursuers but may well be capable of doing so if the party fails to intervene.
- The party observes someone – or perhaps a group of someones – performing a ritual at a shrine in the middle of a grove of trees. The party does not think they have been seen.
- The party strays too close to a hive of stinging insects or an ant mound, causing the creatures to rise up in defense of their territory.
- A retreating army has fled into the woods seeking refuge after a rout. The warriors may mistake the party for a pursuit force from their opponents.
- A local hedge wizard does indeed have a series of hedges and gardens surrounding his tower. He is tending to a new hybrid flower he recently cross-bred when the party approaches. If the party is amicable he’ll gladly tell them all about it.
- Pitfalls, snares, metal teeth and other such traps lie dangerously close to the road. A careless hunter, or bandits staging an ambush?
- A hunter, guide or druid tells the party someone important (such as a noble or prominent businessman) has a small keep in the area. The important someone values their privacy, and does not take kindly to strangers appearing without a good reason.
- The party encounters a young woman in a bright red cloak. She is carrying a basket and claims to be heading off to see her grandmother.
- A child has fallen in the river and is struggling to stay afloat. A parent or older sibling is attempting to throw them a rope, but the child is too panicked to grasp it.
- The party encounters a brawl between a group of hill giants and a group of forest giants, who each accuse the other of trespassing into their respective territory.
- Squirrels, monkeys, or other animals taunt the party.
- A terrified animal driver tries to tend to his obviously sick animals. They have eaten a variety of poisonous weed, and will need to drink a large quantity of water to flush the toxins out of their systems.
- The party blunders upon two teenagers attempting to hide in a thick cluster of roots. They have been forbidden to marry, but have heard of a priest on the other side of the forest who they believe may be sympathetic to their plight.
- One or more graves reside beneath a tree. The scene is so depressing that even the tree itself seems to be sagging underneath the sadness.
- The party discovers fruit trees loaded with ripe fruit ready for the picking. Not only are these trees producing fruit out of season, they are not native to the region and should not even be able to survive given the local soil, water and weather conditions. For example, apple trees in full fruit in the middle of the arctic tundra at winter time.
- The party spots an animal moving into a clearing, whereupon it transforms into a comely human or elf. The animal, now humanoid, proceeds to gather up hidden belongings. Has the party spotted a lycanthrope, did they just witness a supernatural creature, or are they merely observing a druid who just got through using a shape-shifting spell?
- Shouts and cries summon the party over to a clearing in the forest. Two men face off, ready for an honor duel. A crowd of locals is attempting to stop them, claiming the matter they are fighting over is meaningless. But to the would-be duelists, the matter is deadly serious. It will take force to dissuade them from their present course of action.
- The party witnesses a shocking romantic liaison taking place in the woods. The male half of the couple is an infamous and astoundingly powerful sell-sword who works as a mercenary and bounty hunter. The female half of the couple is a knight of considerable repute who serves as a swordsmanship instructor for the Prince’s forces and occasional bodyguard for both the Prince’s sister and the Prince’s betrothed. The two appear to be quite content with each other, and the evil sell-sword is so surprisingly knowledgeable about the forest he could well have been a druid. It is obvious the knight has fallen hard for the sell-sword, as whenever he speaks she listens intently as if a school girl or a trainee.
- The party stumbles upon an alchemist attempting to gather herbs and other plants. The alchemist is obviously inexperienced and near-sighted, as the “healing leaves” he just reached for is actually poison ivy.
- A mysterious convoy trudges through the forest, the commander believing the woods will protect the operation from prying eyes.
- The party encounters d20 animals who have become drunk by eating rotting and fermenting. While some of the animals are stumbling about or sleeping, a few have become belligerent.
- The sound of crying leads the party to a child who claims to have been separated from the other children while playing hide-and-seek. Is this a child who was too successful at the game, a victim of a cruel prank, or a means of lowering the party’s guard?
- Although it initially seems like nothing more than a normal homestead in the middle of the woods, it is actually the factory from which spell-casters create golems and/or technicians build automatons. The creators will unleash their creations on the world soon.
- The party encounters a group of several brightly-colored ponies, unicorns and pegasii frolicking in a clearing, accompanied by at least one young dragon. Most of the creatures respond delightedly to the presence of the party, and a voice can be heard sweetly inviting everyone to come join them.
- Locals are having a mass picnic in the woods as part of a festival. If the party is non-threatening and agrees to be on their best behavior, then the mayor will invite them to join in. The locals baked too much bread for the occasion, and so are willing to share. Even if it’s just buttered bread, it’s still home cooking. This could also be a prime occasion to network and make contacts.
- The party encounters the ruins of an abandoned city. The sheer amount of broken and discarded objects indicates that the city was abandoned in a hurry.
- Bandits mistake the party for an element of the royal guard and attack on sight.
- A loyal hunting dog stands guard over the body of its owner, who was killed by an arrow to the back. A hunting accident, or a murder?
- The party encounters a seriously injured brigand who is fleeing for his life. As he trips and stumbles, he turns towards the forest pleading, “I’m sorry! I didn’t know that it was you!”
- Although the forest is famous for the large quantity of deer that make their home here, it has been hours since the party has seen any.
- What appears to be a long-forgotten cemetery isn’t quite so forgotten after all. One of the graves is freshly-dug.
- A bear cub has been caught in a hunter’s trap, and the mother furiously struggles to free it.
- A frustrated bard or artist sits on a large rock while attempting to work on their latest creative offering.
- The party spots what appears to be an attractive young female humanoid bathing in a nearby river. Is this a local girl thinking she has privacy, the set-up for a trap, or perhaps even an encounter with a divine being?
- A druid or forest elf is too busy mumbling about external encroachment to pay the party any heed.
- Locals tell the party that wildcats, wolves, bears, giant spiders, or other predators live in this particular wood. Shortly after entering, the party discovers the locals were correct.
- A druid, fey, or wood elf is taking their meal in a nearby clearing, and several animals have come seeking handouts.
- A heavy rain storm forces the party to seek refuge in a cave.
- The bridge that would normally lead across the river is either so neglected as to be unsafe or has collapsed outright. Unless the party intends to swim or ford across, they will need to find another point at which to cross.
- A rock slide blocks the road ahead, forcing the party to clear the road or find a detour.
- Someone has recently clear-cut an entire acre of forest, and the local druid is none too pleased.
- The party encounters fellow travelers, who complain vocally about the poor hunting / fishing in the area. This is unusual, as the forest is famous for yielding a great bounty this time of year.
- A troll, ogre or giant has claimed a bridge as his and obligates all who would cross to pay a toll.
- The party encounters a wrecked cart or wagon. There are obvious signs of a struggle, and both the pack animals and the occupants were hauled off into the woods by the assailants.
- A druid or sheriff questions the party about reports of poachers in the area.
- The party passes by a group of miners whose guide is boasting of the rich deposits in the nearby mountains.
- A sink hole reveals a cave system beneath the forest.
- The party encounters two or more youths who are dressed inappropriately to be traveling through a forest such as this one. When asked, they claim to be on a journey.
- Obviously inexperienced travelers are attempting to make camp in a spot that looks ideal but would normally be ignored by locals or experienced adventurers.
- An armed group pursues an individual or a small band through the forest. Lawmen after criminals, or slavers after victims?
- A local performance group has taken to a clearing to practice their latest routine away from prying eyes in their town. From the looks of things, it is obvious they need all the practice they can get.
- The party hears an explosion off in the distance. When they approach the source, they see a singed alchemist standing in the middle of a wrecked laboratory. The alchemist is dazed, and can only mutter about a possible mistake in the formula.
- A necromancer plies their trade in the middle of a graveyard.
- A group of monks sit beneath a waterfall, deep in contemplation. They immediately raise their quarterstaves if the party gets too close.
- A catapult, cannon, carriage or other heavy vehicle / piece of artillery has been abandoned in the middle of the woods, the crew and any pack animals nowhere to be seen.
- Children swim in a nearby lake, under the watchful eyes of several clerics. Orphans at play?
- A druid, ranger or hunter is attempting to teach several would-be apprentices about the forest they happen to be in, but he appears to be losing most of them to boredom and inattention.
- Multiple pieces of gear and personal goods lie strewn about, as if abandoned to allow for faster transit.
- A halfling riding an unusual mount (such as a bear or giant spider) trots past the party at a high rate of speed, sword in the air.
- Not only are the local snakes known to be poisonous, they are so aggressive they will go after humans and other intruders on sight. Fortunately, they are reputedly afraid of fire.
- The party spots a seemingly unattended cooking pot or tea kettle sitting over a camp fire. If they get close, a young female ranger will rush up, squeaking “Don’t touch that! It’s mine!”
- Loggers ply their trade, removing dead trees and planting young ones.
- Unseasonable weather has taken its toll on this section of the forest, with the vegetation slowly dying off and the animals beginning to leave for healthier parts.
- The party is halted by a lone soldier who demands to inspect them and their wagons. If the party fails to comply, two squads of soldiers emerge from the tree line and surround them.
- A dragon has made this portion of the forest his home and demands payment from all who would cross through.
- A guide leads a group of travelers through the forest in a direction opposite to the party’s. He claims to be going north towards the town the party is heading towards, but from the party’s perspective he is heading south towards the town the party just came from. Who is wrong?
- A hysterical teenage girl flags the party members down. She claims her boyfriend went into a particularly thick section of the forest to go look for her missing cat, but neither have returned in hours and it’s nearly sunset.
- The party encounters the remains of an abandoned trading post, military post, or monastery. Although the last humanoids left the facility some years ago, numerous wild animals have since taken refuge in the remaining structures.
- A group of undead meander through the woods. The leader makes garbled claims about how the edge of the forest is nearby, while the others appear to be muttering about how they will likely die before they leave at the rate they are going.
- The party encounters what appears to be an abandoned academy. Although no humanoids have lived here in some time, the numerous wards and protections that were put in place by the previous inhabitants are still in force. Is this to keep someone out, or to keep someone in?
- The party comes upon two fey or supernatural beings setting up a chess game in the clearing. The pair do not notice the party. If the party stays to watch, they will see an epic – but very long – game.
- Children can be seen moving through the forest while playing with assorted toys. A harried governess tries to keep up with them.
- A down-on-their-luck band of mercenaries bemoans their fate while tending their wounds and preparing a meager meal. If the party wishes to parlay with them, they will realize none of the band ever wanted to become mercenaries in the first place. Rather, a severe drought coupled with ruinous economic policies made their peaceful lives as farmers no longer possible. Given the numerous wars in the area, they wrongly anticipated easy money for their kin.
- Screams and sobs reverberate through the trees. If the party investigates, they will discover an enraged monk or fighter threatening to execute a whimpering individual on the spot. A vigilante seeking justice, or a thrill-killer at work?
- The party witnesses a confrontation between a ranger and the leader of a merchant caravan. The ranger claims recent rains have turned the road ahead into mud, and that the caravan’s overloaded wagons are too heavy to pass through safely. The leader claims to be under a tight deadline, and refuses to return to town for more wagons and horses.
- “Run! It’s right behind me!” The party is passed by an individual who quite clearly messed with something they shouldn’t have. The individual could be a hunter who provoked a dangerous animal, a bandit being set upon by an elemental, or even a necromancer fleeing their own creation.
- Residents of two towns argue about the prospect of a dam being constructed. The town upriver claims they need a reservoir for the sake of a regular water supply, while the town downriver claims they depend upon the annual flood to replenish their fields.
- Members of the local military have set up a roadblock to keep people out of the forest, and patrols can be seen walking about the fringes. They claim that several hunters have been attacked by rabid animals recently, and in response the King has placed both forest and hunters under quarantine until further notice.
- Two groups of lumberjacks argue over who has the right to log in this part of the forest. The two groups hail from feuding cities, and the matter is part of a much larger long-standing dispute over where the borders lay.
- A loud explosion draws the party’s attention to a nearby mountain. They see a series of buildings collapse in what appears to be a rock slide. In reality, the buildings represented an orc outpost. The orcs believed themselves safe from human reprisal so far up, but did not count on dwarven sappers objecting to an orcish presence on their mountain.
- The party spots a band of goblins and orcs leading humanoid captives through the woods. If the party follows them, the band will lead the party right to their prison camp.
- Wood elves eye the party warily as they travel through the trees. A human brigand recently attempted to kidnap an elven maid, and so all non-elves are presently viewed with suspicion.
- The party encounters a wild animal not normally native to the area. How did it get here?
- Stray cats have formed a colony in this portion of the forest. They will flee initial attempts at physical contact, but will not hesitate to defend themselves if cornered or if their kittens are approached.
- Local criminals have turned an abandoned homestead into a house of pleasures. Companionship, alcohol, gambling and even illegal goods can be had “for a small fee”, and assorted persons stand ready to offer their services. The authorities are oblivious to its presence at best, and at worst may be in on the take.
- Local youths are playing a game of chance with each other. The loser must stay on guard for adults while the others explore an abandoned lumber mill. They will deny everything if confronted.
- A battered, disheveled man staggers towards the party, claiming bandits robbed him of his money and goods before dumping him out here in the forest. His breath smells strongly of alcohol.
- An elderly woman nags her adult son, a lumberjack, while he attempts to go about his duties. The matter she is nagging him about is one that could have easily waited until after he got home to discuss, but to her it is important enough to not only embarrass him in public but also put herself in danger of the falling trees. When the foreman of the crew attempts to remove her from the scene, she responds violently.
- Odd humanoids wearing brightly-colored clothing and holding banners that read “Save The Orcs!” have moved between a group of orcs and a group of rangers. The humanoids fail to realize this particular band of orcs has declared war on most other groups of humanoids, and so are horrified when the inevitable happens. The rangers are too few in number to shield the humanoids and fight off the orcs, and so both groups will perish if the party does not intervene.
- Someone – be it a bandit king, a warlord, a wealthy merchant, a corrupt cleric, or even a deranged madman – has declared this portion of the forest to be his kingdom. He demands all who travel through it pay him a toll and join his forces. It would be bad enough if he was alone, but he actually has followers.
- The party encounters a monument to a tremendous battle that took place in this part of the forest. The monument is well-kept, and there is evidence that people were recently present to see it.
- An axe is wedged into a tree. Although it looks like a careless or impatient lumberjack left it there at the end of the day, closer examination will reveal it was thrown with great force, and so is now embedded in the trunk.
- As night falls, the party spots what appears to be an abandoned hunting lodge or minor noble’s keep in the distance. Although the facility appears to be inviting, a closer look will reveal that the “stone” gargoyles lining the rooftops are beginning to move….
- The party is shaken from their musings by a woman’s screams followed by a sickening “thud” sound. As the party races towards the source, they see a series of Amazons crumpled on the ground with various broken bones. In the middle of the pile is a seemingly unarmed man of mountainous proportions standing over the Amazons’ injured ringleader. As he leans over her, he growls “Now, mind explaining why you attacked me?”
- As the party walks through the forest, they pass a man who is covered in mud and holds a large net full of fish. If asked, he explains the river ahead offers a natural bounty, but the banks are so muddy and slick that few locals partake of what’s there.
- The party braces as it enters what is purported to be bandit territory, but are startled to see a checkpoint established ahead of them. The rough-looking guards and even rougher-looking checkpoint all bear a crude banner and symbol, suggesting some sort of attempted formality. The guards give the party a once-over while thumbing through a bound collection of wanted posters. If the party passes muster, then the head of the guards will throatily declare, “Welcome to the Kingdom of Shadows! The King welcomes all who seek peace and are willing to do good to one another! Travel within the kingdom is free, but for three gold we can arrange a guide to the nearest town.” (If the party pays, the coins will be slipped into a lockbox and a somewhat bored-looking ranger will be summoned from the tree line.) Has a seemingly benevolent warlord succeeded in imposing order on the land, or is this an elaborate hoax meant to lure unsuspecting passers-by into a trap?
- The party stands astonished as an excited halfling goes on about a copper piece he says he found along the side of the road. He claims it comes from a kingdom that fell almost 200 years ago, and recalls hearing it had an outpost somewhere in these very woods. Is this a daydreamer with visions of lost treasure, or a huckster ready to sell the party on a wild goose chase?
- When the party goes deeper into the forest, they increasingly see signs of an epic battle. In short order, dead humanoids and creatures begin to appear, fallen in battle. As they go to investigate, they spot a clearing littered with corpses. In the middle stands a seriously injured humanoid warrior, his weapon raised high in what appears to be some sort of defensive stance. Given that his eyes are closed and he does not seem to be breathing, it would appear the warrior has died on his feet. In reality, the warrior has gone into a bizarre sort of battle trance. His reflexes, training and natural survival instincts have taken over. He will strike at once if the party gets too close to him, but his body is worn and exhausted. He has perhaps five good swings left in him before he collapses, at which point the party can easily heal him.
- The party sees a halfling attempting to open up a locked and ornate chest. Right as he seems about to pick the lock, a loud “T-ching!” is heard, followed up by the startled halfling declaring “Oops!”
- Confused and furious merchants and wagon drivers argue with each other at an encampment up ahead. Several of the pack animals have eaten leaves from a series of peculiar plants growing nearby, and now act as if they were intoxicated.
- As the party trudges through the frozen tree line, they come upon a portion in which the ice and snow appear to be melting. If the party investigates, they will be greeted by a bemusing sight: a mixed-gender group of spell-casters have daisy-chained a series of spells around their sanctuary to keep the ice and snow at bay. Believing no one would dare move through the forest until the spring thaw, they have abandoned their usual decorum and are now acting like children and youth in summer rather than the responsible adults they’re supposed to be.
- The party observes a mixed-gender group of young adults who appear to be having some sort of party in a small clearing. Although still early in the afternoon, they have become inebriated to the point they are no longer able to get their tents erected on their own. They do not realize a bad storm is fast approaching. They have perhaps an hour to get their tents up or they will be left without protection from the rain and cold.
- A chorus of screams draws the party further up the road, where they are greeted by the sight of bandits cowering before a massive bronze dragon. The dragon mocks the bandits, noting their willingness to attack him when they thought he was just a random human scholar. The creature asks if they still believe the strong have the right to overpower the weak.
- That place?” the woodsman says. “Oh, it’s easy to get there. Once you make it through the Thicket of Burning Thorns, you should see the Salt Lick River. Just on the other side of the landing is a trail that’ll lead you over Fire Ant Mountain and past Zombie Gulch. Take a left when the road forks at Scalding Geyser. It’s just on the other side of the Forest of Easily-Terrified Skunks.
- The party stumbles upon a large group of penguins meandering through the forest. Anyone capable of speaking with animals will learn the penguins are grateful for all the fish in the river, but would really love to know where they are and how they got there.
- As the party hacks their way through the forest, a teleportation field appears in front of them. A band of adventurers emerges, weapons drawn. “Your reign of terror ends here, Tarnak!” the lead warrior shouts. Right as he is about to charge, he gets a good look at the party. “Wait…you’re not Tarnak’s honor guard.” The band’s cleric apologizes while the rest of the band chews out the resident wizard for getting it wrong yet again.
- A shifty-looking halfling steps out from behind a tree. He claims to be offering spells and other magic items for sale. If any of the characters can read the hastily-scrawled elven script, they will see the halfling is offering for sale such spells as “Kitten Swarm” and “Obnoxious Wind.”
- The party is making their way through the forest when a teddy bear comes running up towards them. “Thank goodness you’re here!” it shouts. “The toy factory is under attack by ogres! Follow me!”
- The party has heard of a religious commune in the woods famous for taking in orphans and weary travelers. When they pass near it, they hear screams and shouts. If the party investigates, they will see an armed band has rushed the camp with such speed that the clerics were unable to use their combat spells or ready their weapons. The leader of the band appears to be forcibly attempting to conscript the clerics and orphans into their ranks, and seemingly mean to slay those who do not wish to go along with them.
- As the party approaches a lake, they hear the sounds of a battle taking place. Upon arrival, the party finds a young paladin and his cohort – an unearthly ranger, a female barbarian, a female cleric and a female rogue – engaged with a group of bandits. Before the party can get involved, the paladin pulls off a feint against the bandit leader, who falls for the maneuver. The paladin follows it up by using his shield to strike the leader in the head, knocking the man cold and sending the other bandits fleeing. Rather than pursue, however, the three women start gushing about how incredible the paladin is, causing a catfight to ensue. The stunned paladin can only look on in confusion as the ranger mutters to himself about the rather bizarre group he’s found himself involved with.
- The party sees deer congregating around an exposed salt deposit. This could be a source of meat and the salt to preserve it with, presuming the salt is safe for humans to consume.
Comment From Johnn
Thanks for these great encounter ideas, Darren.
Readers, I’ve created a plain text version of Darren’s encounters in case you wanted to copy and paste them without the HTML and line numbers.
Download 111 Random Forest Encounters text version here: Text Version
Also, you might find these resources of interest if you liked today’s encounters:
- https://s3.amazonaws.com/RPT-eBooks/1372-roadside-encounters.pdf1,372 Roadside Encounter Ideas
- Top 100 City Encounters and Plots http://www.roleplayingtips.com/readissue.php?number=500Part 1, http://www.roleplayingtips.com/readissue.php?number=501Part 2
- http://www.roleplayingtips.com/readissue.php?number=301120 Benign Wilderness Encounters
Brief Word From Johnn
Update Coming: Register Your Copy of 3 Line NPCs
Just a quick note to remind you to register your copy of 3 Line NPCs, if you picked it up in last week’s sale.
A few readers wrote in with typos, which have now been fixed.
Also, some readers said some or all links in the PDF were not working for them. That’s now been fixed. (Thanks to Adam Bragg, Robert I., Antony Tyler and Dara Tressler for testing!)
Finally, I’ve nearly finished the small bonus.
Look at page #3 for the fast and easy registration step.