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A Fantasy Encounter Table

by Benson Fong [wombat@sirius.com]

Here are some generic low-tech encounters that I whipped up a while back, one for rural and wilderness settings, one for cities.

Rural Random Encounters

Roll Result
3-4 Barbarians: A number of nomadic tribesmen traveling through the area. There may be just one or two acting as scouts or messengers (or perhaps on a quest) or an entire tribe, as the GM deems appropriate. In particularly harsh wastelands where farming is prohibitively difficult, the GM may wish to switch this result with that of 10 above.
5-6 Wanderer: The characters encounter refugees or other (apparently) homeless wanderers. They may be carrying useful information and will be grateful for any aid the adventurers can provide.
7-8 Merchant: A merchant or a merchant caravan carrying goods to market. They may distrust and attempt to avoid an armed party of PCs, particularly if their cargo is particularly valuable or somewhat illegal. However, if the merchant is well-armed enough to feel secure, he may be willing to exchange news with the adventurers and travel along the road with them as long as their destinations are the same, perhaps even offering them a job as guards for the truly dangerous stretch of the journey ahead.
9 Woodsman: A woodcutter, charcoal burner, or herbalist who looks after and makes a living from a particular part of the wilderness. If encountered at work, his home will be nearby.
10 Freeholder: A solitary farmer or a farmer and his family living far away from other people.
11 Hunter: A hunter, trapper, or prospector searching for animals or valuable mineral deposits. He may be eager for human company, or he may have taken up his profession in order to avoid people.
12 Hermit: Possibly crazed, possibly holy, possibly not what he appears to be. Assuming he can be bothered to deal with other people, he can be a useful source of esoteric information. On the other hand, he may simply release a torrent of semi-coherent religiously tinged nonsense. At GM's discretion, the hermit may be a reclusive wizard.
13 Pilgrim: An individual or small group of religious devotees on their way to a remote shrine or temple. They may be on their way to find a cure for an illness, earn forgiveness for their misdeeds, or simply to ensure their place in the afterworld.
14 Bandits: A few wandering bandits or perhaps their camp. If they see the adventurers first, they will size them up and, if they feel that they have a good chance of winning, attack. Otherwise, they will fade back into the wilderness. If the adventurers see them first, the choice is theirs.
15-16 Hunting party: A wealthy nobleman and his companions off on a hunting expedition. Such trips are more for recreation than for meat or skins, so they can be filled with artists, retainers, relatives, and other non-hunters.
17-18 Performers: A small band of wandering musicians or actors on their way between towns. The first moments of the encounter may prove quite confusing for the PCs if they come upon the performers during a rehearsal.

Urban

Cities are packed with people, most of whom the characters will ignore (and vice versa), and if characters want to find a particular kind of person (a clerk, a guardsman, etc.), they should be able to just by looking around for a few minutes. If the GM needs to determine the occupation of someone characters accost at random, simply consult a Job Table. Urban "encounters" are more likely to be eye-catching events than randomly encountered people. The characters may attempt to lend some aid, take advantage of the event as a distraction, or, like most people presented with an urban spectacle, stand back and watch. Alternatively, the characters may become the focus of the event.

Roll Result
3-4 Ceremony: A religious or civic ceremony, such as a wedding, official celebration of a popular holiday, or the dedication of a new building or commemorative monument. Wealthy families may provide free food and drink for hundreds or even thousands so that as many people as possible will help them celebrate an advantageous match or important birth.
5-6 Preacher: A soothsayer or holy man making an impromptu harangue at anyone in earshot. Roll a die. On an even result, the preacher is relating something joyous, such as a fulfilled prophecy or immanent salvation. On an odd result, he is warning against something dire. Particularly religious or superstitious characters may suspect that the preacher's words are directed towards them.
7-8 Disaster: A fire, traffic accident, alchemical or magical disaster, or other unfortunate incident involving property damage, injury, or death.
9 Theft: The characters witness a thief lifting someone's wallet or stealing something from a shop. If the owner of the stolen object witnesses it as well, there is sure to be a colorful scene. If the GM decides that the PCs will be the thief's target, he should make appropriate Sense rolls for them to notice.
10-11 Traffic Jam: The street is blocked by a slow-moving cart, an intersection is jammed by vehicles blocking each other's progress, a deep puddle slows traffic, or traffic is otherwise congested. As in the modern world, tempers can run high, and characters may get themselves lost among unfamiliar streets if they try an alternate route.
12 Fight: A street brawl or a duel between aristocratic rogues. Betting among the assembled crowd may be heavy if the fighters appear tough or particularly skilled. A brawl between a not-so-happy couple (an old married couple or a prostitute and customer) is sure to draw uproarious heckling.
13 Performance: Jugglers, musicians, magicians, or actors putting on a public performance. At some point, they will ask for donations and make fun of people who don't contribute.
14-15 Procession: A noble with retinue, a celebratory parade, a funeral procession, or a column of soldiers. The members of the procession (and, sometimes, the spectators) will not take kindly to anyone blocking the route.
16 Crier: A public crier with news of a new law, an important birth or death, or other interesting news. His news may be posted in a public place after he is done.
17 Protest: An organized strike or other vocal protest. The subject may be oppressive government or guild rules, excessive prices from a particular trade or tradesman, public immorality, or any other cause that strikes the GM's fancy.
18 Riot: A protest gone over the line into violence. Rioters will burn and loot nearby buildings, and the civic government will usually call out troops to quell the disturbance.