Random Encounter Tables In D&D – What Are The Monsters Doing?

Random Encounter Tables In D&D – What Are The Monsters Doing?

Dungeons and Dragons random encounter tables are great, but they only tell you one part of the encounter – what the encounter is. 

It doesn’t tell you what that encounter – or monster – is doing. 

That’s why I created the table below. 

I came up with this idea while creating some encounter tables for various regions in my campaign world. 

It occurred to me that I needed some way to tell what the monster was doing when encountered. 

I have read other ways of doing this, like Kris H’s breakdown of the reaction table, but I do find that a little too specific.

I wanted something that I could use for any environment – in a dungeon or in the wilderness – and loose enough to allow the DM to adapt it depending on the creature encountered.

I ended up creating part of the table and then threw it up on Twitter to get some feedback and more ideas. 

Here is the finished table: 

YumDM's What is the Monster Doing Table

I have the following Twitter peeps to thank for coming up with some of the ideas on the table and also giving me the idea for rolling 2D6

Drew ChaseAlex The Map MakerXhango GamesMoldvay INCEric SchiedHenry Prince, and Sam, the Educational DM

For additional ideas to add to this table, feel free to check out the comments on my two posts on Twitter when it was in development.

As a side note, I will be also be using this for my SoloRPG campaigns.

How to Use the Table

Simply roll 2D6 and consult the table.

You will probably have to interpret the result depending on the creature encountered (see below for some examples).

An Ogre crafting or sharpening their weapon is going to look different from a Displacer Beast doing the same.

If you have some time, then look up the monster encountered and see how the result for what it was doing applies to it.

What would an Ogre be looking for? And what would an Owlbear be looking for?

If you are using this table on the fly, then simply use whatever first pops into your head (assuming it makes sense for the campaign).

Simple Always Wins Out

I always lean towards simple when it comes to these sorts of tables, and was originally going to use a simple D8 or D10, but the 2D6 gives me a chance to add in various odds without adding complexity. 

I favour rolling a D12 + D8 for my random encounter tables and so adding in 2D6 isn’t a big deal, and it means I can read the results pretty quickly with a single roll of four dice. 

Although you can easily use it for any encounter tables you have. 

You could also rework the table for your favourite dice.

For example, add some more options and roll D100 instead.

Bringing it all Together 

Below are three examples I randomly rolled from my hills and forest random encounter tables.

A Lamia searching for something

Perhaps this magical beast is searching for a font of magic or a magical item. Or perhaps it has already used its Suggestion and Charm abilities on some unfortunate victims and they are searching for it. 

Herd Animals patrolling their territory 

This could be as simple as Yak or Sheep or Rothe – or whatever – grouped together in their usual territory. Not every encounter is deadly. 

Giant Stag Beetle resting/sleeping/recreation

A single animal or a cluster of them are resting or sleeping after feeding on a particularly juicy crop of vegetation. Could allow the party to sneak up on them or just leave them be. 

Giving Depth to Random Enounters

As you can see the possibilities are almost endless.

And it’s a whole bunch of fun to translate an a random creature with what the creature would be doing.  

This also gives so much more depth to the encounter. 

For example, if you rolled up a Mountain Lion and then rolled that it’s caring for its young, then that lion is going to be pretty fierce and defensive when the characters stumble upon it. 

However, if you rolled ‘fighting with…’, perhaps a rival lion or some magical beast (simply re-rolled on the encounter chart) is fighting the lion over territory – this may turn into a situation where the characters want to help the lion! 

As you can, what the creature is doing can change the encounter considerably. 

Over to You

What do you think? Is this something you could use? Let me know if the comments below.

While You’re Here…

Since 2021 I have been publishing a monthly zine, which has a ton of articles for any edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

They are also available on DriveThruRPG and printed copies are available via my Patreon.

I also have a growing Discord, where you can join in on my regular West Marches campaign.

I will also be releasing some more products in the near future, like several monster manuals and a series of soloRPG publications.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter any time.


While You’re Here…

Since 2021 I have been publishing d12 Monthly, a monthly zine, which has a ton of articles for any edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

Printed copies are available in my store. The PDF is available on DriveThruRPG and you can get both, plus support my work, via my Patreon.

I will also be releasing some more products in the near future.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or my contact page any time.

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