10 Random Forest Encounters for Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) 5e
Easy Random Encounters for your D&D 5e Adventures or Campaign You Can Drop in Anywhere!
Whether you’re running a one off adventure or an entire campaign, sometimes you need extra encounters to spice up travel, or drop into a room for your dungeon. This series is a set of encounters you can drop anywhere in a forest locale in your D&D game.
1. The Broken Wagon
Found in a thick overgrown wood, the PCs chance upon a broken down wagon on the side of the road. Thick white webs seem to cover the remaining frame of the wagon, but inside is the glittering reflection of metal in the last beams of sunlight still flickering through the treetops above. It doesn’t seem as if anyone has passed by here recently, and no footprints surround the wagons. Where did the owners go?
Inside the wagon is a knocked over chest with some gold in it, but more interesting still is the small collection of eggs attached to one of the walls. Eggs unlike anything the players have ever seen! These strange eggs are not just spiders eggs though, but those of an Ettercap, an Ettercap that’s not so far away. In fact, the previous owners of the wagon aren’t found here because they were snatched from the trees above, leaving no footprints in the ettercaps escape. The creature will be back at some point for the eggs, and if the players destroy them they may find the creature hunting them down for retribution. Players with high enough perception or a way to track the creature may even be able to find the original owners of the wagon still alive in the Ettercap’s lair not too far from the road. If they do, this is a good way to introduce a new NPC, perhaps even a rich patron who might reward the players for saving them!
2. The Luck Tree
While exploring the deep portions of a forest, the players stumble across an oddly clear grove. A tree stands in the center with hundreds of copper pieces nailed to every available surface. Though far from anything else this grove seems well trodden, as if people come here often. This tree is dear to the locals, they believe (whether true or not) that a spirit resides in the tree and that presenting a copper piece to it means they’ll have good luck for the next day. While it’s far enough away that they don’t come every day, the locals make the trek deep into the woods to visit the tree before particularly special days.
The players can find this grove entirely empty, or they could run into NPCs of some kind here, about to place a copper piece of their own onto the tree. If the PCs get greedy and attempt to collect the treasure they could find themselves the subject of great ire from the nearby town. And if you want to spice things up a little, the tree could truly be the residence of a powerful spirit that grants luck! And is the copper piece the only cost?
The players come across a sacred rite being performed by the local druids. Whether this is a private ceremony or one the players might be invited to is up to you. The PCs might either be asked to leave in order not to see the sacred and private rites of the Grove, or they may even be asked to lend their own magic to the ordeal. Perhaps the rite requires a great deal of magical energy to be successful, or maybe the Druids are trying to contain a powerful evil force, and if the players choose not to help the creature/being is released.
The PCs find a small group of hunters in the midst of tracking a great prey. This prey could be something as mundane as a great stag, or it could be as supernatural as a Thunder Boar, a Unicorn or even a Jackalope. Either way, the Hunters are convinced that if they catch it it will bring great glory and possibly even riches to them. They are happy to have the PCs join in on the hunt in exchange for a portion of the spoils as the creature has been eluding them for days. A more dangerous beast might be powerful enough to challenge them, while a fast beast might require creative problem solving and out of the box use of spells. A creature such as a Unicorn might even put the players on the opposite side of the Hunters, trying to save the creature from a cruel fate.
If you want to add in more conflict, perhaps not all of the hunters want to split the spoils. Some amongst the group are convinced that the more people who join, the less they will get as a reward and might try to sabotage the group to make sure that the PCs don’t get a share.
5. The Blood Moon
As the PCs travel through a forest on the way to their next destination, they are shocked to see the full moon rise red one night. Around them the forest seems to be set on edge, and as they try to bed down to camp they are faced by more than one aggressive creature. From squirrels to bears and wolves, everything within the wood is filled with rage and attacks on site. Animals may not be the only ones affected, and this could be an interesting challenge between the players, or a way to set up an interesting RP encounter in which the players find creative ways not to attack one another all the while avoiding the angry beasts for the night.
Furthermore, that caused the Blood Moon might be the beginning of the next adventure. Is this a natural process, or the side effect of a much darker ritual happening nearby?
6. Forest Fire
This encounter begins with the faint smell of smoke, followed by fleeing animals passing by the players, heading in the opposite direction of wherever they are going. At first this may not be too strange, but when normally aggressive animals such as wolves flee past the players without heeding them any mind, they might realize that something is amiss. This encounter works best as a skill challenge, in which the players try to keep ahead of the blaze as it moves, making their way across and over obstacles that are in their way. Perhaps the blaze starts as they are nearing the next town on the road, and they have the option to run ahead and warn the town, even going as far as setting up preventative measures before the blaze reaches them. Describing the massive surging inferno blocking off escape routes and roaring around them can be a fun way to make use of your DMing skills!
7. Witch’s Hut
Found in the depths of any forest, this little hovel is not quite as it seems on the outside. The dainty little cottage instead houses anything as simple as a hedgewitch to as powerful as a Hag, depending on the challenge and level of your players. This could be a powerful ally if used correctly, or it could be a great enemy. Or it could be neither, but simply someone the players can make a deal with if they treat them with respect and understand that making a deal with a witch always leads to undesired consequences. Make sure to play up the supernatural and strange elements of witches or hags. Illusions are everywhere, and nothing is ever quite as it seems.
8. The Ferryman
The PCs come across a large river that blocks their way. The only way across seems to be by taking a small ferry across. The Ferryman could be anything from a cheerful rower who talks their ear off about the latest gossip in the kingdom, or they could be a much more mysterious figure that desires more than coin for the ride across the river. This encounter works best with lower level parties who might not have too many other options for the crossing.
9. Faerie Rings
This could be as simple as a strange ring of mushrooms in the woods to as complex as a Yew Door or a ring of standing stones that requires a special method to open it. Either way, the PCs come across a place where the border between the Material Plane and the Feywild is thin enough to allow for a crossing. The portal may always be open, or it might have to be activated, either via ritual or simply only opening the moment the sun sets or on the nights of the full moon. The PCs might even encounter fey in the area that have crossed over recently. If the PCs aren’t careful they may even cross over into the Feywild accidentally and be left struggling to make their way back into their own realm. A fey creature may ask for the player’s help on either side, offering a good chance for a side quest.
10. The Toll Bridge
Crossing some great chasm is a single bridge. This bridge is guarded, it could be as simple as a royal guard who collects toll to fund kingdom infrastructure, or it could be that bandits in the area have decided that this is the perfect place to waylay travellers into giving up their hard earned money. There is the ever classic troll under the bridge, or any other number of monsters that may lurk under the bridge knowing that this is the only way to cross and so meals will pass through here often. While this gives an interesting combat encounter in which the players might get to shove people off the bridge or use other fun mechanics, large bridges such as this also often served as points where camps of travelers might set up the night. Permanent inns were common in such places as it was sure to get heavy traffic, and this could just as easily be a social encounter as a combat one!