Urban Random Encounters

Most adventures that I read these days are wilderness adventures or caverns and the like.  On the opposite side of things when I first started playing AD&D (2nd Edition) it was an urban styled adventure that I have spoken about in the blog before.  My enemies were rarely rampaging orcs and goblins.  Rather they were councilmen, thieves guild operatives, cut-purses and the guard of the village.  Looking at video game representations of RPG’s like Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights there seems to be a big tendency to set a lot of the material in an urban setting so the player has a base of operations.

GM burnout critical hit die
Random encounters are fun!

When I build things I tend to make my players travel from civilisation and explore unreal places but I realise that this puts them at a disadvantage.  They can’t buy what they need when they need to and they expect to face wilderness threats which are always more likely to be creatures and monsters.  I actually want to run a more urban campaign so I have started to think about building the following tables that will randomly generate an encounter for you on the fly.  The table will not give you stats, or system specific results as I want it to be independent of system and useful to all GM’s.  The other thing required by the GM is an ability to put the three bits of information together that the tables will give you and come up with the encounter, or maybe even a full nights worth of gaming.

Urban Encounter Table

The table is designed to have three 1d20 rolls made.  Perhaps as a GM you might have three d20’s of different colours and define one as the where, one as the what and one as the who dice and come up with a result by rolling all three together.  Otherwise, just roll three times and cross reference the roll each time with the next category along.  An example of use follows the table.

Roll

Where

What

Who

1 City/Town hall Sound of an explosion Guild master
2 Guard station Robbery in progress Footpad
3 Sewer entrance Murder victim found Inn keeper
4 Gates/entrance to city/town Wall of force is blocking access to the where Blacksmith
5 Market Has disappeared (the where or the who could be the subject) Head of the guard
6 School/trainer’s building The where hides a dark secret about the who that is uncovered Ruler(s)
7 Library or records hall A satchel containing secret letters is discovered Monster (humanoid)
8 Inn Arcane symbols have appeared Monster (abberation)
9 Docks/trade warehouses An unnatural disease has broken out Monster(undead)
10 Church/temple Sightings of strange beings Spy master
11 Thieve’s Guild headquarters A fire has erupted Dragon
12 Water supply Mysterious statue has appeared Merchant
13 General store An ancient artifact has been uncovered Thief
14 Specialist store The ruler is having an affair Urchin/beggar
15 Blacksmiths Cultists are frequenting this where Regular guard member
16 Centre of town/city Avatar of a god appears with a message Farmer
17 Graveyard Child has gone missing Warrior
18 Residential home Several mauled bodies have been found Magician
19 Slums Is the centre of a magical effect (e.g. darkness/silence) Servant of a god
20 Watchtower/water tower An ill omen has appeared (e.g. dead crops, sour milk etc.) Cult member

An Example Roll

I grab three d20’s and roll them getting a 16, a 20 and a 9 in that order.  The 16 being the where, the 20 being the what and the 9 being the who.  So I get: Where: Centre of town/city; What: An ill omen has appeared (e.g. dead crops, sour milk etc.); and Who: Monster (Undead).  These are just rolls and it is the job of you, the GM, to flesh that out into an encounter.

My resolution is that the players will hear that at the centre of the village they live in Hometon, grows a great Oak tree that symbolises the health and well being of the town.  The players learn that overnight, at the height of spring, the great Oak’s leaves have turned brown and begun to drop off the tree itself.  The cause of this malady is a revenant has come to the town as its murderer is among the ruling council.  It will kill all that stand in the way.

Some rolls will give you one off encounters and others will give you a full blown session worth of adventuring to slip into the campaign.  Don’t rely on it all the time (unless you love it) and just use it when you are struggling for inspiration.  Let me know how it goes and keep rolling!

1 Comment


  1. Thank you for this! Perfect for my needs!

    Reply

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