In Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games, Forest Encounters are a common place to go on an adventure.
They’re usually full of life and a great place to have many different kinds of experiences. But it can be hard to think of ways to meet these people.
So, I made four lists of 16 random forest encounters for your D&D 5th Edition game, for a total of 64 possible forest encounters.
On each list, a 3d6 roll is used to decide which encounter will happen on the random table. When the number is low, bad things tend to happen, while a high number can help the player characters or give them magic items or boons.
If you like the encounters, check out my list of forest plot hooks that you can use as adventure seeds or ideas for your game.
Without further ado, here are four 3d6 lists of D&D forest encounters arranged by the Tiers of Play.
Tier 1 (1st–4th Levels)
- A Green Dragon Wyrmling or a similar creature can be seen looking for food in the area.
- The sounds of footsteps and moaning can be heard from close by. Under the forest canopy, a large group of dead people walks around. They haven’t seen the group yet, but the shambling corpses are close enough that they could if they were told to.
- Heavy rain starts to fall, making it harder to get around in the forest for the next 1–4 hours and slowing down travel time.
- A group of thieves blocks the way and asks for money. They don’t look like they have a lot of weapons, but they look scary enough.
- During one of their breaks, a group of giant spiders sneaks up on the group and attacks.
- The group comes across a group of hungry goblins. These goblins seem angry and suspicious of the player characters. They are also a little bit hostile, but they won’t attack unless provoked.
- During a break, mischievous spirits or other fey people come to the party. They ask for candy and little things. They’ll take anything that looks interesting, but if the party says no, the sprites will cast the sleep spell or something similar and steal 1d6 sp worth of food or items if they don’t get what they want.
- The group comes across a pack of wolves. They look like they are going to attack, but they don’t.
- The group runs into a group of travellers who are going the opposite way. They don’t know much about their journey, but they might be willing to share some of their supplies.
- A hunter comes across the group. As long as the player characters don’t get in the way of their hunting, they don’t care about them. If the group offers food or money, the hunter will lead them through the forest for a short time.
- The group runs into a merchant who is on the move. This shopkeeper sells basic items for travelling as well as a few common magic items that are much more expensive than expected. If the merchant is attacked, his or her glyph of the warding tattoo goes off, causing them to cast the teleport spell on themselves and return to their home city.
- From the bushes comes a small, friendly fey creature that lives in the forest. It tells you how to get through the forest in a way that isn’t too hard.
- The group comes across a cute cabin in a small clearing in the woods. A nice witch lives here and offers food and a safe place to sleep for the night to the party.
- During a break, ghostly orbs are all around the group. These orbs make you feel less tired and cut in half the time it takes to do the rest. If the orbs are attacked, they disappear and don’t do their jobs.
- The group comes across a big, blood-red flower with three petals and a faint citrus scent. If you make a DC 12 Intelligence (Nature) check (or a similar check), you find out that this is a rare and powerful flower that is used to make some types of healing potions. If you eat just one petal of the flower, it works just like a potion of healing.
- The path of the group is blocked by a strange, skinny, blue-green dog. It tries to get their attention so it can lead them to a +1 weapon with the Finesse property (or magic item of comparable rarity).
Tier 2 (5th-10th Levels)
- A young green dragon trying to claim its territory flies around in the sky and dives into the forest every so often to scare away hunters and other intruders.
- The group comes across a small, clear creek that runs through the forest. If you go into the creek or drink from it, you have to make a DC-18 Constitution saving throw (or comparable save). If a creature fails this save, it goes to sleep for 1d8 hours. A spell-like “remove curse” or something similar can end the effect early.
- There is a sudden storm in the forest. When lightning strikes, it starts a small fire in the path of the party. As lightning keeps going off around them, the fire could spread.
- The way is blocked by a huge, wavy mess of vines, roots, and other plants (Shambling Mound). When the party gets close to or attacks the mound, it attacks them.
- A wildfire element burns its way through the forest, leaving a trail of fire in its wake. It sees the group and goes straight for them.
- A large group of Lizardfolk warriors draw their weapons and move toward the party. They seem angry, but not angry enough that they would start a fight. They might be willing to help the player characters get out of the forest, but only in the fastest way possible.
- A troll walks in front of the group. They don’t seem very mean, but they seem annoyed by something and could start a fight if the party isn’t careful.
- The group comes across a broken cart where there are no bodies. Some plants have started to grow over and through the wood, which suggests that it is pretty old. When you look in the cart, you find a heavy cloth bag that is strangely still whole. The bag is called a “bag of beans.”
- During a break, a Treant comes up to the group. It seems like the party wants to do more damage to the forest than is needed for normal survival. The Treant doesn’t seem hostile at first, but it could become hostile if the player characters do something to make it angry.
- Two goblin clans fight over a piece of land nearby. They haven’t seen the party, and their weapons don’t look good enough to be a threat. If the party helps one side or the other, the goblins will stay with them for the rest of the day before going home.
- As the group walks through the forest, they run into a small group of adventurers. They’ve been in the forest a few days longer than the player characters, so they know a little bit about it. However, they don’t know anything about the party’s goal.
- The group runs into a travelling merchant and one or more of their guards. They sell some magic items, but the prices are higher than in the city. Most of the items they sell are uncommon, but they do have some rare ones.
- The group hears the cries of a nearby creature that has been hurt. If they looked into it, they would find a beaten hill giant standing over a badly hurt unicorn. If they help the unicorn, it takes a while for the animal to get better before it runs into the woods. If the party gets into trouble in the forest in the future, the unicorn will come back to help in any way it can.
- The path through the forest splits in two. One path goes in the direction the party needs to go, while the other leads to old ruins where a Guardian Naga lives. This Naga knows some things about the group’s goal and can give them a safe place to rest for the day and night if they want to.
- While the group is out hunting, they run into a small group of werebears that look like people. They are friendly if the party is friendly, and they are willing to take the party to their home in a forest clearing not far away. A few of the werebears are even willing to help the group achieve its goal, as long as it’s for the good of the forest.
- The group comes across a statue made of marble that looks like a half-humanoid creature sitting on its knees. The statue has been broken up so much that you can only get a vague idea of how different animal parts were used to make the human-like shape. One of the rare or less common figurines of Wondrous Power sits on the laps of the statues.
D&D Forest Encounters: Tier 3 (11th-16th Levels)
- An adult Green Dragon patrols its territory and tries to get rid of any strangers it finds.
- The party comes across some broken-down ruins that are occupied by a necromancer (use the Archmage stat block and change the spells to ones that fit necromancy) and his army of undead. This necromancer doesn’t seem to want to move out of their forest lair, but they can’t let strangers in because they might give away their location.
- A rogue lumber construct (use the Iron Golem stat block) runs through the forest, cutting down trees and killing any animals it comes across. Some lumberjacks followed the golem into the forest to get it back when it stopped, but they didn’t know what to do because the golem’s controller was killed during the first rampage.
- There is a magical fog all around the party. All Wisdom checks made while in this fog have no effect, and it gets much harder to move through it, so all Wisdom checks made while in it are at a disadvantage. In 2 days and 4 hours, the fog will lift.
- Assassins who have been hired to kill the party sneak up on the player characters. Either a team of hired professionals or a single assassin with a group of hired goons to help them.
- A storm that lasts 2d6 + 2 hours rages through the forest, knocking down trees and tossing smaller animals around. During a storm, it takes twice as long to travel, and wisdom (survival) checks are made at a disadvantage. With a DC 18 Dexterity saving throw, the party sometimes needs to move out of the way of thrown rocks or falling trees. If a creature fails this save, it takes 2d6 damage from a blow.
- The party comes across a Bone Devil and a Chain Devil. In exchange for their souls, the Bone Devil will help the player characters on their quest. These devils are willing to talk, but if you do something “funny,” they will attack.
- The person in the group who is the most aware hears a low-level conversation. When they went to see what was making the noise, they saw a fox and a deer standing on their back legs and talking about how the forest was doing. As soon as the party gets close, the two animals get down on all fours and stare at the player (s). If the group can show the animals that they don’t mean any harm, the animals will tell them things about the forest.
- A spirit that looks friendly comes up to the group. Even though they can’t talk, they wave for the group to follow. This ghost leads the group to what looks like a grave, but there are no signs to say whose grave it is. If the group takes a break near this grave, they will feel stronger when they leave, even though the ghost is nowhere to be found. The next time each member makes a check or saves, they have an advantage. This benefit lasts for 24 hours or until each player’s next ability check or saving throw, whichever comes first. If the group disturbs the grave, they won’t get this benefit.
- The group sees a fruit tree with what looks like unusually big and bright apples on it. One apple provides enough food for a full day, but eating it requires a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. A creature is poisoned for 1 day if it fails.
- In a nearby forest clearing, a group of Dryads are having fun. When you walk up to them quickly, they run away, but when you do it slowly, they can check out the party. If the party shows that they won’t hurt the dryads or the forest, the dryads will invite the player characters to join them. Either way, when the Dryads have had enough, they leave and give the group a short gift to help them get through the forest. All player characters have an advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to move through the forest for the next 24 hours.
- A well-known older adventurer comes across the group. They have stories to tell and may know something about the current goal of the player characters. They also know things about the forest and its dangers.
- The forest is filled with the sound of a soft, sourceless humming. You can’t tell where the voice is coming from, but it’s getting louder and louder until it surrounds the party. Each creature that listens to this hum for at least one minute without covering its ears gets 4d8 temporary hit points that last for 24 hours. The humming then slowly gets quieter until it’s just a whisper, and then it’s gone for good.
- A showy merchant with a cart that gets people’s attention comes across the group. This shopkeeper is selling several rare magic items (at exorbitant prices).
- As the group moves through the forest, they hear a whisper. When the group follows the voice, it leads them to a clear pond with a clean stone bridge that leads to a marble altar on a small island. On top of the altar is a rare magic item that the party can take.
- A Gold Dragon adult comes down to meet the group. They seem to be curious about what people like the party are doing in the forest. If the party has a good enough reason, the dragon will help them for a short time before going back to what they were supposed to do.
D&D Forest Encounters: Tier 4 (17th-20th Levels)
- An Ancient Green Dragon comes down and sees that the party is in its territory without permission. They seem determined to find them and kill them for what they did.
- A forest spirit that has been tainted by evil rages through the forest and blocks the path of the party. Its corruption spreads to other animals and plants, so the whole forest turns against the player characters and tries to kill them.
- The party comes across a portal to the demon realm that is being finished by Balor and his army.
- The party is hit by a magical storm. When this storm hits, it makes it hard for animals to see straight. A creature must make a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw or they will start to see horrible hallucinations that look real.
- The party didn’t know it, but they were in an area owned by a powerful and mischievous fey. As they move, the landscape starts to look the same (this can be seen with a DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) or Wisdom (Survival) check). The player characters must amuse the fey enough to get out of the area that keeps repeating. They can do this by fighting too much, wasting time lashing out, wasting spell slots, or any other way that fits your setting. When the party tries to teleport out of the forest, they end up just a few feet from where they started.
- The forest is filled with the sounds of carnival music. When you follow the sound, you will find a fairground with games, treats, and other fun things to do. Each player character has something of value that must be paid to get into the carnival (such as the memory of a parent, the feeling of happiness, the ability to cook, etc). To play games or buy treats, you have to pay similar, but smaller or more specific amounts (the ability to smell apple pie, giving up smiling in the morning, etc).
- The group comes across a large man-like creature sitting sadly in a clearing in the woods. His skin looks like greying, cracked marble, and behind him, two ash-coloured, torn wings lie on the ground. This man is a solar angel who was kicked out. Since he was kicked out of his divine domain, he has lost the will to do anything, but he will defend himself if he is attacked.
- The party comes across a group of travelling elves led by their monarch. They don’t look hostile, but they aren’t always friendly, and they are very suspicious of the party. They don’t know much that they can tell the party.
- The archdruid of the forest seems to appear out of nowhere and join the party. They ask the group if they plan to hurt their forest. The archdruid nods and thanks the player characters if the party doesn’t want to hurt the forest other than using it for survival. This archdruid knows some things about the dangers that live in the forest.
- The party runs into a magical merchant who is driving a carriage on air. They sell many different kinds of magic items that can only be used once. If the merchant and his carriage are attacked, they disappear with a soft “pop” and a thin cloud of smoke.
- As you walk through the forest, you’ll see what looks like an abandoned town, with buildings built high into the trees. There is a small amount of magic in the town, but no one is there. When you look into the town, you find that there was some kind of conflict a long time ago, but the people who lived there left behind food, water, healer’s kits, and other supplies that will last for a long time.
- The group comes across an elk that is bigger than usual and has deep, black bite marks on it. This elk is the body of a fey, which is a spirit of the forest. If you leave the elk alone, it will get better on its own. If the party helps the spirit, the elk gives them a forest blessing that keeps them from getting lost for 24 hours. If the group kills the elk to put it out of its misery, they don’t get a blessing, but they also don’t get hurt.
- The characters come across a pond that is an unnaturally bright green colour. The water in this pond feels cool and ripples more than usual, but even a light touch is refreshing. When a creature walks into the pond, it gets rid of one disease, curse, or condition that it has and gets 4d6 temporary hit points. When you take the water out of the pond, the magic stops working on it.
- The group comes across a clearing in the woods. In the middle of the clearing is a tree with sky-blue leaves and 2d4 cloud-white fruits hanging from its branches. This fruit can make one of two things happen. First, a non-caster who eats a whole fruit gets a short rest in exchange for several hit dice equal to half the player character’s level (rounded down) (use their highest hit die if they have multiple types). Second, a spellcaster who eats a whole fruit gets back half (rounded down) of their total level in spell slots, which they can use however they want. The magical effects of fruit picked from this tree last for one week. After that, the fruit turns dark grey like a storm and turns to mush.
- The most observant character in the group hears a high-pitched ringing sound coming from further into the forest. When you follow the sound, you will find a clear area with a small hill. On top of the hill, in front of a gravestone, is a very rare magic item that is not cursed. Most of what was written on the headstone can no longer be read, but the last few words can still be seen: “Take my most prized tool; may it help you on your travels.”
- A powerful archfey comes up to them. He or she had been watching the group as they travelled through their forest. This powerful being seemed to care about the group and wanted to see where they went on their adventure. So, the Archfey opens a direct path to where the party wants to go, as long as they promise to make whatever they’re doing fun.