Forests are a classic adventure setting in Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games. They’re usually teeming with life and provide a fantastic setting for a variety of encounters. But, coming up with those encounters can be a bit daunting.
So, I’ve put together four lists of 16 random forest encounters for your D&D 5th Edition game for a total of 64 possible encounters. Each list uses 3d6 to determine which encounter takes place on the randomized table. Lower numbers tend towards negative encounters while higher numbers help the player characters or grant them possible boons or magic items.
All I ask is, if you use these encounters leave a comment below or tag me on Twitter @RolePlayRespite to let me know how it went!
If you like the encounters, check out my list of forest plot hooks to use as adventure seeds or inspiration for your game.
Without further ado, here are four 3d6 lists for forest encounters in D&D organized by the Tiers of Play.
D&D Forest Encounters: Tier 1 (1st-4th Levels)
- A Green Dragon Wyrmling (or comparable creature) is seen wandering nearby, actively looking for food.
- The sounds of several feet and moaning echo from nearby. A horde of undead wander beneath the forest canopy. They haven’t noticed the party yet but the shambling corpses are close enough they may detect the characters if prompted.
- A heavy rainstorm starts, making navigating the forest more difficult for the next 1d4 hours and slowing travel time.
- A group of bandits block the path demanding a toll. They don’t look particularly well-armed, but they seem threatening enough.
- A pack of Giant Spiders ambushes the party during one of their rests.
- The party happens upon a group of hungry-looking goblins. These goblins seem agitated, distrusting of the player characters, and slightly aggressive, but don’t outright attack unless provoked.
- Mischievous Sprites or other feyfolk approach the party during a rest. They ask for sweets and trinkets. They’ll accept anything interesting enough, but if the party refuses, the Sprites cast sleep the sleep spell or similar magic and steal 1d6 sp of food or trinkets.
- A pack of wolves cross the party’s path. They look aggressive but don’t actively approach the party.
- The party encounters a group of travelers coming from the opposite direction. They don’t have any direct information concerning their adventure, but they may be willing to shar some of their supplies.
- A hunter happens upon the party. They’re indifferent to the player characters assuming they don’t interfere in their hunting. If the party offers food or payment, the hunter is willing to guide them for a short time through the forest.
- The party crosses paths with a traveling merchant. This merchant has basic traveling supplies for sale as well as a few common magic items though these are much more expensive than expected. If attacked, the merchant’s glyph of warding tattoo activates, casting the teleport spell on themselves, taking them back to their home city.
- A small, friendly fey creature native to the forest emerges from the brush and offers guidance on an easy-ish way to navigate through the forest.
- The party comes upon a quaint cabin in a small forest clearing. A friendly witch lives here and offers the party food and a safe place to stay for the night.
- Ghostly orbs surround the party during a rest. These orbs help ease weariness, halving the amount of time it takes to complete the rest. If attacked, the orbs vanish and don’t confer their benefits.
- The party comes across a large, blood-red, 3-petaled flower which smells faintly of citrus. A successful DC 12 Intelligence (Nature) (or comparable check) skill check reveals this is a rare and potent flower used in the creation of some styles of healing potions. Consuming one petal of the flower has the same effect as a Potion of Healing.
- A strange, blue-green, slim dog crosses the party’s path. It tries to get their attention to lead them to a +1 weapon with the Finesse property (or magic item of comparable rarity).
D&D Forest Encounters: Tier 2 (5th-10th Levels)
- A Young Green Dragon attempting to establish its domain circles overhead, periodically diving into the forest to drive away hunters and other intruders.
- The party comes across a small, crystal-clear creek crossing the forest’s path. Entering or drinking from the creek forces a DC 18 Constitution saving throw (or comparable save). A creature that fails this save falls unconscious for 1d8 x 3 hours. A remove curse spell or similar magic ends the effect early.
- A flashstorm takes places over the forest. Lightning strikes causing a small, localized fire in the party’s path. The fire threatens to spread as lightning continues to strike around them.
- The path is blocked by a massive, undulating tangle of vines, roots, and other flora (Shambling Mound). Approaching or attacking the mound causes it to lash out at the party.
- A rogue Fire Elemental tears through the forest, leaving a scorching wake behind itself. It spots the party and heads directly at them.
- A large band of Lizardfolk warriors approach the party with weapons drawn. They seem aggressive but not to the point of outright initiating a fight. They may be willing to escort the player characters out of the forest but nowhere else and only by the quickest means.
- A Troll wanders across the party’s path. They don’t seem particularly aggressive, but irritated by something and may be spurred into conflict if the party isn’t careful.
- The party comes across a destroyed cart with no bodies to be found. It seems to be fairly old as some plant life has started to grow over and through the wood. Searching the cart reveals heavy cloth bag mysteriously intact. The bag is a Bag of Beans.
- During one of their rests, a Treant approaches the party. It has concerns the party means to cause damage beyond normal survival to the forest. The Treant doesn’t seem outwardly hostile, but may become so if the player characters antagonize it.
- Nearby, two goblin clans battle over a territory dispute. They haven’t noticed the party and they seem to low-quality weapons to pose any sort of threat. If the party helps either side, those goblins are willing to guide the party for the rest of the day before they return to their homes.
- A small band of adventurers encounter the party as they trek through the forest. They have some knowledge of the forest as they’ve been there a few days longer than the player characters but nothing concerning the party’s goal.
- A traveling merchant and their bodyguard(s) cross paths with the party. They have a number of magic items for sale (at higher rates than the city) up to rare-level though most of their wares are of the uncommon variety.
- The party hears the cries of a wounded creature nearby. Should they investigate, they find a beaten Hill Giant looming over a heavily wounded Unicorn. If they help the Unicorn, the creature takes some time to recover before running off into the woods. Should the party run into a difficult situation later on while within the forest, the Unicorn returns to help in any way it can.
- The forest path branches off with one path in the direction the party needs to go with the other leading to ancient ruins inhabited by a Guardian Naga. This Naga has some information concerning the party’s goal and offers a safe place to rest for the day and night should the party choose.
- A small clan of Werebears in humanoid form encounter the party while out on a hunting excursion. They’re friendly assuming the party is and are willing to bring them to their home a short distance off in a forest clearing. One or two of the werebears are even wiling to guide and assist the party with their goal assuming its for the betterment of the forest.
- The party comes across a marble statue of some semi-humanoid entity sitting on its knees. The statue is heavily eroded, only offering vague ideas of different animal parts incorporated into the humanoid form. Atop the lap of the statues, a Figurine of Wondrous Power (of the rare or lesser variations) sits.
D&D Forest Encounters: Tier 3 (11th-16th Levels)
- An Adult Green Dragon stalks its territory, seeking to remove any intruders it comes across.
- The party stumbles upon dilapidated ruins occupied by a necromancer (use the Archmage stat block and replace spells with appropriate, necromancy ones) and their horde of undead. This necromancer doesn’t seem interested in expanding out from their forest lair but can’t suffer intruders potentially revealing their location.
- A rogue lumber construct (use the Iron Golem stat block) rampages through the forest, cutting down trees and slaughtering any animal in its path. Some lumberjacks have followed the construct into the forest hoping to retrieve it when it stopped, but they have no idea what to do since the controller of the golem was killed in the initial rampage.
- A magical mist surrounds the party. Spells cast within this mist have no effect and navigating the fog becomes much more difficult, imposing disadvantage on all Wisdom checks while within it. The fog lifts in 2d8 + 4 hours.
- Assassins hired to take out the party ambush the player characters. Either a pair of hired professionals or a single Assassin backed by their crew of thugs.
- A harsh storm with lasts 2d6 + 2 hours sweeps through the forest, toppling trees and tossing smaller creatures from the ground. Traveling during the storm becomes much more difficult, taking twice as long and Wisdom (Survival) checks are made at disadvantage. Occasionally, the party needs to dodge out of the way of tossed debris or falling trees with a DC 18 Dexterity saving throw. A creature that fails this save takes 2d6 bludgeoning damage.
- A Bone Devil and Chain Devil cross the party’s path. The Bone Devil offers aid concerning the player characters’ quest in exchange for their souls. These devils are willing to negotiate but any sort of "funny business" provokes them to attack.
- The most perceptive of the party hears a low conversation. Investigating the noise reveals a fox and a deer standing on their hind legs discussing the state of the forest. If the party approaches, the two animals immediately drop to all fours and stare at the player character(s). If the party can convince the animals they mean no harm, they’ll provide information concerning the forest.
- A friendly-looking spirit approaches the party. Though they can’t speak, they motion for the party to follow them. This spirit leads the party to what appears to be a grave though no markers indicate whose grave it is. Should the party spend a rest near this grave, they’ll leave feeling bolstered though the spirit is nowhere to be found. The next ability check or saving throw made by each member has advantage. This boon lasts for 24 hours or until the next ability check or saving throw made by each player character, whichever comes first. Should the party disturb the grave, they do not receive this boon.
- The party spots a fruit tree bearing what appear to be unusually large and vibrant apples. A single apple provies a full day’s worth of rations but consuming one forces a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. On a fail, a creature becomes poisoned for 1d12 hours.
- A group of Dryads frolick nearby in a forest clearing. Abruptly approaching them causes them to flee, but carefully doing so allows them to take stock of the party. If the party shows they mean no harm to the Dryads and / or the forest, the Dryads encourage the player characters to join them. Either way, once the Dryads have their fill, they leave and grant the party a short boon for navigating the forest. For the next 24 hours, all player characters have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to navigate the forest.
- An older adventurer of some renown crosses the party’s path. They have stories to tell and may have some information concerning the player characters’ current goal, but they also have some information concerning the forest and its dangers.
- A gentle, sourcless humming echos through the forest. It’s impossible to tell the direction of the voice but it slowly gets louder until it surrounds the party. Each creature which listens to this humming without covering their ears for at least one minute gains 4d8 temporary hit points which last for the next 24 hours. The humming then slowly fades into a whisper before vanishing entirely.
- An extravagant merchant driving an attention-grabbing cart crosses paths with the party. This merchant has a number of rare magic items for sale (at exorbitant prices).
- A whispered voice reaches the party as they push through the forest. Following the voice leads the party to a crystal clear pond with a pristine stone bridge leading to a marble alter standing atop a small island. Atop the alter is a rare magic item of your choice for the party’s taking.
- An Adult Gold Dragon descends upon the party. They seem interested in what adventurers of the party’s caliber are doing in the forest. If the party has a good enough reason, the dragon is willing to help the party for a short time before returning to their duties.
D&D Forest Encounters: Tier 4 (17th-20th Levels)
- An Ancient Green Dragon descends, detecting the party trespassing on its domain. It seems bent on finding and eliminating them for their transgression.
- A corrupted forest spirit rages through the forest and crosses the party’s path. Its corrupting influence extends to other creatures and the plants themselves as the entire forest turns on the player characters and tries to eliminate them.
- The party happens upon a portal solidifying itself to the demon realm as a Balor and its horde work to finalizing the portal’s structure.
- A magical storm descends on the party. This storm distorts the perception of creatures caught within its range. A creature must succeed on a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw or become Frightened as they begin to see horrific, lifelike hallucinations.
- Unbeknownst to the party, they’ve entered an area claimed by a mischievous and powerful fey. As they travel, the terrain starts repeating itself (a DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) or Wisdom (Survival) check reveals this). To escape the repeating area, the player characters must sufficiently entertain the fey either through excessive bickering, wasting their time lashing out, wasting spell slots, or some other means as you feel would fit your setting. Attempting to teleport out of the forest results in the party reappearing a few feet away from where they started.
- Carnival music echos throughout the forest. Following the sound reveals a fey carnival with games, treats, and other entertainment. The cost of entering the carnival is something of value to each player character (such as the memory of a parent, the feeling of happiness, the ability to cook, etc). Participating in any games or purchasing any treats asks for similar but lesser / more specific payments (the ability smell apple pie, giving up the smiling in the morning, etc).
- The party comes across a large, humanoid-appearing man sitting dejectedly in a forest clearing. His skin looks like greying and cracking marble with two ash-colored and tattered wings rest limply on the ground behind him. This man is a cast out Solar angel. He’s lost the will to do anything since getting cast from his divine domain but will defend himself it attacked.
- A group of traveling elves accompanied by their monarch cross paths with the party. They’re not outwardly hostile but aren’t necessarily friendly and treat the party with great suspicion. They have little information to share with the party.
- The archdruid of the forest approaches the party seemingly out of nowhere. They ask if the party intends to harm their forest. If the party doesn’t wish to hurt the forest aside from using it for survival, the archdruid nods and thanks the player characters. This archdruid has some information regarding the dangers of the forest.
- A magical merchant driving a floating carriage crosses paths with the party. They have many single-use magical items for sale of varying qualities. If attacked the merchant and their carriage vanish with a soft "pop" and thin smoke.
- Coming up along the forest path appears to be an abandoned community with its buildings built high into the branches of the trees. There’s a faint magical energy permeating the town, but no one is around. Investigating the town reveals some sort of long-past conflict, but the former residents left behind long-lasting supplies (food, water, healer’s kits, etc) tucked away in hidden places.
- The party comes across a larger-than-normal elk, wounded with deep, blackened bite marks. This elk is actually the physical form of a forest spirit identified as a Fey. If left alone, the elk will heal on its own. If the party helps the spirit, the elk leaves them with a blessing of the forest allowing them to not become lost for the next 24 hours. If the party kills the elk to put it out of its misery, no blessing gets conferred but they suffer no negative effects either.
- The player characters come across an unaturally vibrant green pond. This pond’s water is cool to the touch and ripples a bit more than normal water, but even a slight touch is invigorating. Entering the pond removes one disease, curse, or condition afflicting a creature and grants them 4d6 temporary hit points. Removing water from the pond ends the enchantment affecting it.
- The party happens upon a forest clearing. At the center of the clearing is a tree with sky blue leaves and 2d4 cloud-white fruit hanging from its branches. This fruit has one of two effects. First, a non-caster who consumes a fruit in its entirety gains the benefit of a short rest, expending a number of hit dice equal to half (rounded down) the player characters level (use their highest hit die if they have multiple types). Second, a caster who consumes a fruit in its entirety recovers a number of spell slots equal to half (rounded down) their total level distributed however they want. A fruit picked from this tree retains its magical effects for 1 week before turning into a dark grey like a violent storm and turning into mush)
- The most perceptive player character in the party notices a high-pitched ringing noise from deeper in the forest. Following the noise reveals a clearing with a small hill. Atop the hill rests a very rare, non-cursed magic item resting in front of a headstone. Most of the headstone is unreadable now, but the final lines remain visible: “Take my most prized tool / May it help you in your travels”.
- A powerful Archfey who watched the party as they journeyed through their forest approaches them. This powerful entity seems geniunely interested in the party and wants to see where their adventure takes them. As such, the Archfey opens up a path directly to where the party wants to go so long as they promise to make whatever they’re doing entertaining.