Random Encounters: Urban Streets
Updated: Mar 4
I've been toying with the idea of doing some Random Encounter tables to be inspired by for AGES because I honestly find the ones found in 'Xanathar's Guide To Everything' a little uninspiring. They provide a good place to start with the different environments or biomes found in DnD, but aren't very inspiring when it comes to setting a tone or feel of a place. I DM 'Icewind Dale: Rime Of The Frostmaiden' and have really enjoyed coming up with my own Random Encounter tables for the various places found within that, and so I thought it could be fun to do the same but with encounters that could be found ion or moulded to any DM's world or setting!
My first chosen environment is Urban Streets. I have not specified whether these are within a sprawling city, isolated village or moderately-sized town because I think any of them could work anywhere, even if they needed a little tweaking to the chosen stat blocks first. I have, as in 'Xanathar's Guide To Everything', sorted them into appropriate player levels but feel free to use any of these at any level and adjust CR ratings as you see fit. I have also only chosen stat blocks found in books by Wizards Of The Coast and none from third party sources.
Levels 1-4 (Roll 1d12):
A local Acolyte stands in the square and preaches a sermon, inviting people to join in prayer for their God.
A person is bitten by a rat before it steals their food and scurries off into a nearby alleyway. If the party pursue, they encounter 2 Giant Rats + 1d4 Swarms Of Rats.
A Spy sneaks out of a window and slinks into a nearby alleyway.
A fight has broken out between 1d4 + 1 Thugs right outside the local tavern. If the party intervene, 1d6 + 2 Guards will arrive after two rounds with the view to arrest everyone involved.
A small market stall sells a variety of trinkets at a good price, including 3 Common magical items and 1 Uncommon magical item of the DM’s choice.
1 Commoner is leading 2 Riding Horses through the streets in the direction of the stables. A loud sound nearby causes one of the horses to rear up and attempt to bolt.
A Swarm Of Bats is disturbed. They fly away.
There is an altercation between an angry Noble with a barking Mastiff, 1d4 Guards trying to ask questions, and a young Commoner child who is being accused of theft and protesting their innocence.
Two Tressyms chase each other playfully through the streets, skittering in a cacophony of feathers and yowling.
The party stumble upon a dropped coin-purse containing some money and valuable jewels inside and initials embroidered into the leather.
A desperate Commoner begs the party to help them clear out an infestation of 1d8 + 4 Boggles from their basement.
A wagon containing goods jostles over a large stone and breaks, causing its contents to spill out over the street.
Levels 5-10 (Roll 1d12):
An Apprentice Wizard sits on a bench, furiously practicing some minor cantrip.
A single Otyugh steps around the corner and begins eating the sewage in the streets excitedly. A Guard watches with disinterest from nearby.
The party walk down a street that is oddly empty and run-down. As they head down it, they find themselves surrounded by 1 Bandit Captain, 1d4 Thugs and 1d10+2 Bandits who demand they hand over their money and possessions. There is no sign of the guards.
A passing Bard offers to accompany the party on their next adventure and write a song of their exploits if they are noteworthy.
A Commoner leads 1d12 + 4 Sheep and 1d6 + 2 Goats through the streets.
The local Church or Temple is decorated with many strange statues. 1d6 + 1 Gargoyles actually live amongst them and are flying around and destroying things when they think they are not being observed.
A shady peddler offers to sell the party healing potions they need for half of the usual cost, pushing them to buy multiple for a bargain price. If they ask to see, he can show them one real potion, but the rest that he sells them will be fake. He will only make a deal if he stands to make profit.
A humanoid watches a group of children playing in a suspicious manner. If investigated or confronted, he will reveal his true Oni form and attack.
An elderly Veteran sits on their porch and pours food into various bowls. They, and the house, are surrounded by 2d12 + 5 Cats meowing impatiently.
A Knight on top of a Warhorse argues with an innkeeper about their lack of rooms, loudly announcing how much more important they are than other guests staying there and demanding to speak to their superior.
A Noble is robbed of their coin-purse by a pickpocket. If the party pursue, they follow them into a den populated by 1d6 + 2 Wererats.
2d4 Archers take it in turns to attempt to knock three apples from a tree in a row. The first to do so will win a vast amount of money.
Levels 11-16 (Roll 1d12):
A nearby Commoner notifies the residents from atop a stand of an upcoming important event of the DM's choosing (e.g. a wedding, a travelling show, an important death, etc.).
A Cambion disguised as a humanoid walks through the streets, flanked by 1 Cult Fanatic and 1 Gladiator and followed by 1d4 + 2 Warriors and 1d4 Cultists. As they do so, the people are clearly scared of them and withdraw into nearby buildings. If the players stop to watch long enough, they break into a building and drag out a Commoner from inside.
A Master Thief is in the process of exchanging a rare, baby, magical creature in a cage with 2 Mages. They are being paid a large amount of gold. The creature is crying out in distress.
A Vampire Spellcaster lures a Commoner down a dark alleyway.
A Champion and 2 Gladiators are discussing their past heroic deeds in the street loudly.
Two Commoners discuss a cruel, wealthy merchant that is driving good people out of business. If investigated, the party will find that the merchant is actually a Rakshasa in disguise.
A Priest and 2 Acolytes travel through the streets, recounting dark omens and foreboding messages of doom.
Some children play a hand-clapping game, accompanied by a rhyme.
2 Assassins stalk, surprise, and attack the party.
An animated broom sweeps the doorstep of a house.
A Diviner, a Conjurer and an Abjurer argue about why their chosen school is superior to others.
Someone hurrying through the streets drops a book from their bag that the party can pick up. What kind of book this is or the information that it contains is at the DM's discretion.
Levels 17-20 (Roll 1d12):
The retinue of a local, feared Warlord passes through. They are accompanied by 1 Gladiator and 1d6 + 6 Warriors.
A Steel Predator created by a reclusive tinkerer has broken free from a nearby building and is wreaking havoc.
The Animated Statue that has guarded the people for centuries suddenly comes to life and begins to attack a nearby humanoid Spy who is actually working against the interests of the residents.
Two Archmages begin having a heated argument, and start flinging spells at each other.
Two children discuss a nearby house rumoured to be inhabited by blood-sucking monsters. If the party investigate they will find 2 Vampires and 1d6 Vampire Spawn inside. Roll 1d100. If 0-25, they are asleep unless disturbed.
A Raven watches the party from a nearby tree branch with great interest. It may even follow the party for a time before flying off.
A merchant tells the party that he has a number of eggs for sale that will hatch into many different rare and unusual creatures. At the DM’s discretion, the merchant could either be lying and selling them mundane eggs, or be truthful and hatch creatures of the DM’s choice.
Something glints amongst a pile of rubble nearby. It is a rare magical item of the DM’s choosing.
A Master Thief is seen carrying an expensive looking find into a nearby, dilapidated building. They are acting suspiciously - checking their surroundings often and avoiding Guards. If followed, they are revealed to be stealing artefacts from lost civilisations for a Nagpa.
An artistic Commoner is using chalk to draw detailed pieces of art on the cobbles. Upon closer inspection, some turn out to be adventures from the party’s history. The artist has no idea he is speaking to the people he draws.
As a congregation exit a nearby Church or Temple, 2 Nabassu fly down from their hiding places amongst the ornate decoration and attack, causing chaos.
A mysterious travelling merchant beckons to the party to follow him. He unveils a caravan filled with expensive but powerful magical items, weapons, and potions that are at least Rare, if not higher. Once the party have had their fill of spending their gold, the caravan and its silent owner will disappear.
And there you have it! I had so much fun creating these and can't wait to try and make more for other places, as there are so many fun creatures in DnD that can inspire a lot of very small 'moments' within a campaign. Many of these have the potential to be expanded into something that could take up a session, or could merely take up a small portion of the party's attention.
How do you normally handle random encounters for your party? Is a table like this useful to refer back to? Let me know!