We Press on Through the Night: Card-Based Random Encounters in Darkened Wilds

Photo CC-licensed by tacoekkel

The other night I was flipping through Burgs & Bailiffs, a free PDF on making your RPG more medieval (it’s good — go get it), and I got inspired by Mike Monaco’s entry “The Night Watch.” It’s a great chapter on how damn shady and dangerous the streets of a medieval town could be at night, and he also touches on the wilderness with a 1d30 random encounter chart. I decided to take some ideas from his chart and merge it with my playing card random wilderness encounter system. I’ve always felt like there should be a heightened sense of danger when parties travel by night and I think this will provide that.

Once the dusk hour has passed and the full dark of night has fallen, if the PCs decide to press on with their travels rather than stop to camp, then they enter an even more menacing world. Reshuffle the deck so that all of the cards are back in play. Draw a card for every hour they travel; on a face card or higher an encounter occurs per the list below. If an encounter/hazard for the night had already been indicated by a face card drawn during normal wilderness travel, that encounter occurs during an hour when a lower card is drawn. In addition, if the PCs are not following a road or river and none of them are schooled in navigation or the stars are blocked, a face card also indicates a 50% chance that they have gone off course and gotten lost.

  • Clubs
    • Jack: Low-lying fog rolls in, obscuring ground and increasing danger of ditches
    • Queen: Clouds cover the sky, obscuring the stars
    • King: Ditch or other fault in the road; chance of falling/tripping
    • Ace: Strange lights or noises; may spook horses
  • Diamonds
    • Jack: Merchant travelers; possibly smugglers
    • Queen: Gypsies
    • King: Bandits
    • Ace: Witches
  • Hearts
    • Jack: Stray domestic animals (cows, sheep)
    • Queen: Wild animals (boars, wolves)
    • King: Peasants, farmers or shepherds; 50% chance they are panicked
    • Ace: Fellow adventurers travelling at night
  • Spades
    • Jack: Goblins, orcs, or bugbears
    • Queen: Random terrain-appropriate monster
    • King: Minor undead (ghouls, zombies)
    • Ace: Major undead (vampire, wraith)
  • Joker: Lycanthrope

Author: John Carr

Gamer, comic guy, office drone.

2 thoughts on “We Press on Through the Night: Card-Based Random Encounters in Darkened Wilds”

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