20 Forest Encounters

Forests have long held a special place in our hearts, represented untamed nature and a glimpse into the past before concrete and asphalt covered much of the civilised world. In D&D the forests are the domain of the Elves and fey creatures who can be whimsical allies or deadly threats.

Below is a D20 table of people, creatures and events that your PCs might encounter whilst exploring the dark reaches of the forest.

Please note: Each of these would benefit from a bit of elaboration by the GM, nor do they apply specific game mechanics. It’s impossible to put encounters in for all different types of terrain so I’m going for a general forest feel here.

NumberDescription
1An overgrown and crumbling statue of a long, dead human king juts from the ground. Built of white stone, stained with age, it depicts a lost dynasty, but who is the mysterious figure wearing the shattered crown?
2A hunting party compromised of D6 humans is encountered, they are trappers who have just emptied their traps and are returning home for the day. Although initially suspicious of people they don’t know, if befriended they may be able to provide useful information about the forest.
3A gigantic oak with gnarled branches reaches up into the sky here, rising above the rest of the forest canopy, however the tree appears to be afflicted with a dark grey fungal disease that is causing the trunk of the tree to slowly rot and crumble away.
4The PCs enter an area of the forest where a thick mist seems to hang around the trees, the mist is actually trapped in almost invisible strands of webbing strung by giant spiders who dwell further up in the trees. If the webs are disturbed then D6 spiders will investigate searching for delicious prey.
5The remnants of an overgrown stone circle are slowly being reclaimed by nature in this clearing, remnants of flowing Elven script can be glimpsed on the menhirs, but much of it is illegible. Anyone able to read it will be able to deduce that the fragments discuss a great exodus to flee from a dark foe.
6A stray patch of light where there is a break in the canopy illuminates a patch of mossy green undergrowth, clinging to the floor of the forest. A person proficient with herbs may deduce that some of these herbs have healing properties, D3 bundles of herbs can be gathered and function as a lesser healing potion.
7A skeleton is pinned to the tree by a long spear, it has obviously been here for some time and is falling apart. The skeleton is a little tall and thin to be human, the spear is long and elegant, apparently made of silver it stubbornly refuses to be removed.

If the PCs can work out a way to remove the spear then they will have gained a valuable ancient weapon, but why was it used to pin the skeleton to the tree? Perhaps it is an undead creature, held inactive by the silver in the spear?
8A small group of D6 lumberjacks are exploring the forest looking for trees that they can fell, one of them is carrying red chalk that they mark any particularly old trees with an X so that they know not to fell them.
9A large sweet gum tree grows here, it looks at though someone has been tapping the tree for it’s sticky and valuable resin, a small wooden spout has been hammered into the trunk and a jar hangs below it, collecting the fragrant resin.

Every couple of turns the PCs stay here there is a 1-in-6 chance that the person responsible for tapping the tree will turn up, they will be wary (assuming that the PCs are here to steal the resin), but if diplomacy prevails then the tapper may be a valuable source of information and can wax lyrical about the properties of the resin.

Further information about this tree can be found here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquidambar_styraciflua
10Stagnant pools dot this area, swarms of insect buzz lazily around them, they can be easily avoided but if disturbed they will swarm over said irritant, stinging and causing minor damage until the PCs flee the area or disperse them using fire, smoke or magic.
11A young child wanders lost in the wood, if the PCs return the child to their parents in a nearby village they will be rewarded. There is a 1-in-6 chance that the child they meet is actually a changeling who has been played their by the fey to infiltrate and disrupt the nearby human settlements.
12The players stumble into a conflict between local humans, seeking to plunder the forest for resources and the elves who make this forest their home. When the PCs enter the scene the elves have the upper hand and–without assistance–the humans are surely doomed, however the PCs may be able to turn the course of battle.

It is also possible for the PCs to broker a peace although this will be difficult due to the fact that the elves believe the humans are despoiling the natural beauty of their home. However if a peace can be forged, both parties will look favourably on the heroes and they will gain a reputation as arbiters as word spreads amongst the two different communities.
13A large tree of dark aspect stands here, the rest of the vegetation seeming to have drawn away from it as though in fear, the bark of the tree is dark and occasionally a ruddy coloured sap leaks through tears in the skin of the tree. If the PCs are here at night then they will occasionally glimpse what appear to be faces amongst the leaves and hear moans from the great tree.

Years ago a group of settlers met a foul end, dying near the base of this tree, it has absorbed their pain and anguish, if the PCs can find some way of freeing these trapped souls they will be grateful and may be able to provide some small assistance to the PCs.
14A great stag spots the PCs as they move through the woodland, it pauses briefly before darting away into the trees.
15The air in this area is full of tinkling, high-pitched laughter and whispers, the characters feel their clothes tugged by unseen hands and they are tripped by an invisible foe. This area is the lair of 1D12 Sprites, whilst playful and annoying they are not actually evil, if the PCs are genuinely good-hearted, are elven or show good humour then the Sprites will eventually reveal themselves and will provide a small token of their appreciation before disappearing to make sport of someone else.
16A strangely aggressive pack of wolves prowl this area of the forest, displaying an unusual level of intelligence when it comes to stalking and killing their prey. The pack is lead by a dire wolf of great intelligence lurking a short distance off.
17A circle of red and white spotted toadstools grow here, roll a D6 to determine the natures of the toadstools.

1 : the toadstools are highly poisonous.
2-3 : the toadstools are slight poisonous, causing stomach upsets and providing no nutrition but otherwise inflicting no damage.
4-5 : the toadstool are nutritious and may be harvested, they function as one set of rations.
6 : the circle is a gateway to the realm of fey, if certain conditions are met (as determined by the GM) whilst a person stands in the circle they will instantly be transported to the realm of fairy.
18A great and partially collapsed tree squats here, the trunk resembles a frowning face when seen in a certain light. In-fact the trunk is an ancient Treant who has long been occupied with a particular question, listening closely to the tree may enable the PCs to hear a low grumbling voice musing on the question. If the PCs can answer it then the Treant will rouse and may be able to provide the heroes with knowledge on ancient lore concerning the forest since it has dwelt here for hundreds of years.
19The ruins of a forest hermits hut can be encountered here, they are overgrown but it is clear from the disarray inside and some bones scattered around that the hermit met an unfortunate end. Searching the hut may reveal some random items of minor import and also a copy of the hermit’s journal where he talks about a many-legged menace that is drawing closer to his home every night, but that he fears to flee.
20D6 bandits using the forest as a lair have spotted the player party, roll a further D6 to determine the nature of the bandits.

1-2 : They are criminals seeking to rob anyone they come across.
3-4 : They are the followers of a deposed noble who seek to rob the corrupt agents of the local officials and give the wealth they gain to the oppressed local peasants.
5-6 : The bandits are part of a fringe religion who were exiled due to their beliefs, although they are not necessarily immediately hostile, due to their treatment they are suspicious of stanger, but their leader has some druidic powers.

The image for this post was taken from https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicholas_t/531020157 and is used under creative commons licence.

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