I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Friday, June 28, 2024

12 odd things about B/X wilderness encounters

While I was writing Basic Wilderness Encounters (now a silver bestseller!), I noticed lots of strange things in the B/X encounter tables I hadn't noticed before.

The B/X tables are inspired directly by OD&D tables. Notice that the OSE tables are identical.

In my book, I addressed/fixed some things to give the tables a more coherent feel, and I quite like the results.

Anyway, here is the list. Let me know if you have other items to add!


1. A dragon encounter is about 100 times more likely than finding a group of halflings. They are more common than wolves and hawks. Dragons are encountered in all environments regardless of color; i.e., a green dragon encounter is not more likely in forests despite the fact they live in forests.

2. Adventurer groups are incredibly diverse, considering how difficult is to find dwarves and other "demi-humans" in the tables. Any adventurer in a group of experts in 36% likely to be a "demi-human".

3. Expert adventurers, up to level 10-12, still adventure in the wilderness (despite many people thinking you should start "domain play" sat level 9 and stop adventuring.)

4. There are parties of high-level clerics, MUs, and fighters, but no thief parties (thieves only appear in more mixed parties, or as groups of "bandits" that apparently have no thief skills/talents). This might be because there were no thieves (as class) in the original D&D.

5. Mountains are extremely dangerous - at least 50% chance of encounter per day, and 25% of encounters are with dragon-like creatures (mostly dragons but also hydras, etc.), not to mention the possibility of a 36-HD giant Roc.

6. Swamps are dangerous too... Troglodytes are horrific; 2 HD, 5d8 appearing, camouflaged and always murderous. Desert and "barren" encounters are just as dangerous and almost as frequent (2-in-6, like forests), which I find odd, as desert fauna should be scarcer.

7. Swarms of common insects only appear swamps, but killer bees are everywhere.

8. The "unusual" table contains basilisks, which are more common than bears or ordinary hawks - or Halflings, etc.

9. In fact, there are NO ordinary bears in the tables, only cave bears and werebears.

10. Pirates (Chaotic, Morale 7) and Buccaneers (N, ML6) are nearly identical. They are also the largest groups; fleets can have more than 200 people in it.

11. You can find sharks in lakes and rivers, and even whales aren't uncommon. I replaced some with big alligators (of similar HD), that were sorely lacking.

12. Giant scorpions dwell in deserts according to the monster description. But they can't be found in the desert table. Only in swamps, jungles, forest, plains and settled lands.

Anyway, check Basic Wilderness Encounters if you want some reflections about these tables and 1000 entries to simplify you job as a DM. It is half the usual price if you get it in one of our bundles!


  1. They are not very good, are they? I wonder if any have used them as is for more than a fee rolls. And if something, how did that shape the campaign.

    1. I've been using them almost exactly as written for months now!

      The changes are the ones described above, plus adding 4 results to the usual 96 so I can roll them with 1d100, and occasionally the "double dragon" rule (roll dragons again unless they are appropriate to terrain).

      It is going better than I had expected. Players had some interesting encounters that enhanced the campaign. A chaotic cleric, a sage (but really a golden dragon in disguise), a snake that killed one hireling, a tribe of berserkers, medusas, harpies, and so on.

      I think the main issue is how often the encounter is "indifferent" or "neutral", so they can simply be avoided most of the time.

      I can't say I used ALL tables - the PCs mostly kept to forests and mountains so far, so there is still a lot to explore.

      I might write my own tables someday, but in any case I prefer having random encounters than preparing them in advance.