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The Random GM: What’s in the clearing up ahead? Roll and find out!

The Random GM: What’s in the clearing up ahead? Roll and find out!

Sooner or later, your players will ignore your narrative breadcrumbs in favor of aiding a random NPC. This is good and right. But it helps to be prepared when it happens!

One Roll Wonders are a way to throw together RPG locations and points of interest in the time it takes for a bathroom break!

Grab one of each of the polyhedral dice: d4, d6, d8, d1, d12, and d20. Roll them all at once and consult the tables.

The results provide a ready-made bit of adventure. You might need to massage the outcome to create something coherent, or you might find a result that appeals to you more than what you rolled. Whatever gets the game moving is the right call!

Want more help keeping things running? The Prepared! Expanded Collection is an group of pre-generated one-shot adventures that helps you look like an improv master.

The Clearing in the Woods

Your PCs are roaming the woods and there’s a break in the trees ahead. (Maybe you’re even using the Kobold Press Map Tiles: Forests at your table!)

What’s in the clearing? Much like Chekhov’s hand crossbow, a good GM should make it relevant to the adventure, or why bother with the clearing at all?

d4How did the PCs stumble across the clearing?
1They are scouring the countryside for a safe place to rest
2They are pursuing a wounded animal, who expired in the clearing
3They are trusting the word of an oracle, who promised they would find safety along a dangerous path
4They are following the tracks of an enemy, who has a day’s lead on them
d6What features does the clearing provide in case of weather effects?
1Dense foliage provide protection from the rain
2A bubbling brook covers conversation from prying ears
3Shrubbery-reinforced embankments keep rain away from bedrolls
4Towering trees attract errant lightning strikes
5Bushes protect the clearing from high winds
6Thick foliage obscures campfires from watchful eyes
d8What is the nearby foliage in the clearing?
1Stout spruces
2Airy artemisia
3Towering basswoods
4Flowering sweet potato vines
5Arcing thickets of zebra grass
6Aromatic sassafras
7Hardy hornbeams
8Leafy linden trees
d10What unexpected boon does the clearing provide?
1Any water that remains in the clearing for at least eight hours is infused with restorative magic and becomes 1d4 + 1 potions of healing
2A PC can befriend a benign spirit that follows them around, acting as an unseen servant
3A previous visitor left behind a lute with a dagger hidden in the body
4A PC can wipe mud from the clearing on their face, providing advantage on CHA (Intimidation) checks for 1 hour
5If they spend hit dice during a short rest in the clearing, a PC can reroll a number of hit dice equal to their PB
6A meal eaten in the clearing is so filling that the PC doesn’t need to eat for a week
7After placing blossoms in the clearing under their tongue, a PC can cast speak with animals without using a spell slot
8Silt found in the clearing can be used as the spell component for illusory script
9A previous visitor left behind a quiver containing 1d4 + 1 arrows or bolts of +1 ammunition, an hourglass, and a steel mirror
10PCs who complete a long rest in the clearing regain hit dice previously expended
d12What signs of nearby danger can the PCs find, if they only look?
1Birds don’t sing near the clearing
2Standing stones in the clearing hum in the moonlight
3If left unattended, water boils without an evident heat source
4Flavors and smells are heightened while in the clearing
5Shadows cast in the clearing seem longer than they have any right to be
6Dried droppings seem too large to come from forest creatures
7The nighttime howls of carnivorous creatures echo around the woodlands
8Food and drink brought into the clearing spoils immediately
9Fires lit in the clearing cast light but burn cold
10Rocks move around the clearing when one isn’t looking
11Just outside the clearing are six freshly dug graves
12The clearing wanders the countryside at night, settlings at a new location just before dawn
d20What monstrous habitat is the clearing near?
1A family of four to six ettercaps
2A bulette in need of slumber
3A mated pair of ankhegs
4A decomposing heap of a shambling mound
5A hound of the night, loose from its shadow fey handlers (see Tome of Beasts 1)
6A coterie of alseid warriors (see Tome of Beasts 1)
7A roost of crimson drakes (see Tome of Beasts 1)
8A bone swarm (see Tome of Beasts 1) composed of murder victims buried in the clearing
9A marauding chuhaister (see Creature Codex)
10A gulon (see Creature Codex)in need of a meal
11A colony of acid ants (see Creature Codex)
12A wounded elder ghost boar with 74 hp (see Creature Codex)
13The maddening tendrils of an eldritch ooze (see Tome of Beasts 2)
14A pair of crocotta (see Tome of Beasts 2) who use their mimicry to try tricking the PCs
15Brain hoods (see Tome of Beasts 2)that awaken at nightfall
16Entrancing dancing foliage (see Tome of Beasts 2)
17A slumbering oaken sentinel (see Tome of Beasts 3)
18The creeping liana of an asp vine (see Tome of Beasts 3)
19A tripwire patch (see Tome of Beasts 3) fertilizes the land around the clearing
20A ferocious grolar bear alpha (see Tome of Beasts 3)

About Benjamin Eastman

Benjamin L. Eastman was introduced to D&D by his four closest friends—who immediately betrayed his trust by sacrificing his first character to a demonic artifact. Undeterred, he’s played all manner of RPGs in the intervening years. In addition to writing Warlock Lairs and monsters for Kobold Press, he’s contributed to the Stargate RPG and Americana, and co-authored DMs Guild adventures including Baby Tarrasque. He is perhaps proudest of the bar brawl—his first published monster in the Creature Codex

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