Road Encounters | 5e Random Encounter Table for Levels 17-20

Road Encounters | 5e Random Encounter Table for Levels 17-20

By Hana the Lorekeeper

Did your 5e players go off in a random direction again? Or maybe you just need a cool 5e encounter to spice up the monotony of travel? 5e random encounters to the rescue!

But not just a mindless list of 5e monsters--that's less than useful. Instead, we present to you a 5e random encounter table WITH CONTEXT that sets up interesting situations.

By the way, if you'd like to get instant access to 1000s of free 5e resources, don't forget to sign up for the DM Lair Newsletter. We'll even send you new stuff every week!

Road Encounters - Level 17-20 Random Encounter Table

These level 17-20 random encounters can be used to spice up travel in your game. Feel free to customize the details of these random encounters to fit your world and your players' playstyle!


Encounter with Description


2 rakshasa, 2 nightmares

A pair of rakshasa riding nightmares are chasing a wounded unicorn. The unicorn is affected by the rakshasa’s curse and only has 30 hit points. Unless the party takes immediate action, the unicorn will die in 2 rounds.


2 young black dragons, 1d6 + 2 black puddings

A pair of young black dragons begin circling above the party and dropping black puddings on them. The younglings, Noire and Kurio, are making a game of how many people they can hit and from what altitude. They’ve already hit several caravans, leaving no survivors and acid-burned remains.


2 roc

A mated pair of rocs swoop down and grab the targets that look like they have the most meat on them. This could either be the party’s mounts, animals pulling their wagon, or the party barbarian. After snatching their prey, they fly away to their nest. If either roc is startled into dropping its prey...well, their chicks can eat their meat splattered meat as well as whole.


As the day draws to a close, any character who is awake or on watch sees a shooting star cut through the sky, crashing a mile or two from the camp. If they investigate before dawn, they will find a fist-sized rock covered in diamond speckles. This wishing star gleams with arcane power and contains a single wish. If they do not investigate before sunrise, someone has already visited the site and claimed the wishing star as their own.


1 efreeti, 1d4+1 fire elementals

An efreeti is causally setting fire to the nearby grasslands and forests with the help of its attendants. Someone who asks what they are doing and speaks Primordial will be told that the lands need to be burnt out once in a while to keep the ecosystem healthy. Anyone who succeeds on a DC 15 Insight (Wisdom) check will notice that the elementals are taking too much joy in this destruction for it to have good intentions. Before the party can act, a stray spark sets a nearby patch of grass on fire, and the fire elemental will calmly say in Primordial, “you’d better move unless you want to be turned to ash, as our lord commands,” and they all attack. These elementals first target those attuned to nature, such as druids and rangers.


2d4 schwarzen-kobolds (green) (night only)

While traveling through a swamp, the party sees a lantern floating in the water 100 feet away. If the party investigates, they must either swim in the water or walk on very muddy ground (difficult terrain). The lantern is a trap set by a pack of water-breathing, green-scaled kobolds who pop out of the water, attack the party, dive back into the water, and then reappear at a different point in the murky waters. The waters are almost pitch black, but the kobolds know the area extremely well and do not need to make checks to move around. The kobolds need to collect magic items and treasure for the dragon that granted them their abilities and live in fear of these abilities being taken away.


1d4 + 1 trolls and a succubus/incubus

As the party approaches, a disguised succubus/incubus is flirting with a troll. When they get close enough, the succubus/incubus will wave a hand in the party’s direction and say in Giant, “well, if you’re so strong, why don’t you show off your strength on them?” The troll then attacks, with the succubus/incubus attempting to charm anyone approaching them. The troll wants to impress the succubus/incubus, and the succubus/incubus intends to cause some chaos, but neither wants to die. If either gets close to death, they will surrender.


1 solar

The temperature in the area is steadily growing colder and drier. Patches of ice are beginning to form because of the sudden temperature change, and plants are dying. This is the work of a solar, changing the weather to drive a massive pack of hellhounds out of hiding. The solar doesn’t know that the fiendish dogs are no longer in the area. Because of this, the celestial will send the weather in the area to completely inhospitable conditions before it acknowledges the wool has been pulled over its eyes. The party will need to negotiate, force it to realize the truth, or settle things in combat to save the area’s residents.


1 spy

A merchant with a cart offers to sell the party some goods that will help them on their journey. All the items are mundane, common, or uncommon magic items, but the merchant tries to lie about the magnitude of their effects and sells them at double the price. The merchant is a con man with a +10 bonus to Persuasion and Deception checks.


1 balor

A flaming portal that spits out hellfire and brimstone opens in front of the party. A massive fiend steps out, and the portal snaps shut behind them. This balor, named Relthizer (relt-high-zehr), demands the party tell it the name of the nearest settlement. If the party does so, Relthizer nods and begins to fly in that direction. It ignores the party unless they make themselves out to be a threat. If the party does nothing, they later learn that a huge fiend is responsible for the destruction of a major city and several smaller cities.


1 vampire, 1d4 + 1 vampire spawn (night only)

Several humanoids in servant’s attire are sitting around a campfire, drinking wine from waterskins. A fancy carriage with an elaborate seal on the door stands nearby, with no horses in sight. If the servants sitting around the fire see the party, they invite the party to join them around the fire. The servants explain that they are accompanying their master on a journey across the country and travel at night to maintain the secrecy of their journey. The servants are vampire spawn that have hidden their skin and teeth with makeup, the wine is actually blood, and the beasts that pull the carriage are nightmares that are off terrorizing the local wildlife for their meal. The servants are hospitable to the party, but when one of them goes to offer their master a drink, a pale hand dismisses the offered wineskin, pointing at the party and saying, “I want them.” The vampire spawn immediately jumps to obey their master’s command, and the vampire lord himself joins in the second round.


2 erinyes

A pair of stunningly beautiful humanoids with ashy grey wings of feathers are calmly plucking a dead pegasus as the party approaches. If the party passes by them without interaction, the pair will raise thin eyebrows and mark them as prey for later. If the party demands to know why they killed a pegasus, they will respond in harsh melodic voices that everyone must eat, and this beast proved to be worthy prey. Attacks against them are met in same, with no quarters given.


2 wolfsbane abomination (night only)

Despite their massive size, this pair of monstrosities move through the forest silently, approaching the party. They are scouts from the region’s main nest sent to search for new places to make nests, as a new batch of youngsters are about to become adults. They have been searching for a very long time, are hungry, and the party is convenient prey.


The party comes across a flat slab of stone 40 feet wide and long. Various carvings of arcane runes associated with illusions, conjuration, abjuration, and evocation are placed at multiple points on the slab. The runes activate one minute after the first character steps on the slab. Every creature on the slab must make a DC 18 Wisdom saving throw. Creatures that fail see their worst fears and enemies come to life through a 5th-level phantasmal killer spell, these illusions dealing damage in the form of biting words, weapon attacks, or spells, depending on what their worst fear is. Anyone not affected by the spell sees their allies flailing around and screaming about things they cannot see.

This slab was once the testing ground for mages, allowing their worst fears to come to life in semi-solid form. However, time has damaged the magic and only the illusion aspect of the magic is still active.


A young human couple with a baby is coming down the road in the opposite direction of the party. As they approach, looks of fear, determination, and desperation are visible on their faces. If the party chooses not to interact with them, the couple ducks their head at the party and continues down the road. If the party asks what’s wrong, the couple will explain that a tyrannical king has just taken the throne, and it is not safe for anyone loyal to the previous king to remain in the area. The couple gives no names and does their best to keep the baby from view.

Secret: The baby is the true heir to the throne, and the couple is the former queen’s lady in waiting and her husband. When the new king instigated a coup to take control, the former queen commanded her loyal servant to take her child and flee.


1d4 blighted walkers

Through the trees and bushes comes the smell of smoke. Investigations into the source reveal that a portion of the forest has been set on fire (the cause is either a careless hunter, a destructive fiend, a fire elemental, or some other source determined by the Game Master). Whether or not the party chooses to stop this fire or let it continue, after they leave the place where the fire took place, they are unknowingly stalked by a few blighted walkers who are trying to determine if the party is the cause of the fire. If they have reason to suspect they are, the walkers move ahead of the party to set a trap and ambush. If they believe the party is not the cause of the fire, they leave them to search for the true culprits (and perhaps return to ask for the party’s assistance in dealing with them).


1d4 frost giants, each with 2 winter wolves

Exhilarated from a successful hunt of a rival tribe of giants, these frost giants and their wolves decide to hunt the party for sport. Whoever can bring back the most pelts will be the winner.


1d4 + 1 hezrou

The party can see columns of thick black smoke crawling upward from the distance. As they approach the source of the smoke, they can see a medium-sized village is under attack. The vandals are a group of hezrou ordered by their balor commander to cause chaos on the Material Plane. They kill anyone they can find, loot anything they can take, and burn anything they choose not to take. Other villages may be under similar attacks at the Game Master’s choice.


1d4 cloaker and bandit captains

Several humans in heavy cloaks begin walking in-pace with the party. They do not appear hostile but do their best to keep the party in their line of sight. Once the light level of the area decreases to dim, the humans will attempt to separate the weakest party members from the rest. Upon doing so, the cloakers separate from their chosen hosts and attack, doing so at advantage due to the bandit’s Help action. The bandits work with the cloakers to rob targets on the road and are immune to their moan action. If they cannot to separate a target from the party or the party appears too strong to beat successfully, the group will disengage and depart.


A man with wild eyes dressed in rags and a limp coat is mumbling “live n liste, evil astronomers,” repeatedly. His words are an anagram for “silent evil moon starers live.” The town guards, who are used to his insane rambling, do not pay attention to him, so he tries to beg any traveler who passes through the gates of his town to head his words, as he claws at their hands, “live n liste, evil n liste, evil astronomers...”


1 fire giant + 1 iron golem

A fire giant is seen working on a large suit of armor next to a pool of lava and a large anvil. When the party grows closer, lights come to life in the armor’s helm, revealing it to be a newly completed iron golem. The fire giant, a disgraced crafter, started working on the golem to prove his capability but was mocked by his peers. He intends to prove his worth by using the golem and his strength to bring back the party’s armor, weapons, and magic items. While next to his forge, he can make the following attack once:

Anvil. Ranged Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, range 40/120 ft., one target. Hit: 51 (6d10 + 7) bludgeoning damage.


With a clattering sound much like bones or dice being thrown, a fluffy brown and white cat will appear before the party. She blinks in surprise, calmly cleans the dust off her back and tail while watching the party, and then disappears with another clatter of dice. Even the gods don’t know what this event is about.


1 donut dragon

The landscape gradually becomes transformed as the party continues forward. Trees are replaced with lollipops and licorice sticks, the water becomes sugary sweet and dyed neon blue, the grass and leaves become finely spun sugar string, dirt tastes like chocolate, and donuts grow out of the ground like flowers. This is the work of Sprinkle, a cheerful donut dragon who has just arrived on the Material Plane and wants to give things a little more personality. The magic he has used to trigger this transformation is limited to this area and cannot be cast again without the effects in this area fading, so Sprinkle has no plans to relocate for now. The sweets lose their magic if taken from the area, but while within the area, eating a candy heals 1d4 hit points. The only risk is cavities.


1 invisible stalker

A sudden gust of wind throws leaves, dust, and dirt into the air around the party, repeating itself several times for the next 1d4 hours. This is the work of a playful invisible stalker whose summoner is a friend of the party and wants to play a trick on them.


As the party travels forward, they will occasionally experience earthquakes that grow in intensity, toppling trees and damaging houses. Something is causing these earthquakes, but what? And why? Only time will tell. Perhaps it is a tarrasque. Perhaps it is a god taking amusement in disrupting the world. Perhaps it is a sign that a lich couple is about to awaken. Whatever it is, the party should prepare.


Want More Random Encounters?

If you'd like even more random encounters, spanning levels 1 to 20, check out Loot & Lore. In addition to more random encounter tables, it's packed full of professionally developed 5e resources you can drag and drop into your games: traps, puzzles, magic items, and more!

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