The Games | 5e Random Encounter Table for Levels 1-4

The Games | 5e Random Encounter Table for Levels 1-4

By Noam Wegner

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!

The Games, a Random Encounter Table for Levels 1 - 4

Use the table below to generate ideas and encounters during a tournament, festival, or contest upon the blood-soaked sands of a gladiatorial arena. Several distinct “games” are described below, with suggested contestants to oppose your party - feel free to swap out these contestants if a different NPC or creature would fit better as a rival against your players.




Talent Show.

Many shows of skill are on the docket as part of this festival of carnage, but not all of them necessarily involve bloodshed. One such test calls for a show of talent, be it performance, acrobatics, or even a dazzling display of magical artistry. Should a party member accept the challenge to compete in one such contest for the surrounding crowd’s favor, earning a resounding victory with a successful DC 13 Charisma (Performance) check (or other appropriate ability checks at the game master’s discretion), potentially earning them a healing potion they may use during an upcoming fight.



Creatures: 4 commoners, 1 thug, 2 guards, 1 noble

An event announcer (noble) announces one of the next upcoming events, earning cheers until they continue announcing the name of the event’s sponsor. This provokes backlash from the crowd of commoners and a thug, who begin heckling the irritated announcer, prompting nearby guards to intervene with an increasingly angry crowd.


Chugging Contest.

Can the party outlast the other hardy drinkers with a series of Constitution saving throws in a test of endurance? If so, they will win a healing potion for a future fight. 


Convicted Contestants.

Creatures: 1 thug, 3 bandits

The party comes up against criminals (bandits) who have volunteered for the blood sport, risking life and limb for the chance to reduce their sentence. One of these criminals, however, is a former thug who was forced to enter the games. This former criminal has forsaken violence and refuses to fight, even if the game announcers demand their death and the deaths of the other convicted contestants. Will the party give in to the crowd’s demands? Or attempt to save the lives of their opposition?


Horse Race.

Like the foot race, the first across the finish line takes the prize, testing a rider’s ability to coordinate with their mount. A series of successful Wisdom (Animal Handling) or other appropriate ability checks earns a victory for a party member and a healing potion they may use during a fight. 


Maze Run.

Another race, of a kind, has the party running to navigate a maze before any other competitors reach its end. Proficiencies such as Perception, Investigation, and Survival may prove useful here. First place earns a reward of a healing potion that can be used during a fight.



Creatures: 1 berserker

No weapons allowed in this fight—none save your fists, teeth, and knees! Knock out or throw your foe out of the ring. The proud strongman (berserker) facing off with the party (or party member) won’t handle the prospect of being pushed out of the ring well and will draw a knife on an offending party member.


Foot Race.

First across the finish line takes the prize! With a series of successful checks, which could include Strength (Athletics), Dexterity (Acrobatics), and other ability checks you deem appropriate, a party member can steal first place, earning them a healing potion they may use during an upcoming fight.


The Shifting Maze

Creatures: 1 minotaur (use an auroch for a level 1 party)

A far more lethal version of the maze run forces the party to contend with a mechanical maze and escape with their lives through the exit. This is complicated by the maze’s shifting walls and by the minotaur stalking the maze and hunting down the party. On initiative count 20, roll a d6. On a 5 or 6, walls close to the party randomly slide back into the floor or emerge from below, altering the pathways around the party. 


Excited Fans.

A crowd of admirers pushes the party toward one of the favored competitors of the upcoming fights. Will the party attempt to get through the crowd? Go along for the ride? Or try to gain the attention of the champion in question?


Capture the (Animated) Flag.

Creatures: 1 thug, 3 bandits, 1 animated object

Characters challenge the opposing team (a thug and bandits) to grasp an escaping flagpole and drag it back to their “team base.” Treat the animated flag as a rug of smothering, except it has a walking speed of 20 feet and can only use its action to dodge, disengage, or dash. 


Cage Fight.

Creatures: 4 bandits, 1 thug

In this round, pressure plates sit throughout the arena. Stepping onto one of these pressure plates activates a spring trap, activating a quick folding cage that restrains a creature. Escape from one of these cages is possible with a DC 14 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Thieves’ Tools) ability check. The goal is for one side to win through a combination of forcing all opponents (bandits and a thug) into cages or through knockouts. 



Creatures: 1 tiger, 1 druid (use 1 tiger and 1 commoner for level 1 parties)

What looks to be a straightforward battle against an animal foe (tiger) becomes complicated when a druid interrupts and attempts to free the captured tiger from this forced fight. 


The Egg.

Creatures: 2 cockatrice

In this challenge, the party must contend with a captured brood of cockatrice that has been released into a rock-strewn arena made to resemble the creatures’ native nesting site. One of the nests littered through the arena hides a golden egg the party must retrieve from the cockatrice, which are conditioned to protect the golden egg at all costs. 


Shut the Doors!

Creatures: 4 wolves with additional wolves possible

The party faces an initially empty arena until four trap doors open, releasing very hungry wolves. However, more wolves lie in the pens below. As long as each of the four trap doors remains open, more wolves may arrive seeking a meal. Once all the initial wolves are defeated, roll 1d4 for each trap door that remains open. On a 4, another wolf emerges. Each door can be shut using brute force or finesse to manipulate its mechanism. 


Archery Challenge.

Who has the fairer aim? Successfully shooting a series of increasingly difficult targets yields the victor a healing potion they may use during an upcoming fight. 


A Joust.

Creatures: 1 guard, 1 warhorse

For the next battle, the party receives a request from their challenger, who appears to be a well-groomed squire (using the statistics of a guard). This squire asks if one of the party members will face them in an honorable, one on one joust, even offering to lend one of the party members a horse for the bout. If a party member accepts the challenge, the knight engages them in friendly banter between tilts to gauge the personality of the player character. They will ask why the party has entered the games and how they feel about the ethics of the bloodsport. Should the party acquit themselves as honorable and share a desire to stop the crueler aspects of the games, the squire will surrender the bout, and may seek out the group’s assistance with a later quest. 


Sinking Isle.

Creatures: 2 crocodiles

The party faces off against a pair of crocodiles while fighting from a platform within the now water-filled arena. When the match begins, the water level begins to rise, eventually submerging the raised platform arena. The crocodiles attack anyone close to the edge of the rising water or who finds themselves within its depths. 


Dragon’s Ire.

Creatures: 4 bandits

A draconic cannon sits at the center of this arena, rotating on a mechanical axis and belching a 30-foot cone of fire on initiative count 20. Those caught within the blast must succeed a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw, suffering 4 (1d8) fire damage on a failure, and half as much damage on a successful save. The opposing team of cutpurses (bandits) use their quick footwork to coordinate against and outmaneuver the party and the cannon. 


Inner monster Unleashed.

Creatures: 1 weretiger (use wererat for level 1 and 2 parties)

The opponent for this match is a monster slayer named Honsou (weretiger), who contracted lycanthropy during a recent hunting trip. As a man of honor, he provides all his opponents with their choice of silvered weapons. As Honsou drops close to half of his total hit points, he enters his hybrid form, tearing into his enemies to the crowd’s delight.


Forced to Fight.

Creatures: 1 veteran (use a berserker for level 1 parties)

A retired but popular arena fighter (veteran) competes against the party, but not by choice. The fighter’s patron holds a debt over them and threatens to harm their family if they can’t win and claim the grand prize to clear the debt they owe. 


The Cad

Creatures: 1 bandit captain

In this fight, the party must contend with a swashbuckler (bandit captain) who enjoys overpowering and belittling lesser foes. The organizers encourage the crowd to throw trash, food scraps, and other foul projectiles at the contestants to distract combatants. If party members can play to the audience’s sympathies, they will hurl their projectiles at the bandit captain instead of at the party. 


One-on-One Challenges.

Creatures: 1 guard per party member

The party is challenged to a series of one-on-one matches against the local town guards. Each match will take place simultaneously, outside help is strictly forbidden, and whichever side wins the most of these matches gains coveted status as honorary officers within the town’s militia.



Creatures: 1 ogre (against level 1 parties, the ogre only deals 1d8+4 damage with his greatclub and does not carry javelins)

“Dargon” is an ogre that has served as something of an event mascot for the games, wearing a large, stained red cloak and a laughing dragon mask over his face from which he takes his name. Dargon feels happiest fighting in the arena, where he can hear what he believes to be delighted laughter. In reality, the crowds watching Dargon laugh at his expense. If beaten to under one-third of his total hit points, Dargon breaks down into tears, overwhelmed with fear of the party and of the increasingly belligerent onlookers who demand the party finish the fight. 


The Champion.

Creatures: 1 gladiator

Moga the Merciless (gladiator) is a famed, long-running champion of the games, delighting in the thrill, riches, glory, and influence she’s managed to accrue over her career. Now, she stands as one of the overseers for the games. The games allow her to indulge her cruel desire to exert power over others. She craves the thrill of facing dangerous foes. She will challenge opponents fit to challenge her or that need knocking down a few pegs. If a level 1 or 2 party is set to challenge her, she refuses to fight them, finding them unworthy; she cannot be convinced otherwise.


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!

Reduce your prep time by letting the DM Lair team do some of the work for you, and still run amazing games your players with love!

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