We've all been there as DMs, right? You're running a game and the players decide they want to go off the rails and start traveling all over the map. It can be tough on the fly to find creatures for them to face, or events that happen while they're wandering. There are charts that exist out there already, for sure, but with this list you just need to roll 1d20 to get an interesting result and you're good to go. Why go anywhere else when we've got you covered? Here are 20 random mountain encounters and even possibly plot hooks for your D&D game (or other fantasy TTRPG with a few tweaks of your choosing).
D20/ ENCOUNTER DESCRIPTIONS
As the party traverses the mountains, have one or more players roll a perception check, DC 12. If they succeed, they notice an intricately carved stone shrine hiding behind some moss or obscured by low branches. If anyone passes a Religion check DC 10 - they realize it's a shrine to the deity Kord (or an alternative deity of your choice). If any of the players pay homage to Kord or the shrine, they are granted a temporary 24-hour boost of Strength by 2 points, and also gain advantage on climbing checks or checks related to Strength. Kord has long waited for those with noble hearts to discover his shrine, and to have done so they must be worthy adventurers indeed and also worthy of his blessing.
A fledgling group of adventurers consisting of 1d4+1 NPCs not counting their leader, a Dragonborn Fighter named Hilmark, have gotten themselves in a pickle. They were attempting to climb up part of a difficult section of the mountain because they heard of an ancient artifact rumored to be at the summit, but they are new to adventuring after a climbing rope snapped. Each character is level 1. The artifact in question is the fabled Sword of Runes. The players may choose to help the hapless adventurers, and if so, must use their climbing skills or magic to set them free. The adventurers will fall to their doom unless helped, as Hilmark is clinging to the cliff face with all the strength he can muster. If the party helps the adventurers, they are thankful to be alive and will offer coin, or - if pressed - the sword as a reward. Obviously, DMs are free to substitute the artifact at the summit for another one more suited to their campaign.
As the party traverses near to some old mines in the mountainside, they hear and feel a massive rumbling below their feet, somewhere inside the mountain. Soon, what seems to be a cacophony of goblins screaming emerges from the tunnels and 2d20 goblins scatter from within the mineshaft, looking singed and burned - some of the goblins even seem to be smoking (and at least one is on fire). The goblins pay no attention to the party and if the party lingers, a massive and very angry fire elemental erupts from one of the mineshafts and attacks anything near it, be it goblin or PC. The goblins accidentally unearthed and angered the fire elemental with their digging.
As the players are traveling along in elevated areas in the mountains, preferably near a mountain peak, they stumble upon the nest of a dragon. The nest belongs to a mature Red Dragon named Verithiax. Depending on how the DM wishes to proceed, there are different things that could have happened. One is that Verithiax has been delayed, battling a rival dragon nearby. Verithiax has moved her eggs here where she thought they'd be safe. Or, Verithiax has been killed in that same battle and now is not going to return. In either case, the players discover Verithiax's eggs, of which there are 1d4 +1. They are all about to hatch.
As the players are traversing territory in the mountains, they come under attack by an orc warband of 1d12 +2 Orcs who lie waiting in ambush led by their War Chieftain. A round or two into combat, an avalanche is triggered by the sounds of battle, and the players (and orcs) must find shelter or are hit by the avalanche. Right before the avalanche begins sliding down the mountain, the players and orcs hear eerie yowls resounding through the air from all around them. The avalanche starts 2d6 x 100 feet away. Roll initiative and then have the players and orcs try to flee, but have the avalanche move 300' on the count of 10 and 0. Characters caught in the avalanche are moved 300', fall prone, and if they fail their Str save of DC 15 they take 1d10 bludgeoning damage. Once the avalanche stops, anyone caught in the avalanche is blinded, restrained, and gains one level of exhaustion for every five minutes inside. (30 minutes and they die) They can make up to three DC 15 Athletics checks to free themselves, but the first level of exhaustion gives disadvantage on these checks. Another character can spend one minute to free their friends but must locate them with a DC 15 Perception check. To make matters worse, 1d4 Yetis (who are responsible for the eerie yowling) have heard the sound and come attack anyone they see, including the Orcs.
A mysterious barbarian appears on the road or trail. Her name is Dravena Stormfury, a half-orc with long red hair and a massive greataxe covered with crackling runes. She's extremely muscular and very tall, and says she's been watching the party with great interest for a day or two from a distance and wants to battle whomever they think is the greatest champion among them. She will not attack the party otherwise and is not hostile. She is friendly and will actually trade for food or other small items if the players aren't interested in battling her and will even ask to camp with them during the night for company before she moves on before first light. Dravena is relatively infamous in the area and is known to be an honorable and respectable warrior. Dravena wears Stormguard Gauntlets, an Amulet of Fury, and wields her enchanted greataxe, Thunderstrike. Her terms and conditions are that the fight be one-on-one, without the aid of magic. Winner gets one of the other's magic items that they're willing to part with if they lose. For Dravena, she's willing to give up her axe least of all, but will part with her amulet first, and then her gauntlets if necessary. She really wants to battle and will risk losing her axe if necessary if that's the only way one of the players will duel. But they must put up something equally as powerful even if it has to be multiple items in order to match. If the player character puts up a particularly good fight, she may not even take the character's magic item, which is of course up to the DM's discretion (and she may even offer to train that character). If the character beats her pretty soundly, then she may ask to join the party for a while to learn from the character.
A group of rather intelligent 1d8+1 winged kobolds has set up this area through the mountains as an ambush site. As the players are walking through, the kobolds fly down and try to grab any loose items they can from the players. Have each player roll an Athletics check of DC 12 and on a failure, a kobold manages to snag an item from the character while they're distracted, and then flies away with it toward their lair. The DM can choose which item is stolen if they're familiar with a player's inventory, but you can also use this table: 1D6/ ITEM STOLEN 1 Main Weapon 2 Secondary Weapon 3 Coin Purse 4 Backpack 5 Cloak/helmet 6 Quiver/Ammo From there, the players may pursue the kobolds, who fly 30' whenever they can toward their lair. However, the kobolds have lined the way with bear traps to discourage anyone who pursues. Those failing a passive perception check of DC 13 step in a bear trap unless they pass a DC 13 Dex saving throw. If they step in the trap, they take 1d4 piercing damage and stop moving. A character can use an action to make a Str check of DC 13 or remain stuck unless they can break the chain or use some other means to escape. For each failed check, the character receives 1 point of piercing damage and remains immobilized. The kobold lair is 800 feet down the trail, and every 100 feet there are 1d6 bear traps.
1d6 + 1 Scouts, wearing leather armor and wielding shortswords and longbows are being led through the mountains by a human Veteran named Eamon Steelheart when they encounter the party. Eamon and the Scouts are looking for a dangerous criminal named Aric Blackthorn and his gang of bandits who have been trying to hide in the mountains. Aric is wanted for theft, extortion, and acts of violence against both civilians and authority figures. Aric is a Bandit Captain with a jagged scar stretching from his left cheekbone to his jawline. Eamon asks the characters if they've encountered him or his bandits and may even ask the characters if they want to join the hunt. Eamon says that the characters can keep any money or items the bandits have on their person - they just want Aric dead or alive. Of course, the PCs have no obligation to help Eamon, but it may ingratiate them with the nearby town's/city's guard.
A pack of 1d6 +2 Mountain Lions (Use the Lion stat block) has been tracking the party for a few hours, and they finally pounce - looking for a meal. They will attack the party from the rear or sides and target the smallest most vulnerable looking character, preferably at a critical moment. The lions will try to bring down a single character with pack tactics. If a character becomes incapacitated, one or two lions will defend while the remaining lions try to drag their "meal" to a more secluded spot to feast.
While traveling through the mountains, the party encounters a herd of 1d4 Aurochs. The Aurochs are very territorial and lay claim to a mountain pass. It's possible to move around or distract the beasts, but if the Aurochs become enraged or spooked, they will charge the PCs.
After making it past some mountain obstacle like a narrow ledge, or a rough section of climbing, the PCs stumble upon a temple which is inhabited by a friendly order of monks led by Sister Amberfond, a Wood Elf. Sister Amberfond and all the other monks are bald, and wear flowing robes. They welcome the PCs with open arms and offer them food and lodging the first night. The PCs are welcome to stay as long as they wish, but if they stay longer than a couple nights, then the monks expect them to help with chores or tending to the garden and things around the temple in return for the food. If a PC expresses interest, the monks may be able to teach them Acrobatics, Athletics, History, Medicine, Nature, Religion, Sleight of Hand, or Stealth. To learn a skill fully, they must stay with the monks a total of 250 days for each skill, but the upside is that the PCs need not pay gold. They must only carry their weight at the temple. The PCs may also engage in friendly sparring with the monks and may seek advice from Sister Amberfond - her wisdom may light the way forward. The monks have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of inner peace, enlightenment, and the teachings of their ancient order. They have embraced the ascetic lifestyle, forsaking material possessions and worldly desires in favor of spiritual growth. The mountain temple provides a serene environment conducive to meditation, reflection, and the study of martial arts.
While traveling through the mountains, the PCs discover an ancient and abandoned Dwarven Fortress once known as Nernbor Keep (or substitute with a keep of your choice if you already have one in mind). The Keep was once a beacon of Dwarven might and prosperity until an earthquake shattered the mountain centuries ago. Now, the inside tunnels are collapsed and the chambers within stand empty. Or do they? Resourceful adventurers may find a way inside to rooms filled with Dwarven artifacts, deadly enemies, and the fabled Forge of Legends which, if fired back up, allows smiths to forge weapons that are nigh unbreakable and only 1/4 of the weight.
While the party is moving their way through the mountains, a Bulette erupts from the ground and leaps into the air. Anyone failing a DC 16 Strength or Dexterity saving throw (the player's choice) is caught underneath the plummeting Bulette before the creature begins attacking what's left of the party. Anyone failing the saving throw falls prone and takes 3d6+4 bludgeoning damage plus 3d6+4 slashing damage. On a successful save, the character only takes half damage, isn't knocked prone, and is pushed 5 feet away into a spot that's not occupied. If there is no unoccupied space, the character falls prone.
As the party rounds a bend in the mountains, they hear the sounds of battle and some screaming. If the party moves ahead, they'll find 2d4 Berserkers who have just destroyed an orc hunting party of 1d4+1 orcs. The Berserkers are covered in orc blood and stuck in a battle rage. If they get wind that the characters are nearby, they immediately charge the party of PCs.
The party comes across a cave where they hear screams and bellows of laughter coming from within. If they investigate instead of continuing on with their adventure, they will find a cluster of Ogres living within a large cave in the side of the mountain, tormenting three Halflings who are screaming and look hurt inside a cage on one of the Ogre's backs. The Ogres were once under the command of an Annis Hag, whom the Halflings banded together and destroyed. However, the Ogres captured the halflings after their short-lived victory and have made three of them into a meal and are torturing the remaining three for entertainment until they get hungry again. The surviving Halflings are Tilly Bramblefoot (a talented Rogue who is too weak to try to escape), Milo Greenmeadow (a Cleric of Chauntea), and Pippa Quickfoot (a Bard). The Halflings unfortunately lost Jasper Applebrook (a Fighter), Willow Fernleaf (a Ranger), and Oliver Smallburrow (a Wizard). The fallen Halfling's skulls are now gruesome belt buckles for three of the six Ogres. These are also no ordinary Ogres, either; Each one served a distinct purpose for their Annis Hag overlord. Among the Ogres, there is an Ogre Howdah (Tilly, Milo, and Pippa are trapped inside a modified fort on its back that has been converted to a cage by the Annis Hag for the children it kidnapped regularly), two Ogre Battering Rams, two Ogre Chain Brutes, and an Ogre Bolt Launcher. If the players manage to defeat or free the remaining halflings, they will be forever grateful.
As the players are traveling through the mountains, a flock of 2d4 hungry Perytons hurtles out of the sky toward the party. However, a Wyvern has taken roost with them and swoops down right behind them to join in the hunt.
Coming in the opposite direction from the PCs is a party of 3d6 Orcs and 1d4 Ogres being led by an Orog named Grommok the Unyielding. He and his motley force are on their way to clear out a Kobold cave and make it their own, but once they spot the PCs, they are only too happy to make a detour to destroy the invaders of their mountain homeland.
The PCs encounter a heavy storm as they reach a certain point in their travels. The storm is more intense the more they press forward. If the PCs don't have someone proficient in Survival, their navigator must make a DC 12 Survival Check with disadvantage or become lost in the storm and travel for 1d6 hours in the wrong direction until they reach the edge of the storm or the 1d6 hours is up. If they pass the check, then they eventually come to a solitary mountain keep, its stone weathered by the elements and lightning and fog crashing around its towers. This is a stronghold owned by an eccentric and paranoid Wizard named Archibald Flax. In the highest tower rests a magical artifact responsible for the storms, which rage 24 hours of each day to keep away travelers. The artifact is none other than The Stormcaller's Ward, which is a silver amulet with a polished amethyst at its center which appears to have raging clouds roiling around within. The amulet's effects have a three-mile radius and produces raging thunderstorms as long as the amulet isn't being moved and is stationary. Archibald once had an attempt on his life made by a rival mage, and now sequesters himself inside his keep, studying ancient tomes and practicing arcane rituals, as well as covering the passageways of his stronghold in magical traps. If the players find him within his keep, he will hit them with his strongest spells immediately, thinking they're assassins.
The party comes across a band of 1d4 Stone Giants who are engaged in a ritualistic dance. They are engrossed in their dances, and so the PCs do have the option to try to sneak around them if they wish. If the PCs interrupt the ritual, the Stone Giants may become irritated but won't attack unless the PCs persist, but if the PCs watch from a respectful distance they will be left alone.
As the party is about to cross through a mountain pass, they see a shadow fall over them from above and a Young Red Dragon named Emberfang soars out of the sky and lands near them. Emberfang has been collecting tolls from travelers for its hoard and tells the players that they may live if they drop their magic items on the ground and walk ahead. If the characters refuse, Emberfang immediately tries to use its breath weapon on them all and then will soar above and try to use hit and run attacks in order to take down the weakest individuals. If the players acquiesce to Emberfang's desires, he will still attack the party from behind, only this way they won't have several of their magic items.
Well, these are 20 random encounters you can use during your player's travels in your campaign or one shot. As always, feel free to change any of the details or add to it in places you think I've skimped on. Please feel free to comment below about any of this, and as always...thank you for reading! - Joe