The Lazy GM's Resource Document

Michael E. Shea,

Updated 26 May 2023

This document includes resources and guidelines for preparing and running 5e and other fantasy roleplaying games taken from several books written by Michael E. Shea and available at Much of this material is useful for any fantasy RPG but some is specific to the 5th edition of the world's most popular roleplaying game.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You are free to use this content in any manner permitted by that license as long as you include the following attribution statement in your own work:

This work includes material taken from the Lazy GM's Resource Document by Michael E. Shea of, available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This work includes material taken from the System Reference Document 5.1 ("SRD 5.1") by Wizards of the Coast LLC and available at The SRD 5.1 is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License available at

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Table of Contents

The Eight Steps of Lazy RPG Prep

For a typical game session, the Lazy RPG Prep checklist looks like this:

Here's a brief summary of each of the steps.

Review the Characters

Before we do anything else, it helps to spend a few minutes reviewing the player characters. What are their names? What do they want? What plays into their backgrounds? What do the players of these characters enjoy at the table?

You might not even write anything down during this step, but reviewing the characters helps wire them into your mind — and ensures that the rest of your preparation fits around them.

Create a Strong Start

How a game starts is likely the most important piece of preparation we can do. Setting the stage for the session determines a great deal about how the rest of the game will go. When you define where a game session starts, you figure out what's going on, what the initial focus of the session is, and how you can get close to the action. When in doubt, start with a fight. Example strong starts can be found later in this document.

Outline Potential Scenes

With a strong start in hand, we can then outline a short list of potential scenes that might unfold. This step exists mostly to make you feel as though you have a handle on the game before you start. However, as GMs, all of us must always be ready to throw our potential scenes away when the game goes in a different direction — as it often does. Usually, it's enough to come up with only a few words per scene, and to expect one or two scenes per hour of play. At other times, you might skip this step completely if you don't think you need it.

Define Secrets and Clues

The next step is second only in importance to the strong start, and is one of the most powerful tools available to GMs. Secrets and clues are single short sentences that describe a clue, a piece of the story, or a piece of the world that the characters can discover during the game. You don't know exactly how the characters will discover these clues. As such, you'll want to keep these secrets and clues abstract from their place of discovery so that you can drop them into the game wherever it makes sense. This lets the game flow freely, while still allowing you to reveal important pieces of the story at any point where the characters might discover them. During this step, you might write down ten such secrets or clues. Example secrets and clues are offered later in this document.

Develop Fantastic Locations

Building evocative locations isn't easily improvised. As such, it's worth spending time writing out a handful of fantastic locations that the characters might discover and explore during the game. Each location can be thought of as a set, a room, or a backdrop for a single scene in your adventure.

Describe each location with a short evocative title such as "The Sunspire." Then write down three fantastic aspects for it, along the lines of: "Blazing beam of light shining to the heavens," "Moat of molten rock," or "Huge elven glyphs carved into ancient stone." Ultimately, whole dungeons can be built from a series of connected fantastic locations, with each location representing a large area or chamber. A specific location might not come up during the game for which you prepare it, but it will be ready for a later session as the characters explore.

Outline Important NPCs

During our preparation, we'll outline those NPCs (nonplayer characters) most critical to the adventure, focusing on a name and a connection to the adventure, then wrapping the NPC in a character archetype from popular fiction. Many other NPCs — maybe even most of them — can be improvised right at the table.

Choose Relevant Monsters

What monsters are the characters most likely to face? What monsters make sense for a specific location and situation? We're using the term "monster" loosely here, so as to include enemy NPCs as well as truly monstrous foes. Whatever type of enemy you need, reading through books of monsters can give you the fuel to choose the right creatures for the right situation.

Additionally, understanding the loose relationship between monster challenge rating and character level can help you understand how a battle might go. Most of the time, you can just list a number of monsters and improvise encounters based on what's happening in the adventure. For boss battles, you might have to do more work. See Lazy Combat Encounter Building for more information.

Select Magic Item Rewards

Players love magic items, and it's worthwhile to spend time preparing items they'll find interesting. This step also helps to directly impact the characters — by dropping an interesting part of the story literally into their hands. You can use a mixture of techniques to reward magic items, from selecting items randomly to selecting specific items based on the themes of the characters and the desires of the players. Magic items are also a great mechanism for delivering secrets and clues.

The Lazy RPG Prep Checklist and Online Play

These steps and processes work just as well whether you interact with your players online or around the table. However you play, the Lazy RPG Prep checklist still works.

The 5-Minute Reduced Checklist

If you have very little time, reduce the checklist to the most important things you can prepare before it's time to run the game. Here are three example steps.

The Lazy RPG Preparation Process

The Lazy RPG Prep Toolkit

Building a Lazy Campaign

Running Your Game

Thinking About Your Game

Embrace the GM's Truths

Lazy RPG Tricks

Example Strong Starts

A strong start kicks your game off in the middle of the action. It helps the players to let go of the real world and fall into the story unfolding at the table. Depending on where your adventure takes place, you can use any of the following strong starts in your own game, whether running a single-session adventure or a longer campaign.

Cities and Towns

In a settlement, a strong start can make use of either combat or roleplaying.

  1. The characters interrupt bandits breaking into a shop.
  2. Something slithers out of a nearby sewer.
  3. A noble lord bumps into one of the characters and threatens to have them arrested.
  4. A group of cultists kindly ask for a sample of a character's blood.
  5. A hooded patron visits the characters, asking the characters to kill them in two days.
  6. A riot draws the local watch away, whereupon a squad of hired killers descends on the characters.
  7. The campaign's main villain shows up and invites the characters for a drink.
  8. A scarred explorer offers to sell one of the characters a map to a site of a lost or stolen ancestral heirloom.
  9. A golem from a wizards' academy goes on a rampage.
  10. The local monarch is assassinated and a villain takes over the government.


A session that starts in a sewer can make use of numerous monsters and hazards.

  1. A flood of poisonous water flows past the characters' position.
  2. The sewer collapses into deeper tunnels sealed up for centuries.
  3. A wererat approaches the characters, offering to sell valuable information.
  4. A pack of ghouls chase a young couple reported missing days ago.
  5. A legendary giant crocodile stealthily stalks the characters.
  6. The characters find a powerful magical dagger sought by a guild of wraith assassins.
  7. Swampy sewer gas gives one of the characters supernatural visions of the villain's master plan.
  8. The characters meet an eccentric wizard farming mushrooms for spell components.
  9. A wall collapses, revealing a hidden temple of the god of slimes and oozes.
  10. A flood of water draws the characters into a dangerously large mechanical sluice system.


Wilderness locations can involve either action or mystery in a strong start.

  1. A nearby tree opens up, and a satyr steps through and says "Hi!"
  2. A rampaging werebear storms through the area, mistaking the characters for the hunters who killed their mate.
  3. Night falls, revealing an alien starscape above.
  4. The characters see a tall humanoid with antlers stalking from the shadows, carrying a large scythe in one hand and three humanoid heads in the other.
  5. The ground suddenly churns, bringing the body of a long-lost elf king to the surface. The king's eyes open.
  6. The characters stumble upon a nest of skeletal pixies surrounding a desecrated fey gate.
  7. A golden-antlered stag leaps into the characters' camp and asks to be defended from the hunters chasing it.
  8. An old woman greets the characters, offering them candy and baked treats if they will come to her nearby cottage.
  9. A skeleton hanging from a tree begs the characters to right the wrong it committed while alive.
  10. A sinkhole opens up, revealing the tunnels of long-forgotten burial chambers.

Dungeons, Caves, and Caverns

Subterranean adventures lend themselves to the widest possible range of strong starts.

  1. A vampire appears from a sudden rise of mist, introduces herself, and asks the characters for a favor.
  2. An ancient statue turns its head toward the characters and whispers a valuable secret.
  3. The floor collapses, revealing even deeper tunnels long forgotten.
  4. Through a cracked wall, the characters spot a gateway flanked by two huge obsidian statues, and featuring a set of stairs leading down.
  5. The characters come across two bands of goblins fighting each other for the favor of a hag named Auntie Chiptooth.
  6. An eyestalk swells out from an oozy patch on the wall, beholds the characters, and then disappears back into the wall.
  7. A wounded knight collapses near the characters, begging them to find her lost love before she dies.
  8. The ground cracks open and a pillar of chipped obsidian juts out, projecting a prophecy in red Infernal glyphs on the walls of the chamber.
  9. Stars swim in a moonlit well, then rise up to reveal themselves as will-o'-wisps.
  10. A spectral hound guides the characters to the camp of a reclusive mage.

Creating Secrets and Clues

Secrets and clues are short pieces of information the characters might discover during an adventure. Secrets and clues are initially written without regard to the method by which they might be discovered. Instead, we improvise their discovery as the characters engage with the adventure's locations and NPCs.

The following prompts don't create specific secrets and clues. Rather, the questions they ask are meant to inspire the creation of your own secrets for your campaign. Keep in mind that secrets are meant to serve you. Don't overthink them or worry about making them perfect. There's no wrong way to use secrets and clues as long as they help you run your game.

Character Secrets

Use character secrets to tie the characters to the world around them. These sorts of secrets might be revealed by NPCs, old journals or letters, suddenly recalled memories, or prophetic dreams.

  1. What family history might be revealed?
  2. What ties the character to this location?
  3. What ghost or spirit haunts the character?
  4. What dreams fill the character's rest?
  5. What parasite secretly infests the character?
  6. Which family member is involved in the adventure?
  7. How is the villain related to the character?
  8. What NPC who the character thinks is dead still lives?
  9. What ritual was the character blessed with as a child?
  10. What previous event ties the character to the story?

Historical Secrets

Use historical secrets to give the characters meaningful and useful information as they explore the setting of the campaign. Secrets of this kind should provide characters and players alike with bite-sized pieces of local or world history.

Historical secrets might be found as mosaics in ancient tombs, statues in old ruins, dusty tomes in ancient libraries, markings on strange weapons, or tales shared among elderly villagers.

  1. What dead god has a connection to the area?
  2. What armies once battled here?
  3. What cruel lord was slain in this place?
  4. What ancient civilization once thrived here?
  5. What old empire's settlements lie buried here?
  6. What alien creature or power is hidden here?
  7. What rebellion took place here?
  8. What primeval mysteries lay buried here?
  9. What was this location's former purpose?
  10. What horrific monster once ruled here?

NPC and Villain Secrets

Use NPC and villain secrets to reveal information about these NPCs to the characters, especially as a means of introducing villains before they face the characters.

Characters might learn NPC or villain secrets from a villain's herald or sidekick, rumors at a local pub, recovered journals, a minion's last words, captured letters, or town gossip.

  1. What dark history follows the NPC?
  2. What makes the NPC think they're right?
  3. What was the NPC's great accomplishment?
  4. What foe did the NPC defeat?
  5. What makes the NPC politically untouchable?
  6. What great power does the NPC possess?
  7. What does the NPC desire?
  8. What regular routines does the NPC follow?
  9. Who does the NPC love above all others?
  10. What secret does the NPC want to keep hidden?

Plot and Story Secrets

Use plot and story secrets to teach characters about the larger events going on in the world, and to move the characters forward in the story of your campaign.

Characters might learn these secrets from quest-giving NPCs, notes found on defeated foes, dreams or portents from the gods, NPCs fleeing a disaster, arcane feedback from an object, or psychic projections.

  1. What villainous event will soon come to pass?
  2. What disaster is about to befall the land?
  3. What royal figure was just assassinated?
  4. What dungeon entrance just became revealed?
  5. What monsters recently appeared in the realm?
  6. What armies just invaded the realm?
  7. What dark sign or portent just appeared?
  8. What natural disaster has recently struck the area?
  9. What unnatural being has appeared in the world?
  10. What unusual creature was seen walking the wilds?

Building an RPG Group

Finding and Maintaining a Solid Group

Finding and maintaining a solid group for roleplaying gaming remains the most difficult task for many GMs. This section offers suggestions for finding players that fit well with your group, and for keeping that group going for years to come.

Finding Players

The first step to building an RPG group is finding players. Some of the most common ways to find players for a group include the following:

Selecting Players

Before you invite a player to your gaming group, ensure that they're the right fit for your game and the other players. Start by asking a prospective player questions about their commitment, play style, and reaction to your style of play. Example questions might include the following:

Asking questions isn't about getting right or wrong answers. Rather, questions can help you identify players who will fit well into your game. They'll also help you determine if there are things a player desires that they're not going to find in your game.

Take the time to meet one-on-one with a prospective player and talk to them about what they want from your game and what experiences they've had with other groups. Go with your gut judgment on whether each player you meet will be a good fit for your group.

If they seem like a good fit, invite a player to a single-session game or a short series of games at a different time than your regularly scheduled session, ideally with one or more regular players from your group. See how they fit in during an actual game. If they don't fit, you don't have to invite them to another game. But if they do feel like a good fit, you can invite them to your regular game and see how things go.

Flexible Numbers of Players and On-Call Players

Decide on the minimum and maximum number of players for any given session. A minimum of three and maximum of six is often ideal. While seeking players, you might find some who can't commit to a regularly scheduled game, but who can come from time to time. Put these players on an "on-call" list so that if you have an open chair, you can ask them if they're able to fill it. Putting prospective new players on an on-call list is also a good way to see if they're a good fit for the group before they become a regular player.

Choose a Regular Schedule

Rather than attempting to schedule games from session to session, find a set day and time to run your games and stick to it. Run games every week if possible. Otherwise, try every other week at the same day and time. Choose regular, shorter games rather than longer, more infrequent games to help with scheduling.

The Game Must Go On

Run the game as regularly as you can. Don't cancel games if one or two players can't make it. If you're able to play with as few as three and have a regular group of six, it should take four players canceling before you have to call off a game. The more consistent the game, the more likely that the players will make it a part of their regular schedule.

If you find that certain players are regularly missing the game, ask if they would prefer to be on your on-call list, and then seek a new player with better availability.

Let Absent Characters Fade into the Background

Don't worry about what happens to characters in-game when a player misses the session. If there is an easy way for the character to step out of the story, take it. Otherwise, just let the character fade into the background. Your players will understand why you're taking such liberties with the universe, and that in-world consistency isn't as important as making allowances for the realities of people's lives.

Session Zero Checklist

Session zero is a vital tool for getting players and GMs on the same page about a new campaign. A session zero takes place before the first session of a campaign. This special session gives you time to ensure that the players are on board with the themes of the campaign, and that their characters will integrate well together and with the adventures to come.

The following guidelines take you step-by-step through a session zero.

Write a One-Page Guide

Before your session zero, write out and deliver a one-page campaign guide to your players. Include the following information:

Keep your campaign guide down to a single page so that the players can easily read and absorb it.

Describe the Theme

Once you and your players are sitting around the table or gathered online for session zero, start by describing the theme of the campaign and going over the details of the one-page campaign guide. Use this time to get the players excited for the campaign.

Discuss Safety Tools

Discuss any potentially troubling themes of the campaign and its adventures, establishing hard lines and off-screen content you and your players have for the campaign. Write these things down. Discuss what tools you and your players can use to pause the game and break character whenever it becomes necessary to talk about the campaign's themes and content.

Decide on a Group Patron

A group patron is any NPC tied to all of the characters, and who can help propel the characters forward in an adventure or campaign. Describe potential group patrons that the players can choose from in your campaign, and let them discuss which ones they like. Work toward a consensus where all players are happy with the chosen patron. Don't let this choice alienate any players.

Build Characters Together

Work with the players to develop their characters, reinforcing the themes of the campaign and establishing the character motivations that will work best to fit the characters into the campaign. Mention if any skills or backgrounds are an especially good fit for the campaign. All this work is to ensure that the characters are motivated to adventure together to solve the campaign's goal.

If desired, you can connect the characters together with individual relationships. Allow the players to roll on the following list, or to use it as inspiration for a unique relationship of their own devising.


  1. Adopted siblings
  2. Mentor and student
  3. Friendly rivals
  4. Sage and scribe
  5. Priest and acolyte
  6. Fellow veterans
  7. Ward and guardian
  8. Spouses
  9. Buddy cops
  10. Childhood friends
  11. Noble and bodyguard
  12. Soul bound
  13. Former prisoners
  14. Former criminals
  15. Hunted quarry
  16. Pact bound
  17. Apocalypse survivors
  18. Savior and saved
  19. Business partners
  20. Master and servant

Run a Short Adventure

Once the characters are built and your players are ready, you can run a short adventure at the end of session zero to introduce the characters to the campaign in a fast and exciting way. You might choose to run a single combat encounter with some added negotiation and exploration, after which the characters advance to 2nd level and are ready to fully engage with the story of the campaign.

Safety Tools

Safety tools help ensure that you and your players are always comfortable with the subject matter of the games you run — especially when that subject matter involves potentially troubling tropes or themes. The safety tools presented in this section can be used individually or together to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the material in the game, even as that material evolves during play. You can choose which safety tools work well for you and your group, and discuss their use early in your game. Usually this means discussing safety tools during your campaign's session zero, or at the beginning of a single-session game.

Potentially Sensitive Topics

When you discuss safety tools, describe potentially sensitive topics that might come up in an adventure or campaign. The following list presents a number of topics that are good to talk about, but this is not an exhaustive list.

Decide first what you are comfortable with as a GM before bringing a list of topics to your players. Add any topics you're not comfortable with to your own hard lines and off-screen content (see below).

When describing these topics, ensure that the players are comfortable with them. But also ensure that you identify which topics they are not comfortable with, so you can omit that material from your game.

Hard Lines and Off-Screen Content

The concept of hard lines and off-screen content allows you to set parameters for handling sensitive topics in your game. Once you've had a discussion with your players on those topics, talk about whether individual topics should be a hard line (material that should never come up) and which can be described vaguely and handled off-screen. For example, after discussion, you and your players might come up with something like the following:

Hard Lines: Sexual assault, non-consensual sexual contact or behavior, violence toward children, abuse toward children or animals, inter-character betrayal, character-driven torture, non-consensual violence or betrayal between characters

Off-screen Content: Consensual sex and sexual contact, torture, racism, slavery

Discuss hard lines and off-screen content in an open, nonjudgmental conversation with your players, and capture each player's individual hard lines and off-screen content along with your own.

Pause for a Second

"Pause for a second" is a verbal cue that players and GMs can use to interrupt the current in-world scene, have everyone break character, and discuss the current situation as players. It's specifically designed to work well with both online and in-person games.

This safety tool can "pause" the game to discuss any issues out of character and ensures all the players are comfortable with shifts in the game's story. To use it, you or any other player can say, "Pause for a second" to interrupt the current state of play and break character.

It can be used to edit content ("Pause for a second. I'm not comfortable beating a helpless character for information.") or to check in with the group ("Pause for a second. Are we okay making a deal with a vampire?").

As the GM, think about using "pause for a second" regularly, so as to break the stigma of using it only for the most extreme circumstances — which might cause players to avoid using it at all.

Other Resources

The following resources offer further options for RPG safety tools, and influenced the tools described above.

Connecting Characters

During your session zero of a new campaign, or if you're running a single-session one-shot game, consider establishing connections between the characters to help build a cohesive bond between them before the game begins. This can help prevent ham-fisted and convoluted attempts to build a story that connects the characters, when all the players already know perfectly well that they're coming together simply for the adventure.

This section presents two potential approaches to connecting characters. First, all the characters can be previously connected through a single organization, faction, or patron, using ideas from the Group Connections table. Alternatively, each character can establish a connection to one or more other characters through a personal relationship and history, using ideas from the Character Connections table. Players can work together to come up with these shared histories based on the overall themes of the campaign, or the group can randomly select potential relationships and tweak the results as desired.

For individual connections, each player can roll on the Character Connections table to establish a relationship with the character of the player on their right. Going once around the game table this way means that every character will have two relationships-one with the player on their right and one with the player on their left.

For single-session games, consider establishing a single group relationship for all the characters before the game begins. This relationship can directly tie into the story of the adventure, and will speed up the game by eliminating lengthy discussions about how the characters got together.

Group Connections

  1. Mercenary company
  2. Self-employed investigators
  3. Official investigators
  4. Royal advisors
  5. Thieves' guild
  6. Secret society
  7. Religious investigators
  8. Adventuring company
  9. Business investigators
  10. Assassins' guild
  11. Wizarding school
  12. Monastic students
  13. Gladiator school
  14. Military specialists
  15. Spy network
  16. Constabulary
  17. Magically bound servants
  18. Divinely inspired
  19. Protectors of the common folk
  20. Seekers of vengeance

Character Connections

  1. Sibling of
  2. Saved by
  3. Served with
  4. Protected by
  5. Adventured with
  6. Friendly rival of
  7. Childhood friend of
  8. Magically bound to
  9. Survived with
  10. Escaped with
  11. Apprentice of
  12. Acolyte of
  13. Idolizes
  14. Drinking buddies with
  15. Business associate of
  16. Lost a bet to
  17. Indebted to
  18. Trained by
  19. Dueling partner of
  20. On the run with

Spiral Campaign Development

Spiral campaign development builds campaign worlds starting in the area immediately surrounding the characters, then spirals out, expanding the world as the characters experience it. This section offers suggestions and inspiration for building a spiral campaign.

Campaign Pitch

Start off by describing the central theme of your campaign in a single sentence. This campaign pitch becomes the main focus of the campaign, and might be given to the players during your session zero so they can build their characters around it. Use the following campaign pitches as a starting point for a campaign, or as inspiration for pitches of your own.

Campaign Pitches

  1. Prevent the summoning of the Dragon Queen
  2. Prevent the coming of the Black Moon
  3. End the dark reign of Elenda the lich queen
  4. Break the political power of Vroth the death knight
  5. Kill Veresyn the vampire lord and his horde
  6. Restore light to the Vale of Nightmares
  7. Restore the prison of Orlon the demon prince
  8. Shatter the draconic Alliance of Five Claws
  9. Save people from the blood feast of a gnoll war band
  10. Restore light to the fallen celestial Ixyan
  11. Dismantle the Empire of the White Blade
  12. Find the seven keys to the gates of Ilumenia
  13. Prevent the resurrection of the sorcerer king
  14. Stop the cult of the Red Ocean
  15. Save the heir of the sapphire throne
  16. Find and seal the vault of the world serpent
  17. Close the gateway to the Outside
  18. Destroy the Sword of the Black Sun
  19. Slay the ancient dragon Larthyx Flametongue
  20. End the dark pact of Karthyn the archdevil

Six Truths

Once you have your pitch, identify six truths that set your campaign apart from others, then share them with your players. Here are six example truths for a campaign built around the coming of the Black Moon from above.

Starting Location

Spiral campaigns begin in a central location, often a small settlement from which the characters set out to explore neighboring lands. A village always works well as a starting location, but there are many alternatives.

1d10 Starting Locations

  1. Adventurers' guild
  2. Mining outpost
  3. Recent shipwreck
  4. Frontier outpost
  5. Holy temple
  6. Refugee camp
  7. Fortress under siege
  8. Great library
  9. Planar hub city
  10. Crumbling fortress

Campaign Fronts

Campaign fronts are the external motivators in a campaign. Like a battlefront (from which they're named), a front is a point of conflict that advances and retreats as the campaign develops. Fronts are often villains, but might also be external forces such as natural disasters or grim fate. Campaigns might have up to three fronts at any given time, including any of the following.

1d20 Campaign Fronts

  1. Thieves' guild
  2. Dark necromancer
  3. Armageddon cult
  4. Mercenary army
  5. Forgotten machine
  6. Evil construct
  7. Demon prince
  8. Archdevil
  9. Corrupt noble lord
  10. Rival adventurers
  11. Mages' guild
  12. Outlander horde
  13. Meteor storm
  14. Planar invaders
  15. Powerful archmage
  16. Ancient lich
  17. Blood-raging cannibals
  18. Unseelie fey lord
  19. Draconic terror
  20. Undead prince

Local Adventure Locations

As the campaign spirals outward, the characters will become aware of local adventuring locations. Drop three such adventure locations into the areas close by the starting location. And if you need help filling out an adventure location, look to later sections of this document.

  1. Ancient crypt
  2. Forgotten sewers
  3. Haunted keep
  4. Festering well
  5. Rat-infested cellar
  6. Unholy temple
  7. Dangerous caves
  8. Underground city
  9. War-torn citadel
  10. Fey glade
  11. Abandoned dungeon
  12. Ruined watchtower
  13. Huge hollow statue
  14. Sunken catacombs
  15. Obsidian ziggurat
  16. Haunted forest
  17. Otherworldly rift
  18. Submerged grotto
  19. Dead hollow tree
  20. Sundered shipwreck

Quest Templates

Quest templates are general-purpose designs around which you can build specific quests for your own game, using adventure archetypes that have been standard for more than forty years in RPGs. This section offers ten quest templates you can customize for your own adventures. If generating a random adventure, just roll a d10 to determine which quest template to use, then fill in the details of the quest with your own ideas or by making use of the adventure generators found later in this document.

1. Kill the Boss

In this simple quest design, the characters are hired or conscripted to hunt down a particular monster or villain in a location, then permanently end their threat. The boss might be protected by lieutenants or other minions.

2. Find Something

The characters are charged with finding an item, whether they have to steal it or hunt for it in a dangerous location. The item might be protected by a boss monster and could have many different purposes, such as opening a portal to another location, removing a curse, compelling servants to return it to its rightful owner, and so on. In a variant of this quest, the characters can be charged with returning an object to a location rather than seeking one.

3. Rescue Someone

In this common quest, the characters are sent to a location in order to rescue someone-a captured spy, a wayward prince, a missing child, and so forth. In a variant of this quest, the characters must escort someone to a location, defending them every step of the way.

4. Kill the Lieutenants

In this variant of the "Kill the Boss" quest, the characters hunt down multiple sub-bosses or lieutenants, either eliminating, capturing, or converting them as the story demands. Each of these lieutenants might reside in different parts of a single location (a dungeon, a headquarters, and so forth) or at multiple locations across the land. Dealing with an appropriate number of lieutenants might lead to a final "Kill the Boss" quest.

5. Destroy Something

With this variant of the "Find Something" quest, the characters enter a hostile location to destroy a particular object-an ancient evil obelisk, the catalyst of a dark ritual, a weapon of great power, and so forth.

6. Steal Something

The characters have to obtain an object from a location where the challenge is more about intrigue than the dangers of a "Find Something" quest. Players must first plan their approach, then engage in the heist. Stealth and subterfuge are often required, and you should be ready to let the characters "fail forward" so that a single bad ability check doesn't ruin the entire plan. Likewise, the location should have multiple entry and exit paths such as sewers and rooftops in addition to a main entrance.

7. Clear the Dangers

In this simple quest template, the characters enter a hostile location and clear it of any dangers. A dwarf clan might need their ancestral mines emptied of monsters, a local lord might want to take over a haunted keep, and so forth. This quest focuses on the characters exploring an entire location to ensure that the danger has been dealt with, as opposed to taking on just a single known foe.

8. Collect the Keys

This quest template works for both small adventures and large campaigns, and sees the characters hunting for a number of keys before another group can get them first. This quest works best if it requires a majority of keys instead of all the keys. That way, no one side can thwart the other by possessing only one key. A setup where the characters search for three of five keys, four of seven keys, or five of nine keys works well. These keys might be hidden in a single dungeon for a small adventure, or spread across the entire multiverse for a huge campaign.

9. Defend a Location

The characters must defend a location from oncoming enemies. As with the "Steal Something" quest, the players will spend time preparing for the quest, shoring up their defenses and perhaps positioning NPC groups to handle parts of the defense under their direction. Though it's tempting to run this sort of scenario as a large-scale mass battle, that kind of combat is best handled "off-screen" while you focus the spotlight on the characters and their individual roles in the defense.

10. End the Ritual

In this quest template, the characters must end an ongoing ritual. Doing so usually requires the disruption of multiple components, such as destroying glyph-marked pillars or corrupting magic pools. Suitable rituals might include those dedicated to opening or closing a gate, summoning a fiend, resurrecting a dead god, and so forth. In a variant of this quest template, the characters must defend those performing a ritual against other forces that seek to stop it.

Tools for 5e Improvisation

Difficulty Checks

For any given task or challenge, ask yourself how hard it is to accomplish. Then assign a DC from 10 (easy) to 20 (very hard). If a task is trivial, don't bother asking for a roll. Rather, the characters automatically succeed. Likewise, reserve DCs above 20 for superhuman challenges.

Improvised Damage

Decide on a challenge rating (CR) for the source of the damage, from CR 1 (low challenge) to CR 20 (very high challenge). Then roll a number of damage dice of a particular kind, as follows:

This challenge rating can be thought of as roughly equivalent to the average level of a group of characters. However, don't automatically choose a challenge rating based on the level of the characters. Rather, the level of the challenge might be higher or lower than the characters, depending on the situation.

Improvised Statistics

Whenever you need to improvise Armor Class, attack modifiers, saving throw DCs, or other combat statistics for a creature, trap, object, or obstacle, use the following guidelines based on its challenge rating:

When improvising statistics for traps and other objects that deal damage and can be attacked to destroy them, estimate the object's CR by comparing it to various creatures that produce the same sorts of effects in combat.

Other Improv Tricks

The following tricks can also help make it easier for you to improvise during your game:

Deadly Encounter Benchmark

Choose monsters that make sense for the location, the situation, and the story. Don't worry about whether an encounter is "balanced" — except to determine if it might be deadly. An encounter might be deadly if the total of all the monsters' challenge ratings is greater than one quarter of the total of all the characters' levels, or one half of the characters' levels if the characters are 5th level or higher.

If an encounter might be deadly, warn the players — and make sure the characters have a chance to escape. A more detailed version of the benchmark can be found in Lazy Combat Encounter Building for 5e later in this document.

Running Hordes

When running large numbers of creatures, instead of rolling independent attack rolls or saving throws, assume that one-quarter of those rolls succeed. Increase or decrease that number depending on the situation (for example, if many creatures in the horde have advantage or disadvantage). Additionally, instead of tracking individual hit points for a horde, you can tally the damage done to the entire horde when any of its creatures are hit. Every time the tally becomes equal to or higher than the hit points of any individual creature in the horde, remove a creature from the horde and reset the tally. Round monster hit points to the nearest 5 or 10 to make things easier. A more detailed version of these guidelines can be found in "Running Hordes" later in this document.


You can never have enough names on hand while improvising your game. Here are a few you can use whenever an NPC, location, business, or other part of your game needs a name.

First Names: Shum, Agtos, Edbert, Josiane, Olaugh, Rosaline, Pearson, Boyle, Typhon, Satyros, Ronald, Brice, Wilford, Circe, Surbag, Kayla, Latona, Cecily, Shuzug, Moth, Dolly, Minerva, Prutha, Esmour, Tristan, Lake, Stewart, Hebub, Lanos, Ingram, Orvist, Daud, Metope

Last Names/Organization Names: Lionstone, Treeson, Oakhelm, Gentleheart, Whitesong, Starharp, Nightchaser, Shadowstinger, Catclaw, Faeriebound, Leafwing, Goldrock, Darkslicer, Gravewalker, Rainbright, Needleflinger, Goosechaser, Steelclaw, Scalerazor, Glasscutter, Ironhouse, Eboncloud. More names can be found in the "NPC Generator" section later in this document.

Quick Tricks for Lazier 5e Games

Start with Inspiration

Award inspiration to each character at the beginning of a session. This takes some of the weight off of needing to remember to reward inspiration during the game. You can still award it again during the game if players have used it.

Use Index Cards for Initiative

Index cards can be used to track initiative in two potential ways. First, fold them over into "table tents" and number them from 1 to 9. Then hand them out to the players in the order of their characters' initiative. Alternatively, write the characters' names on one side of the card and put character info useful for you on the other. Fold them over the top of your GM screen, then set them out in initiative order each time combat begins.

Average Handfuls of Dice

You can reduce the size of huge handfuls of dice by removing pairs of dice from the pile and adding their average as a static number. For every two dice you remove, just add the maximum value on a single die plus one to the static bonus. So 2d4 becomes 5, 2d6 becomes 7, 2d8 becomes 9, 2d10 becomes 11, and 2d12 becomes 13. This way, rolling 8d6 can instead become 2d6 + 21 or 8d8 can become 2d8 + 27.

Use Passive Scores

Continually calling for checks in the middle of the narrative can disrupt the flow of the story. Instead, keep the characters' passive Perception, passive Insight, and passive Investigation scores in front of you on a cheat sheet or on index cards. Then use those passive scores to describe what the characters see or experience while exploring the scene.

Campsite Stories

During rests, ask the players to tell a story of their character or describe how their character feels about what's been going on in the campaign. This can help players dig into their characters' thoughts and expose those thoughts to you and the other players. Players might want to describe their characters' conversations while on watch in the same manner.

Passive Monster Initiative

For simple battles, use a passive initiative score for monsters, equal to 10 plus the monster's Dexterity bonus. This typically puts monsters in the middle of the initiative order, rather than risking them being too high or too low.

Stars and Wishes

Every few games, take time to ask each player for their "stars and wishes" — a concept described on the Gauntlet RPG blog. Ask each player two questions:

The answers to these questions can help you understand exactly what your players are getting from the game, and can give you ideas for how the game might unfold in the future.

Offer Cinematic Advantage

Throughout the game, offer players advantage on checks or attacks if they're willing to undertake high-action moves. For example, a character might leap up and swing from a chandelier to stab at a foe down below. Call for an ability check, granting advantage on the character's next attack with a successful check. But on a failed check, the character's move goes awry and they fall. Most characters will focus on moves that use ability checks they're good at, making success more likely than failure. A slight chance of failure can make winning advantage feel that much sweeter, but keep failure conditions fairly minor so that going for cinematic advantage doesn't seem too risky to the players.

Other Quick Tricks

The following tricks make excellent additions to every GM's toolbox:

Wilderness Travel and Exploration

This section offers a systematic approach for handling travel through wild lands filled with potential dangers, and can be used with both point crawls (see the previous page) or hex crawls.

As the characters travel overland, they undertake specific activities related to the journey. Select appropriate DCs for those activities, with checks usually ranging between DC 10 (easy) and DC 20 (very hard). A default of DC 12 is usually a good choice.

Character Roles

When the characters choose to travel through the wilderness, each player chooses a role for their character to take on. If two characters feel like good choices for a particular role, one character can use the Help action to assist the other, granting advantage on the check.


Applicable Skills: Nature, Survival

A trailhand ensures that the party follows the right path to reach an intended destination, masterfully navigating the natural or constructed paths that crisscross the wilds. With a successful check, the characters stay on the correct paths. On a failure, they might become lost, stumbling into a hostile area or losing resources. Characters might also be subject to exhaustion as they try to make their way back to the correct path, or might find it difficult to take a short or long rest until they do.


Applicable Skills: Insight, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Survival

A scout keeps an eye out for potentially hostile creatures during the characters' journey. These might be creatures stalking the characters, creatures that have earlier crossed the characters' path, or creatures that are traveling in the same direction and overtake the party. With a successful check, the characters spot the potentially hostile creatures and can plan their response. On a failure, the scout might unknowingly lead the party into a hostile encounter or an ambush.


Applicable Skills: Medicine, Survival

A quartermaster ensures that the characters remain well fed and hydrated during their journey. They ensure that provisions remain unspoiled, and help forage for additional resources along the way. Shorter journeys might not require a character to take on this role.

With a successful check, the characters have plenty of food and water for the journey, with provisions remaining unspoiled. On a failure, the characters might lose precious resources of food and water (potentially leading to exhaustion), or need to spend additional time searching for resources.

Group Stealth

If the characters decide to move stealthily through the wilderness, doing so doubles the length of their travel time and might impose disadvantage on other checks at your discretion. To move stealthily through the wilderness, the characters make a group Dexterity (Stealth) check and compare that result to the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any potentially hostile creatures that might spot or hear them.

Creating the Wilderness

When an adventure sees the characters trekking across the wilds, use the following steps to create an adventure framework for that wilderness journey. You can use random tables to generate locations for wilderness journeys, including encounter ideas and suggestions for landmarks.

Determine the Weather

Choose or randomly select potential weather for the characters' journey. Weather mostly adds to the in-world atmosphere, but harsh weather can change the DCs of the characters' activities as they travel if you wish.

Determine Potential Encounters

As the characters travel through the wilderness, choose or randomly select potential encounters. These might be face-to-face encounters with denizens of the wilderness, but not all such encounters need to be hostile. The characters could run into friendly travelers, fearful monsters, weak foes, or signs of a previous battle. Likewise, they might spot the tracks of creatures recently passed by, or that are heading in the party's direction.

Place Notable Landmarks

Use notable landmarks to mark key points along the characters' journey. Such landmarks can serve as a backdrop for random encounters or as places to rest. They might also serve as a source of secrets and clues that the characters can discover.

5e Quick Encounter Building

When building encounters, start by choosing the type and number of monsters that make sense for the situation. Then use the following guidelines to compare the challenge rating of the monsters, the level of the characters, and the ratio of monsters to characters. If the quantity of monsters or their challenge rating is beyond the indicated guidelines, the encounter might be deadly. Be especially careful with potentially deadly encounters when the characters are 1st level.

For Characters of 1st Level

For Characters of 2nd to 4th Level

For characters of 5th to 20th Level

Finally, tune encounters by adjusting the number of monsters, increasing or decreasing hit points, or making named or unique monsters more powerful.

Hit Points: Standard monster hit points are an average of the monster's HD range. You can increase or decrease hit points within that range to model particularly weak or particularly strong monsters. To make a fight easier, you can also treat monsters as "instant minions," ignoring their usual hit points and letting a single attack kill them. Having a few enemies die quickly can turn the tide in favor of the characters and keep a battle from feeling stale.

Named Monsters: Adding an extra attack or maximizing damage can make a named monster or unique foe more challenging. Named monsters can also be given legendary actions or the Legendary Resistance feature to make the fight more interesting.

Lazy Combat Encounter Building for 5e

This section helps you build and improvise dynamic combat encounters based on the fiction of the game.

Start with the Story

Good combat encounters begin with the story. Instead of building combat encounters as fixed components of the game, let combat encounters evolve naturally from the story taking place at the table.

Begin by asking the following question: What monsters make sense given the current location and situation? Then let that question guide you in the creation of a list of monsters and NPCs that might show up at a given location, and in what quantity.

Instead of predefining scenes as combat, roleplaying, or exploration, let the characters' approach determine what happens. Maybe they fight the guards at the gatehouse. Maybe they sneak past. Maybe they try to play the part of hired mercenaries. But let whatever happens come from the choices of the players.

Average Character Hit Points

Gauging the level of challenge in an encounter often comes down to comparing the amount of damage a monster can deal to the hit points of the characters. Hit points vary widely between classes, but you can use the following formula to estimate an average character's hit points at a given level: (Level × 7) + 3.

By giving you a rough estimation of how tough characters of a given level are, this formula can help you gauge how dangerous a specific monster will be, as well as judging the potential deadliness of traps, hazards, and other effects that deal damage.

Potential Deadliness

Assuming that your chosen monsters aren't dealing damage that easily overwhelms the characters' hit points, you can usually not worry about an encounter's difficulty — unless the encounter is potentially deadly. You can gauge an encounter's potential deadliness with the following benchmark:

An encounter might be deadly if the total of all the monsters' challenge ratings is greater than one quarter of the total of all the characters' levels, or one half of their levels if the characters are 5th level or higher.

To use this benchmark for characters of 1st through 4th level, add up the challenge ratings of all monsters in the encounter. Then add up the levels of all of the characters and divide that number by 4. If the challenge level summation is greater than the sum of character levels divided by 4, the encounter might be deadly. If the characters are above 5th level, use the same process but divide the total character levels by 2 instead of 4.

Each time the characters gain a new level, calculate this deadly benchmark score and jot it down in your preparation notes so you have it on hand. If you find that the characters in your game often have an easy time with potentially deadly encounters, treat the characters as though they are one or more levels higher. This will raise the benchmark at which an encounter might become deadly, making the calculation more accurate.

This baseline assumes multiple monsters. A single monster may be deadly if it's challenge rating is equal to the average level of the characters or 1.5× the average level of the characters if they're above 5th level.

Character Capabilities Vary

No chart, table, or equation works perfectly to judge encounter balance at any given level, because no such system can take into account the wide range of options that can affect combat. Any individual character's effective power in a fight can go well beyond what's expected for their given level, especially at higher levels. And other factors that can affect a character's power might include any of the following:

So use the benchmarks for determining whether an encounter might be deadly as a starting point. Then trust that you'll be better able to gauge what your characters can handle in combat the more you see them in action during the game.

Scaling for Higher Levels

As characters reach 11th level and higher, the deadly encounter benchmark becomes less useful for accurately representing a deadly encounter. Depending on the capabilities of those higher-level characters, monsters might pose even less of a threat than their challenge rating denotes. As such, you can further adjust the deadly encounter benchmark to account for this power with the following optional guideline:

At 11th level and higher, an encounter might be deadly if the total of all the monsters' challenge ratings is greater than three quarters of the total of all the characters' levels, or if it is equal to the total of their levels if the characters are 17th level or higher.

This sets up encounters of a much greater challenge than the baseline benchmark, but it might work more accurately for higher-powered characters.

The following table summarizes the Lazy Encounter Benchmark for three, four, five, or six 1st to 20th level characters. It includes the total monster CR for a potentially deadly encounter and the maximum CR for any single creature in a battle. At 11th level and above, it includes the lower and higher benchmarks described above.

Lazy Encounter Benchmark for Potentially Deadly Encounters
Char Lvl / Num Chars 3 4 5 6 Max Single Monster CR
1 1 1 1 2 0.5
2 2 2 3 3 2
3 2 3 4 5 3
4 3 4 5 6 4
5 8 10 13 15 8
6 9 12 15 18 9
7 11 14 18 21 11
8 12 16 20 24 12
9 14 18 23 27 14
10 15 20 25 30 15
11 17-25 22-33 28-41 33-50 17
12 18-27 24-36 30-45 36-54 18
13 20-29 26-39 33-49 39-59 20
14 21-32 28-42 35-53 42-63 21
15 23-34 30-45 38-56 45-68 23
16 24-36 32-48 40-60 48-72 24
17 26-51 34-68 43-85 51-102 26
18 27-54 36-72 45-90 54-108 27
19 29-57 38-76 48-95 57-114 29
20 30-60 40-80 50-100 60-120 30

Theater of the Mind Guidelines (Extended)

The following guidelines can help Gamemasters run combat in the "theater of the mind," without the need for a gridded battle map or miniatures. This style of combat takes the emphasis away from tactical features such as distance, range, and the specific size of areas of effect. Instead, it focuses on the in-game action, the intent of the characters, and what happens in the story.

This style of combat works just like any other scene in your game. On each player's turn, you describe the current situation, the players describe their intent, and you adjudicate what happens as a result.

Theater-of-the-mind combat requires that the players trust you as the Gamemaster, knowing that you'll describe the situation and adjudicate the results of the characters' actions fairly. As the GM, you'll earn this trust by favoring the players whenever possible, and by focusing on sharing an action-packed story.

Running theater-of-the-mind combat removes agency from the players. It takes away their ability to control every aspect of how their characters move and what they do. As the GM, you can mitigate this by asking each player for their intent each turn, then helping them meet that intent. For example, a player who says "I move close to the orcs" potentially leaves too many possibilities open. So encourage the player to focus their intent more — perhaps along the lines of, "I want to position myself so that at least two orcs are within the reach of my glaive."

When playing in the theater of the mind, both you and the players must worry less about the mechanical details of the game. Instead, everyone will focus on the action and the story.

Summary Guidelines for the GM

Summary Guidelines for Players

Movement, Distance, and Range

At the beginning of combat, you describe the situation, features, distances, and arrangements of the creatures in the area. Assuming a moderately sized combat area, any creature can generally move within 5 feet of any other creature, and every creature is within range of every other creature making ranged attacks. You'll make it clear whenever this isn't true, such as when an enemy is farther away or behind a front line of protective allies.

Characters with fast movement might have opportunities to move places other characters can't.

Positioning, Opportunity Attacks, and Cover

On each player's turn, they describe how they intend to position themselves. Examples of movement in the theater of the mind might include moving next to an ally, moving next to two enemies, or staying out of reach while attacking with a polearm.

If a creature is within an enemy's reach, it will likely provoke an opportunity attack if it tries to move away from that enemy. Creatures able to disengage can do so and avoid opportunity attacks.

As you describe the features of the area, make a note of which ones can provide cover to the characters or their enemies, and how much cover.

Areas of Effect

The following guidelines offer a rough baseline for determining the number of targets that fall within an area of effect. The circumstances of a battle can increase or decrease this number. For example, for larger monsters or monsters that are more spread out, an area of effect might target only half the normal number of creatures. For smaller monsters or monsters that are packed close together, an area of effect might include up to double the normal number of targets.

Abilities like the evoker's Sculpt Spells feature can increase the number of affected enemies, usually by one or two. Likewise, an area of effect that targets both the characters and their enemies might affect more total targets — including an effect created by a character or monster willing to put allies in harm's way. If a spellcaster character wishes to place allies within an area of effect, you and the players should negotiate this before the spell is cast.

Locations, Features, Environment, and Terrain

When first describing the combat encounter, describe notable locations, objects, environmental features, and terrain features. Write these down and keep them in front of the players if it helps them visualize the battlefield. Let the players know that they can interact with these environmental features, through such actions as swinging from magical chandeliers, climbing up obsidian cliffs to advantageous positions, or hiding behind ruined statues. If any feature or effect creates difficult terrain, let the players know how this might affect them, such as requiring that they use the Dash action to get out of the area.

Randomly Selected Targets

Avoid biases — whether perceived or actual — by randomly selecting targets when it isn't clear which character a monster would attack. Rolling randomly for targets in the open can help build trust between you and the players, letting them know that the GM isn't picking on anyone. Monsters aren't idiots, though. If it's clear that a monster would attack a particular character, such as a wizard concentrating on a dangerous spell, the monster will do so. When this happens, just describe why the monster chose that particular character, so the players understand.

Physical Traits and Identifying Enemies

Ask each player to describe the physical traits of a monster their character is attacking. This helps identify the monster, opens up all the players' imaginations to the battle, and helps everyone know which monster is which using in-story descriptions. Write these physical traits down on a 3×5 index card or on a dry-erase flip mat so everyone can see which monsters are in play.

Going Big with Descriptions

Theater-of-the-mind combat can go stale if you don't continually reinforce the story of what's happening. Go big with your descriptions of the location and the action. Ask players to describe their attacks and killing blows. Between turns, describe the current situation using in-story language. These descriptions are vital to keeping the scene interesting.

Theater of the Mind Guidelines (Abbreviated)

This section offers abbreviated guidelines for running "theater of the mind" combat — no maps or miniatures, making use only of narrative and your players' imaginations. Share these guidelines with your players so that everyone has a common understanding of how this style of playing out combat works at the table.

Core Principles

Round-by-round combat played in the theater-of-the-mind style is built around three core principles:

Common Understandings

A GM running a theater-of-the-mind game should keep the following points in mind:

Player Advice

Players in a theater-of-the-mind game should keep the following points in mind:

GM Advice

A GM running a theater-of-the-mind game should keep the following points in mind:

One Tool of Many

Add theater of the mind to your collection of ways to run combat, including abstract maps, zone-based combat (described later in this document), gridded combat, or 3D terrain. Choose the right style of combat for the pace and complexity of the scene. Keep each approach as a tool in your GM's toolbox to help you share exciting tales of action and high adventure.

Zone-Based Combat

Zone-based combat can help GMs run fast, dynamic, and high-action combat without worrying about all the details of tactical combat played out on a grid. It supports multiple combat styles, including pure narrative theater-of-the-mind combat, quickly drawn abstract sketches, or miniatures used with detailed maps or 3D terrain. Using zone-based combat means you have to worry less about the details of a 5-foot-per-square grid and can focus more on big heroic action. Zone-based combat simply requires that the GM and the players work together with the shared goal of creating fantastic stories of high adventure.

Zone Rules

The following guidelines establish the broad strokes of zone-based combat:

Areas of Effect in Zones

Many spells and features have areas of effect. GMs can use the following guidelines to adjudicate which targets are hit by such effects. These guidelines break out general descriptions of the size of an area of effect, how many creatures are typically affected in that area using zone-based combat, and examples of common spells and class features that use that size:

GMs can adjudicate and adjust these numbers based on the current situation. For example, an area containing a horde of monsters might double the potential number of monsters affected. Whatever the circumstances, though, a GM should always adjudicate in favor of the characters.

Handling Edge Cases

Zone-based combat doesn't account for a wide range of features that make use of specific distances. In those cases, it's up to the GM to work with a player's intent to help them make use of those features. In all cases, the GM should ask what the player wants to do, then help them figure out how to do it.

Monster Difficulty Dials

Balancing combat encounters is notoriously difficult. Different groups of characters can bring very different capabilities to each battle, even at the same level. However, because monsters as they are typically presented are the average of their type, you can adjust the averages to subtly or dramatically change the difficulty of a given monster or group of monsters. By turning these "difficulty dials" for monsters, you can easily shift the tone of combat even in the middle of a battle.

"Hit Point" Dial

Hit points given for monsters are the average of their Hit Dice. This means you can adjust hit points within the minimum and maximum of a monster's Hit Dice formula based on the individual story for that particular monster, the current pacing of the battle, or both.

For example, an average ogre has 59 hit points from 7d10 + 21 Hit Dice. This means a weak ogre might have as few as 28 hit points, while a particularly strong ogre might have 91. This lets you easily set up fights in which minion ogres might have fewer hit points while boss ogres have more. (As an even lazier rule of thumb, you can halve or double a monster's average hit points to give you a weaker or stronger version of that monster.)

You can turn this dial before a battle begins or even during the battle itself. If a battle drags, reduce the hit points of a monster to get it out of the fight earlier. If a battle feels like it will be over too quickly, increase the monster's hit points to make it hold up longer. Start with average hit points, and then turn the hit point dial one way or the other whenever doing so can make the game more fun.

"Number of Monsters" Dial

The "number of monsters in a battle" dial alters combat challenge the most dramatically of all the dials — but because it's so clearly visible to players, this dial is also sometimes difficult to change during a fight.

If circumstances allow for it, some monsters might flee or automatically fall depending on the events of a fight. Undead might break if their necromancer master is killed, and many intelligent creatures will flee a fight they can't win. Other times, more monsters might enter the fray in a second wave if the first wave isn't standing up to the characters.

When developing a combat encounter in which you think you might turn this dial, consider beforehand how monsters might leave the battle or how other monsters might join the fight as reinforcements in a realistic way.

"Damage" Dial

Increasing the amount of damage a monster deals on each attack increases the monster's threat and can make a dull fight more fun. In the same way, decreasing monster damage can help prevent a fight from becoming overwhelming if the characters are having trouble.

The static damage value noted in a monster's stat block represents the average of the damage formula for the monster's attack. If you use average damage, you can adjust the damage based on that formula. For example, an ogre deals 13 (2d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage with their greatclub attack, so you can set this damage at anywhere from 6 to 20 and still be within the range of what you might roll.

If you're a GM who rolls for damage, you can also turn the damage dial up by adding one or more additional damage dice. If you like, you can have an in-game reason for this increase. Perhaps an ogre sets its club on fire to deal an additional 4 (1d8) or 7 (2d6) fire damage. Or a particularly dangerous vampire with an unholy sword might deal an extra 27 (6d8) necrotic damage if you so choose. Adding these kinds of effects to a monster's attack is an excellent way of increasing a monster's threat in a way the players can clearly understand — and it has no upper limit.

"Number of Attacks" Dial

Increasing or decreasing the number of attacks a monster makes has a larger effect on its threat than increasing its damage. You can increase a monster's number of attacks if it's badly threatened by the characters, just as you can reduce its attacks if the characters are having an easy time. An angry ogre left alone after its friends have fallen to the heroes might start swinging its club twice per Attack action instead of just once. Single creatures facing an entire party of adventurers often benefit from increasing their number of attacks.

Mix and Match

You can turn any or all of these dials to tune a combat encounter and bring the most excitement to your game. Don't turn the dials just to make every battle harder, though. Sometimes cutting through great swaths of easy monsters is exactly the sort of situation players love.

Turning several dials together can change combat dramatically, helping to keep things feeling fresh. For example, a group of starving ogres might be weakened (lowering the hit point dial) but also frenzied in combat (turning up the attack dial). By adjusting these dials when designing encounters and during your game, you can keep the pacing of combat exciting and fun.

Monster Templates

The following monster templates can help you customize existing monsters into new unique variants that can fit a variety of locations and circumstances. With just a few templates in hand, your core monster books can become much more useful.

Challenge Rating Increase?

The challenge ratings described in these templates are loose guides, so use your best judgment with them. Apply these templates only when you have a good handle on your characters' capabilities, and be prepared to tune your new monsters accordingly.

Elemental Monsters

Apply this template to any monster to make an elemental version of that monster. Choose from or roll on the following table to determine the type of elemental template you want to apply:

d8 Elemental Template d8 Elemental Template
1 Fire 5 Poison
2 Cold 6 Necrotic
3 Lighting 7 Radiant
4 Acid 8 Thunder

Then choose one or more of the following traits to customize your monster, making use of the damage type determined by the elemental template:

The amount of damage and the size of a templated creature's elemental aura is determined by the base creature's challenge rating. The damage noted is the same for both attacks and the creature's aura.

CR Damage Aura Size
0-1 3 (1d6) 5 feet
2-5 7 (2d6) 10 feet
6-10 10 (3d6) 15 feet
11-15 14 (4d6) 20 feet
16+ 21 (6d6) 25 feet

This elemental template increases a monster's challenge rating by 1 or 2.

Dire Monsters

Dire monsters are particularly large and dangerous versions of typical monsters, and can be created using the following guidelines:

Fiendish Monsters

Infernal or abyssal variants of existing monsters are endlessly spawned across the Lower Planes. This template can turn any monster into a fiendish variant:

Spell-Infused Monsters

Some monsters can innately cast magical spells. Spell-infused monsters typically have a spell attack bonus of 3 + one-half the monster's challenge rating, and a spell save DC of 12 + one-half the monster's challenge rating (rounded down in both cases).

Spell-infused creatures do not require components to cast their spells. They typically use each of their spells once, recovering the ability to do so when they finish a long rest. Roll for or choose from the table to determine which spells a creature can use. Spells that deal high damage can affect a creature's challenge rating.

d20 Spell d20 Spell
1 Burning hands 11 Invisibility
2 Magic missile 12 Misty step
3 Disguise self 13 Scorching ray
4 Fog cloud 14 Shatter
5 Shield 15 Spirit guardians
6 Inflict wounds 16 Dispel magic
7 Faerie fire 17 Fly
8 Thunderwave 18 Gaseous form
9 Blur 19 Lightning bolt
10 Darkness 20 Fireball

Undead Templates

Death comes to all things, but not even death can keep a good monster down. You can easily create an undead variant of any monster simply by giving it the undead type and describing its undead appearance, letting the narrative feed the players' impression of fighting undead without requiring any mechanical changes. But for even more realistic undead, you can use any of the following templates to give a monster some of the properties and attributes of a specific type of undead creature.

Undead Templates

All creatures that take on one of these templates gain the following universal changes:

Then apply the traits and actions of any of the following specific templates.






Vampire Spawn

Powerful Undead Templates

To build variants of creatures modeled after more powerful undead, use the undead creature's stat block and add traits from the base creature. It's easier to apply the traits and actions of a stone giant to a lich or vampire stat block than it is to apply lich or vampire traits to a stone giant stat block.

Ability Modifications

Ability score modifications to undead creatures aren't covered in these templates. For example, skeletons might have reductions to Dexterity and Charisma, and vampire spawn might have boosted Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution scores. Most of the time, you can safely skip such changes, simply improvising adjustments to the baseline abilities of the monster when needed.

Running Hordes

This section helps you more easily run battles in which the characters face large numbers of monsters.

To accommodate running horde combat, we change the rules for running monsters in two ways: adjusting how we track damage done to monsters in a horde, and how we adjudicate attack rolls and saving throws for the horde. You can use these approaches individually or together when running large numbers of monsters.

Pooling Damage

Pooling damage means that instead of tracking the damage dealt to individual monsters, you track damage dealt to the horde as a whole. Add up the damage of each attack, regardless of which monster in the horde is hit. Then every time the total of damage taken is higher than the hit points of a single monster in the horde, remove the last monster hit and reset the damage dealt to zero.

If enough damage is dealt with a single attack to kill multiple monsters, remove that number of monsters, subtracting their hit points from the damage dealt until there isn't enough damage remaining to kill another monster.

To make this math even easier, you can round each monster's hit points to the nearest 5 or 10.

If the horde is hit by a damage-dealing area effect (including spells), remove any creatures that took damage equal to or greater than their hit points after determining their saving throw results. If the damage isn't enough to kill a single monster, tally up the total damage done and remove monsters one at a time, subtracting their hit points from the damage until all damage is accounted for.

For even easier adjudication, you can simply remove any monsters that fail their saving throws, without worrying about their hit points.

Determine Targets

The circumstances of the encounter dictate how many members of the horde can attack the characters. Unless the circumstances dictate otherwise, assume the horde evenly spreads its attacks across all characters. If certain characters step ahead of the rest of the party or block choke points that prevent the horde from reaching other characters, you can redirect the horde's attacks to the characters stepping forward.

Adjudicating Attacks and Saving Throws

Whenever rolling individual attacks or saving throws would be a burden, assume that one quarter of attacks or saving throws rolled by the horde succeed. Round up or down depending on the circumstances, such as when determining how many attacks succeed against characters with wildly different ACs.

If all the creatures in a horde have advantage on an attack or saving throw, increase the number of successful attacks or saving throws to one half. If the horde has disadvantage, reduce the number to one in ten.

If any member of the horde is affected by an effect that leaves them incapacitated, remove them from play.

If you prefer to roll dice, roll twice when a group of monsters all make attacks or saving throws. On each success, one quarter of the monster attacks or saving throws succeed. If both rolls fail, no attacks or saving throws succeed.

Adjudicating Areas of Effect

Adjudicate the number of creatures caught up in an area of effect based on the circumstances, but leaning toward more creatures rather than fewer. You can use the following as a baseline for the number of tightly packed creatures in a horde that are affected in a given area:

Tips and Tricks

Stress Effects

The guidelines in this section replace the madness rules found in other books. The concept of "madness" has long been used to malign and marginalize complex psychological symptoms and the individuals coping with them.

This new approach works with explicitly supernatural hindrances to break away from those stereotypes.

These effects represent dire reactions to a character witnessing something so alien and horrific that it has a lasting effect. You can use these descriptions to replace the more general frightened, stunned, or incapacitated conditions as desired.

When amplifying a sense of stress or horror in a game, ensure that you have the players' permission ahead of time and that proper safety tools (referenced earlier in this document) are in place.

Using Stress Effects

Some things are beyond the ability of the mortal mind to comprehend. When witnessing alien or horrific entities, locations, and events, even the most powerful heroes might find their ability to process what unfolds around them shut down, forcing them to make a stress check. Such a check might be warranted by any of the following situations:

Stress Results

Whenever a character witnesses a potential stress event, you can ask for a Charisma saving throw with a DC based on the severity of the event, from DC 10 (easy) to DC 20 (hard). On a failed save, the character suffers a roleplaying effect from the Stress Effects list. Make sure you review the effects on the table during session zero to ensure they don't cross any players' lines of comfort.

1d20 Stress Results

  1. You slip into a mental vision of a restful place.
  2. You whisper in a tongue no mortal understands.
  3. Blood flows from your eyes.
  4. You collapse as you lose all strength.
  5. A screaming whine fills your hearing.
  6. Your heart seems to stop in your chest.
  7. The faces of your friends hideously contort.
  8. Your heartbeat hammers in your ears.
  9. You hear strange, discordant music.
  10. You fall asleep and dream of darkness.
  11. A terrible memory of your past comes to mind.
  12. Physical pain and burning wracks your body.
  13. You find yourself unable to move or speak.
  14. Unbound shadows seem to crawl toward you.
  15. You hear the echoing sound of children crying.
  16. You lose control of your bodily functions.
  17. Your vision fills with twisted geometric shapes.
  18. You hear the whispers of an otherworldly being.
  19. You scream as blood flows from your mouth.
  20. You feel as though all your bones begin to crack.

You determine how long the effect lasts and can add mechanical hindrances inspired by the effect at your discretion. Alternatively, you can add the following mechanical effect:

On a failed save, the character becomes stunned for 1 minute. The character can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of their turns and whenever they take damage, ending the effect on themself on a success. If the character's saving throw is successful or if the effect ends for it, the character is immune to this effect for the next 24 hours. A character can also choose to break this effect at the start of their turn by taking 4 (1d8) psychic damage per two character levels. A lesser restoration or equivalent effect likewise negates a stress effect.

(You can also apply this mechanism for breaking an effect by taking psychic damage to characters who are frightened, stunned, or incapacitated.)

Long-Term Effects

GMs and players can work together to determine whether stress effects have longer-term ramifications. Any such long-term results should reflect not just the character and the situation, but also the players' desires.

Be mindful to avoid terms such as "madness" or "crazy" to describe the long-term effects of stressful encounters. Consider instead the otherworldly nature of the situation and effect, and focus on how the character might respond to such a stressful experience.

Special thanks to Dr. Megan Connell and Dr. Michael Mallen for their feedback on this section.

Core Adventure Generators

The tables in this section can help you generate a core fantasy adventure based on the traditional concept of getting hired by a patron or other NPC to take on a quest in a specific location. Often these adventures take place in small settlements surrounded by ancient ruins and monstrous lairs on the edge of civilization.

Use these tables together to generate and inspire full adventures, or use individual tables to fill in the details of other adventures you create or play. This generator (and specifically, the Dungeon Monsters table and the Treasure table) is set up for characters of 1st to 4th level, but can be easily modified for higher-level adventures.

Patrons and NPCs

Use these tables to generate a patron or NPC for your adventure, applying an NPC stat block to create villains, hirelings, rivals, or heralds.

d20 Behavior Ancestry
1 Enthusiastic Human
2 Flighty Elf
3 Shifty Dwarf
4 Optimistic Halfling
5 Paranoid Orc
6 Well spoken Drow
7 Superior Tiefling
8 Haughty Dragonborn
9 Pessimistic Fey
10 Suspicious Goblin
11 Worried Construct
12 Greedy Celestial
13 Brave Ghost
14 Stern Wizard's familiar
15 Sly Talking animal
16 Wise Avian
17 Reserved Lizardfolk
18 Cheery Catfolk
19 Opportunistic Lycanthrope
20 Soft spoken Artifact


Any quests the characters are asked to fulfill might be distilled down to one of the following starting points.

1d20 Quests

  1. Find an item
  2. Kill a villain
  3. Rescue an NPC
  4. Uncover a secret
  5. Clear out monsters
  6. Protect a monument
  7. Protect an NPC
  8. Steal an item
  9. Return an item
  10. Close a gate
  11. Open a gate
  12. Activate a monument
  13. Disable an artifact
  14. Recover an item
  15. Convince an NPC
  16. Awaken a monster
  17. Put a monster to sleep
  18. Bury a secret
  19. Discover a monument
  20. Dig up an artifact

Locations, Monuments, and Items

The location of the quest might also contain specific monuments or items tied to the adventure's goals.

d20 Location Monument Item
1 Tower Sarcophagus Coin
2 Crypts Obelisk Figurine
3 Keep Orb Gemstone
4 Cairn Bone pile Amulet
5 Giant statue Skull Earring
6 Caves Megalith Bell
7 Sewers Pillars Bone
8 Temple Throne Bowl
9 Mines Statues Candle
10 Mansion Well Ring
11 Academy Orrery Circlet
12 Dungeon Effigy Bracelet
13 Barrow Arcane circle Dagger
14 Vault Spire Goblet
15 Tomb Altar Key
16 Warren Pit Lamp
17 Ship Fountain Brooch
18 Sanctum Archway Skull
19 Cove Cage Mask
20 Castle Brazier Necklace

Condition, Description, and Origin

Locations, monuments, or items can be flavored by determining their condition, description, and origin.

d20 Condition Description Origin
1 Smoky Ruined Human
2 Acidic Decrepit Elven
3 Bloodied Obsidian Dwarven
4 Burning Haunted Halfling
5 Frozen Unholy Gnomish
6 Poisonous Sunken Tiefling
7 Necrotic Forgotten Dragonborn
8 Thunderous Macabre Orc
9 Ringing Ancient Goblinoid
10 Lightning Festering Undead
11 Radiant Monstrous Celestial
12 Shadowed Golden Fey
13 Oozing Spired Elemental
14 Ethereal Towering Giant
15 Whispering Forsaken Fiendish
16 Windswept Gloomy Unseelie
17 Drenched Horrific Aberrant
18 Diseased Colossal Shadow
19 Crystalline Overgrown Ethereal
20 Silvered Shattered Abyssal


Use this list when you need to define the purpose of a chamber in a dungeon, keep, or similar site. Reflavor any chamber to suit the theme of the adventure.

1d20 Chambers

  1. Armory
  2. Prison
  3. Throne room
  4. Crypt
  5. Treasury
  6. Barracks
  7. Monstrous lair
  8. Storeroom
  9. Charnel pit
  10. Museum
  11. Torture chamber
  12. Bedchamber
  13. Gallery
  14. Dining hall
  15. Library
  16. Pantry
  17. Laboratory
  18. Cesspit
  19. Bone yard
  20. Scrying chamber

Dungeon Discoveries

Add useful discoveries such as the following to your adventure, to create upward beats in the characters' story.

1d20 Discoveries

  1. Helpful NPC
  2. Holy fountain
  3. Inspiring statue
  4. Revealing mosaic
  5. Radiant shrine
  6. Friendly spirit
  7. Hidden campsite
  8. Edible mushrooms
  9. Explorer's pack
  10. Spy hole
  11. Adventurer's journal
  12. Escape tunnel
  13. Useful teleporter
  14. Enlightening mural
  15. Healing spring
  16. Wounded enemy
  17. Well-stocked armory
  18. Friendly creature
  19. Useful machinery
  20. Historical library

Dungeon Monsters

You can add monsters and other foes to your adventure by consulting the following list. Roll a d8 for easy monsters, roll a d12 to expand the range into hard monsters, or roll a d20 to also include dangerous monsters. If you decide to use a monster as a boss monster, give it double hit points and let it take an extra action each turn.

For foes such as bandits and cultists, you can also roll for ancestry on the NPC creation lists if those foes having a common origin makes sense for your narrative.

1d20 Monsters

  1. Giant rats
  2. Bandits
  3. Cultists
  4. Acolytes
  5. Stirges
  6. Guards
  7. Skeletons
  8. Oozes
  9. Shadows
  10. Spies
  11. Ghouls
  12. Specters
  13. Cult fanatics
  14. Gelatinous cubes
  15. Ogres
  16. Wererats
  17. Basilisks
  18. Green hags
  19. Hell hounds
  20. Mummies

Traps and Hazards

Add traps as they make sense for the adventure. At 1st through 4th level, traps often have a DC of 13, and deal 7 (2d6) damage for easy traps or 11 (2d10) damage for hard traps.

1d20 Traps and Hazards

  1. Spiked pit
  2. Lightning blasts
  3. Poisoned darts
  4. Swarms of insects
  5. Explosive runes
  6. Radiant pillars
  7. Flame-jet idols
  8. Force beams
  9. Crippling caltrops
  10. Acidic pools
  11. Bear traps
  12. Ghostly haunting
  13. Poisoned gas
  14. Magical instability
  15. Barbed spears
  16. Dense fog
  17. Psychic feedback
  18. Greasy floor
  19. Thick webs
  20. Freezing jets


This list lets you add treasure to the adventure as appropriate. Roll a d10 to determine monetary treasure, or a d20 for monetary and magical treasure.

1d20 Treasures

  1. Coins
  2. Bag of gemstones
  3. Platinum jewelry
  4. Rune-scribed gem
  5. Golden goblet
  6. Ancient tome
  7. Treasure map
  8. Ancient relic
  9. Fantastic art
  10. Jeweled idol
  11. Potion of healing
  12. Other potion
  13. Scroll or spell scroll
  14. Bag of holding
  15. Wondrous item
  16. Wand or rod
  17. Magic light weapon
  18. Magic heavy weapon
  19. Magic ranged weapon
  20. Magic armor


Some commonly discovered relics might grant a single- use spell, while less common magic items might allow their wielder to cast a spell daily. Use the list of common spells below or choose specialized spells to create unique magic item rewards.

1d20 Spells

  1. Magic missile
  2. Burning hands
  3. Shield
  4. Cure wounds
  5. Guiding bolt
  6. Invisibility
  7. Scorching ray
  8. Shatter
  9. Aid
  10. Misty step
  11. Spiritual weapon
  12. Lesser restoration
  13. Daylight
  14. Mass healing word
  15. Revivify
  16. Lightning bolt
  17. Fireball
  18. Dispel magic
  19. Haste
  20. Fly

NPC Generator

NPCs bring our game worlds to life. You can use the generator in this section to quickly build NPCs to drop into your game, rolling on the tables below to generate baseline characteristics. To really bring the NPC to life, you can then model their personality and roleplaying off characters from your favorite books, TV shows, or movies, switching up gender and other traits to make them feel fresh.


Osborne, Halstein, Rycheld, Symond, Sysley, Tansa, Levi, Beneger, Hailey, Jayce, Vesta, Savannah, Avelin, Claudia, Sighard, Timothy, Somerhild, Radolf, Denston, Judithe, Nireus, Sulen, Teukros, Cullive, Arnald, Guinevere, Madison, Stella, Edmund, Goddard, Paul, Gerland, Eupalamos, Sebastian, Anthonette, Lowell, Dauid, Halia, Colton, Bellinda, Roger, Chase, Pulmia, Sadie, Leofwen, Hildegard, Thelexion, Latisha, Raffe, Sydnee, Nicholas, Lausus, Johannes, Derkos, Boyle, Hudson, Meryll, Peter, Godebert, Randwulf, Aegipan, Bryde, Josiah, Sabra, Hilda, Lapithes, Reothine, Jeger, Sybaris, Cared, Clifton, Annabel, Kaylee, Neale, Bayard, Albin, Maronne, Jocelyn, Isemeine, Toril, Aisa, Franny, Turstin, Chulisa, Samantha, Poine, Sanche, Maya, Nicholina, Margry, Drew, Parnell, Taran, Cunovin, Ryan, Caroline, Halisera, Florens, Tantalos, Wynefreede

Brightwhisper, Redspur, Hollyfang, Goosewalker, Goldbane, Ebondazer, Emeraldstorm, Monsterthumb, Goblinchaser, Thornhelm, Lionfall, Swordbuckle, Earthdancer, Graywillow, Cloudlover, Sharpwhisker, Glasscleaver, Macebound, Icebrood, Fireheart, Angelbright, Anvilcloud, Heromaker, Lightblade, Shieldrazor, Whitetail, Spiderhunter, Shadowblood, Doombrissle, Bronzestone, Moongazer, Catfinger, Lawknocker, Rainsoother, Swiftcaller, Mudteeth, Wyrmriver, Dragonknee, Flamestar, Millhand


Use the following table to choose a random ancestry for your NPC.

1d10 Ancestries

  1. Human
  2. Elf
  3. Dwarf
  4. Halfling
  5. Goblin
  6. Kobold
  7. Gnome
  8. Orc
  9. Dragonborn
  10. Tiefling


An NPC's worldview can help determine how they initially react to the characters, adjusted by how the characters approach them. Improvise DCs for social interaction ability checks based on that approach, with checks usually ranging between DC 10 (easy) and DC 20 (very hard). A default of DC 12 is usually a good choice.

1d20 Worldviews

  1. Surly
  2. Friendly
  3. Brash
  4. Elitist
  5. Suspicious
  6. Carefree
  7. Loyal
  8. Opportunistic
  9. Wide-eyed
  10. Humorous
  11. Cautious
  12. Roisterous
  13. Optimistic
  14. Ignorant
  15. Selfless
  16. Brazen
  17. Loving
  18. Ambitious
  19. Greedy
  20. Outgoing

Appearance and Mannerisms

NPCs will often be most easily remembered by the players based on some unique aspect of their appearance or manners.

1d20 Appearances and Mannerisms

  1. Wild hair
  2. Scarred cheek
  3. Body tattoos
  4. Smokes a pipe
  5. Golden teeth
  6. Walks with a limp
  7. Dashing clothes
  8. Picks teeth
  9. Missing eye
  10. Multicolored eyes
  11. Feathered earring
  12. Missing hand
  13. Spits a lot
  14. Shifty eyes
  15. Intense stare
  16. Snorts often
  17. Facial tattoos
  18. Heavy beard
  19. Missing fingers
  20. Half-shaved head


Assign a profession to your NPC to add color to their stat block. The commoner is the default stat block for NPCs of this type.

1d20 Professions

  1. Farmer
  2. Blacksmith
  3. Clerk
  4. Merchant
  5. Apothecary
  6. Bandit
  7. Guide
  8. Entertainer
  9. Guard
  10. Soldier
  11. Acolyte
  12. Sailor
  13. Mercenary
  14. Sage
  15. Noble
  16. Artisan
  17. Priest
  18. Veteran
  19. Knight
  20. Mage

Treasure Generator

Piles of coins, shining gems, and powerful relics hidden away in the depths of the world await adventurers brave enough to seek them. This section offers a simple set of tables and guidelines that let you quickly reward treasure for your fantasy RPG, and which work well alongside the more detailed treasure rules of the game.

Gold Per Level

Use the following gold parcels to quickly reward adventuring groups based on the characters' average level. Reward four such parcels each level, or add parcels together to create larger rewards.

Level Gold per Parcel
1st - 4th 100 gp (3d6 × 10 gp)
5th - 10th 1,300 gp (3d8 × 100 gp)
11th - 16th 7,000 gp (2d6 × 1,000 gp)
17th - 20th 70,000 gp (2d6 × 10,000 gp)

This earned wealth can take the form of coins, gemstones, jewelry, and art objects as desired. You can also adjust the numbers slightly to keep hoards from looking too uniform. For example, you might turn two 1,300 gp parcels into 1,145 gp and 1,422 gp.

Consumable Treasure

As desired, you can augment monetary treasure with consumable magic items from the following table.

1d12 Consumable Treasure

  1. Potion of healing
  2. Potion of greater healing
  3. Oil of slipperiness
  4. Potion of animal friendship
  5. Potion of climbing
  6. Potion of growth
  7. Potion of mind reading
  8. Potion of poison
  9. Potion of resistance
  10. Potion of water breathing
  11. Dust of disappearance
  12. Dust of dryness

Rather than standard consumable items, you can also award powerful single-use magic items generated using the Spells table from the "Core Adventure Generator" included in this document. You can also use the Condition, Description, and Origin table in that section to give an item a unique flavor.

Magical Treasure

Permanent magic items can be included with treasure as desired, with the uncommon items on the following table suitable for characters of all levels. Choose specific weapons and armor that fit the proficiencies and desires of the characters. You can use the Condition, Description, and Origin table from the core adventure generator to give such items additional flavor.

40 Magical Treasures

  1. Weapon +1
  2. Armor +1
  3. Ammunition +1
  4. Amulet of proof against detection and location
  5. Bag of holding
  6. Bag of tricks
  7. Boots of elvenkind
  8. Boots of striding and springing
  9. Boots of the winterlands
  10. Bracers of archery
  11. Brooch of shielding
  12. Broom of flying
  13. Circlet of blasting
  14. Cloak of elvenkind
  15. Cloak of protection
  16. Cloak of the manta ray
  17. Eversmoking bottle
  18. Eyes of charming
  19. Eyes of the eagle
  20. Figurine of wondrous power (silver raven)
  21. Gauntlets of ogre power
  22. Gloves of missile snaring
  23. Gloves of swimming and climbing
  24. Goggles of night
  25. Hat of disguise
  26. Headband of intellect
  27. Helm of comprehending languages
  28. Helm of telepathy
  29. Immovable rod
  30. Javelin of lightning
  31. Lantern of revealing
  32. Medallion of thoughts
  33. Necklace of adaptation
  34. Pearl of power
  35. Ring of mind shielding
  36. Rope of climbing
  37. Slippers of spider climbing
  38. Stone of good luck
  39. Wand of magic missiles
  40. Wand of web

Random Traps

Use these lists to generate simple or complex traps, incorporating multiple features, plus energy damage or conditions.

To generate a simple trap, just roll on the Type list and the Trigger table. For a more dangerous trap, add an effect from the Flavor table to put a unique twist on the damage or impose a debilitating condition. For a really devious trap, you can roll on the Flavor table and Type table twice, combining features into deadly combinations such as 'sleep-inducing bolos and thunderous crushing pillars, triggered by an onyx demon's skull.'

1d20 Flavors

  1. Fiery
  2. Freezing
  3. Necrotic
  4. Poisonous
  5. Acidic
  6. Thunderous
  7. Lightning
  8. Forceful
  9. Diseased
  10. Stunning
  11. Blinding
  12. Deafening
  13. Weakening
  14. Draining
  15. Sleep-inducing
  16. Binding
  17. Dominating
  18. Psychic
  19. Maddening
  20. Confusing

1d20 Types

  1. Bolts
  2. Spears
  3. Scythes
  4. Bolos
  5. Spiked chains
  6. Pit
  7. Rolling ball
  8. Crushing pillars
  9. Darts
  10. Glyphs
  11. Swords
  12. Axes
  13. Tendrils
  14. Whips
  15. Nets
  16. Bear traps
  17. Cages
  18. Beams
  19. Hammers
  20. Shurikens

1d20 Triggers

  1. Door
  2. Floor plate
  3. Tripwire
  4. Throne
  5. Corpse
  6. Chest
  7. Old book
  8. Child's toy
  9. Jeweled skull
  10. Beams of light
  11. Golden angelic statue
  12. Crystal goblet on pedestal
  13. Onyx demonic skull
  14. Jeweled pillar
  15. Steep stair
  16. Jeweled crown
  17. Gilded sarcophagus
  18. Bound prisoner
  19. Weapon on an altar
  20. Idol on pedestal

Damage Severity by Level

Character Level Setback Dangerous Deadly
1st - 4th 5 (1d10) 11 (2d10) 22 (4d10)
5th - 10th 11 (2d10) 22 (4d10) 55 (10d10)
11-16th 22 (4d10) 55 (10d10) 99 (18d10)
17th - 20th 55 (10d10) 99 (18d10) 132 (24d10)

Trap Save DCs and Attack Bonuses

Trap Danger Save DC Attack Bonus
Setback 10 - 11 +3 to +5
Dangerous 12 - 15 +6 to +8
Deadly 16 - 20 +9 to +12

Random Monuments

Filling the various chambers and locations in your game with interesting features is always a challenge — and can be even more difficult to improvise. The following four "Monuments" lists can help you generate fantastic features with a number of potential effects. You don't need to roll on every table each time you want to generate a feature. Sometimes, just establishing the condition and the type of a feature is enough to give you a starting point. Then you can let the story or even the background of one of the characters guide the feature's additional elements.

1d20 Origins

  1. Draconic
  2. Dwarven
  3. Elven
  4. Primeval
  5. Divine
  6. Unholy
  7. Abyssal
  8. Otherworldly
  9. Orcish
  10. Undead
  11. Goblinoid
  12. Ghoulish
  13. Vampiric
  14. Dark elven
  15. Astral
  16. Ethereal
  17. Hellish
  18. Demonic
  19. Elemental
  20. Gnomish

1d20 Conditions

  1. Crumbling
  2. Sunken
  3. Pristine
  4. Excavated
  5. Vine-covered
  6. Ruined
  7. Cracked
  8. Shattered
  9. Buried
  10. Gore-covered
  11. Bloody
  12. Glyph-marked
  13. Rune-scribed
  14. Obsidian
  15. Metallic
  16. Ornate
  17. Desecrated
  18. Ancient
  19. Decorated
  20. Floating

1d20 Unusual Effects

  1. Undeath
  2. Fire
  3. Madness
  4. Water
  5. Radiance
  6. Arcane
  7. Poison
  8. Acid
  9. Disease
  10. Psionics
  11. Frost
  12. Lightning
  13. Antimagic
  14. Ooze
  15. Charming
  16. Fear
  17. Domination
  18. Sleep
  19. Thunder
  20. Tentacles

100 Monument Structures

  1. Aerie
  2. Altar
  3. Aqueduct
  4. Arcane circle
  5. Archway
  6. Aviary
  7. Barrow
  8. Battlefield
  9. Bell
  10. Bone pile
  11. Boneyard
  12. Bonfire
  13. Brazier
  14. Bridge
  15. Cage
  16. Cairn
  17. Campsite
  18. Canal
  19. Carcass
  20. Carriage
  21. Cauldron
  22. Cave
  23. Cenotaph
  24. Cesspit
  25. Charnel pit
  26. Columns
  27. Crater
  28. Crossroads
  29. Crystal
  30. Dome
  31. Doorway
  32. Earthmote
  33. Effigy
  34. Fighting pit
  35. Firepit
  36. Fossil
  37. Fountain
  38. Gallows
  39. Gateway
  40. Geode
  41. Geyser
  42. Graveyard
  43. Gravestone
  44. Grotto
  45. Grove
  46. Hollow
  47. Huge skull
  48. Idol
  49. Illusion
  50. Keep
  51. Lantern
  52. Machine
  53. Mausoleum
  54. Megalith
  55. Meteorite
  56. Midden
  57. Mill
  58. Mine
  59. Mirror
  60. Monolith
  61. Monument
  62. Mosaic
  63. Nest
  64. Obelisk
  65. Orb
  66. Orrery
  67. Oubliette
  68. Petrified creature
  69. Pillar
  70. Pit
  71. Planar rift
  72. Platform
  73. Podium
  74. Pool
  75. Rock
  76. Ruin
  77. Sacred circle
  78. Sarcophagus
  79. Shipwreck
  80. Shrine
  81. Sigil
  82. Sinkhole
  83. Slab
  84. Spell effect
  85. Sphere
  86. Spire
  87. Statue
  88. Stone circle
  89. Stone tablets
  90. Sundial
  91. Throne
  92. Tomb
  93. Totem
  94. Tower
  95. Trash heap
  96. Tree
  97. Wall
  98. Waymarker
  99. Well
  100. Windmill

Random Chambers

These pages contain lists of chambers for fifteen common “dungeons”. Use these chambers to fill out rooms in larger locations or inspire your own ideas. Flavor chambers with further details as needed from other random tables.

These lists are ordered with typical rooms lower in the list and fantastic or dangerous rooms higher on the list. Roll a smaller die for more typical rooms and a larger die for more fantastic or dangeorus rooms.

Beasts Den

  1. Sleeping den
  2. Drinking pool
  3. Dining chamber
  4. Bone pit
  5. Nursery
  6. Vermin nest
  7. Rain tunnels
  8. Deep rift
  9. Cleaning chamber
  10. Treasure heap
  11. Secret exit
  12. Mudslide
  13. Livestock prison
  14. Squirming midden
  15. Maze for prey
  16. Secret tunnels
  17. Primeval shrine
  18. Trophy chamber
  19. Hunter’s perch
  20. Ancestral tomb


  1. Dining hall
  2. Throne room
  3. Kitchens
  4. Armory
  5. Royal bedrooms
  6. Guard barracks
  7. Knight barracks
  8. Treasury
  9. Smithy
  10. Training yard
  11. Strategy hall
  12. Trophy room
  13. Religious shrine
  14. Prison cells
  15. Hall of tapestries
  16. Artifact gallery
  17. Menagerie
  18. Apothecary chamber
  19. Torture chamber
  20. Oubliette


  1. Waterfall
  2. Large pool
  3. Natural columns
  4. Beast’s den
  5. Deep shaft
  6. Underground rift
  7. Bridged chasm
  8. Crystal chamber
  9. Spiraling steps
  10. Mushroom grove
  11. Forgotten statue
  12. Lava pools
  13. Insect nests
  14. Stone rings
  15. Crumbling sinkhole
  16. Abandoned village
  17. Acidic stalactites
  18. Petrified victims
  19. Hall of bones
  20. Primeval shrine

Derelict Ship

  1. Crew quarters
  2. Captain quarters
  3. Officer quarters
  4. Helm
  5. Storage hold
  6. Officer mess
  7. Crew mess
  8. Armory
  9. Pantry
  10. Guest quarters
  11. Navigator’s room
  12. Galley
  13. Shrine
  14. Medical bay
  15. Cellblock
  16. Observation room
  17. Bilge
  18. Head
  19. Captain’s hold
  20. Treasure hold

Dragon's Lair

  1. Sleeping chamber
  2. Treasure vault
  3. Waterfall
  4. Audience hall
  5. Egg hatchery
  6. Elemental pool
  7. Private entrance
  8. Livestock pen
  9. Observation roost
  10. Bathing pool
  11. Scrying chamber
  12. Secret vault
  13. Private library
  14. Artifact museum
  15. Servant quarters
  16. Dungeon cells
  17. Trapped maze
  18. Draconic altar
  19. Guardian chamber
  20. Trophy hall

Forgotten Vaults

  1. False treasury
  2. True treasury
  3. Living pillars
  4. Dead god’s shrine
  5. Primordial seal
  6. Devil’s pentacle
  7. Planar fissure
  8. Living artifact
  9. Demon’s prison
  10. Draconic skeleton
  11. Guardian chamber
  12. Vampire sarcophagus
  13. Antediluvian obelisk
  14. Soul vessel vault
  15. Artifact vault
  16. Annihilation Sphere
  17. Lich’s throne
  18. Godling cylinder
  19. Titan’s cell
  20. Angelic armory


  1. Main foyer
  2. Master bedroom
  3. Guest bedrooms
  4. Kitchen
  5. Dining hall
  6. Study
  7. Library
  8. Servant quarters
  9. Treasury
  10. Pantry
  11. Bathing room
  12. Guard quarters
  13. Servant’s dining room
  14. Greenhouse
  15. Master closet
  16. Art gallery
  17. Menagerie
  18. Hidden library
  19. Family altar
  20. Hidden Saferoom


  1. Deep shafts
  2. Heavy equipment
  3. Narrow tunnels
  4. Dining hall
  5. Runoff drain
  6. Miners’ barracks
  7. Foreman quarters
  8. Spiral dig
  9. Gemstone treasury
  10. Collapsed tunnels
  11. Cart depot
  12. Yawning sinkhole
  13. Drilling chamber
  14. Lava chamber
  15. Buried shrine
  16. Mushroom farm
  17. Beast warrens
  18. Refuse pit
  19. Forgotten vault
  20. Bestial bloodbath


  1. Fetid pool
  2. Imperial crypt
  3. Charnel pit
  4. Embalming room
  5. Chamber of urns
  6. Gilded burial hall
  7. Candlelit shrine
  8. Throne of bones
  9. Historian’s tomb
  10. Everburning firepit
  11. Guardian chamber
  12. Huge sarcophagus
  13. Dragon crypt
  14. Tower of sepulchers
  15. Flesh laboratory
  16. Titan’s grave
  17. Entombed ship
  18. Oracular sphere
  19. Ghostly gateway
  20. Cold-iron prison


  1. Low-security cells
  2. High-security cells
  3. Sewage drains
  4. Kitchens
  5. Dining hall
  6. Warden’s office
  7. Chapel
  8. Armory
  9. Hospital
  10. Storage vault
  11. Guard post
  12. Guard barracks
  13. Isolation cells
  14. Torture chamber
  15. Sunken cells
  16. Beast pens
  17. Burial pit
  18. Laboratory
  19. Cesspit
  20. Oubliette


  1. Slimy sluice
  2. Swirling detritus
  3. Deep drain
  4. Roaring drain
  5. Echoing cistern
  6. Maintenance vault
  7. Abandoned hovel
  8. Broken machines
  9. Pipe network
  10. Bone pit
  11. Hidden stash
  12. Discarded statues
  13. Thieves’ den
  14. Mushroom grove
  15. Corpse pool
  16. Beast’s lair
  17. Secret shrine
  18. Mummified beast
  19. Shattered portal
  20. Hag’s lair

Sunken Grotto

  1. Glowing pool
  2. Coral pillars
  3. Crystal cave
  4. Deep fissure
  5. Blackwater pool
  6. Seaweed grove
  7. Driftwood wreck
  8. Shark den
  9. Frozen statues
  10. Lost treasury
  11. Watery archway
  12. Ziggurat altar
  13. Coral graveyard
  14. Hag’s effigy
  15. Hydra’s den
  16. Egg hatchery
  17. Lava tubes
  18. Sacrificial ledge
  19. Ruined temple
  20. Sunken throne

Thieves' Den

  1. Throne room
  2. Thieves’ quarters
  3. Master’s quarters
  4. Fighting pit
  5. Meeting room
  6. Mess hall
  7. Armory
  8. Guildmaster’s office
  9. Practice room
  10. Sewer entrance
  11. Main treasury
  12. Gambling den
  13. Seedy tavern
  14. Secret treasury
  15. Sunken cells
  16. Murder hallway
  17. Shrine of blood
  18. Secret den
  19. Piranha pool
  20. Underworld pit

Unholy Temple

  1. Vesting rooms
  2. Audience chamber
  3. Feasting hall
  4. Priest dormitory
  5. Art gallery
  6. Grim fountain
  7. Profane shrine
  8. Preparation room
  9. Artifact museum
  10. Blessed armory
  11. Torture chamber
  12. Summoning circle
  13. Sacrificial well
  14. Dungeon cells
  15. Hidden treasury
  16. Isolation chamber
  17. Sacrilegious library
  18. Private altar
  19. Unholy ossuary
  20. Reliquary chamber

Wizard's Lair

  1. Audience hall
  2. Main library
  3. Secret library
  4. Wizard’s bedroom
  5. Scrying chamber
  6. Guardians’ hall
  7. Meditation chamber
  8. Treasure vault
  9. Artifact museum
  10. Summoning chamber
  11. Mirror prison
  12. Planar portal
  13. Crystal vault
  14. Advisor’s cell
  15. Alchemical lab
  16. Multiverse orrery
  17. Menagerie
  18. Flesh laboratory
  19. Ooze vaults
  20. Lightning chamber

Random Items

The following lists allow you to generate useful relics and objects, from mundane discoveries to powerful magical artifacts. If you want to come up with an interesting magic weapon, for example, you might roll on the Item Condition, Item Origin, Weapon, and Spell Effect tables. If you just want a weird mundane item, roll on the Item Condition, Item Origin, and Mundane Item tables without adding any effect.

Some strange relics might allow a single use of a powerful magical spell. Roll on the Item Condition, Item Origin, Mundane Item, and Spell Effect table to generate a unique single-use magical relic.

Also included is a table noting the four types of healing potions and how many hit points each potion restores.

1d20 Weapon Types

  1. Dagger
  2. Mace
  3. Quarterstaff
  4. Spear
  5. Light crossbow
  6. Shortbow
  7. Battleaxe
  8. Flail
  9. Glaive
  10. Greataxe
  11. Greatsword
  12. Longsword
  13. Maul
  14. Morningstar
  15. Rapier
  16. Scimitar
  17. Shortsword
  18. Warhammer
  19. Heavy crossbow
  20. Longbow

1d20 Item Origins

  1. Draconic
  2. Dwarven
  3. Elven
  4. Primeval
  5. Divine
  6. Unholy
  7. Abyssal
  8. Otherworldly
  9. Orcish
  10. Undead
  11. Goblinoid
  12. Ghoulish
  13. Vampiric
  14. Dark elven
  15. Astral
  16. Ethereal
  17. Hellish
  18. Demonic
  19. Elemental
  20. Gnomish

1d20 Item Conditions

  1. Grimy
  2. Chipped
  3. Rough
  4. Smooth
  5. Ancient
  6. Crumbling
  7. Pristine
  8. Cool
  9. Ornate
  10. Plain
  11. Rune-scribed
  12. Carved
  13. Decorated
  14. Delicate
  15. Burned
  16. Oily
  17. Pulsing
  18. Glowing
  19. Shining
  20. Smoldering

1d12 Armor Types

  1. Leather
  2. Studded leather
  3. Hide
  4. Chain shirt
  5. Scale mail
  6. Breastplate
  7. Half plate
  8. Ring mail
  9. Chain mail
  10. Splint
  11. Plate
  12. Shield

50 Mundane Items

  1. Amulet
  2. Arrowhead
  3. Bell
  4. Bird skull
  5. Bone
  6. Bowl
  7. Box
  8. Bracelet
  9. Brooch
  10. Buckle
  11. Candle
  12. Coin
  13. Crown
  14. Cup
  15. Dagger
  16. Disc
  17. Earring
  18. Figurine
  19. Finger bone
  20. Flute
  21. Forked rod
  22. Gemstone
  23. Glove
  24. Goblet
  25. Hammer
  26. Idol
  27. Jewelry box
  28. Key
  29. Lamp
  30. Mask
  31. Medallion
  32. Mirror
  33. Necklace
  34. Opal
  35. Orb
  36. Pipe
  37. Quill
  38. Ring
  39. Rod
  40. Skull
  41. Sphere
  42. Spike
  43. Statue
  44. Stone
  45. String of beads
  46. Symbol
  47. Tiara
  48. Tooth
  49. Vial
  50. Wand

50 Spell Effect

  1. Acid arrow
  2. Acid splash
  3. Bane
  4. Banishment
  5. Bestow curse
  6. Black tentacles
  7. Bless
  8. Blight
  9. Blindness/ deafness
  10. Burning hands
  11. Charm person
  12. Cloudkill
  13. Color spray
  14. Comprehend languages
  15. Cone of cold
  16. Cure wounds
  17. Detect evil and good
  18. Detect magic
  19. Disintegrate
  20. Dispel magic
  21. Fear
  22. Fire shield
  23. Firebolt
  24. Flame strike
  25. Fly
  26. Fog cloud
  27. Gaseous form
  28. Guiding bolt
  29. Haste
  30. Ice storm
  31. Inflict wounds
  32. Insect plague
  33. Invisibility
  34. Jump
  35. Light
  36. Lightning bolt
  37. Misty step
  38. Ray of enfeeblement
  39. Scorching ray
  40. Shatter
  41. Shield of faith
  42. Shocking grasp
  43. Silence
  44. Sleep
  45. Slow
  46. Stinking cloud
  47. Stoneskin
  48. Thunderwave
  49. True strike
  50. Web

Potions of Healing

d20 Potion of Rarity HP Regained
1 - 12 Healing Common 2d4 + 2
13 - 16 Greater healing Uncommon 4d4 + 4
17 - 19 Superior healing Rare 8d4 + 8
20 Supreme healing Very rare 10d4 + 20

Random Town Events

Whenever the characters enter a new town or start a new session there, adding some detail and context to the setting can help bring things to life. These "Town Events" lists help determine what might be going on in a town, how the townsfolk are currently feeling, what the weather is, and what mundane or fantastic event might be taking place.

1d20 Town Sentiments

  1. Happy
  2. Elated
  3. Uncaring
  4. Joyful
  5. Optimistic
  6. Pessimistic
  7. Downtrodden
  8. Frightened
  9. Horrified
  10. Concerned
  11. Unconcerned
  12. Harried
  13. Sleep-deprived
  14. Dazed
  15. Hyperactive
  16. Purposeful
  17. Lazy
  18. Melancholy
  19. Busy
  20. Suspicious

1d20 Mundane Events

  1. Wedding
  2. Funeral
  3. Preparing for war
  4. Seasonal celebration
  5. Burning of an effigy
  6. Death of a noble lord
  7. Day of drunkenness
  8. Celebration of lovers
  9. Great feast
  10. Execution
  11. Market day
  12. Parade of vanquished foes
  13. Celebration of the dead
  14. Religious holiday
  15. Wild boar hat festival
  16. Robbery
  17. Brawl
  18. Visit by the circus
  19. Wrangling of rampaging beasts
  20. Festival of kites

1d20 Notable Weather Condtions

  1. Fog
  2. Heavy mist
  3. New moon
  4. Full moon
  5. Hot day
  6. Chilly day
  7. Light rain
  8. Moderate rain
  9. Heavy rain
  10. Windstorm
  11. Hailstorm
  12. Ice storm
  13. Cloudy day
  14. Sunny day
  15. Humid day
  16. Dry day
  17. Windy day
  18. Light snowfall
  19. Moderate snowfall
  20. Snowstorm

1d20 Fantastic Events

  1. The stars have disappeared from the sky
  2. An unexpected solar eclipse
  3. The blood moon rises
  4. Swarms of stinging insects descend
  5. Acidic fog rolls in
  6. A second sun appears in the sky
  7. A storm of arcane energy
  8. The arrival of a servant of a god
  9. Meteor shower
  10. A cyclopean behemoth rises
  11. Swarms of mischievous devils
  12. Tentacles appear in the sky
  13. The dancing dead come to life
  14. Volcanic eruption
  15. Collapsing sinkhole reveals ancient ruins below
  16. The sun does not rise
  17. A great floating tower appears
  18. The lord's castle disappears
  19. The border to the fey realm grows thin
  20. The world of shadow bleeds over into the material realm

Random Dungeon Monsters

The following tables let you randomly select monsters based on "dungeon level." Although these charts are built for old-school dungeon delving, you can use them to generate randomly encountered monsters in just about any setting - a ruin, an old church, caves, catacombs, an old wizard's tower, or some other forgotten lair.

To use these tables, first decide what dungeon level the characters are on. This might correspond to the level of the characters but it doesn't have to. If 2nd-level characters decide to descend to dungeon level 5, so be it.

Once you have a dungeon level selected, roll a d20 and look across to see which monster table you should use. For example, if the characters are on dungeon level 4 and you roll a 12, you'll use monster table 3. Then go to the indicated monster table and roll a d20 again, to determine which monster might show up. Using the above example, consulting monster table 3 and rolling a 3 gives a result of 'Ghoul.' Instead of using dungeon levels, you can just jump to whichever monster table feels right for the circumstances. If you know you're looking for a monster with a challenge rating of 4 or 5, just roll on Monster Table 6. You can also use these tables to quickly look up monsters at particular challenge ratings. Even if you absolutely hate random encounters, you can use the tables to generate encounter ideas you might never think of otherwise.

There are a few ways to choose the number of monsters in an encounter. First, think about what makes sense. Ghouls travel in packs, but a rug of smothering is probably found alone. You might roll dice to determine the number of monsters-for example, 3d6 ghouls. You might also choose to have one monster leading others-a pack of ghouls led by a ghast, for example.

Before the number of monsters is set, you can gauge whether your intended encounter is deadly or not by using the "5e Quick Encounter Building" section of this document.

Monster List
Dungeon Level 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 1—16 17—19 20
2 1—12 13—16 17—18 19 20
3 1—12 13—16 17—18 19 20
4 1—5 6—10 11—16 17—18 19 20
5 1—3 4—6 7—12 13—16 17—18 19 20
6 1—2 3—4 5—6 7—12 13—16 17—18 19 20
7 1 2—3 4—5 6—10 11—14 15—16 17—18 19 20
8 1 2 3—4 5—7 8—10 11—14 15—16 17—18 19 20
9 1 2 3 4—5 6—8 9—12 13—15 16—17 18—19 20
10—11 1 2 3 4 5—6 7—9 10—12 13—16 17—19 20
12—13 1 2 3 4 5 6—7 8—9 10—12 13—18 19—20
14—15 1 2 3 4 5 6 7—8 9—11 12—17 18—20
16+ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8—10 11—16 17—20

Monster List 1 (CR 1/8—1/4)

  1. Bandit
  2. Cultist
  3. Flying snake
  4. Giant crab
  5. Giant rat
  6. Kobold
  7. Poisonous snake
  8. Stirge
  9. Tribal warrior
  10. Axe beak
  11. Blink dog
  12. Dretch
  13. Drow
  14. Giant bat
  15. Giant frog
  16. Giant wolf spider
  17. Goblin
  18. Skeleton
  19. Swarm of bats
  20. Swarm of rats

Monster List 2 (CR 1/4—1)

  1. Wolf
  2. Zombie
  3. Cockatrice
  4. Darkmantle
  5. Gnoll
  6. Gray ooze
  7. Hobgoblin
  8. Lizardfolk
  9. Magmin
  10. Orc
  11. Rust monster
  12. Sahuagin
  13. Scout
  14. Shadow
  15. Swarm of insects
  16. Thug
  17. Worg
  18. Animated armor
  19. Bugbear
  20. Death dog

Monster List 3 (CR 1—2)

  1. Dire wolf
  2. Duergar
  3. Ghoul
  4. Giant spider
  5. Giant toad
  6. Harpy
  7. Imp
  8. Specter
  9. Spy
  10. Ankheg
  11. Bandit captain
  12. Berserker
  13. Black dragon wyrmling
  14. Cult fanatic
  15. Ettercap
  16. Gargoyle
  17. Gelatinous cube
  18. Ghast
  19. Giant constrictor snake
  20. Gibbering mouther

Monster List 4 (CR 2—3)

  1. Azer
  2. Green dragon wyrmling
  3. Grick
  4. Griffon
  5. Merrow
  6. Mimic
  7. Minotaur skeleton
  8. Ochre jelly
  9. Ogre
  10. Ogre zombie
  11. Priest
  12. Rug of smothering
  13. Sea hag
  14. Swarm of poisonous snakes
  15. Wererat
  16. White dragon wyrmling
  17. Will-o'-wisp
  18. Basilisk
  19. Bearded devil
  20. Blue dragon wyrmling

Monster List 5 (CR 3—4)

  1. Doppelganger
  2. Giant scorpion
  3. Green hag
  4. Hell hound
  5. Knight
  6. Manticore
  7. Minotaur
  8. Mummy
  9. Nightmare
  10. Owlbear
  11. Phase spider
  12. Veteran
  13. Werewolf
  14. Wight
  15. Winter wolf
  16. Black pudding
  17. Chuul
  18. Couatl
  19. Ettin
  20. Ghost

Monster List 6 (CR 4—5)

  1. Lamia
  2. Red dragon wyrmling
  3. Succubus/incubus
  4. Wereboar
  5. Air elemental
  6. Barbed devil
  7. Bulette
  8. Earth elemental
  9. Fire elemental
  10. Flesh golem
  11. Giant crocodile
  12. Gladiator
  13. Gorgon
  14. Half-red dragon veteran
  15. Hill giant
  16. Night hag
  17. Otyugh
  18. Roper
  19. Shambling mound
  20. Troll

Monster List 7 (CR 5—8)

  1. Salamander
  2. Vampire spawn
  3. Water elemental
  4. Wraith
  5. Xorn
  6. Chimera
  7. Drider
  8. Invisible stalker
  9. Mage
  10. Medusa
  11. Vrock
  12. Wyvern
  13. Young white dragon
  14. Oni
  15. Shield guardian
  16. Stone giant
  17. Young black dragon
  18. Assassin
  19. Chain devil
  20. Cloaker

Monster List 8 (CR 8—12)

  1. Frost giant
  2. Hezrou
  3. Hydra
  4. Spirit naga
  5. Young green dragon
  6. Bone devil
  7. Clay golem
  8. Cloud giant
  9. Fire giant
  10. Glabrezu
  11. Young blue dragon
  12. Aboleth
  13. Guardian naga
  14. Stone golem
  15. Young red dragon
  16. Behir
  17. Ereeti
  18. Horned devil
  19. Remorhaz
  20. Archmage

Monster List 9 (CR 12—16)

  1. Erinyes
  2. Adult white dragon
  3. Nalfeshnee
  4. Rakshasa
  5. Storm giant
  6. Vampire
  7. Adult black dragon
  8. Ice devil
  9. Adult green dragon
  10. Mummy lord
  11. Purple worm
  12. Adult blue dragon

Monster List 10 (CR 16—24)

  1. Iron golem
  2. Marilith
  3. Adult red dragon
  4. Balor
  5. Ancient white dragon
  6. Pit fiend
  7. Anclent black dragon
  8. Lich
  9. Ancient blue dragon
  10. Ancient red dragon

Lazy Solo 5e

These rules let you play a solo game of 5e using lists in this document. With these guidelines, a single character explores a dungeon to complete quests. Let your imagination take over as you fill in the story and details of the quest, location, and adventure.

This scenario begins at 1st level, and your character gains a level after each successful quest.

Building the Quest

First, build a quest-giving NPC by rolling for behavior and ancestry in the "Core Adventure Generators" section of this document. Choose a name and any other details from the "NPC Generator" section.

Next, roll on the Quests in "Core Adventure Generators". Determine the location by rolling on the Condition, Description, Origin, and Location table.

Choose a map for the location from your favorite online source of maps or any other maps you have on hand. Choose a map that fits the location. Maps with fifteen or more rooms work best for adventures created with these guidelines.

You can then fill in additional quest details from the other tables in "Core Adventure Generators". Examples include required keys, monuments, villains, lieutenants, and other quest goals.

Choose a starting room on the map that makes sense.

Exploring the Dungeon

Each time you enter a chamber, roll to determine what you find there.

Each time your roll comes up 4, 5, 6, or 7, indicated by "QP" below, your quest progresses one step. You might acquire a needed key or face a villain's lieutenant. You decide what type of progress you make.

On your fourth roll of quest progress, you reach the final challenge of the quest. If you succeed, you have completed the quest and gain a new level.

  1. Trap or hazard
  2. Trap or hazard
  3. Monster and harmful monument
  4. Monster and harmful monument (QP)
  5. Monster and neutral monument (QP)
  6. Monster and neutral monument (QP)
  7. Monster and helpful monument (QP)
  8. Monster and helpful monument
  9. Healing font (restore 2d6 hit points).
  10. Unguarded treasure

Traps and Hazards

Roll for the trap type on the Traps and Hazards table in the "Core Adventure Generators" section. Then make a DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check to locate the trap or hazard. Roll the most applicable ability check or saving throw vs DC 12 to avoid the trap or hazard. Failure on either roll results in 1d6 damage per character level of a type appropriate for the trap.

Monster Encounter

Roll for a random monster on the Monster table in the "Random Dungeon Monsters" section, selecting a dungeon level equal to your character level.

Assume the monster starts 25 feet away from you. Roll for initiative, with the monster using a static initiative score of 10 + the monster's Dexterity bonus. Adjudicate combat as you desire, assuming the monster acts as they would given their fiction.


Each monster encounter includes a helpful, neutral, or harmful monument. Generate monuments using the Locations, Monuments, and Items table, and the Condition, Description, and Origin table in the "Core Adventure Generators" section.

Roll a d6 to determine the effect of the monument.

  1. +1 to AC
  2. +1 to attacks and save DCs
  3. +1 AC and saving throws
  4. +1 temp hit point per character level (minimum 5)
  5. +1d6 damage per five character levels
  6. Advantage on attack rolls

Helpful monuments provide this benefit to your character. Harmful monuments provide this benefit to monsters. For neutral monuments, your character can roll a DC 12 Intelligence (Arcana or Religion) check. On a success, your character gains the benefit. On a failure, the monster gains the benefit.


When you defeat a monster or enter a chamber with unguarded treasure, roll on the following list:

1d8 Treasures

  1. No treasure
  2. No treasure
  3. 3d12 gp
  4. 3d12 gp
  5. Potion of healing
  6. Potion of healing
  7. Consumable item
  8. Permanent item

For consumable and permanent items, roll on the tables in the "Treasure Generator" section or a random treasure table of your choice. You can replace any consumable magic item with a potion of healing. You can replace any permanent magic item with a +1 weapon of your choice.