Overland Encounters

I just realized I never posted this here, but here are my generic rules for overland travel and encounters for D&D-like games. The overloaded encounter die is pretty similar to the one Gus L uses in HMS Appolyon.

Checking for Events

Each day there are at least two checks for events: one during the day and one at night. Roll 2d6 to see if there are any additional events: if you roll doubles there’s an extra event that day.  If the number on the face of the die is even, it’s an extra daytime event; odd is an extra nighttime event. If there is an extra event roll again… keep doing this, tallying the extra events, until you don’t roll doubles.


You roll a 9.  No extra events that day, so just the one daytime and one nighttime.

You roll double 3’s, which is an extra nighttime event, and then roll again and get a 7.  So that’s a total of one daytime event and two nighttime events to check for that day’s travel.

You roll double 2’s, then double 1’s, then a 4 (3 and 1).  That’s an extra daytime event, and and extra night time event, for a total of two daytime event checks and two nighttime checks.


For the daytime, check the travel speed of the group in hexes and roll a die to indicate in which hex the event will take place.  E.g. if the group can travel 20 hexes a day on the current scale of the map, roll a d20.  If the number of hexes doesn’t neatly fit on a die, use the next higher die and re-roll any that fall outside of the range.  Count off the hexes traveled and when it reaches the number the event die shows, roll a d6 for the type of event.  Note that hexes that are difficult terrain count as multiple hexes.  E.g. if the event is supposed to happen in hex 7 of the day’s travel and after the fifth hex they enter a mountain hex that costs 3, the mountain hex counts as hexes 6, 7, and 8 of the day’s travel, so the event will happen mid-way through the hex.

If more than one event is going to happen in the day, roll as many times as there are events; if you roll a duplicate that means they happen at the same time.

Night Time

At night, roll once for the type of event, ignoring anything except an encounter or environmental.

If the players are setting watches, just roll a die to see which watch the event check occurs in.

Otherwise, or if you need an exact time (e.g. because some pre-planned event is going to happen at midnight) roll 1d12 to see what hour of the night the event occurs, starting at 5 P.M. You can either count, or add 17 to the roll, subtracting 24 if the result is 24 or higher and read that as the hour on a 24 hour clock.  E.g. a roll of 1 indicates the event is at 18:00 (6 P.M.), a roll of 10 indicates the event is at 27 – 24 = 03:00 (3 A.M).

If more than one event is going to happen in the night, roll as many times as there are events; if you roll a duplicate that means they happen at the same time.

Type of Event

  1. Encounter
  2. Environmental/Potential Encounter
  3. Exhaustion/Potential Encounter
  4. Clue
  5. Consume Resources
  6. Setback

Encounter: Encounter some potential hostiles.  See below.

Potential Encounter: Encounter some potential hostiles if the terrain cost is greater than or equal to the die roll. That is, if the hex costs 2 to enter then a 2 is an encounter but a 3 isn’t; if the terrain costs 3 to enter then a 2 or 3 is an encounter.  This is cumulative with any other results on the table: a 3 in a mountain hex means an encounter and Exhaustion.

Environmental: Non-combat event specific to the particular environment. This can include encounters that are unlikely to be hostile even if they get a poor reaction, such as local peasants, travelling merchants, game animals, and so on.

Exhaustion: Take a short rest (1-hour) or suffer one level of Exhaustion.

Clue: Gain some information about something: evidence nearby monsters,  settlements, other travelers, etc.

Consume Resources: Some of your resources are expended (lights, food, rope, etc.)

Setback: Something goes wrong and you lose some time, get lost, suffer an injury, find the way is blocked, etc.



Both sides roll a d6, on a 1 or 2 that side is surprised and cannot act this turn.

Encounter Distance

Roll a d6 during the day and a d4 at night, subtracting the hex’s terrain cost.  The result is the distance at first sighting.

  1. Bump into each other (can melee this turn)
  2. Close (can charge this turn)
  3. Medium (1d6 turns away, within direct arrow shot)
  4. Long (2d6+6 turns away, within indirect arrow shot)
  5. Extreme (2d6+12 turns away, 6 turns from being within indirect arrow shot)
  6. Barely Visible (10 minutes+ from being within indirect arrow shot)


If you want to avoid an encounter, then presuming you’re not surprised and the range is at least Medium, you can attempt to evade.  If you have surprise you can evade automatically. Otherwise, the difficulty of evading the encounter depends on the size of your party and the size of the group you’re encountering.  Roll less than or equal to the Target Number on 2d10.

Size of Party Target Number on 2d10
Small (<=4) 13
Medium (5-12) 11
Large (12-24) 9
Huge (25+) 7

If the pursuing group is larger than your party, the target number becomes one step easier; if the pursuing group is smaller, it becomes one step harder.  If the terrain isn’t clear, increase the TN by the terrain cost minus one. So, e.g. woods increase the TN (make it easier to evade) by 1, mountains or jungles by 2.

If you don’t like the odds, you can split your party into smaller groups in order to evade; of course the pursuers can do the same, but then at least if they catch up there are fewer of them.


When you encounter potentially hostile NPCs or creatures they aren’t necessarily going to attack, depending on their purpose in the area and how your party is conducting itself.  If you’re in enemy territory during wartime and you run into a patrol, a good roll on the reaction table isn’t going to save you from a confrontation, but guardsmen in a city are unlikely to simply attack you even if they’re “Hostile”…though they may look for an excuse to arrest you or run you out of town.

Roll 2d6 Reaction
2 Hostile/Attacks Refuses & opposes (further rolls on locals -1)
3-5 Unfriendly/may attack Refuses
6-8 Neutral/uncertain Hesitant, may try again with better offer
9-11 Indifferent/Uninterested Accepts
12 Friendly/Enthusiastic friendship Accepts eagerly (+1 morale if hired)