An assortment of 138 encounters for towns and cities that I've either thought up for my campaign or have seen here. I'd give credit to those encounters that I didn't come up with but I've since lost the threads I read them from.
Roll a d12:
1: Thieves/Conmen/Shady People: (1d8)
1: A group of hooded and armed people seem to be setting up an ambush on a merchant caravan coming down an empty street.
2: A man/woman is trying to lead the players into an alleyway saying that his/her friend has been hurt. Thieves lie in wait for an ambush.
3: A party member has their pocket picked. The thief dashes into the crowd. If caught, the party realizes it’s just a child.
4: A conman tries to pawn off a useless item on the party, citing it’s “incredible power.” He demands no less than 75GP but can be talked down to 50GP. Use the “common Magic Items” from Xanathar’s. Alternatively, the item could actually be worth something without the conman realizing it.
5: The party spots a small group of thieves mid heist. They’re robbing a bank/treasury and are loading the cart, hiding the sacks of gold in hay, when one of them spots you. They put their finger to their face (shhh) as they load the last sack and start to ride off.
6: The party is witness to a crime (maybe staged) and are called in as a witness as a legal battle ensues.
7: The party comes across a man peddling some suspiciously cheap healing potions. Although they work as intended, they also cause painful addiction to these particular potions. They need to seek out the antidote but the “herbalist” has gone missing.
8: The party finds something mundane, yet valuable on their way into town. If they pick it up, a man/woman is constantly after them, trying by any and every means to get it from them. They start by pretending it was theirs to trying to pay for it, steal it, and even maybe kill the person who holds it.
2: Nobility: (1d6)
1: A Noble has decided to take a walk today. He/she(1d4),
1: is kidnapped! 2: berates a peasant who bumped into them. They order their guards to whip the peasant. 3: falls/is pushed into a well. Calls for help and will pay the party to get him/her out. Maybe his/her dog shaped familiar comes to tell the party that their owner has fallen in a well. 4: is young and has never seen an adventurer before and is fascinated by the party and demands them to demonstrate their power and skills by fighting each other.
1:A body is found near the entrance to a sewer or tunnel. Upon searching, the party can discern that this person was of local nobility. Speaking to the nobles family may grant a quest to find the killer or maybe they’re framed for it?
2:Two feuding nobles have started a duel. They are supposed to turn and take ten paces, turn and shoot, but one of them only takes 4 paces before killing the other and runs. The referee yells to the players to stop the murderer, without killing him so he may face proper justice.
3:A noble addresses his/her people from their balcony. The party can see an assassin getting into position on the roof above him/her. They only have a few seconds to act.
4:A disgraced noble seeks to earn back his/her title and challenges the party’s fighter/barbarian/paladin to a duel to the death!
5:A noble has lost a precious heirloom and cant admit it to their court/family. They were on their way to retrieve it when they run into the party. Surely these Adventurer’s would make fine escorts.
3: Town Crier: (1d6)
1:Announcing that the lord has passed away (power struggle)
2:Announcing that a group of adventurers, that look slightly similar to the party, are now fugitives with a hefty bounty on their heads.
3:Announcing the start of a local festival (1d4),
1-Annual Slave Auction (parties are aghast/conspire to free the slaves) 2-Festival of the Guildpact (opportunity to meet several guild leaders/nobles at once) 3-Orktoberfest! 4-Bi-Annual Virgin Day! Two a year this town sacrifices a virgin to a god/legendary monster
4:Announcing a new bounty or contract on a group of criminals or monsters.
5:Warning of an impending Barbarian/Monster Raid
6:Execution at Dawn! (and it’s your contact that’s to be executed!)
4: Runaway Stuff!: (1d8)
1:A man is seen pulling his wagon uphill ahead of the party and suddenly he slips and the wagon begins to uncontrollably race downhill toward the party!
2:A child has run off from his mother/father while walking in the town marketplace. The parent is in hysterics trying to find their child.
3:A pet, farm animal, or exotic beast has runaway from its owner:
3-A regular peasant
4-An old wizard
4:An old man/woman has wondered away from the community home. The priest is out looking for him/her and asks the party to assist citing that this person is not of sound mind and won’t last long on their own.
5:(2d6 +2) animals have broken out of the zoo and are rampaging through the poor district.
6:(1d12 +2) orphans have escaped from an orphanage. The headmaster and some of his staff are out looking for them and asks the party for help.
7:A chariot is out of control! The horses were spooked and the driver was thrown off, leaving the nobility inside for a dangerous ride.
8:(1d4) prisoners have escaped from jail and are running for the gates leading out of the city.
5: Hunters/Poachers/Smugglers: (1d6)
1:Preparing for a hunt, invite the party along.
2:Bringing in some dead monsters to skin and sell to wizards and herbalists, but one of the monsters isn’t dead after all and goes on a rampage!
3:Some hunters are stopped by the guards and accused of being poachers. The hunters will ask the party to vouch for them and even slip them a 20 gold if they do. They are, in fact, poachers.
4:The party spots a group of smugglers trying to sneak cargo through a sewer opening by the docks/in a back alley. The smugglers will try to pay them or intimidate them to keep quiet.
5:The party stumbles across a group of smugglers trying to smuggle in war refugees into the big city where they will be safe. These smugglers will ask for help. These refugees are actually slaves and if they help, the party accidentally become human traffickers. Time to right their wrong.
6:The party hears rumors about a great white stag being responsible for a terrible harvest and there’s a hunt on for is head. The stag is actually a great fey trapped in this world.
6: Town Watch, Gangs, and Secret Societies: (1d6)
1:The town/city watch keeps the peace by being tyrants. Extortion and bribery from corrupt individuals is commonplace. Guards try to “collect a travel tax” from the party as soon as they enter the town. Later they can be seen bullying the peasants around town.
2:Two rival gangs run the town/city. The party encounters a member of one of these gangs bleeding out the doorstep of a house. If they help him, they gain the favor of one of the gangs while earning the ire of the other.
3:The party is approached by a hooded figure who states that he’s a part of a secret society that is planning on overthrowing the corrupt nobility in the area.
4:The town/city is run by a single gang and the party is approached by a man/woman that claims to be the former lord of this place. He/she wants the party’s help in taking back his/her town/city.
5:The party hears people chanting coming from one of the sewer grates. Upon inspection, they find a cult of some sort performing a ritual.
1-This is the Cult of Talona (or other disease-god), attempting to spread a holy plague.
2-This is a Dragon Cult, trying to resurrect a long dead metallic dragon.
3-This is a magical council, practicing their magics where they cannot hurt anyone.
4-This is a group of divination wizards, attempting to look into a bad omen one of their members
had seen in these tunnels.
6:Town watch has a mole in their ranks and the local gangs/smugglers keep getting tipped off. The party has to investigate in order to out the mole. Perhaps this leads to them joining the town watch?
7: Monks/Priests/Holy-men: (1d6)
1:(1d10 +5) monks are meditating outside of the temple today. One monks walks among his meditating brothers with a staff to make sure they do not fall asleep. They will not fight if disturbed, they will however, refuse to help the players in the future.
2:A monk/priest stands out on the street with a bucket, attempting to collect alms to help pay for renovations on the temple.
1-He asks the party for some gold, citing the damage done in a previous battle
and the good the temple has done for the community.
2-Someone steals the bucket.
3-This isn’t a priest or monk at all, but a cleverly disguised beggar.
4-This isn't a priest or monk at all, but a cleverly disguised bugbear.
3:Two groups of monks/priests from rival temples are arguing in the street and the argument seems to be escalating.
4:A Cleric/group of clerics are struggling to contain a plague. They need someone to run to the temple to fetch more herbs and medicine. If there’s a cleric or other healer in the party, they also ask for assistance with the sick. The head cleric is a carrier of the plague without knowing it.
5:A Paladin declares a noble or the lord of this town/city an embodiment of evil and stands outside of the gate to the palace and demands that the lord/noble give him/herself up. He will ask for the party’s help in bringing this person to justice but demands that no one be killed.
6:A monk/cleric/paladin stands in the center of town claiming to be immortal because his/her god is on her side and dares anyone to prove him/her wrong.
8: Drunks/Beggars: (1d6)
1:Someone "recognizes" a player and starts shouting at him, calling him a bastard and every other name under the son for sleeping with his wife.
2:A hag has disguised herself as an old beggar and hounds the party for gold. If they give her something, they receive a blessing , if they don’t, and are particularly rude, they receive a curse.
3:A beggar is acting strange and begins to:
1-Yell obscenities at everyone: They’re clearly drunk!
2-Vomit everywhere: They’re incredibly sick!
3-Attack random passerby’s while yelling about monsters: They’re delusional!
4-Crawl up a wall, cackling as they climb: They’re possessed!
4:A beggar retreats into an alleyway with a bucket full of coins. He sheds his ragged robes to reveal the clothes of a nobleman.
5:A beggar with a distinct look/personality befriends the PCs. Later in the week they turn up with their throat slit. A serial killer is targeting vagrants.
6:A drunken man yells about the apocalypse on a street corner and begs the party to go on a quest to stop it!
1: He’s a drunken idiot who happens to be right.
2-5: He’s just a drunken idiot.
6-7: He’s a devil in disguise
8-9: He’s an angel in disguise
10: He’s a god/arch-devil in disguise
9: City Things: (1d10)
1:The party tries to head up the street but is blocked by the town/city watch. They state that the sewers are backed up and the area is unsafe. However, if they would like to help, the local lord is willing to pay someone to fix this mess. Perhaps the Otyugh has left and the town is in need of a new one or the pipes that empty everything into the swamp have been clogged by kobold/goblin structures in the sewers.
2:A building(1d4) is on fire! The bucket brigade hasn’t been formed yet and there are people/important things trapped inside!
1: The lord’s house
2: The Library
3: The blacksmith’s workshop
4: A warehouse on the docks
3:A small riot has broken out over new tax laws. The people are marching toward the lord’s house with pitchforks and clubs but they stand no chance against the lord’s personal guard.
4:A large riot as broken out across the town/city. Apparently the beloved local lord has been murdered and the new lord is being accused of the crime. This may be the start of a small rebellion.
5:A banker trips and falls in the mayhem of the crowded town/city, spilling gold everywhere
6:A guy falls and spills a drink all over his clothes, if the party ask him, he's now upset he's going to be late for an interview. If only someone had a change of clothes or a magical cleaning method.
7:A bunch of kids bullying a little kid, having stolen his toy sword. If helped the child looks up to the party, which may get him into trouble later. The party may also be ambushed by the bully’s older siblings later.
8:Prisoners/Orphans are going missing, there's a contract on the town noise board that the warden put out to look for help finding out why these people have gone missing.
9:The party comes across a group of children fighting. Upon getting closer, the children all disperse but one lays on the ground bleeding. If helped, he/she says that it was a gang war between the street orphans. Many of the parents of this town were sent off to war and never returned so the children have formed a few different gangs to keep safe but the gangs have started waring over food and turf.
10:Oh look, a parade!
1-One of the chariots is accidentally/purposefully set on fire!
2-It’s a parade for the king and he’s not very popular. It quickly turns into a riot.
3-Fire jugglers from the local circus accidentally spook the horses and causes a stampede!
4-Due to poor planning, half of the parade makes a wrong turn and ends up
at a dead end. The nobility is ambushed and the guards cannot fight them off alone!
10: Armies/Battles: (1d6)
1:The local militia is trying to help some folks in need but clearly need leadership, guidance, and some new equipment.
2:An army forms outside of the city and an emissary comes into town and announces that they all must surrender or die.
3:The local lord has declared martial law. A curfew has been set and no one is allowed to carry or own weapons.
4:The army here made up much of the town guard but they have disbanded and/or deserted, which has plunged the town into lawlessness.
5:A powerful wizard/lord conscripts the party, likely via magic, into his budding army. Once they’ve proven their usefulness their “entrusted” with leading an assault on a rival wizard/lord’s tower while the armies battle upon the plains below.
6:The party arrives in town to find it fully/partially destroyed from battle. A Cadaver Collector is collecting corpses. The party may want to put a stop to this desecration.
11: Monsters: (1d10)
1:The Otyugh that keeps the sewers clean has surfaced and is eating everything it can get it’s tentacles on, including people.
2:A Treant and (1d4 +1) druids enter the city/town and state that these lands were once scared grounds and demand that it be returned to them.
3:(1d12 +2) Goblins, (1d6 +1) Bugbears, and (1d4 -1) Hobgoblins attack the city/town via the sewers.
4:A man is punched by a drunkard and is knocked out. As he lays unconscious, he turns back into his original form; An Ancient Gold Dragon. The towns people panic and some call for the dragon to be executed.
5:A Revenant comes to town and tries to attack someone important.
6:A man/woman is acting erratic and as the guards attempt to calm him/her down, he/she turns into a werewolf!
7:The gates to the Castle/Keep/Palace/Temple/Monastery have been closed and the guards are warning people to stay away. Apparently a tribe of Kobolds have borrowed into the East wing and are exceptionally vicious. The guards are struggling to contain them.
8:The Minotaur from the arena has escaped and is causing havoc in the wealthy district. The arena/guards offer the party payment for bringing the Minotaur back alive. Upon finding the beast, it pleads with the party to help him get to the forest so he may live in peace.
9:A banshee haunts an old abandoned mansion and the new owner would like the party to take care of it for him.
10:Rumors are spreading about voices coming from an old abandoned wizards tower in or around the town/city. The voices are telling people to bring small animals as offerings. If investigated, the party finds a troll living in the tower, not wishing to harm anyone but not savvy enough to hunt on his own, the troll has been trying to get people to bring him food.
12: Magic Beings/Forces: (1d12)
1:A wizard has lost control of one of his experiments and it’s heading straight for the party. He runs behind it yelling “Don’t kill it! I can fix this!” as he frantically flips through his spell book.
2:A magical fog rolls into town and is making people disappear and/or unleashing all sorts of strange beasts.
3:People keep talking about weird things happening to them. Someone’s belt was cut, an animal was let loose, money/possessions have gone missing only to appear in weird places, the outhouse exploded on them, etc. Upon investigation, a group of pixies and sprites are the cause of all the mischief.
4:People have been having strange dreams and nightmares. These people are slowly becoming zombies/thralls of something.
5:A magical force has covered an important building(1d6). No one has been able to enter it for days and someone is said to be trapped inside.
1-The lord’s castle/fortress/mansion
3-A prominent merchant’s shop
4-The town/city jail
6:A child walks with his/her mother when the child suddenly sneezes and unleashes a power they didn’t know they had.
1-The mother turns into a frog.
2-Everything within 5ft of the child is pushed away by a magical force.
3-A small fireball erupts under the child, burning anything within 10ft
but not the child.
4-Everything medium or smaller within 15ft of the child is now floating
7:A large ship suddenly appears in the street, partially destroying a nearby building. Screams of terror can be heard in the ship and building alike.
8:The party arrives in town/city to find that part of it has recently been switched with another plane of existence! The denizens of both planes are now at odds with each other, with both groups blaming the other for this mess.
1-Some farmland has been switched with it’s Feywild counterpart.
2-The library has been switched with a factory from Mechanus.
3-The temple is now see-through, it’s resting within the Ethereal
4-The palace/castle/keep has been switched with it’s Shadowfell
5-The courthouse now leads to a layer of the Nine Hells
6-The tavern leads to Limbo.
9:There are pockets of anti-gravity here, some large enough to make houses float! The towns people plead for the party to save the people in the buildings and figure out why this is happening.
10:A building sprouts legs and begins to walk away! Bonus points if the party is inside.
11:A gnomish man standing by a covered up mirror beckons to the party and asks if they want to take a test. He won’t delve into what this test entails but says that if they win, they will get 500GP and if they lose, he will owe them a favor. If they except, he pulls the cover off a mirror revealing a Mirror of Life Trapping.
12:The players find themselves in an alternate reality where reality runs counter to the players expectations (Rolling Low is now preferable, a 1 is a Critical Success and the goal is to Roll UNDER the AC/DC of challenges). This also rings true for social interactions as well. Being rude is preferable while being polite is an insult, etc. There are other, noticeable things wrong with this place as hints to the players.