Encounter checks and hazard dice

I’m sure plenty of us are familiar with the hazard die system which is really useful for eliminating the bookkeeping that comes with torches, spells, and hourly rests. I found it to be a little granular for my taste, so I reduced it from six results to four that are weighted differently. Then, every two turns, roll d6:

  1. Random encounter.
  2. Light source or spell extinguishes (lanterns have 1/4 chance here).
  3. Above.
  4. Rest for a turn or take 1 Exhaustion.
  5. Above.
  6. Environment changes or an encounter clue is found.

Really, what happened was that the hazard die rolled 6 (extra turn) so frequently that it became tedious to describe–not that that was the system’s fault! But, it didn’t work quite well for my table.

How do y’all handle random encounters!


If you haven’t looked into it, a really intriguing evolution on the Risk Die from The Black hack is how Macchiato Monsters uses it, where it’s called a Risk Die. The game uses the Risk Die in many ways, but one of my favorites is encounter/exploration rolls where it’s similar in a way to how the Hazard Die is described in your link and in your post.

There is one 12 entry table for exploration (well, different tables for Wilderness and Dungeons), but each different sort of terrain rolls with a different size Risk Die (d12 down to d6) based on how difficult or inhospitable the terrain is with the GM adjusting as needed based on monster activity.

The way it works is the “better” results are high on the table, while the more dangerous types of encounters and ambushes are lower. In this way, grasslands are less likely to have an ambush and have chance to have a hidden treasure, whereas the best a party can hope for in a swamp is to roll to consume rations.

I found it good food for thought as a die roll for combining encounters/advantage/and resources dwindling. To your issue: unless you’re trying to stick with a d6, maybe you could make a d8 table that would maintain some of the nuance of the Hazard Die table(s) while still reducing the chance of the extra turn?


I use a reshuffled one based off of Dreaming Dragonslayer’s Hazard Dice

  1. Danger - Hostile encounter
  2. Encounter - Encounter might be friendly to hostile. Make a disposition roll
  3. Expiration - Torches, rations, bathroom breaks. Usually the first two
  4. Environment - changes or flavor (water drips, lights flicker, shadows loom)
  5. Clue - hints at 1 or 2
  6. Discovery - hints at things missed (the mummy head in the pool starts gurgling) or hints at the nature of an area (the tomb is fake)

I like this because it could really be boiled down to:

  1. Encounter
  2. World Advances
  3. Extra information

It reminds me to do stuff, tell people to mark off torches or rations and keep the environment their in feeling fresh.


I adore this! I’ve seen a scaling difficulty used to determine the encounter itself, but not for the whole encounter check and ration check and torch check etc. I’d love to read more on this! What kind of “ratios” are there for non-encounters, like getting hungry or your torch running out? I appreciate how the original wandering monster check and the hazard die are very intentional with how often things should happen statistically.

I don’t mind this in theory, but I just have trouble justifying the extra turn when it comes up! I much prefer to have more event types–encounters, expirations, environmental changes–which feel easier to ad lib than the party getting an extra turn. Yet again, since I’m still acclimating my party to OSR play, maybe they just haven’t been in a situation where an extra turn feels truly advantageous and contextual! I might just give it another shot :slight_smile:

I love how you separate hostile and (potentially) non-hostile encounters! This sounds like it would go really well with @ClogGear’s exploration risk die. It would be really easy to set up a table of 12 or 20 entries that you can roll either d12 or d20 for a mix of encounters, and then d6 or d10 for only hostile encounters. I also love the inclusion of a Discovery event so you can gently nudge players a little :slight_smile: or just point out other details about the area!

PS. how often do you roll? The link makes it sound like you roll any time the party is standing still, which I’ve heard but seen less often than roll every 2 turns for example.

1 Like

I thought this might contribute to the conversation, though it’s more about determining random encounters instead of checking if one happens :slight_smile:

I don’t know where I picked it up from, but I try to come up with encounters that scale in hostility from 4 up to 12, after which all encounters are completely hostile. Then, depending on how risky the area is, I can roll a d4, d6, etc to see what’s going on there. That way, I can block off super dangerous encounters before certain points.

I really prefer the ideas from the other systems y’all have talked about though! Writing 20 specific but not too specific events is very involved, to say the least. Having simpler delineations like that can help to make events more fleshed out and specific to areas since you write less!

I really liked the Hazard Die on paper, but in practice it didn’t really mesh with how I run things, so I ultimately ended up going back to just tracking durations the old-fashioned way.

The way I handle random encounters is also pretty much by the book: there’s a 1-in-6 chance of a random encounter every other turn, whenever the party crosses a high traffic area, and whenever the party makes a loud noise (such as bashing down a door, explosions, combat, etc.).

In theory I like the idea of having an encounter on a 1 and a spoor on 2, but I haven’t figured out how to handle connections (i.e. do I just randomly roll for both? does the spoor “lock” the next encounter? neither is very satisfying).

1 Like

It seems like it would! The possibility of neutral or friendly parties is interesting, but I like the idea of finding a dangerous encounter that’s kinda chill. Maybe it just ate another party or something?

I’m pretty bad at remembering to roll. Usually only if the party makes a lot of noise, hangs around in one place, or stops to rest. I think I rolled twice in my last session (about 1 1/2 hours)? I start setting a timer for myself for every 20-25 minutes or so, just to keep up the tension.

Anyone have any tips for keeping track of that sort of stuff? I always feel like I have enough going around trying to keep up with party schemes and such.

1 Like

I actually really appreciate this. It’s helpful to know that I don’t have to do things a complicated way! It is nice to just have that 1-in-6 roll :slight_smile:

Maybe it could be that rolling a spoor means the party can initiate the encounter themselves, rather than being caught off guard? That way, there’s really a 1-in-3 chance of there being a random encounter, and it’s 50/50 as to who catches who first–combining the encounter die with the surprise die.


Since your die is weighed so that there’s basically a 1/3 chance of an encounter each roll, you could roll the die every three turns or thirty minutes :slight_smile: But since you roll the die when the characters are basically standing in one place or making noise (I might steal this!!), you could make the roll when there’s nothing new in the area to describe.

Like, if your party is walking around, you’re already describing the new things in their field of vision etc. But, if they’re trying to bust open a door or pick a lock, and you don’t have as much to describe, you could roll at that point! Then it becomes both a tool to get the players moving, and also keep the area interesting while they’re in the same place!

1 Like

Its neat to see so many people using this. For me it’s been great. I’ve been using what I call the Doom Dice for encounters and initiative for almost two years now and am very happy with it. It bridges the divide for me between strict observance of time and rolling fast and loose. I feel like i get the good parts of resource management and reminders for atmospheric detail etc without the fiddly parts.
The main thing I had it effected that I had to put some work into was to go through the spells and decide which lasted mere combat rounds (and are thus subject to expiration during initiative rolls, and which last Turns (expiring on a roll of 4 on the encounter die.
Certainly to each their own.

I’ve been using the following in my Stonehell Dungeon game using Ben Milton’s Knave system:

Encounter Die (d12 every 10 min turn):

  1. Wandering Monster
  2. Monster clues (traces, spoor, etc.)
  3. Lantern/torches go out
  4. Torches only go out
  5. One point of fatigue to everyone
  6. Everyone must eat a ration, or take one point of fatigue
  7. A random PC finds something useful (loot, clue, etc.)

I was finding it, for whatever reason, difficult to remember to roll d6 every other turn to check for wandering monsters. To me, it made more sense to just roll a die every single turn while keeping similar odds. The original hazard die is great, but it was becoming exhausting to have something happen every single turn, so I have results on my table where nothing happens and play just continues.


I like the idea of rolling each turn! I can imagine too, it would be useful to decrease the die size in more dangerous environments–even to where there could be one encounter every hour. Thank you for this!

Let’s post our Hazard Tables!
Exploration Die
|2|Weariness Rest one turn & eat one ration of food or lose 1 HP. Throw again|
|3|Time Passes Torches burn out, lantern oil burns down ½|
|4|Expiration Torches & lanterns burn out, all spells, potions & effects end|
|5|Environment Detritus, tracks, graffiti, rubble, stench, noise, other feature|
|6|Discovery Free turn: Find treasure, secret or clue to nearby danger|

Battle Die
|1|Grave Danger Opponents act first & reinforcements arrive (if available)|
|2|Tides of Battle Opponents act first, change tactics, light goes out etc|
|3|Weary All suffer -1 HP. Morale Check for foes & allies. Party acts first|
|4|Expiration Effect ends: spell, potion, stun, etc. Party acts first|
|5|Discovery Clue to foes weakness, story, or treasure. Party acts first|
|6|Foes Falter! Party acts first & gains one extra action, foe checks morale (2d6)|


Ok, though I wish I could remember/credit where I nabbed this particular version:

A d12 Encounter dice is rolled each dungeon turn if any in the group are wearing medium or heavy armor. Otherwise, a d6 is rolled.

1 Surprise

2 Fatigue

3 Expiration

4 Dungeon Effect

5 Glint

6 ———

7/1 Encounter

8/2 Fatigue

9/3 Expiration

10/4 Dungeon Effect

11/5 Glint

12/6 Advantage

Surprise indicates the party is suprised(no roll) in an encounter.

Encounter indicates just that; party members roll for surprise.

Fatigue indicates the need for a Con check. Failure and you must roll over 1 on your current move dice or move down one encumbrance category until you rest one turn.

Expiration indicates a non-combat spell duration effect wears off(if any are in effect and not absolutely known to last much longer than an hour).

Dungeon effect indicates an opportunity to learn of sights, sounds, smells, etc particular to this part of the dungeon OR, if there are hazards nearby, they are/might be triggered.

Glint indicates a hint of what things are nearby or have passed through.

Advantage indicates an opportunity for bettering an outcome on the next dungeon Encounter Dice roll.


Does this mean that it’s disadvantageous to wear light or no armor since there’s a 1/6 chance of a hostile encounter and no chance of an advantage? Or do you roll the d6 on the second half of the d12 chart? (I realized that it was likely the second option as I was typing, but wanted to make sure!) This chart looks really nice and I appreciate how it’s rolled every turn :slight_smile: I never see that as a house rule people bring up but it looks common and useful enough!

1 Like

As it set up, it isn’t terribly clear, but your second interpretation is correct. On a d12, used when someone in the party is in armor that is clinking and clanking, then one of the 2 in 12 rolls that leads to an encounter always leads to a surprised party, Whereas the party that is wearing no more than light armor will always have a chance to avoid surprise.


Hi all! Sorry to bring this thread back from the dead. I wrote a blog post about a possible way of handling wandering encounter checks, by treating the dungeon as a territorial spirit that wants to push the intruders out. This wouldn’t work as well for treating dungeons as a living ecosystem or stronghold, but definitely for more horror-inclined games where the players are stalked by supernatural forces.

1 Like

Nice! I really like the idea of a dungeon that is slowly growing in awareness and menace toward the party, whether consciously or unconsciously. Nice ideas.

I would suggest, however, that when the party rests, this should NOT reduce dread, since part of the value of the wandering-monster-check system overall is to discourage players from spending too much time in the dungeon - the dungeon is a dangerous environment, and just dawdling will probably get everyone eaten, at least eventually. If resting always reduces Dread, then sitting on your thumbs in the dungeon is the way to cool the dungeon down. Did you have some other reason in mind for this?

Neat ideas.


One other thought: another option would be to say that time spent resting neither increases nor decreases Dread, but you still keep the turn-count running, and still roll encounter checks every 3 turns. That would make it fairly safe to rest - or, rather, wouldn’t specifically penalize resting; but simply sitting around will still get you ambushed every now and then.

1 Like