Random Encounters like The Mandalorian in 5E D&D
When it comes to fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons I tend to run a lot of one shots and shorter campaigns. I like this scenario just fine because I’m always finding inspiration for new campaigns and gaming with new friends. After watching chapter one of The Mandalorian last week my first thought was wow! This Disney+ show is incredible. And my second thought was this would make an awesome 5E D&D campaign. A party of bounty hunters navigating the underbelly of scum and villainy sounds like tremendous fun to me. I found a lot of inspiration from Nord Games Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery for a bounty hunter campaign. Now with two chapters of The Mandalorian available for viewing, we’ll match it with a second chapter developing this idea. So let’s get into it. (And don’t worry — still no spoilers!)
Bounty hunting like The Mandalorian in 5E D&D
If you want to get caught up on where we’re at with our 5E D&D bounty hunter campaign inspired by The Mandalorian, here’s a link to chapter one of this exploration. In that post we laid out the basic structure for the campaign including your pitch to players, an organization for their characters to work with and the sorts of creatures and NPCs they’ll encounter. We used Nord’s Skulduggery book for our primary resource to populate our bounty hunter campaign setting with brigands, ruffians, thieves, swindlers, assassins and their bosses.
Just like The Mandalorian series, or any good adventuresome story, the main characters will run into problems and no job is ever as easy as it seems. Throwing curveballs at characters to create complications provides tension and drama, so this chapter we’ll explore ideas for creating these opportunities for the players in this bounty hunter campaign. And since we began this 5E D&D journey with some help from Nord Games, we’ll pull another title from the shelf and see how it can help us make our Mandalorian-inspired campaign more interesting.
In The Mandalorian chapter one, we don’t learn very much about the titular hero. We know he’s a badass fighter, he takes jobs through a guild and he has a personal goal of collecting a special material. In chapter two, we learn a little bit more about him through his reactions to the emerging circumstances. Also, he runs into a few complications of his own, unrelated to the job he’s currently on. To me this sounds like random encounters. So if we’re using Skulduggery to guide our primary objectives in this bounty hunter campaign, let’s look at how we can incorporate random encounters to complicate the job, and help players with character development through their reactions to these extemporaneous situations.
Enter Wandering Monsters — Wilderlands
I love random encounters and tables to roll on in 5E D&D! Whenever I use them during a game session, I like to have one of the players make the roll. This way I’ve got plausible deniability for whatever transpires. Wandering Monsters — Wilderlands is only 10 pages, not a very large book, but it’s also available as a deck of cards (my favorite kind of accessory!). There’s 52 cards in the deck, with 3-5 possible encounters on each card along with a chart to help adjust them for appropriate challenge levels, and I dig the succinct summary to introduce each one.
“Host of the Dead. Shuffling forward on skeletal feet, their mounts champing liplessly on rusting bits, the soldiers march, purpose forgotten by all but old bones.”
In this example, characters encounter a handful of skeletons and warhorse skeletons. And maybe a wight. And maybe a wight riding a nightmare! Maybe your bounty hunters are en route to their destination, acting on a tip where to find their quarry. But nothing is ever that easy right? You can ask a player to make a roll on the d100 table included with the book and next thing you know they’re getting ambushed by bugbears or coming across a fey emissary.
Better yet, ask a player to draw a card from the deck and maybe blur the line between Dungeon Master and player a bit, encouraging the player who drew the card to read the summary and help paint the scene. Even further, the player who draws the card can ask another player to roll the dice and determine what the challenge will be. Maybe it’s a druid and a wolf, maybe it’s an archdruid and 6 winter wolves. It’s random! How the party engages and interacts with the encounter helps steer the direction of the campaign. But at the end of the day, their main objective is locating and neutralizing their bounty hunting target.
Ready to run a bounty hunter campaign?
I’m not sure what I’m more excited about, chapter 3 of The Mandalorian or running this 5E D&D bounty hunter campaign. What I’m enjoying most about exploring this idea is how easily the components come together. The straightforward concept of taking a job, traveling to a new location, locating the target and bringing them in feels very episodic to me, which is perfect for a short campaign. And our job as DM becomes a lot easier because Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery contains all the important people we need.
Now, armed with our Wandering Monsters — Wilderlands deck or book, we’ve got a terrific resource to create complications along the way. If the party encounters one of these circumstances on the way to reach the target, we’ve created some tension by eating up the party’s time and taxing their resources. On their return trip, with their target in tow, we’re creating an opportunity for the target to escape in the confusion, or maybe get eaten by a monster and the party has to protect them — even more drama and tension! Perhaps their captive aids the party during the encounter and now they’re looking at them as more than a bounty. They develop sympathy or gratitude for the target.
If you want to check out Wandering Monsters — Wilderness by Nord Games, visit their store here. And while you’re there you can use our exclusive promo code NORDARCHY20 to get a huge 20% off everything in your cart! Nord Games creates rock solid products and accessories to help you create amazing experiences for your games. They’ve produced some really terrific books, plus they’ve got dice and my favorite sort of RPG accessory — decks of cards! The holidays are coming up too, so you can really make the most of that promo code with gifts for the nerds in your life.
What do you think? Did you watch The Mandalorian and come away thirsting for more? Are you excited to create a 5E D&D bounty hunter campaign? I know I am. Let me know what you thought of the show or the campaign idea and as always, stay nerdy!