My homebrew campaign is set in a desert world. I also like making tables of random encounters. However, these encounters must be matching the flavor of the place and time they’re going to be taking place.
The D&d 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide has tables of monsters organized by environment and that’s pretty cool. In my opinion, these can be used in two ways. The first one is to use them like random tables for monsters. The other is to use them as a source of inspiration for creating more random tables for different environments and their variants.
So for today I made a list of encounters that can take place in a desert oasis. I tried to make this list not just a random table that you can roll and throw an encounter to your players but something to provide inspiration. Yes, some of them can be just used as a random encounter, but some can turn into a small side quest.
1. Bandits (CR 1/8)
What did you expect? Of course there’s going to be bandits in an oasis! That’s where they can probably get lots of loot! I wouldn’t put their hideout there, though, because merchants would definitely avoid it. You can even adjust the difficulty of this encounter pretty easily. You can add as many bandits as you want and also a couple of Bandit captains (CR 2) to lead them. And who knows? One of the captains may even have a Rug of Smothering (CR 2).
2. Basilisk (CR 3)
A Basilisk loves arid climates. And an oasis is also a good place to find food. There could also be a cave where it could make its lair. The characters could find scattered lifelike statues of small animals scattered around the oasis leading to the cave.
3. Doppelganger (CR 3)
A caravan made a stop at the oasis. A small team of Doppelgangers(or just one) has managed to separate some of the caravan’s members and either kill or bind them in order to take their places. The reason is unknown. Maybe the caravan is transporting something or someone important. All would have gone smoothly if one of the characters had not found one of the caravan member’s body…
4. Water Weird (CR 3)
I like Water Weirds. They can be used pretty much anywhere with water. In this case a Water Weird can be bound as a guardian to the entrance of a now submerged temple or tomb.
5. Aquatic Troll (CR 5)
Even the not so smart trolls have found out that if they hide in the lake during the day and wait for the night to come, catching the tasty humans when they sleep becomes much easier.
6. Giant Ape (CR 7)
A pack of Apes (CR 1/2) under the leadership of a Giant Ape have taken this oasis as their territory and are terrorizing anyone who approaches. There doesn’t always have to be an exotic beast or a creature from another plane that can cause problems. These are animals that follow their instinct and that tells them that an oasis is a good place to call home. What are the players going to do? Go all murderhobo or find another solution? This an opportunity to show them that their actions have consequences. The pack of apes may be keeping another wild beast at bay that could prove more dangerous to those passing by the oasis.
7. Hydra (CR 8)
You don’t understand why you don’t see anyone else here. This oasis is perfectly fine. It has big trees that grant you cover from the scorching sun and occasionally tasty fruits. And its pond is actually big enough to be called a lake, perfect for fishing and swimming. Then something starts rising out of the lake. Oh, now you understand why nobody else comes to this place…
8. Aboleth(CR 10)
A small rift allowed an Aboleth and some of its Chuul (CR 4) followers to pass from the Elemental Plane of Water to the Material Plane. Maybe it’s somehow connected to the weird behavior of some of the nearby settlement’s residents.
9. Marid (CR 11)
Genies are not the wish granting beings from the fairy tales. They are egotistical elementals that live to fulfill their own wishes. That’s why a Marid appeared in the Material Plane. It wants more mortal slaves because some of its old ones have…expired. It may have already captured some travelers that had stopped at the oasis, so it could be interested in some gambling with the characters in order to entertain itself. If they win, they get a wish. If they lose, they will become its new slaves.
10. Ancient Bronze Dragon (CR 22)
When this dragon went to sleep, he thought nobody would bother him here. But after many tens or hundreds of years, the water from a nearby underwater pool has surfaced and an oasis was formed. Now there are all sorts of tiny beings making noise above his lair and he wants them gone. However, he’s not stupid and won’t just attack them recklessly. This could make him have to move and he doesn’t like moving his hoard. He could “hire” some of those beings to do the job for him…
So that’s my oasis encounter list. I hope it gives you inspiration to create your own awesome encounters. Also, I’d like you to tell me what other monsters you think could be in an oasis.
And until next time, have fun!