It’s a beautiful, sunny day and your adventurers are out for a stroll across a wide grassland. Yawn. Does your group need a little surprise to ruin their picnic in the countryside. You can roll a random encounter or let us help you come up with something entertaining for your players. Here is a list of Monsters, Traps & More for a D&D 5e Grassland Encounter for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Hopefully we can help your adventurers find out that the tall grasses of the plains hide a variety of dangers not to be taken lightly.
Challenge Rating: 1/2 | page 317
This large, flightless bird is fast (speed 50′), but would only be a tough challenge if your players are facing a group of them. Even more fun would be to try and tame these nasty beasts as mounts for your players stuck crossing a grassland on foot. You could always make them more peaceful and easier to tame. Either way, if your players tame them, they’ll get to ride fast ostriches/Chocobos or whatever you want to call them.
Challenge Rating: 5 | page 34
Often called “land shark”, this massive, fearless monster exists only to eat anything alive, including your heroes. While traveling over a temperate grassland, have a bulette use its tremorsense to detect your unsuspecting adventurers and shoot from underground. Bulettes have no lair and will travel hunting ranges up to thirty miles wide. Set-up a scenario where a bulette is terrorizing a village of halflings (a bulette’s favorite meal), for a nice little quest. For even more fun have your adventurers meet two bulettes at the edge of their territories who are as interesting in killing each other as killing your group. Don’t forget to give your players some hints in the form of torn up landscape, uprooted trees and sinkholes.
Challenge Rating: 1/2 | page 42
This mythical chicken/bat/lizard is not the most challenging monster, but they fiercely attack anything that presents even a hint of danger. An encounter with even of few of these small monsters could leave your heroes petrified. Create a set-up where your adventurers disturb a group of cockatrices who are happily eating field berries, nuts or flowers. If you are nice, give them a hint in town about the threat so they can prepare for petrification.
Challenge Rating: 2 | page 38
Your adventurers spot a group of men on horseback off in the distance racing towards them… but they are not men, it is a group of centaurs. Centaurs are reclusive, but good people. If your players have entered centaur territory, they might need to explain themselves in a social encounter or face the pikes of these fierce warriors. If discussions with the centaur chief go well, your heroes just might have gained a strong ally in their battle against the growing evil sweeping the land.
Challenge Rating: 1/2 to 4 | page 162-163
These hyena-like humanoids are found along the frontiers and borderlands of civilization and are feral, without conscience and blood-thirsty. The Monster Manual provides three gnolls to play with and easily provide everything you need to hook lower level characters into a demonic themed campaign. Create a basic set-up where gnolls are residing in an old underground keep in the grasslands and they are attacking the outskirts of a nearby village or trade route. As your heroes gain power, they can seek out and destroy the fiendish leader of the gnolls and end the threat to the poor farmers/travelers.
Challenge Rating: 4
Have your adventurers visit the savannah and face a pride of lions. Being hunted is never fun, especially at night when all you can hear in their roars. Have your players find the fresh remains of a large kill (like an elephant) to remind them why this beast is the king. You could throw some hyenas in for fun.
Giant Poisonous Snake
Challenge Rating: 1/4
Hide some giant poisonous snakes in deep grass for a trap and monster combination. The bite and poison combination of these giant snakes can be deadly for lower level characters.
Challenge Rating: 11 | page 260
These solitary sky titans have a wingspan that is at least 200 feet across. With their keen sight these gargantuan bird can easily spot your adventurers on the plains. Rocs can swoop down to attack players with nowhere to hide or easily grab something the size of a wagon and carry it back to its nest. A roc can be used to quickly move characters from a grassland into the mountains (or anywhere) or carry off an important caravan turning an escort mission into a quest. Roc nests are great places to fill with treasure and baby rocs to fight.
Challenge Rating: 1/4 to 8 | pages 79-80
I keep putting dinosaurs in my lists, but they can work really well and I am so happy to see them in the Monster Manual. Have your group of adventurers encounter a large group of herbivore dinosaurs. Suddenly, they hear a loud roar and a huge T-Rex appears running towards them and the stampeding plant-eaters. Throw in some mammoths, tribal warriors and saber-tooth tigers for a prehistoric campaign. Check out D&D 5e Monsters for a Prehistoric Encounter for even more ideas.
Placing standard traps in a grassland setting can work, but a pit trap does not make as much sense in the middle of a field as on a trail or in a dungeon. Having your adventurers face a brush fire can be used to create a challenge or to steer your players away or towards a goal. As the fire catches the adventurers with its flames and smoke, have them make a DC 13 Constitution check to see if they are overcome by the fire (or whatever is appropriate to your player’s escape actions). Anyone who gets caught takes 1d6 fire damage; as the fire spreads, anyone who starts their turn in the area or moves through it takes 1d6 fire damage; eventually, smoke causes obscurement and then suffocation. You could even try out the chase rules in the Dungeon Master Guide where the players are the quarry. For bonus DM points consider the direction of the wind as a factor in the movement of the fire, even having it pick up to create a deadly firestorm.
Wall or Trench
Place a long wall or wide trench in the middle of a grassland. Trenches are often dug by soldiers for protection during war, but they can be used to keep away monsters. A tall wall stretching forever in either direction could be found or a wall that is clearly created as a powerful fence. A trench or wall will provide your adventurers with an obstacle to overcome, but they might want to consider what is the wall or trench keeping out or in.
As your adventurers travel across a large plain, a huge army appears on the top of the nearest ridge and then another army advances out of the hills on the opposite side of the plain. Effectively surrounded, it looks like your adventurers have stumbled into the middle of a battle that is about to begin. Do your adventurers try to fight everyone, quickly join a side or run? Instead of some random encounter with no impact, their choice can set off events to power an entire campaign. The armies can be led by rival orc chiefs, human kings fighting for territory, rival groups of treants or whatever you like. The more alike you make the armies, the harder it will be to choose a side for the adventurers.
Here are some additional grassland monsters that I like that I did not mention above:
- Goblins riding Wargs, Giant Elks, Giant Badgers, Giant Boars, Jackals, Wolves and Dire Wolves.
Image: Wizards of the Coast, D&D 4th Edition Monster Manual