Random encounters can accomplish a lot of things. Some groups see them as annoying obstacles. Others like them for a bit bonus XP while the GM puts a little extra strain on their resources. But they can also give a hint of weirdness to tell your players that the world has more going on than kobolds and goblins, even at low levels.
Your travelling party takes a rest on the side of the road. Or perhaps they have struck out cross-country, across farms and fields. What do you find, besides 2d4 goblins or whatever other ho-hum combat encounter your sourcebook says?
- Ring of standing stones. A sage pays you no mind while she takes astronomical measurements with a sextant.
- Child fleeing a scarecrow. Why is the scarecrow so angry?
- A halfling family is out enjoying a picnic. But their eyes have no irises…
- Four mules patiently pull a wagon with no driver.
- A shrub happily sings drinking songs. Maybe you want to join in.
- Two expert duelists put on an epic display. It is unclear whether they are practicing or fighting to the death.
- A parade of spirits crosses your path, taking no note. But the last one stops, stares at you, and you hear a voice inviting you to join them next year.
- The beauty of this rainbow doesn’t explain why it shines at night.
- A gnome tinker sells trinkets – but only accepts payments accompanied by clever limericks.
- Young lovers ride a draft horse, their faithful mastiff by their side. How odd that the animals’ legs stand straight as they glide forward.
- A bulette and an ankheg engage in conceptual intercourse. A philosophical discussion, that is – what were you thinking?
- Twelve will-o’-wisps swirl dazzlingly. Or are those just dancing lights?