38 Post-Apocalyptic RPG Encounter Seeds

Whether you’re prepping for an upcoming session of Onyx Sky or for an entirely different post-apocalyptic role-playing game, these encounters offer plenty of gameable inspiration.

These example encounters, and scores more, are available in Onyx Sky, now available on DriveThruRPG.

  • Alpha: The wanderers meet a fellow survivor in their travels. This survivor is alone, except for the eight dogs that are attached by heavy leather leads to their belt. These dogs look muscular and tough. How do they keep so many dogs fed? How do they stop the dogs turning on them? Does the alpha fiddle nervously with their belt as they interact? Do the wanderers notice the dogs salivate when they talk to the alpha?
  • Ambush: The wanderers are ambushed by well-concealed enemies or stealthy animals. Where did these attackers come from? How did they hide so well that the wanderers didn’t notice them? And are there more of them waiting to attack?
  • Apostates: These fervent cultists decry any technology from the ‘before’ confront the wanderers, and demand they destroy any technology. Do the wanderers hand over their technology? Where do they draw the line? Electronics? Weapons? Plastics? Pre-war clothes? How do the cultists cleanse apostates?
  • Armed: The wanderers come across another survivor in their travels. The survivor has an assault rifle, carefully wrapped in plastic to protect it from the nanites. Does this survivor want to trade for his rifle? Is he dangerous? Do the wanderers think they can take the rifle by force?
  • Auction: On the outskirts of a settlement, the wanderers come across a slave auction. Do they intervene? Is the slave auction well-guarded? Are the slaves cheap enough for the wanderers to buy? Is one of the slaves someone they’ve met before? Is it ethical to purchase slaves to free them?
  • B-2: In an isolated region, the wanderers spot a military bomber that’s had a hard landing, yet it’s still intact. This is a B-2, a long-range stealth bomber. Has it been protected from the nanites by a repeller? Or just lucky? Or are its stealth materials inedible to the nanites? If it’s intact, what’s in it? Pilots? Warheads? HALO paratroopers?
  • Beggars: The wanderers come across pitiful survivors begging by the side of the road. Do the wanderers have anything to offer? Do the beggars have anything to trade? Perhaps they have obscure knowledge? Or are these the ramblings of disturbed minds?
  • Billboard: While traveling along a road, the wanderers come upon a large billboard, freshly painted, ‘Welcome to New Hope, 2 Miles’, with an arrow pointed along a side-road up into the foothills. Is New Hope a real community or a trap? Do the wanderers investigate?
  • Bridge: The wanderers approach a bridge across a deep chasm, on which a small group of survivors await them. These survivors are Pacifists. If the wanderers try to cross the bridge, the Pacifists stop them and demand that to cross the bridge, the wanderers must throw their weapons into the crevasse below. Do the wanderers accept this demand, turn around and find an alternate route, or try to force their way across the bridge?
  • C-4: The wanderers come across an intact concrete wall set into the side of a rugged mountain. Their weapons and tools are ineffective against the hard concrete. Nearby is an old military base. The metal has been consumed, but other things remain, including plastic explosives. If they manage to breach the wall, what do they find inside?
  • Camel-Gate: The wanderers cross paths with an elderly survivor leading a recalcitrant camel. The old man clearly poses no threat to the wanderers, nor is he any match for their strength. The man takes them for road agents seeking to rob him. Do they trade with him? Do they try to take his camel? Can any trade be fair when he is clearly in fear of them?
  • Camp Fire: The wanderers spot the smoke from a campfire in the distance. Who would light a campfire in the day? Is it a trap? Are they fellow survivors? Who (or what) else has been attracted by the smoke signal?
  • Cannibals: During an ordeal when the wanderers are starving or dehydrated, they come across another survivor crawling along the ground, at the brink of death. Do they try to help this person, even though they can barely keep themselves alive? Do they wait for the survivor to die? Do the wanderers drink their blood or eat their flesh to save themselves?
  • Captured: When one of the wanderers is on their own (or one player is having a solo session), they are set upon by assailants and captured. They’re dragged away from their companions into the wastes. Who has captured them; raiders, slavers, cannibals, cultists, or ferals? Do their captors mean them harm or do they have other motivations? Can the wanderer escape, befriend their captors, or do they mark their captor’s path for their companions to follow?
  • Cemetery: While approaching an abandoned town, the wanderers pass an old cemetery. A stone wall runs alongside the road they travel, the graves behind the wall. Propped on the wall are human skulls. As they continue walking alongside the wall, the skulls transition from old to fresh: old grimacing bleached white, to desiccated skin-covered, to sloughing skin-covered, through to freshly severed heads. Who puts skulls on a wall? Are these a warning? Punishment? Trophies? Is this the work of a deranged individual, or an organized group?
  • Child: The wanderers come across a pair of survivors, a father and a son. The father is dying from radiation poisoning, and begs the wanderers to take his son. Can the wanderers help the father with radiation meds? If they can’t help the father, do they take the child?
  • Choke-Point: The wanderers come across an obstacle with a very tight opening, such as a narrow gap between two collapsed buildings or a ledge next to a precarious cliff, forcing them to squeeze through one at a time. Is this a trap, or a dangerous obstacle? Who do they send first? Are there enemies waiting for them on the other side?
  • Chosen: While in a settlement, a well-equipped caravan arrives. The leaders of this caravan call all of the settlement’s inhabitants together. The caravan is heading for a safe haven. The caravan offers to take five people from the settlement, but only the five who offer the most salvage, metal, tech, or barter. Do the wanderers bid to join the caravan? Do they challenge these newcomers as grifters? Do they try to dissuade the townsfolk? Do they follow the caravan to see where it goes?
  • Dam: Approaching a large city, the wanderers find that all of the roads leading into the city cross a river, but all of the bridges have been destroyed by nanites or collapsed. The river bed below is a mire of thick black mud. A crude sign next to the destroyed bridges points the wanderers to a ‘Crossing’. If the wanderers follow the sign, they come to a huge dam that once held back vast quantities of water. A guard on the dam warns them that the black sludge at the bottom of the dam and the rivers is radioactive from nuclear power plant upriver. The dam offers safe passage, but crossing will cost the wanderers 20% of their possessions. Do the wanderers pay the price, or try to negotiate? Do the dam’s inhabitants have something else the wanderers can do to pay for their passage? Or do the wanderers force their way across?
  • Dead Weight: A lone survivor joins the wanderers. They prove their worth at first, but soon straggle and slow down the wanderers. Is this dead weight sick, lazy, or do they have other intentions? Do the wanderers cut them loose or carry them? Is the freeloader slowing them down deliberately?
  • Domestic: The wanderers, while exploring a ruined wealthy suburb, see movement in one of the abandoned mansions. Inside, they find the house picked bare by nanites, but everything non-metal is still intact and well-kept. As they explore, they come across a high-end domestic service droid (nanite protected), still working decades after the war. How is this droid still running after all this time? Can the wanderers use the droid? Is there something in the house they can salvage? Does the droid have a self-defense protocol?
  • Donor: At an advanced settlement, a doctor approaches the wanderers and asks if any volunteer to donate. Perhaps they’re after a blood donation, an eye, a kidney, or something more essential? Or is this just a ruse to determine if one of the group is a suitable multiple-organ donor?
  • Endangered Species: Near an abandoned animal park, or a place where wild animals once roamed, the wanderers come upon the remains of a slaughtered rhinoceros, its horn hacked off, and flesh roughly cut from its carcass. Who would kill a creature for its horn? How did they even manage to bring down this huge creature?
  • Familiar Face: The wanderers meet another survivor with a familiar face, but from a long time ago. Was this the president, king, queen, or prime minister? Was this the general that led the war effort? Or the industrialist who designed the droids that roam the land? Or the scientist who invented the nanites that ravaged the world? Are they responsible for the state of the world? Do the wanderers hold them to account?
  • Farmhand: Approaching a temperate area, the wanderers pass a cultivated field, a farmhouse in the distance. If they investigate, they find a weathered droid pulling a plow. As they approach the droid, it stops and looks at them; “Hello”. The droid used to be a farmhand here. The farmer and family are long dead. But the droid continues to work the farm, tend the livestock. Is it self-aware? Does it own the farm now? Does it trade with nearby settlements? Will it defend itself if the wanderers interfere?
  • Feral Kids: The wanderers are ambushed by a group of cannibal feral kids who manage to pick off one of their group. Do the wanderers fight the kids? Do they try to help the kids? Can cannibal children be reformed?
  • From Wolves: The wanderers come across a bunch of haphazardly piled backpacks. In the distance, they hear loud voices. Who owns these possessions? Are they fellow survivors? Raiders? Slavers? Or friendly travelers like themselves? Do they investigate to try to see if these are friendly folk or wolves, or do they assume? Do the packs have distinctive marks; flags, military design, decorations?
  • The Grey: The wanderers are stalked by a pack of wild dogs, wolves, hyenas, dingoes, mountain lions, bears, or robot-dogs. Do the wanderers try to outrun the pack? Or cross an obstacle their pursuers cannot pass? Or lure the pack into combat at a favorable location.
  • Herds: Traveling across grassy plains, the wanderers come across a great herd of wild deer, antelope, wildebeest, buffalo, bison, cows, sheep, goats, or horses. Do the wanderers try to hunt one of these huge beasts? Is it worth risking a stampede to bring down such a prize?
  • Hunger: The wanderers discover the site of a bloody battle, bodies strewn on the ground. As they approach, they see a battle-droid eating the remains of the corpses. Did the droid kill these people, or is it just eating them? Why is the droid eating corpses? Is the droid on its own, or does it belong to someone?
  • Into the Light: The wanderers unexpectedly happen upon another group of survivors. This new group is well fed, well clothed, and well equipped. They also seem a bit… cagey. Who are they? What rock did they crawl from under? Have they just come out of a shelter like our heroes? And if so, what’s their angle?
  • Illegal Aliens: The wanderers come across another group in the wilderness. These strangers seem capable and well equipped, but stand-offish. Only one of the group will speak to the wanderers, and when they do it’s with a strong accent. Where’s that accent from? Are these folks from another country? Why are they here? Do countries even exist any more?
  • Land Boat: While crossing a parched desert, an unusual sight. Through the heat-haze, a splotch of white. As it draws closer, it’s a sail. Who captains the land-boat? Are they friendly? How does that thing work?
  • Last Ship: Near the coast, when looking to move between land masses, the wanderers see a fully intact and seemingly operational naval destroyer. Can this vessel get the wanderers where they want to go? Who’s been maintaining the ship after all this time? Where is the crew? Is its nuclear reactor intact? Is its repeller working? What’s in the freezer?
  • Main Attraction: A trader at a settlement has a working movie projector, and screens pre-war movies for the survivors; for a price. How much does it cost to watch a movie? Does the trader have the Lord of the Rings trilogy? What are they willing to pay for a movie to complete an incomplete series? What do the survivors make of these movies?
  • Master-Blaster: In their travels, the wanderers see a hulking figure on the road. When they approach, they discover the figure is a leg-less survivor strapped to the back of a battle droid. How does master control the droid? How is the droid powered? Do the wanderers want a controllable droid more than the leg-less survivor needs the droid?
  • The Metalist: The wanders are asked to find out how the ‘metalist’ is so successful at finding caches of metal. His secret; a glass jar containing a small flock of nanites. His pet nanites detect nearby metal, leading him to hidden caches. The metalist even releases the nanites to feed on scraps of metal, then scoops them back into their bottle. What will the metalist do to protect his secret? Can the wanderers use this technique themselves? What might they find if they go looking?
  • Minefield: Click. Shit. The wanderers have done just that into a minefield. How do they extract themselves? Who put a minefield here? And why?

Check out another 38 encounter seeds.

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