I'm in the process of campaign development and one area I feel is important is encounter tables. The more encounter tabels are focused to the specific campaign the more they define the campaign and free up more time for the DM developing a campaign. It's certainly important to have set enocunters in certain spots but the development work is wasted if the DM doesn't or can't maneuver the players to the location of the set encounters. Working out what is to go on the encounter tables is important as it is indeed campaign defining.
Where are these encounter occurring. Defining the range of areas that will be covered by encounter tables will help establish expectations in players. Players will eventually be able to figure out likely encounters in different area/terrains (which is a good thing) and will notice if the range of encounters is the same in every terrain type or similar terrain types. So defining and narrowing down the encounter areas has becoem important to me for my Riperia campaign.
Encounter Areas I'm considering for the central campaign within Riperia:
Castle- the people and troubles of castle life.
Cultivated- the people and beasts in the fields and ways of manors
Village- the simple life of villages and their unique residents and offerings
Lakes, Ponds and pools
Well Traveled Roads
Who or What is encountered. The people, creatures and events that populate these tables are of course very important and will be hugely important to a campaign. Her's how I'm defining that element for now:
Knights- patrolling knight, traveling knight, challenging knight, Legendary knights, Knights of renown, minor knights, Foreign knights, Knights on a personal mission, Questing Knights
Wizards- lords wizard, noted wizard, minor wizard, dastardly wizard, alien wizard
Holy Men- high clergy, local clergy, prophet/preacher, Witch hunter, pilgrims, strange cultists
Nobles- bachelor rand, dandies, lord, lady, foreign mission, local lord incognito, foreign nobles incognito
Burghers- town men, fops, craftsmen, academic
Peasants- lowly men, labourers, washwomen, children, wood cutters, herdsmen, farmers, serfs, milkmaids
Pariah class- lowest of the low and outlaws, charcoal burners, fortune teller, charmsman, banished, marked, beggar
Patrols- authorized militants, mounted patrol, foot patrol, combined patrol, peasant militia
Raiders- freebooters, brigands, foreign military
Domestic Beasts- in check or running amok
Wild Beasts- predators and prey
Merchants- caravans and peddlers
Visions/Sendings- omens, imps and cherubs
Supernatural- undead, demons and angels
Fey- elves, faeries and related
Horrors- terrible monsters, Dragons
Terrain- hazards and rewards of the specific terrain
Curiosity- something a little odd and out of place
Events- faires, tournaments and those getting ready for them.
Places- unmapped dwellings, camp,hogan, hut, cottage, great-house, tower, castle, farm, thorp, hamlet, ancient site, shrine, temple, graveyard, barrow, plinth, ruin, stall, door, shop
Horses and Hounds- events and annoyances with animals in PC party
Minions- events and annoyances with henchmen, hirelings and companions in PC party
Crime- witness or embroiled with Burglar, TombRobbers,Rakes, Footpads, scoundrels, urchins, thugs, bandits or Charlatans
What is the campaign/adventure reason for these encounters can be set in the tables and really aids me in play. Encounters can be:
Challenges- Decided risk and notable reward
Flavor- limited risk and no reward beyond information and establishing setting, possibly warning of future possible encounters.
Foils- limited risk and even more limited reward. a problem to be overcome that
usually results in it's own reward.
Boons- limited or no risk with some decided reward.