The key to interesting wilderness encounters is the same as that to interesting dungeon encounters - involve them in the plot or at least the setting. Use them to drop clues and hooks to your adventures. Or what i did with this table of random encounters around the town of Fallcrest - terrain suitable for heroes of level 1-3 - make up reasons for encounters and base hypothetical larger adventures on them:
Every day of wilderness travel, the adventurers have a 50% chance of a random wilderness encounter. If it happens, roll 1d10 and consult the table.
- 1: 4 Kobold Minions, 2 Dire Rats and 2 Kobold Skirmishers. These can be persuaded to tell the PC:s about the nearby kobold warren - cue Kobold Hall or some homecooked kobold-rich module.
- 2: 4 Decrepit Skeletons, 2 Zombies and 1 Corruption Corpse. These are wandering undead roaming the area around the graveyard (wisely placed outside the city walls in this setting where the dead can rise). Who or what is raising them?
- 3: 2 Halfling Slingers, 2 Human Guards and 1 Halfling Thief. Bandits! If one escapes, he can be tracked back to the bandit lair, otherwise some exploration is in order.
- 4: 4 Elf Scouts and 1 Elf Archer. What crawled up the elves' collective behind and died this time? Investigate.
- 5: 4 Hobgoblin Grunts, 2 Hobgoblin Soldiers, 1 Hobgoblin Archer and 1 Hobgoblin Warcaster. Are the goblinoids on the march again? Villagers can tell the PC:s about the nearby abandoned fort called the Moathouse.
- 6: 5 Imps. Find out who (or what, again) is summoning devils!
- 7: 2 Dwarf Bolters, 2 Human Berserkers and 1 Human Mage. More bandits! And better trained! Either these guys, or clues found in the bandit lair that encounter #2 leads to, can lead the party to a major bandit fortress.
- 8: 2 Magma Hurlers and 3 Magma Claws. What is driving these creatures away from their natural habitat in the nearby volcano? (Hint: A Young Red Dragon is a challenging encounter by the time these are a normal one.)
- 9: 3 Hippogriff Dreadmounts and 2 Dragonborn Soldiers. These are wearing the insignia of a nearby kingdom. Why is it sending scouts into the Fallcrest area?
- 10: 1 Young Green Dragon. The dragon Bilefang lives in the Deepwood forest to the west. It is rumored to have a large hoard of treasure.
If a rolled encounter is connected to a "solved" adventures, it does not occur. In this case, reroll once. If the second roll also indicates a "dead" encounter, no encounter happnens. In this way, the wilderness becomes safer as the heroes finish quests.
(Generally, the level of an encounter is half it's number, rounded up.)
There you go - ten adventure seeds. Of course, stopping the potential war between whatever kingdom Fallcrest belongs to and it's neighbour (enc. 9) could be a mission stretching over the entire heroic tier.