As we all know, sometimes, when traversing the wilderness, the PCs will come across wolves or bandits or whatever else inhabits your random encounter tables. My current campaign takes place in a mountainous region and, often enough, my players will ask me if there are trees nearby where they can take cover, or similar questions pertaining to the terrain of the "battlefield". The problem is that most of the time I don't know what the terrain looks like either. I'm not a big fan of using battlemaps for encounters in old school D&D, and ever since COVID started and we moved the campaign online, keeping things strictly Theater of the Mind has become even more important since we don't use a virtual tabletop. So I came up with a lil random table to generate "abstract terrain features" when the need arises. The roll describes the starting position of the PCs and their foes relative to the terrain. It's very important to roll as per the regular wandering monster rules to know how far away each side is from the other.
Roll a d4.
1 : Terrain feature favors foes
2 : Terrain affects neither side
3: Terrain feature affects both sides
4: Terrain feature favors PCs
Terrain Features that would favor only one side would include things like the higher ground, a copse of trees in the middle of a field, random ruins or maybe a bottleneck.
Terrain features that affect both sides implies that the encounter takes place in an area with lots of trees, in a field of geysers, on a hanging bridge, or that there's a river separating each side from the other.
The idea behind this table is that abstract terrain generation should be simple, quick and versatile, and provide some extra info for players to decide if they want to stay and fight or try to run away. Maybe running away is not so easy in certain situations. Maybe the terrain will dissuade foes from attacking or chasing the PCs. Full disclaimer: I haven't play-tested this yet, so hopefully I'll report back in a few months with some insights about how well it works in actual play.