When a group of human, elf, dwarf, halfling or gnome adventurers heads off through the woods, it is a common trope to have them surprised while encamped. They might have bedrolls or tents and a campfire for cooking or warmth.

In my campaigns, I commonly use humans, goblins, kobolds, hobgoblins, orcs and gnolls as raiding parties (acting for their own independent interest or at the direction of an big bad guy). Sometimes, I have the players track or stumble upon a dusk encampment where the PCs can have surprise if they are clever.

For the humanoids I list, when left to their own devices, which would set up "formal" camps (common cooking areas, campfire, watch standers) and which would devolve into animal behaviors?

Also, would any use tents?

Looking for specific reference material. Rule material preferred, but fictional references also acceptable.


2 Answers 2


Luckily, Volo's Guide to Monsters can give us a lot of insight in this regard!

Goblins, Hobgoblins, and Bugbears are all goblinoids, and can commonly be found together. Page 51 of VGTM gives us an example of a Goblinoid war camp. It is very regimented, and resembles any human military outpost. It has ditches, a command center, tents for goblins, dens for bugbears, etc. Almost certainly, an orginized goblinoid war-party will establish a well regimented camp with tents and the like, much like you would expect from humans.

Kobolds don't really have raiding parties. As described in VGTM, they are very weak creatures and really focus more on surviving than raiding. They are uncomfortable in sunlight, and will likely retreat back to a cave system and fill the whole thing with traps and escape routes, rather than create a tent camp. That isn't to say their cave systems aren't well organized, just that it would be a very odd sight to see a tent filled with kobolds in the woods somewhere. They will want to hide away to a very well defensible position which they can fill to the brim with traps.

Like goblinoids, Orcs also have a very regimented structure about them, though perhaps more savage in execution. Their hierarchy is based very much on the blessings of their gods, so warriors will sleep in one area, the chief in another, priestesses and healers in their own quarter, etc. Page 85 of VGTM tells that Orcs often go out on raids with the goal of bringing glory back to the stronghold (an example stronghold is given on page 91). Though savage, Orcs will still make camps as they raid, keeping a lookout for anybody who might trespass on their land, as well as for passersby who they can loot. No doubt they would make some kind of basic tent camp at least.

Gnolls are the most animalistic of the bunch. VGTM gives no suggested lairs for Gnolls. They are savage marauders, with no other purpose but to kill. As described on page 35,

Gnolls never set up permanent camps, though they might linger for a few days at the site of a particularly great slaughter...

A Gnoll war band is on the move at all times, and if you find one resting, its going to be in a place that they've just burned to the ground. They will likely use the ruins of whatever structures remain as shelter. They won't waste their time setting up a real camp. No tents, just carnage, and within a week they will move on to the next slaughter.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Amazing answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Dec 3, 2016 at 23:22

The best aspect of a fantasy role playing game is that you can deviate big or small against what is “commonly” known about a creature. The key is to mix things up against players who know as much about the monster manual as you do. Currently the party in my world are about to have dealings with a Gnoll clan who are well led and occupy a small town they just conquered. They are using it as a base to conduct raids and perform rituals. Use what you read in all the game material as a starting point, but don’t be afraid to make adjustments to keep your game interesting.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi John, and welcome to RPG Stack Exchange. Check out our tour to see how we work here. Usually it's already taken as a given that the DM can make things up and do whatever, so pointing this out is rarely a useful answer to the question on its own. This question is seeking advice on what reference materials (rules and fiction) already state to begin with, to use as a common point of reference or baseline, so we're looking for answers to provide that rather than remind the DM of their liberties. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2018 at 11:14

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