A fixture in role-playing games since the genre's birth, Encounters are enemy encounters that occur suddenly when traveling on foot or in vehicles, and are a recurring element of the Dragon Quest series. Encounters can occur randomly at any time when walking on the over world or in a dungeon, or at fixed points when a certain number of steps have been taken. As of Dragon Quest IX, these two methods have since been replaced by visible encounters.
The enemies a player can meet varies both on where they are in the game and the terrain they are on. For example, the forest may contain enemies not found in the plains. For games that include travel by ship, enemies encountered while at sea are from an entirely separate set. Some enemies have a very low encounter rate and thus are almost impossible to find; these usually give out large amounts of Experience Points or some other significant reward, the most obvious example being the Metal Slime.
In the 8-bit versions of the first four games, as well as the original version of V, encountering an enemy is a totally random chance independent of the number of steps taken. Instead, each type of tile on the over world is assigned an encounter chance, which is then influenced by whether it is day or night, and if Holy water or Holy Protection have been used.For the original game, the encounter rates per tile type are:
Though very unlikely, it is theoretically possible to walk for as many as 100 steps without encountering a single battle.
In keeping with the subtle alterations to the series' mechanics in the post-Chunsoft titles, VI~VIII (as well as the remakes of the Zenithian trilogy) utilize an encounter rate based on the number of steps taken. Each step taken contributes to a hidden sum, and once the assigned threshold is reached a battle will begin. For example, the units for III's remakes are:
Beginning with IX and remaining consistent for all 3D remakes and sequels, monsters now appear on the over world much the same as the party and NPCs do. The one exception to all this is ship travel, which uses the same mechanics as the famicom games.
Abilities such as Taloon's Padfoot enable players to avoid or reduce the probability of Random Encounters if the player does not wish to fight in order to save time or HP. Both Random and Pedometer encounters can be prevented all together for a short time through use of the Holy water item or the spell Holy Protection, provided the lead character's level is higher than the region's benchmark. In the games that it's available in, the Gospel ring when equipped by a currently active character will remove random encounters altogether.
Similarly, if one wishes to battle more (perhaps for EXP), he or she might use other abilities increase the probability of having a Random Encounter, or, such as in the case of Whistle or the Lyre of Ire, cause one immediately. As an opposite of Holy water, use of Musk or Monster munchies will increase the encounter rate.
In Dragon Quest IX, the mechanics had a significant change: encounters are now initiated by interacting with monsters on the field. Some enemies will always charge at the party or give chase upon spotting them regardless of how much higher the lead character's level is, making Vanish useful for avoiding detection in all circumstances. Initiating an encounter when the monster's back is turned increases the chances of getting the first strike (and vice versa, if the party is chased).