Random encounters, also known as random battles, are battles that occur when traveling from place to place on foot, and have been a recurring tradition in the Final Fantasy series. They can occur at any time when walking on the overworld or in a dungeon.
The enemies a player can meet vary 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. Some enemies have a very low encounter rate, and thus are almost impossible to find.
There are several ways to prevent random encounters. The player could reduce or eliminate random encounters entirely by traveling on an airship or chocobo, equipping an equipment piece e.g. Molulu's Charm in Final Fantasy VI, or learning an ability e.g. GF Diablos's Enc-None ability in Final Fantasy VIII. Some games also have methods to raise the frequency of random encounters, which is useful for level grinding.
In the very early games of the series, whenever the player character takes a step, there is a small chance that a random encounter will initiate. With this method, there is a possibility that the player can encounter an enemy with each consecutive step. Conversely, the player can traverse an entire dungeon floor without encountering a single enemy. This was corrected in later games by using an algorithm that chooses a random number between two set integers after an enemy party is fought. This number is the number of steps the player character can make before encountering the next enemy party.
- On the world map on foot each step decrements the value by 6.
- Inside of a dungeon each step decrements the value by 5.
- On the world map while sailing on a ship each "step" decrements the value by 2.
- On damage floor, while riding the airship, while in a seaport, or inside a town, the value doesn't decrease (no random battles occur).
There are certain map squares where battles always occur. These are the fixed encounters and fighting a fixed encounter does not reset the value. The number resets whenever it hits zero and a random battle occurs, or when a game is started or reloaded. The number is not reset by entering a town.
In the Origins version and possibly also other post-NES versions, the game calculates a given number of steps until the next encounter using a random element. This number decreases every step until it gets to 0 when the player has a random encounter. This number is permanently stored and is also stored within save files. This means that if the game is reloaded, the player will always have the same amount of steps until the next encounter. The number of steps until the next random encounter is calculated after a battle.
In certain parts of the story the party will encounter bosses while walking in the dungeon (after fighting them in a boss battle) to either escape them or find another way to beat them.
Final Fantasy V again determines the rate of random encounters with the "random battle counter" by setting a random number between n and 255. Each step subtracts n from the Random Battle Counter and when the counter reaches zero, a random battle happens and a new value for the random battle counter is set. Each area has four possible battles (enemy formations) that may happen and the game rolls a randomly generated number between 0 and 255 to see which of the battles is drawn up.
There are two commonly occurring battles (90/256), one slightly rarer battle (60/256) and one rare battle (16/256) in each area. In some areas the player can fight only one kind of monster, which means that all four possible battles are exactly the same, so it makes no difference which of the identical battles the game draws up.
The Advance version adds some new jobs to the roster, and the new job Oracle learns the ability Read Ahead that lowers the chance of random encounters. Another new job, the Gladiator, learns the Lure skill that makes random encounters more frequent. Neither ability stacks, so it is pointless having multiple copies of the abilities equipped at the same time on different party members.
The game has an encounter glitch that allows the player to avoid random encounters altogether.
The game keeps a counter that increases each time a step is taken. Each step on the world map adds 192 to the counter; walking in caves and other areas outside of world map where monsters can be encountered adds 112. Each step, a random number between 0 and 255 is generated; if the number is less than [counter / 256] a random battle occurs. After each battle the counter is reset to 0. A simulation gives an average number of 23 steps before each encounter (smallest : 2, max 92). If the party member in lead has the Ward Bangle equipped the number added is halved. If Mog equips the Molulu's Charm the counter is not increased and no random encounters occur.
The game is divided into areas with different areas having different encounter rates. The world map is also divided into areas, and the player can see which area they are currently in from the menu. Each area can support up to six normal battles and four special formation battles (Back Attack, Side Attack and Pincer Attack). World map areas can support a further four Chocobo battles.
While moving on the field, a variable called the "Field Danger Counter" is incremented every so often. The higher the danger counter, the more likely a random battle is to occur. Some areas increase the danger counter at a larger rate than others. The difference is marked by a stat known as the area's encounter value. The danger counter is incremented every time a battle check is performed, which happens roughly three times per second when moving. Walking increases the danger counter by [1024 / Encounter Value] per battle check and running increases it by [4096 / Encounter Value]. Running is four times faster than walking, but while running the number of times the battle check is called is lower over the same distance, so one may find to have fewer encounters.
A random battle will initiate if, during a battle check, a random number generated between 0 and 255 is less than [Danger Counter * Enemy Lure Value / 256]. The Enemy Lure Value is a fraction between 2/16ths to 32/16ths, but is only altered through the Enemy Lure and Enemy Away Materia. The default value when neither is equipped is 16/16ths or 100%.
The Field Danger Counter is reset after each random battle and carries over from screen to screen.
The world map has its own danger counter. The counter is incremented by [Enemy Lure Value * 16384 / Encounter Value] per battle check. The Enemy Lure Value is doubled if greater than 16/16ths, making enemy luring count for twice as much as it does on the field. Battle checks occur less often on the world map, but the higher increase of the danger counter makes up for this. Again, a random battle begins if, during a battle check, a randomly generated number between 0 and 255 is less than [Danger Counter / 256].
Unlike the Field Danger Counter, the world map Danger Counter resets whenever the player leaves or enters the world map, which includes entering a town or dungeon or submerging while in the submarine.
As soon as a random battle is going to occur, the following things are considered in order:
On the world map the game first performs the Mystery Ninja check. If the player is in a forest there is a chance to face the Mystery Ninja as long as Yuffie hasn't been recruited. If the battle isn't a Mystery Ninja battle, the game next checks for chocobos; if the player is on a chocobo track and has the Chocobo Lure Materia equipped, there is a chance to get a chocobo battle.
The chance of a preemptive battle is worked out next. There is a base chance of 16/256 of getting a preemptive battle, but a mastered Preemptive Materia boosts this up to 64/256. The maximum is 85/256, roughly a 1/3 chance.
If the area has any special formation battles (Back Attack, Side Attack or Pincer Attack), the chance of getting them is calculated first (after the Mystery Ninja and chocobo battles) and the game will go through all possible special formation battles for the area in the following order:
The game first checks for Back Attacks, where the enemy party gets the first turn; then for the Side Attack, where the enemy is in the middle and the player characters on the sides; and the final possible special formation battle is an Attack from Both Sides, where the player characters are surrounded by enemies. The game rolls a random number between 0 and 63 to determine if a special formation battle occurs and which of the special battles it is.
If neither a special formation battle nor a chocobo battle happens then the normal battles are checked out of the possible normal battle formations, with one exception: If the player gets the exact same battle formation twice in a row the game will re-roll once for a new normal battle. If it's still the same battle no further re-rolls are done.
The way encounters are decided on the world map is slightly different. Instead of a single random value being used for all types of special attack formations, they are checked individually. This means the chance of not getting a special formation on the world map is not the sum of the chances, but instead the three chances of not getting a Back Attack, not getting a Side Attack and not getting an Attack from Both Sides multiplied together.
Random encounters occur generally all around the world map, except in the forest around North Crater, the forest around Bone Village, the coral area between the Sleeping Forest side of the Corel Valley and the Forgotten Capital, or on the bridges in Wutai. Random encounters don't happen if the player is riding a chocobo, submarine, Tiny Bronco or Highwind, but still occur while riding on the buggy. The player must travel a certain distance on the world map after an encounter or exiting a location before they can get into a random encounter. Encounters are divided by the world map area one is in (displayed in the menu), and each area has four different sets. These sets are for grass, dirt or snow, beach, and miscellaneous. Miscellaneous terrain is often used for forests or deserts, though it is also used for the canyon terrain in the Cosmo Area and the Great Glacier Snow Field terrain considered a part of the Icicle Area.
Due to the inescapable battles glitch, some random encounters are impossible to flee from. Battle encounters are skipped in the player opens the menu right when the battle was meant to initiate. This can lead to the repeating boss glitch, where the skipped random battle results in the player fighting a boss twice. Although not random encounter, if the player skips the Diamond Weapon boss, they will become stranded, unable to finish the game, as the scene where the Sister Ray is fired never triggers.
Encounter rates were higher in the original Japanese version, and in future releases every area has had its encounter rate reduced by varying amounts. In later releases, random encounters have been removed from the square area of Sector 8 at the start of the game, and outside of Holzoff's cabin at the base of Gaea's Cliff.
Random encounters happen while on the world map and on the field and dungeons.
While on the world map every step the player takes the game performs a check to decide whether a battle starts or not. There is a variable which increases each time the check is performed. If the variable + LocationMod is greater than a number randomly generated between 0 and 255, a battle starts.
- 12 player is in a forest
- 128 player is on Island Closest to Heaven or Island Closest to Hell
- 2 anywhere else
Diablos's Enc-Half reduces the encounter rate to a quarter (despite its name), and Enc-None prevents all random encounters.
Generally the random encounters in forests are harder than the ones on the field, such as on the Balamb island T-Rexaur is only encountered in the forest near Fire Cavern and Ruby Dragon is only encountered in the forests of Centra region. In Ultimecia Castle the player can encounter most enemies fought throughout the game as random encounters.
In Centra Ruins fighting Tonberries as random encounters is required in order to fight Tonberry King. In the Esthar region the enemies fought on the world map change: on the first visit the player fights Mesmerizes and Malboros, but after the Lunar Cry they have been replaced by Imps, Toramas and Behemoths. Some enemies are only encountered extremely rarely, such as the Chimera in the Dingo Desert.
Unlike most previous games, the original version of Final Fantasy IX offered the player no ability or accessory to affect the rate random encounters occur. Many players wishing to acquire the Excalibur II, which can only be done in the first 12 hours of the game, will try to find ways to reduce the frequency of random encounters. One method is to tap the movement buttons in only small increments while walking on the world map, and one is unlikely to get into encounters. The possibility of random encounters on the world map is not eliminated this way, but is greatly reduced. Because the Ragtime Mouse encounters are unrelated to this trick, the player can force Ragtime Mouse encounters by tapping the button repeatedly while walking through forests filtering out regular encounters.
Resetting the game when an unwanted encounter happens is another method that can used when not on the world map, as the chance to get into a random encounter is reset every time one enters a new screen, so whether or not one gets an encounter on one screen doesn't affect whether or not one will get one in the next screen.
The 2016 re-release offers an option to turn off random encounters, making the previous methods unnecessary and greatly reducing the difficulty towards acquiring Excalibur II.
The game has a few special type of random encounter, namely the encounters with the friendly enemies and the encounters with the Ragtime Mouse. These battles have a different battle music, and only occur under specific conditions. Friendly enemies are fought in certain areas only, and their appearance may be tied to whether or not the player has encountered the previous friendly enemies in the quest. Ragtime Mouse only occurs in forests, and has a limited number of appearances per part of the game or disc, so the player can't just battle around in forests and finish the quest on the first opportunity.
Random encounter rate varies only little between areas and appears fairly constant throughout the game, unlike in most previous games where certain areas have noticeably more random encounters than others. Some enemies encountered randomly appear very rarely, such as Tonberry at the Cavern of the Stolen Fayth and Simurgh at the Djose Highroad, a feature of great annoyance to many players, as the Monster Arena quest requires the player to capture 10 of each enemy.
It appears some enemies have a chance of being encountered in very specific parts of the area, and that the game resets the encounter order and frequency when a save is reloaded, letting the player battle some slightly different enemies if they try to reload their game.
The enemy groups possible to encounter depends on which chapter the player is in. Like in its predecessor some enemies only appear extremely rarely, making it difficult for players who want to Oversoul each enemy to complete Shinra's Bestiary.
With the Lure Bracer accessory the base random encounter rate is raised by times 10.
Random encounters return in Final Fantasy XIII-2 despite having been absent from Final Fantasy XIII. Enemies appear on the field and engaging them begins a battle. If the player strikes the enemy on the field with their weapon, they start the battle in preemptive strike, gaining status buffs and first hit on the enemies, filling their chain gauges halfway. If the enemy engages the player on the field, the battle starts without any bonuses. If the player tries to run away by keeping distance to the enemy but runs out of time in the Mog Clock before they can get clear of the enemy, the battle starts without the player being able to use the Retry option.
Certain areas are safe areas where there are no random encounters. Random encounters also don't happen during Live events. The Fragment Skill "Encounter Hunter" lets the player adjust the frequency of random encounters, and the Fragment Skill "Battlemania" increases the chance of encountering rare monsters.
Enemies randomly spawn while traversing the terrain, and certain areas have higher spawn rates (most notably in Chaos infusions). If Lightning gets a preemptive strike, opponents start with 10% less health when starting battle, or 25% when performed unnoticed. Failure to get a preemptive strike results in the enemies starting with full health (i.e. enemies strike first). There is a finite number of most enemies in the game, and they can be hunted to extinction. The last of a species is more powerful than the others of its type, and is known as the Last One. Different enemies spawn during different times of the day.
While the majority of encounters are fixed, random encounters do still occur on occasion. Sabertusks, Voretooths, Saberclaws, Havocfangs, Coeurls and Killer Bees will randomly attack depending on the player's location. Gigantoads will also randomly appear while it is raining in Duscae and Cleigne, though are slower to attack than the previous examples.
Imperial dropships from Niflheim will randomly spawn and drop various troops and magitek armors at the party's location. These enemies will get progressively stronger throughout the game. The party will notify Noctis about incoming dropships, and they are slow to get to the ground, so they can easily be avoided most of the time. However, dropships can spawn while the party is already engaged in battle, distracting party members from notifying Noctis, and in general making the imperials harder to avoid. They can even spawn while the party is still fighting a previous dropship. Dropships can also drop their troops on the road, forcing the party to clear them if they want to drive past them. Dropship enemies will get progressively stronger as the player defeats them, eventually culminating in MA-X Angellus-0, a superboss that will only appear in chapter 15.
Most dangerous are the daemons that will randomly at night. While various daemons can spawn, the most common and dangerous are Iron Giants and later Red Giants. The Giants will regularly spawn in the middle of the road, forcing the party out of the Regalia. Iron Giants are level 30 and can appear as soon the game starts, all but forcing the player to rest for the night until they become strong enough to defeat them. Once the party has defeated an Iron Giant, Red Giants, some of the strongest enemies in the game, can start spawning in their place.
Final Fantasy Tactics has something akin to random encounters, even though it does not have dungeons or a traversable overworld. When the player travels over the world map they pass over the "dots" that signify battlefields. Traveling over those locations gives a chance of encountering a group of enemies in that location's battlefield. Each battlefield has unique weather conditions and possible enemy formations depending on the calendar and what chapter the player is in.
Random encounters occur on the world map. The player cannot flee from them, thus making Final Fantasy Type-0 the first game in the series where the player cannot run from random encounters. The player can cycle through their whole sixteen member party however, and only gets a Game Over if everyone is killed. The player can avoid random encounters by riding on a chocobo.
The player is randomly thrown into battles when traveling through the world map and through dungeons. The Ninja class has abilities that can reduce the frequency of random encounters.
The games features random encounters in the dungeons and world map, as well as when sailing the ship. Later revealed to be the power of the Celestial Being known as Altair, through the game configurations Tiz can alter the encounter rate. In Bravely Second, Vampire Castle, Dimension's Keep, Dimension's Cauldron, and Dimension's Hollow are the only locations where the encounter rate cannot be altered.