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Roaming Enemy

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An enemy in a video game which appears randomly, with no specific point (save one or two to introduce them). Can vary from Metal Slime to Hopeless Boss Fight depending on how much the player is expected to defeat them. Typically takes the form of The Dreaded and if optional may be too dangerous to fight when they first begin appearing, but much less so if they are encountered later in the game. The player may return to them when they get stronger and challenge them as an Optional Boss, if they're still around. A Stealth-Based Game may have an Implacable Man that looks for the player throughout the entire game and gives you an immediate Game Over if they catch you.

Comes in several flavors which may overlap with one another:

  1. The Wanderer: Patrols a specific area in the game. They may actively stalk the player if they get too close or they might just move randomly until they find them. Distinguished in that the player may never even have to meet them.
  2. Schrodinger's Encounter: The player will always encounter the enemy — it's just a matter of when. The point at which they turn up is fixed but decided randomly from several potential points ahead of time (typically when the game begins). Distinguished from the Wanderer in that the player won't be able to avoid them.
  3. Triggered Encounter: This often takes the form of a boss or Boss in Mook Clothing. It appears only if the player acts in a very specific manner. A specific version of this is Stalked by the Bell, where the enemy appears if the player lingers too long in one area. This tactic was very popular in the arcade era of video games where some arcade games would plop a Nigh-Invulnerable enemy if a player takes too long to complete a level instead of the standard time limit.
  4. Fake Roamer: The game pretends that this enemy is actively stalking you or wandering around but it really turns up at specific points in the game. You can identify it by the fact that it always turns up in the same place no matter how many times you play that part of the game.

The use of Respawning Enemies for this is crucial to keep the player from feeling entirely safe in horror games, respawning ammo and health optional.

Often overlaps with Instakill Mook. Contrast with Random Encounters and Pre-existing Encounters, which tend to always be used for less unique enemies.

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  • .hack//G.U. Games: The Doppelganger, which is a shadowy copy of the party leader (in the player's case, Haseo) that is always 8 levels higher than the player (unless you are at the volume's max level), wanders the area you are in by warping around, but only in fields. One turns up in the field if you don't fight for a certain amount of time, or if you use the keyword "Moonlight", which ensures that there is a Doppelganger in that field. You can run around the field and never find him, or he may be right next to your starting point. The Doppelganger can be quite a terrifying opponent, whether or not you actually encounter him. If he sees you, the screen begins to flash red and scary music plays as he runs towards you; even if he doesn't, one can get the feeling of being watched. To make it even more unnerving, he's also moving around even while you're in a battle and can actually join in on a battle you're currently fighting if he gets too close.
  • World of Warcraft: Several areas have overpowered enemies patrolling them as type 1.
    • The Sons of Arugal are level 20 elites that patrol an area used by players of levels 10-19.
    • The Devilsaurs in Un'goro Crater. Because they become visible at the same effective range as other monsters despite being fifty feet tall, they have gained a reputation for having taken Ninja levels.
    • Other examples include the Fel Reaver in Hellfire Peninsula, the Whale Shark in Vashj'ir, and a pack of Alliance soldiers with their commander in Arathi Highlands.
  • Pac-Man: The ghosts move randomly but chase the player if they see them. The thing about the Pac-Man ghosts, and what it's rare for the clones to pull off (even if they go for deterministic rather than random ghost movement), is that each has a separate AI which, while all of them are simple, makes for a very effective team. This site has some details, as it turns out.
  • Pokémon: Roaming Pokémon, a tradition started with Raikou, Entei, and Suicune in Gold and Silver. They are encountered like any other random Pokémon but the area they appear in changes. Unusually for this trope, the player is generally the one who tracks them down (and they have a habit of fleeing before you can catch them when they're encountered). Almost every game since then has had their own:
    • Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire: Latios in Ruby, Latias in Sapphire, and your choice in Emerald.
    • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl: Mesprit and Cresselia. Platinum adds Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres.
    • Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen: Raikou, Entei or Suicune.
    • Pokemon Heart Gold And Soul Silver: Raikou and Entei (but Suicune isn't, due to being a plot encounter as in Crystal) and Latios or Latias.
    • Pokémon Black and White: Tornadus in Black, and Thundurus in White. They're less annoying than their predecessors, since they cause freak rainstorms on whatever map they happen to be inhabiting, and that tends to call attention to them, even from NPCs.
    • Pokémon X and Y: Articuno, Zapdos, or Moltres plays with the idea — one of them wanders Kalos like all the rest on the list, but when you run across them, you don't actually get a chance to battle. After encountering them 10 times, they'll finally settle down at the Sea Spirit's Den, where you can battle them like any stationary encounter.
    • Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!: All random encounters are now fully modeled and visible, EarthBound style.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Final Fantasy has the powerful Warmech, which roams the bridge leading to Tiamat in the Flying Fortress.
    • Final Fantasy IV: Brachioraidos is a powerful Super Boss lurking in the depths of the GBA remake's Lunar Ruins.
    • Final Fantasy V: Omega and Omega Mk. II always roam the same room randomly. Not a problem when there's only one of them to run past — a definite problem in the Bonus Dungeon where an entire floor is filled with roaming Omegas.
    • Final Fantasy VI
      • Deathguise/Death Gaze will spawn in a random area — can only be triggered by airship — once you hit the World of Ruin. The annoying parts about this being that it's invisible on the map and prone to running.
      • A few of the Dragons will also roam their lairs, such as the Red, Holy, Blue, and Ice Dragons.
    • Final Fantasy VII: Ultima Weapon. You can at least see him on the world map, but you'll be chasing him down for a while. You have to bump into him with the airship a few times, before he'll go to a certain point, and then you can fight him. He also goes to the same spot for the final showdown every time.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl would roam around the world map, and you could rarely find it as a kind of Easter Egg. Oddly, it doesn't become hostile unless you attack it.
  • Spore has the Epic creatures. These are extremely large versions of otherwise "normal" creatures from the game's library, and are particularly dangerous. They spend their time roaming around the map and killing wildlife, but will turn their attention to you if you get too close.
  • Etrian Odyssey has the F.O.E.s, strong monsters that patrol the dungeons. Running into one will force you into battle, and while the F.O.E.s aren't impossible to kill, they're generally too strong for an average-level party to defeat, so the player must think carefully to find ways around them. Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth and Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, being Shin Megami Tensei: Persona games with Etrian Odyssey mechanics, feature F.O.E.s.
  • EarthBound uses this system, and will even give players or enemies first attack if one "tags" the other from behind.
  • Super Lesbian Animal RPG represents most normal enemies as a glowing glitchy sphere that roams around the area until it is encountered, or stands guard in a particular location and cannot be passed until fought and defeated.
  • Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers: The Droid of Death in the starting area can either be a random or triggered encounter. If the wandering cyborg summons it, or if triggered by picking up the Unstable Ordnance after coming out of the sewers, there's no escape. Near the end of the game, there's the Imperial Probe Droid-style sentry bots.
  • Descent: The robots, particularly in the first game, start doing this a certain amount of time after the level starts. Especially dangerous if those enemies are Demonic Spiders, and the level has a lot of intersecting passageways, such as the first game's 11th and 19th levels. Later levels come equipped with Mook Makers specifically for this purpose.
  • Tales of Phantasia has an early area with randomly encountered Hell Lord / Hell Master enemies you are specifically told to run from. It's possible to get lucky and not encounter them, but fighting them is impossible due to their massively inflated stats. They reappear much later on where you're properly levelled and able to tackle them.
  • Twilight Heroes has both Types 1 and 2 — Type 1 in the Static Villains, who appear every so often but only in a specific area, and Type 2 in Wandering Villains, who may appear in any area (but at the same rate as the Static Villains). Both types are optional, and their appearance can be turned on or off by a choice adventure.
  • Wolfenstein 3-D: Many of the guards patrol a preset path until they see the player or hear a noise. Sometimes their paths will wind through multiple sections of a level, making things even more unpredictable.
  • Luxaren Allure: Normal enemies appear on the map and move around, and can be avoided, but they chase you if they see you.
  • Dark Souls: The various special NPC hollows, which appear under special circumstances, and are tragic to fight.
  • The Tenth Line: Standard mobs roam the wilderness areas, and engaging one transitions the party to the battle screen.
  • Power Drill Massacre: Once you enter the factory, the killer is permanently spawned on the map, and is constantly on the lookout for you. There are even times where you can encounter him no less than seconds after entering the building, and once he does find you, he starts shrieking and chasing you down at full speed (although you can outmanoeuvre him and escape). However, in certain cases, he can spawn out of the metal shutter doors if both you and him are in proximity to one but he's not within your sight, and if you go into the infamous sugar tunnels, he'll ALWAYS spawn out of a certain area if you're dumb enough to walk into an obvious dead end. The only reliable way to avoid him is to not linger around shutters, stay away from the aforementioned sugar tunnels (which are a completely optional area to begin with unless you want more lore and a bad ending), listen for the tell-tale whirr of his power drill if he's nearby, and to walk away from the source of the sound, which is difficult because his walking speed is twice as fast as yours.
  • Remothered: All of the enemies you face are this, crossed with Implacable Man. The best you can do to throw them off your path is by running and hiding or by using distractions.
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link had a variant, where roaming, generic-looking enemy sprites start to appear in the overworld if you leave the safety of the path, but become an entire miniature side-scrolling level full of mooks if touched.
  • Shovel Knight works similarly: A generic knight will sometimes appear somewhere on your Super Mario style world-map board, potentially blocking your path. Traveling to their space will trigger a mini-level. Beating it removes the knight from the board; failing it causes the knight to move to an adjacent space, as will going somewhere else (e.g. a level or village) and then returning to the map.
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars: The optional boss Mokura may appear randomly throughout Land's End and Belome Temple as a green cloud that seems to dodge the character. Unlike the other random encounters in the area, it is treated as a miniboss, with boss music and two forms.
  • Alien: Isolation: The Alien is given a general idea of where you are in the levelnote , but otherwise doesn't "cheat" and dynamically roams the level looking for you instead of being teleported around by scripting.
  • Monstrum: The monsters genuinely roam the ship dynamically looking for you, although one of them (the Hunter) can spawn from spawn points (i.e. vents or egg sacs) as a special ability.
  • Pikmin: Most enemies are firmly sedentary, staying put in their spawning areas, but a few actively roam around the game map. These enemies particular issues for the player — a big part of gameplay consists of clearing areas to ensure a safe path back to the Onions and ship for Pikmin carrying treasure and resources to follow safely without supervision, as well as knowing that enemies will turn up in the same spots and building strategies around that. Roaming enemies can turn up anywhere, however, including while you're fighting another enemy or in the path of a group of Pikmin carrying your finds back to camp.
    • Breadbugs emerge from their burrows at the start of the day or when the player enters a sublevel and afterwards roam actively around the payable area. They grab loose items if they find them on the ground and drag them back to their holes, and afterwards come back out to look for more.
    • Pikmin 2: A few varieties of roaming enemies are encountered in cave levels, alongside breadbugs. On the one hand, the caves' cramped confines and limited sightlines can lead to unpleasant surprises when such a creature strolls around a corner and right into your squad. On the other, their AI isn't usually sufficiently advanced to let them reliably avoid Bottomless Pits in areas where these are present, which often leads them to stroll right off ledges and into the void.
      • Spotty bulbears are active wanderers able to access almost any part of the areas they are in. This is a particular issue in light of their being some of the toughest non-boss enemies in the games; a bulbear that stumbles into a group of Pikmin can easily devour most of them before you've even caught on to its arrival, and the arrival of one such beast can make a routine fight into a disastrous rout. This is removed in Pikmin 3 — the game's single bulbear stays put in its spawning area.
      • Most gatling groinks wander actively around the sublevels where they are found; as their mortar shots can devastate Pikmin squads, this can prove to be something of a problem. However, others are instead stationary and placed on high ledges where they can shoot from range.
      • Adult bulbmin patrol the cave levels where they live along a preset route, usually with a cluster of younger bulbmin following along.
    • Pikmin 3: Swarming sheargrubs, unlike their subterranean, ambushing relatives, spend their time actively patrolling the game world, wandering around randomly until they come across nectar to drink or pellets, fruit, or corpses to pile on. This can prove a serious issue for the player, as sheargrub patrols can easily stumble into working Pikmin and either grind their work to a halt by piling onto the items that they're carrying or incite a fight and lead any number of Pikmin into getting hopelessly lost as they case after fleeing sheargrubs.
  • The SWAT officers in the penultimate level of Hitman: Codename 47 are distinguished from regular enemies in that they'll actually sweep through the building in squads searching for you, unlike every other enemy in the game who simply patrols along a fixed route in a single general area.
  • Toontown: Corporate Clash: The Regional Managers are a set of Boss Cogs that can occasionally be found roaming the streets of each neighborhood. Each of them has a special gimmick that makes them more powerful than the regular Cogs: for instance, Duck Shuffler has a slot machine that causes different effects after each turn, while Bellringer will ring to heal his allies.

    Schrodinger's Encounters 
  • Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2: The game's "director" AI will spawn enemies randomly throughout the levels. The Tank and the Witch are rarer, since you won't encounter them in every map, but you will encounter them at least once over the course of a campaign. One campaign level in 2 specifically states that you will encounter numerous witches in that area. They're all wandering around as a Type 1 encounter, so you can avoid them if you see them first and know where they are.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: There is a pirate named Jolene who randomly appears on various maps as type 2 and patrols them as type 3. If she sees you, you have to escape or fight her off if she boards your boat.
  • Rainbow Six: Most tangos in the early series are placed at pseudo-random starting positions, and also wander as Type 1. Later games use Type 4; ie they more or less always appear in the same pattern.
  • Miasmata: The creature is implemented this way, but there are so many random spawn points dotted across the island that he can seem like a genuine wandering A.I.

    Triggered Encounters 
  • Alex Kidd in Miracle World: The Grim Reaper appears if you step on a skull block, or is randomly triggered by ? blocks.
  • Baldur's Gate: One enemy, if you look at the right (or wrong...) gravestone three times, summons a load of exploding dudes with swords to kill you. They don't seem to ever turn up anywhere else.
  • Darkest Dungeon: All of the non-region-specific bosses are triggered, typically based on random chance. The Collector has a 5% chance to be in any dungeon; the Shambler can be summoned from an Altar (which appears as a random curio in a dungeon corridor) or can randomly turn up in a pitch-dark run; the Fanatic (from the Crimson Court DLC) has a random chance to harass any party containing heroes infected with the Crimson Curse, based on the number of heroes; and the Thing From The Stars (from the Color of Madness DLC) goes to a given region every week and has a random chance to turn up if you quest there.
  • Final Fantasy VI: The Storm Dragon — it will fly out of its treasure chest the instant you open it, and fly circles within the cave until its speed and/or erratic pattern forces you into its path. Final Fantasy VI Advance also adds the Esper Leviathan, who lurks in the ocean between Figaro and Nikeah, and can only be encountered by taking a ferry between the two ports.
  • Haven (2020): One Superboss, Beruberu, is triggered by spending a full game day (about 30 minutes in real time) away from the Player Headquarters.
  • Live A Live: Escape from 100 battles in the final chapter and you will have to fight the Death Prophet boss.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 3: The Reaper, a Stalked by the Bell-type who will materialize in one of three spots (the staircase, your entry point, or the teleport back to the foyer) and then make a beeline for your party if you linger too long in a single floor of Tartarus. Particularly vicious in floors populated by nothing but the rare, elusive Gold Hand enemies.
    • Persona 4 changed the Reaper up — initially confined to New Game Plus, it could show up in a random treasure box (which thankfully will give you an advance warning). Golden now allowed the Reaper to appear on your first cycle, and after opening 20 treasure boxes, the 21st would set the flag for its appearance, signaled by his noises from Persona 3 — raspy breathing and chains rattling. Mercifully, this would reset if you opened a chest the Reaper wasn't in, or if you changed floors while the Reaper is due to appear (Locked Golden Chests can never have the Reaper, though they did count towards the Chests Opened counter).
    • Persona 5: The Reaper makes its return, and will show up on a floor of Mementos if you hang around too long.
  • Super Paper Mario: Trueform Mimi pops up in certain rooms of Chapter 2-4 if you dawdle too long picking an exit. She's frightening enough that it can cause you to rush through the level at breakneck speed.
  • Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land has the Reaper, who has two conditions for appearing. On some floors of the labyrinth after reaching certain locations he will show up, spending enough time on a floor will cause it to appear. He is slow and can be avoided like other encounters, but can move through walls and will actively chase you down.
  • World of Warcraft has many named mobs summoned only when a player in on a particular quest. One, Stitches in Duskwood before the Cataclysm changes, became a dangerous Wanderer for many players: it was a level 35 elite on a road (supposed to be safe) in a level 20 zone. It was a nasty surprise for many players not involved in the quest.

    Fake Roamers 
  • Metroid: Other M: The Rhedogian, which ambushes Samus about four times in fixed locations before finally giving up the ghost.
  • Mother 3: The Ultimate Chimera is an example of a Type 4. Appears in only two places (the second appearance is practically a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere example), and touching it is an instant Game Over. And if it sees you, it will chase you down.
  • Rayman 2 has Jano, guardian of the Cave of Bad Dreams, who boasts that he'll "give you a head start" and that if he catches you he'll show no mercy. This might lead the player to think he's a Roamer, but he only shows up for a scripted chase sequence and boss fight at the end of the level.
  • Resident Evil 2: The "Mr. X" Tyrant, who has very specific areas where he shows up. The remake, however, is a genuine case of a roaming enemy.
  • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis: Nemesis in the original PS1 version falls between this and special case. All of his encounters are predictable, though because of the branching paths that allow you to do certain events in whatever order you like, it's impossible to learn everywhere he'll appear on a single playthrough. Whenever an encounter with Nemesis is triggered, he'll chase you from room to room, but only in rooms within his designated area for that particular encounter (unless you down him outright with weaponry, in which case he'll reappear the next time you trigger an encounter). This is prevalent in the remake, which is much more linear than the original and spawns in Nemesis much less dynamically. Other than a short section towards the end of the downtown area early in the game where he does chase you dynamically like Mr. X in the RE2 remake, all of your encounters with Nemesis in the remake are either short scripted chases or boss fights. This was one of the major complaints about the remake from fans who expected Nemesis, the series' original Roaming Enemy, to be a more dynamic opponent similar to the RE2 remake's Mr. X.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Argorok, the seventh boss, is seen several times before actually being fought in City in the Sky: first when he flies through and destroys a bridge, after which he can be seen flying around the dungeon's highest tower (which is where he's fought).

    Special Cases 
  • In Deep Rock Galactic, Glyphid Dreadnoughts are usually encountered as the targets of Elimination missions, as each type of Dreadnought makes for an intense Boss Battle. However, there is a very low, but non-zero, chance that a normal enemy Swarm during other mission types will instead be a Dreadnought attack, which can completely derail whatever objective you're pursuing as the team fights to survive against this Roaming Boss.
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 3 has all four types. Type 1 patrol certain areas of the Wasteland (e.g. Enclave squads and some Talon Company merc units), Type 2 are randomly triggered at certain points on the map (such as Sam Warrick the sniper or the crippled Deathclaw), and Type 3 takes the form of a scripted encounter with either Talon Company or Regulator squads, depending on the player's Karma Meter level, usually when quick-traveling. The Super Mutant Behemoths and some minibosses are Type 4.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, if you are infamous to the NCR and/or the Legion, well-armed death squads will be spawned as Type 1 encounters.
  • In Haven (2020), Hornets appear both as Type 4 scripted encounters and Type 1 wanderers. The Hyper Rust-, carrying boss Lorudo normally wanders the Lethal Lava Land islet Wakiri(the only one that can't be cleared of Rust), but can also randomly show up on any Rust-covered islet at night.
  • In Munchkin, one of the cards that can be played is called "Wandering Monster". It doesn't quite fit this trope exactly, as the monster is "wandered in" by a player.
  • Chris Walker in Outlast lurks across the asylum at multiple spots, chasing Miles on sight. At some points not being spotted is just unavoidable, at which Miles has to run away for dear life. Considering how strong and crazy he is, letting him catch you is a really bad idea.
  • Mr. X from the Resident Evil 2 (Remake) is always somewhere in the police station, and he's always actively looking for you. It's frightening enough when you'll hear his thumping massive footsteps and know he's nearby, it's even worse when you fire off a gun at a zombie and then you hear the thumping massive footsteps getting closer, and there's always the chance you'll go through a door and run right into him. The only thing that keeps him from being a genuine wanderer (at least in the RPD itself, his appearances later in the game are all scripted) is that the game forces an encounter when you pick up the jack handle, and generally cheats a bit by having him move faster if he’s a certain distance away.
  • Most Field Bosses in Warframe have varying spawning conditions, such as killing enough enemies at specific points or actions in other missions. The spawn chance and countdown also vary. But even if they spawn, the player can usually opt to completely ignore them.
  • Majima in Yakuza Kiwami covers multiple. Usually he a Wanderer type who chases after you when he detects you, but sometimes he'll ambush you out of nowhere in the streets or while you're fighting someone else, sometimes he'll barge in while you're shopping or randomly challenge you to the mini-game you're playing, some of his more elaborate encounters need to be triggered, and there's that one time he unceremoniously slips into a fight in Chapter 3. It's called "Majima Everywhere" for a reason.

Alternative Title(s): Wandering Monster