It’s a windy and stormy day outside with clouds darkening the sky… something bad must be about to happen. Oh wait, this is real life, not an RPG. GMs often forget about the weather in their games. It’s always assumed to be a fairly average day unless otherwise mentioned. And the only time it is mentioned is for dramatic effect or as plot device. I’m guilty of this too.
Weather adds believability, increases immersion in the game, and is a good hook for roleplaying and story. In this post we’ll look at how to incorporate weather into our games, including a simple method for determining the current weather, and how this can affect the story and game world.
Whatever the Weather
Weather is a big part of the real world, and adding it to our games makes them seem more real. Usually, when lightning flashes and thunder booms across the sky, it’s because it is relevant to the plot, not because of the natural forces of the world. I know that some authors ignore weather through their novels, then go back and do an editing pass to add it into their stories. We dont’ have the ability to do that in roleplaying games, because they’re happening here and now. However, adding weather doesn’t need to be a chore, either.
Some GMs like to have huge tables of meteorological data charted for every season of every region of their worlds. If you don’t have the time or desire to do that, there is a less realistic, but easier way. Use the following table to determine weather. It’s not a day-to-day table, but a general idea of what the weather is like around that time.
- Much hotter than average. (Much hotter than last roll)
- Hotter than average. (Hotter than last roll)
- Average for this region and season. (Same as last roll)
- Colder than average. (Colder than last roll)
- Much colder than average. (Much colder than last roll)
- Weather Event! (if previously rolled a Weather Event, it worsens)
So, let’s say you’re in a temperate part of the world during summer. A result of 3 would get you a nice sunny day, maybe a light cool breeze. 1 would be sweltering, uncomfortably hot. 4 could be the wind picking up and getting a little too cold. 5 could be very breezy and perhaps overcast.
6 is where it gets interesting! Weather events are the big things that people notice, like bushfires or a huge thunderstorm on the horizon after weeks of hot weather. It could be a blizzard, a raging storm that knocks trees down across trade paths, floods canals and rips roofs off houses. It could be a tsunami or a tornado. It could even be supernatural weather. Perhaps you could incorporate other natural events like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. If you want some visual resources and references for (super)natural disasters, check out this gallery.
If you’re making an adventure and roll that it is much hotter than average, then maybe it’ll be like that for the next couple of weeks, or maybe it is leading into a weather event (which you can initiate yourself, without rolling). Use the table as inspiration, don’t let it constrain you. You can use the table without the parts in brackets, to give you this sort of inspiration.
As an optional extra, though, in brackets the table refers to the previous roll. So, if day one is a 4, colder than average, then we roll 2 the next day, it’s not suddenly hotter than average, it’s back to average again. However, if we instead rolled 4 a few days in a row, it would slowly get colder and colder. Of course, remember this is all within the context of reasonable weather for that region. It still might be warmer than other parts of your world that are generally cold all year round.
Hot weather means people wearing less and lighter clothing, cold drinks and meals would be sought after, the sun might shine off the knight’s armour, making the party more visible from afar. Heavy armour would also be stifling, uncomfortably hot and all that sweatiness could impact social interactions.
Is this spell of hot weather unusually long for this time of year? People may not have been ready for this. Perhaps people are beginning to worry about the heat and water is running out. Can the heroes help them somehow? Water mages would be in great demand. Don’t forget too, that seasons greatly affect the weather, but even in a hot month you can have a cold period and vice versa.
You can see just from a few examples that the weather can greatly impact the game. You could, if you wanted to, turn it into a plot device: perhaps a pyromancer is summoning an army of fire elementals, the Volcano Goddess is being summoned by her cult, or the Red Planet is in alignment. However, maybe the weather related plot is not supernatural at all. You only have to look at the news once in a while to see the disaster that strikes during floods and droughts. You could have a whole campaign based around a community devastated by bushfires.
Not all weather should be story-related, though. It should occasionally be the focus of a story, but most of the time it should just add colour to the world and perhaps some difficulties for the PCs and NPCs. If it happens to be pouring down rain when you’re planning to travel across a now-raging river, then that will make things tricky. But it could just be raining while you’re delving into a dungeon and you can hear the rain outside, feel the cold and see tracks of mud from the goblin scouts. Perhaps there are more goblins – and other creatures – in the dungeon than expected, as they take shelter from the elements. Here, the weather isn’t the focus, but it definitely makes a difference.
Similarly, on a sunny day, it might be difficult to find an NPC, as they are out enjoying the weather. However, on a rainy or gloomy day, they could be more likely to be at their residence – and reluctant to leave! Having weather in your game also gives the PCs and NPCs something else to talk about. After all, isn’t weather the go-to topic for small talk and awkward conversations?
Next time you’re running a game, take a minute to roll a d6 and incorporate weather into your game. Your players are likely to notice and that’s a good thing. Use weather to add colour to your locations and NPCs. Use it as a plot device or for dramatic effect, but make sure it isn’t always for these purposes. Weather is one of the elements that is always present and can impact the players and world in unexpected ways. Take advantage of this and make your game world richer with weather.