been thinking a lot about the weather.
I read a
thread recently posted by a fan of those niche story games claiming without
example that because rules light games rely on rulings that everyone playing them
must want to just play freeform games.
You see, the
whole idea of player-facing rules light play is to:
A) Allow the Dungeon Master to be an
B) Allow players to engage in
fiction based problem solving
C) Lower the barrier of entry to
words, the games are explicitly well designed to do exactly that.
strangely enough, brings me to the weather.
gestalt of this rulings based play is a dynamic organic campaign. These are
often called sandbox campaigns, because you know, it's about playing. Rarely do
you find one of these rules-light games running adventure paths where the
characters just move onto the next scene. The players drive the campaign.
One of my
fondest memories of gaming was a Tower of Silence that had at some point been converted into a watchtower and then abandoned. It
was abandoned because at night, the bodies rose from the dead and haunted the
One line of
notes on a six-mile hex map.
The players left
the city and headed west. The day started out sunny, then at night it began to
storm badly (because of the random weather table). I didn't need a rule to
determine what sleeping in the rain would do to the players and neither did
course, took cover in the watchtower. MUCH TO THEIR SURPRISE it was not a calm
It was a good
organic emergent moment. The best kind in role playing.
small things, calendars and weather, that lead to this kind of emergent
long-term play. And that's sort of the problem with it. The weather generator
is random. Even one for seasons, roll on it daily and it begins to cause
problems with suspension of disbelief. This is even more important for fantasy
setting where weather can include spellstorms, fire tornados, and ice growths.
If you're feeling bad you've never had a fire tornado storm, don't. There's
always your next session.
calendar and weather and structure of society that come into conflict. How to
create a realistic weather table with as little bookkeeping as possible?
Well I'm glad
you asked. If you're playing in the Forgotten Realms, your work is already done
for you. They have this nice utility that lets you determine the weather on any
day in any year any place in the Forgotten Realms. If you're not running that
though, and I'm not, you'll need a weather table.
requirements are that it has to organically simulate weather, require minimal
bookkeeping and fit on one page in a 4"x6" notebook.
going to be developing the weather table for The Frigid Realm of Exquisite Stasis named Etah-naris of Peitharchia,
the Child Czar of Equilibrium. She is a devil lord in Perdition. This is fairly simple, because in Etah-naris, there are no seasons,
only the eternal winter of Peitharchia. It means we don't have to worry about
the Merwish calendar, the months, or seasons. We only have to worry about the
in the frozen wasteland for half a decade, I know how the weather is in such a
place. There are relatively long periods of similar weather, punctuated by
blizzards and storms. Weather is so important to that living
feeling to a campaign because areas are defined by their weather. It's always
consistent in the same way, even if it's highly variable during certain
seasons, it's consistently highly variable.
I'm going to
point out one more thing before we begin. Don't let yourself turn this into a
lot of work. You don't need weather tables for anything but the current season
and the current area. It can be a substantial length of real world time before
you have to make another.
This is my
second draft of the table, the first one was smaller. I realized I wanted more
possible consecutive repeating days. Making the table 18 entries instead of 12
and primarily using 1d6 increased my odds of similar weather over 3 days from
42% to ~60%. A table with 24 entries and primarily using a d8 would give
similar weather ~70% of the time.
determine weather a week (10 days) at a time, although you could simply track
it day by day and make it part of your hexcrawl procedure simply by noting the
die roll you need for the next day. You roll 1d4 to start and simply roll the
dice next to the entry to determine the weather for the next day.
Sunny 40º (1d4)
Cool 30º (1d4)
Windy 10º (1d6+3)
Crisp 0º (1d6+4)
Cold -10º (1d4+2)
Cold -20º (1d6+12)
Windy -20º (1d4)
Windy -40º (1d6+6)
Windy -20º (1d4+2)
Windy -40º (1d6+6)
Windy -60º (1d4+7)
Freezing -40º (*)
Snowfall 0º (1d4)
Snowfall -20º (1d6+12)
Snowfall -40º (1d6+12)
Snowfall 0º (1d4)
Snowfall -20º (1d6+12)
Snowfall -40º (*)
The * indicates
that the roll is a 1d8+12 roll, with natural results of 7 or 8 indicating a
roll on the Storm Subtable
The snowstorm lasts 4d12 hours. During the storm visibility is limited to 10
feet. Outdoor travel distance is cut by 1/2 and unless a target 8 survival
check is made, direction is random. After the storm there is fresh snow over
the ground augmenting all tracking checks and causing all covered terrain to be
considered difficult for the next 5 days.
A blizzard lasts 1d4+2 days. Visibility is 0. Outdoor travel distance is
reduced to 1/4 normal and is always in a random direction. After the storm
there is fresh snow over the ground augmenting all tracking checks and causing
all covered terrain to be considered difficult for the next 5 days.
A hailstorm lasts 2d12 hours. Each exploration turn a save must be made or
characters take 1d6 cold damage. All terrain is considered difficult during a
Storm: Snow and lightning fill the skies. When lightning strikes, it leaves
behind forked crystal pillars. There is a 1 in 8 chance per exploration turn
that either a character is struck by
lightning causing 8d6 electrical damage or a pillar shatters near the party
doing 2d6 slashing damage.
enough, right? But for me, I like to make some notes about what each of the
things means. The temperature ranges aren't exact, they should fluctuate
10º-15º towards the most recent temperature. They are the approximation of the
temperature including wind chill and other factors. There are 4 temperature
Gelid -40º or
a increased level of winter protection.
calculating weather the first week of Jofas, I begin generating numbers. I
start with 1d4. I have a paper calendar so I just note the weather at the top
of the day's box, along with the mechanical effects. What are the mechanical effects? You should make something up that seems appropriate. The numerical result is in
parenthesis at the start of the line, die result first.
1st of Toil: is Clear & Windy 10º
2nd of Toil: is Clear & Crisp 0º
3rd of Toil: is Freezing & Windy -15º
4th of Toil: is Clear & Windy 10º
Halfrest: is Bitter & Windy -10º
6th of Toil: is Clear & Windy 5º
7th of Toil: is Clear & Cold -10º
8th of Toil: is Cloudy & Cold -20º
Counting: is Light Snowfall 0º
Rest: is Clear & Windy 10º
It took about
90 minutes to design the table, and about 6 minutes to generate a week of results. As expected,
there are streaks of similar temperature. On Jofas 8th of Toil there was a
potential for a storm, but it passed. I adjusted the temperatures each day
towards the mean of the previous day.