Sunday, February 3, 2013

Inclement Weather in Your Games - Hand Wave or a Heavy Hand?

As I sit on the now winterized front porch at my parents' place in the Pocono Mountains, looking at maybe 2 inches of new snow on the ground, it's making me think. A couple of inches of snow is no big deal here on the east coast (the west coast is a whole 'nother ball of wax).

I pretty much ignore seasons and weather in my games unless they are there to set the mood. I haven't snowed a party in with a 4' snow storm since my high school / early college years (damn you Dragon Magazine of old!)

The thing is, you don't need 4' of snow to make folks miserable in a fantasy setting. Half a foot is going to make travel a real pain in the ass. Flooding and muddy paths and roadways after the snowfall is probably even worse.

Then there is the Weather Control spell. Just think of the advantages a village / town / city could have if it controlled it's own weather. Walk out of a snow storm in a brisk spring day with birds chirping and the sun melting the snow right off your cloak.

On that note, I should step out into the 15 degree weather and clear the snow from the patio and my car. I do want to be home in time for the Super Bowl.

So, hand wave or heavy hand for your weather?


  1. I do both, and I don't announce which I will do when the description starts. As a result, I don't always have to be heavy-handed in order to get the players to pay attention to the weather.

    A little temporary Stamina damage goes a long way.

  2. It's currently winter in my Loudwater/Gray Vale Forgotten Realms campaign, and I have made the cold weather a factor, with Endurance checks for eg camping overnight or marching through 2' deep snow. It's 4e so failure costs Healing Surges. Getting across a small, partially frozen river was also a challenge; the players came up with using cold magic to freeze it enough to cross.

  3. I prepare the weather one year in advance. This means I can expose the players to a nice storm, drought (with the following danger of fire) and similar, without plotting it. Mostly it's barely noticed, but sometimes it comes into play - but mostly with exteme weather, or the occational flooded river due to heavy rain.

  4. I want to track weather, but it is hampered by two things.

    One is the lack of organization and procedure on my part. A daily practice of checking for weather when checking for encounters or resting for the night is the way I should go. (Procedures like that are the next thing I am working on improving in my DMing.)

    The second is the lack of good weather generators. I like Harnmaster's weather chart a lot, but my campaigns are not currently set on a misty isle in the north sea. I have not found something of that quality for the tropical environment of my current campaign.

  5. I have had the misfortune of playing in a Harn game where I was nearly killed by rainy weather. If I use weather it is for atmosphere. On occasion I've had a climatic battle in the middle of the raging lightning storm. I arbitrarily rolled for footing for sections of the map. Some area the player (and opponent) needed to make save or they could have slipped, fell or got stuck in the mud. It worked well. Had a lot of fun with it because they needed to be aware of their surroundings.

  6. For me, weather is usually just a background detail, something to add atmosphere and flavor. Also, adding a little snow or rain makes the PCs feel like they didn't waste gold buying that winter cloak during chargen.

    But sometimes the weather is going to be a significant part of the adventure as a challenge to overcome. When the PCs' train derails and they have to hike two days through the hills to get to the nearest town, you'd better believe that the cold and snow are suddenly going to become an issue.

  7. I've been considering just using the weather out the window for that day. My current campaign is set-up so that its the same time of year and time passes in game at the same speed as in real life. Being a dungeon crawl though, weather doesn't much come in to it...

    (yes, that makes my PCs weekend warriors)

  8. "A couple of inches of snow is no big deal here on the east coast (the west coast is a whole 'nother ball of wax)."

    'scuse me?! A halfway decent storm could dump a couple of feet where I lived in the Sierra Nevada, and yeah, we'd snicker over East Coasters going to pieces over a piddly six inches of snow.

    The West is vast and contains multitudes. Mock it at your peril, my friend.



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