Whether the Weather in RPGs

This month’s rpg blog carnival is about ways to use weather in RPGs and what role it can play in the narrative. The intro post is here -> Mortaine’s Blog

Weather As Plot

The weather forms part of the reasoning behind the character’s quest.  It features heavily in discussions about the consequences of failure and the backstory of the characters’ encounter.  If used well, it helps to motivate the characters and improves story buy in from the players. In both these examples, the stakes of what happens if the character fail are clear – death and woe.  With the main part of the plot not actually taking place in the affected locations, the weather is only in the background.

Plot Hook – A cabal of wizards have set themselves up on a rock atoll a dozen hundred leagues out to sea.  From their hastily constructed sand towers they have cast upwards and outwards a spell wall of hydrophobia.  Their missive was clear – unless the kingdoms of the Holden Shores pay tribute, no clouds will be allowed to pass.

Plot Hook – With both suns high during peak summer, it’s only a matter of time before a super cell storm forms.  The recently landed colonists of Draga Beta are going to need to find shelter fast.  The nearby unexplored caves should be a good place to hide and store their supplies until the tornadoes pass.

Weather As Setting

The weather forms the background and environment that the characters are in.  Rather than affect why they are acting, this weather is going to influence the how and what the characters are doing by presenting obstacles and opportunities. In the first example every decision the agents make balances the risk of the hurricane versus the risk of the criminals escaping.  In the second, the thick fog renders sight nearly unusable, forcing the characters to trust their other senses and plan for not being able to see danger coming.

Plot Hook – A group of federal agents have tracked down the last remnants of a criminal gang to an island of the Florida coast.  The gang are cornered but have a boat ready to go as soon as the seas become passable.  With waiting not an option, the agents will need to find their quarry in the face of rising water and forceful winds.

Plot Hook – The fogs this winter are getting thicker and thicker.  You can barely see during the day and few dare going out at night.  This makes it a perfect time to to overthrow the tyrant empress in favour her youngest son.  The choking smog will keep the secret police at bay whilst we move our equipment into position.

Weather As Mechanics

Rather than affect the narrative, weather can be a game mechanic to understand and overcome.  From the above examples; in the setting affected by drought, the characters will have to ration their potable water supplies so that they can make it to the mages’ atoll.  The every increasing winds on Draga Beta will force the players to roll to see if their characters keep their footing.  Our federal agents will also battle against high winds but the rises water will further complicate their tasks by slowing movement and flooding anything not moved to safety.  The conspirators amongst the fog will find perception checks much harder with no long sight lines whilst navigating carefully around a city that is no longer familiar.

Weather As Character

Finally, the weather could be a character itself, as discussed in a previous post – The Storm That Thinks

Image Credit – Glorious Rain by Christopher Michel – CC-BY-2.0