Constantingly spiraling to new heights…

2008 October 22
by Dante

The weather is starting to turn cold here in Central Illinois, and on a slightly brisk walk out to my car I mused for a moment about how great it would be if I didn’t care about what the weather was doing. We happen to be in an area that constantly gets hit by tornados over the summer and we tend to get several bad snowstorms a year that are generally quite inconvenient.

Constantly heightening…

For no particular reason, I started thinking about weather effects in the D&D campaigns that I have ever been in. In the sessions that I have run, I tend to like to use weather to color a scene and not generally as the main focal point of a game, however I have often run into the problem of how to introduce weather as being significant when it hasn’t been to your characters up to this point.

This problem is compounded by the fact that as characters get higher and higher in level, they tend to be less and less concerned about environmental factors to their adventures. You could always cop out and make some sort of “killer storm” crop up that does 20d6 lightning bolts, but that just seems a little tired and obvious.

The only sessions that I have been truly impressed by the use of weather as a plot point happened to be a seafaring adventure that we did. The DM essentially made a terrible storm that just hung around and kept getting progressively worse, until it spawned elementals for the group to do battle with. The combination of setting, urgency (if we didn’t get off the ship, it was going to sink into the middle of the ocean), and appropriate use of weather-based creatures made this scene a real winner in my mind.

I would love to hear some other success stories where DMs (or players) have used weather to augment a story in a organic, meaningful way. I tend to struggle with this as a DM, hopefully the comments will generate some great new ideas!

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Asmor permalink
    October 22, 2008

    You don’t need it to be an actual threat for your PCs to take it seriously…

    e.g. you’re well within your rights to call for some endurance checks or lose a healing surge. Whether they make the checks or not, it will make them understand the severity and impact of the storm, and even if they fail losing one healing surge stings a lot but isn’t actually all that painful in the long run.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    October 22, 2008

    How about a desert sandstorm to lose players track? Add to the confusion camels panicking, and resulting loss of a magnet they packed for just this occasion, and even a high level party is going to be in trouble if they don’t have enough water.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    October 23, 2008

    Weather does not need to be considered in terms of direct damage to the PCs. Weather should be integrated into the environment and story. Weather can set the mood of an adventure, and help provide the sensory details for a scene. Weather can also become highly important to the PCs because of its effect on the world with which they are interacting. If you have developed a campaign in which the PCs care about elements of the world you and they are creating, the PCs will naturally and intimately care about, e.g., storms that threaten the crops, a town that is being flooded, winter snows that will foreclose an opportunity to send an army marching or get a trade caravan to its destination. In my opinion, weather is best used as part of the overall storytelling.

    Of course, weather can become a large scale natural disaster, as well. I have used disasters in the past as a momentous event in a campaign, and its effect on the PCs can be dramatic, reminding them of the relative insignificance of individual humans, even a high level D&D character, when compared with the world shaking power of nature. This type of event can also have divine implications – for instance, I once had a party unwittingly help a zealot access a divine artifact to beg aid in retaking his former homeland, and the divine response of a towering wall of water had the sobering results of killing thousands of innocents and sterilizing the soil with salt. If your campaign story is highly involved with divine struggles, such events punctuate climaxes. However, such large scale events should, in my opinion, be used infrequently and cautiously, to preserve their effect.

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