You guys remember that one time when Cavalier jousted Swash and Buckle’s pirate ship to death? And then The Evil Party (who were apparently passengers on board for some reason) got shipwrecked on that desert island? Well grab your sunblock and prepare your Craft (coconut radio) rolls, because The Evil Party is taking a tropical vacation.

I love sudden and dramatic shifts in biome like this. When I’m writing up a mini-dungeon, one of the first things I ask myself is, “What’s different about this setting?” The antagonists are usually the first and most obvious answer. We’ve got the option to search monsters by terrain for a reason after all. It’s all about evoking that sweet, sweet sense of place: putting your cyclops in the cyclopean ruins and your shambling mounds in the swamp. But when there’s an epic journey afoot, and when you’re attempting to best the Pass of Caradhras or cross the Sun’s Anvil, there’s nothing that brings home the extreme change in setting quite like an extreme weather event.

Just think of all those wonderful cinematic moments you’ve got squirreled away in your head. Pirate ships battling in a tempest. Mist coming down the mountainside in a haunted town. Wind kicking up dust (and possibly providing a penalty to ranged attacks) in a western gunfight. In visual media, you have to think about these things. They’re the backdrop of your world. On film, for example, the texture of a scene moves and shifts along with changes in the weather. But when you’re working with a verbal medium like TRPGs, this is exactly the sort of element that tends to disappear. GMs can get away with eliding the weather; with skipping over the seasons. And if you’re not careful, the Land of Adventure becomes an oddly featureless place. There are goblins to fight, gosh darn it! The rain can’t even get you inside the dungeon, and if anyone thinks to ask it’s always “late spring” or “early fall.” You can just move on with the session without sweating it… And unfortunately, the world is poorer for it.

Additional detail is meant to aid in the suspension of disbelief. All those niggling little extras like weather make for a more complete setting. And even if they seem like throwaway lines or box text sometimes, I think it’s worth the extra effort to include them. To that end, I would like to take the opportunity to champion our old friend the Random Weather Table. And I mean any random weather table. It’s exactly the sort of element I want on my GM screen. Additional rules about visibility in fog or treacherous footing in snow are great, but simply having the visual reminder of this is a thing you should be describing there in front of my face is enough. Even if you don’t roll on the thing, you’ll have a handy list of possible weather conditions to jog the memory and pepper your descriptions. And if you do decide to roll, and if you happen to score a 99-00 or whatever, you’ve also got a fun environmental challenge on your hands.

Question of the day then! Do you guys try to incorporate random weather into your games? And if you do, have you ever run into the crazy weather events on the high end of the chart? I’m talking hurricanes, avalanches, and tornadoes showing up to kick around a party. Were there any survivors? Tell us all about your group’s run-ins with nasty weather down in the comments!


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