Weather Dice and Conditions for RPGs

Do you make use of weather conditions in your game? Weather conditions add an immense amount to a game, bringing the environment to life for the players, altering the pace of travel, and adding dynamic changes to encounters. I make use of weather dice to add randomness to my game which gives my players and myself something new and exciting to respond to for travel and encounters. Below I lay out some of the game-changing options available from using weather dice.

In my early days of GMing during AD&D, I occasionally made use of weather charts in the rule books. Two books that I made use of during those days were the AD&D 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide and the Wilderness Survival Guide. They were – and still are – great references which I return to whenever I can. The Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide is also a great RPG source (even if you don’t run C&C).

However, although those three books are great to work out the effects of a weather condition, I like to try and run my games as quickly and spontaneously as possible. I want my players to respond to things on-the-fly, and I want to as well, for it keeps the game exciting for me. I love to think on my feet and have to improv an encounter based on the changed circumstances. Using weather conditions means encounters are rarely going to be generic, bland, and all look like each other. That is why I have purchased weather dice from several companies (from my FLGS, game conventions, and Kickstarter). Whenever my players set off on a day of travel, I will roll one of the dice and we all have to deal with the result. I usually roll the weather die 1-3 times per day (morning, afternoon, and evening) to signify weather patterns moving through, as well as at night when players are on watch (weather doesn’t stop at night!). I also use other polyhedral dice to expand upon what was rolled on a weather die. Here are some examples.

Example 1. I roll the weather die and get “foggy.”
I might then roll a d4. On a 1 the fog will be light and only limit sight over long ranges (perhaps at increments of 100-400 yards), but if I rolled a 4 on the d4, then the limit to sight might begin after 10 feet, at which point a creature would get 1/4 cover, at 20 feet 1/2 cover, at 30 feet 3/4 cover, and at 40 feet full cover. This would effect any monsters relying on site to discover the PC’s as well as for the PC’s noticing the monsters. Imagine if the players smell some monster but can’t see it, or they only get glimpses through the rolling fog – that adds a lot of atmosphere to an encounter, and it has suddenly become a lot more interesting and challenging for all involved!

Example 2. I roll “rain” on the weather die.
I might then roll a d6 to discover how heavy the rain is and a d4 to work out how long it will last. A roll of 1 on the d6 might just be a drizzle and not have any immediate effect, yet, if I rolled a 4 on the d4, then that drizzle will last four hours, and even after four hours those who are wearing padded armor or certain types of clothing might be soaked and the players might want to consider taking a break to dry off or begin to feel some level of exhaustion. If I rolled a 4 on the d6 and a 1 on the d4, then at that point I would know that the rain would be heavier and would last one hour. Heavy rain would effect line of sight (think of partial cover effecting the AC for monsters and PCs), it would also be detrimental to ranged attacks and spells. Exact details can always be looked up in one of the books I referred to earlier, but if you don’t want to slow down the game, you can simply add modifiers of of -1 to -4 to relevant attacks or attribute checks to detect things through the heavy rain.

Example 3. I roll “wind” on the weather die.
Wind will effect not only flying creatures, but missile attacks, some spells, and depending on whether you are upwind or downwind, your sense of smell and any sounds that are being made. Rolling a d6 could let you know whether it is 10-60 mph, and of course you can apply the relevant modifiers to attacks or attribute checks. Imagine hearing a howl, or a scream and not be entirely sure where it came from in the 40 mph wind? The same can happen with a smell that a character might pick up. The wind can distort a smell or sound and this can lead to an opportunity for the monsters or PC’s to come up with a strategy to surprise the other, or perhaps for the others to fail their surprise attack!

Example 4. Combine dice rolls.
If I roll “rain” and “wind” on two weather die rolls, then I’ve got a thunderstorm rolling in, and now we’ve got wind and rain effecting everyone in all the areas I described above. And if it has been raining for a long time, then surfaces may be slick and people may have difficulty maintaining footing, and this in turn may require checks to see if they slip and fall.

When outdoors weather is something everyone encounters, all the time, and yet in most games I’ve been in, weather is ignored and the monsters encountered are assumed to be met on some generic moderately lit day, and night encounters on a moderately star-filled night. But with weather dice everything is changed. Even a bright sunny day can effect what you see, since some flying monsters might fly in to attack in the direction of the sun which is a blind spot for the players. Wind, rain, clouds, fog, sun, snow, lightning, etc. These are all weather conditions that you can find on a weather die and each one of them can alter what you see, hear, and smell. Give it a try, I think you’ll find that it adds a lot to a game. If you have tried this, I would love to hear what you’ve experienced!