Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Through Rain or Sleet or Swarm of Bugs

Here's my take on weather for hexcrawls and other overland exploration! I haven't published my proper exploration rules yet, but these are intended to be easily modular so you don't need any in particular. Snap off a chunk, drizzle it over your game like fudge over ice cream or blood over the last unspoiled acre of no-man's-land.

Weather comes in five degrees: Clear, Ominous, Dangerous, Storm, and Disastrous. Build a bespoke d12 or d20 table for your region's weather; sample tables are provided at the end of the document.
The weather builds every day, then breaks in a storm. Roll a d6 at the start of a day exploring (or whatever die the table says to start with), then whenever a result says step up, roll a die of the next highest size (to d8, then d10, then d12, and finally a d20). Not every day should have bad weather! Players should be able to just deal with the random encounters and normal stressors of the journey most days.

The first few results should be Clear to give your players a reprieve; Ominous weather only forecasts dangers to come, Dangerous forces players to make choices between pushing on through danger,  exhausting themselves, or finding shelter. Storms cut those decisions down to shelter or danger; exhaustion happens regardless. Disasters are acts of god, altering the terrain and the weather itself, and are as unstoppable as... well, a natural disaster.
Don't show players the weather table you've cooked up for the region. Let them wonder, extrapolate the dangers from the ominous weather, or ask the locals about what they have to deal with.
Storms might kick in part-way through the day, not immediately. Stuff should be happening during storms, too - random encounters, visiting settlements, the whole rest of the adventure. Bad weather is no fun if everyone's just trudging their way through mud and ash the whole time. When you're building the region's weather table, pick multiple storm types! Storms on rolls of 10-12 will show up before the dread d20. Put weirder ones on the d20, more mundane on the d12.
All turns referred to are exploration turns. You get 6 a day in Sawn-Off (fewer, when exhausted), so each is approximately 4 hours by default.

Building shelter takes an exploration turn, during which you're exposed to the elements. That, of course, assumes you can make shelter from what you have on hand.

Bad weather is exhausting. Exhaustion, in Sawn-Off, reduces the number of exploration turns you get each day (each level of exhaustion is 1 fewer turn). It just takes longer when you're struggling through soggy food, dripping buckets of sweat, wading through fields of mud, or being eaten alive by swarms of gnats. For other systems, exhaustion could reduce max health, limit access to abilities, slow movement speed, give disadvantage on rolls, limit healing, or more. Recovering from exhaustion takes a warm bed, fresh food, and a day of uninterrupted rest and relaxation - the everyday creature comforts you're used to when you aren't trudging through endless drifts of blood and ash.
Fungal Jungle Weather
1. Clear.
2. Clear.
3. Clear.
4. Foggy.
5. Buzzing, step up
6. Rain, step up
7. Heatwave.
8. Flooding, step up
9. Rain.
10. Thunderstorm, step up
11. Bugstorm.
12. Thunderstorm, reset
13. Pollenstorm.
14. Hallucination Fog.
15. Thunderstorm.
16. Thunderstorm.
17. Pollenstorm, reset
18. Hallucination Fog, reset
19. Bugstorm, reset
20. Hurricane.
Shifting Desert Weather
Starts at d4.
1. Clear.
2. Clear.
3. Melting.
4. Melting, step.
5. Rumbling.
6. Heatwave, step.
7. Melting.
8. Sandstorm, step.
9. Windstorm, step.
10. Sandstorm, step.
11. Solid Lightning, reset.
12. Spellstorm (Fireball), reset.

Entrenched Battlefield Weather
Starts at d4.
1. Clear.
2. Dusty.
3. Foggy.
4. Smog, step.
5. Rumbling.
6. Smog, step.
7. Buzzing.
8. Artillery Barrage (as Micrometeor Storm), step.
9. Bloodstorm, step.
10. Dimensional Rifts (Ground, enemy army's mages), step.
11. Bloodstorm, reset.
12. Spellstorm (any combat spell), reset.
Wizard's Wasteland Weather
 Starts at d6.
1. Clear.
2. Clear.
3. Clear.
4. Winds
5. Gleaming, step up
6. Dry Lightning, step up
7. Buzzing
8. Gales, step up
9. Smog
10. Gravity Flux, step up
11. Windstorm
12. Spellbirth, reset
13. Bloodstorm
14. Solid Lightning
15. Worms
16. Dimensional Rifts (sky)
17. Spellstorm (Raise Dead), reset
18. Spellstorm (Cloudkill), reset
19. Cityfication, reset
20. Judgment
Generate Your Own

Pick temperature and features however you'd like to flavor the region. This doesn't impair the party in any way.

This doesn't do anything directly to the party, but forecasts further dangers.
1. Buzzing. It's omnipresent; the grinding hum of something just beyond your sight. Forecasts swarms, or psionic catastrophe, or mechanical contraptions, or lightning crackling in the stratosphere.
2. Cloudy. Forecasts storms of all kinds. The color may give hints to the storms' nature - greyscale for rain or snow, red for blood, black for ash, octarine for spells.
3. Dusty. The grit works its way into your mouth, your nose, your eyes, your pockets. Forecasts sandstorms, ashfall, gale winds.
4. Foggy. You can't see the landmarks, just the road beneath your feet and your companions at your side. Forecasts rainstorms, pollen storms, hallucinatory fog.
5. Freezing. It's really cold out. Forecasts blizzards, hailstorms, solid lightning.
6. Gleaming. The stars twinkle even through the bright day sky. Their light glitters off metal and scatters shadows like shards of glass. Forecasts meteors, or temporal/dimensional shenanigans.
7. Melting. It's really hot out. Forecasts heat waves, ashstorms, spellstorms.
8. Winds. Hold onto your hats. Forecasts gales, vaccuum, sky-rifts.

Each turn the party is exposed, they choose whether to collectively take a level of exhaustion or each save vs. effect. Saves are Constitution unless players have a good reason to save otherwise. Effects last until the weather ends.
1. Dry Lightning. Each turn, if you don't take a level of exhaustion, choose to either ground yourself and take 1 damage or roll 1d20 and get hit by lightning (4d6 damage) from a rainless sky on a 1.
2. Flooding. Exhaustion is mandatory through waterlogged terrain. Lowland will be impassable or underwater. Swim!
3. Gales. Save or d4 light items that aren't tied down blown away.
4. Hail. Save or take d4 damage.
5. Heatwave. Save or take d4 damage. Counts as 2 inventory slots.
6. Rain. Save or become waterlogged. On fail, water in your clothes and shoes and bag takes up 2 inventory slots until you get dry.
7. Rumbling. Move at half speed. If you want to move at full speed, save or fall - movement canceled.
8. Sand. Save or blinded in sand for the turn. New save each turn.
9. Smog. Choked by thick pollutant smog. d4 damage, save for half.
10. Snow. Save or chilled. -2 max health (minimum 1) until you return to warmth.

Each turn the party is exposed, they collectively take a level of exhaustion and each individually save vs. effect.
1. Ashstorm. Save or fall and be buried in flurries of ash; you'll have to be dug out.
2. Blizzard. Save or frostbitten (as Snow, but lasts after the blizzard ends, until you have warmth to heal in).
3. Bloodstorm. It's like someone murdered a cloud. Gashes in the sky spill salty crimson, slick and sticky and burning with the fire of life. Take double damage in a bloodstorm, but also heal twice as quickly. You can open your own veins and mingle your blood with the sky's; this will mutate you in accordance with the local ecosystem. Once for temporary, twice for permanent.
4. Bugstorm. Save or take d6 damage as they descend upon you. Can choose to fight them off if you fail the save - but you might take more damage engaging them than you would just running. Could be distracted with offerings of food... or corpses. They denude the hex of anything edible.
5. Cityfication. The land morphs and shifts; trees grow into buildings, hills hollow into halls, rocks grow together into cobblestone streets as nature shares in the light of the city. The fauna sell their wares at market; predators take up billy-clubs and stalk their prey through alleyways to accuse them of victimless crimes. Finding your way will be a challenge; you're trapped within this imitation city until either the storm ends or you barter your way out. Each turn, Wisdom save or accidentally violate some strange social custom.
6. Dimensional Rifts (Ground). Replace the random encounter table with a different one until the storm ends.
7. Dimensional Rifts (Sky). Random esoteric weather effect each turn.
8. Gravity Flux. The weight of the world pulls and tugs. Everything wobbles; pebbles float in air, birds fall from trees too heavy too fly. Save or be caught in a flux. Roll a d20: on a 1-10, you're carried 10*that many feet in the air until next turn. On an 11-20, you're flattened into the ground and must beat that result on a Strength test to move under your own power.
9. Hailstorm. Choose to either be chilled (as Snow) or take d4 damage. No save.
10. Hallucination Fog. Every time you roll on the random encounter table, you find 3 results. Only one is real; you'll have to figure out through trial and error. The GM has free reign to describe whatever to the party. Filtration gear or some kind of independent air supply will prevent this, but otherwise you get no save.
11. Micrometeor Storm. The heavens rain stone like water. Take d4 damage if you can't find something to ablate over your head (whatever you picked gets smashed to pieces).
12. Pollenstorm. Blustering, aching, itching, snotting plant-ejecta fills the air. Halve your maximum Health. Each time you pass the save, restore 1 to your maximum health. Once you've returned to your maximum health this way, you're immune to this region's pollen storms.
13. Rain of Crabs. They pinch! They crush! They follow with a horrific malice! The crabs will have your ankles and swarm in your wake. Save or 1 damage, but each time you pass a save, double the damage for next time. You may choose to fail saves.
14. Sandstorm. Each turn, choose to either be blinded or take 1d4 damage. No save.
15. Solid Lightning. Bolts crash down and cast neon illumination across the land - then hang like vast fractal glowsticks in the night. Destroys your shelter, if any. If unsheltered, save or solid lightning spears through you for 2d6 damage. It feels like a live wire, and removing it will deal d6 more if you don't neutralize it first somehow. They dissolve by the next day, or upon exposure to moonlight.
16. Spellbirth. Octarine light spills down from the opening mouths and eyes of spell-clouds. Save or a spell enters your brain; you can cast it if you have magic dice. It leaves once cast. If it sticks around for longer than the day, it'll try to leave - casting itself to deal maximum damage to whoever's brain it occupies. You can choose to fail this save.
17. Spellstorm. A spell's reached vast and worldshaping power. It rolls across the land, discharging at random, gleefully wreaking havoc. The GM rolls a random spell when the storm occurs. Save vs. getting hit by the spell. Starts at 1 die, each subsequent time it hits you it'll hit at 1 die greater than the last. Will also affect the environment.
18. Thunderstorm. Save or become waterlogged as Rain. On a 1, get hit by lightning (4d6 damage).
19. Windstorm. Your ears pop, there's a thunderous bang, the wind rushes at random. Save or choose from the following: deafened, lose an item at random, or thrown away from the party in a direction at random for d4 damage.
20. Worms. Spontaneous generation. Grubs pour from every crack in the earth, every knot in the trees, wriggle from every rotting carcass. They lightlessly seek meat to gestate in. Save or implanted with d20 grubs the size of grains of rice. They'll hatch if you don't dig them out. Can be distracted with corpses or other, larger, warmer creatures. You don't want to know what the grubs hatch into.

Something catastrophic. A day of horror, the aftereffects of which temporarily replace the weather with a new table.

The sky turns grey with soot and ash falls white as charcoal. It's like someone put a ceiling on the world. Bursting, burning rock falls for a day; as Ashstorm and Micrometeor Storm and Smog and Heatwave all at once for a day. Start new table at d4.
1. Micrometeor Storm.
2. Ashstorm.
3. Heatwave.
4. Smog. Step up.
5. Micrometeor Storm.
6. Ashstorm. Step up.
7. Smog.
8. Heatwave. Step up.
9. Smog.
10. Heatwave. Return to previous weather table.

The ground shakes, shatters, and splits. Save or fall into a chasm (you've got about one round to figure out reactions to grab anyone who falls); buildings must save or fall flat - crushing their occupants. Aftershocks rumble for days. Start new table at d4.
1. Dimensional Rift (Ground), underdark encounter table. Rumbling.
2. Worms. Rumbling.
3. Smog from a burning underground oil reservoir. Rumbling.
4. Dimensional Rift (Ground) underdark encounter table. Rumbling. Step up.
5. Rumbling.
6. Rumbling. Return to previous table.

It breaks against the shore, tearing trees to shreds, rubbling building, carving new shapes into the coastline. Boats smash miles inland. Rivers spill their banks, fish play in the ruins of cottages. When it makes landfall, Thunderstorm (but chance of lightning is doubled), Windstorm (but choose 2 effects instead of 1 on a failed save), Flooding. Further storm effects are as usual. Start table at d4.
1. Thunderstorm. Windstorm. Flooding.
2. Thunderstorm. Windstorm. Flooding.
3. Thunderstorm. Windstorm. Flooding.
4. Flooding. The eye of the storm. Step up.
5. Thunderstorm. Flooding.
6. Windstorm. Flooding. Step up.
7. Thunderstorm.
8. Windstorm. Return to previous table.

It cuts a swathe through the region, picking up things at random and depositing them elsewhere. The winds lash structures back to earth. The tornadoes start in a specific hex in the region and travel in a random direction each exploration turn (without returning to hexes they've already visited). In each hex, windstorm, buildings in its path must save or collapse. People save or get sucked up (as Gravity Flux, but 11-20 is yet further upwards, and on a 20 they end up... elsewhere). Start table at d4.
1. Rain of Crabs. Return to previous weather table.
2. Spellstorm. Return to previous weather table.
3. Bugstorm. Return to previous weather table.
4. Solid Lightning. Return to previous weather table.

Someone's fucked. Not the party, though, not just yet. An adjacent hex at random is flattened into powder. Trees fall, dust fills the sky, fires start from the heated ejecta that broke off as it entered the atmosphere. If there was anything in the hex, tough shit, it's a crater now. If it was underground, it might be around, just shattered. If it was aboveground, no chance. Start new table at d4.
1. Micrometeor Storm.
2. Gravity Flux.
3. Windstorm.
4. Choose one of: Dimensional Rifts (Ground, aliens); Cityfication; Solid Lightning; Bugstorm (alien bugs). Return to previous table.

The stars wink like eyes. At you. Thou hast sinned, and are found wanting. Each day for a week, one of the following occurs to whomever has committed that deadly sin. You could have prevented this by repenting. No longer. Everyone is overcome with an itemized list of their transgressions, and everything you do for this week of atonement will be judged in great detail. (Feel free to replace these with any set of 7 sins, themed to whichever powers the party may have annoyed. They're ironic punishments. This list is specifically sins against the great ghost-guild of adventurers who died within a session of their creation).
1. Cowardice; retreat in the face of certain death (especially if others face it in your stead). Frozen in place until the week ends, or until you fight off a random encounter on your own.
2. Greed; but only in the case of hoarding wealth or power from your comrades-in-arms. All your items weigh you down fourfold until the week ends.
3. Leaving Your Friends Behind; letting a comrade die. Yes, including hirelings. Self-sacrifice exempted. Until the end of the week, whenever one of your comrades takes damage, you take half in their stead.
4. Trust; relying on a comrade who let you down, or being failed in a predictable manner by those you really shouldn't have trusted. Until the end of the week, you can't communicate with others.
5. Martyrdom; sacrificing yourself for another. Until the end of the week, your touch drains life (as a melee attack, but heals you for the damage dealt).
6. Forethought; planning for the future beyond the next adventure. Lose one class level for each venture you've invested in until the week ends.
7. Provocation; creating a threat where none exists, turning potential allies into enemies instead. Until the end of the week, you can't deal more than 1 damage with your attacks.

Generic Weather Tables 
Starts at d6.
1. Clear.
2. Clear.
3. Clear.
4. Ominous
5. Ominous, step up
6. Dangerous, step up
7. Ominous
8. Dangerous, step up
9. Dangerous
10. Storm, step up
11. Storm
12. Storm, reset
13. Storm
14. Storm
15. Storm
16. Storm
17. Storm, reset
18. Storm, reset
19. Storm, reset
20. Disaster
Starts at d4.
1. Clear.
2. Clear.
3. Ominous.
4. Ominous, step.
5. Dangerous.
6. Dangerous, step.
7. Ominous.
8. Storm, step.
9. Storm, step.
10. Storm, step.
11. Storm, reset.
12. Storm, reset.


  1. Did you write up vaccuum? I think it's missing

  2. This is great! It's fun to make weather - here's my table for a worldship setting.

    1. Clear.
    2. Clear.
    3. Dusty
    4. Buzzing, step.
    5. Dry Lightning.
    6. Rumbling, step.
    7. Freezing.
    8. Gravity Flux, step.
    9. Hallucination Fog, step.
    10. Solid Lightning, step.
    11. Windstorm (explosive decompression), reset.
    12. Solid Lightning, reset.

  3. Very nice ruleset.

    i was curious about the number of days before the first storm hits, and some quick napkin scratchings suggest a mean of about 10 and a half days. That seems like a good balance to me.


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