Migrated and edited from the Temple of Time site, where it was originally posted by me as I experimented with GitHub pages.
Rain, rain, go away
Come again another day.
So, it’s supposed to rain. All week. Everyday. And on Monday, it poured, deluged, flooded; it “rained” so hard that water came gushing down hills like a freak of nature and the wind blew fiercely enough to create dry spots on the ground. Of course, that just meant the water that was on the ground blew up into my face. Oh, and yeah, I got wet.
All of my stuff also got wet. My shorts were a different color, my shoes are still wet after over 24 hours, and, to top it all off, my backpack leaked yellow water all over the bottom of my notebooks. So yeah, rainy Mondays suck.
But you know what? It’s all OK. My stuff is starting to dry, finally, and I had a wonderful revelation. It came, as all great thoughts do, while I was eating. (Some of my better thoughts come while showering and before I sleep, too.) I was discussing the atrocious flood I had experienced with a friend, and he was griping about the stress of his week, and we both agreed that it is a great week to have a terrible week.
You’re probably wondering, OK, that sounds witty, but what the heck am I supposed to do with that? It’s not very uplifting, and really I’m just setting myself up for a terrible week. Ah, but you missed the important part! You’ll be having the best terrible week you’ve ever had! And that’s the point. If you can’t laugh about it during the week, then you really will have a terrible week. Laughing about it afterwards is all fine and good, but it’s incredibly depressing to have a bad week. So make it the best bad week you’ve ever had.
Alright, this is the moment all you nerds out there have been waiting for: this is why you slogged through some crazy philosophical something that only halfway makes sense—you wanted to read about epic fantasy and stuff. Well, sorry to disappoint. We will be discussing Dungeons and Dragons (specifically 5th edition), but it won’t be the fun parts. Instead, we’re gonna talk about rain.
See, here’s the kicker to my discussion above: when I narrate rain in a D&D session, I gloss over the finer details and say something along the lines of
It’s raining so hard you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
Now, if I’m being honest, that’s just terrible. I’m requiring my players to be creative in their imagination, which I am to help them with as DM. This is the narrative, describing-the-world-around-you part that a DM has to do. I left out the parts about wet branches smacking their faces and fat drops falling from leaves smacking their faces, and if I’m being really mean the surprise arrows smacking their faces. Add to all that, there’s no decent mechanic built in that takes care of rain. Sure, there’s “lightly obscured,” but half the time I forget about things like that anyways, and if I forget about the rain or the vision impediments, you can bet my players will too.
So what do we do? Well, we could rule that Dashing, or moving in a particularly wet area, requires a Dex check to stay upright. It’s the perfect scenario for a check (more on that in a later post: there’s a definite cost for failure (falling prone, costing movement speed to stand up, &c.), and there’s a failure and success case.
Well, let’s say that only applies in situations where running fast is important; otherwise, the cost is just mud everywhere. So far, so good.
But how often do you have to check? Once per dash/move? Or every 5 ft. (shudders)? Well, since it costs half your movement to stand back up, what if I make the check every time you move half your speed? That sounds reasonable…Except now the rain definitely puts Strength-based builds at a disadvantage if they dumped Dex. Do I say, “Ha sucks” and move on? Yes, yes I do. It’s the correct answer: raw strength won’t help you stay on your feet.
If I remember to describe the rain graphically, and how it affects each arrow or sword swing, I can make a simple woodland fight against an owlbear clan into a gruesome, muddy, slip-and-slide. This actually might be a really tough battle if the players find that they fall prone a lot, leaving the lumbering owlbears to finish them off.
Only, one more thing. Remember how earlier I was saying, “rain sucks” and, “all your stuff gets wet” and, “it tires me out”? Sounds like something I could model! And the exhaustion mechanic fits perfectly: I think something along the lines of
Every hour traveled in a downpour, characters not wearing appropriate rain protection gear must make a DC 10 Con save or gain a level of exhaustion. The DC increases by one for every hour after the first, and resets to 10 if the character gets a good night’s sleep and its gear is permitted to dry.
That’s pretty good! Now, I can make them fall down and feel the pain (my pain) of walking around in storm weather for hours! Muahahaha…I mean, uh. I like my players, and want them to come back next time…
Obviously, D&D at its core is not a dedicated real-life simulation: it’s some rules and fantasy objects put together to allow players to come together and do epic fantasy hero stuff. Like own a tavern, or a crab-shell harvesting apothecary, or slay all the skeletons in every stereotypical graveyard. So, if your table doesn’t like the level of simulation created by analyzing just the weather, leave it out! You’ll make them miserable! But if everyone is playing Rangers and Druids and Barbarians and wants to play a survivalist game? Things like the weather become massively more important, and having good mechanics to help and hinder the party will help them interact with your world.
Rain is a terrible, wonderful, terrible thing, for players and humans alike. It has been the source of many a great existential thought, the cause of much damage, and the bringer of life. Ultimately, it’s just one of those things we live with all the time. But it doesn’t have to be all bad.