Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Adventurers in the Snow, from "Weather in the World of Greyhawk," in The Dragon, No. 68

Campion & Clitherow has just published its first system-neutral product!

It's called Seven Years of Fantasy Weather. More precisely, it's Volume 1 of a series.

You can buy it on Lulu or DriveThruRPG.

Here's the pitch (from the description blurb on both):
SEVEN YEARS of FANTASY WEATHER gives you seven years of realistic weather for 5112 separate days and nights. Each twelve-hour day or evening entry includes information on temperature (in Celcius and Fahrenheit) weather events - fog, thunderstorm, blizzard, etc. - amount of rainfall/snowfall, occurrence or possibility of lightning, wind speed, wind direction, phases of the moon, effect on movement rates and chance of getting lost. It's an almanac for the fantasy gamer. No more annoying die rolling or consulting an app or online program to generate a random or patternless result. With FANTASY WEATHER you can see all of it at a glance. Whether you're using Dungeons & Dragons 5e, an OSR retro-clone or any other current or past game or mechanic, this is the last word on weather for your roleplaying needs, This first volume simulates the weather patterns of Medieval England, but other volumes will be forthcoming.
But the best way to describe it is to show it. Here's the first page of weather (Year 1, January) for the climate type that I've labeled "Medieval England":

The PDF of Seven Years of Fantasy Weather Volume 1: Medieval England contains 84 pages (7 x 12) of monthly charts, plus 7 pages of summaries for each year and four pages of ideas and rules. Here is the summary for Year 1:

There were no Blizzards, let alone Heavy Blizzards, in Year 1 of "Medieval England" (it's England, not Alaska), though the possibility does exist. Were there any in Year 2? You'll have to buy Fantasy Weather to find out.

Seven Years of Fantasy Weather includes four pages of introductory material featuring a glossary of weather event terms and effects and a (slightly altered) excerpt from the Wilderness travel rules section of Seven Voyages of Zylarthen. But the weather effects (in terms of movement and chances of getting lost) are built-in to the charts, and obviously the wilderness rules can be be used as is, mined for ideas or simply ignored.

We even managed to find a weather-appropriate illustration from John Dickson Batten for the cover (from a relatively obscure book of children's poetry):

There are a number of weather apps and online generators out there. And I should say, I don't mean to be too critical of them. Indeed, as long-time readers of this blog know, I was quite inspired by some of them. But in the end, they prompted me to try to come up with something better. How does Fantasy Weather differ?

The simple answer is it's not a generator. It's simply the weather. Or as one OSR game designer put it, "Instant weather, no generation required!"

What's the advantage of that?

Well, as I said above, the apps are themselves fairly simple. Or at least they appear to be. That's part of the problem. Even if there is a more underlying complexity or pattern to them, you can't see it. As far as anyone can tell, they're more or less just generating a few "random" weather data points for a particular climate type - cold, temperate, warm, etc. - and season. With Seven Years of Fantasy Weather you can instantly tell exactly what's going on.

Plus, Medieval England isn't just "temperate" but, well, England. Or, rather, late 14th century England when they tell us that it was 2˚ colder. There's a lot of precipitation but not a lot of total rainfall - at least when compared to certain tropical zones. You might get a blizzard in January but you probably won't. More likely it will be 45˚ F and drizzling. Or foggy.

Actually, England (and especially London) isn't and wasn't as foggy as most people think. And much of the fog that there really was was attributable to 20th century pollution. Medieval England ramps the fog up a bit, for the fun of it, but only a bit. There's still a lot of drizzle.

Interestingly, I almost went with the weather pattern for the so-called Medieval Warm Period, lasting from the 10th to 13th centuries. That would have been perhaps more authentic for the "Medieval" label, but it was also more boring. Raising temperatures by just 4˚ means you cut down radically on the chance of snow. I like snow. Sorry Medieval Warm period.

But snow or no snow, too many weather mechanics make the mistake of introducing weather as simply another way to screw the players. Or at least, that's often how it seems. One online app usually generates only a few lines of text for the day's weather. But watch out if you get more text lines. Cold front? Roll for hypothermia. Moderate wind? Your torches blow out, missile fire is impossible and search checks are reduced by -5. Thunderstorm? You have a 1% chance per turn of being struck by lightning, which deals out 8d8 hits of damage. Most adventurers - and, I assume, 99% of the general population - will sooner or later suffer death from electrocution.

If they aren't pummeled into a pulp by a hailstorm first.

That's not what Fantasy Weather is about.

What is it about?

The point is to use the weather as background to help set the tone, and to sometimes provide interesting choices and opportunities for players. For example, in the desert player-characters can significantly increase their movement rate by traveling at night when it's usually much less hot. This comes with other advantages - fewer wandering monsters - but also some disadvantages - the monsters have a greater chance of surprising you, and it's easier to get lost. A Call Lightning spell is extremely powerful in a thunderstorm, but quite useless otherwise. Can one somehow contrive a plan to lure a foe out into the open when such conditions occur? And fog or low visibility can be used by player characters just as much as they can be used against them. And so on.

But most weather is just there, so to speak. There's no reason to solemnly announce each day that the temperature is 60˚ with a gentle breeze or whatever. But if you need it, the chart will tell you what's going on.

Creating Fantasy Weather also brought out my inner weather nerd. And part of the reason for my inclusion of the "summaries" was simply because I found them interesting, even fascinating, and felt the reader might as well. It's notable how some averages are quite constant - the average yearly temperature was 52˚ F for five of the seven years, and 51˚ F and 53˚ F for the other two - but others are more stochastic - there were ten snowstorms one year but only two in the next.

I admit that one's "fascination" quotient may vary. Then again, I was never a weather nerd before...

Fantasy Weather: Medieval England costs only $7.00 for seven years of weather. If your characters journey to or inhabit a different climate, there will soon be other variations, which will cover most climes from the northland of the Sagas to "sword & sorcery" jungles and deserts.

Whether you purchase 1, 3 or more, it will be some of the best "supplement" money you've ever spent. And unlike, say, Seven Voyages of Zylarthen, this product is system neutral. Use it with Zylarthen, Swords and Wizardry or Dungeons & Dragons 5e.

And finally, pitch aside, I would love for you to tell me how you use it. The point is not to impose more rules on the referee or more ways to die on the players, but again, to create interesting choices and opportunities at minimal cost in time or effort. How can the player-characters use a heavy rainstorm to get the advantage in a wilderness encounter? I have no idea. But I suspect many good players will come up with something.

I hope you enjoy it, and that it is as fun for you to read and use as it was for me to design. Good travels! And may the wind be always at your back!

1 comment:

  1. I may get a copy just to have all that data immediately available in one resource. Thank you.

    That said, it will only be a resource because I need to apply those numbers to some calculations to decide the practical impact on the players. I assess damage for travel - in small increments, of course, and my recovery rules allow for overnight healing of a comparable amount - and I give XP for damage, so it's to the players' benefit to travel, even under adverse conditions. Five days through a blizzard? That's 10 damage which is 200xp, but then you'll have to spend resources on healing if you want to be full prior to your dungeon delve. Or you can wait out the storm and risk that rival group plundering the riches before you.

    Still, having that much data can be useful in other ways...