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Under the Weather?

Weather is an alternative ruleset that can be a great way to increase player immersion or alter the difficulty of an adventure or specific encounter. However, some Game Masters (GMs) and players may see it as adding unnecessary complexity to a game already known for its intricacies. While useful as a storytelling device, it is certainly possible to have a positive and rewarding game experience without adding a daily forecast or enforcing another set of rules.

Those willing to embrace the effects of their environment will find that weather can provide a simple way for players to relate more naturally to the world around them. Describing what the characters experience through their senses is a fundamental and highly effective way to help engross players in the story, and the weather is a perfect vehicle. Everyone is familiar with the feeling of a cold breeze on their skin, the unique earthy smell of fresh rain, the sound of thunder, or the taste of sweat on a sweltering summer day. These depictions help set the scene by influencing the mood and aesthetics of the player's intended surroundings. Storms and gloom can give way to feelings of sorrow, while a bright sunny day could signify resolution or a positive outlook on the adventures ahead.

Groups interested in more realistic play may opt to include the game mechanics associated with harsh climates. Drastic shifts in temperature, precipitation, and wind have relative skill checks or saving throws that can influence gameplay. A clever GM can use weather to add difficulty to an encounter, slow the party's travel speed, or hide enemies and objectives by clouding their perception.

Severe Conditions

Dungeons & Dragons defines extreme cold as any temperature at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Any creature exposed to the cold must roll a DC 10 Constitution saving throw at the end of each in-game hour. Those who fail will gain one additional level of exhaustion until they reach their sixth, succumbing to the frigid environment and dying. A creature automatically succeeds if it has resistance or immunity to cold damage, a natural affinity to cold climates, or wears appropriate cold-weather gear like thick coats, gloves, hats, etc.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, extreme heat occurs at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Without proper hydration, creatures who endure the heat must also succeed on a Constitution saving throw at the end of each in-game hour or suffer the same exhaustion penalty as extreme cold. However, the starting DC is set at five and increases by one point each subsequent hour. Those wearing heavy clothing or medium to heavy armor are penalized further by having disadvantage on each saving throw until they remove their taxing attire. Creatures naturally adapted to hot climates, and those with resistance or immunity to fire damage automatically succeed on their saving throws.

Temperature is not the only harrowing environmental factor. Strong winds impose disadvantage on ranged weapon attacks by definition. Although some GMs extend this further to include ranged spell attacks, which can help even the playing field for nonmagical characters. Strong winds also cause disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing and similarly impede vision when sand or dust storms arise. Many also argue for disadvantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks relating to tracking due to lost scent or ruined tracks. Intense wind also extinguishes open flames, disperses thick fog, and makes nonmagical flight nearly impossible. Flying creatures that encounter strong winds must endeavor to land by the end of their turn or fall from the sky, taking the appropriate damage.

Heavy Precipitation, whether rain or snowfall, lightly obscures a creature's vision causing disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight within a given area. Like strong wind, rain also extinguishes flames and forces creatures rolling for Wisdom (Perception) checks that depend on hearing to do so at disadvantage.

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