There is quite literally nothing like a rainy day. If the rain is soft, and comes down gently, you can throw up an umbrella and scurry to your car. If the rain is coming down in heavy sheets at an angle, you can curl up with a book next to the window and listen while it lightly slaps against your car. If it’s part of a massive storm, the rain might even become a comforting sound when the whip-cracks of thunder stop tearing apart the sky.
Living in Florida, rain was always about ten minutes away, no matter what time of the day it was. It was always a possibility, and usually over and done with right away. Sometimes rain will come and go at the same speed, and sometimes, the rain will stay like an obnoxious house guest. But to be fair, rain has its uses, and as long as you have a roof over your head, it’s not quite an issue. But to those without shelter, it can be as deadly as any disease.
Rain is the topic of today’s Sense of Immersion, and the key to describing and narrating rain is to remember it. Weather doesn’t always get the attention of Game Masters, but if used right, it can send the players off the beaten path or into shelter. Remember that you mentioned it earlier, remember to keep mentioning it, and it will be a constant presence.
It’s key that you don’t make it a gimmick though. Do not railroad your Players with it; they will feel like the act of god is controlling their actions. If it doesn’t feel real, it won’t work half as well.
Rain can be an easily used hazard, which you can introduce to provide some unpredictability.
Before the Rain
You know that it’s going to rain. You can feel it in the air. The light breeze picks up a bit, some of it cold and some of it warm, it swirls around you as the air pressure changes. Sometimes the feeling stays like this the whole time, and the rain joins it. Other times the thunder rumbles in your core, sending a chill down your spine and getting goosebumps all over your arms and neck.
You hear a sort of rumble in the distance, like a bowling alley with its doors open down the street. The sound rolls across the landscape, starting slow and distant, gaining speed and peeling through your chest before moving on.
You see the sky turn a dark blue color as the deep and dark-colored clouds obscure all vision of the sun. Blinding white lightning fills the entire landscape, and you find yourself alone as others have started to go inside or find shelter. The clouds are lit with a deep faded gray, tinged with green, purple or blue. Sometimes it’s red, and that can be horrifying.
The smell is the real kicker, it’s the light but sharp smell of ozone. If you’ve never smelled ozone before, it smells sharp and a bit like chlorine. There’s a slight chemical tang in the air. It’s unnerving, and a bit intoxicating.
You can’t quite taste a thunderstorm before it hits, but by the sea you can taste the salty spray of the ocean, kicked up by the storm.
A Game Master can easily use all factors of oncoming rain to make the story more exciting or interesting. Maybe the clouds and rain will hurt one of the characters, who recently became severely allergic to water. Maybe the rain is acidic, and the clouds are chasing down the party. Perhaps the dragon they’re fighting has metal spikes coming from its body, and can use the storm’s lightning to supercharge its breath weapon.
During the Rain
When it’s raining, you can feel every drop that hits you. It pings off your armor and soaks deep into your robes. It fills your boots and weighs down your very soul. The cold numbs your skin and slicks your grasp. Swords and bows slide in your hands, and your boots stick in the mud.
You can barely speak above it, and you can barely hear your team. You have to shout above the crashing thunder. Like a waterfall but in all directions, the water is never ending. Stealth is easier; perception is harder.
Your eyes are blurry and your glasses are fogged. There might as well be nothing past ten feet in front of you, because even if there was, you couldn’t see it. Water starts to fill the land around you, and the clouds above show no sign of stopping. Maybe a small glimpse of the sun will come soon, but it’s not likely.
The smell is of cold air, and your nose is numb. You cannot smell much for long however, because the cold rain starts your nose running.
The rain tastes salty, or fresh, but very cold.
While the rain is pouring down, all sorts of disadvantages can affect the characters. There are endless ways to tweak the battlefield and the players who are fighting in this weather. Lightning damage is doubled, perhaps, and water-loving creatures might get speed boosts. Maybe the clouds cover the sun so much that Vampires can come out to hunt in the day world.
After the Rain
When it’s all over, you can really feel the humidity in the air like a wall of invisible fog. You walk through the mud as it shucks your boots right off your feet and splatters your pants or armor, then dries later as hard, crusted dirt.
You can hear the bugs chirping and buzzing as they come out in full force, trying desperately to avoid the drowning depths of their caves and tunnels, and the birds swoop down to munch on their escaping forms. You hear the slaps of mud on your boots as you walk across smooth surfaces. You hear the thunder rumble off into a new direction, towards new unprepared souls.
Seeing your party struggle through the wet muck that sticks to their boots, you watch as they try to be creative and clean themselves or move in ways that are easier on their weary forms. Some trip and fall, but others just try to get to higher ground. You watch as the clouds part and the sun beams down warmly onto you all.
The stench of wet animal begins to rise through the area, and you realize the lot of you smell bad. Your hair, your leather armor, your muddy boots. You smell like a sewer, and that’s probably because the local pond just got dumped onto your head and into your clothes by way of the gods.
You taste the water that drips down your face and lips. It drips out of your hair and down your face. It doesn’t taste great, more like filthy water downriver of a heavily populated town.
The storm diminishes. You could have massive bug creatures bursting from their hiding spots, and giant frogs explore outside the swamp to chase the new food. Perhaps the rain uncovered the dirt covering an ancient monolith or a buried treasure. Be creative with the whole process, and by the end of the session, the rain will have a reputation with your party!
Thanks for reading! Come back next Tuesday for my newest Sense of Immersion. Please check out my Patreon.
Also be sure to let me know if there’s a particular topic you want me to cover for this series!
Roll a D% to see what happens anytime there’s a little downtime in your session after you foreshadowed some rain.
1-10: A light rain begins to fall. Any characters left out in the rain have a 1-in-6 chance of catching a cold.
11-20: A medium rain, with darkening clouds, passes by quickly. The wind is strong, and any missile attacks will have disadvantage to hit.
21-30: The rain comes down in heavy sheets. It’s hard to see, and all perception, survival, and investigation checks have disadvantage.
31-30: The rain has hail in it the size of a human fist. Every round without shelter, each character takes 1d6 cold damage.
41-55: The rain is acidic! All stone, metal, and organic material begins to burn away slowly when touched by it. 1d4 damage per round for characters, and 1-foot square per round for metal and stone. If a character is made of metal, combine the effects.
56-70: A sunstorm begins, but this is no normal sunstorm. The raindrops take on a golden light that seems to be from some far off heavens. Any character who sticks their tongue out and catches some will regain 1d4 + 4 HP, only once.
71-90: The wind picks up and the rain….goes up?! The rain seems to fall normally for a while, but then the direction changes and the rain starts to fall back up to the clouds! This alternates every round. While the rain is going up, all jumps are doubled. While the rain is falling, all fly speeds are halved.
91: It begins to rain lightly, and the rainwater pools in unnatural shapes along the ground. After the rain stops, the symbols in the dirt begin to glow!
92: The rain fizzles slightly on impact, but has no effect.
93: The rain has the property of one wild magic effect.
94: The rain is made of fire, yet only affects wood.
95: The clouds glow a vibrant purple color, and the rain oozes down in sticky drops. All speeds are halved while the rain persists.
96: The rain makes all potions in the area inert during its duration. The potions return to normal after the rain clears.
97: All who get soaked by the rain share their known languages (spoken only).
98: It tastes like blueberry.
99: The rain is blood.
100: Roll twice on this table and have it only affect the players.