Day 13: Flood
Unless a published adventure talks about extreme weather, I don’t think I’ve seen a lot of it in my many different adventures that I’ve played in. Since it’s easier for player characters to interact with the world the GM is running, most adventures take place on normal days. The temperature is not too extreme, the roads are clear and it’s a standard day.
But who can predict the weather? Or an earthquake? And an even bigger question, what would be the effect of a natural disaster on a city full of gangsters, a western frontier town, a colony on another planet or a fantasy dungeon?
I doubt that you the reader would like me to describe every natural disaster that is out there. I would like to through a few ideas out on the table for Game Masters to ponder. While I was doing some quick research for this article I came across two websites that may be of interest for GMs. Wikipedia has a List of Natural Disasters with links to individual pages for each type of disaster that contains additional information. Our World in Data also does a deep dive into the numbers on natural disasters.
Flood- Flooding happens when the amount of water becomes so great that it submerges the land. The water can be increased by a breaking dam (how did the dam break?) or very heavy rainfall. I remember watching documentaries where large bodies of water in an ice filled area like the Antarctic would suddenly drain. That water has to go somewhere. While it is easy to find historical examples of flooding on cities and towns, I’d love to see what would happen if a dungeon became flooded. Water takes the path of least resistance when it is being pulled down by gravity.
Hurricanes- This is a tropical storm that forms with high winds over the sea and then moves towards land. Thanks to modern technology meteorologists can track hurricanes when they form and attempt to predict the path they might take. What would happen to a coastal city in medieval times or the roaring 20’s where they do not have this technology? I could see a scenario where a group of gangsters go to make a hit, only to be trapped in the same hotel as their targets when the storm hits.
Earthquakes- A shift that occurs along a fault line that release a lot of energy resulting in a lot of ground movement or waves in the ground. There are two major points to bring up about earthquakes. Most governments in current times have building codes to make buildings safer during an earthquake. These codes would not exist in not so developed countries or before a certain point in time. The lack of these codes would increase the amount of death and damage to a community hit by an earthquake. The second point to bring up is that there is rarely just one earthquake. There are also after-shocks. While they may not be as big as the first earthquake, they can still be dangerous to an area that has already been damaged. That chasm bridge looks rickety, will it hold before the party gets across?
The effect of a natural disaster affects more than just the party. How would animals react during or even before a natural disaster. “Sir Garett, why did the pack of rats run past us instead of attacking?” “Never mind the rats friend Teno, what is that rushing sound coming towards us?” Also think about how the disaster would affect other intelligent beings? The natives could be worried about the explorers that just landed on the island, or they could head back to the village to check on their families after the volcano erupted. Another effect of natural disasters is that resources such as communication, food deliveries, law enforcement and more could be unavailable for a period of time. The players could be hired by worried relatives to go into an area affected by a natural disaster to find an individual or a group. Players could also be deputized by local law enforcement to prevent looters.
A weird thing I came across while reading various articles online is “Disaster Tourism“. How is a thief supposed to pull a heist if there are groups of people who want to see the city flooded by a Tsunami?
The opportunities for Game Masters to “shake things up” are endless. I wouldn’t recommend making it a common occurrence. But if you wanted to pull a surprise on your players, a natural disaster may fill that need.
Yet another round of suggestions where I looked at all of them and felt uninspired. It wasn’t until I actually started assembling the blog post that an idea struck me for a subject. We do a lot of “Improvise” in games. But nothing that I wanted to blog about. “Doom” sound ominous. I guess that I could have talked about Dr. Doom or the Doom video game franchise. I almost made a post about dice “Pool”s, however I’m still experimenting with some of these RPG systems.