Welcome once again to the weekly Nerdarchy Newsletter. This week our topic is seasons in your D&D game. This week we also had a new sponsor join the Nerdarchy family, Campfire Technology. It’s a tool to help authors and anyone interested in worldbuilding. You can give them a look and explore what Campfire Technology can do for your games on their website. There is a 10-day trial to poke around and see how useful this can be for you. After you get some ideas for using seasons in your D&D campaign, expand on the ideas and develop your own calendar for your campaign setting.
Seasons in D&D are great tool for Dungeon Masters and players alike.
For the player
Here are some things to think about when the DM informs you what season of the year it is. As a player you should be thinking about what does this time of year mean to your character? It’s a great ice breaker for roleplaying — even if it isn’t winter. Simply state to a nonplayer character or another player’s character how much you love the winter, because X, Y and Z, and they might have an opposing view about winter or just why summer is so much better. Then the elf or druid chimes in with why they are both important.
Characters might also have particular memories tied to specific seasons. These could be joyful or traumatic. Some characters have deeper ties like druids, Way of the Four Elements monks, and eladrin.
For the Dungeon Master
The seasons can be plot devices, set dressing, or even an adversary to overcome. Here are some plot ideas:
Wrong weather for time of year — either the season refuses to end or has the wrong weather for the time of year. What about snow in the summer and heat in the winter?
Winter or summer bring extreme temperature changes. This might allow for monsters uncommon to a particular area to make an appearance.
Maybe each season brings with it magical weather as the elemental and para-elemental planes move closer the prime material plane. Again another opportunity for seldom seen monsters to slip through the thin boundaries between planes of existence.
Drought, blocked passages in the mountains, floods.
Festivals and holidays based off of the seasons.
From Ted’s Head
There are many ways to look at seasons when you are playing Dungeons & Dragons, or any roleplaying game for that matter. The biggest takeaway is a season is a representation of change. Look at Game of Thrones. They talk for a long time about Winter is Coming. This is a great change for the people of Westeros.
But change is inevitable, so use it. Over the course of a campaign or even a session you want to see change. Allow relationships to evolve or break down. Perhaps an argument happens because of characters’ words or actions. If you can, have the game make a major change. In Nerdarchist Dave’s game the characters screwed up and allowed a massive monster to destroy a town. These are the kinds of things I like to make happen in my own game when possible.
Depending on your story arc you could have a session or a number of sessions representative of these seasons. You can start off a game in spring. Everything is happy and easygoing for all. Maybe a challenge here or there but nothing the characters cannot handle.
You then move into summer. You turn up the heat, so to speak. The challenges get rough. Maybe there is a higher chance of death, but there is still plenty of light to be had. You move into fall. Here the light is not as bright as you move the game into darker tones. Major NPCs die or stop helping. Maybe they go missing. You could seriously begin hinting at or outright show the evil power behind all that is going on. Can the adventurers stop it?
Move into winter. Here the story and monsters are the most brutal. Every step should be cautious. Just like walking in a massive snowstorm, one wrong step can spell your doom. As the final battle with the Big Bad Evil Creature is over the season breaks and spring begins anew. The air is fresher and plants begin to sprout from the ground leading to a promising harvest. We can always learn from nature and this cycle is perfect for designing a protracted campaign.
From the Nerditor’s Desk
If you’re from a humid continental climate like I am in Ohio, or a desert, or tundra, or wherever, your surrounding weather, ecology and daylight change over the course of a year. We call these changes “seasons.”
Seasonal changes result from Earth’s orbit around the sun and our planet’s axial tilting relative to the plane its path travels. On different parts of the globe there are rainy seasons and monsoon seasons. Wet, flood, and wildfire seasons. Seasons of growth. And seasons whose names suggest nothing about their effects. These of course are summer, winter, fall and spring.
When it comes to D&D, the world of your campaign setting can certainly mirror whatever seasons you’re familiar with here on Earth. It’s not a bad idea at all to draw on your own real life experience to help paint the picture of your game world, and I encourage DMs out there to invite the players at the table to add their own brushstrokes.
In a post on the website, I shared how Pinterest can be a terrific resource for DMs, and one of the biggest inspirations for my home game is a map of a little seaside village. What really captured my imagination was there are five versions of the same map — one for each of summer, winter, fall and spring (plus a nighttime version). So when the campaign started, I asked the players what season of the year they’d like their adventures to begin. It has a pretty big impact. Things like what the villagers lives and livelihoods are like and travel through the surrounding wilderness are informed by seasons.
Considering seasons in your D&D game also helps your descriptions become more vivid and immersive. A party of adventurers traveling miles a day towards the next destination will have a much different experience on the cold, soggy days of early spring than a sweltering, humid early autumn afternoon.
But this is D&D! It’s magical and fantastic. Sure, seasons here on Earth depend on the planet’s axial tilt on a plane. Maybe your D&D campaign setting has seasons determined by the planet’s tilt on another plane of existence altogether. Think Regional Effects, but on a much, much larger scale.
A party of adventurers who travels far from home may find the extraplanar seasons of a new land confusing, challenging or downright dangerous. Here’s some ideas for seasons affected by planar alignment. And what do you know, there’s eight of them so you can roll a d8 to determine the planar season in your next game.
Feywild.The sun remains at dusk, low in the sky, throughout the season.
Shadowfell. The colors of the world are muted.
Earth. Chunks of dense stone from deep in the ground are thrust violently into the air.
Air. Strong storms and tornados strike with frightening regularity.
Fire. Embers and hot ash fall from the sky periodically, covering the ground in soot. Sometimes the ash doesn’t cool before it reaches the ground safely…
Water. Water weird infestations abound
Lower Planes. A sinister vibe permeates everything — and everyone. All Deception, Insight, Intimidation and Persuasion checks are made with disadvantage.
Upper Planes. A pleasant vibe permeates everything — and everyone. All Deception, Insight, Intimidation and Persuasions checks are made with advantage.
Have the seasons affected your D&D games? Did you create your own seasons and effects? Want to see these planar seasons expanded? (There’s 16 Outer Planes!) Let us know!