Table of Contents
This is not particularly relevant to a points of light campaign specifically and is entirely unnecessary, but, as it does have an effect in Breath of the Wild, I wanted to address. Additionally, there might be some campaign settings, where weather is a major feature of the setting.
In Breath of the Wild, various weather conditions exist, and they all impact gameplay: rain storms make climbing difficult/impossible; snow triggers the possibility of freezing, doing damage over time; thunder means using metal equipment, or being on higher elevation attracts lightning strikes; severe heat causes heat stroke, and the possibility of wood equipment burning.
For its part, the DMG has a whole host of weather options, including a bunch of die rolls, but that’s way too fiddly, and way too much effort for me.
When I do weather in my campaigns, I basically come up with a set possibility of what weather conditions the world can have. In the case of Breath of the Wild, I’ve decided on: rain, thunderstorms, extreme cold, extreme heat, windstorms, and temperate; six weather values in total. With six general weather conditions, they can be conveniently mapped to a d6.
With all the world’s weather conditions mapped to a dice, it’s no very simple to randomize weather. Just set a frequency that the weather die gets rolled (in this case, we’re already tracking overland travel in days, so, it’s easy enough to say the weather changes every three days). Obviously, the more frequently your weather conditions change, the more volatile your wilds are going to feel.
This is a dice with some benefit of rolling in the open, and leaving in the open. The first benefit is just as a reminder to your players of the conditions they’ll face that day. The other, again, being full transparency, and further cementing that everything in the campaign reacts to the players, and not because of some DM intrusion.
That said, it’s just as transparent to tell your players every time the weather conditions will change prior to rolling.
One last wrinkle regarding weather conditions that I like to throw in, is to give a Ranger or anyone with a favored terrain the ability to “read the weather” in that favored terrain. While in their favored terrain, a player character may force a contested roll against the DM, and add their Nature skill modifier to the roll. If the player wins, they determine the weather conditions.
|1||Extreme Heat||DMG rules for extreme heat, vulnerability to fire damage while using wood equipment|
|2||Extreme Cold||DMG rules for extreme cold, vulnerability to ice damage|
|3||Thunderstorms||All terrain is considered rough terrain, vulnerability to thunder damage while using metal equipment, perception checks using sight or hearing at disadvantage, all previous effects from the “rain” weather condition|
|4||Rain||Climbing is considered rough terrain, Disadvantage on all attempts to obscure tracks|
|5||Windstorms||Flying is considered rough terrain, perception checks involving smell at disadvantage|
|6||Temperate||No effect on gameplay|
Climbing & Swimming
Fifth edition already has rules for climbing and swimming which are pretty succinct, and follow established mechanics. That’s paramount to good game design, so I wouldn’t want to fiddle with that too much and end up with a mechanic that worked originally, but turned bothersome.
That said, those rules for climbing and swimming don’t much embody the spirit of climbing and swimming in BOTW. In fact, climbing in BOTW is one of the most joyous experiences in the game, and, well, standard rules for climbing in 5e just aren’t.
So, if you wanted to spice up climbing and swimming sections, one way to do that would be to instead imagine them as skill challenges, to give it a little bit more cinematic flair. Failure on the skill challenges would result in exciting, pulse-pumping moments like slipping down the mountain face, or a rock snapping out of the ledge they’d leapt to, resulting in them having to pass a series of rapid-fire skill challenges as they daredevil plummet down the mountain.
I’d also provide a consistent way for players to increase climbing and swimming speeds beyond equipment. Perhaps as a reward at the end of a shrine?
Exhaustion & Stamina
The Stamina meter in Breath of the Wild serves a very critical mechanical purpose. It serves to gatekeep players a bit, both in the extent at which they can explore (especially aforementioned climbing and swimming), as well as how much action economy the player has.
In a video game, perhaps this makes sense because it will keep the player within their means, and prevent them from hitting certain difficulty spikes, thus reducing frustration and keep them playing. This is important to game developers when real-world money is on the line. In a table-top RPG, the only things on the line are time and fun.
And stamina meters are certainly not fun. In fact, The stamina meter is probably one of the least fun features in BOTW. So I say throw it out.
Exhaustion already exists in D&D, and it does an admirable job of balancing fun with verisimilitude. Leverage it.
If the standard rules of exhaustion don’t carry enough immediacy for your players or the type of campaign you’re running, you could always set up micro-exhaustions. Alway tie these to existing mechanics to help the understanding of their existence, and make them easier to track.
Examples of these might be:
- A player hitting their max climb/swim distance five times a day
- A player traveling three times their movement speed through rough terrain without stopping
- Dropping to a bloodied (50% health) condition in combat
- Burning through all spell slots in a single encounter
If you choose to implement ideas like these, you will want to avoid making it feel like a meter. Don’t design micro-exhaustions that occur too often, are prohibitive to the flow and speed of the game, or halt gameplay all together. They should be progressive, and offer the player a chance to opt out of the activity to avoid progression. Avoid putting players in an exhaustion trap, where the most advantageous thing is just to stop all actions, or where there is no way out except to rack up exhaustion.
When the player drains their stamina meter In BOTW, beyond its gatekeeping function, it also provides player feedback. The player gasps for air after a long sprint, looses their grip while scaling mountain faces, and begin to sink into the depths while swimming. It is important to maintain these narrative bits as players are entering exhaustion, or during it. These are positive reinforcement not only of the reality of the game, but of the mechanics being defined with narrative.
One of the most iconic tools of exploration in Breath of the Wild is the glider, so we’d be remiss not to include it some way. Although, this can prove challenging in theatre of the mind games, and even in tactical games because verticality can be so often overlooked.
There three major modes of use to consider when coming up with the effects of a glider in your game:
- The effect it has on the individual
- The effect it has on mobility on during encounters, including combat
- The effect it has on overland travel, and the world map
How the glider applies to the individual, non-mobility, and no travel, is perhaps the easiest to add to our campaigns, because its use already exists in most games, and especially in D&D.
Without mobility as a concern, the glider’s function primarily exists with regards to falling. In D&D, fall damage exists, and things like Slow Fall and Feather Fall exist as mechanics to lessen that damage. The glider is an item built to do the same. It’s essentially pocket Feather Fall, or a Feather Token, which basically means that as long as your players are able to use a glider, they’re incapable of taking fall damage within reason.
From a game design standpoint, it’s a pretty situational advantage given to the player, and pretty easy to design for, or around, or just to leave be. The game is still plenty lethal without fall damage. The only inconvenience it brings is that it might take a little shine off your casters who can cast Feather Fall, and your monks. The casters will be thankful because it frees up a spell slot for something less situational. Monks on the other hand, it digs into a pretty unique early-game class feature.
What I’d do to mitigate this, is talk to your monk players, and how the visualize their monk, and their skills, and work together on an appropriate replacement that helps those players get even closer to their monk ideals. Chances are, there’s a feat out there that does that. Swap Slow Fall for that feat, and off you both go.
I’m gonna start this explanation with a simple “formula” that I use to determine quickly how gliders effect encounters.
Glider speed = Movement speed + height of origin point
What this means is, on the resulting movement action, the player may use the glider to extend their movement speed by the height of their origin point from the ground.
So, if a player climbed a ten foot tree on the previous turn, and want to use the glider to extend their movement during their next movement action, the distance in which they can move with the glider is 30ft (standard movement speed) + height of origin point (10ft), for a total of 40ft of movement using the glider. If they were level with the ground, the glider has no effect, and their movement speed is the same.
What about if their movement speed is non-standard? Okay, so let’s say a monk has their Unarmored Defense, and their movement speed is now 40ft, and they’ve been perched on a rooftop some 60ft up, waiting for their time to strike.
Glider speed = Movement speed (40ft) + height of origin point (60ft) for a total of 100ft of movement speed on their next turn! There’s not further reason to penalize monks (or anyone) for using a glider. In fact, it makes more sense to rationalize that someone with a higher movement speed is lighter, quicker, and more agile through all means of movement, so reward that! It also makes bookkeeping easier. It might also train or encourage players to look for vertical solutions during an encounter in hopes to get more resulting movement, and opening that expectation can make encounters more dynamic.
This should also apply to encounters against flying creatures, or those with an ability to turn the battle vertical. If a creature grapples a player and takes to the air, flying 30 feet up in the air, if the player is able to get free, and is not prohibited (by condition or other effect) from using their glider, their movement speed on the resulting turn should gain an extra 30 feet!
The last area where the glider will have a major impact is in overland travel. As mentioned many times before in this article, it is good game design to avoid “complexifying” mechanics when adding new concepts. So, with the glider—even on the the overland map—we want to try and only use existing mechanics and rules we’ve established. To do that we can borrow both the ideas we’ve established for both overland travel, and, and glider speed during encounters.
For overland travel, the rule could still be:
Glider speed = movement speed + height of origin point
So, let’s say you’ve decided that square on your overland map equals 450 feet, and that’s how far the party can travel. They’re currently perched on a mountain crest, some 1,000 feet above, eyeing the expanse below. Between them and their goal is a series of thick woods filled with unknowns. The players decide to instead take a leap of faith, and travel over the woods by gliding past them. That’s pretty inventive, and a pretty cool moment, so why not let them? Give them the 1450 feet of movement, and reward them with some really cool narrative for the choice.
That’s really simple if your overland map is calculated in an exact number. Much less so if you calculate your grid in days of travel like I suggested you might. Would a player have to climb a point of origin at least one day’s worth of travel to get any advantage to overland travel? You could run it that way, which would mean that essentially only really high mountains would have an effect on travel, but that’s the same for the above, too. The example works because of the height of the mountain. But if the players jumped off anything less than 450 feet high, they’d see no effect to travel. Which, frankly, seems pretty realistic, even if a little bit of a let down. It makes very little sense that players could jump off a 15 foot high building and get a boost to overland travel.
If that’s not to your liking, there’s always the option to treat the glider as a “road to anywhere,” in overland travel, and give the players movement speed as if they were traveling by road from their origin point to their destination.
Either option is going to have to require bargaining/adjudication to determine if the height of the origin point makes sense to boost travel speed, or you could just say “whatever” and let players exploit the glider. At the end of the day, it’s your game.
The only additional guardrails I like to add to using the glider during overland travel is to let the players know that while gliding, they suffer no effects of rough terrain (unless during a windstorm), but they also trigger no random encounters, or opportunities to forage, both of which could be seen as advantageous or disadvantageous depending on the party, and might impact the decision to do so.
Check back in for Breath of the Wild 102 as we continue to explore the game theory behind Breath of the Wild, and including it successfully in your campaigns!
Full Anatomy Lesson
Introduction | Points of Light | Exploration | Overland Travel | Tactical World Map | Random Encounters
Weather | Climbing & Swimming | Exhaustion & Stamina | The Gilder
Foraging | Skill Challenges
Cooking & Crafting | Weapon Durability | Armor Boons | Item Upgrades
Shrines Not Dungeons | Divine Beasts (but also dungeons) | Runes |
The Master Sword | Anachronisms