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Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Weather-Worker

In a comment on the post on weather reaction rolls, the Mule Abides asked about applying Charisma bonuses when petitioning the spirits for more favorable weather. Personally, I wouldn't allow this in most cases, because even typical heroes don't have much pull with spirits unless that's part of their class abilities, or they otherwise earn that ability. Naturally, some settings might work differently... but in general, I'd only add Charisma bonuses to someone using hypothetical Petition Winds or Petition Weather Spirits spells. The other possibility is a variant Cleric class: the weather-worker.

A weather-worker is someone who knows how to communicate with nature spirits that cause weather. Since this is especially useful for agriculture, fishing, whaling, and maritime trade, weather-workers are usually from coastal cities or small farming communities and will have the secondary skills of either a fisherman, farmer, or sailor. They know how to use clubs and other simple bashing weapons, knives and daggers, and specific weapons from their background, either rural (sickle, scythe, and pitchfork) or maritime (net, trident, and harpoon.) They have no training in polearms, missile weapons, edged weapons, or exotic or special weapons and combat techniques. They can wear any armor, but maritime weather-workers generally avoid metal armor to reduce the risk of drowning.

Weather-workers have two class abilities:
  • the universal ability to sense and communicate with any weather spirit;
  • the scaled ability to add their hit dice (or, optionally, level) as a bonus on any reaction roll involving weather spirits, air elementals, or similar creatures.
Their ability to interact with weather spirits can almost be considered an at-will magical power, since it covers several possible uses:
  • weather sense: by asking the weather spirits, you can predict what the next weather change will be, if any. The GM just rolls the weather reaction early and tells you; as long as there's no supernatural interference, that's what happens. Charisma bonus or penalty doesn't affect this; also, it only extends to the next potential weather change, so if the weather is good, you can predict what will happen in the next day, but no further ahead.
  • sense unnatural weather: if the weather is being manipulated in any way, you know it, because you can see it.
  • storm warning: if the weather is about to change suddenly because of magic or other interference, you can make a standard surprise roll; if you aren't surprised, you have just enough time to shout a warning to your comrades and take action.
  • ask for favor: you can make a standard reaction roll, including Charisma mod, to change the wind direction. The wind won't do anything unnatural and the wind force won't change, and you can't change it in a large area (enough for one boat, or to direct an air current underground.) If there's a natural gust that could blow out a torch, you can ask it to change direction and blow out torches. You, the air current, and the target have to be in the same basic area or room, although you could be just outside the doorway of a guardroom, for example.
The hit die or level bonus can basically be used for these things:
  • A simple reaction bonus when dealing with air elementals and other weather-related supernaturals;
  • "Turn" air elementals or weather spirits as a cleric would turn undead;
  • A reaction bonus when asking weather spirits to cast spells for you; a Good reaction means the spell is cast; anything less than Good means no effect, but you can cast as many spells as you want, up to the spell level equal to your hit dice.
To fit other campaign settings, the spell rules can be changed to match the cleric; spells are always cast regardless of reaction roll, but the weather-worker can only cast a certain number of spells a day, and a Hostile reaction or worse angers the weather spirits, ending any further spell casting that day until the spirits are appeased (on Very Hostile, they may even attack, and the weather-worker loses most abilities and all spells indefinitely until the caster makes amends.)

I'll have to do the spells at a later date, but they're pretty simple, starting with extending the basic abilities (predicting weather for distant areas, increasing or decreasing wind strength) and extending through precipitation, temperature, unusual or freakish weather, all the way up to Fortean Weather spells.

Personal Historical Note: I've mused about creating a weather-worker class since the '80s. As migelito noticed, the concept is inspired by the Earthsea Trilogy, plus other fantasy novels or folklore referring to people who can "whistle up a wind". I'm not sure if I ever completed such a class; I didn't find it in any of my old AD&D notes. This class has never been playtested, though, since it was all brainstormed after The Mule Abides made the Charisma comment.


  1. I really like this idea. I've been running a low magic dawn of man game for a while now, and this is exactly the kind of thing that could fit right in.

    Your whole weather serries has been great. I can definitely see it becoming the basis for a sea faring OD&D supplement, or at least an awesome Fight On! article. Thanks for sharing.

  2. The Bugis (who have crept into popular superstition as the "bogey man") talk about a "penis wind" that messes with you at sea by blowing in whatever direction will most frustrate you. You have to do battle with it, cutting it with your kris, in order to go forward.

    Gene Ammarrell: Bugis Navigation