This is inspired by a quick gander at the answers (in particular, the Empire Weather tables) to Randomly-generating weather for a sandbox campaign.

How do you adapt Empire Weather, or a similar random weather generator, to the increased detail needs of a campaign where flight plays a heavy role? Cloud ceilings, surface visibility, freezing layers both at the surface and aloft, and wind speeds and directions all play into a variety of "go/no-go" decisions before and during flight, and from what I can tell so far, random weather generation approaches are simply not up to the task of providing such a degree of detail. Or, is this a sign that I should scrap the notion of random weather altogether and simply grab weather from climatically similar real-life locations?

Never mind the look on your face when one of your PCs is trying to get off the ground in a Cessna 172 and asks "...what's the altimeter setting[1] for where I'm at?"

[1] Altimeters in aircraft need to know the surface barometric pressure to read accurately -- this is one of the reasons why just about all real-life weather reports have the barometric pressure in them.


One option would be to back the "crunch" level down a notch. Even if flight is central to the characters and campaign (S&R, bush flying, or similar, I'd presume, if a C172 is in play as opposed to a T-38 Talon or similar), it should be reasonable to presume that icing conditions, IFR vs. VFR, and other considerations that affect real-life flight would be subject to plot needs. For instance, "The weather has closed in, and you have IFR conditions and icing," vs. "The ceiling has dropped to 2800' AGL and visibility is down to one mile, with freezing layers at 2000' and 3300'" is still plenty of detail without requiring that you own a supercomputer with weather simulation software installed and/or have access to historical aviation weather reports in hour-by-hour detail for hundreds of sections.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I was using the C172 as an example because of its ubiquity -- the decision-making process is broadly similar no matter what you have for an airframe, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Shalvenay Dec 29 '14 at 1:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Performance considerations aside, you're very correct. I'll stand by my statement, though, that there's no role-play reason for the level of detail that gives temperature layers, wind shears, etc. vs. their effects (IFR vs. VFR, turbulence around mountains, downbursts in/behind thunderstorms, etc.). \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Dec 29 '14 at 11:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ FlightAware's weather pages use a classification of VFR - MVFR - IFR - LIFR - BCAT1 that would be useful for this, at least at the terminal level. \$\endgroup\$ – Shalvenay Dec 31 '14 at 5:43

I think you're best just using the METAR data from the real world, after all that's what the PCs would be using. It's easily available via the web (I use skyvector.com to find stations) and if they move a long way quickly you can get the data from the new location much more quickly from a laptop or tablet than you could generate realistic weather with dice. If they go away from a convenient METAR station then just find one in a reasonable similar situation.

The big blind spot is the open sea. Depending on where you are in the world you might be able to find shipping forcasts that cover the area.

Historical METAR data is available too, so you could pick a year and use the data from that to represent the in-game weather.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This would be reasonable if the game progresses day-for-day in lockstep with real time. Since very few play RPG that way, I see serious issues with seasonal mismatches and the like. \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Dec 16 '14 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, I think picking a year and using weather data for analogous locations is a really good idea. You don't have to simulate weather at all, and get the level of detail you were after. Time in-game doesn't have to proceed in lockstep with reality, either. \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Dec 16 '14 at 16:27

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