Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: My AC is Broken

In the HOUSE! Oh yeah!

So, it’s around 82 degrees F in my house which is a little under 28 degrees C to all of our metric friends. We’re lucky enough to live in a house with central air but two days ago, the magic machine that makes the cold air broke. We’re lucky enough to live in a place that gets really cool at night (low of 62/17 tonight) so through clever fan placement, we can get the inside of the house somewhat cool at night. However, the house has been soaking up the heat all day and is now gently doling it out to us inside. Needless to say, we’re a little sweaty

When I was a little girl growing up in NYC, we didn’t have AC. I shared a room with my cousin and we had an oscillating fan which offered cool air to me, then the room, then my cousin, then the room and back to me, droning all through the night as we thrashed in our beds. Screens in the windows did little to keep out the gargantuan mosquitoes living in the armpit that is NYC in the summer and the humidity? Nothing could really be done about it. It was a fun, hot, itchy time. Here in California we get a dry heat the grapes and produce don’t seem to mind but NYC harbors a humidity begetting thunderstorms and sticky, dirty skin at the end of the day.

The world has hundreds of climates and humans inhabit most of them. And some of these places get very hot. Heat, while being crucial to our survival can be too much. At the very least it can leave you feeling drained and tired, leaving you to your desires for ice cream and a pool. At the worst it can cause grave injury, raising your body temperature, causing dehydration, sunstroke and even death. Heat and humidity can cause diseases to spread more readily. I am not going to die today in my house because of the heat but in some parts of the world, this is an issue people must take precaution against. If you’re not from the country? You should probably bring a fan.

People have been trying to cool down for a long time. Fans, specialized plumbing and even the utilization of ice have all been used to create cooling systems. The more money or time you have at your disposal, the more effective your cooling system can be. The Ancient Egyptians had slaves fan jars of water, causing the water to evaporate more quickly and carry the heat away. People would hang wet sheets on their porches or in their houses and kings and emperors supposedly had snow and ice brought from mountains to make things more bearable in the summer months. A fan in front of a bucket of ice might be the only thing available to a hospital with sick patients while a government official has a refrigeration unit in their home. Hell, some people might decide to skip the heat altogether and relocate to a cooler climate while those unfortunate enough to have to stay put have to literally sweat it out.

Hot weather can put a strain on any adventuring party. It can disrupt much needed sleep at night and drain the party members during the day. Heat will affect not only the adventurers but their supplies. Drastic changes in the temperatures between the day and evening should be accounted for, with many creatures, human and otherwise, preferring to stir in the cooler part of the evening. Tempers can rise with the temperature. Hopefully everyone will be too beat to take that first swing.

For GMs

  • How hot does it get where the PCs are from? Where they are travelling? Are the temperatures the same for the entire region or are there differences, with cooler locales existing, hotter ones, etc.? Is the year especially hot/cold for these various areas?
  • What kind of heat is it? Is it a dry heat? Is it humid?
  • How is temperature measured? What tools do people use to measure how hot it is?
  • Is there a huge discrepancy between morning and evening temperatures? How does the local culture incorporate this (such as a long break in the afternoons/hottest part of the day? Stores keeping later hours)?
  • How do common people beat the heat? Do they just deal with it? How do they dress? How are their houses built?
  • Are there any foods or drinks which are supposed to cool people off? Very spicy/hot foods? Special chilled foods?
  • How do the various social classes cool off? Are there public pools and fountains? Beaches? Rivers? Aqueducts that provide plumbing only the rich can afford? People hired to fan?
  • Are there popular ‘vacation’ spots people frequent in the hot months to get away from the heat? What are those places like? Who lives there year round? Who shows up in the warm months?
  • Are there any diseases/plagues/swarms more likely to pick up in the warm months? What factors contribute to their spread/destruction?

Plot Hooks

  • The local government official has recently thrown a large party where snow from a nearby sacred mountain was collected and consumed by the guests. Several days after the party those who attended are stricken by a strange illness. The PCs must venture back to where the ice was retrieved and try to sort out what has happened. Is the illness from the ice itself? What are the symptoms? What is the cure?
  • The recent heatwave in the city has inspired an important university to sponsor a contest. Whoever can create the object that best cools down a large number of people will win scholarships to the school. The PCs are students at the school and hope to win the contest in order to secure their education. What is the exact criteria for the contest? Do the objects have price caps? How is their efficiency measured? How long do the PCs have? What other teams are they up against?
  • When an sickness overcomes their village, the PCs are asked to bring back enough ice and snow to cool down the sick rooms. Where is the closest source of ice? How do they expect to get to the ice and then bring it back? How much ice will they need to bring back to make the venture successful?
  • The last two summers have been hotter than usual and appear to have brought strange, terrible creatures upon the land. The beasts seem to show up when the daytime temperature hits its peak and ravage the countryside at night. This summer looks to be warmer than the last and the local towns wants the PCs to go try and find the source of these strange beasts before they can rak their havoc upon the land. Where are the beasts coming from? Why do they only show up in the hottest parts of the summer? Is this the first time such a thing has happened here? Happened anywhere?
  • The heat drives the officials and politicians to cooler climates, leaving everyone else to stew in their own grumpiness. Dissenters take the opportunity to stir up those left behind and riots are starting to break out. The PCs notice with each riot, the temperature seems to rise a little more. Is it a coincidence? Who is stirring up trouble? Which came first, the hot tempers or the heat? Is anyone behind the correlation or is it bigger than one person?

For PCs

  • What is a comfortable temperature for you?
  • Do you have any personal tricks to stay cool?
  • Do you prefer to be hot or cold?
  • How does the climate of where you are now compare to where you were raised?
  • Do you dress differently in the summer than the winter? How do your wardrobes compare?

What say you? How do you beat the heat? Also, check out this sweet slideshow from the History Channel about how people stayed cool, well…throughout history.

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