As I write this, I’m waiting for Hurricane Irene to arrive within hours. Being a Pennsylvanian (and New Jerseyan before that), I’m not used to dealing with hurricanes (or earthquakes for that matter – now both events in one week!). We all know it’s coming, preparations have been made and evacuations in highly threatened areas are underway. Given that Irene is taking her sweet time to get here, it’s been a surreal experience these past few days. It almost feels like one of those “end of the world” movies where everyone sits around and pretends things are normal while calmly waiting for the end.

Being a gamer, of course, these last few days have me thinking about gaming scenarios. I’ve seen many adventures and campaigns set during a disaster and even after one (the entire post-apocalyptic subgenre is based on the latter), but rarely have I seen an adventure that takes place just prior to an anticipated disaster. Just looking at immediate events, I see a lot of roleplaying game potential.

For villains, the hours before a storm provide ample opportunities for crime. Businesses and residences are boarded up and abandoned, making them prime targets for burglary. A power company may cut power to minimize storm damage, disabling security systems. Valuables may be transferred to safer but less secure locations, giving villains a chance to steal a cargo in transit or burgle it at the new location. And villains of previous crimes could use the disaster to eliminate troublesome witnesses.

For heroes, the hours before the storm add extra complications, even in adventures that don’t directly relate to the storm. PCs may be asked to investigate a crime when crime scene, as well as critical evidence, may be destroyed within hours. Loss of power can certainly hinder an investigation, especially at night. Witnesses (and suspects) may be getting out of town; some of them may not even survive the storm. PCs may even be recruited into preparations, cutting into their investigative time (or trying to preserve evidence or crime scenes from the disaster).

Finally, a disaster, especially a storm, is a dramatic race against time. The PCs know that they have to wrap things up as the rain becomes harder and the winds begin to blow. Minor accidents and problems may arise before the brunt of the storm, such as falling trees, fender benders, and flying debris.

Again, as I write this, the storm is coming. Initial indications are that it’s going to be less powerful than originally thought, and I hope that’s the case. I also hope it tracks further east. I pray that everyone remains safe and that property damage will be as minimal as possible.

That said I think that the fictional east coast city in my campaign is due for an approaching hurricane…