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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Lightning Strikes In the Games We Play (and Some Real-World Safety Advice)...

Lightning spells are ubiquitous in gaming, and it isn't hard to understand why.  There's something decidedly elemental about these powerful (and visually impressive) displays of nature's fury.  And given that the ancients saw lightning as a sign of divine displeasure, electrical bolts from the heavens, it certainly feels at home in worlds where magic works and the many gods are real.  Getting electrocuted is deadly, but the ability to wield lightning is highly sought after by warriors (Thor's hammer) and wizards alike... 

But have we ever taken the time to quantify the staggering power of lightning?

We're not talking dice here, although 9d6 is clearly powerful.  No, we're looking at things in a real-world sense.  How hot can lightning get?  And how often is it deadly?

As for heat, lightning is the movement of an electrical charge which, strictly speaking, generates no sensible temperature.  However, environmental resistance to this movement does generate heat; and because air is a poor conductor of electricity, the heat thereby produced is just incredible.  How about 53,540 degrees Fahrenheit or five times hotter than the surface of the sun, although this is, admittedly, its coolest layer.  Pure power...


But how often is it fatal?  Luckily, only in about 10% of cases, which means your typical gaming displays are probably deadlier.  Sadly; however, many survivors suffer painful third-degree burns, and that's not all.  Metal jewelry can instantly melt, leaving a painful tattoo, while the victim's blood vessels explode in so-called lightning trees or Lichtenberg figures, a temporary scarring that outlines the internal damage.  Indeed, lightning can stop the heart instantly, making cardiac arrest a leading cause of lightning-related deaths.   

Short of death, however, lightning can cause permanent blindness, deafness, and brain damage, which is horribly tragic.  Gaming oversimplifies this, but let's forget about the hobby for a few minutes and talk about real world safety.  I became a meteorologist because my younger self was intrigued by the weather, but also because I cared about protecting others from its frequent, more turbulent moods.  Lightning is dangerous, especially as we enter severe weather season in the United States - but the following tips are for everyone...    

When thunder roars, go indoors (this one's top of the list, folks). 

If outdoors and unable to find shelter, crouch low, with as little of your body touching the ground as possible (strong electrical currents can run along the surface).

Stay away from concrete walls, floors, or shelters.  Avoid electrical equipment of all kinds and corded phones (cordless or cell phones are safe to use, however).

Go HERE for more advice and stay safe!  No matter where you live, lightning is deadly - in gaming and in real life - and we want you healthy and enjoying the hobby.

The above trivia can enhance a game.  For instance, GM's who seek realism and allow critical injury can incorporate lightning's effects well short of death; but even those who play straight can better describe either side of the saving throw.  And who knows, generous referees (in the spirit of charity) can grant bonuses to those characters who take the right precautions against this most powerful of forces.  Do what you want, but in real life we hope you'll play it safe and protect yourselves (and your families) against the angry heavens...    

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