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A “Realistic Enough for Fantasy” Calendar

I recently created a calendar for my fantasy hexcrawl, Bleakstone, and since it was a fun process and I’m pleased with how it turned out I thought I’d share it here.

I wanted a calendar that was largely similar to the one we’re used to (the Gregorian calendar) without being identical, that evoked the flavor of the world, and which didn’t have any fussy bits — no leap years, no months with varying numbers of days, etc.

Divide up the year

After doing the math a few different ways, I decided that 28-day months (four 7-day weeks) felt too short, but that I liked 7-day weeks because they would feel familiar and therefore fade into the background. I resolved that conflict by adding two special days to every month, which made the math work out and added some fantasy flavor to an otherwise Earth-like construct.

I was fine with an Earth-sized world with an Earth-like rotation and 24-hour days. I don’t care about that stuff yet, and deciding now to keep the world Earth-like makes it easy to use real-world climate, geographical, and other resources down the line.

That gave me:

Then all I needed to do was name the months, the days of the week, and the two special days, and I had a calendar.

Name the months and days of the week

I decided to give the months simple compound names like Frostmoot (January) and Palesun (May) and keep the days even simpler by giving them Earth-like names with matching first letters: Moonday (Monday), Towerday (Tuesday), etc. I didn’t start with a system in mind, I just did what felt right and built on that.

I liked that “moot” is used in this region to mean “meet” or “meeting,” and it pops up elsewhere as well. I also liked that in a world where most people can’t read, you can show when a store is open, for example, by putting the symbols for days of the week on its sign: a moon, a tower, etc. Every assumption I made in the process told me something about the world — for example, calling Sunday “Saintsday” to evoke a religious angle for the day of rest meant that there were saints in my world. Cool!

Here are my months:

And my days of the week:

The special days I called Market Day, traditionally used for just what it sounds like, and Last Day, traditionally used to celebrate surviving another month and considered an auspicious time to start a journey. I imagine that in other parts of the world they’re used in different ways and called different things.

Make a spreadsheet

I then plotted it all out in Excel, one month to a page, and added fields for weather (which I’m generating randomly for the whole year using the system from Dragon #137 — the subject of my next article), the party’s hex location, and notes. I fiddled with font and cell sizes and margins until I had each month taking up a whole landscape page, giving me as much room as possible to take notes and ensuring that everything was readable. (If you don’t have or want Excel, Goole Docs is free and offers many of the same features.)

Update: The follow-up to this article, Generating a Year of Random Fantasy Weather Using Dragon Magazine 137, details the other half of my calendar: daily weather. You can download my Excel calendar blank or with a year of weather without reading that article, though.

It’s fast and loose, but it taught me interesting things about the world, it should be nice and easy to use during play, and it appeals to my OCD need for tidiness. In some campaigns, time is largely handwaved (I more or less handwaved it for my Star Trek game; time passed between episodes without much fuss), but in an old school hexcrawl it’s a vital component of the game.

If those things appeal to you, this might be a good baseline for you to use in your own game.

About  Martin Ralya

A father, husband, writer, small-press publisher, former RPG industry freelancer, and lifelong geek, Martin has been gaming since 1987 and GMing since 1989. You can find out a bit more about him on his personal website.

23 Comments (Open | Close)

23 Comments To "A “Realistic Enough for Fantasy” Calendar"

#1 Comment By Razjah On April 25, 2012 @ 7:04 am

I love the month names! If I ever run a game where time matters, I am stealing that naming scheme. I’ll have to tweak it my world, but this is an awesome idea. I love the simple structure to it. I also like how much the days sound like our days of the week.

#2 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On April 25, 2012 @ 7:27 am


I once created a fantasy calendar that had 9-day weeks, with each day keyed to one of the 9 gods (each of whom represented an alignment, so I gave bennies or penalties to each PC depending on their alignment or the day).

Do your moon phases map with your months?

#3 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 25, 2012 @ 7:32 am

@Razjah – I’m glad you like it!

@Walt Ciechanowski – Tying the days to the gods is a fantastic idea. I wish I’d thought of that!

Re: moon phases, I figure if a player asks the answer will be, “Uh…sure!” I’m still trying to hammer out the basics (currently random encounter tables), so I haven’t reached the point where I consider moon phases; I may never reach it.

#4 Comment By argokirby On April 25, 2012 @ 8:08 am

Any chance you can post your Excel version.

I am rally bad at layout and making it look pretty so I would love to see what yours looks like. even a screen shot or a PDF would be cool.

Also, if I missed it in the article above please feel free to make fun of me, I am pre-caffeine for the day.

#5 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On April 25, 2012 @ 8:58 am

That looks awesome, especially the names of the week. I may have to borrow it.

I’d go with thirty day moon cycles, with the new moon coinciding with the new month, and market day being held on the full moon. In an illiterate world, it’s an easy way to keep track of when to go to market, and when to mark the passage of the months.

#6 Comment By Svafa On April 25, 2012 @ 8:59 am

For a slightly different take, I created a calendar for our group recently as well. I went with 28 day months with 13 months in a year, giving me 364 days. Then I tacked on one new year day that sits outside the calendar entirely; it’s not part of a month or even considered one of the days of the week. This gave me a full 365-day year with a calendar that doesn’t change from year to year- well, that was true until I added moon phases and floating holidays to it, at least.

I started trying to map gods to the days of the week, but gave up (too many gods, too few days) and instead mapped the gods to the months which worked much better.

#7 Comment By Claus Bornich On April 25, 2012 @ 8:59 am

When I saw the post was about calendars I was about to skip it as I don’t really care about tracking time in any detail, but then I spotted the names of the days and I fell in love. I really like how simple it would be to understand and remember the days, and I’d probably do something similar for the months. Fantasy calendars typically just add needless confusion, but this adds some nice flavour to the world AND you even get to sneak in some useful lore if you name the months (or even days) after heroes, gods, dragons or something else important to your setting. Bravo.

#8 Comment By Trace On April 25, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

@Kurt “Telas” Schneider – That is a great idea.

#9 Comment By Tiorn On April 25, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

I like it. I pitched a 30-day/month, 12-month/year calendar to my buddies for a Pathfinder campaign. I didn’t design it as four 7-day weeks per month plus 2 additional ‘separate’ days like you did though. However, I did view the two additional days in much the same light, or lack of light (because of the moon phase).

The difference for mine was that the full moon enveloped the world in positive energy… granting a slight bump in power to positive energy channelers, while adversely effecting the undead (I had decided to strip undead of any supernatural abilities during the full moon). Full moon = bad for vampires and other undead, but good for good-aligned clerics, lycans, and undead hunters. I think I would call it Wolf’s Moon Day/Eve or something like that, since lycans would be one of the greatest threats out and about during this time.

On the new moon, I decided to have the opposite effect from the moon… having the world enveloped in negative energy. This would offer a slight bump to negative energy channelers. Maybe even to necromancers as well. New moon = good for undead overall, evil-aligned clerics, and necromancers… but bad for pretty much every other living thing, especially good-aligned clerics. I also planned on dramatically increasing the likelihood of undead encounters during the new moon. An increased number of soldiers would guard graveyards on these nights.

A 28-day plus 2 extra (based on the moon phase) definitely seems good to me. And I’ve had positive feedback from my buddies about the increased/decreased powers related to the full/new moons.

Great article! I’m definitely going to merge it in with what I was already doing. It will really smooth things out.

#10 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 25, 2012 @ 8:08 pm

It’s funny that the names seem to be clicking for folks — my first draft of the article didn’t include them. I thought, “Who’s going to care what I called the months and days?” I decided at the last minute to include them.

@argokirbyAny chance you can post your Excel version.

Sure! I’ll post it with the weather article (my next one), because then the weather component will make sense in context.

@Kurt “Telas” Schneider – That makes a lot of sense — thanks! I also got the suggestion on Google+ to move one of the -moot months so they occur every three months, making them a traditional time for meetings. Good stuff!

#11 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On April 25, 2012 @ 9:03 pm

@Martin Ralya – Now you have a solar calendar and a lunar calender :)

#12 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 25, 2012 @ 9:16 pm

@Walt Ciechanowski – And hey, no work! My kind of prep.

#13 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On April 25, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

@Martin Ralya – An event every three months? That sounds awfully close to the Greyhawk calendar (for that Old School vibe).

#14 Comment By BryanB On April 26, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

I’ve done this! I even adopted a lunar cycle for the two moons my world had or I may have stolen the lunar cycle from Oerth. It has been a while since I pulled that calendar out from the archives. I recall having week long festivals at the beginning of each season. There was a Pantheon Day for worship. There was a rest day each week. I had some holidays on there. I can’t recall all of the names of the months that I came up with. I should dig that thing out of storage and take a look again! :)

#15 Comment By argokirby On April 27, 2012 @ 6:53 am

@Martin Ralya

Thank you,

I love the idea of weather. I can’t wait to see it.

#16 Comment By 77IM On April 27, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

That’s awesome — I did the same thing for a campaign calendar!

I used days of the week that rhymed with real ones: Oneday, Twosday, Thrensday, Foursday, Fiveday, Latterday, Prayermeet. It’s a little whimsical, but easy to remember. ;}

For months of the year, each season has a theme (frost, rain, sun, leaf): Coldfrost, Hoarfrost, Whitefrost, Dewrain, Fullrain, Ivyrain, Highsun, Glorysun, Shroudsun, Goldleaf, Harvestleaf, Redleaf

#17 Comment By blather On April 29, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

Have you ever seen this site. They have now added lunar cycles and leap year.

#18 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 29, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

@blather – It appears I can’t check out any of it without logging in, but the tools sound promising. Thanks for the link!

#19 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 29, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

@77IM – I really dig the season > theme > suffix progression in your calendar. That’s nifty.

#20 Comment By Martin Ralya On May 8, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

In case anyone has subscribed to the comments on this article to find out when my Excel sheet is available, it’s now up and linked in the body.

#21 Comment By Maull On June 4, 2012 @ 8:01 am

It seems to me that northern, southern and tropical climes would have different names for the same months given their regional diversity. The equitorial region might focus on rain/heat and the northern would focus on snow/cold in the names. It might be good flavor when encountering other cultures.

#22 Pingback By Serving up a dish of Gnome Stew | | Evil MachinationsEvil Machinations On June 9, 2012 @ 6:06 am

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[…] like Master Plan that has a campaign calendar feature, to these excellent articles in Gnome Stew, A “Realistic Enough for Fantasy” Calendar and the follow up article on generating fantasy weather. That last one refers to an article on […]