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A “Realistic Enough for Fantasy” Calendar
Posted By Martin Ralya On April 25, 2012 @ 1:00 am In GMing Advice | 23 Comments
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.
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.
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.
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.
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