Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ripped Calendar

Ripper X over at Advanced Gaming & Theory has posted a long but excellent article about building fantasy calendars:

Calendars make the life of a DM that much easier, and it is a way that we can save our work! You can more accurately control the game, it gives you specifics at a glance for information that you’ve chosen to record. If a magic item can only be used 3 times a week, there is no excuse for you not to keep this rule in check now. You can get as elaborate, or as simple as you want to get with them, as long as you find a system that works for you, and as a bonus, YOU GET SEASONS!!!! Fighting through raging blizzards! Feeling the relief of a long awaited and much needed rain. Celebrating their gods through ancient rites. Knowing when to construct a Sword which honors the God of Justice, in a way that, if he sees fit, he may bless with his divine power.

Again, it's exactly the sort of article we used to see in magazines like Dragon back in the day. (And seriously, Ripper X, next time you put that sort of work into something, you might consider selling it to a magazine like KoDT or somebody. If you're going to work that hard, there's no shame in getting paid for it. ;) )

Ripper X gives a great example of a Viking-influenced calendar based on the motions of the moon. For your edification, here's a solar calendar for a tropical culture. This one was built around a zodiac inspired by the traditional four elements, and incorporates a system of virtues and vices as well as your typical seasonal influences.

The Zodiac used in the world of Mitihum was created by the Kesh. All others have adopted it from them, and it spread throughout the world. It is very popular among sorcerers who consider children born under EAGLE to be especially blessed.

Earth1 – TURTLE: Foundation, stable/calcified; opposite is Fire2

Earth2 – CAT: Earth Mother, fruitful/capricious; opposite is Air2

Earth3 – ELEPHANT: Wealth, productive/avaricious or hoarding; opposite is Water1

Water1 – PELICAN: Rain, nourishing/drowning; opposite is Earth3

Water2 – VEIL: Ocean/Keeper of Hidden Wisdom, intuitive/irrational; opposite is Air1

Water3 – SERPENT: River/Maker of Ways, directed motion/obsession; opposite is Fire3

Fire1 – DRAGON: Scourge, purifier/destroyer; Opposite is Air3

Fire2 – RAVEN: Liberator, freedom/anarchy; opposite is Earth1

Fire3 – CROWN OF WONDERS: Halo/Crown of Wonders, imagination/distraction; opposite is Water3

Air1 – EAGLE: Reason, clarity/detachment; Opposite is Water2

Air2 – CRYSTAL TOWER, shielding/confining; opposite is Earth2

Air3 – JEWELED NECKLACE: Mercy, healing/indulgent; opposite is Fire1

Ok, so now we need to arrange these into months and seasons. First, what is the weather like? Since we’re talking about the tropics, bitter winters really don’t figure much into it. In fact, this should look more like the Indian monsoon, with winter winds from the north being cool and dry, while summer winds blow up from the sea and are very wet. Ok, so let’s map this out:

Spring Equinox – Beginning of new year.

Spring First: Jeweled Necklace – rainy, cool. 29 days.

Spring Second: Cat – flowers and fruits after previous rains. 32 days.

Third Spring: Pelican – if the rains are mild, this is a very fruitful time. However, excessive rains can cause mudslides, flooding, and other destruction. 29 days.

Summer Solstice

Summer First: Elephant – time for fruit harvests, shipping to the mainland. 32 days.

Summer Second: Serpent – traditionally a time when the young are inducted into adult society, also a popular time for weddings. 29 days.

Summer Third: Raven – The heat of summer is wearing on, fruit and stores must be eaten now or prepared for long storage, festivals end the month, followed by a period of fasting. 36 days.

Autumn Equinox – winds shift

Autumn First: Dragon – Shifting weather patterns causes chaos at sea, wild storms. Also the beginning of the raiding season, and a period of fasting and introspection, cleaning and repairing. 29 days.

Autumn Second: Eagle – A time of intellectual endeavor and learning. Much shipping from the mainland, including grains and cattle. 32 days.

Autumn Third: Veil – As nights grow longer, traditional period of plays, storytelling, politics and assassination, and other secrets. 29 days.

Winter Solstice

Winter First: Turtle – The sun begins to return. Tools are repaired, fields are cleared in preparation for planting. 32 days.

Winter Second: Crystal Tower: Planting season. 29 days.

Winter Third: Crown of Wonders: Preparation for the oncoming monsoons, repair of homes, shoring up waterways and bridges. 32 days.

A normal year has 370 days in it. Every three years, Raven loses one of its days to keep the equinoxes and solstices from drifting out of their proper months.


RipperX said...

Wow, you really do now how to inflate my ego! I am glad that you are enjoying my articles, and I must say that I really like this webpage! It allows me to look at what is happening around the web at a glance, A tremendous resource!

I also liked your calendar suggestions, I could see some adventures taking place on a world that tries to do trade between two countries but they record time differently, it would lead to misunderstandings and short petty wars that could be fun! It would be interesting to see how the PCs choose to deal with it, of course first they have to discover the problem, and tracing it back to a simple problem with calendars could take a while!

trollsmyth said...

Hey, it's just the truth. :)

And thank you for the kind words. I'm trying to cover as much as I can, but it's amazing how much cool stuff there is out there that you just don't hear about. I'm hoping more of us will link to each other because the web is full of resources I'm only just now finding out about. And I know there's a lot more because my primary (though not only) focus is older versions of D&D. You know the web has to be just awash in, for instance, Exalted web pages I haven't even heard about.

I've been playing a lot with non-standard settings for my D&D games. The current one with my wife takes place on a world that's 90% covered with water, the seas are fresh water instead of salt, and the world is much warmer (imagine our world if global warming actually happened and there was enough ice to actually flood most of the land). So that's given me the chance to explore non-standard seasonal arrangements and how that might affect the calendar people use. I love your idea of two different peoples conflicting over calender confusions.

Now the real trick is trying to decide how subterranean peoples tell time. What does a svirfneblin or drow calender look like? Time is too important an economic issue to ignore, but what does time mean to people with no sun or moon, no seasons and no weather?

- Brian