Preparing a Calendar

One advantage of careful timekeeping is the detail and flavor it adds to the DM's campaign. If a calendar is kept, the DM has a way of recording the passing seasons, holidays, months, cycles of the moon, or other details that give a world life.

Clerics have holy days to observe, werewolves become more prevalent near full moons, snows come, and birds fly south. All of these are events that happen during the course of a year and make a world seem more real. Without some type of calendar, the DM has nothing to base his campaign on. Take, for example, the following exchange between players:

Jon (Johan the Cleric's player): "Say, you know I'm a member of this temple. Do I have to do anything, or what? Do I give a sermon every week or are there some days of fasting or anything?"

DM: "Well, uh, yeah—you've got holy days you're supposed to spend in prayer."

Jon: "Oh, when?"

DM (in desperation): "Well, uh—Thanksgiving's coming."

Jon: "Oh, but you said it's the middle of summer. Doesn't Thanksgiving come at harvest time?"

Louise (chiming in): "You know, it's been summer ever since my character started playing."

DM: "Well—it's magic!"

Not exactly a lot of color planning there. Now, if the DM had worked out a calendar, he could have answered those questions with a lot more confidence.

Preparing a calendar does take time. The easiest method is to buy a small pocket calendar for the current year. Start the campaign on the same date as the first adventure. Thus, if the first game is played on April 3rd, the campaign starts on that day. The real calendar and game calendar will get out of sync quickly, but at least there will be a record of seasons, moons, and important dates.

This is a good starting point, but a modern calendar is not the same as that used in medieval times and certainly not the same as one used for a fantasy world. You'll want to customize your calendar with details from your game world. So, what types of details should be included?

The Basics have to be determined. Aside from recording the length of years, months, and weeks (which can be anything the DM decides), the calendar should also name them. You can use real names or you can be quite fanciful (the Winter of the Broken Moon or the Moon of Popping Trees, and go on). Have fun.

Physical Cycles can be worked out. When do the seasons fall? When are the phases of the moon? When do the equinoxes and solstices occur? Strange and magical events often happen at these times.

Religious Observances should be added. All major player character religions should be assigned holy days, so that player character priests will have something to observe. There are normally a lot of these, and they will vary from region to region.

Medieval calendars observed over 100 different holy days for saints or special events. Create your own such calendar, being sure to add special observances particular to each kingdom, empire, or region. These might include the king's birthday, the date of a titanic victory over the infidel, the opening of a market fair in a nearby city, or the annual harvest festival.

Fantastic Events are clearly an important part of a fantasy world's calendar. These can be anything imaginable—the annual visitation of a ghostly castle, the bi-monthly tribute demanded by the evil wizard, the night-march of mysterious nomads, or the seasonal migration of the wyverns.

Special Events should be included, as well. The local princess may have an impending wedding. The army may prepare for the annual campaign against the orc hordes. The death of an important official may require a set period of mourning. All of these can be used to fill up a calendar.

Clearly, setting up a detailed calendar takes planning and time. Events must be created and assigned to specific dates. Furthermore, the DM must have some idea of what happens during each event, preferably something that makes it different from all others.

What happens when the evil wizard comes to collect his tribute? (All the townsfolk shutter their houses and hide from his vile horde.) When the king posts the bans for his daughter's nuptials? (A largess of 1 cp is granted all the poor of the city.) During the Festival of Antherra? (Shrines are paraded through the streets and there is much merriment.) The answers created by the DM supply the ultimate detail needed to make a campaign come alive.

Table of Contents