Developing a calendar, because your players demand it

Making a homebrew setting can be rough. You give thought to empires, races, class restrictions, some unique things (cantrips for all, bonded companions). You start to layer on some histories (Lorebooks), maybe a secret society or two, some competing faiths as well. Eventually you think “this can run.”

Then your players ask you a question you can’t answer quickly. Sunday, that question was “What day is it?”

I thought I had the answer. “It’s seven days since you started your quest.”

“Actually, it’s nine. I wrote that down. I mean what day of the week is it? What month?”

“Oh, you want a calendar. I don’t have one. I’ll fix that. For now, consider it late Spring.”

Then the searching the internet started. Calendars need a few things answered. Are there moons and how many? Are the moons tidally locked? How fast do they orbit the planet? How many days does the planet to take to orbit its sun? Does the dominant culture mark its calendar by the moons or by sun?

So I started answering some of these, but not in a particular order. There were some things I wanted. The calendar where the characters were active would be a solar calendar that has no months, just seasons. Then I decided to cheat and make one of the moons have a cycle that matched the seasons. This is cheating. It lacks realism, but it can have verisimilitude. As long as this is kept consistent and reasonable, it creates a believable, though unreal, world.

Decisions to this point: solar calendar, four months that match the seasons

Would there be other moons? Yes. After a quick internet search I found an awesome resource for calendar creation and played with some ideas. At one point there were seven moons, but eventually I brought it down to four moons. Moon three guides the calendar of the lands of Telse, Kirtin and Daoud with an origin from one Qin was dominant in the South and West. It is roughly the size of our moon.

Moon four (The Dragon) is absurdly large, but also quite distant with a long orbit of just under 20 years. It is a generational moon. The calendar won’t be guided by this, but some holidays and story points can be. Maybe a culture considers its people as One Dragon (developing), Two Dragons (Young Adults), Three Dragons (Adults), Four Dragons (Aged), and Five Dragons (Ancients). Boom! More development right there. This makes a lot of sense for Crinth. They don’t celebrate years, but the passing of The Dragon and how many times someone remembers it being Full.

That’s moon three (Kin) and moon four (The Dragon). But what if I want some cultures to use a lunar calendar?

The answer is moon two (Glibbon). For ease of rules conversion this moon is at 31 days. Making a moon, or other satellite, that follows between 28-40 days should keep your DnD rule-set simple enough. Monthly spells/features/etc should maintain their power. Azsel and Mehmd would use this calendar system. Complicated conversions won’t be necessary as the game will run using the Qin Calendar as the Scholars and host city use it. But at times referencing the competing calendars can help make the World of the Everflow breathe life.

For fun I added a moon with a weekly cycle. The tiniest of the moons (Feylf) whips around the planet every seven days. Crinth’s druids use this moon quite a bit.

Decisions: Four Moons. Three competing calendar systems with one dominating the educated classes, two Kingdoms and a several fallen Kingdoms.

Another thing needs to happen. What is year zero? That changes. The common calendar on Earth starts in a year that is recognized as the birth of Christ. Prior to that is BC or BCE and after is AD or CE.

On Kin the most important event is simple – The Awakening. That’s the start of the Qin Calendar. It began 22 years ago. The current game, answering that player’s question, is now 71 Spring 22 P.A QC. That’s when The Five cashed their cheques from Mayor Kellamon upon returning to Telese.

This convention is common in the Western Wildes (Telse, Qin, Mira, Sheljar, etc) and through the Scholars. Kirtin and Daoud start with the conquest of Kirtin-on-the-Lake. On the Qin calendar that was on the 4th day of Autumn 792 BA. The two Hundred Years wars started in 543 BA and 291 BA.

But, the calendar also needs names for its days. I decided on seven day weeks for two reasons – we’re used to thinking like that and because any rules that reference weeks are pretty simple.

Decisions: Four moons, three calendars, seven days.

Naming the days would in some ways echo the real world.

  1. Elmsday starts the week and honors Selley (Goddess of Birth, Life and Death) and Belsem (Goddess of the Untamed).
  2. Bell’an’Aur is the second day of the week. It starts with a rejection of that which can’t be tamed and ends with a dinner celebrating Aur. Aur is the name of the planet. It hadn’t had a name until the calendar issue came up. In Kirtin and Crinth this is Feylfday and is the day when Feylf is full, shortly after sunset.
  3. Quarsday is the third day. It celebrates Quar (God of Rivers, Mountains)
  4. Day of Glight honors the Lord of Knowledge. In developed lands the afternoons are given to learning.
  5. Torday honors Torq (Goddess of Sea and Storm).
  6. Az and Sel is day six. This honors not a god within the Wildes/Kirtin/Daoud, but the man and dog that legend says discovered the bonding. Nik is also frequently honored on this day. Azsel recognizes Az and Sel as man and dog that raised to the gods.
  7. Day of Oun is the end of the week. Oun and Obscon are not honored. The Lords of the End are respected in that all things end. They are feared.

There are a few other things that should be noted, and here I leaned on the players again. It’s a complex set of moons. When are they all full? That would be every 337,435 Auran years (they have 312 days), except that when the 20 year moon is full it stays full for several weeks. The Dragon is full to the human eye for over two years. So four full moons happens about every 17.5 years. Three full moons happen every 7.75 years. Every 217 days two of the moons are full at the same time.

To look at the Qin Calendar in the year when The Five are in action click here and enter the following on the data tab.

{“year_len”:312,”events”:1,”n_months”:4,”months”:[“Spring”,”Summer”,”Autumn”,”Winter”],”month_len”:{“Spring”:78,”Summer”:78,”Autumn”:78,”Winter”:78},”week_len”:7,”weekdays”:[“Elmsday”,”Bell’an’Aur”,”Quarsday”,”Day of Glight”,”Torday”,”Az and Sel”,”Day of Oun”],”n_moons”:4,”moons”:[“Feylf”,”Glibbon”,”Kin”,”The Dragon”],”lunar_cyc”:{“Feylf”:7,”Glibbon”:31,”Kin”:78,”The Dragon”:6220},”lunar_shf”:{“Feylf”:1,”Glibbon”:9,”Kin”:0,”The Dragon”:0},”year”:22,”first_day”:1}

All of this effort did not create just a calendar. For the most part when role-playing players will not refer to a custom calendar. It’s tedious and slow. But, you should know how many days are in a year and when you create your custom calendar you start to create festivals, celebrations and justifications as to how certain cultures think. Now, with a calendar there is life to the worldspace.

“What day is it?” asked Samul, a Barbarian from Mehmd who currently lives in Telse.

“It’s 71 Spring 22 P.A QC a Bell’an’Aur. Glibbon is full later this week when Ahid (the sun) hides Ounsday.”

8 thoughts on “Developing a calendar, because your players demand it

  1. I’ve been through this struggle several times, but I like your breakdown. If you want to be an ass about it, copy all the day/month titles from ALL the Ancient Calendars on wiki. Randomize the order, compile into a master list. Whenever players ask what day it is, read one at random.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t think it was necessary, and wouldn’t recommend doing it for 90+% of gaming groups. One member of my group wanted it and since I’m also writing fiction in the setting it will serve useful.

      Liked by 1 person

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