This tosh was written for GameWyrd waaay back in 2001. There was some crud reason why the site needed something that looked like an academic essay on RPGs or something which explains the rush job in putting it live – nevertheless; I still maintain you can put all sorts of wonderful mythology/world goodies into a game’s calendar system!
Time can be an annoyance. In a tabletop game that runs once a week it can be difficult to keep track of the flow of game time. Was it three or four months ago since the heroes rescued the Princess? The progress of time can be even more troublesome in live action games (LARP) or multi-user rpgs that run for twenty-four hours a day on the internet (MUSH, MUD, etc). In a LARP campaign you can find that groups of players attempt all sorts of In Character communication intended to have happened before the next big event. On many MUSHes you’ll find that the ratio of game time to real time is not 1:1. A higher time ratio makes for faster game time. This gives, for examples, the people playing vampires the chance to roleplay without having to wait 12 hours between sessions. It also means that your Duel at Dawn can finish around lunch time – or if the mechanics in the game are complex and the time ratio very high then the sword fight which started at dawn can finish at dusk and yet only have lasted a few seconds of combat time.
Time does not always have to be the enemy.
By creating a calendar for a fantasy game you can create a powerful and easily available reference for the world’s mythology. It does not even have to be a fantasy game; your calendar could be an alternative one used by a secret cult or a brand new one for a post apocalypse world. How so? I’ll use the Western World calendar that, no doubt, you’re familiar with as an example.
The ancient Babylonians created a day for each of the planets they had discovered. They knew of seven planets (counting both the Sun and the Moon) and so we have seven days in a week.
|Sunday||Literally the Sun’s day.|
|Monday||The Moon’s day.|
|Tuesday||Mars’ day. Mars was the name given to the Roman god of war. We’ve adapted to use the Angelo-Saxon (the English) version of Mars and taken the Teutonic cultures equivalent deity for war. Tiu (Tiw) and hence Tiu’s day.|
|Wednesday||Mercury’s day. Mercury was another Roman god. A god of prosperity, among other things. Once again we’ve adapted to use a Teutonic deity instead. Wotan (often considered to be Odin) gives us Wotan’s day.|
|Thursday||Jupiter’s day. Jupiter was the Roman god of thunder and storms (and others). The Teutonic pairing for Jupiter is the god Thor. Thor’s day.|
|Friday||Venus’ day. Venus was the Roman goddess Venus; love and beauty. The Norse goddess of fertility was called Frigg (from where we get certain other words to!). Frigg’s day.|
|Saturday||Saturn’s day. Saturn was the Roman god of planting and harvesting. We’ve kept this.|
The months have similar Roman origins as well. In fact, July was once Quintilis until Julius Caesar decided a month should be named after him. August was once Sextilis but now gets its name from Augustus Caesar. Quinitilis was once the 5th month and Sextilis the 6th. September the 7th, October the 8th, November the 9th and December the 10th. You might well have spotted the Roman numeric prefixes in there; quintem, sextem, septem, octo, nove and decem. The count does not match because they’re based on the original ten month Roman calendar. January is Janus’s month. Janus was the Roman god of doors and beginnings. February is named after the (Roman) festival of purification – Februra. March is Mars’ month. April comes from the Roman month of Aprilis and the Latin aperire which means to open. It marks the start of Spring. It’s a month that’s sacred to Venus. May is named after the goddess Maia and June after Juno.
See how much mythology can be crammed just into the names of days? If you were a cleric of Mars just how confidant would you feel on Mars’ Day (Tuesday) in Mars’ month (March)?
If you manage to keep time a factor in your game then you can come up with all sorts of interesting deadlines. Fulfilling quests before a religiously important day is always a good one.
Delegation is something to consider. One of the few duties a GM can hand over to their players is the responsibility of keeping track of the date. Almost any game genre will find a use for a chronicler – a player who ticks off the days as they pass. It’s a good way to get players involved in the game too. Try making the newest player the chronicler; it’ll give them something to focus on, something to call “theirs” while the rest of the group are flexing their game knowledge and plotting all sorts of cunning plans.
Whether the GM or a player has the task of keeping track of time its safe to say that a physical calendar will make it easier for them. The calendar simply needs to be a page of paper on which they can cross off boxes and scribble notes. To help you produce one quickly, GameWyrd presents the Calendar Maker 1.0.