Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A second look at the calendar

One of my earliest posts on the site was about how I developed a “system” to make my campaign world’s calendar more useful. The system made the months and their progression more intuitive so that players could learn and employ it more easily. To date it has been a success. This post expands a little upon that system to explain the rest of how the calendar shows up in play. As today marks the summer solstice, a calendar post felt appropriate.

The world has two moons. One a small black moon and the second a large silver moon. This is undoubtedly a holdover from my early love of Krynn, but I’ve always disputed that. The unique thing is that the black moon routinely passes in front of the silver moon to create a halo in the night sky. These haloes mark every equinox and solstice.

I wanted the silver moon to be “the moon” and so its cycle is what the months are predicated on. The black moon, then, is the bonus moon that makes interesting things happen from time to time. As a month is 28 days, the silver moon’s cycle is also 28 days, coming to full each month on the 14th. The black moon has a 42 day cycle (1.5x the silver moon) allowing them to sync up ever three months.

Once it was set, it was easy enough to produce a graphic. You can see by the little symbols when each moon reaches its full and when the haloes occur; each equinox and solstice were then named. I quickly realized, though, that the graphic was (a) a little empty and (b) an interesting place to communicate more celestial information. I decided that much like Earth’s Venus, a distant planet would make a pentagram in a five year cycle in the night sky. I also decided that a second planet, Faero, would move across the sky in a small arc above the horizon during the winter to spring.

In the past, I had produced a range of less successful calendars. Some had dozens of holidays to mirror Earth’s calendar, but it turns out that Earth-workers and families need more holidays than adventurers do. I had calendars that used different conventions for different races, but I found that players of elven characters rarely put in the extra effort to distinguish their understanding from the “common” understanding. In short, the more complex the tool got, the less it was used. This calendar is as simple as I can make it without making it feel trite, and, graciously, players seem to actually pay it credence. That isn’t to say it does a lot (but, honestly, I don’t *want* my calendar to do much), but it does enough. Players wonder if something crazy is going to happen at the halo. They remember the four holidays and look forward to festivals in whatever town they visit. When I drop that Faero is “at its peak,” players that care can recall that it makes a simple arc.

It isn’t much, but it adds enough.

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