Friday, August 2, 2013

10-Month Seasons

I just came across LS's post at Papers & Pencils about long-term campaign management, and am immediately going to implement it when I start a new game, after I move to the other side of the country. He writes about how he keeps track of most things - player goals, major NPC's, and regions - all in a way that cuts down on prep time and allows the various powers in the world to really flow together.

Of course, what inspired me most was his calendar. Each month, in his system, has 5 weeks, and each year has 10 months - coming out to 350 days, but much easier to keep track of. Especially when compared to the real-world system of months changing mid-week and all having different lengths. I like this much better than the alternative, suggested in the comments, of 12 4-week months. The 12-month reckoning only comes out to 336 days, which becomes increasingly significant when reckoning lifespans, aging effects, and historical timelines.

Now, the really interesting bit for me is seasons. LS suggests handling them by having 3-month summers and winters, with autumn and spring as 2-month transitional periods. This is a great simplification, but is based on the Western solar calendar, which has four seasons, rather than the ecological calendar, which has 6 seasons. I prefer reckoning by the ecological calendar because the most common challengers adventurers will face are ecological, rather than astrological. Ecological seasons determine weather, the activity of animals and plants, and thus the ability to forage, survive in the wild, etc.

In temperate areas, the "extra" seasons result from two divisions. Spring divides into pre-vernal and vernal phases, distinguishing between the budding of trees and return of migratory birds, and plants entering full bloom, with animals establishing territories and beginning to mate. Summer, on the other hand, is made up of an estival, or high summer, and serotinal phase, when leaves begin to change and young birds mature and prepare to migrate. Luckily for the 10-month model, the transition seasons of pre-spring and late summer are about half as long as the full seasons, of high summer, spring, autumn, and winter, allowing there to be two one-month seasons and four two-month seasons.

Seasons can tell you a whole lot about a new region, such as the optimum times to adventure, or to "steal a march" on an enemy, and generally dictate the pace of travel in an area. The ten-month year can easily accommodate seasonal differentiation in other biomes as well - I made seasonal wheels for, starting from the left, monsoon/savanna, subtropical (based on Thai seasons), temperate, polar, and magical polar climates.

Monsoon/savanna covers any two-season regions, either most tropics with a monsoon and dry season, or savannas experiencing rainy and dry seasons. Subtropical is based on Thai seasons (though Thailand is not "sub"tropical!), with a cool, a hot, and  alonger monsoon/rainy season. The temperate wheel has the most variation, and can accommodate both northern and southern temperate climates. In the north, run a colder, snowy pre-spring and a harsher late summer, with autumn snows, and in warm temperate regions, run a livelier pre-spring (perhaps with more diverse birds, as some species pass through to get to higher latitudes) and a much hotter late summer.

The polar wheel basically has two subtly differentiated "summer" and "winter," with a month marked off at each midpoint designating the Midnight Sun and Polar Night. And, the far right wheel represents Bloodland, a frigid, ghoul-infested continent. Here, the ghouls awaken from their slumber and walk freely upon the land during the Season of Blood, when the sun is too weak to burn their blasphemous flesh.

Finally, I whipped up a Year Page for temperate climates, with blank spaces for you to write in the names of your months, as well as keep track of major events. I faded the dates, and the lines between days, so they could be written over but still provide useful context - this tool is really designed for notes at the week-level, rather than the day level. I have the polar and tropical variants as vector files, and will try to upload them later.