"You cannot have a meaningful campaign if strict time records are not kept."
I think this ranks up there with one of the most misused pieces of wisdom in any D&D manual. Strict, down-to-the-minute time tracking isn't feasible or even desirable in most modern campaigns. As a DM, you have to determine how your campaign functions and what the stakes are. If time is a factor, track time. Otherwise, don't worry as much about it.
However, I don't think minute-to-minute tracking is how Gary meant this advice to be taken. He says "meaningful campaign", not "meaningful session". To me, this means it's vastly more important to track time on a macro level. You need a system of days, weeks, and months.
There are two reasons for this, one of which is a bit outdated. In early D&D, HP recovered at a rate of 1 hit point per day. So going into a dungeon was a weekly endeavor, not a daily one. In this context, a single dungeon might take a month to fully delve, and in that time there might be local events that could affect the party. Perhaps their patron gets sick. Perhaps the town they are staying in becomes more suspicious of them. Keeping time meant knowing how the world changed between sessions.
The other, more relevant reason, is that you need to show that the world isn't just changing, it's being affected by the players. The goblins they fought at the beginning of the campaign have been gathering followers, and now, months later, they seek revenge! That noble they helped a while back finally put together the money to get them their own house. That sort of stuff.
In essence, time exists in the real world, and tracking time in your world makes it feel more real. It also lets you build multiple campaigns that interact with each other. Hooray!
Time in Ahneria
earlier in this series, Ahneria has the standard 365 day year and 24 hour day. Because the moon cycles through its phases every 13 and three-quarters days, most places have a 14 day month.
There are 26 months in a year, and they each have a name. These names vary widely from culture to culture. In Garlancia, they are named based on how the ancient nomads of the Tribe of Kam tracked their journeys - using the moon as a guide.
- Sunrise Moon (Summer begins)
- Buck Moon
- Storm Moon
- Red Moon
- Wheat Moon
- Hunter's Moon
- Harvest Moon (Autumn begins)
- Blood Moon
- Cold Moon
- Long Moon
- Dark Moon
- Old Moon
- Winter Festival Moon
- Sunset Moon (Winter begins)
- Snow Moon
- Wolf Moon
- Hunger Moon
- Crow Moon
- Rain Moon
- Egg Moon (Spring begins)
- Pink Moon
- Fish Moon
- Farmer's Moon
- Feast Moon
- Flower Moon
- Summer Festival Moon
After the months have passed, a single-day festival is held to bring the year to a full 365 days. This is the Summer Solstice festival, the biggest festival of the year. It is held in tribute to Pelor, and to the light and goodness in the world, in hopes that it will fight against the darkness. The month preceding the Solstice is always busy, as citizens prepare for the celebration.
Across the world, the solstice festival is held among nearly every culture. Even underground, in the tunnels of Stofeuwin, they know of the day when the sun is highest in the sky. At its zenith, the light of the sun falls down carefully-built holes and illuminates the caverns of the underdark.
Also, the system of using "the number of moons since the solstice" to track time is incredibly common. Though the names vary wildly, you can always figure out the time of year simply by asking what number moon of the year it is. Even rangers and druids, far from civilization, use this system.
- Derived from "Moradin's Day", or "Morning Day", Moradin being the patron God of the Dwarves
- Signifies the beginning of the week, or the "Dawn" of the week
- In the beginning, the Dwarven Hero was created by Moradin
- Derived from "Truth Day", or "Two Day"
- The second day of the week, and often assiciated with learning and knowledge
- On one of the Dwarven Hero's adventures, he discovered a dark truth and was banished from Ahneria
- Derived from "Wee Jas' Day", Wee Jas being the God of Death and Magic
- A popular day for funerals and honoring the God of Death
- The family and friends of the Dwarven Hero believed he was dead, and mourned his passing
- Derived from "Thrazidun's Day", Thrazidun being the God of Darkness
- The day opposite of dawn, the darkest day, a day of bad luck (or so people believe)
- The Dwarven Hero awoke in deep and eternal darkness
- Derived from "Fharlanghn's Day", Fharlanghn being the God of Travel and Horizons
- A day of contemplation, journey, and recovery. A popular day to begin traveling on
- Guided by the God of Horizons, the Dwarven Hero found his way back to Ahneria
- Derived from "Satisfation Day", or "Saint's Day"
- A day of rest and reflection
- The Dwarven Hero made a pact with the Gods to never reveal the truth he had learned, and was allowed to rejoin his people. He was treated as a Saint, sharing his reverence for the Gods
- Derived from "Solar's Day", from Solars, the powerful aspects of Pelor
- A day of worship and reverence
- The Dwarven Hero was watched over by the Solar of Truth, Verum, to ensure he never broke his promise. For all of his long years, he never did.
Each month, Garlancians call a particular day by its name, and if it is the first or second of its kind this month. The first day of the month is "First Mornday", the 10th day is "Second Wenjasday".
erased the name of Kam from their history. Currently, the government recognizes the Garlancian calendar is in its 842nd year.
In particular years, if something major happens (such as the War of Fools), the year will be known by that name popularly. So, 841 was the Year of the War of Fools. 842 has yet to be named.
Using This Material in Your Setting
- How much time do you need to track to make your campaign world meaningful? Months? Years? Weeks?
- What natural events is your calendar based on? If it isn't about the same as earth's calendar, why?
- What are the stories and traditions behind the naming systems of your calendar?
- When do people celebrate in your world? When do they mourn? Do certain days or months have any superstitions surrounding them?
Thanks for reading!