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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Orc in the Playground
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    Oct 2006

    Default How do you figure out what to set the calendar year as in high fantasy?

    So I'm working on a grand history for my world and the few people paying attention to my world building suggesting I throw a calendar instead of using the system below

    Event A happened before Event B which happened before Event C


    Note for simplicity, my world has 24 hour days and 365 day years. I stole the idea from certain real world historical cultures that the last 5 days of the years are unlucky. During this time, almost everyone good or evil bunkers down and prays.

    I figure out that a lot of nations would have their own calendar. Year 1 is the year the nation was founded, but since my RPG has the characters travel between nations a lot (and my WIP novel is going to have travel between nation), readers and players would prefer a universal calendar for reference even if the PCs and NPCs would use local calendars.

    In very broad strokes, my gods and goddesses intended for dragons to be the dominant race of the world. My nine gods and goddesses shaped the dragons by committee. A small number of gods and goddesses cheated and created their own races in private, and the dragons created a few servant races themselves. I call this the First Age.

    The dragons nations had a bunch of wars and a foolish dragon queen unleashed power beyond her understanding and killed ~90% of all life. I called this the First Unmaking.

    My gods and goddesses set up a committee to create a new race elves to be the new domnant race. Lots of gods and goddesses cheated and created their own races in private, and the elves themselves created a few servant races. I call this the Second Age.

    The elf nations had a bunch of wars and a foolish elf king unleashed power beyond his understanding and killed 90% of all life. I call this the Second Unmaking.

    The godly committee created humans to be the new dominant race. They figured with their shorter life spans, a single power mad despot is unlikely to amass enough power to destroy the world.

    I figured I could set Year 1 as the year that the first humans emerged. Aka, the Third Age.

    I have no idea how long it takes humanity to develop technology enough to fill a world with castles and wizards. I have a bunch of nation concepts. I figure the oldest of them are about a thousand years. I arbitrarily set the current year as 1847 figuring that humanity could have had 800ish years of tribalism before the first feudal kingdoms would emerge but people told me that 1847 is too small.

    On the other hand I'm not a big fan of 30,000 year old empires and the like.

    I understand that in the real world civilization took a long time to build but in my world the gods of agriculture, metalworking, etc are falling over themselves to teach their secrets to young humanity, so they would get technology very fast (at least up to typical D&D levels). On the other hand their civilization would be slowed down by the fallout from the last apocalypse which includes but is not limited to harsh winters, remnants of soul sucking monster armies, and maybe a few plagues or curses.

    So major events of the First Age.

    -Humans grow in population and technology.

    -A small number of dragons have the idea of reshaping the humans towards their ideals. The dragons end up feuding with each other so this usually doesn't work out for them and it fosters a dragon hunting culture among humans.

    -Four collections of elven survivors lick their wounds and build new nations. Two of them just want to be left alone and become recluses but two of them, aka Grey Elves and Dark Elves think they should rule the humans. The Dark Elves just want slaves, and the Grey Elves think their rulership is actually for the humans own good. The elves have better technology and humans' than the primitive humans so they can dominant numerically humans, at least for a while. Eventually, humans assimilate enough magic and technology that they can fight back and win (and the Grey Elves and the Dark Elves fought each other which gave the humans an opening). I creative call this period the Time of the Elven Wars.

    -An half-orc warlord unifies a bunch of human and orc barbarians and gets a big empire Genghis Khan style, but his heirs cannot hold the kingdom together.

    -A vampire lord tries to take over the world and fails.

    Other stuff as I see fit.

    I figure I could set Year 1 as the death of the Vampire Lord or the death of the half-orc warlord, or the peace treaty signed that ended the Elven Wars.


    How do you guys decide numbering systems for your calendars?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Orc in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: How do you figure out what to set the calendar year as in high fantasy?

    While different calendars and numbering systems for years are absolutely realistic and make sense, I suggest you pick one system and elect it your standard calendar, while perhaps having a few mention of how different people count days, weeks, months and years.

    Also multiple nations don't necessarily need different Year 1/0s - look at Europe post-Christianity, they shared a cultural hallmark and agreed that it was Year 0 for everyone. So a geographical and cultural cluster of nations could very well have a shared Year 0 (a fictional example, in Star Wars the current system differentiates between Before Battle of Yavin and After Battle of Yavin, because blowing up the Death Star was a huge thing and a very important moment for the Rebellion and thus the New Republic).

    Year 0 can be a number of things, from a catastrophe that acts as a divider between the "past" and "present", to the birth of a prophet or the establishment of a religion. From your writeup I agree the year the humans were created makes perfect sense as Year 0 for most human nations, since they probably also have some awareness of it either from a shared memory or because of interactions with older races, or because The Gods Said So.

    I would either set Year 1/0 as the beginning of the Third Age, when humanity was created, which would be a pretty good landmark for other people too since it coincides with the Second Unmaking, or the end of the Elven Wars. Unless the vampire and the warlord were immensely influential in shaping the sociopolitical landscape after them, I don't think people would adopt their deaths as a widespread starting point for calendars (they certainly would refer to them).

    EDIT: Also consider that not all calendar systems have a Year 0, but for the sake of writing a grand history stuff like regnal years should be discarded because they get confusing very fast for the reader, who'd have to keep a list of kings and rules at hand at all times to figure how far back something happened.
    Last edited by Silly Name; 2020-10-01 at 03:47 AM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    sandmote's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you figure out what to set the calendar year as in high fantasy?

    30,000 years old has its own problems. Created by gods, humans would have likely have started farming instantly with some sort of social organization (both jump started by said gods).

    Your upper bound would then be around 11,500 years, starting the the first crops. A lower bound should probably allow slightly more time than has passed since the oldest IRL empire, which began around 3400 years before the formal middle ages. Or use a lower bound of 4400 years if no humans started in the bronze age for the first year.

    Note the above figures run until 1100 on the Gregorian calendar.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Composer99's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you figure out what to set the calendar year as in high fantasy?

    Are humans starting out with naught, or do they already have writing, agriculture, and the like?

    The longer they have to develop to get to the campaign / story start line, the longer the calendar, and vice versa. If they have dragons, elves, and ruins of past ages from which to draw knowledge, that speeds things up.

    Edit to add: You probably want no shorter than, say, 1,000 years between the start of the 3rd age and the present day, just to give older stuff (500 years or more) a chance to feel really remote to the players, and distant memory even to long lived beings such as elves or dragons. But unless your humans need time to invent farming, writing, and solid construction, you don't absolutely need to stretch the calendar back too much farther.
    Last edited by Composer99; 2020-10-07 at 03:13 PM.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How do you figure out what to set the calendar year as in high fantasy?

    When you have a whole bunch of semi-civilised nations rising and falling, then numbering the years leaves the province of chiefs and rulers and falls into the hands of scholars and priests. Like the ancient greeks or uighur, a more civilized culture turned teachers and scribes for their less educated but more conquest minded neighbours. Have the wizards start year 0 from a major conjunction of planets, or as a countdown to a major event...
    "There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter."
    ~ Ernest Hemingway

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Daemon

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    Default Re: How do you figure out what to set the calendar year as in high fantasy?

    One idea: make the "pre-Third Age" dates really fuzzy. The First and Second Unmaking happened...a long time ago.

    And then I'd say a couple thousand years between the beginning of the Third Age and the present. Depends on humanity's starting point (from scratch? With records/tech from prior ages?). More (up to 5-6k) if they're starting from scratch, less (down to about 1k years) if they have a starting point.

    For everyone's sake, choose one "start date" as the standard used throughout. Even if it's not universal in-universe.

    Spoiler: my setting's timeline
    Show

    My setting's timeline goes a bit further (the "Third Age" equivalent is about 4k years before the present, but that's not year zero). Year 0/1 is the Cataclysm 250 years ago, with major time markers at 0, 800-ish BC, and then ~4k ish (dawn of the gods and humanity's empire) and then fuzzier ones at ~6k (fall of the major elven empire), ~12k (fall of the titans and wyrm empires), and ~25k (first Titan-wyrm war). Scholars know the exact date of the dawn of the gods, but the empires started a bit later after lots and lots of wars.

    And that's time as measured on one continent. Other continents use different breakpoints. For example, the Phoenix Empire of the south dates things to (when they believe) the first elven empire started, because they claim that they're that empire, continued. They're wrong, but...But in practice, their calendar restarts with each new emperor. Because, after all, this emperor has ruled forever...right?
    Dawn of Hope: a 5e setting. http://wiki.admiralbenbo.org
    PhoenixPhyre's Extended Homebrew Signature
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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: How do you figure out what to set the calendar year as in high fantasy?

    For my setting I designed several different calanders for different cultures and races. Placed relevant holidays and yearly events for each of them, especially the solstice and equinoxs, with different Year 1s based on important events. Some of them used the same calander, but with different Year 1s.
    And then realized none of it mattered, and used the "Old Imperial Reckoning" for all of my history. And its Year 1 was the ascension of the last Emperor, who died fairly quickly, and most people who used that dating didn't even know why it started there.
    So just pick an important year, or one people think was important, and use that for your Year 1. And the calander does not need to have actually been started at that time, as the modern Gregorian calander was back-dated to its start, but was made like 800 years later.
    Spoiler
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  8. - Top - End - #8
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How do you figure out what to set the calendar year as in high fantasy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    On the other hand I'm not a big fan of 30,000 year old empires and the like.
    The first civilization that we know of is the Sumerian one. That was about 6000 years ago. Humans have been "intelligent" or "modern" for about 50000 years, or so they say. The first humans evolved about 300000 years ago.
    The last major extinction event was... right now, but the one before that was 66 milion years ago.

    I hope this helps you to put things in perspective. Note that there have been ups and downs during this period. Some inventions have been lost in time, only to be discovered again. We're still wondering how people managed to build things like the pyramids or stonehenge.

    I'd suggest you should ask a historian or something. There is probably someone out there who can tell you all about the fall of civilizations and how often it should occur.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you figure out what to set the calendar year as in high fantasy?

    I came up with an elegant (perhaps lazy solution)

    Approximately 2000 years ago, a vampire named Vladimir the Conqueror tried to take over the world, and he ended up capturing most of the northern hemisphere.

    Despite his hundreds of vampire lieutenants and tens of thousand of undead troops, most of his subjects were living humans or demi-humans.

    Before Vladimir emerged on the scene, most of the barbarian tribes, chiefdoms and tiny kingdoms were very isolationist and didn't pay much attention to events outside their own borders. They were forced to unite to resist Vladimir's oppression.

    Vladimir was an undead monster but he wanted to build a legacy so he established trade routes and a feudal beuaracracy to his conquered lands. Whether they admit or not, most contemporary human governments in the northern hemisphere are based on Vladimir's feudal system.

    A lot of the heroes who helped defeat Vladimir's army went on to found nations which are still around. Very few nations can credibly claim to predate Vladimir.

    Vladimir tried to set a calendar based on the founding of his would-be empire but most of his former subjects opted to start the calendar when Vladimir was destroyed.

    Thus, the repeated death of Vladimir is Year 1. Since I like the arbitrary number 1837, my RPG campaign can be 1837 years after the death of the Vladimir. The oldest and most powerful nations were mostly founded within a hundred years of Vlad's death Before Vladimir rose to power, most of the people didn't keep detailed written records because they didn't need to. Also, Vladimir was a book burner, so there are even fewer credible surviving records.

    Thus, humans don't know how long humans took to develop. The elves and dwarves had their own problems in ancient days and didn't bother to take detailed records of the emerging human race, so they aren't much help.

    Depending on who you ask, the human race developed for 1000, 10,000, or 100,000 years before Vladimir emerged on the scene. But 1837 years marks a recognizable D&D world with castles, gold pieces, princesses, full plate armor, and adventuring parties,

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