World Building: Days, Months, and Seasons

The archer pulls the string of her bow and takes aim at her kill, a nothic. How or why it is in her region of the forest vale she cares not. Her arrow finds the mark, hissing through the forest glade and piercing the creature in its gleaming singular eye. The creature telepathically gurgles its horrid cry as it squirms, and then expires. The archer release her breath, but feels a cold chill run through her body as a multitude of green eyes begin to fill the darkened forest vale.

“I hate mondays,” she says, turning to flee.

Seasons, months, days, and hours are almost always excepted to be constants in our world. In the northern hemisphere, you’d expect it to be cold in January or hot in the summer. The middle of the week is a Wednesday, and months are roughly 30 days long, give or take. While the conditions are constant, heat waves, rainy seasons, snow, and the like; in fantasy stories and games hearing “Summer” or July rattle me free of the immersion I had hoped to escape into – and at the gaming table it has the same effect. As a player, there was nothing worse than asking the DM what day or season it was and then him saying “it’s close to spring, let’s say March.” It just severs the illusion. While it is something easily overlooked, Seasons and dates help shape the fantasy world of any campaign. They give context of language and land, rulers and religious observations, and add an extra coat of imaginary paint that helps cover the old cobbled walls of our present reality. To remedy that in my own campaign (as well as in many of my fantasy stories), I like to go out of my way to bulk up the “iceberg of illusion” content to help my players (or readers) actually believe that this world is apart from our own; but sometimes it is a little tricky to create something other than word salad. Seasons, months, days, these all have names that are deeply rooted in our own history. The days of the week, and even the months, are throw backs to ancient civilizations, languages, and practices that have been cut and cropped together for, well, since we started naming things. So how do I go about this?

Let’s start with the basics, the seasons. It isn’t a far cry to call Fall the Harvest or Summer the Warm Days. These are things that are generally relatable if your fantasy world has the typical Summer-Fall-Winter-Spring cycle we do. Everyone knows that Summer is hot and Winter is cold, and they also know that in Fall you Bring in the harvest and in the Spring you plant new crops; but these are still based on our semantics that go generations back through time – and these are just too close to home (at least for me). Here is a list of my seasons (which i regularly use in my fantasy worlds and stories, at least those which take place in the same fantasy world).

Democrald – Winter
Trennald – Spring
Al’ennavern – Summer
El’verndt – Fall

So how did I come up with these names? Well, on the semantics aspect, I cheated a little. To come up with names that not only sound rooted in the fantasy world, but that also don’t sound like a jumble of vowels and consonants, I took a look back at words in our history for meanings. I took these old words that related to that time of year, picked them apart, and then pieced them together in the most palatable sound. For example with Winter, I used the obvious Old English and German words for cold and darkness. With Summer, I pulled apart old Latin and Norse words for warmth and light. Here’s a few samples below.

Winter name
Cold = Old English – Cald, German – Kalt, Latin (to Freeze) – Gelare
Darkness = Old English – Deorcnysse
Dark = Old English – Deorc
Deocrald

Summer Name
Warm = Old English – Wearm, Old Norse – Varmr
Light = Old English – Lȇoht, Latin – Lûx, Old Saxon – Liuhtain
Bright = Old Norse – Bjartr, Latin – Flagrāre, Old German – Beraht
Beraverm or Benaverm

After this process I was given Deocrald, Benncard, Benaverm, and Dimmaverd (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, respectively), which, compared to the first list I had given, isn’t exactly the same. After sorting through the pieces of our real world history that I liked, I then deep fried the “new” words in the geographical slop of my fantasy setting.

Prefixes
In my fantasy realm, the points on the compass have their own prefixes, which helps name land masses and towns that lie withing. They are Al or Ail, El or Eil, Dem or De, and Tra or Tara (north, east, south, and west, respectively). The entire “world” is tied to the compass, and it appears not only in geographical locations, but also names (people from the north with have an Al or Ael in their name, where as people in the west might have Tra or Tara in their name). Because of this, I have also tied this together with the seasons to bring importance back to the “compass” design of the world. Winter, which was Deocrald, now is Democrald. Spring, which was Bennacard, is now Trennald. Summer, which was Benaverm, is now Al’Ennavern. And Fall, which was Dimmaverm, is now El’Verndt.

Alright, seasons are out of the way, now the months. Going about the same “hack and slash” approach, I took the “new names” and then carved them up a bit, separating each of them down into three pieces for each season.

December – Decra
January – Deo
February – Demald
March -Trald
April – Tren
May – Tarald
June -Alavern
July – Alern
August – Ailenna
September – Elnt
October – Elvern
November – Eilent

The Calender
seasons - average month

The first thing to notice is that the calender is short a few days. Most months are 24 days long, while the “middle season” month is twenty-five days long. There are twelve months, three for each season, making 292 days a year. BUT, there is no time lost when compared to our real world calender, because each day is roughly thirty hours long (equaling 8,760 hours in year, where as we have 365 days, equaling roughly the same amount of hours).

Another thing to notice about the calendar is the circle on the right is the cycle of the moon. The circle on the left is the moons “halo,” a type of “ring” around the moon, like Saturn, that spins around the moon north to south on an east-west axis.

Days of the Week (with their shorthand in parentheses)
Alirst (Ali), Elend (Ele), Demues (De), Damtras (Da), Traus (Tra or Tar), Altra (Alt or Ah)

Holidays

an "average" month that has a Season's Day.

an “average” month that has a Season’s Day.

Just like in real life, there are holidays in this, each one celebrating or commemorating the time of year. In this fantasy world, I chose the easiest route in naming them, calling them “Season Days.” These days are celebrated at the “peak” of the sun’s cycle. This is usually the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. Each city or town celebrates the Season Days in their own way, but they are generally accepted throughout.

Democrald, in the month of Deo – Shortest day of the year (least amount of light) with only 10 hours of daylight. This day is commemorated by the “All Burning,” where it is costume to leave candles, fires, and lampposts burning all night long to “combat” the evil spirits.

Trennald, in the month of Tren – A holiday of the celebration of the coming “spring.” The day is half light and half night, and is celebrated by “eating the last of the store” or having a large meal with neighbors and friends.

Al’ennavern, in the month of Alern – The longest day of the year, with almost 20 hours of daylight. This is a celebration of the sun, commemorated by another “All burning” where the first bits of harvest are offered up to the gods.

El’verndt, in the month of Elvern – another day that is half light and half darkness. This day is celebrated by bringing in the harvest and having the “last meal” before the long winter

Now these are just MY examples of how to make an anal-retentively imersive experience, but I’m not the only one who has done this, by a long shot. While there are a multitude of books and games to look to for inspiration, the ones that really do it for me are Patrick Rothfuss’s King Killer Chronicles and Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls game series. But remember, this is your fantasy world. The concept of day and night may not even apply (so don’t try to force it in if you don’t have to).

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About gnawbit

I'm a writer, i write things. I also draw things and have a Dungeons and Dragons blog called Let's Kick this Pig!
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