How we made (and named) our fantasy calendar

Trip the Ark Fantastic fantasy calendar

How we made (and named) our fantasy calendar?

Hi, everyone, it’s me, Alex, one of the developers of Trip the Ark Fantastic. I took it upon myself to do some investigating and create the internal calendar for the Animal Kingdom in our game, based on some insights from real-life animals and civilisations, so perhaps you’ll even learn stuff. Like – why is the calendar called that way, or how did civilisations sync up to the solar year before leap years were introduced…

First, a basic question: why do this at all? Well, a fantasy world needs a fantasy calendar. After all, they can’t have “July” if they never had Julius Caesar, right? And who doesn’t like the journal entries in their game filled with “1 Uktar 1368”? It’s not confusing at all:

There are various ways to go about it, though. The most common route to go about it is just making up different names for the 12 months and keeping the same structure as in our world (30 or 31 days per month, with February having 28 or 29 depending on the leapness of the year). It’s easiest for the player to figure out and not get lost in the re-calculations all the time.

Make up a different way of counting time?

The more inconvenient way is to make up a completely different way of counting time. Our own history is full of examples – from the French republic calendar which divided everything in 10s instead of 7s (including seconds and minutes and hours, leading to some very confusing ideas on what “wait a minute!” means!), to the Roman, Greek and other antique calendars all having their own quirks and minutiae (including the confusing counting of kalends, which give the calendar its name).

That’s the route that the Imperial Calendar of Warhammer went and that’s the road much less traveled by. So of course in our infinite hubris we decided to go with the more difficult option and introduce a the Animal Kingdom calendar of 13 months with 28 days each! The lore-wise explanation is given below, with an appropriate turtle sketch.

How are the years counted?

The second question is whether the years are counted from a certain point or reset after each emperor’s reign? Usually, you need some mythic moment that happened so you can count from then but you also want the year to make some sense to the player (for example the Baldurs Gate picture above has 1369 which corresponds neatly to “vague middle ages year” in the player imagination). We decided to again follow the lore and have them count the years from the mythic landing of the ark, and luckily that was circa 1880 years ago, which makes the player think he is in the middle of some industrial and social revolution, which is almost exact for the time period we want to convey.

In our world, the turtles have since antiquity been known to be scholars and keepers of knowledge. Their job on the Ark Fantastic was measuring time, so much so that the calendar of the Kingdom is designed on their backs:

(also conveniently true for our worlds turtles as well, as seen here on our sketch, and elsewhere online)

The month was thus divided into 13 months, with 28 days each – 4 weeks of 7, accounting for 364 days in total.

After the end of each year, there is the Lion’s time. It is usually just one day, the 365th day of the year. However, when princes are born or kings pass away, this period of mourning or celebration is prolonged to as long as is needed.

The Lion’s time

The Lion’s time is a period which also helps align with the solar calendar: when a King who ruled 25 years passes away, the period of mourning lasts 6 days, to make up for the lack of leap years. Other civilisations also have this, and it’s usually called an intercalary period, and it’s usually mid-winter or whenever the days start becoming longer, so it coincides with the re-birth of nature and all the rites and rituals that occur at that time…

So we decided it happens right at the end of January, or, as we decided to call it – Cubbary. It’s the month when statistically, most cubs are born (well, cubs of some animals at least). That symbolises rebirth as well, and a new start, so it makes sense the year would start with that month, and end with the celebration of the most important animal in the Kindom hierarchy – the lions.

Pictured: typical Lion’s day celebration! Minus the monkeys.

Since the gestation period for great cats is around 100 days, the period 4 months before that (corresponding roughly to our September-October) is adequately called – Ruttery. This is influenced by the various eastern European and Slavic calendars which all have the month rije or rujan which means rutting, or – mating).

We have taken inspiration from European cultures for most of the months as well, thus naming the February month Sunnary, since that is when the sun starts to appear longer in the sky (similar to why February is called veljača in many Slavic languages, or the month fevrier).

Inspired by European and Slavic culture

Similar Slavic inspirations led to Leafall (falling of leaves like in the Slavic listopad month of October), Grassery (Croatian travanj – grass growing month – April), Foggery (November, named for the many foggy days occurring in the month like in the French Brumaire) and Palidy (December, named for the palid weather as in e.g. Czech Prosinec).

But instead of naming every month with something that ends in “-ary”, which is cute and reminiscent of our months, we needed some change as well. After all, there is March and May in our calendars, and they provide a welcome respite from the January and February. So we decided to continue with the animal and nature metaphors, such as “Wake” – the month when animals wake from their hibernation – corresponding roughly to March, and “Bloom”, corresponding to May when oak trees blossom (which is the real-life explanation of the duben month in Czechoslovakia). The hottest month of June-July was aptly named Scorch.

The cacti are ubiquitous.

We have also played with words a bit and called the July-August month Whest as a combination of the words harvest and wheat, since that month was usually called by either of those two words (žetvar – harvest month in Macedonia, followed by žitar the month of wheat, žnjenc – sowing month in Lusatia, serpen – the month of the sickle in Russia, et cetera).

We have also decided to name the seventh-month Middary, due to the fact it’s in the middle of the 13-month calendar (with 6 months before and 6 after it), which wasn’t really inspiring but it works.

The final month to name was for the period between May 25 and June 21 and here we had several ideas, none of which seemed to click with us, unlike the previous ones, including:

  • Lindenbloom – the month when the linden trees bloom, similar to lipanj in Slavic cultures, however, it was too long compared to the rest of the months, and maybe too similar to the previous month of Bloom.
  • Shine – due to it having the longest days of the year, however, it was too similar to Sunnary in terms of what it conveys – my favourite but I’m still not a 100% sure
  • Skybloom – because this month most of the meteor showers happen in the sky (it’s our fantasy world so we can allow it, in actual reality, it’s the month of August that has most activity in the skies).

A rhyme that helps remember months more easily

Here’s also a nursery rhyme for cubs to help them remember the months more easily:

Grassery, Bloom and Shine – the weather is getting fine!
Middary, Scorch and Whest – the summertime is the best
Ruttery, Leafall, Foggery, Pallidy – stay inside or catch a malady!
Cubbary, Sunnary, Wake – it’s time to bake a cake!

(Yeah sorry, that was actually not good. We’ll think of something better for when we reach the cities where you can actually enter schools and learn this stuff).

Unrelated sketch of one of the Kingdom schools you get to visit in the course of the game.

So, in summation:

  • Cubbary – January 4 – January 31
  • Lion’s time – February 1 + February 29 (as many of those as needed to sync up)
  • Sunnary – February 2 – March 1
  • Wake – March 2 – March 29
  • Grassery – March 30 – April 26
  • Bloom – April 27 – May 24
  • Shine – May 25 – June 21
  • Middary – June 22 – July 19
  • Scorch – July 20 – August 16
  • Whest – August 17 – September 13
  • Ruttery – September 14 – October 11
  • Leafall – October 12 – November 8
  • Foggery – November 9 – December 6
  • Pallidy – December 7 – January 3

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Three rules on surviving coronavirus if you’re a BUNNY!

Dear rabbits, hares, bunnies and other denizens of the Burrows!

I’m sure you’ve been quite on edge regarding the news of the coronavirus outbreak in the Animal Kingdom! Well, fear not, for here are simple rules to avoid getting the virus yourselves, straight from your favourite doctor!

Dr. Bones is ready for the coronavirus outbreak.
Dr. Bones Flappear, appointed to the Burrows mines by royal decree of King Lav 1878
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Blackbark: A history of a once glorious city

We’ve mentioned Blackbark a few times already so we decided it’s time to write about this once glorious city. It will not be a playable area (the player won’t be able to travel there within the game), but as the center of power for over a millennium, it will doubtless crop up in many conversations and books.

This is where we already mentioned Blackbark

The darkened ruins of Blackbark still lie uninhabited in the old heartlands as the war is still an open wound for the older generations, but once it was a beacon of knowledge and the heart of civilisation.

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TYRANNY! In the Animal Kingdom

Blackbark: Once a glorious city

TYRANNY! In the Animal Kingdom

Stay, dear reader, and harken the tragic story of King Leopold, the tyrant king! Today we shall learn that in the wise words of our bard Orlando the Otter: “Nothing is more important to kings than the affairs of state – except the affairs of kin!”

The year was 1848. The days grew dark for the Kingdom. The once budding enthusiasm of the advances of science and technology now gave way to a bleak realism. The steam engined boats did indeed bring wine and silk across the continent, but not to all animals. While the nouveau riche grew rich-er, more and more commoners would have to contend themselves with harsher and bleaker working conditions. A meal skipped here, a Sunday skipped there… Is this really what progress looked like?

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Provinces of the Kingdom

Provinces of the Kingdom

The Animal Kingdom has gotten too vast to be ruled entirely from Pride. That is why, ever since the time of Maw the Red hundreds of years ago, it was divided into separate regions, each of which rules with a degree of autonomy.

Each of these regions are under the governance of a noble cat family – in very broad geographical terms, the lynxes rule the north from Clowder, the tigers rule the south from Streaks, the leopards rule the north-west from Cluster, and the Cheetahs rule the east from Leap. Of course, things are never as clear cut as that, and certain regions are smaller, larger, richer, poorer, or have control over certain important resources or southern colonies.

As King Lav sought to consolidate his rule and realign the political setup, he moved the capital from the centrally placed Blackbark to the southern city of Pride, closer (in terms of roads and trade) to both Streaks and Leap, which in term made them a much stronger force than the (notoriously rebellious) northern regions.

Blackbark

For the cheetahs, this still holds true, as they have been placated not only with increased trade but also with the administration of the immensely profitable southern colonies. For the tigers, however, Lav’s greatest allies during the Lav Rebellion, this is less and less true. Nicholas the tiger has grown restless and is ever more vocal about the need for substantial change in the way the Kingdom operates.

This map shows the major cities of the Kingdom and the rough lines indicate the domain of each noble family (the yellow line encapsules areas under the direct domain of the crown):

This temporary map of the Kingdom has been made with Inkarnate.

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Dabrovit, the key figure of the Commoner Caste

Dabrovit

The story about Dabrovit

The history books are full of royals and nobles, as these castes are the ones ruling over the Kingdom and generally believed to be deciding the course of history. So it is interesting to discuss the most famous historical figures from the commoner caste – Dabrovit.

Born in The Dams to a wealthy family

Dabrovit was born in The Dams to a wealthy family of beaver woodworkers. His father Drvovit was an engineer well versed in woodwork and the science of lumber. He was so good at it in fact, that the bear owner of the lumber mill almost never interfered with him. To young Dabrovit, and others living there, it might seem that the Dam was run by him. And to keep on top of the newest developments in the industry, Drvovit had many books imported from the nearby capital to study and keep informed. As the oldest son, Dabrovit was expected to continue his father’s legacy and was given all the books and papers to read and research.

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Science and Technology in the Kingdom

Science and Technology in Animal Kingdom

Science and technology in the Animal Kingdom

As the game begins, the Animal Kingdom is far from its humble animalistic beginnings. It’s a brewing civilisation on the very beginnings of the industrial revolution and (possibly) a social revolution as well.

Science

As for science and the scientific method, it has been steadily advancing since at least King Valent. However, in the Animal Kingdom, there is no difference between science, engineering, history, and other intellectual pursuits – all thinkers are called “Scholars”, whether they are scholars of botany or scholars of machinery or scholars of the Ark myth.

You play the game as Charles, one such scholar of the Kingdom. A botanist by trade and son of the famed scholar Herbert, you have always been in the spotlight which you’d rather avoid. Here’s a peek at Charles’ lab:

Our protagonist Charles is a botanist, and gained fame after he invented an indoor plant irrigation system, more commonly used in the kingdom as – the shower!
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Kings of the Animal Kingdom: King Lav

This is the last Ark Lore about the line of kings, and ends with the current king. That would be King Lav the Rebel who deposed the Tyrant King Leopold.

During King Leopold, many animals saw their wealth and health diminish in newlyfound harsh industrial conditions. This, combined with Leopold’s cruel and non-diplomatic approach to many royal issues, led to a bloody rebellion. Leopold was finally deposed in a rebellion led by his younger brother, prince Lav 30 years ago today.

Lav, the current king
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Kings of the Animal Kingdom: King Leopold

Kings of the Animal Kingdom: Leopold the Tyrant

Leonard’s son Leopold started off his reign as a direct continuation of his father’s footsteps as King. However, his main preoccupation soon had to shift to stability and centralisation of power in the Kingdom.

The steam engine changed much of the industrial landscape of the Kingdom… This, along with the vast resources coming from the newly discovered colony, all gave rise to new powers. Not all of these new powers were satisfied with their newfound wealth, and some wished to secure even more power.

Add the proliferation of the press, and you have a Kingdom filled with various ideas. These ideas, when left unchecked, could unravel the Kingdom itself. This is perhaps what Leopold feared most- the undoing of his predecessor’s life’s work.

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