How we made (and named) our 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

Thanks for staying so long. Time for your reward: a bunch of social media links to follow us including Facebook, Twitter, Discord and a Newsletter.

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Eva filia Magdalenae

I’d really love to play this game. When – very, very “more or less” – will it be ready? I have been interested in time descriptions too. For example, the fact that while we use the decimal system for counting, our measures of time use 12 and 60 instead. If I remember well, it goes back all the time to ancient Sumer. Why were these very numbers chosen, is unsure, but one reason may be that 60 has a notably high number of divisors for a relatively small number. Also month names… while I highly appreciate Latin, I regret that… Read more »

Eva filia Magdalenae

Thanks for the information.
As for following, I can’t because I’m a passive-only user of social media – I read, but don’t have any accounts. I’m really stubborn about it, it’s out of my pure hostility to the very idea of trends and my pure love for being different. But I will continue checking it.