From Tree to Letter to Month (or How Does Gregory Make a Place Unique?

Some years back, Todd Jordan and I were discussing our game worlds and, in noting that each city or region of Rillmorn was unique, Todd said to me, “Your world is like Indiana Jones leafing through a tome of onionskin pages, while mine is like that guy who finds the singing frog.”  To this day, I am uncertain if Todd was trying to say that my games were more serious than his or that because I put more effort into attempting to make each area of Rilmorn distinct that it made my games feel more real.  Whatever he meant, I took it as a compliment and have continued to work hard and give each campaign site a special twist.  Something for my Players to hang on to and work with to give them a sense that this place is different from where the last campaign happened.

Iolta is much like my original continent Moytonia.  Moytonia was originally boiled out of Witch World, Middle Earth, and B1-In Search of the Unknown.  It was later spiced with the works of Katherine Kurtz, various issues of Dragon magazine, other modules and settings books, and finally a good dose of Player and PC creations.  Iolta uses many similar sources.  So, in an attempt to make Pellahm distinct from Kardon, Spellguard, and the Storm Kingdom, I am going to design a new calendar.

When I originally named the Months of the Year for Rilmorn, I decided to go with something different than January, February, etcetera or “Hot Month, “Growing Month,” and so on.  I chose the names for the twelve signs of the Western Astrologic Zodiac.  I did it as much to be different, as I did for it to be familiar.  I did not want my players to struggle with month names in addition to the other Rillmorn specific features: two suns, three moons, and such.  In addition to designing the months to keep track of the passage of time, I created four seasonal festivals for that would be nigh universal across Moytonia.

I have long had an interest in Celtic myth and history.  I remember writing a paper in my History of the English Language class at USM on druids and got to use the 1E Players Handbook as a reference.  Despite my interest and study, I did not know as much as I thought I did.  So when I picked Beltane, Lamas, Samhain, and Yule to the festivals and placed them on the vernal equinox, midsummer, autumnal equinox, and midwinter, I did not know that these were not events celebrated on the equinoxes and solstices nor did I realize that I had didn’t even get all the names right for the festivals that used.  Despite all that, the Four Feasts of the Year as celebrated by the druids of Rilmorn have become a deep part of the myth and lore of my world.  So, I am pleased to keep them, use them in Pellham, and add a lunar calendar to help with the verisimilitude of the setting.

I am basing my new lunar calendar on the Celtic Tree Calendar.  My sources for this are The Celtic Tree Oracle by Liz and Colin Murray and Celtic Tree Magic by Danu Forest.  While some dispute the historical validity of such a calendar, it is irrelevant for Rhillmoran.  Rhillmoran is not Earth and history and myth unfolded differently there than it did here.  The Druids of Iolta count the beginning of the Year on Samhain the first day of Beith or Birch.

The people of Pellham don’t use the largest of the moons (with its 38 day cycle) in their calendar, because legend holds that The Eldest Sister no longer watches Rhillmoran.  Her gaze is turned outward from world to watch for the return of Bazel, so that The Three Sisters may be ready do battle with him and prevent his return.  So, the Months are only 36 days long, since the two remaining moons have a 9 day cycle and 4 day cycle and they synchronize once every 36 days.  This will have little effect on my Players’ perceptions, but I hope to use the magical significance of each month’s tree to shade the adventures taken during those months and hopefully that will affect my Players’ perceptions.

So, dear readers, what do you do to make your settings distinct to your Players?

Game On!

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3 thoughts on “From Tree to Letter to Month (or How Does Gregory Make a Place Unique?

  1. Well, there is all the stuff I mention on my article on Flavor Text – but we could also say three different calendars to go along with three broadly different cultures (and I should probably have four, but… oh well!). I’ve added a social class component to character background that’s independent but synergistic with Background – and which also impacts starting cash and equipment. I also tend to try hard to get players to pick “appropriate” weapons to start play with that reflect their culture of origin – this was more of an issue in 1e though.

    I also have a pretty well-developed set of languages – so players can easily tell if they’ve when they’re “not in River City” any more.

    Frankly, I also like tom play up the weird, especially with the non-human races. So, in the Shadowlands, when they serve or offer you “truemilk” it’s some variety of human or demi-human breastmilk milked from slaves. That broad set of cultures finds the notion of drinking milk from cattle or goats to be one of the most disgusting concepts out there.

    I’m always looking for little bits of real-world historical lore or custom to toss into my gameworld and attach to this culture or that city. That way players always remember “that town where they…” even if they can’t remember the name of the town itself.

    D.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: A is for Aries | World Engineer

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