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Counting The Years

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Creed, Apr 5, 2014.

  1. Creed

    Creed Sage

    My current project has 3 worlds each with their own histories (which I get into with varying detail), which can be quite a lot. I think it's incredibly important, so I know some of the major events and when they happened approximately… but I can't say which year.
    So my question is: What are some ways of counting the years?
    Obviously there's something like what the western world uses- a major event and counting the years before it, and those after it (BCE-CE).
    I read once about Regnal years, and counting as they go by under the rule of a king, resetting it to zero when a new one comes to power. But that seems counter-productive and very time consuming, so I would avoid that, especially on a timescale like the one I'm working with.
    One I'm curious about is the Dragon Age system. A set of ages, each a hundred years long. So because the ninth age is the Dragon Age, twenty years into it would be known as 9:20 Dragon. And I think that's pretty cool. I wouldn't like to just steal that, though. And besides, the different world are likely going to have different methods.
    The Chinese calendar uses cycles, too, doesn't it?
    Anyone have any ideas? Or know anything about this sort of thing?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
    KC Trae Becker likes this.
  2. Michael J. Tobias

    Michael J. Tobias Scribe

    My world's calendar is divided by seasons...sowing and reaping of crops, since they have no idea their world revolves around a star. They number their years by major events and the world has an oral/written history of just over 6k years. My WIP takes place in the year 512 D. E. (Dark Era) because 512 years prior, a failed revolution brought forth what they call "dark magic."

    Nope, not particularly original. *Shrug.*
  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I've created a number of fantasy and SF worlds through the decades. Most of the fantasy worlds got merged to two and a half.


    With the SF worlds (colonies), the calendar starts with the arrival of the first colony ships. For earth, I had a new calendar being introduced; a sort of corporate project calendar gone global.

    The start point for the Calendar of Solaria, the main nation of my main fantasy world, is when their fleet left Home Isle on the program of conquest that founded the empire.

    The Agban Calendar (Agba being the oldest human nation on the planet) dated from the Vanishing of the Old Ones. Something of a moot point, though, because Agba itself is mostly vanished.

    Other nations don't bother much with a formal year count: Cimmar is half barbarian, for example.

    On my other fantasy world, the elite of a couple of major countries deliberately encouraged a kind of 'timelessness' mentality in their subjects, despite being highly civilized. Year to year record keeping was not encouraged.

    But, mostly, that's just trimming. In the actual stories, its 'Well, that took place in the reign of Emperor Charles', or 'that fortification was built back in the last dynasty.'
    Creed likes this.
  4. Malik

    Malik Auror

    In my world, people keep track of regnal years. So it might be Year 38 of the Reign of These Guys in one nation but in the neighboring kingdom it's Year 14 of the House of Those Other Guys. Massive earthquakes wipe the world as they know it clean every thousand years or so, as if civilization is just a massive Etch-a-Sketch, so they're always starting over. It would make a long-term calendar meaningless. The planet's axis isn't as radically tilted as Earth's, so the seasons are less drastic and a little longer.
    Creed likes this.
  5. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I use a mixture of relational, reginal and event based calendar, depending on the exact location and people.
    For some/most people it is enough to know that X happened three weeks or 200 years ago. [You want to know when the field last flooded or how many days to planting]. This is an informal calendar.
    Some events will be recalled "in the second year of Governor/King X's rule". These are usually larger [still regional] events. [When will the bridge need rebuilding]. This is still informal.
    Planetary relations, communications, commerce and laws tend to be based on a deeper/longer calender based on an external event [a meteor that destroyed a fair amount of the previously civilisation's structures]. [so that everyone on the planet can turn up at the same time if needed or agree of global projects]. This is the date that would be recorded in deeds or receipts laws etc.
    There is even an external calendar that is rarely used outside the government, it is used for relationships with other extra-planetary governmental or military systems. [in case the neighbours come to visit and want to chat] Most of the locals will only be vaguely aware of this calendar and at the most basic level - they know it exists but but probably don't know the year. This is a formal calendar but for most people it is irrelevant in most cases. It is bases on the founding of an Organisation 1000 years ago.
    Creed likes this.
  6. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

    I would just worry about the calendar your MC and his/her culture uses, and reference everyone else's timeline on that POV. The Dragon Age system is still based around a major event. The current age is Dragon, because a Dragon was spotted near the end of the last age. If your cultures have trade with one another they're going to use a common calendar to help keep track of shipping, and it would spread to all levels of society in short order. You might try researching the Mayan calendar, and some other systems to get a feel for real life calendars(One Asian country has 10 different calendars running simultaneously based on differing factors) and build yours from that.
    Creed likes this.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    This is a big topic. I recommend doing a bit of research. History of calendars will get you a number of hits, but be sure to go beyond the first page of results. Also search on "calendar era". For some interesting sidelights, try "indiction". Have fun!
  8. Creed

    Creed Sage

    You and Hainted are right, I'll need to do a bit of research.
    I looked at the Chinese calendar (Han, I think) and have made a system for one of my worlds, for whom astronomy is important. They have Cycles of 5 years each, and Phases of 5 Cycles each, and Ages of 4 Phases each. I've tied in some religious significance to them, too, but I'll definitely look at these suggestions for a less superficial understanding.

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