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DCC Campaign Journal #3: Cosmological Constants

sumerian artYesterday, my gaming group gathered to play their first Dungeon Crawl Classics session with real 1st Level characters.  No longer playing as 0 Level peasants, one could easily sense a bit more confidence in the heroes, especially now that they had gained the powers of their chosen character classes – no longer the frail incarnations of commoners as they were few weeks ago!  And that new confidence is already being evidenced by strong personalities emerging, with the teamwork they fostered as they split into two groups to begin investigating the mysterious disappearance of the most famous gladiator in Varthos.

I really love crafting a good mystery for the characters to sleuth out, snooping and investigating the strings of clues which will lead them all over a city.  One of the clerics has already gotten some good use out of a few Word of Command spells, brow-beating a suspect and then ordering them to “confess” – it felt like Holy Office of the Inquisition had stopped by the game session for a few minutes!

Next week should be quite interesting as they put their clues together and head off in search of the culprits behind the “kidnaping” of this local gladitorial hero.  It’s interesting that none of them considered how one would go about kidnapping a man who is fully capable of facing down nearly every foes in the ring…

World-Building: Cosmology Squared

As I started building the new setting, Eosha, one of the big things on my “to-do” list was to decide what gods I wanted in the campaign.  One of the things I really liked about DCC is their pulling in a bit from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.  I’ve always been a fan of Lovecraft’s work from my high school days, and played many a session of Call of Cthulhu RPG by Chaosium Games.  So right from the outset I knew that I wanted to include more CoC-style threats in my DCC setting, and expanded the Chaos deities to include Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, and Yogg-Sothoth, along with the great Cthulhu.

But I also took it a step further, and revised the other gods in the DCC pantheon as well.  With no disrespect to the authors of the game, I felt that using a known pantheon would be more accessible to the heroes, as well as myself.  After some consideration, I decided the best collection of gods for the job at hand would be the Sumerian pantheon.

There was a book that published while I was in high school called The Necronomicon, and being a Lovecraft fan, I didn’t hesitate to pick it.  But I was disappointed to find that it was actually more of a bastardized version of Hermetic rituals, with Sumerian gods substituted for the usual Greek ones.  However, this fake Necronomicon drew some interesting parallels between the Sumerian mythology and the Cthulhu mythos which were pretty nifty, and I always wanted to use it in a CoC game.  So logically, since I’m sort of mixing my DCC campaign with a CoC one, I figured using Sumerian deities and The Necronomicon certainly can’t hurt!

I also added Nyarlathotep and Yogg-Sothoth as Patrons for Wizards and Elves to contact, which opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities for the Eosha setting!

The other cosmological conundrum I wanted to crack early was the more mundane question of what sort of calendar the world of Eosha would have.  If I wanted to keep Eosha’s sky fairly earth-like, with one sun and one moon, I had to decide if I wanted to fudge the length of months and years or deal with a quirky “catch-up” calendar.  As we all find out fairly young, the Earth’s revolution around the Sun and the months in the year do not work well together without a bit of nip and tuck – leap years being the prime example of how we make the calendars behave.

The other alternative was to not use the annoying and fractional number of days for a lunar month and a solar year, and just chop them up until they cooperated.  One could easily say something like “there is 360 days in the year and divided into twelve 30 day months – done!”  But that seemed rather bad form, and didn’t take into account of spicing the Eosha setting with Sumerian .

According to archeologists, the Sumerians were shown to have a keen ability to measure the solstices and equinoxes, and had a calendar based upon months using a lunar cycle.  But 29.54 days (lunar month) does not divide equally into a 365.24 days in a solar year.  As with our own calendar based upon Roman design, the Sumerians soon learned that they had to nip-and-tuck at the calendar’s months to get them to work right, and eventually gave up on lunar months in order to make a year work out properly.

I toyed with the numbers myself on a couple spreadsheets, and saw the problem clearly.  But I also found a neat pattern that you can exploit by starting the year the day after each Northern (Winter) Solstice – as long as you don’t mind having “unfixed” months rolling around your calendar!

On Eosha, the months “float” around the year measured by the solstices and equinoxes.  There are 13 lunar months of roughly 29 days, which means that every new year starts in a different day of a different month.  The Northern Solstice “floats” in progression each year, moving through all 13 months over a period of 20 years, until the new year returns to a day in the first month of the year, completing a 1 Cycle.  I was really excited, thinking I had found a really new and cool way to measure time in a fantasy world.

Sadly, my jubilance came crashing down when I realized that after three Cycles (60 years), the calendar hit a speed bump, and the new year would actually fall into the second month of the year once another 3 Cycles passed by.  There was just a little more than three days that would entirely gum up the entire works of my calendar!

But hey!  I’ve got my GM merit badge for a reason, gosh darnit!  So I decided I was just going to obliterate those three pestersome days with a scary cosmological event!

Here’s the draft of my entry in the Gazetteer of Eosha to force the cosmos to go along with the shiny new calendar I invented:

Every three Cycles (about sixty years), there is a terrible event in the heavens called Kadungiru, also known as the “Gateway to the Gods” – or more simply named by the common-folk as the “Broken Gate”.

When Kadungiru occurs, the moon seems to dissolve as though shattering into many tiny pieces, and then a ring-shaped aura appears where the moon had just been. For just over three days, a purple and green oval of shimmering light appears in the sky where the moon vanished.  For those three days, the walls between Eosha and other dimensions are thinnest.  Practitioners of sorcery and other arcane arts use this time to call forth powerful creatures they hope to enslave from the netherworld – or summon even more terrifying beings from beyond the stars!

When Kadungiru occurs, earthquakes and tidal waves occur in many places, and the appearance of demons and elementals are reported in the wastelands.  The strange moon aura remains in the same place in the sky, and is even visible, very faintly, during the day.  Once Kadingiru ends, the aura fades and the moon returns, continuing its course in the sky as though nothing happened.

Due to the evil done on those three days, Kadungiru are not recorded on any calendar.

So now the calendar literally resets itself once every 60 years, and fixes the issues of three loose days all at the same time!  With that crisis averted, I not have only a unique calendar, but a recurring minor cataclysm for my player’s heroes to experience once every three Cycles.

Did I mention that I’ve started my campaign just 5 years before the next Kadungiru…

It’s good to be the GM.

So until next blog… I wish you happy gaming.

About The Author

Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.


One Response to “DCC Campaign Journal #3: Cosmological Constants”

  1. Svafa says:

    I like your calendar idea. At first it sounded very similar to the dwarfen calendar I made recently. It’s based loosely around the lunar month and resets twice each year, once at the winter solstice and once at the summer solstice. The really bizarre bit being that many months always begin on the same day of the week, meaning that months change in length from year to year. As I recall the current year’s calendar I had built even had one month that was nearly 60 days in length, and was preceded by a month that lasted only 18 days. In the year after, these months would both be closer to 30 days in length (I think it was somewhere around 42 and 27 days respectively). The original basis for the dwarf calendar idea is based on the real life runic calendar, while I didn’t stick to the source by any means, I recommend checking it out.

    The standard calendar I built for the setting uses 13 months of 28 days each (364 days total) with a transition day between years that isn’t kept on the calendar. Just for another take on calendars.

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