I love world-building. If this hobby didn’t feature it, I’d probably be playing golf or building ships in bottles for recreation. The fact I get to create an imaginary world with all its little details and invented history is the reason I’ve spent the majority of my years in this hobby on the referee’s side of the screen.
And although drawing political borders and creating vast cities has its pleasures, I really enjoy making up the fine details that breathe life into the setting. These little touches, while maybe not doing much for the overall campaign world, are the sparks which set the world ablaze in the players’ minds.
Some years back, I jotted down a few ideas about timekeeping in R’Nis – names of years, months, weeks, etc. While entertaining to create on the large scale, it was coming up with the hours of the day that was the most fun. My world has a goddess of Time and all large settlements with a temple dedicated to her mark the hours with the ringing of bells. It only seemed fitting that a fantasy world have a less prosaic clock than a simple numerical count of hours. And so, the March of Hours was born.
Below is an updated version of my original notes. I came across them again yesterday while searching for something else. Feel free to steal them or adapt them if you’re looking for a way to count the hours and don’t really care about the lack of reliable timekeeping in a pseudo-medieval setting. I certainly don’t.
DawnMarch (6 AM): According to the priests of Eram and the Grand Clock, DawnMarch is the start of the new day.
WakeMarch (7 AM): Traditionally, the time when honest folk rise from the beds and prepare to meet the day.
MornMarch (8 AM): This is the hour that families break their fast before beginning their day’s work. It is a time for families to come together and converse around the bread-bread table. It is also the hour that the first cups of kahvak are served.
MarketMarch (9 AM): At this hour, the stores and businesses of the City Resilient open their doors. It marks the start of most of the city’s working population’s day of labor.
DayMarch (10 AM): According to the clocks of the Temple of Time, the new day is now fully underway. Anyone who pursues a traditional lifestyle in the City Resilient and is still asleep at this hour is considered a slugabed.
InnMarch (11 AM): After cleaning and preparing the kitchens for the day to come at MarketMarch, the inns and taverns of Xultvar are now open for business. Anyone currently renting a room must either depart or pay for another night’s lodging. In some parts of the city, the lines of drunks that formed in front of tavern doors at DayMarch are now allowed in to begin their binging.
NoonMarch (12 PM): NoonMarch indicates that the midday break is on its way. At this hour, meals that require time to prepare are begun and preparations for lunch are made. Otherwise, the city continues on as usual.
EatMarch (1 PM): Lunchtime in the city. The meals started at NoonMarch are ready to be eaten. Some shops close their doors during this March, while inns and taverns attempt to draw customers off the street with lunch specials and the smell of fine food.
DogsMarch (2 PM): This March gets its name from the old saying, “In the heat of this hour, only rabid dogs and madmen tread the streets.” This is the hottest hour during the summer months; merchants and tradesmen lower awnings and cool their shops as best as possible. It is also a much hated time by apprentices, as they are sent out into the streets to run errands for the masters at this time. During the winter months, this hour is referred to as the “March not fit for man nor dog.”
ForgeMarch (3 PM): Since leaving a hot forge unattended is a fire hazard, most smithies, weapon shops, glass blowers, bakers, and armorers choose this hour to extinguish their ovens, forges, and crucibles. This gives them two hours to cool before closing, allowing the craftsmen to lock their doors for the night without fears of an accidental fire. Any priority jobs that come in just before ForgeMarch are bound to cost more, since the craftsmen will need to stay late at the shop to insure their ovens and forges cool enough to close for the evening.
CashMarch (4 PM): This is the hour that merchants begin tallying their business for the day and counting the coins in the till. Ledgers are filled, money is secured in safes, and small sums are left available for last-minute trade. This is also the hour that the day’s final inventories are counted. The shops are winding down for the day.
HomeMarch (5 PM): The workday is over. At this time, most merchants and craftsmen are closing their doors and heading home for their evening meals. A few stray merchants leave their shops open, but soon a darker clientele will be on the streets. Most shopkeepers are looking forward to another cup of kahvak.
ShadowsMarch (6 PM): Night begins to creep into the city. This is the hour that most of the night people of the city begin to awake. Harlots dine and plan their outfits, thieves sharpen their dirks, and assassins gather to plot the night’s events.
DuskMarch (7 PM): Most of the nocturnal population of Xultvar is dining and preparing for the evening. The inns of the city begin to turn down the sheets in their rooms and a few extra kegs are tapped in preparation for the night.
FiresMarch (8 PM): The Lamplighters Guild takes to the streets and lights the city’s lamps, braziers, and lanterns for the evening to come. In private residences in the city, candles, lamps, and hearths are lit. It is rumored that the Thieves Guild meets at this time.
NightMarch (9 PM): Night has fallen and the nocturnal people of the city are out in force. The taverns begin to fill, harlots stroll the streets, and the first of the night’s crime are committed.
SongMarch (10 PM): The patrons of the taverns have a few mugs of ale in them and seek entertainment. During this hour, bards, entertainers, dancers, magicians, and troubadours begins their nightly performances. Their audiences, loosened by ale and wine, are more eager to tip the performers well.
MurderMarch (11 PM): The city watch has completed their first rounds, ale is flowing freely, and insults are being traded. In city legend, this is the hour that most murders, muggings, brawls, and assassinations occur. Despite little hard evidence that this hour has more killings than any other, its name remains unchallenged.
HighMarch (12 AM): The Witching Hour. Considered to be the period when the moon is at its apex, this is the time when the night people begin to act in earnest. The Night Market opens its doors at this hour.
MagesMarch (1 AM): According to legend, this is the hour that mages, wizards, witches, and alchemists begin their incantations and experiments. The moon is high, the stars are bright, and magic flows freely through the night air. Whether there is any truth to these legends is known only by the magi themselves.
SpiritsMarch (2 AM): Folklore tells that this is the hour when the spirits of the dead are most likely to cross the border of death to vex the living. It is uncommon to find anyone on the street at this hour. Most ruffians continue to drink in the taverns; the city guards patrol the walls and halls of city office, and harlots, their pimps, and clients are safely inside bordellos and bawdry houses during this March. Those who dare the streets encounter dark-robed necromancers, grave robbers, and the spirits of the dead.
LateMarch (3 AM): Night is coming to a close at this hour. With SpiritsMarch past, ruffians, rogues, and thieves are headed towards bed. The Night Market begins to shut down and the last rounds of the city watch prowl the streets. Most taverns are calling for last rounds.
RevelersMarch (4 AM): The last crowds of partygoers and drinkers are stumbling home. The city watch is known to be lax in their duties at this hour, allowing drunks who can get up and walk the chance to avoid time in the city gaol. Insults to the watch, however, are NOT tolerated. At this hour, the taverns have closed and city grows quiet.
LastMarch (5 AM): The sun is soon to rise and the night watch is looking forward to a draught of kahvak back at their barracks. Those who are awake make preparations for the new day and wait for the next ringing of the March bells.