Telling Time in the Lost Lands

Well, they've moved the Blog way down to the bottom of the page. So I guess we'll have to work harder to keep it relevant. So here's another peak behind the curtain.

One of the fundamental aspects of every campaign setting is how the passage of time is tracked. We tend to fall back on the familiar years, months, days, hours, etc. because it's easy to work with and its pretty transparent to the game. YOu don't have to try to calculate anything to remember how it all works. However, the more immersive a game gets the deeper into changes to the "norms" they can become. I remember trying to track the moon phases back in my old Dragonlance campaign with the three moons, one invisible, and it was a mess. The fact that it tied in with how magic worked made it even more difficult. So it pretty much got hand-waved in every game session.

For the Lost Lands I've tried to find a middle ground: familiar enough that a casual player can use it without any effort but unusual enough that is is distinctly Lost Lands. The fact that the Lost Lands has two moons partly reflects that (don't worry, I'm not getting into any complicated phase things) but really only comes up in flavor descriptions or super-specific adventure contexts. More importantly, I've now finished working out how times works in general in the Lost Lands. And more important than that, I think, it has both a mechanical and historical internal consistency so that one who wants to immerse that dep in lore can see how it got there and one who doesn't can just use it as is.

So with that preamble, here are my notes on time tracking in the Lost Lands. There are in an unpolished format so while this information will be included in the campaign setting, it won't be quite this in-depth in its details. Since you're going to start seeing references to it in upcoming products in the meantime, I wanted it to make some sense while you await the campaign setting. So here we go:

The concept of Time in the Lost Lands begins with the foundational quasi-religion based around The Blessed Tesseract (you'll recall mention of the Tesseract from the very first bit of fluff I released online about the campaign setting a while back...or maybe was a pretty obscure reference but actually ties in very intimately with and is foundational to a great many things in the world). This religion/philosophy has existed for thousands of years. It does not have much of an established church (though it has at times in the past and a few smaller cults still eke out an existence at the corners of society) but most major organized religions and societies acknowledge, reference, and in some cases even venerate The Blessed Tesseract.

The main cathedral in the imperial capital at Courghais, for example, is known
as the Cathedral of the Tesseract. It is not dedicated to the Tesseract, instead
venerating the Foerdewaith pantheon, but does incorporate the Tesseract into
much of its stylistic décor and motifs.

From a strictly mathematical viewpoint (really beyond the scope of most Lost Lands references of the Tesseract) that was incorporated into time calculations (among other things), the Tesseract’s mathematical and therefore universal properties are as follows:

Tesseract – hypercube (4-dimensional cube)
24 squares faces
8 cuboidal cells
32 edges
16 vertices

Holy Symbol of the Blessed Tesseract: usually depicted as a square with 4 rays
extending outward to represent the 4 lines that extend from each vertex to other
vertices, sometimes illustrated as a 3-D Schlegal diagram (though such an illustration would likely blow the mind of all but the most erudite denizens of the Lost Lands).

Religious derivations: The Cross of Thyr is actually a “tree,” that is, a net
polygon comprised of 8 connected 3-D cubes from unfolding the 4-D Tesseract.
This is an example of a modern religion incorporating the iconography/principles
of the Tesseract, even though probably no practitioners of the model religion even understand this relationship anymore. The sword symbol of Muir is essentially an inverted version of this.

More info will be given on the concept of The Blessed Tesseract and its
importance beyond simply a geometric concept in future books.

Measurements of Time
1 Day = 24 hours as subdivided by the concept of the Tesseract’s 24 faces. Some
cultures divide days into units based on the 8 cells or 16 vertices, but these
are not present in the mainstream timekeeping of the Lost Lands which sticks to
the 24 faces representing 24 1-hour increments.
1 Week = 7 days, there are no weekends vs. weekdays
1 Fortnight = 2 weeks + a festival day between, i.e. 15 days (literally 14
nights/15 days)
1 Month = 30 days, 4 7-day weeks with 2 festival days, no weekends/sabbath
(7-1-7-7-1-7) = 30 days, so it basically works out that there is a repeating festival day every two weeks (…7-1-7-7-1-7-7-1-7-7-1-7-7-1-7…), though 4 High Holy Days
throughout the year placed on the equinoxes and solstices break that pattern up to some extent.
2 Fortnights is considered a month even though 2 “true” fortnights would
technically only be 29 days when counting nights specifically (28 nights/29
days), but the night of the final day before a new month is understood to be
included as well for ease of using 2 fortnights to describe a 1-month period (29
nights/30 days). High Holy Days are not considered in calculation of fortnights.
1 Year = 12 months + 4 High Holy Days = 364 days

24 hours per day based on Tesseract, as mentioned, originally demarcated hours between day and night based on counting the knuckles of each hand (12 knuckles apiece excluding
thumbs--the concept of three knuckles per hand for 8 fingers also extends use of
Tesseract 8-cell time increments in some fringe cultures). Hours are divided between
midnight and noon and named by its number: 1st hour, 2nd hour, 3rd hour, etc.
Hours after midnight are considered to be “of the prime”, while hours after noon
are considered to be “of the non”.

The term “bells” can be used to refer to hours but usually only in nautical
settings because of the use of the ship’s bell to demarcate time throughout the
24-hour clock. Though even in land-locked areas, bells of city towers or
monasteries are often rung to note at least the daylight hours (roughly 6th hour
prime to 9th hour non).

Modern concepts of minute and second increments are instead based on lengths of
spell durations as observed and recorded by mages since the early days of Khemit
(or before) and later applied to commerce in the form of rented time on a public

Hours are divided into 6 10-minute periods, each called a turn or turn-of-the-glass, or just glass (for turning over a 10-minute hourglass that is used to determine the usage/charging rates of a millstone)
Turns are divided into 10 1-minute periods, each called a tenth (for 1/10th of a turn and the number of times a standard* millstone turns in a 1-minute period)
Tenths are divided into 10 6-second periods, each called a round (for the length of time it takes a standard* millstone to complete one revolution)

Time Unit Summary:
6-second intervals = rounds
Minutes = tenths
10-minutes intervals = turns (also turns-of-the-glass or glasses)
Hours = hours

*The Hyperborean Empire created a standardized millstone size and speed of
rotation on which turns and rounds were based. Millstones since then often have
great variability, but the standardized time units have remained.

Lost Lands Clocks
Most Lost Lands clocks’ outer edges mark hours numbered as 1-12 and turns as
tic-marks between the hours (so that the clock face will match up and largely correspond
to real-world clocks for ease of understanding, though there are 5 tic-marks between each number rather than the 4 tic-marks on a real-world clock since it is counting 6 turns between number instead of 5 minutes). In this context the term glass is commonly used instead of turn (because it implies a tangible thing being counted, i.e. the number of the hourglass that has been turned since the start of the hour, plus it just sounds less “gamey” as flavor text). Sample time readings would be:

1st hour, 1 glass
3rd hour non
7th hour, 3 glass
9th hour, 5 glass
10th hour prime
Midnight (or Prime), Noon (or Non)

Other than at the turning of an actual hour (straight up 1 o’clock, for
instance), the use of “prime” or “non” would be reserved for extremely formal
occasions or occasions of tactical importance (e.g. “The attack will begin at
3rd hour prime, 2 glass.”). For extremely formal occasions it would be fully
elongated into “5th hour of the non” or “10th hour, 3 glasses of the prime”.

A long, thick hand marks the hours and glasses on the clock, clicking forward one tic-mark once every 10 minutes (rather than every 1-minute like a real-world clock).

A second, short wedge-shaped hand marks time on an inner circle usually of Hyperborean
numbers (read: Roman numerals) that shows tenths (Most clocks will not include
this hand, considering it too costly to add and unnecessary for most every-day
needs that typically don't require the precision of less than a 10-minute

Beyond that, only the most expensive and complex clocks will include a third
hand (short and thin) for rounds (these click off along the inner circle using
each tenth as a single movement of the hand that equals 6 seconds). There is no
true 1-second hand.

Each full revolution of the rounds hand (if the clock has one) corresponds to
one movement of the tenths hand (if the clock has one). Each full revolution of
the tenths hand corresponds to a single movement of the hour/glass hand (usually
referred to simply as the “hourglass”).

In short the use of clocks to mark time in the Lost Lands is extremely
complicated because the intervals are based on mundane- and/or
magical-but-measurable things like sun movements, length of spells, and milling
times using hourglasses rather than our relatively simple concept of hours simply divided into, minutes equally divided into seconds.

Official timekeepers in the Lost Lands are usually known as “Counters” from
their original job of counting revolutions of the millstone.

Spell duration/game timing translations:
Pathfinder rounds = rounds
S&W rounds = tenths
S&W turns = turns, turns-of-the-glass, or glasses

With this construction of Lost Lands times, I wanted to give the campaign both its own unique feel and incorporate actual game elements that would make sense as far as time measurement being based upon it. Spell durations is one of the most universal ways to do so in-game. I also wanted to incorporate the time-tracking attributes of both the S&W and PF game systems together and do it in such a way that it is not heavy-handed or breaks the players' immersion into the game. Hence while turns and rounds exist as time units, they're almost never referred to in regards to telling time. A turn would be called a glass and a round is hardly ever referenced in such a context, while both still continue to exist, function, and incorporate these age-old game elements in a meaningful and rational way.

So there you go. I hope this was at least somewhat interesting and gives a taste of the familiar-but-different game world that is the Lost Lands.


P.S. If you haven't seen our latest Lost Lands product's Kickstarter, head over and check it out. Only 3 days to go!!


michaelsandar's picture

Absolutely fantastic how you managed to incorporate game terms into the story base of the Lost Lands.  Rounds and Turns as real time measurements makes that pesky question to a magic user (How long will this last??) fit in a lot better.

CAWright's picture

I appreciate the amount of thought that went into this.