Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Anniversaries

Hindu Calendar corresponding to Gregorian Year 1871-1872.
Hindu Calendar corresponding to Gregorian Year 1871-1872.

A few weeks ago I was sitting at my computer, wondering to myself, dang, Tristan. I wonder how many ‘Reality Makes the Best Fantasy’ articles you’ve written? How long have you been doing this? Imagine my surprise when I realized I had written 54 articles and it had been a little over a year! WHOA. Reality Makes the Best Fantasy had its one year anniversary and I didn’t even know it! That’s a lot of time flailing at the computer, trying to think of a topic for an article.

‘A year’ is generally the allotment of time we use when we speak of anniversaries. I mean, it’s right there in the freaking word. Sometimes we like to say, oh, it’s the one month anniversary but let’s face it, ‘anniversary’ comes from Latin, derived from ‘annus’ which means ‘year’ and ‘vertere’ meaning ‘to turn’ (the Online Etymology Dictionary and taking Latin for three years is your friend). We celebrate the turning of the year on New Years. We celebrate birthdays, the anniversaries of our births. Many state holidays are anniversaries of momentous occasions such as signings of declarations, treaties, peace accords, laws. Marriage garners wedding anniversaries, full of more flailing and trying to remember. The anniversary of a death could require certain rites to be performed or could be a time of solemn remembrance.

There are many important dates to remember and as the years pass on, the holidays and events can take on new meanings as new generations celebrate and as new events take place, changing the meanings or context of the original occasion. Those involved in the original happening might remember the raw emotion, the energy that it took to accomplish whatever took place that day. The next few years might warrant feelings of triumph, with subsequent years falling to reflection, symbolism or the movement even being co-opted by newer, fresher movements with more energy behind them.

Anniversaries are a time of observance, celebration, contemplation. When the wheel of the year has made a turn, what are the PCs remembering in your campaign? What is worth celebrating 365 days later?

For GMs

  • What types of annual celebrations are observed by the people? State holidays? Personal celebrations?
  • How long is a year? Who keeps track of the passing of the year?
  • Are there certain gifts that are given for a certain number of years passing?
  • What are the rites, rituals and celebrations to properly commemorate the passing of time?
  • Is there a deity of the year, who opens and closes it? A deity of time?
  • How carefully do people record when things happen? Who generally is in charge of record keeping and keeping track of time?

Plot Hooks

  • Ten years ago, the PCs took part in a political movement which had a great impact on their society. However, a new political group has decided to use the anniversary as the leaping point for their own agenda, an agenda the PCs don’t quite fall in line with. The PCs must try and defuse the situation before all their hard work and old dreams are undone. What did the PCs originally fight for? What did they and their friends accomplish? How many of them are still alive? What does this new group advocate and why do the PCs disagree? How do they intend to stop them?
  • After some traveling, the PCs find themselves in a town or village they had been in a year ago. Whatever went down while the PCs were there evidently had an effect as the citizens are gearing up for a huge celebration. Asked to be the guests of honor and stay on, it isn’t made entirely clear what the celebration will entail. Why are the townsfolk celebrating? What did the PCs do? How is it remembered by the people of the town? What are they getting ready to do?
  • On the one year anniversary of the rulers wedding, they and their spouse must make a pilgrimage to a certain temple in order to guarantee the fertility of the couple. The PCs are asked to escort the royal couple there, avoiding things that would delay the pair and things which might bring bad fortune to the marriage bed. How long do they have to arrive at the temple? How does the couple feel about each other? What rites must they perform?
  • When their employer suddenly remembers it is their wedding anniversary, they quickly ask the PCs to obtain an appropriate gift and track down their spouse to give it to them before nightfall. What do the PCs obtain? How do they track down the intended? Did the other spouse remember and give a gift already? What will happen if the missive falls through?
  • On the anniversary of a terrible catastrophe, the city is somber as they remember those who perished and those who were injured. The PCs must organize and facilitate an event sponsored by their church, to comfort those who still mourn and commemorate the dead. When another temple wishes to perform a ritual to ensure it never happens again, the PCs are sent to negotiate and dissuade them, telling them it is too soon. What religious order do the PCs belong to and why are they volunteering? Have they lost loved ones? How do they comfort those who are grieving? What is the ritual to be performed?
  • Local customs holds that after a certain number of years of being dead, an individual’s soul finally leaves for the afterlife. On this anniversary of their gone missing, a group of travelers/a military regiment returns to their homeland. They can’t account for their disappearance and seem startled to hear so much time has passed. The PCs are sent to investigate what happened. Why did the group disappear? Have they aged since they left? What did they originally set out to do and what were the conditions of their return? How have their families adjusted and how do they react to their return?

For PCs

  • Do you celebrate any local holidays that are annual commemorations of things?
  • When is your birthday?
  • Do you tend to try and celebrate anniversaries of events more traditionally, to reflect on the past or do you use any excuse to party?
  • Are there any events that have taken place in your life that you commemorate yearly? Do you share these events with other individuals or are they personal triumphs/tragedies?

What say you? What annual triumphs have you had around the gaming table?

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