It Must Be Tuesday

Routines are a natural human behavior, whether the people engaging in them choose to admit it or not. And one of the most common routines in this day and age is the weekly schedule: the things that happen on this day, or these days, week in and week out. It’s not just an interesting observation, though; in some stories or games, setting up a similar weekly pattern can provide a nifty type of background to the world.

(Needless to say, this does work a lot better when you can keep good track of what day of the week it is—and when you use weeks, though similar things can be done with any sort of small multi-day unit of time people divide their longer periods of time into. I’m going to use the week for purposes of argument, though.)

The easiest place in which to show effects like this is a populated area, where people can and probably need to keep track of what day it is. The less of a population there is, the less likely it is that people are all that worried, and of course, if you’re wandering around the middle of nowhere, what day of the week it is really isn’t as likely to matter. (That doesn’t mean there’s no way it’s going to matter, though; for instance, if a character’s religion has a weekly holy day and they’re sufficiently devoted, they might make a point of at least recognizing it when they can, even if they’re lost in the forest.)

Having a weekly schedule can provide a good way to limit access to a given character or event without making it seem to contrived. It’s one thing if you’re arbitrarily choosing whether a given character is available or not, particularly if you always seem to err on the side of the least convenient, but it’s a lot less galling when someone points to the calendar and says, “Of course the sage Myrhis isn’t here. It’s Friday, we all know she’s off in the Caves of the Lost Ones doing whatever peculiar arcane undisturbable thing it is that she’s been doing on Fridays for as long as we’ve known her.” Or “Well, yeah, Thursday’s been Patty’s day off since she started working Saturdays.” This can also create timeline-based tension, as people realize that if they aren’t at X location to talk to Y person by this date and time, they’re going to have to wait at best another week, and who knows what might happen in that interval?

It can also just provide added advantages or inconveniences, both actual and perceived. One day a week, the farmer’s market might come to town; another day, the mail doesn’t come or the transit schedules are more inconvenient. Perhaps there are superstitions or rules about what kinds of things people can do or business they can conduct on a given day of the week.

Not all of them have to be directly plot-affecting, though; sometimes it’s just good for local color. Though I’ve been slipping lately on keeping track of the days of the week in my game, I have a couple of weekday jokes; for instance, there are running references to the particularly spicy food that shows up in one of the major places on a particular weekday, courtesy of an acquaintance of the PCs getting to choose what gets cooked. The nice thing about things like this is that they can double as a way of realigning one’s internal calendar. People are running for the water barrels after lunch yelping about burned tongues? It must be [the local equivalent of] Tuesday!

Color, limitations, a sense of grounding in the world: there’s a lot that can come out of instituting and at least alluding to a weekly cycle.

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