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One of my players is attempting to write journal entries as session summaries, and I was wondering what date (approximate is fine), Hoard of the Dragon Queen begins.

I know from my research that the year is 1489 DR, however the approximate time of year and month are not given in the adventure and are not easily discovered on the web.

Failing an official source, is there anything in the text that at least gives cues to which season it is so I can pick a start date intelligently?

If we can narrow it down to a month, we can figure out which of two days it starts on based on the lunar calendar of Faerun. WOTC has a tool here to compute this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It almost certainly doesn't have a canon date. That kind of detail being explicit/mattering tends to make adventures harder to use. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 8 '14 at 4:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you please show the source for the 1489 date? \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye Nov 10 '14 at 4:47
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Since you already know the year, and are using the Forgotten Realms Calendar Tool to pick the day based on the lunar cycle, I intend to restrict this answer to solely determining the month. Also, I'm not going to bother using the Forgotten Realms versions of month names because doing so would make it harder to follow my logic. I'm leaving the conversion up to the reader.

The best indication for what month it is when Hoard of the Dragon Queen begins is the information provided regarding Greenest's Mill.

The south-western region of the Realms (which would include Baldur's Gate, Candlekeep, Beregost, Elturel, and most importantly Greenest) has a temperate climate. The air is very humid in this region, and it sees a great deal of precipitation. Additionally, volcanic activity is fairly common. In fact, Candlekeep itself is built on top of a volcanic crag. This information was obtained from the 3.5E Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (page 78) and the 4E Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (page 95). We can hypothesize that Greenest sees very little snow (but it might happen occasionally during particularly cold winters). It is therefore unlikely that they plant Winter Wheat due to the 30-60 day vernalization period it calls for at 0-5 degrees celsius. Also, it isn't uncommon for cultures with mild winters to plant Spring Wheat in the autumn (generally November or December) and then harvest it during the spring (generally April or May).

Since Greenest is in the process of milling grain into flour when the attack begins on the town (see page 11 of the module text, under the Save the Mill heading), they likely just recently harvested their local wheat crops for the growing season. The only remaining question that needs answered to approximate which month it is, is whether Greenest just harvested wheat grown over the summer or the winter. If they planted it in November and harvested it in May, then it is likely June by the time the module begins. If they planted it in April and harvested it in September, then it is likely October by the time the module begins.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Add the fact that (spoilers) you go to a mountain range and there is not a ton of snow, it seems that may would be more likely. \$\endgroup\$ – PipperChip Jan 31 '15 at 10:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ This plus the equinox calculations below makes a solid case for June. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Sep 22 '15 at 20:42
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We know the canonical starting year is 1489 DR

While designing the adventures for the DnDAL, we asked WOTC "When do you want this campaign to start?" and they told us it is 1489. As for why did they choose that date, I do not know the answer. (Skerrit, DDAL designer)

Knowing this, it's fairly easy to plug that into the WOTC forgotten realms lunar calculator.

We also know from the text a number of things, first that when Greenest is attacked, the moon is a half moon. That gives us a fairly narrow range of possible dates in a given month (2 dates each month, 7th or 8th and 22nd or 23rd). Obviously there is a bit more wiggle room here, but if we choose the date of the half moon we restrict ourselves to two dates per month.

The next task was perusing the text to determine what season roughly the events take place in. Since you end up travelling rather far north, it seems hard to exactly tell whether the weather changes are entirely based on your location or whether they are based on the season.

For my game, I elected to go with a combination of the two and place the start date in late summer, namely the 7th of Eleasis. Given the amount of travel that you do, this may be on the late side, and I'll update this answer with whether I believe it was too early, too late or just right when we are closer to completion (we're only a few calendar days in right now).

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As other answers have indicated, the year is 1489 DR, but an exact date is not established.

However, the text does offer some clues.

The first Episode of Horde of the Dragon Queen indicates that sundown is around 9pm and that dawn is around 6am. This gives 9 hours of night and 15 hours of daylight, so the story must begin between the spring equinox and the autumn equinox.

Based on this chart for length of daylight on earth, we can make some inferences to narrow the range, arriving at a date near the summer solstice.

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Typically published adventures don't come with definitive starting dates. This is so a group's DM can set it to whenever makes the most sense for the group. For example, there is no reason the game could not be run 1373 DR (Year of the Rogue Dragons), and very little of Hoard of the Dragon Queen would need to be changed.

Indeed given that the common names are supposed to reflect some event in the Realms during the year, I would recommend either 1373 DR rolling into 1374 (Year of the Lightning Storms), or early in 1493 DR (Year of the Purple Dragon), so the entire adventure can happen predominantly in that year.

Or not. It is really up to your group.

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