Guide to Timelines

So you want to build a Timeline?

Compiled and Written by DreamMaker and Heath O'Donnell Edited by Ademal

Timelines are useful item to add to one's repertoire of tricks inside World Anvil. They can highlight important bits of a characters story, track the rise and falls of nations, even hide valuable information about your world. How, then, does one competently use this amazing tool?

How to Visualize Time

There tend to be 3 definitive ways of viewing time in most works of fiction. There are others, but these three are the most common and simplistic to start from, and form the basis of all the others.
Time and events progress in a linear fashion from a set event point which starts the story. Many movies and stand alone novels have this type of timeline. This works well for any work where events prior to the beginning of the story are unimportant to the story being told.
Time appears to progress in opposite directions from a set point or event, known as a Demarcation. Both ends go out to infinite time in either direction. This is the case for our real worlds Gregorian Calendar, which used the Birth of Christ as the Demarcation between two Eras. Is also useful with stories in which the events of the past effect the events of the future and should be knowable or at least re-searchable.
Time is broken into defined parts with important starts and ends. A good example of this is TV or book series where the events between the start and end of a book or season do affect the outcome of later additions, but are fairly contained within their covers.

Parts of the Timeline Feature

There are several tools within the World Anvils Timeline feature that are useful to have an understanding of before tackling your worlds Time Continuum.
Universal Time Date(UTD)
UTD is the basis for understanding time within your world, setting a zero point that all your important events continue after. This zero point can be the creation of your world, the birth of a major character, or the end of a Galactic War.
  Master Timeline
The Master Timeline is the log of all events within your world. It provides the whole of time for yourself and your readers to view.All events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
  Parallel Timeline
A parallel timeline exists as a subsidiary to your Master, providing either a smaller snippet, such as the recorded history of a people, or as a true to the sense Parallel Timeline, allowing for events to run alongside each other. Great for stories with two Major Characters whose paths may only temporarily or rarely cross.Orry Main and George Hazard of North and South or Harry Potter's Point of View of events
  Article Timeline
A smaller snippet of time, focusing only on the events connected to the Articles subject, such as a city, nation, character, or mystical artifact.Anakin Skywalker's Lightsaber
Timeline Example
A Segment of a Timeline. Most Timelines can be split into at least two Eras, what came before a major event, and what came after. From there, further segments can be made, such as the reigns of kings, cultural movements, or technological eras.The Reign of King Henry, the Civil Rights Era, the Medieval Ages, or the Cold War
As of this writing, calenders serve the function of allowing the creation and use of Named Months in place of numbers. Your setting can have as many or as few months as you would like, and can be named in whichever manner pleases you.
  Historical Entries
Here, we get into the true meat of the Timeline Feature, the ability to create an event, and place it on a timeline to see its relation to other events. The very basic information needed is the Title and UTD Start Date. Filling in the short description will create a small excerpt when the event is seen on a timeline, while the longer description will show when the whole event is viewed.

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Building a Timeline

The first important step in design of your world's Timeline is deciding how many Eras you will need. For a Master Timeline, a before 0 UTD and after 0 UTD can be the easiest to start with. Further Eras can be put in other Parallel Timelines. These two give your world a basis, a simple idea of how to talk about time. Simply going to your World Configuration Dashboard and setting your two Eras will get you started.

What if you want 3 or more Eras, like a combination of Segmented and Ray Timelines? Also easy! Without touching you Worlds Configuration at all, simply go to Timelines, and begin creating your Eras.

As an example set of timelines, lets take the Real World. For this, we will be focusing on a single Master Timeline, and 3 Parallel Timelines.

Master Timeline

Here, we will set up our timeline to match the Modern Solar Calendar, in which the current year is 2018 CE. The Common Era (CE) will begin on 1 UTD, with our counting beginning at 1 and with the Era being the Current Era. Before the Common Era (BCE) will end at -1 UTD and will be the First Era, with Inverted Dates, also Counting from 1. This sets up our dates easily, and will put things in the proper order as they would be seen in any listing of world events.

Hebrew Calendar

This Timeline will be our first Parallel. This timeline is a ray type, as we will not be concerned with anything prior to Hebrew year 0. The Timeline Begins with what we will for now call the Genesis Era (GE) which begins in -3761 UTD. This will cause any event placed in 2018 on our Master to show as 5778 in the Hebrew Calendar.

Hijri Calendar

Unlike the Hebrew Calendar the Hijri or Muslim Calendar is line type, having two important Eras. The latter, calculated as After Hijri, the birth of Mohammed, is predominantly believed to equate to 570 UTD. This causes the current year to be shown as 1439 in our Master Timeline. It will still have a Count from 0, as will the prior Era ending in 569 UTD.

Long Count Calendar

Used by the Mayans, this calendar is also a ray type, like the Hebrew calendar. It's beginning date would be marked as -3114 UTD and would cause the current year to show as 5132 UTD.

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Timeline Editor



This is where you can find the timeline editor.
And this is the timeline editor main page. To the right, you can add a new timeline and above the list of your timelines, you can find the tabs for the Historical entries and your world's calendars. Let's click the wrench button next to the only timeline we have on this list.
This is what you'll see after you've clicked the wrench button. A list of your entries to the left and on on the right a set of collapsible boxes with different utilities. They are all collapsed by default, but in the above screenshot you can see the contents of the "Actions" box. View Timeline will open the timeline in your world's interface, while create historical entry will take you to that page, more about that further down.   You can use the tags in the Links box to link to the timeline from any text fields that allows BBCode. Of course, you can always use the mention system to link to it.   The Edit timeline box allows you to edit the timeline in general (not its eras or historical entries). Click Show advanced options to see all editing fields.
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Historical Entry & Era Editor

This is the Historical Entry main page, here you will see all your historical entries. Click on the Create new Historical Entry to create a new one! Of course, you can also quickly access the historical entry creation page from the green power hammer button.
This is the top of the "Create new historical entry" page, fill out all the information that you want to. There are more options than the ones in the screenshot, and some of them are hidden under the Show Advanced Options button.
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†This Era Name is implied due to a lack of straightforward answers being found by the author


Please Login in order to comment!
6 Sep, 2019 07:25

How do I delete a timeline? I didn't understand the structure and created parallels, instead of linear timelines...

7 Sep, 2019 12:08

Go to Timelines>Edit Timeline (wrench Icon)>Action Tab on right. Delete Timeline should be in red.   I suggest editing evemts first to make them appear in proper Timelines first, to save you time rewriting.

8 Sep, 2019 07:32

I got it. Thanks. Yeah, I had a better time, actually AFTER reading the instructions. SIlly me. Thanks for the answer, Heath.

9 Oct, 2019 20:19

I need help..... my event won't go to the right year I'm so confused. I'm planning a dystopia future story so I need 2 eras; before and after. The before is like right now until the war that creates the society my story takes place in. My even I'm trying to put is the war and I want it to be 1 BR to year 0 because it starts the new era but I need help.... please?

10 Oct, 2019 01:19

Hi! Sorry I'm just now responding, was on a media fast.   So, the current issue you are running into is that an event technically can not happen between eras. Eras bump up next to each other in the current system.   What I would do is choose to either have this event be the end event of the first era, or starting event of the second. It's honestly very likely that the war has a lot of post-time before your society actually changes, so you could actually fit more events in before the era does indeed change.

10 Oct, 2019 19:38

Ok thanks so much!

30 Oct, 2019 17:45

Is there a way to make parallel timelines next to an all encompassing Master timeline (which has the UTD) display their own years through different ages? IE; I have the master timeline start at 0, a parallel timeline start at 271000 UTD (set to year 0 in advanced options), next Era at 273046 UTD. In both eras I have an event, the first era event displays to correct year, the second reverts to UTD. Having a world with multiple groups of people who will have their own timelines, the master timeline with parallels for each made the most sense.

30 Oct, 2019 21:27

The timeline feature is telling my histories are "orphan histories" and I'm not a hundred percent sure how to fix that!

3 Nov, 2019 15:15

As long as your Events are not below the Orphaned Histories title, you are good.

11 Nov, 2019 04:52

Oh okay, that makes more sense! Thanks!

11 Nov, 2019 16:21

Hi! I created quite a few eras in my master timeline that go from -2000 - 1222 but when I set my current era which begins at 1221 it appears in the middle of my timeline instead of after/on top of the previous era. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. Is it that I have too many eras? There are 6 in total.

21 Jan, 2020 20:09

if i got your question right, at some points you have to set you year at Utd (universal time date), so if your first era end at 2000 and the second have 1222 years you must put the year 3222 at UTD then it'll go to the second era. I think at least, still learning

12 Nov, 2019 02:56

So my world has a timeline starting at UTD 0 and has 8 eras that are a few hundred years long each. I have every era set to "Begin counting at 1" because whenever I put in the UTD for an event (like the birth of a character), I want it to display the birth year in the year of the particular era, however in articles, it ONLY displays the UTD. How do I get it to display the year of a specific era, using a UTD input?   For example: I have an Emperor that was born in the 267th year of the 8th era. In UTD this is year 1,817. How do I get it to display his birth year as "267" using a UTD input of "1817" in the "Year of Birth" section of the article?

21 Nov, 2019 14:36

I'm wondering about this too! It seems very odd to label something using the UTD year but using the era abbreviation.

21 Nov, 2019 14:41

I figured it out! Edit the era and check the "Begin counting at 1" option in advanced options.

3 Dec, 2019 17:15

Riggletoes,   Sorry, I accidently tapped delete instead of reply, and so have completly lost your question. Feel free to swing by the Discord and hit me up (@PatheticBarrel) or just ask again.

17 Dec, 2019 21:46

I think I might be misunderstanding something with timelines. I created 2 eras, one that is current (AW) and starts at UTD 1 and is the current era and one that ends at UTD 0 (BW), is the first era and uses inverted dates and counts from 0. I then created 2 historical events each of which have strange issues. The first even takes place on UTD 0 and is the event that transforms the world and splits the two eras except on the timeline it shows as -1 BW when I would expect 0 BW. The second even takes place 150 years before the event and is listed as UTD -150 but shows on the timeline as -150 BW when I would expect 150 BW. Any advice would be great, I like the tool a lot but this is a bit frustrating.

18 Dec, 2019 09:13

Both of these issues are known oddities of the system,bspecofically the Start Count from 1/0nactually does 0/-1. Innyour case, though, you may only need tonuse your world's Global Timeline for these eras, and not really need any other timeline unless you want morebtham two eras.   The negative showing can be fixes, but I'll have to dig around and double check how. Been a hotnminute and things have changed.

23 Dec, 2019 21:30

ok as long as they are known issues I can handle it on my end for now.

20 Dec, 2019 04:55

So I might have missed something with how this works, but I'm currently filling in some stuff on the timeline based very much on the Forgotten Realms one, and, there seems to be a problem with starts, ends and minuses. I have 2 situations.   1: Everything before 0 is shown correctly, except without a minus. It works, but it looks strange when an era is for instance Age of Humanity which is shown as 3000 to 1358 (instead of -3000 to 1358 that it should be). But other than the lack of - it works.   2: This however is more of an actual issue. I added the Crown Wars era which spans -12000 DR to -9000 DR (set as inverted dates), and then added the 5 crown wars as historical events. But the First Crown Wars is messed up.   Lore wise the First Crown War takes place between -12000 DR and -11300 DR which I added. When I click "View Event" it does show the accurate time (well, except for the minus). But.. in the Timeline it splits into two clones of the same event, but with different years (both wrong) and on each side of the era. It looks like this:   |--- First Crown War: 0 > 700 DR Crown Wars : 12000 > 9000 (This is the era) |--- First Crown War: -3000 > -2300 DR   Both of the "First Crown War" is the same event, and if I click to open them (both in View, and in Edit) they show 12000 > 11300 DR. Also note that the "second" First Crown War has minuses, but not the other. My guess was that it had to do with both the era and the event starting at the same year.. so I tried adding a couple of months to the event, but that didn't change anything really. Still split up in two.

20 Dec, 2019 05:01

Quick update to myself. I did find out why the years are wrong at least. That's because every era restarts the year as 0 or 1 depending on settings. Okay so that's understandable. Then my question is altered.   1: Still the same questions as in the main post. 2: Still the split event thou even if it's the same event. (New) 3: How to I stop it from counting from 0 (or 1) in every era/age. I want it to use just 1 year-counting (Dalereckoning) for all of the eras, so I have for instance -11700, or 1234, or 1449 (which the group plays in currently).

20 Dec, 2019 05:32

Okay I can't delete my above two comments for some reason (I get sent to the 404 page), but... a new update.. Sorry 'bout that!   The missing minuses is still a question. I did fix the split event thing by simply splitting the timeline into a separate timeline for every era, and then having a master timeline for all the eras but without the events. So that fixed it.   I still want to find out how to have it use the same year-count for all the ages (DR, Dalereckoning, or well, the UTD, I want it to use the UTD on all eras, because my UTD is following the Dalereckoning! :)

26 Dec, 2019 20:54

Why does the UTD display for my Eras always default to E1, this doesn't matter which timeline I'm editing, in my Master Timeline there is First Era with the abbreviation E1, but it's not literally the first. It has been quite a while since I made the timeline, so maybe there's a setting I made that causes this to happen, but if so I can't find a way to fix it.   The actual events of the Eras display the correct date and era abbreviation, but it's really bugging the than the first event in the Second Era has the date: "4 E2", but right above it the era states that it lasts from "24012 E1 > 26062 E1".   Is there any way to fix this or should I just write the correct era times with the "Alternative Display Range" or completely turn off eras showing the time they last?

27 Dec, 2019 05:05

So, the global dates should be used as a base line date system (ie. BC/AD), while the Timeline Eras should be used to differentiate various Eras within those dating systems, such as the Classical Age, the Victorian Age, amd the Modern Age. For instance, we as humans tend to forget that the Gregorian was not created until 1582 AD, and as such could actually be it's own Era setup on a Timeline as opposed to the actual Global Timeline.

10 Jan, 2020 15:09

I have multiple era's in my timeline and each of them should have a different abbreviation but instead they all have the same as my current era

10 Jan, 2020 15:22

Is your Current Era the one that you set in the Global Timeline of your World Configuration? Is this Abbreviation only showing up on the Era Dates and not the Event Dates?

14 Jan, 2020 22:20

Is there a way to set the timeline so the newest events are at the top and the oldest events are at the bottom?

16 Jan, 2020 13:59

Currently no. It is designed so that you read it in the order of things happening, but I believe that Dimitris said that may happen in the next timeline update.

18 Jan, 2020 07:35

The title of the Calendar section is misspelled as "Calandars".

19 Jan, 2020 15:02

Is it possible to put names for days in a calendar and not only months' (and if yes, then how ?) like our monday, tuesday, etc. ? I made an entire day system and even if I can always explain it on a prose article, I'd like to be able to have my days as I want them on my timelines.

20 Jan, 2020 04:10

Yes! This is done via the new calander system, but I haven't messed with it enough yet to know exactly how to do it.

24 Jan, 2020 04:18

I'm having trouble having the months be named correctly in my world. It only displays them as day/month/year in terms of numbers, and since this scheme is different from what I am used to, as in month/day/year. I've already inputted the different names for the months (January,February etc.) in the calendar area and it still is not updating.