Monday, September 3, 2018

Scales Through the Ages

Another follow-up to the scaling issue. What scales of distance and time have been used in the various editions of D&D?


This actually has more variation than I originally expected. No two sequential editions of D&D ever specify exactly the same scaling. Gygax's editions (OD&D & AD&D 1E) maintained the same sensibility of giving ranges in inches, with different interpretation for indoors/outdoors (changing the rule for area) -- but no other edition did exactly the same. Basic D&D kept the same indoor/outdoor adjustment, but this was dropped in all later editions (which we commend). Even AD&D 2E apparently dropped it, as far as we can tell, except for movement (even though Cook's charge for that edition was to otherwise keep everything compatible). 2E uniquely specified the range in yards by default, with other editions from Basic onward specifying them in feet instead (excepting 4E, which did use the 1E-echoey "squares" as fundamental units).


6 comments:

  1. Oddly, 4E almost has a sort of unspoken or implied turn. Powers that last "until the end of the encounter" are clarified to function for 5 minutes if precise timekeeping is needed, and that's also the length of a short rest. Since parties are generally assumed to take a short rest after each combat unless somehow prevented, that means each combat encounter takes up a total of 10 minutes - very much echoing the Basic D&D rule of rounding up the length of a combat to a full turn, to represent necessary rest and other post-combat activities.

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  2. When talking about the progression from 3e to 3.5 to 4e to 5e, it sometimes also pays to branch out into discussions of d20 Modern and Star Wars RPG, Wizards of the Coasts other long-running d20 games.

    d20 Modern recommended 1 square = 5 feet, but after numerous questions from players outside the U.S., also suggested 1 square = 1 meter is close enough. Star Wars RPG used 1 square = 1 meter on a side, until Star Wars Saga Edition gave us a preview of 4e by simply using "squares" for everything.


    Also, I thought AD&D recommended 3-1/3 feet on a side -- trivially close to 1 m -- so that three figures can stand abreast?

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    1. The AD&D scale(s) just cause endless headaches. In short, the "inch" for distance specifications is different from the "actual inch" on the tabletop. See here.

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  3. Just to clarify your asterisked note, page 20 of Holmes is not contradictory regarding turn length, as it specifically says "a combat turn is shorter than a regular turn". Holmes has two different turns: Outside combat, a turn is 10 minutes, and there are no rounds. In combat, a turn is 10 melee rounds of ten seconds each. This does cause some weirdness with durations. Are spells/magic durations of differing length in and out of combat?

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  4. Regarding scale, Holmes indicates "1 inch = 10 feet, 2 inches = 20 feet, etc" (pg 9), but then converts almost everything into feet rather than using inches. I think Holmes just mentioned this here in case other rulebooks were consulted. No mention of using yards outdoors. The only place it is mentioned is under missile fire, and Holmes didn't have this in the manuscript - it was added by Gygax. So in the Holmes manuscript it is presented as you summarize 3E above, "no conversion outdoors"!

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    1. Now that's an interesting detail from the manuscript version. Thank you!

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