New Game and a few questions related to it...

Started by David Roomes, August 20, 2022, 10:08:31 PM

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David Roomes

Hello All,

I have been working on a new role playing game. Well, actually, the same one I've taken a few half-hearted attempts over the years. But this time is different. I'm older, wiser and a more experience game master. I'm sure those of you who have been around the Khoras forum know that I am frustrated with the Dungeons and Dragons game and have longed for something more realistic. Well, I've decided to build a new role playing game system, once and for all. The only way to play the game of my dreams is to build it myself.

I've been focusing on it a lot the last few months and I've just started playtesting sections of it with a friend. He's running a sword and shield type fighter so we are really just testing the basics of the melee combat system. More playtesting will come later and we'll test other sections. I expect it'll take another year to complete. When it's ready, I'll make sure it's available online - either on this website or through DrivethruRPG or something similar.

Anyway, I had a couple of questions. I'm in the United States. The US is one of the few nations in the world that doesn't use the metric system. It's maddeningly frustrating to some of us in the States. I am a huge fan and ardent supporter of the metric system. I think the United States should switch to the metric system. I am SUCH a firm believer in it that I decided to use the metric system for this new game.

However, I've wrestled with that idea. The writer in me doesn't like the idea because the metric system doesn't "feel" medieval. And now I'm having second thoughts about it. Should a medieval fantasy "swords and sorcery" game stick with feet, inches, miles, leagues and such in order to maintain the illusion of a medieval world?

I am particularly interested in what people from Europe have to say. Those of you in Europe use the metric system every single day. For those of you who are in Europe AND are gamers, what do you use in your role playing games? Do you tend to stick with metric measurements or do you switch to imperial units for medieval gaming? If you switch, does it feel weird to switch or does it feel "appropriate" for the genre? What do you think I should use for a new medieval fantasy RPG? What RPGs are you playing and what systems of measurement do they use?

I really am curious. I welcome all input from everyone. I have been thinking about this for awhile. I've gone back and forth on it a couple times. Now I'm hoping to get some input from other gamers and fantasy readers. Metric or imperial?

As the game gets further developed, I will likely have other questions and will throw them out to this forum.

Thank you in advance,


David M. Roomes
Creator of the World of Khoras


Up front I am not a metric fan so am biased.

For the medieval flavor I would stick to imperial.

I actually always thought Europe has always been metric...

For a more populist draw you could go metric and most people would adapt.

Look forward to the system you are creating.
come see Kramxel at

David Roomes

Well, the metric system has only been around for a couple of centuries. Before that I think Europe was using the old system. And the old system was a mix of things, but several units came from the Roman empire, if I recall correctly.

Anyway, I am curious what the Europeans say about it. Most of the world uses the metric system. So, yeah, making it metric might make it more attractive to people around the world. But maybe they will say that it's better to use the old units to maintain the "flavor" of the medieval world. I don't know. Curious to hear what they say.

But I will mark your vote down as one for the old system. :)

And yes, once I've completed a few hundred hours of play testing and am very happy with it, I will make it available online as a free downloadable PDF. I would be very interested in gamers trying it out and giving me feedback.
David M. Roomes
Creator of the World of Khoras


As I have also, quietly (if not particularly actively of late), been working on an RPG system of my own, I've also thought about this, and I'm kind of two minds about it.

On the one hand, I think that, at the end of the day, anything we do as game designers needs to be for the benefit of play. I've made no secret of my personal preference for trying to foster verisimilitude to support players' suspension of disbelief, even to the point of actively attempting to subconsciously retrain mistaken intuitions through more historically grounded play abstractions, but... if the players can't actually relate to or understand our mechanics, then they can't effectively interact with the game.

In short, many systems need to be, at the end of the day, geared primarily toward reducing cognitive load and rendering our system usable. When it comes to measurements in a tactical combat- and exploration-focused game, this means providing people with whatever standard weights and measures they're familiar with, so that they can picture and intuitively grasp relative distances and such, without the additional barrier of needing to learn and build new intuitions from whole cloth with unfamiliar units that they might only ever interact with in the realm of fantasy—especially if it's their habit to run entirely theater-of-the-mind games.

On the other hand, I think that game worlds are an opportunity to explore historical and theoretical systems and standards of measure, as well as cultural systems very different to those of European systems whose primary reason for dominance is simply that they had been adopted by societies which became global hegemons in our actual past; the metric system is great in terms of standardization, but there are actually all manner of fascinating historical systems, and there are systems not based on the decimal system which are, in many ways, far superior to the metric system, and which could be standardized upon today, however unlikely such adoption might be at this point. Both from an historical and a worldbuilding perspective, it's easy to see the value in using unfamiliar systems, even if only insofar as most people outside the Anglosphere and Commonwealth countries aren't terribly familiar with US Standard or British Imperial measurements.

Personally, though, I like using feet primarily because the scale of that unit is particularly well-suited to the sorts of distances relevant to combat, and makes the math a bit cleaner. Having said that, I imagine that in the event of attempting to localize my game, I will inevitably convert everything to metric in order to privilege the players over their characters.

GMs are of course perfectly welcome to use in-fiction units, and I imagine some particularly nerdy players would be thrilled to explore the intricacies of societies with standards of weights and measures based on locally important agricultural products, regional terrain features, or even metricized standards based on bases as diverse as 6, 12, 20, 60, and 42.

As an addendum to this, there's a YouTube channel I'm fond of which covers a fairly eclectic range of topics (though mostly constructed languages, spelling reforms, and the occasional bit of math nerdery) which has a number of good videos on different units and standards of weights and measures, and I think this is a good opportunity to share one of his videos:

It's not the only one he has on the topic, but it tackles some of the common arguments about metric versus US/Imperial in an interesting and transformative way, and it might be of interest.

There's also this one, from Numberphile featuring Tom Scott, on various number systems around the world other than decimal, which might also be of interest, if only for worldbuilding:
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

David Roomes

You make several good points. I'm starting to lean more toward retooling for the old system. Not everyone is more comfortable with feet and miles (I'm still waiting to hear from the European forum members), but I know many people here in the US who would probably prefer it to metric.

And also, it is more historically accurate. I understand that there are cultures throughout history that used other systems, but when I build Khoras (specifically, several kingdoms in Ithria) and when I game, I'm basing most of it on medieval England, specifically. I unapologetically love England and its history. So, I guess I've got a couple of good reasons to move away from metric for this game. Still on the fence though. Still gathering info and hearing opinions.

David M. Roomes
Creator of the World of Khoras


In Australia, we use the metric system.  I'm not aware of anyone who isn't aware that a mile is 1.6km, a foot is 30cm, an inch is 2.5cm, and any other unit of length is unnecessary, particularly in a game.  In other words, we can convert from one to the other instantly, without issue.

Weights?  They're annoying.  2.2lbs to a kg is OK, but stones and other imperial measures of weight just aren't commonly used. 

Temperature?  F or C is doesn't really matter.  People used to C don't commonly convert from or to F.  C is a much easier scale when you look at using other metric units.

Everything else?  Pressure, area, etc?  A zillions times easier in metric so most people don't do the conversions instantly or easily (or at all).

For a game system, though, distance, weight, and temperature are the key ones.  You could easily provide temperature in both C and F and then just run distance and weight in imperial and anyone using metric wouldn't have any issues.  If you must use things like leagues and and so (even fathoms), spell them out somewhere for both imperial and metric equivalents, but I'd generally avoid them unless you want to make the point that a particular culture is different (in which case you could just make up anything you like).

In short, people who use metric every day have so much exposure to US and British media and culture it's not an issue for the main stuff.

David Roomes

That's good information. Thanks. I'm glad to hear that people are comfortable converting. Even so, I'm now thinking of just including both metric and imperial. It may be unnecessary, but it may occasionally save someone the hassle of having to look it up. I want to make the game as easy as possible for everyone.

Temperature hasn't come up yet. It's mainly distance (miles vs km) , length (feet vs meters) and weight (pounds vs kilograms) - those three come up repeatedly. I think I'll probably stick with miles rather than leagues and pounds rather than stones.

David M. Roomes
Creator of the World of Khoras

Drul Morbok

I always use the metric system when playing, as I'm used to it.
Since I mostly read English sourcebooks, much of my knowledge about the rules is feet-based, like movement and range.

Unfortunately, the 5-feet increments translate into increments of 1.5 meter, which is a bit awkward.
But when describing any distance or size, I use the metric system.

Converting from feet to meter would just add an operation that does not add to the game - in the best case.
In the worst case, someone miscalculates and acts on the "wrong" number.

Why do I say it does not add anything?
- my game world might have a medieval tech level, but that's it. There are gods that were not worshipping in historical medieval times, and there is magic that historically never existed. So I don't feel too obliged to historical measurement.
- if the characters were born and raised in the game world, I don't think it makes sense to use a system that feels unusual. Might be an interesting story aspect if the come from somewhere else. But for me,  "the creature is about 10 feet tall"..."ok, just a moment, that's 3" is not how a medieval person perceives a medieval world.


Quote from: Drul Morbok on September 15, 2022, 01:08:13 PM
Unfortunately, the 5-feet increments translate into increments of 1.5 meter, which is a bit awkward.
But when describing any distance or size, I use the metric system.

That's exactly what I was thinking of with regards to combat. Five feet is pretty much exactly the natural basis of distance in hand-to-hand and melee combat, because of human proportions, and it doesn't convert to an integer number of meters, which makes things awkward to deal with. I suppose that's what happens when you derive your base unit from a planetary basis rather than a human one. Inherently good for measuring planets, not necessarily as good for measuring people-centric things.

I (and Dave) obviously have the advantage of being based in the US where most people are more familiar with US Standard units than metric ones, so it's easy to just say, "Just use the cleaner option.", but it does force one to consider how to proceed outside of the Anglosphere—which is the only place where most people are likely to have a ton of familiarity with British Imperial or US Standard units (I've known Brits who remain Imperial-dominant, as well as Brits for whom Imperial is as alien as it is to the French, who invented metric and have used it for centuries)—and I agree with you and Dave. It's probably easier to either plan ahead of time to put in the work to localize everything, or else to include both.

Of course, then you have to deal with the procedural necessities stemming from either of those decisions, but that's as may be.
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.