Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Matter of Inches

Tomb of Horrors room 13 “They are fast (12” move) and will continue biting…”
Once upon a long time ago there was CHAINMAIL.  When Gygax and Arneson discussed the creation of the OD&D rules, they agreed that it should be tied to CHAINMAIL, a game that many of their wargamer friends played.  This is referenced throughout the 3lbb’s such as in the statement “…functions are generally as indicated in CHAINMAIL where not contradictory to the information stated hereinafter…” Monsters and Treasures:5
Just about all the monsters in the CHAINMAIL fantasy supplement were ported into D&D, along with the movement stats for most of them.  For example,

critter
Chainmail Movement
OD&D Movement



Dwarf
6”
6”
Elf
12”
12”
Ent
6”
6”
Giant
12”
12”
Ogre
9”
9“
Orc
9”
9”


There were a couple tweaks (trolls were made a little faster) but for the most part, there you have it.
So, to know what 12” means, you simply convert to the scale:
“…the ground scale is 1":10 yards, and one turn of play is roughly equivalent to one minute of time in battle.” CM:8

Okay, an elf moves 120 yards in one minute, as do Longbowmen and swiss pikemen.  Orcs, Heavy Foot, and Turkish Bowmen move 90 yards a minute.

Real life average walking speed per minute is about 270 feet/90 yards (9”), but varies with age and gender, of course, so that a healthy, unencumbered man walking at a normal pace will cover about 120 yards (12”) in a minute.
CHAINMAIL’S rates are pretty realistic, and so by extension are D&D’s.
Except….
It seems that the majority of D&D players in the early 1970’s never owned CHAINMAIL or made much attempt to incorporate “not contradictory” information.
The 3lbb’s tell us that 1” equals 10 yards as in CHAINMAIL, but only outdoors.  In dungeons and so forth we switch to 1” equals 10 feet.  Okay so far…
Movement on the other hand has a special new rule:

“Movement (distances given in Vol. 1) is in segments of approximately ten minutes.  Thus it takes ten minutes to move about two moves — 120 feet for a fully armored character. Two moves constitute a turn, except in flight/pursuit situations where the moves/turn will be doubled (and no mapping allowed).
Time must be taken to rest, so one turn every hour must be spent motionless, and double the rest period must be taken after a flight/pursuit takes place.” Underworld and Wilderness Adventures:8
The introduction of this 10 minute turn, seemingly to require characters to rest once an hour, brought in a number of side issue and convinced many a D&D player that those 10 combat rounds must be a minute long each, since there was nothing to tell them otherwise and no indication of how long a combat round should be.
This new length of a Turn would be no big deal, except, nothing else in the game was set up with a ten minute turn in mind.  Problems arise.  For example none of the spell durations were changed.  Suddenly a one use detection spell lasting at most 6 minutes, now lasts for an hour.   A lot more could be said about this, but that’s not the horse I want to beat at the moment.

The problem of more relevance here is what happens to movement.  I’ve been forced to think through this stuff lately because I’ve been converting monsters from various eras to use in my OD&D games.  All of D&D from Holmes to the 1991 Blackbox, uses  a feet per 10 minute turn movement rate.  From the quote from UW&A, we see that a character in OD&D is supposed to move their movement rate in a 5 minute Move (1/2 ten minute Turn).   A fully armored character has a rate of 6” so that’s doubled to 12” in a 10 minute turn or as UW&A puts it "120 feet " underground.   Okay, this doubling of movement rate is only specified for character movement, but it’s as likely as not that the same rule would apply to all monsters and NPC’s as well.
Therefore:
To convert D&D rates to OD&D movement rates should be a matter of cutting the D&D rates in two and droping the zero.  120’ ought to directly port to 6” in OD&D and vice versa. 
AD&D is fairly straightforward; AD&D also uses the ten minute time interval and so its rates probably ought to be doubled too.
As it happens, it don’t work this way.


critter
OD&D Movement
D&D Movement
AD&D Movement




Dwarf
6”
60’
6”
Elf
12”
120’
12”
Ent
6”
60’
12”
Giant
12”
120’
12”
Ogre
9”
90’
9“
Orc
9”
120’
9”


So you can see there’s been a little bit of fiddling, but the only rate doubled is the Ent, and that only in D&D.
I take this to mean the “5 minute move” rule in OD&D conveniently applied only to characters (or else everybody just forgot it.)
I also take this to mean that to convert D&D movement back to CHAINMAIL rates the most that ever has to be done is drop a zero…. 
It’s been a perennial complaint that D&D time and movement rates are flawed, but it turns out they are dead easy to restore if you want to.  Probably the simplest is to ditch the snail pace ten minute turn and consider all turns to be 1 minute long.
For whatever reasons, Gygax liked the ponderous movement rates and coded them into his AD&D.  That’s history, but knowing what the intended movement rates were when they were first penned down provides the opportunity to put some verisimilitude back in the game.

9 comments:

  1. Movement rates have always bugged me and I have always wanted to have an intuitive understanding of them. I've no doubt this post will help me to do that thanks Dan, but at the moment it made my brain hurt, so I'll have to come back to it a bit later. Perhaps I'll finally see the light. :-)

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  2. Hi.

    "convinced many a D&D player that those 10 combat rounds must be a minute long each"

    I'm lost -- what combat rounds are you referring to when you say 'those' combat rounds?

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    1. Sorry about that C. It was really part of a related discussion on the intended legth of a combat round in original D&D. Prolly shouldn't have mentioned it. My opinion is basically that it is equally valid to read the rules as either 6 second or one minute rounds. That discussion is here http://odd74.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=adventures&action=display&thread=6497&page=1

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    2. Don't be sorry, I've been trying to work this out forever.

      Thank you very much for the link to the discussion.

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  3. Great post, Dan & I agree on everything. I've noted elsewhere (which you've seen) that Holmes used the double move dungeon exploration rate (i.e., 120 feet/10 min turn) for PC characters, but not for monsters. Which results in Horses that move the same rate as an unarmored man. So in Holmes monster movement really needs to be doubled.

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  4. I assumed the 10 minute turn in the dungeon was because you were mapping, creeping along, checking for traps by prodding the ground, and because it was dark. When a fight starts it's more important to move at full speed and also the monsters are walking all over the ground anyway so you can bet it's not trapped just up ahead.

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    Replies
    1. So it is. The rate as given however is incredibly slow, and excludes the possibility that characters often aren't that cautious.

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    2. I keep thinking that something "nice" should "balance out" those slow movement rates. It would be helpful, for example, if the DM would automatically roll for things like finding secret doors or traps, without players having to ask for those things. They could still miss them of course (failed check), and they could still ask again later to search a certain area again explicitly. I just find it frustrating to be forced to move slowly and hence incur more random encounter checks for no real benefit whatsoever. (And for some reason the answer "But we allow you to draw a map!" doesn't quite cut it for me.) Yes yes, it's "old school" to require player skill in knowing, for example, where to search for a secret door. But if you're going to insist that I ask explicitly to get a chance then please don't force my character to slowly to crawl around on knees and elbows anymore...

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    3. Yeah, Actually it was apparently a pretty common interpretation in the early seventies for elves to have a kind of "radar" for secret doors, getting a detection roll automatically. Same for thieves and traps, dwarves and slopes, etc.

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