Some intriguing ideas, Iain! I think in a fantasy world the differences between systems of measurement would be even more exaggerated. For instance, a hobbit mile would be less than a human mile which would be less than a giants' mile. Also, some creatures, like trolls, have difficulty counting because they're so thick, so their system of measurement might be less easy to follow...
Hathalfar holds the writhing troll down with his gloved fist and sword. The beast squirms at the touch of metal. "How far is Kolm?" he demands for the third time. "I said! A long way away," replies the troll.
Despite their inability to quantify distance, trolls are nevertheless very good at judging it. Their small minds cannot cope with the metaphor of describing lengths with numbers. They simply have a good intuitive grasp.
# "Near" corresponds to ~ 20m
# "Not far" corresponds to ~ 1km
# "A fair way" corresponds to ~ 5km
# "Quite far" corresponds to ~ 10km
# "A good walk" corresponds to ~ 30km
# "A long way away" corresponds to ~ 100km
# "As far as the eye can see" varies with visibility
So a city that's about 150km away would be described as being "A long way away and then a good walk after that" which isn't too useful till you know how trolls think about distance... Go to Comment
Exotic races could be made a bit more exotic by simply thinking in a different numeric system - how about binary for the math fans?
But let's take octal, for instance, which can be so easily confused with decimal. Especially spider creatures or spider-worshipping cultures are likely to use octal, though others can be imagined, too.
(Remember: 10 octal ~ 8 decimal; 100 octal ~ 64 decimal; 1000 ~ 512 etc. Now see how those old maps and markings lie to you...) Go to Comment
A real life tidbit: In the area where I live, we actually measure distance by how long it will take to get there. I have said to people asking for directions: "Yeah, that's about thirty minutes going that way." Go to Comment
1) Most measures are based upon a human body. In a poly-species environment, there might be Elven Feet, Dwarven Feet, and Human Feet.
2) Beer and to a lesser extent Wine and Spirits are very important. There are more measurement systems for these, that are seperate or parallel with the standard ones, than anything else.
3) Standards endure: Once someone sets a standard and it is enforced for a while by tradition or necessity, it sticks. The English measurement systems are proof of this. The reason the space shuttle is the width it is, is because of the stadard width of a Roman chariot (it determined the width of roads and the average length of a cart axel (ruts in road), which determined the width of mining cars, which determined the width of railroads ties and rail size, which determined the load length of launch pads.... )
4) Any field of study or area of endevor will have its own special measurements, both formal and informal. These will either be flippent, based upon where they came from, or the name of the person who created them. If you don't have the appropriate skills, you should have no clue as to what you have bought. Folio is a good example of this.
5) If magic is studied in groups, there should be units like the Gandalf (unit of pyrotechnic width), Flambeu (measure of magical fire), Nortons (measure of illusionary quality), etc. these names will come from historic practioners OR the guy who came up with them. This way "effects" can be measures; so contests, bets, and the occasional measure of progress can be resolved.
6) Some scholar will come up with an "odd unit" to quantify what ever they are studying. Of course others might use the unit, no matter how stupid it is, just for the sake of argument/ discussion. Go to Comment
Remember too, that the very thing you're measuring might be called something wierd, particularly when you're talking about things that are outside of what the traditional boundary of normal sciences.
In modern particle physics, we talk about things such as the 'color', 'charm' and 'strangeness' of a particle. A magician may talk about the '415 Gandalfs of pyros' a spell gives off when referring specifically to the visible light a it generates, while it may be powered by '712 Kreskins of psios'.. And remember, this usually all gets abbreviated. And possibly metricced. So, what happens when your adventurers get into the mighty wizard's lab? Five thousand pages of equations and furiously scribbled notes like: '17 kK insuf contmt. Need H2O, 17 c, STAT, else 1000 mHB!'
Yes. Laboratory notebooks really do look like that. It irks the lawyers to no end. Go to Comment
That's a great point Ephe! I hadn't even considered non-human-sized races having systems of measurement. Remind me never to ask for directions from a troll. I guess flying races (dragons, gryphons, etc.) could have even more different measurements - they could just be a lot longer, or maybe they count the distance between a mountain-top as 1 unit, no matter how far that is (or something like that). Go to Comment
I think even in a big country where they basically use the same metric system, you can play around with it.
In medieval days when Europe wasn't so "organised", every single guy that thought he meant something, would have coins made with his face on it. Not only that, since there were no approved central weights yet, a pound or a gold bar would weigh more or less depending on where you were and which weights they used. So things can get quite interesting just shopping on the market.
Not only that but some rivals might not allow eachother's coins in their area.
Also think of all the merchants that try to take advantage of the chaos and make much lighter or heavier weights. Go to Comment
Along those lines, the arcane population could have its own system, and what about the different guilds? In my world the magic users often are the ones with the octal system, and I have one of the major multi-national religoins us a base 12 system (N.B. Most of this only aplies to the OLD maps and the like...but only a few of the oldest people in a the guild/temple/school know that.) Go to Comment
Same thing as Ria. I measure major distances by time traveled, not by actual units of distance. After all, that's honestly what matters to me when making a trip: how long will it take? I'm quite sure it'll be the same way in most fantasy realms. Go to Comment
I like this idea, particularly the culture shock section. But DMing can already be so surreal and the idea that "Furdoor" pint, would be ten times the size of a "Doorfur" pint would make for classic in game gags. Particularly when the PCs get the bill. I also like the suggestion about using the riddles. A Nicely developed take on this, Go to Comment
Thanks for the compliment - though if you like this style, you should check out some of Captain Penguin's work, of which this is but a pale imitation. To answer the question: yes, I did make all of this myself, if you mean the intro and the puzzle itself. I did steal a couple of quotes:
"Beware the boar, beware the swan/The salt sea bore her body on" is from the Fionavar Tapestry.
"East is east and west is west and ne'er the twain shall meet" is from a poem by Kipling.
"Climb every mountain/Ford every stream/Follow every rainbow/Till you find your dream" is from The Sound of Music.
"To long they delved, and too deeply, till they awoke what lay sleeping beneath its roots" is a paraphrase of a comment made in Lord of the Rings.
The rest I either made up or else are just general sayings (e.g. "Silence is Golden"). Go to Comment