Thursday, May 18, 2017

What 1000 Feet Away Looks Like

If you write tabletop RPG stuff, you're used to using resources totally not designed for you. This is because if you write tabletop RPG stuff, almost no resources are designed for you.

Here's one: RPGs are full of ranges--Silence 15' radius, the Ruger is accurate up to 1000' yards...ever wonder what various ranges actually look like?

Somebody was writing an article about how big don't-sell-drugs-to-school-children zones should be-(a subject upon wish I have no opinion I which to discuss with game bloggers), but they did provide a useful illustration of some ranges:

So using this I figured out the Drowned Woman Ghost can stray no further than 500' from the body of water where she committed suicide.

And now, a word from our sponsor:
Donate to the Demon City project here.  If you don't know what that means, go here.


  1. Yeah, distances are abstract. Luckily (?) I pace out a lot distances for my job, I even used to do some orienteering (as a fucking boy scout)(then in the nerd events at logging sports competitions). It wouldn't be a bad exercise/experiment for a game writer to do some map and compass navigation, it's not easy stuff and I think it would be informative for wilderness travel writing.

  2. Nice pics! Reminds me of the Archery research Delta (from Delta's D&D hotspot) have made.

  3. Is the thinking with the drowned ghost woman that that's the furthest she could stray and still be visibly scary to PCs wandering around? Because I look at those pictures and I'm thinking - man at 250 that's scary as fuck.

  4. When playing the WH40k games, I would giggle at how ludicrous the distances were for guns, how slow a person could run in a turn, and - the worst part - how pathetic the throwing range for a grenade was.

    I think range, distance, and how fast the average person runs the 40 yd dash are realms of knowledge that most RPG nerds are deficient in.

    1. I think a lot of that can be explained if you remember all of those ranges in 40k are about being accurate in bursts of 6 seconds while wearing armor and listening to plasma weapons going off and hellwarps opening everywhere.

      Like sitting at a firing range is a much different thing.

    2. games without a ground scale are boardgames...

      What 1000 Feet Away Looks Like?
      500 Egyptians.

    3. Remember that 40K is meant to be played on tables in people's homes. Games Workshop also wants to use minis that are very large by wargaming standards because that is what they sell, and they look cool on the table. When you combine those two facts, you need to have artificially small weapon and movement ranges. Otherwise everyone could across the table in no time, and everyone would be in each other's weapon ranges all the time.

    4. For 40K even the humble bolter should have a range of 1.5km which is off your game table and down the road.

    5. Just worked it out, about 60 meters in converted scale for those of you who have a game table the size of an Olympic sized swimming pool.

    6. OP here - those are all true points about the table top game; but that breaks down when you port it over to the RPG line, which is what I was referring to (should've been more specific!).

      I think Zak has an excellent point about combat situations versus range time, so I would be curious to see some data about those differences in the U.S. military.

    7. In the fiction of wh40k they do try to give a reason for the silly ranges of weapons. (They prob realized how silly it was and thought of a reason).

      The space marines are designed to fight up close, as else their transhuman genetic engineering is of no special advantage. The space marines are shock troops, teleporting in, dropping with drop pods, doing blitzkrieg like attacks etc.

      Of course, the fiction being fiction, this explanation immediately was forgotten the next book, where the space marines were back doing long range support. With bolters back to being used as sniper rifles.

      Sadly that is the biggest theme of the warhammer fiction. 'forget the story you just read, and most it made part of the story, we now do it all differently again.' (See phospex for example, in one book, super evil death weapon that only one chaos space marine faction really uses. Next book, the good guys go all Oprah with Phospex, everybody gets some!).

      But for some reason ranges always seem hard in games, in rpgs you often see strange ranges/movement speeds (like in shadowrun where some random game mechanics made you move faster than a speeding car, with no ill effects), and same in a lot of computer games as well.

      One thing I really wanted to comment, 1000 yards has way different implications depending on the setting, in the USA things being 1000 yards apart is normal. In the Netherlands, a lot of stuff will be inside 1000 yards due to the high population density.

    8. That Shadowrun example is the point I was getting at - either through ignorance or wonky mechanics, regular people end up being superhuman or pathetic weaklings in comparison to real life.

      I wonder what the root cause is? Do the developers arbitrarily pick numbers for balance, or is it because they don't know or care how fast a normal person can run?

    9. Think combination of arbitrary numbers (just like politics does in the drug example above) and then playing with these numbers. Saying '10m/s is the baseline' and then your system gives the players abilities without ever going back to the baseline to compare how silly it is.

      So then you run into a street sammy on wired reflexes with a magic boost being able to move 100 meters in under a second.

      Of course Shadowrun is completely silly anyway. The edition I used to run had an assault cannon (A cross between a battle tanks main gun and an anti material rifle) in the base weapon list.

      One of my players (we all were young) picking that as his starting gun caused so much issues for me as the game master. (Esp as I don't think you should go 'fuck you, i'm taking your toys away' while players are still having fun). One of those many examples where the maximum was simply way to high, and the creators of the system watched WAY to much robocop.

      And while the numbers were high, at least people had a lot of fun.

      So I guess that might be it, adjusting the values to high, and keeping it in because fun > realism.

    10. Annddd while searching for shadowrun assault cannons to see what they changed I came across this quote:

      "rovided yields for these weapons can go from 42 exajoules (about 5.297 times more powerful than most powerful earthquake ever recorded; a 42 exajoule earthquake would be approximately magnitude 9.98) right down to the measly 50 tetrajoules...*sigh* Games Workshop never fails to surprise us. Seriously believe us, we know that tetrajoules isn't an official unit of measurement, but since tetra is Latin for four this essentially gives us....4 joules of power....which is weaker then a human punch and a flashlight.... Don't believe us? We got that from Rogue Trader rpg: BattleFleet Koronus pg. 31 & 20"

      'A tetra joule' being four joules, so seems more likely that game developers simply don't know what words mean.

  5. Fascinating post. Very illuminating.

  6. I was thinking about this issue last night when discussing the (in my opinion) absurdly short ranges for some throwing weapons in 1e AD&D. Indoors, you can only throw a dagger ten feet, without penalty.

    One helpful example, which for some reason I had never thought of before, is the distance from the pitcher's mound to home plate in baseball. It's sixty feet. If you're a batter facing a fastball pitcher, that seems too close. By the same token, a decent pitcher can almost always throw strikes if he wants to (that he doesn't is because he's trying to outfox the batter). But that's twice the longest indoor range and still a penalty outdoor range in AD&D.

  7. Seems legit but remember your eyes work much better looking at real things in the real world than small photos at 150 dpi - reality is not that granular. But, having said that, that gives me an idea for a granular monster.

  8. I made tomb of horrors in minecraft to scale and I must say, those illustrations provided with the adventure were mostly wrong.

  9. I like it how playing RPGs makes you consider things in a way you would never have needed considering. This research you did here will be very helpful. For example, just the other day, at the start of the session, one of the players complained why they had to roll six rowing rolls to get to a small island, if the previous session the nure-onna on the island had talked to them. He figured they were at talking distance, so six rowing rolls seemed way too much to him. Oh, if I had had read this post of yours first! xD