Units Of Measurement
rating: 0+x

"Here, laddie," the dwarf says handing you a small cup, "Have a noggin of ale!"

Basic Information

Here is a list of some units of measurement and their equivalents in the US and Metric Systems.

Pennyweight: 1/20 ounce (1.555 g)
Dram: 60 grains (3.888 g)
Clove: 8 lbs. (3.628 kg)
Stone: 14 lbs. (6.35 kg) — human weight is sometimes given in stone.
Fardel: 32 lbs. — "Who would fardels bear?"
Slug1: 32.1740 lb (14.59390 kg)
Talent (Attic): ~26 kg (57 lb)
Talent (Roman): ~32.3 kg (71 lb),
Talent (Babylonian)2: 30.3 kilograms (67 lb).
Talent (Heavy Common)3:58.9 kilograms (130 lb)
Firkin: 25 kg/56 lbs (also 9 gallons/41 L of volume)
Hundredweight: 112 lbs. (50.802 kg)

Linear Measurement
Barleycorn: 1/3 inch (0.8 cm) — an inch was at one time defined as the length of three grains of barley
Palm: 3 inches (7.62 cm)
Hand: 4 inches (10.16 cm) —the width of a hand; frequently used in measuring the height of horses.
Span: 9 inches (22.86 cm) — the width of a stretched out hand from pinky to thumb.
Cubit: about 18 inches (about 0.5 m) — the distance between the elbow and the tip of the finger; a common unit of measurement in the Bible
Ell: 45 inches (1.143 m) —Medieval unit used for measuring cloth
Fathom: 6 feet (1.8288 m) — Nautical measure of depth; the length of a man's outstretched arms.
Rod: 16.5 feet (5.029 m) — Surveying measure
Chain: 66 feet (20.12 m) — 4 rods. Surveying measure
Furlong: 660 feet (201.168 m) — 10 chains. Surveying measure
Cable (Imperial): 608 feet (185.318 m) — Nautical measure (there are different definitions of a cable: International cable is slightly shorter and US cable is considerably longer)
Li: 1640 feet (500 m)
League: 3 miles (4.828 km)
Guntha: 121 sq. yard/101.17 square m
Hide: 120 acres/12100 square m

Noggin: 1/4 pint
Pin: 4 gallons/15 L
Bushel: 8 gallons/72 L
Firkin: 8 gallons/30 L
Kilderkin: 16 gallons/59 L
Rundlet: 18 gallons/68 L
Barrel: 32 gallons/118 L
Tierce: 42 gallons/159 L
Hogshead: 63 gallons/238 L — 2 barrels
Puncheon: 84 gallons/318 L
Butt, Pipe: 126 gallons/477 L —2 hogsheads
Tun: 252 gallons/954 L — 4 hogsheads

Fortnight: 14 days
Sothic cycle: ~1460 years

Erg: 1 x 10-7 joules
Calorie: 4.1868 joules
Foot-pound: ~1.355 joules
British thermal unit: ~1055 joules
Dietary calorie: 4184 J
Kilowatt-hour: 3.6×106 joules
Ton TNT: 4.184 gigajoules


Game and Story Use

  • Using setting-appropriate units of measurement to describe things can help give flavor to a setting.
    • Just be sure to also give a more familiar conversion, so that the players know what you're talking about.
      • For example: The giant stands over six cubits high, at least nine feet tall.
      • The submarine surfaces a cable length from your ship; about 180 meters
      • The dwarf has a beard three ells long, and it trails over ten feet behind him.
  • Plenty of fun to be had dealing with different measuring systems.
    • One country's talents are a different size than another's, and both accuse the other of being cheats.
    • One scientist thinks in miles per hour, while another thinks in meters per second. When one gives a number without units, the other hears a completely different number close enough to not be obviously wrong. (Spacecraft have been lost this way.)
    • Chaos erupts as a country standardizes its measures, or adopts a neighbor's system. While it might make industry and commerce easier in the long run, right now everyone's just confused.
    • Similar confusion might happen where the same name is given to units of different dimensions. "Is a koku of beer volume, energy, or money?" (traditionally it's the amount of rice required to feed one person for a year … which is itself open to debate but is currently considered to be 180L).
  • When there's a new phenomenon, feel free to invent your own units to describe it. "The merlin is defined as the theoretical minimum amount of mana necessary to power an illumination spell at one candela…"
  • Annoyingly some of these measurements may be a little … unstable … in the pre-modern era. A hide, for example was originally enough land to support one peasant (and his dependents) and the actual size could depend on the quality of the land and in some cultures measures of length could be based on the size of the current ruler rather than a fixed measure.

Units conversion site : Unit Converter

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License