Dungeons & Dragons has come a hell of a long way, except in one very precise area: units of measurement.
The latest 5th Edition, and revisions to it over the years, has modernised and streamlined all sorts of things. It’s brand of approachable table-top design isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it has established a precedent: if Wizards thinks it makes sense for the greater good, then anything — skills, prior characterisations, lore, popular crossovers — is up for grabs.
Except, apparently, the metric system.
Fans have been calling on Wizards to toss out the imperial system for years, and with good reason. The vast majority of the world, unlike the United States, doesn’t use the imperial system. So while it made sense that D&D was originally based on imperial units, there’s tens of millions of players worldwide who have enough math to do already when it comes to a session of D&D.
There’s lots of ways the confusion about imperial vs. metric pans out in a real-life scenario, but I quite liked this quip from one person who was petitioning Wizards to have a metric conversion button in D&D Beyond:
DM: About 1000 feet away from you on the hill stands a lone tower with lights coming out from it.
Player 1 *Thoughts*: 200 squares away! Got it!
Player 2 *Thoughts*: 1000 feet = 1000 m (3280ft) so the tower is very far away
Player 3 *Thoughts*: Who cares how long away it is! CHARGE! COMBAT WOO!
So naturally, there’s a petition to give the imperial system the boot once and for all.
“Only three countries in the world (officially) still use the Imperial System and it continues to be a sore spot for the education and enjoyment of anyone outside of the US,” the petition reads.
Benefits for ditching imperial measurements include making life easier for character creation worldwide, standardising movement and combat calculations for spells, making the 100 grams to 1 kilogram conversion simpler for various items and making it easier for newer, especially younger players, to quickly learn the game.
It’s worth noting that a lot of DMs generally homebrew this stuff anyway, especially with those new to tabletop. If a player isn’t sure whether a spell is liable to hit, they’ll ask the DM and the DM can generally make a call on the fly. That’s fundamentally fine and it works for most people, but it’s also putting the onus on players and DMs/GMs. It’s really something that Wizards of the Coast should just sort out from the off, especially since the whole point of Dungeons & Dragons: 5th Edition is to make the tabletop game more accessible for more players.
“94.7 percent of the world uses the metric system by population, with only USA, Myanmar and Liberia using Imperial,” the petition notes.
Wizards has already converted non-English language editions of the 5th Edition handbook into metric, so it’s not like the company has some kind of philosophical or even in-game explanation for the stubbornness. They could even go the full corporate route to appease Hasbro: re-releasing the existing English handbooks with all the measurements updated to metric. A collector’s edition, perhaps?
This story was originally published on Kotaku Australia.