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Calliea
10-03-2014, 07:25 PM
A rather quick and straightforward question: what do you prefer to see in your fantasy when it comes to measurements? Kilometers or miles, meters or feet, kilograms or pounds (or what have you)?

I don't know why but for some reason those imperial names sound more fitting for the fantasy, but at the same time it's quite foreign to most average readers in countries that don't use it. What do you think?

alleycat
10-03-2014, 07:33 PM
You could probably get around choosing in most cases.

Instead of a three-mile hike, a one-hour trek.

Instead of an ogre who weighed 400 pounds, an ogre the size of a mountain gorilla.

Just a thought.

Forbidden Snowflake
10-03-2014, 07:36 PM
Since in every day life I am using the metric system and I'm very familiar with it, I find the imperial names more fitting for fantasy. Not familiar ... therefore great for fantasy :D

Which obviously then doesn't work the other way around...

Calliea
10-03-2014, 08:08 PM
You could probably get around choosing in most cases.

Instead of a three-mile hike, a one-hour trek.

Instead of an ogre who weighed 400 pounds, an ogre the size of a mountain gorilla.

Just a thought.

I write fantasy that's closer to 19-20th century and edges on sci-fi-arounds later, they got to be more precise than that :)

But either way I'm asking more out of curiosity than need - if I really had an issue with this, I think I could just find a way not to mention measurements at all. But I'm sure there are novels that cannot cheese their way out of this :P

veinglory
10-03-2014, 08:12 PM
I don't know why but for some reason those imperial names sound more fitting for the fantasy, but at the same time it's quite foreign to most average readers in countries that don't use it. What do you think?

In a pre-industrial world the unit must be something an person can check for themselves--not some abstract standard.

Thus a foot was the size of a foot. A furlong was an amount you could plow with a horse in a certain time etc. It was less accurate but the average person was able to use it based on what they had to hand.

If your world can have standards kept under a glass dome with an agency selling official scales and measures then you can call them Pfinkles and blurps or whatever makes sense for you world. It might make more sense than something with etymology that does not connect to your history.

alleycat
10-03-2014, 08:23 PM
But either way I'm asking more out of curiosity than need - if I really had an issue with this, I think I could just find a way not to mention measurements at all. But I'm sure there are novels that cannot cheese their way out of this :P

If I just had to choose, for a book to be published in the US I would probably use Imperial for now.

However, I think most people in the US under a certain age are familiar enough with metric that it wouldn't really be a problem if metric was used. Metric is used for many things even in the US (I was getting reports yesterday about someone having a baby and, of course, the cervical dilation was given in centimeters). Most people who have taken a college class or two in the sciences are fully exposed to the metric system.

benbradley
10-03-2014, 08:24 PM
If the dominant sentient species has four fingers on one hand and three fingers on the other, they'd likely use base seven.

The same prefixes could be used if an arm is the length of an average arm, then a kiloarm would be 7*7*7 the length of an arm, or 343 arms.

rwm4768
10-03-2014, 08:27 PM
I don't use metric measurements in my fantasy. I associate them with scientific stuff, and they feel very out of place.

I don't think you have to completely abandon all measurements like feet, though. In my fantasy, I'll use feet and inches, as well as seconds, minutes, and hours. Essentially, you're writing your secondary world fantasy in translation. Why not use measurements the reader is familiar with?

fdesrochers
10-03-2014, 08:40 PM
+1 to rwm4768's points. I actually tried to go metric in my fantasy ms but it seemed grossly out of place. In science fiction I convert to metric - I'm just biased like that.

SamCoulson
10-03-2014, 08:45 PM
I think method of measurement (be it something archaic, like hand-spans, or something formal, like feet/meters) Should first and foremost be a reflection on the technological and political maturity of the society.

Young/low tech societies will have less mature systems. So, assuming you are moving ahead and there is enough techno/social structure that there will be a standardized set of weights and measures, that moves us up to the Metric/Imperial faceoff.

But really, both are just new plot-points on the continuum. Metric is more symmetrical. Every unit feeds into it's component parts with a neat base-10 system. Therefore, for me, Metric is more mature and more scientific.

As a reader, I will quietly make assumptions based upon the unit of measure. If I see Imperial, I will think industrial-level technology, and assume that there is a degree of separation between the scientific/academic world and the ruling class and make other related assumptions from there.

Meanwhile, if I see Metric, I may associate it with more scientific--but colder and more calculating societies.

But then those are just my impressions. Every reader will be different.

Lillith1991
10-03-2014, 08:49 PM
I don't use metric measurements in my fantasy. I associate them with scientific stuff, and they feel very out of place.

I don't think you have to completely abandon all measurements like feet, though. In my fantasy, I'll use feet and inches, as well as seconds, minutes, and hours. Essentially, you're writing your secondary world fantasy in translation. Why not use measurements the reader is familiar with?

Uh, and what about if you're writing a contemporary fantasy set in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East? Or even in Africa? Not everything is secondary world after all. Sure it is good for a secondary world depending on the type of world being portrayed. There's nothing that says all secondary worlds have to be Dark Age level technology though. Your could do the same thing in a modern society, which would probably use a combination imperial and metric just like we do.

CrastersBabies
10-03-2014, 08:58 PM
I've seen both in fantasy novels. GRRM uses imperial measurements.

I really (really X1000) struggle with most fabricated terms unless they are truly easy to understand and conceptualize. And I don't see a lot of fabricated terms in published books.

For me, unless there's a needed story element as to why you must use a fancy, created system of words to signify measurement (i.e. you're telling a story about a man who creates a new metric system), then these things should be peripheral and not the focus of any story. Do what makes sense and that isn't going to make most of your readers scratch their heads.

(You'll always have a few who don't like anything you decide.)

Hapax Legomenon
10-03-2014, 09:17 PM
I've always found the words for length and volume measurements in the metric system remarkably unpoetic. "Ampere" and "lumen" are pretty cool, though.

However unless there's a reason to go one way or the other, what was said before was right, that ultimately whenever you're writing a fantasy story that is not based in your audience's setting, you are translating. If you have a secondary world character saying "meters," they probably aren't actually meaning meters, etc. So you should go with whatever your audience is going to be familiar with.

Little Anonymous Me
10-03-2014, 09:58 PM
Metric jars me a little bit, simply because it is rather new and I read and write things that are behind that in terms of tech. It's not something that makes my eyebrows fly off my face, and after a few pages I'm used to it, but I more expect feet and ells and yes, miles (thanks, Rome) when I'm in ye olden times.

franky_s
10-04-2014, 01:43 AM
I'm from a metric-only country and I prefer imperial in fantasy. It sets the right mood.
If I saw metric in a fantasy novel I would expect there to be some kind of sci-fi or dystopian reason for it.

Lillith1991
10-04-2014, 02:05 AM
I'm from a metric-only country and I prefer imperial in fantasy. It sets the right mood.
If I saw metric in a fantasy novel I would expect there to be some kind of sci-fi or dystopian reason for it.

May I ask why? If it was an UF taking place in Sydney, surely metric would be the way to go. Same for a secondary world based around modern AUS in my opinion. It would help with ultra modern feel some people associate with it, and play off the fantasy element very well.

franky_s
10-04-2014, 02:36 AM
May I ask why? If it was an UF taking place in Sydney, surely metric would be the way to go. Same for a secondary world based around modern AUS in my opinion. It would help with ultra modern feel some people associate with it, and play off the fantasy element very well.

Ugh, sorry. For some reason I hear fantasy and my brain defaults to epic fantasy. Which is weird because I do read different subgenres. Is that genre-ist?

You're absolutely right. And in the secondary world scenario I think you could go either way and keep the realism.

benbenberi
10-04-2014, 02:40 AM
Depends on your world-building. Measurement systems don't spring out of nowhere, they relate to the culture and history of the people who use them.

Most traditional measurement systems (inc. the "Imperial" one) relate to the physical world in some non-abstract way. A foot = the size of a man's foot. An acre = the amount of land that a man can plough in a day. Etc. Obviously everybody's foot is a different size, so standardization emerged, but typically on a very local level. More widespread standards were often linked to political power, or occasionally cultural hegemony. England, for instance, acquired national standards of measures as a result of the Magna Carta, as an expression of royal authority & national unity. France, meanwhile, had several hundred local variations of measurement right up to the Revolution, but for purposes of trade & taxation beyond the very local level the units of Paris were generally employed. All of these local variations, btw, were often called the same thing, so it wasn't enough to say so many pounds or so many inches, you had to know whose pounds or inches they were. A man who was 5' 1" in Paris was 5'8" in London.

The metric system also has a history. It was devised in the French revolution as part of the sweeping scheme to (1) purge France of the historical detritus of its feudal past and (2) unite the new nation with a whole new set of shiny new standards. Metric was unrelated to what had gone before, which was Good, and it was rational and scaleable, which was even Better. (They tried to rationalize time & the calendar, but that change didn't take. People have a much more intimate relationship with those.)

The metric system spread across Europe with the French revolutionary armies. After the tide of revolution passed, the metric system remained because it was still rational, scaleable, and useful -- it was adopted across Europe in the 19c. The British (being emphatically Not French) kept their own old thing, & so did the Empire. The Americans, being ornery, kept their version of the old thing which was not quite the same as the British: again, partly from habit, and partly a political statement. Scientists everywhere, being rational, tended to go metric everywhere.

So what works in fantasy? Depends on your setting. Depends on the type of culture your story takes place in. There's no universal Right Answer.

Liosse de Velishaf
10-04-2014, 04:38 AM
Depends on your world-building. Measurement systems don't spring out of nowhere, they relate to the culture and history of the people who use them.

Most traditional measurement systems (inc. the "Imperial" one) relate to the physical world in some non-abstract way. A foot = the size of a man's foot. An acre = the amount of land that a man can plough in a day. Etc. Obviously everybody's foot is a different size, so standardization emerged, but typically on a very local level. More widespread standards were often linked to political power, or occasionally cultural hegemony. England, for instance, acquired national standards of measures as a result of the Magna Carta, as an expression of royal authority & national unity. France, meanwhile, had several hundred local variations of measurement right up to the Revolution, but for purposes of trade & taxation beyond the very local level the units of Paris were generally employed. All of these local variations, btw, were often called the same thing, so it wasn't enough to say so many pounds or so many inches, you had to know whose pounds or inches they were. A man who was 5' 1" in Paris was 5'8" in London.

The metric system also has a history. It was devised in the French revolution as part of the sweeping scheme to (1) purge France of the historical detritus of its feudal past and (2) unite the new nation with a whole new set of shiny new standards. Metric was unrelated to what had gone before, which was Good, and it was rational and scaleable, which was even Better. (They tried to rationalize time & the calendar, but that change didn't take. People have a much more intimate relationship with those.)

The metric system spread across Europe with the French revolutionary armies. After the tide of revolution passed, the metric system remained because it was still rational, scaleable, and useful -- it was adopted across Europe in the 19c. The British (being emphatically Not French) kept their own old thing, & so did the Empire. The Americans, being ornery, kept their version of the old thing which was not quite the same as the British: again, partly from habit, and partly a political statement. Scientists everywhere, being rational, tended to go metric everywhere.

So what works in fantasy? Depends on your setting. Depends on the type of culture your story takes place in. There's no universal Right Answer.


I'd love to see a book deal with the history of the measurement system--or something similar(while still having a cool story, of course).



I sort of agree with the others that Imperial works better for fantasy, even though I know there's no rational reason you couldn't use metric measurement.

John Ayliff
10-04-2014, 05:07 AM
If you're trying to evoke a particular historical period (e.g. the middle ages for the 'standard' fantasy setting) you could research the units that would be around then.

As benbenberi pointed out, Imperial and metric both have historical roots in the real world, and so are both equally out of place in a fantasy secondary world. If you use either one, then presumably the characters are "really" using their own system which the author is translating into metric or imperial, just as they're "really" talking their own language which the author is translating into English. (At least that's how I read fantasy.) Based on that, both are equally good.

That said, I was brought up using mostly metric in everyday life, so to me metric feels natural and Imperial feels slightly archaic. I'd have no problem with characters using metric if they were also speaking modern English. But, after reading this thread, if I were writing secondary-world fantasy where I needed to use exact measurements I'd think about using Imperial in order to meet reader expectations. It looks like some readers might find metric units in fantasy jarring in a way that I wouldn't. (What I actually tend to do is avoid the issue by saying things like "a day's journey.")



I'd love to see a book deal with the history of the measurement system--or something similar(while still having a cool story, of course).
This could be a cool way to add background detail. What if the people use a unit called the hand-span, but the unit is much larger than a human hand?

AJMarks
10-04-2014, 07:11 PM
It doesn't bother me if used in passing and I'm not bombarded by the measurements.

Filigree
10-04-2014, 09:48 PM
Measurements are tricky. One of the settings I've been working on has no direct linkage to either the Imperial or metric system (science fantasy, another universe, no humans, etc.) So I've cheated and kept Imperial for short measurements (feet, inches) but hedged on longer distances. The major culture uses a long-distance measure called a 'coil', which I stole from legends about Carthage: an animal hide cut into a super thin spiral.

Because the planet has a different day and year length, the calendar isn't familiar, either.

Another more-primitive culture thinks of distance in terms of how far a healthy adult can run in a day. They use a very thorough knowledge of the night sky and other environmental cues to determine times within seasons.

Worldbuilding, huh. It's not easy to work in without 1) info dumps or 2) being so subtle I confuse my readers.

Taran
10-04-2014, 10:53 PM
Cubits all the way.

tko
10-04-2014, 11:35 PM
Of course it depends on the fantasy. Assuming old style, high fantasy, I'd go with relative comparisons that are appropriate (the weight of a blacksmith's forge, the height of a tall man, as far as a bird could fly, an hours walk) or use old style English measurements. A good list is here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_units

For urban, modern fantasy, do what you want.

Roxxsmom
10-05-2014, 12:04 AM
I prefer a measurement system that fits the world and culture and is easy for most readers to interpret and understand. So I wouldn't likely use the metric system unless it's a more modern setting. I either use an old English system (inches, feet, miles etc., which have been in use, in one form or another, for a long time), or describe measurements in terms of days of travel and body parts or something: hands, finger lengths, three-day's ride away.

Inexact, but then, how often is it critical for the reader to know exactly how many miles away two cities are from each other? The importance is how long it takes the character to get there.

The one time I had some pause was when I was describing a character's subjective assessment of a non human being's size, because I don't want to break pov, but I also want the reader to know that this being is around seven feet tall and close to three hundred pounds. I considered using "hands," which in modern horse terms is four inches, but is also somewhat relatable to the real body part, but I was still at a loss for what my world's measure of weight would be, or with how "go to" or "in pov" something like estimating pounds would be in a pre industrial world where most people don't use scales to weigh things every day of their lives. I think the current version of the ms describes the being as a towering hunk of muscle and fur, or something like that. But I'm still unsure of where to go with this.

Once!
10-05-2014, 12:33 AM
Most of us in the UK struggle with at least a part of the metric system in real life. We have an official derogation from metrication for miles on the roads and pints of milk/ pints of beer.

If we haven't managed it yet in real life, I'd struggle with metrication in a fantasy set in the past.

Roxxsmom
10-05-2014, 02:24 AM
The US hasn't even switched officially yet, and from the struggles my biology lab students have with moving decimal places around and remembering that it's to the left when you're converting a smaller metric unit to a larger metric unit, and to the right when you're converting a larger one to a smaller one, we won't be any time soon :(

Pre industrial societies tend to have colloquial types of measures, often based on everyday things like how far a horse can walk in an hour, or the size of a given body part (no giggles from the peanut gallery), so ye olde English measures slot into that context more naturally, imo.

It did occur to me that an interesting unit of fluid volume in a fantasy world would be the amount of liquid a person typically urinates per day, which is about 1500 ml, on average (of course this varies greatly with fluid intake, exercise, temperature etc.). But who would actually measure that? Maybe those folks in the Roman empire who collected urine from public urinals in order to make it into ammonia for clothes cleaning?

(and ever since I read that factoid about Roman life, I've imagined all those senators and Emperors as wearing togas that smelled faintly of urine at all times).

Once!
10-05-2014, 12:03 PM
Roxxsmom makes a good point (as always). Civilizations seem to go in two phases as far as weights and measures are concerned.

To start with, everyone needs measures that can be easily understood and measured. The length of a man's arm. How far a horse can ride in a day. That sort of thing.

When you are working with measures like this, it is easiest to work in fractions. Half of something, a quarter, an eighth.

Eventually some bright spark invents standardisation - probably to stop all the arguments between men with different length arms. So the town hall would hold a standard yard stick and standardised weights. My county council has a display cabinet showing just such standard weights and measures going back hundreds of years.

And even today we have exactly the same principle. The French hold the standard measures by which all other measures are judged.

And when you have a standard yard stick or metre stick, it becomes possible to mark it off in tenths and hundredths, because that it easier to do maths with.

In fantasy and science fiction, I suppose it depends on how close your society is to this sort of standardisation. I can't imagine the hobbits of Hobbiton using the same weights as measures as the Orcs and Goblins. Somehow, I can't imagine the trading standards officer from the local council being able to visit both of them...

Or use imperial cos it's easier.

Roxxsmom
10-05-2014, 02:58 PM
It gets really crazy when you realize that yes, some words have been in use for centuries, even longer: league, mile, cubits, pecks, spans, yards, barleycorns, hands and so on. But as you said, they meant different things in different times and places, or even the next city over sometimes.

In Ancient Rome, for instance, a league (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/League_%28unit%29) was 1.5 Roman miles, which is around 1.4 of our statute miles, whereas the most common league in more recent times was 3 miles. Unless you're at sea, where a league was 3 nautical miles. And a nautical mile is approximately 1.15 statute miles.

No wonder Americans can't do math!

The hobbit unit of measure for length, of course, is the Proudfoot. For orcs, it would be the "turn," which represents one crank of the wheel thingy on a Mordor standard-issue torture rack.

Alexys
10-05-2014, 03:52 PM
Eventually some bright spark invents standardisation - probably to stop all the arguments between men with different length arms. So the town hall would hold a standard yard stick and standardised weights. My county council has a display cabinet showing just such standard weights and measures going back hundreds of years.

And even today we have exactly the same principle. The French hold the standard measures by which all other measures are judged.


Actually, these days, the French hold only one measurement standard prototype: K, the kilogram weight. Everything else has been redefined in terms of physics constants (frex, the accepted definition of "meter" is currently "The distance travelled by light in vacuum in 1/299792458 second"). I suppose we could call this the third stage of measurement derivation.

The elves would probably use the standard bowshot as a base unit of distance. The dwarves, on the other hand, might have a set of standard weights and distance measures based on prototypes, for use in those big engineering projects.

Bolero
10-05-2014, 09:39 PM
In terms of height of a character compared to everyone else - would the duck through the door/under the ceiling beams work? If you've just had another character say "how lovely and spacious"?
Or well your suit will need double the cloth?
Or feet hanging off the end of the bed in the Inn?

Lillith1991
10-05-2014, 09:59 PM
I still maintain that a UF set in Sydney should use metric for any actual given measurments, or a Contemporary Fantasy. It's the same as using Imperial in Boston, New York, or Miami. It is a part of the setting, adds flavor, and only makes sense to use it. A UF in Boston about a character that isn't from say AUS, but one born there will sound weird if metric is used. Conversly a native born Ausie is likely to use metric, unlike if you dumped a vacationing Bostonian in Sydney. All depends on the setting and character.

Epic and High Fantasy can get away with less definied things though. And Historical Fantasy will depend on the setting to me, what is the time/place and what measurements were used then etc.

Once!
10-05-2014, 10:19 PM
I've mentioned it before, but the author who drives me nuts about this is Clive Cussler. In the only book of his I have read (Inca Gold), he insists of giving both imperial and metric for everything. It just feels so wrong.

To me, at least.

Lillith1991
10-05-2014, 10:55 PM
I've mentioned it before, but the author who drives me nuts about this is Clive Cussler. In the only book of his I have read (Inca Gold), he insists of giving both imperial and metric for everything. It just feels so wrong.

To me, at least.

That does sound like overkill. Everything really? Ok, I just check and the novel is a choose your own adventure type deal. Maybe that has something to do with it or the writer didn't think people would get metric? Either way, it sounds frustrating. Which is why I'm a big fan of measurements fitting the setting. UF in Sidney? Metric. Epic Fantasy in a dark age world? Older methods of measure common at the time. Hist Fantasy about vampire during the American Revolution? Which ever method the patriots were using.

See? It fits. Just like Star Trek uses stardates and millitary time and light-years, or Stargate uses military time as a constant unit of measure for passage of time.

rwm4768
10-06-2014, 12:45 AM
For inches, feet, and miles, you should keep in mind the fact that these are measures based on human anatomy and average pace length. Historically, an inch was roughly the width of an average man's thumb. A foot was based on the length of an average foot. In the Roman Empire, a mile was considered to be 1,000 average paces. Most of these measurements are close to the current measurements.

All of these measurements come from a long time ago. I think inch was first noted in the 7th century. Feet and miles showed up much earlier.

I don't have any issue with seeing these in secondary world fantasy. The metric system, on the other hand, is a recent invention without the anatomical basis. It would seem less fitting in secondary world fantasy.

Lillith1991
10-06-2014, 01:16 AM
For inches, feet, and miles, you should keep in mind the fact that these are measures based on human anatomy and average pace length. Historically, an inch was roughly the width of an average man's thumb. A foot was based on the length of an average foot. In the Roman Empire, a mile was considered to be 1,000 average paces. Most of these measurements are close to the current measurements.

All of these measurements come from a long time ago. I think inch was first noted in the 7th century. Feet and miles showed up much earlier.

I don't have any issue with seeing these in secondary world fantasy. The metric system, on the other hand, is a recent invention without the anatomical basis. It would seem less fitting in secondary world fantasy.

Why assume secondary world fantasy, or that secondary world fantasy couldn't also be far in the future or a world similar in tech level to our current one? Not everything secondary world need be a psuedo-mediviel period tech level after all, and to assume all secondary worlds are is foolish in my opinion.

Roxxsmom
10-06-2014, 01:18 AM
I still maintain that a UF set in Sydney should use metric for any actual given measurments, or a Contemporary Fantasy. It's the same as using Imperial in Boston, New York, or Miami. It is a part of the setting, adds flavor, and only makes sense to use it. A UF in Boston about a character that isn't from say AUS, but one born there will sound weird if metric is used. Conversly a native born Ausie is likely to use metric, unlike if you dumped a vacationing Bostonian in Sydney. All depends on the setting and character.

Epic and High Fantasy can get away with less definied things though. And Historical Fantasy will depend on the setting to me, what is the time/place and what measurements were used then etc.

Definitely. A story set in the real world should use the measures that the pov character would use. And it's not unreasonable to assume that futuristic SF settings might be using metric.

But in a made-up world, there's always the potential of knocking readers out, no matter what you choose. At one extreme lies going completely with whatever made-up units your world might use and not violating pov one whit (but your readers might be scratching their heads about what a "Nsigrain" is), while at the other end, there's the just translate into metric extreme (and the reader might be thinking, "Meters in a bronze-age level society? Right").

Most secondary world fantasy seems to take an in-between approach, though, and uses real world units that feel like they could exist in a society of the sort found in the story.

[note, if a secondary world fantasy is industrialized, then the metric system should work fine. I'm guilty of assuming a made-up fantasy world is usually pre-industrial (though not necessarily medieval European--there's a lot of history to mix and match in fantasy) because most of the ones I've encountered have been, and that's what I most enjoy writing, but of course, there's no reason why you can't have a technological fantasy world too]

rwm4768
10-06-2014, 01:57 AM
Why assume secondary world fantasy, or that secondary world fantasy couldn't also be far in the future or a world similar in tech level to our current one? Not everything secondary world need be a psuedo-mediviel period tech level after all, and to assume all secondary worlds are is foolish in my opinion.

Obviously, not all secondary worlds are pseudo-medieval, but the vast majority of them are. Recently, there's been a trend toward mixing in new eras. We'll have to see if that holds up.

Maybe it's different for people who've grown up with the metric system, but it would still feel out of place, for me, if a non-connected secondary world uses the metric system (regardless of the technological era). In a far future fantasy, that would be a great way of hinting that it is in the future.

Of course, I don't really care that much. I'd probably be a little annoyed at first, but I don't usually let nitpicky details like that deter me from enjoying a good story.

And I still prefer the idea that you're writing in translation (though one of my fantasies, which is set in the distant future, actually does use the English language).

Xelebes
10-06-2014, 02:00 AM
The metre was originally based off the swing of a pendulum with a period of 1 second. Depending on how clerical your cast is, you may use the metre. If you are talking about a brown farmer, then you are going to use relative measures.

John Ayliff
10-06-2014, 05:42 PM
In a far future fantasy, that would be a great way of hinting that it is in the future.

In a far future fantasy, I'd find it hard to believe that any present-day system would have survived.

rwm4768
10-06-2014, 09:01 PM
In a far future fantasy, I'd find it hard to believe that any present-day system would have survived.

Depends on how far in the future it is. Look at how long ago measurements like inches, feet, and miles originated. Miles, for example, originated in the Roman Empire. So we're talking more than 1500 years.

Also, most people have heard of cubits. Those date back to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Things like this can hang around longer than you'd expect.

PeteMC
10-07-2014, 12:44 PM
Unless it's set in the present day, I agree go with Imperial or older measurements, with a smattering of made-up thrown in. If it's present day then obviously just use whatever is used in the location you've chosen.

You can do a lot with context to avoid having to be too precise. If the robbers say the prince's ransom is "three stone of gold" and the bishop goes pale or winces or whatever, then it's a fair bet that "three stone of gold" is "a lot". That's close enough for me.

Please don't fiddle with units of time though. Please. I used to play a SF computer game that had made-up units of time, all different lengths to ours, and when I got a mission to get from here to there in "6 smeerps and 2 demi-smeerps" or whatever it was I had absolutely no idea if it was even possible in the ship I had at the time. Painful.