So, you enjoy the D&D game, but you hail from a place where the metric system rules minor little things such as weights and measures. Well, you could buckle down and learn the good old English system. After all, it was developed in the Middle Ages, and it reflects a medieval approach to numbers. The system lends itself to division by halves, thirds, and quarters, which can be pretty handy if you're an illiterate peasant who lives in a cashpoor society where most personal transactions are accomplished through barter. So, using the English system will give you a more authentic medieval setting.
Okay, so you're not so dedicated to an authentic medieval setting. You grew up thinking metric and you'd like to have a better idea of what the game's measurements actually represent. The table below shows some common English units and their metric conversion factors.
Game Measurement 
Multiply By 
To Get 
Length 


Inches 
25.4 
Millimeters 
Inches 
2.54 
Centimeters 
Feet 
30.5 
Centimeters 
Feet 
0.305 
Meters 
Yards 
0.914 
Meters 
Miles 
1.61 
Kilometers 
Leagues[1] 
4.83 
Kilometers 
Area 


Square inches 
6.45 
Square centimeters 
Square feet 
0.093 
Square meters 
Square yards 
0.836 
Square meters 
Square miles 
2.56 
Square kilometers 
Acres 
0.405 
Hectares 
Volume 


Fluid ounces 
29.6 
Milliliters 
Pints[2] 
0.473 
Liters 
Quarts[2] 
0.946 
Liters 
Gallons[2] 
3.79 
Liters 
Cubic feet 
28,000 
Cubic centimeters 
Cubic feet 
0.028 
Cubic meters 
Weight[3] 


Ounces 
28.3 
Grams 
Pounds[3] 
0.454 
Kilograms 
Tons[3] 
0.907 
Metric tons 
1. One league equals 3 miles 2. US measure 3. Short ton (2,000 pounds)
Converting Tactical Distances
The basic unit of distance for all tactical movement and combat in the D&D game is 5 feet, which is the size of one square. Also, all ranges are given in numbers evenly divisible by 5. The conversion table shows that 5 feet is about 1.525 meters (5x0.305=1.525). The number 1.525 isn't a very practical one for gaming, so let's say that 5 feet equals 2 meters for game purposes. Why 2 meters? First, an even, whole number is more convenient to use than something that's closer to the mark, such as 1.5 meters. Also, other d20 games that were designed from the beginning using metric measurements, such as the Star Wars game, already use 2meter squares.
It's important to make all our distances conform to this number rather than trying to convert them directly. For example, a character with a speed of 30 (feet) has a speed of 12 (meters) in the metric game (not a speed of 9.15 meters). In either case, the character travels 6 squares in one move action.
The table below shows common tactical speeds and their metric conversions:
Speed Table (English Units) 
Tactical Speed* 
Base Speed 
100 
90 
80 
70 
60 
50 
40 
30 
20 
15 
10 
5 
(squares) 
20 
18 
16 
14 
12 
10 
8 
6 
4 
3 
2 
1 
Encumbered 
70 
65 
60 
50 
40 
35 
30 
20 
15 
10 
5 
5 
(squares) 
14 
13 
12 
10 
8 
7 
6 
5 
3 
2 
1 
1 
One Minute (Local)* 
Current Speed** 
100 
90 
80 
70 
60 
50 
40 
30 
20 
15 
10 
5 
Walk 
1,000 
900 
800 
700 
600 
500 
400 
300 
200 
150 
100 
50 
Hustle 
2,000 
1,800 
1,600 
1,400 
1,200 
1,000 
800 
600 
400 
300 
200 
100 
Run (x3) 
3,000 
2,700 
2,400 
2,100 
1,800 
1,500 
1,200 
900 
600 
450 
300 
150 
Run (x4) 
4,000 
3,600 
3,200 
2,800 
2,400 
2,000 
1,600 
1,200 
800 
600 
400 
200 
One Hour (Overland)*** 
Current Speed** 
100 
90 
80 
70 
60 
50 
40 
30 
20 
15 
10 
5 
Walk 
10 
9 
8 
7 
6 
5 
4 
3 
2 
1.5 
1 
0.5 
Hustle 
20 
18 
16 
14 
12 
10 
8 
6 
4 
3 
2 
1 
One Day (Overland)*** 
Current Speed* 
100 
90 
80 
70 
60 
50 
40 
30 
20 
15 
10 
5 
Walk 
80 
72 
64 
56 
48 
40 
32 
24 
16 
12 
8 
4 
*Tactical and local speeds are in feet. 
**Use normal or encumbered speed, whichever applies to the creature. 
***Overland movement is measured in miles. 
Speed Table  English to (Metric Units) 
Speed (feet) 
100 
90 
80 
70 
60 
50 
40 
30 
20 
15 
10 
5 
Speed (meters) 
40 
36 
32 
28 
24 
20 
16 
12 
8 
6 
4 
2 
Speed (squares) 
20 
18 
16 
14 
12 
10 
8 
6 
4 
3 
2 
1 
Speed Table (Metric Units) 
Tactical Speed* 
Base Speed 
40 
36 
32 
28 
24 
20 
16 
12 
8 
6 
4 
2 
(squares) 
20 
18 
16 
14 
12 
10 
8 
6 
4 
3 
2 
1 
Encumbered 
28 
26 
24 
20 
16 
14 
12 
10 
6 
4 
2 
2 
(squares) 
14 
13 
12 
10 
8 
7 
6 
5 
3 
2 
1 
1 
One Minute (Local)* 
Current Speed** 
40 
36 
32 
28 
24 
20 
16 
12 
8 
6 
4 
2 
Walk 
400 
360 
320 
280 
240 
200 
160 
120 
80 
60 
40 
20 
Hustle 
800 
720 
640 
560 
480 
400 
320 
240 
160 
120 
80 
40 
Run (x3) 
1,200 
1,080 
960 
840 
720 
600 
480 
360 
240 
180 
120 
60 
Run (x4) 
1,600 
1,440 
1,280 
1,120 
960 
800 
640 
480 
320 
240 
160 
80 
One Hour (Overland)*** 
Current Speed** 
40 
36 
32 
28 
24 
20 
16 
12 
8 
6 
4 
2 
Walk 
24 
21.6 
19.2 
16.8 
14.4 
12 
9.6 
7.2 
4.8 
3.6 
2.4 
1.2 
Hustle 
48 
43.2 
38.4 
33.6 
28.8 
24 
19.2 
14.4 
9.6 
7.2 
4.8 
2.4 
One Day (Overland)*** 
Current Speed* 
40 
36 
32 
28 
24 
20 
16 
12 
8 
6 
4 
2 
Walk 
192 
172.8 
153.6 
134.4 
115.2 
96 
76.8 
57.6 
38.4 
28.8 
19.2 
9.6 
*Tactical and local speeds are in meters. 
**Use base or encumbered speed, as applicable. 
***Overland speeds are in kilometers. 
Coming in Part Two of Going Metric
Skip covers thrown and projectile weapon ranges, spell ranges, and spell areas.
About the Author
Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and has been the Sage of Dragon Magazine since 1986. Skip is a codesigner of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (his borscht gets rave reviews).
