Discussion of a Pace in Ars Magica

I started this thread to hopefully redirect the discussion of the length of a Pace from the the 'Hard-to-Find Rules' thread.

The conversation is going to get purged from the thread.

I was going to post in the other thread, but I'll start here. I consider the ambiguity deliberate.

There's all these fantasy setting games, D&D, Pathfinder, etc, where everyone has an inbuilt protracter and perfect sense of distance.

People move to be exactly 5 feet away from where the enemy can run to next turn, the spell is positioned to optimally scorch the bad guys and not hurt the good guys. The archer moves to exactly the spot to not get a range penalty.

Medieval did not have a metric system, let alone a standardised system across kingdoms or countries.

50 paces is exactly what is says, 50 paces.

I assume Diameter, depending on the time of day and where one is on planet Earth, wouldn't be the same amount of time either.

Only modern day people used to the degree of exactitude we use, would think 50 paces isn't a suitable distance measurement. Ars Majica, I consider is deliberately vague.

People who have served in the Army or Marines learned how to track distance in paces. Everyone learns their personal "Pace Count" in Basic Training/Boot, which is how many double steps you take per 100 meters.

My own for example is 66.75, though in most circumstances 67 is close enough. For short distances of travel I was often told a distance in paces. While there is some variation between that distance from person to person, it was generally close enough for things like directing someone to an LP/OP. If you did a lot of rucking it was something you also got pretty good at judging it by eye, since how far you travel per pace in something inherent to you.

EDIT: I always hated that exact distance calculation that came about in AD&D after 2nd edition. But in general I dislike systems which try to integrate miniatures into an RPG. If I wanted to play with miniatures I would play a MWG rather than a RPG.

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What ambiguity?
There is no ambiguity at all about the length of a pace in Ars Magica. A pace is equal to 3 feet.
The problem is finding this information in the rule book.


I think US folks do not realize how funny this sentence sounds to someone used to the metric system :slight_smile:


The sentence shouldn't sound odd, foot is just foreign; it's unfamiliar rather than ambiguous.

This unfamiliarity is why I suggested it would be good to include a comment that a meter could be used as a good substitute, allowing for familiarity for everyone (either a yard or a meter).


I think that the whole thing was left deliberately ambiguous because it is not DnD where the whole universe is made of neat 5 feet wide cubes, but somewhat fuzzy for a more narrative rather than Cadastre surveyor simulator. A pace is a wide step or a short metre, and it's not super important where in that continuum it lands unless the game is being played on a gridded battlemat.

I totally agree.

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I didn't see anything funny about the sentence when I wrote it, and I still don't, and I am used to the metric system.

Ambiguous? In what way is it ambiguous? I can't see anything even slightly ambiguous about how long a pace is in the Ars Magica rules.

Neither pace not feet was a standardized measurement until much later than the ArM timeline. That, plus the fact that only Americans regularly use those systems, has always been a strange thing in RPGs, to most gamers around the world.


The meter wasn't a standardized unit of measurement until much later than the ArM timeline, too, though. The meter is actually a much later invention than the foot. If that's part of what's strange to gamers around the world, they're lacking in their historical knowledge of measurement. But for modern understanding it would generally be a lot easier to understand things if they were presented in meters. Thus my suggestion of the dual statement about yards and meters.

Edit: Technically, feet had been standardized way before the ArM timeline, it's just that there were many different feet that were standardized, so it's lack of clarity over which foot rather than lack of standardization. Now, the standards weren't anything of the sort we have today, but they were good enough for the time.

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Feet were certainly a standardized unit back in 13th century. Not a global standard to be sure - each country or region had its own standard for how long a foot was, but then they didn't have any global standards back then.
That an RPG published in the US uses feet as a unit of length is no stranger than it using the spelling "armor" instead of "armour". It is simply part of American English.

Heh. Looks like you're right about paces amounting to 3 feet, not 2.5. I wish paces were called yards. Or at least easily defined, yeah.

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No, that is not what is strange. If the game had used the metre for measurement, it would have been clear that the unit is standardised and the measures intended to be exact. The foot OTOH can be read either in a period interpretation or according to the `International Yard and Pound Agreement of 1959'. That's the ambiguity.

Even if the feet were standardised even in 1220, the period interpretation is inconsistent with accurate measurements, since it would imply that the target sizes you could affect with a spell would depend on the local definition of the foot and the pace. And I really do not believe that the local mundane lord has the power to tune Bonisagus' theory.

From a metric viewpoint, reading feet as approximate units is a lot more natural than reading it as international feet. Not that we could not adapt to calculating in feet, it is just we already use feet in an approximate sense and have a different system for when accuracy is required.

And yes, I agree that if 1 pace = 3 feet, a pace should be called a yard. If however, 1 pace ~= 3 feet, it is fine ... Unfortunately, I was not able to recover the note, which I am sure I have read in one of the last three editions, that the pace is an approximate unit.


This is where I think "pace" could be specifically handy, though. Just make it clear in core that the books are using it as a yard while readers are free to interchange this with meter. Then we can each read "pace" as either "yard" or "meter" as is easiest for us.

I use the Roman Pace of five feet. When I was in scouts, we were taught orienteering and to estimate a pace (two steps) as five feet. The version D&D I am used to used ten foot squares for the maps.
Follow this math here.
A Roman Mile is a thousand paces. Mile literally means "one thousand". A Roman mile is about 5 thousand feet.
Divide 5k by 1k and what do you get?
Feet, Inches, and Miles are used internationally in that era, based on Roman units.
The Yard, afaik, is just an English thing, and has no place in the Latin language of the Order of Hermes.


Definition of Roman pace

: an ancient Roman unit of length that is equal to five Roman feet or 4.85 English feet and is measured in pacing from the heel of one foot to the heel of the same foot when it next touches the ground

Roman Pace

"The magus may not
move more quickly than ten paces per round
(five feet per second) while doing this"
ArM5 p112
(Note: one round = 6 seconds, which can be derived from the defintion of Diameter on the same page)

"A base Boundary is the same for all
Forms, and is one hundred paces (three hun-
dred feet) in diameter."
ArM5 p113

"A base Individual for Aquam is a pool of
water about five paces (fifteen feet) across, and
two paces deep at the center."
ArM5 p121

These are all the places in the core rulebook that I have found that relate a "pace" to some other unit of measurement or otherwise tries to define how long a pace is.
As can be seen, they are all consistent with the idea that 1 pace = 3 feet.


A remarcable ability! Honestly I don’t think our soldiers can walk straight and count at the same time :grinning:


Most can't, which is why we have a thing called Ranger Beads.