Units of Measure

Knowledge of the following is all optional, as all quantities used in the campaign will usually be metric. That is, “The corridor is three meters wide, and runs straight away until it vanishes in the gloom of your lamp light” and not “The corridor is six cubits wide…”. (The exception is leagues for distances and quaffs for imbibing.) The use of metric units in preference to the traditional english units (those ten foot wide corridors) is in part to remind the players that things are not necessarily the same as in the Players’ Handbook.

Length and Distance

The basic unit of length is the cubit, equal to 0.5 m (roughly 20 inches or 1.6 feet). Distances are measured in leagues, where one league = 10,000 cubits = 5 km (3.1 miles). There are inscribed markers on the High Way every league. In more settled regions there are informal markers (usually a cairn of stones or a wooden sign post) every thousand cubits (1600 feet)(called milles (meell-ayze) or millstones).


The basic unit of weight is the dram, equal to 4 gm (0.14 ounces). There are ten drams to a jhig (40 gm or 1.4 ounces). And twenty jhigs to a quaff (0.8 kg = 1.8lbs, US).


Liquid quantities are measured in terms of the mass of an equal amount of water, i.e. drams, jhigs, and quaffs. The quaff (1.8 US pints) is the nominal serving of ale or similar potable, though except for dwarves it is more likely that a half or quarter quaff will be requested.

The story told is that these units were devised by dwarves before the Dream Time as volume units applied to drinking. Originally a quaff was ten, and not twenty, jhigs. When the power Sak taught the art of brewing to one of the Progenitors (which Progenitor usually depends on the Folk membership of the dwarf telling the tale), at the first tasting of the result the Progenitor proclaimed that the amount in one quaff was not sufficient for so noble a beverage and so doubled its size. Later, the units were applied to weight, as the weight of the equivalent volume of ale. However, variations in brewing style between the Folk were just enough that this caused a slight amount of variation in the “standard quaff” from Folk to Folk. Though small, it still irritated the fastidious dwarves. Discussions over whose ale merited designation as “Standard” became heated, but eventually it was decided to use pure water instead. Today, it is the weight that is the fundamental standard, and volume measurements are calibrated in terms of the weight standard.

Halflings are also reputed to have a particular fondness for ale. There is a colloquial phrase “getting (or asking for) a halfling’s half” (quaff), which is implied to be a bit more than what is strictly deserved.

Dry volumes are in cubic cubits (8.8 cubic feet).


The area of a plot of land is measured in bloks, 1 blok = 100 × 100 cubits = 0.25 hectares = 0.6 acres.

Continue with the related discussion of the units of Coinage.
Back to Historical Epochs.
Or return to the Glossary.

Units of Measure

urXron ras_kcir