Wednesday, May 6, 2009

More ponderings on units of measure

This afternoon I thought a bit more about units of measure.

I really want a system that captures the flavor and utility of customary units (maybe I'm a geek, but I think its darn handy that a league is how far you can walk in an hour, and a stone being the amount of weight you first notice). However, I also want the ease of use that comes with modern notions of measurement.

Then, I realized -- the King of England, on several occasions, changed systems of measurement by decree. As a game designer, I can do the same. You lose historical accuracy, and people will DEFINITELY not be familiar with the new system (whereas some might be familiar with pounds, ounces, etc), but you can potentially gain significantly in ease of use.

I want something that is close enough to historical values that you can approximate game figures using real world gouge. Specifically, I want a monetary system and a unit of measurement where 1 oz = 1 shilling, and X ozs = X shillings = 1 pound = 1 pound sterling.

Here's a few thoughts on Base numbers:

BASE 10 - Very easy to use, a la the metric system. Divisible by 2 and 5. The bad thing is that it feels very modern.
BASE 12 - Many customary systems use this (12" to a foot, 12 ozs to a Troy pound, 12 pennies to a shilling, etc), and for good reason: Its easily divisible by 2 (1/6), 4 (1/3), and 6 (1/2). That's perfect for measuring, which often involves grouping and splitting objects.
BASE 14 - Used for Stones. Divisible by 2 (1/7) and 7 (1/2).
BASE 15 - Used for the London Mercantile Pound for awhile. Almost as easy to use as base 10. Divisible by 3 (1/5) and 5 (1/3). It also splits the difference between Base 12 and 16 systems.
BASE 16 - Another common number in Customary systems (16 ozs to a standard pound). Likely because it is divisible by 2 (1/8), 4 (1/4), and 8 (1/2)

How would a system modeled on the defunct London Mercantile Pound look?

First, weights:
1 London Pound = 15 oz troy = 16 oz tower = 7200 gr ≈ 466.6 g (Slightly more than a avdp pound, which is what everyone thinks of when they think of weights; slightly more than a troy pound, which is what money is measured in)
1 Clove = 5 London Pounds (in reality, was close to 7 avdp lbs)
1 Stone = 3 Cloves (in reality, a a stone was 2 cloves / 12-16 avdp lbs, officially 14 lbs)
1 Quarter = 2 Stone
etc on up

Now, Money:
15 silver pence = 1 silver shilling
1 silver shilling = 1 oz troy
15 silver shillings = 1 Pound Sterling = 1 London Pound (this slightly inflates the value of the shilling; historically, it was 20 shillings to the pound sterling)
225 silver shillings = 15 pounds sterling = 3 cloves = 1 stone of money

Gold historically was worth about 25 times more than silver. Let's devalue it so we can stick with the Base 15.

1 Gold Sovereign = 1 Pound Sterling in value = 1 oz in weight
15 gold sovereigns = 15 pounds sterling in value = 1 London Pound in weight

I think I did all that correctly... I don't know if its any more workable, but it is interesting to think about.

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