One of the central conceits of YAOSC’s mechanics is that many things scale up or down in a relatively abstract way. The obvious example is the dice rolled for checks, which vary to represent variable difficulty levels. But the idea extends into the physicality of the game’s imaginary world, where measures (for purposes of game mechanics) will tend to scale as well.
In time, the units go like this. In play, action is set to a particular scale until a turning-point in the story or action is reached, and then probably switch. For example, in a traditional dungeon-crawl game, travel to the dungeon will be conducted in watches, days, or weeks. Exploring the dungeon will be conducted in minutes, scenes, or hours. If you meet and fight a monster, combat will be conducted in rounds, with some actions taking moments or minutes.
- Moment: something lasts or takes about a second. Blink or sneeze and you could miss it.
- Round: a few seconds. Just long enough to perform one or two fundamental moves of an activity.
- Minute: not exactly sixty seconds. Long enough to finish a simple task like putting on and tying one’s shoes.
- Scene: several minutes, up to perhaps half an hour. Long enough to finish a moderate task like washing dishes, traveling somewhere close by, or getting a toddler to pee in the potty.
- Hour: again, not exactly 3600 seconds. Long enough to get a significant amount of work done.
- Watch: about a quarter of a day’s work.
- Day: about one normal wake/sleep cycle based on human activity on earth, because we norm that way.
- Week: this one’s not exact either. More than just a couple of days.
- Month: you get the picture.
We’re well outside the scope of most gaming at this point, so if you need to scale something up from an eon, then let’s just call it “indefinitely long” and leave it at that.
In space, the units go like this. Spaces described may be linear, square, or cubic in nature, and are inexact enough that the measure could describe span or radius equally well. Real-world measures may also be used if you really want.
- Contact/personal: something is essentially zero distance from your reference object.
- Reach: close enough to reach out and touch for an adult human; about a meter or two.
- Room: close enough for a small group of people to interact comfortably without personal-space issues or inconvenience; a few meters.
- Area: not close enough to talk with someone in conversational tones, but close enough to toss them a ball or shoot an arrow at them. Probably up to about a hundred meters, or the size of many sports fields.
- Estate: the size of a small town, large estate, or normal university campus. It might take about an hour to walk across.
- County: close enough that you could fit a moderate modern town inside, or the distance between neighboring hamlets in a more medieval setting. A few hours’ travel by foot over open terrain.
- Region: big enough that it would take hours to drive across in a car; the size of a large metropolitan area.
- Realm: big enough to encompass an entire kingdom, or a state or province in a large modern nation.
- Okay, cut it out.
Some objects, especially objects that a character might consider carrying or using, may scale their size.
- Grain: really fine stuff like sand or watch screws. If you’re not careful, you could lose one forever.
- Bead: you can hold a handful of these easily, but they’re not going to slip through the cracks between your fingers.
- Finger: one or or a few fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. In weapon terms, a shiv.
- Hand: you can hold one and manipulate it with one hand, like a tennis ball. In weapon terms, a short sword or pistol. Your head is on the large end of “hand” size.
- Arm: up to about a meter in its longest measure, probably still usable with one hand. In weapon terms, a club or rapier.
- Chest: about the size of one’s whole torso. In weapon terms, bagpipes or an accordion.
- Body: matching an adult human in at least one of its dimensions, including gear such as fire-fighter or astronaut suits. In weapon terms, a halberd or Zweihänder.
- Horse: we’re starting to leave human measures behind here; this is a size category for things that support you instead of the other way around, like most large animals or personal vehicles.
And there you have it! This has all been in the back of my mind for a very long time, and bits of it can probably be seen peeking out in some of the details of Magic Monday spells, but now there’s a working draft written out that we can refer back to as needed. Working out a second draft of the spell list would involve making sure that everything conforms to this model, now that it’s an explicit list rather than a vague idea.