[Click to Return to Blue Lamp Road]

For Newcomers

The Scrolls

Fan Archives

Troll Hands & Slime Buckets
An Entirely Unecessary Peek at a Terrible Mess for Uresia: Grave of Heaven
(on the other hand, it's kind of funny)

By S. John Ross

There's no need to examine Uresia's bewildering array of measurement standards, partly because it gives clever wizards headaches, but mostly because it overlaps our own bewildering array at several convenient points. Uresia has - among others - inches, feet, pounds, tons, pints, gallons, weeks and years roughly comparable to our own.

"Roughly comparable" is as good as it gets; unit values vary by kingdom, county or even by village, and there are plenty of less familiar units to contend with - bellweights, headweights, troll hands, long strides and more. The bellweights depend on the bell, the headweights don't depend on the head, and troll hands legally depend on trees, not Trolls.

Thanks to a robust sea trade, the port cities recognize standards, of a sort, for those who really need them. Most people don't. To an ordinary pig-farmer, minstrel, or wandering wizard, a town is "three days away," not "31.7 Rinden Statute Leagues." Likewise, a bucket of water is a bucket of water because it's water in a bucket; few sane men care if it's precisely "1.0 Water-Buckets" as some arcane mercantile standard defines one.

If you find yourself struggling with sanity, or if you're playing a merchant and enjoy the idea of confusing others with the product of centuries of faulty assumptions, dodgy arithmetic, political compromise and arbitrary decree, absorb the following and extrapolate (and regurgitate) at need.


Merchants establish weight based on the bells mounted on trader caravels. These bells, cast from tin-brass to well-established standards, provide an impressively consistent measure, but other "bellweights" used in specific trades are based on different bells, muddying the term. Boru, which trades in valuable spices, resins, and alchemical compounds, maintains precise legal standards for cargo weight, defining the relationship between units with something approaching clarity. Boru law provides, too, for alternate methods of estimating large masses:

"Stand at the gangplank of a caravel past the setting of the sun and bid 12 men to stop, tall ones and small ones, as they happen to pass to or from the ships in the course of their merriment. Stand these men together, and their weight shall be a right and lawful ton to measure goods by."

The ton is, formally, 144 bellweights. Merchants also use long tons (168 bells), mainly to be troublesome. A head or headweight is half a bellweight, so "five head of beef" is very different from "five head of cattle," and if you want a head of lettuce you'll just have to be more specific. There are 7 pounds to the head. For very fine measurements, alchemists use grains, which are so small as to be nearly theoretical: 100,000 to an alchemist's bellweight, which in turn bears an inexact but near resemblance to a mercantile bellweight. Dreed (and, consequently, everyone else) employs alchemical standards for the emerald trade (one carat is exactly three alchemical grains).


Uresians measure roads, kingdoms and waterways in leagues when they measure them at all. Everyone agrees that a league is "about an hour's hike" but few agree on how far that actually is. In the Rindenland, they fix the standard as the distance between two historic oaks in the Sweetbriar Wood. All shorter units are legally reckoned as portions of the league. The Rinden foot divides neatly into three hands of four inches each (eight inches is a troll hand). Three feet make a stride, three strides a long stride, 18 long strides a quarter, 4 quarters a furlong, and 24 furlongs a league. Ruin-cartographers use paces of 30 inches when mapping dungeons and caves (a term similar enough to "stride" to cause real problems when maps are translated from language to language), and mariners and dungeon-delvers alike use fathoms (two strides) to measure depth.  Similarly, the mariner's knot is the measure of speed, equal to approximately 100 feet per minute.


The Temphis gallon sets the standard. There are a thousand drams (and eight pints) to the gallon, which is simple enough. There are, however, from 29 to 44 gallons to the barrel depending on whether you're measuring beer, rum, wine, seed oil, fish oil, slimes traveling coach, youth unguent, berries, groats, standardized healing potion, floral perfume, non-floral perfume, soy sauce, pear juice, or "Satyr's balm" (water-based skin lubricant, produced exclusively in Boru and shipped at considerable per-barrel expense to Lochria, Helt and the Elu Islands). There are 10 buckets, 5 kegs or 2 rundles to the barrel, and 8 barrels to the tun (a double-scale cargo barrel, popular décor in taprooms). Since the barrel varies, the buckets, kegs and so on vary right along with it. A tun of water is 294 gallons, which weighs exactly one long ton. This is, sadly, a coincidence.


Uresia uses seconds, minutes, hours, days and weeks as we do. In Uresia, a "month" is usually a full lunar cycle of 29-30 days, but can also refer to one of the "stages" of each calendar hundred. A "hundred" is one-fourth of a calendar year, corresponding to the seasons and marked by equinox and solstice. Crude mechanical clocks exist (along with wristwatches waterproof to nine long strides), but hourglasses, candle-marks, sundials and other simple methods of reckoning time are much more common. The matter of the calendar (and some of the occult mysteries surrounding its design) get an article all their own.


Scholars in most kingdoms have devised simple thermometers, but little has been done with them and there are no formal scales of temperature degrees. Scientifically-minded Boru, when they aren't dancing with hookers and getting stoned, are vaguely certain that there are constant heat values such as human body temperature and the boiling point of water (the hookers helped establish the former in a series of experiments spanning nineteen years). Many of these notions have been dismissed in Laöch, where the King's own chief scholars, re-creating Boru instruments and tests in the high mountain enclaves of the master engineers, observed that Boru's reported "boiling point" of water is noticeably erroneous. Comparative studies of Laöchrian hookers were more favorable in every respect, but the papers describing the studies are, for the most part, exciting only to other Dwarves.

Version 1.121 - Copyright © 2005, 2007 by S. John Ross


Home | Cumberland Games | The Fontworks | Risus | Fly From Evil
Uresia: Grave of Heaven | GURPS | Star Trek | Crossword | The FAQ
Pokethulhu | Gourmand Bleu | The Secret Library | S. John