D&D 5E Distance Estimation

overgeeked

B/X Known World
As someone who spent too much time in their misspent youth with archery and "plinking" with a gun, I can guarantee that anyone who is decent at using ranged weapons has a pretty good idea of distance. I may not have been able to tell you that a target was 50 feet away, but I could adjust for the drop and still hit my target.
Note how there’s a difference between these two. Accounting for drop is not the same as accurately estimating the distance in feet. You can still accurately hit the target at range (account for drop) without any idea what the even estimated distance is. No one’s saying it’s impossible to account for drop, clearly that comes with practice. But that’s not the same as knowing the precise distance to the target.
Besides, exact distances in D&D are just there to make the game easier, it's an oversimplification to make the game playable.
The game is still playable without the exact distances. Theater of the mind and various ways to abstract distances are available and work.
 

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Oofta

Legend
Note how there’s a difference between these two. Accounting for drop is not the same as accurately estimating the distance in feet. You can still accurately hit the target at range (account for drop) without any idea what the even estimated distance is. No one’s saying it’s impossible to account for drop, clearly that comes with practice. But that’s not the same as knowing the precise distance to the target.

The game is still playable without the exact distances. Theater of the mind and various ways to abstract distances are available and work.
My point is that it's irrelevant if you know exact feet because we only use exact feet as a simplification. I could judge how much I had to adjust for the distance even if I was only guessing feet. Using any unit of measure whether feet or meters is just an artificial construct for communication.

If you're doing theater of the mind I would assume you're either using abstract distances or still describing thing in feet. People should still know how to adjust.
 

Note how there’s a difference between these two. Accounting for drop is not the same as accurately estimating the distance in feet. You can still accurately hit the target at range (account for drop) without any idea what the even estimated distance is. No one’s saying it’s impossible to account for drop, clearly that comes with practice. But that’s not the same as knowing the precise distance to the target.
Drop is not the point. The implication is that the wizard just knows if something is in range of their fireball. They know if they can place it so that it hits two or three targets (and which ones). The Warlock knows if their eldritch blast is in range. The archer just knows if the target is at standard or long range. Way more accurately than a player ever will.

The game is still playable without the exact distances. Theater of the mind and various ways to abstract distances are available and work.
Correct, so why punish players when their mini happens to be 31 feet away and they thought they placed it 30 feet away? It just baffles me...
 

My point is that it's irrelevant if you know exact feet because we only use exact feet as a simplification. I could judge how much I had to adjust for the distance even if I was only guessing feet. Using any unit of measure whether feet or meters is just an artificial construct for communication.
when I was younger I taught drivers ed, and we used 'car lengths' and no matter how many years there was always a smart alec to say "wait like a little car or a big truck"
my answer was always the same, "Use the car you are in, and if you think it's funny to argue over that maybe you are not ready to drive"
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
My point is that it's irrelevant if you know exact feet because we only use exact feet as a simplification. I could judge how much I had to adjust for the distance even if I was only guessing feet. Using any unit of measure whether feet or meters is just an artificial construct for communication.

If you're doing theater of the mind I would assume you're either using abstract distances or still describing thing in feet. People should still know how to adjust.
Exactly. The trouble is people are equating two separate things. Accounting for drop is not accurately guessing distance. You can account for drop without knowing the distance. Accounting for drop is the thing trained marksmen can do at a glance. Guessing distances is not. So, to keep player knowledge in line with character knowledge, the character would know what range band the target’s at, not precise measurement in 5 foot units.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
The implication is that the wizard just knows if something is in range of their fireball. They know if they can place it so that it hits two or three targets (and which ones). The Warlock knows if their eldritch blast is in range.
What magical ability on their sheet gives them this ability?
The archer just knows if the target is at standard or long range. Way more accurately than a player ever will.
Yes, exactly. They’d know range bands, not precise measurements.
Correct, so why punish players when their mini happens to be 31 feet away and they thought they placed it 30 feet away? It just baffles me...
People misjudge distances every day. Even highly skilled, trained, and generally very precise, technically minded people. Adding a dash of realism isn’t a punishment. No one’s perfect. People make mistakes.
 

What magical ability on their sheet gives them this ability?

Yes, exactly. They’d know range bands, not precise measurements.

People misjudge distances every day. Even highly skilled, trained, and generally very precise, technically minded people. Adding a dash of realism isn’t a punishment. No one’s perfect. People make mistakes.
i will just say i would not to play in a game with these house rlues
 



Exactly. The trouble is people are equating two separate things. Accounting for drop is not accurately guessing distance. You can account for drop without knowing the distance. Accounting for drop is the thing trained marksmen can do at a glance. Guessing distances is not. So, to keep player knowledge in line with character knowledge, the character would know what range band the target’s at, not precise measurement in 5 foot units.
You are saying that a wizard/archer/character would know if something was in range of their abilities or not. I think we all agree on that. But then you are saying that they wouldn't know the exact measurement. Where we seem to disagree is on the implications of this. You say that if the player misjudges the distance, then the character fails. Myself (and others?) are saying, no, the character does not fail because they character would know if they are in range or not.

It's a lot like puzzles, do you solve them with player ability or character abilities? I prefer RPG challenges to be based around character abilities, not player abilities. You seem to enjoy the other method. Neither is wrong.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
You are saying that a wizard/archer/character would know if something was in range of their abilities or not. I think we all agree on that. But then you are saying that they wouldn't know the exact measurement. Where we seem to disagree is on the implications of this. You say that if the player misjudges the distance, then the character fails. Myself (and others?) are saying, no, the character does not fail because they character would know if they are in range or not.
The difference is in the precision of information. The character would only roughly know range bands, not precise distances. That ambiguity is important to me as it brings in some verisimilitude. The character may think they’re at the edge of short range, but are actually in medium range; they may think they’re at the edge of medium, but are in long range; they may think they’re at the edge of long range but actually be just out of range. That’s a real thing that happens to people because they don’t know exactly how distant something is, they can only roughly guess.
It's a lot like puzzles, do you solve them with player ability or character abilities? I prefer RPG challenges to be based around character abilities, not player abilities. You seem to enjoy the other method. Neither is wrong.
Characters don’t know precise distances, that’s the point.
 



ehren37

Legend
That ambiguity is important to me as it brings in some verisimilitude.
Appeal to V-tude is a cancer that needs to be cut out of gaming discourse. D&D sucks donkey butt at being realistic. Do you think it's realistic that people stand perfectly still in combat, waiting their turn to act, and afterwards remain perfectly still until it is there time to go again? Because that is what the rules reflect, but that isn't remotely how a fight works in real life. People are moving at the same time, back and forth. They aren't standing in a 5 foot square.

The rules are abstractions there to facilitate gameplay.
 

Oofta

Legend
Appeal to V-tude is a cancer that needs to be cut out of gaming discourse. D&D sucks donkey butt at being realistic. Do you think it's realistic that people stand perfectly still in combat, waiting their turn to act, and afterwards remain perfectly still until it is there time to go again? Because that is what the rules reflect, but that isn't remotely how a fight works in real life. People are moving at the same time, back and forth. They aren't standing in a 5 foot square.

The rules are abstractions there to facilitate gameplay.
You don't get to decide for everyone else what matters to them. I will be the first to admit that D&D isn't particularly realistic but neither is it completely abstract. I liken it to action movie logic with magic. So yes, I want a sense of being there, of it making sense given the constructs and assumptions of the world our PCs inhabit.

You may not consider verisimilitude important, I do. I want the game to feel real to the genre in which we play.
 

plisnithus8

Adventurer
I started having players make their own estimations when I had set up without a grid for a large space. Players would ask me as the DM if something was in range or if the could dash to get within melee range. Instead of measuring all the time I started just reminding them that 6” on the table was 30’ so a normal dash was a ruler’s length. They got used to it quickly. think I got the idea from Matt on Critical Role telling players in a similar situation “You can certainly try.”
I don’t always play gridless; when on a grid or TotM, estimation isn’t a thing.
 

ehren37

Legend
You don't get to decide for everyone else what matters to them. I will be the first to admit that D&D isn't particularly realistic but neither is it completely abstract. I liken it to action movie logic with magic. So yes, I want a sense of being there, of it making sense given the constructs and assumptions of the world our PCs inhabit.

You may not consider verisimilitude important, I do. I want the game to feel real to the genre in which we play.

The genre we play is heroic fantasy. Making someone miss because of 2 feet of range because they chose to obfuscate it as a gotcha isn't v-tude affirming but petty. Moreover, unless you're rolling for the monsters to see if they're out of range, it's just more "v-tude for thee, not for me". The term is just a buzzword to try and give someone's tastes an air of legitimacy.
 
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