Always bugged me - Movement in [A]D&D/SW etc

Based on quick and dirty Googling, we can take as a baseline a (rounded) average walking speed of 4feet per second. The results in about 240feet per minute

So, walking...normally...not trying to map anything and in no (particular) danger, we would be able to comfortably walk 240' in a minute.

That would mean we walk about 2400 per “turn.” [In old days I recall in AD&D we used at our table walking(mapping/traps/doors) speed, walking, jog/trot and full run speeds (in and outdoor had diff values)]

So I can take 240 per 10 mins to be the “cautious” walk without concern  but the run speed of 480 feet per 10 mins seems way off. Has this been addressed by game design/rationalizations?

I understand the idea that in an unknown dungeon, you may not move at a brisk walk. Especially if your torch allows only 30' of sight, I am unwilling to do the math, but this may account for the numbers we use.

What would I use when walking in a "safe" town per minute? A "dungeon" that is more of a active castle with torches or lanterns or other bioluminesence or magical lighting?

I am not TRYING to be uber-realisting, it may seem that way. I am trying to quell what seems like a glaring HUH? As I look at my small den and realize wearing no armor and carrying no weapons (you see I took those off before typing this) I could walk casually across the 14' in like what, 3 seconds (I am 6'3")?


So, for "combat", I imagine waving away the issues where you can move 40' (indoors) in 1 minute as inconstant movement and having to watch one's back. I can even take the 24' movement for corridors while mapping.

I have more trouble with 48'/min for running. It seems wrong even with torchlight - or am >I< wrong here?

What about suggestions for:

  "moving in torchlight without mapping and not needing to be more silent than normal walking"?

  "moving really quietly in an area you already know" - is that "walking speed" from books since not mapping but ARE sneaking or is it like 1/2 or 1/4 speed - but if based on walking of 12'/minutes then do they take 1 minute to move 6' or 1 minute to move 3'? ;)



Again, even if it is RAW - I am trying to come up with more categories/options for movement as well as better rationalize non-combat movement (for most of us, combat is not an area of expertise so we accept what we are told lol)




Shadow Demon's picture

Movement gets amazingly better in B/X where a round is 10 seconds otherwise, not so much. The only reason that it matters at all outside combat in the dungeon environment is wandering monsters. Outside this purpose, the rules are hand-waved a lot of the time

The best explanation of the movement rules in AD&D can be found in the 2e PH on page 157.


Preface: Shadow - this is way long (sorry) but was trying to collect my thoughts and see what I might do going forward. It has been decades since I played anything else other than 5E on VTT (had a oneshot in person with 5e also) and I have real memory issues (which is why I now write all my rulings) I am trying to get these mechanics out of the way but in a way that makes SENSE at the table. If after looking at any of this, you say - "whatever, the S&W [or AD&D] may not be sensible in real movement but they are what they are for game balance - STICK to RAW", I will ;P  - Just trying to see if it has room for reasonable improvement IF it IS improvement. (Number crunching is a non-issue, I am a software engineer, it's comfortable for me plus a lot of this eventually will be done on VTT which makes it even easier.)


Found it on page 102 (wish had never originally stored them in garage - never had a garage as kid, didn't realize the funk it would get. Lucky I mostly use pdfs)

Dungeon mapping movement: 12" = 120' in 10min, 12'/min. OUCH, 

If the party is following a known route or map, the movement rate is 
5 times greater: 60'/min (at 12"), OK - this I recall (more often it was 30'/minute), still slow but I supposed it was so due to the scale and lighting and logistics of needing to have an adventure vs saying we appear at the next room in a blink. So I was fine with this.

Fleeing is 10x faster, so your full movement (12" = 120') is done in one round vs one turn. So running, 12"=120'/min and our encumbered/plated folks were 6"=60'/min

The above movement rate is also applied to combat (12" = 120', 6"=60')

Dungeon --> Running --> Combat
12" SW -->  24 --> 48 --> 40
12" AD&D --> 12 --> 120 --> 120


Full AD&D types of movement:

Dungeon - Known - Running - Combat
12 - 60 - 120 - 120


Expanded movement category ideas:
Dungeon (2') - Careful/quiet/Known(5') - Known/NotCareful(10') - Run(20') - Combat(10')   [1"= # feet/round in parens]

24 - XX - XX  - 120 -  40
18 - XX - XX  -  90 -  30
12 - XX - XX  -  60 -  20

Proposal (taking S&W for the starting point as it is less nuts than 12')
24 - 60 - 120 - 240 - 120
18 - 45 -  90 - 180 -  90
12 - 30 -  60 - 120 -  60

If I recall in AD&D, most movement was 9" and 6" due to armor and encumbrance. So on a 10' scale map, it is 9 and 6 squares per round maximum (we used to use the move up to 1/2 movement if wanted to also attack.)

I forget what it was, but I believe we used to set our megamat scale at 3' squares just to make movement cleaner ;)

Shadow Demon's picture

Yeah, it is a mess in any version of Gygaxian D&D along with its corresponding clones. It is far easier to have a normal pace of careful and quiet exploration in real time. There really is no reason outside of a stressor (combat, trap, chase) to increase this pace or even really care about the actual numerical rate.  If needed, movement switches to combat mode, a numerical value that represents the relative difference between creatures. This feels natural to me especially when using VTT in place of graph paper mapping.

Plus, while playing S&W at the NTRPG Con in all of its old-school glory (theater of the mind, physical mapping, etc), movement outside of combat has never been a factor at all. Makes sense because the movement rules have always been clumsy to use without adding much fun to the game.

Yup, I basically want a baseline so when I feel I need to track how long it takes to do something I can. Movement in combat has never been much of a problem but I didn't remember how I used to handle dungeon travel when I wanted to guesstimate time between wandering rolls (rarely use them based only on time but still) and use of torches/lamps if lighting is part of the challenge of the experience of a specific dungeon.

So there the "walking down known areas" factor was something I wanted to remember what I used to do. Since I didn't want to calculate time passing based on really slow exploration speed where... a 100' corridor took 4-5 mins to traverse.