The average human walks 1 mile in 18 minutes, and runs 1 mile in 8.5 minutes. In a single second of time a walking human would traverse 4.89 feet and running would traverse 10.35 feet. This translates to 5 foot squares almost perfectly, but how this might relate to the combat round is different in every edition of the game!
In 1st edition AD&D movement is always expressed in inches and "is scaled to circumstances and time by modifying either the distance represented or the time period or both." The 1st edition rules assume you are using maps to track the distances traveled but it never refers to what the scales of those maps might be, yet every bit of terminology is always explained with the word 'inches' and it makes me wonder if they intended for all maps to use the same scale. The Player's Handbook states (p.39) that outdoors 1 inch equals 10 yards and indoors 1 inch equals 10 feet. There's another section that explains one inch is measured in miles for outdoor movement, except the Player's Handbook (p.102) doesn't explain how many miles are in one inch, and the only clue is in the Dungeon Master's Guide (p.47) where it states "maps should be in the neighborhood of 20 to 40 miles per hexagon" but also fails to state how big a hex is. Presumably, one inch.
Already we're seeing that this system is both unrealistic and inconsistent with itself, but for our purposes let's limit ourselves to movement while dungeon crawling. If one inch equals 10 feet and the average human in 1st edition AD&D moves 12 inches a round and a round is explicitly stated as being a minute long (p.39) thus a human travels 120 feet in one minute. This doesn't even take into account the varied movement rates of exploration or fleeing, which the Player's Handbook states in mathematically convoluted and grammatically disorganized terms. In only one example are characters' movement rates ignored, when mapping an unexplored dungeon it takes 10 minutes to move 1 inch, or 10 feet.
"Damn humans, always leaving string all over my maze!"
"Magic and spells are, most certainly, devices of the game. In order to make them fit the constrictions of the underground labyrinth, a one for three reduction is necessary. It would be folly, after all, to try to have such as effective attack modes if feet were not converted to yards outdoors, where visibility, movement, and conventional weapons attack ranges are based on actual fact."
Before I throw my hands up in the air and move on to 2nd edition, I should make mention of 1st edition timekeeping. One turn is 10 minutes, one round is 1 minute, and one segment is 6 seconds. Thus there are 10 segments in a round, and 10 rounds in a turn. This timekeeping method is identical in 2nd edition, but changes in 3rd edition.
What cheesy 80s movie was this artwork trying to emulate?
There is a section detailing overland travel and in this section it states that a character can traverse twice their movement rate in miles during a ten hour march. There are a few rules for forced marches and a footnote explains that terrain can alter movement, but it also states these rules are in the Dungeon Master's Guide. There are extra options for jogging and running (p.120), and there is also a proficiency for running over long distances (p.63) which is less effective mathematically than forced marching. Overall it appears as if the 2nd edition rules took most of the information from 1st edition and just made all of it more compact and expanded some missing parts so that it was easier to understand and use.
The 3rd edition D&D rules change drastically. Inches are gone and movement is listed in feet (p.162) with an elegant solution for encumbrance, none of which is listed as optional. Also, rounds are only 6 seconds long now (p.138) and the segments and turns of earlier editions are gone. A standard human's unhindered movement speed is now listed as 30 feet, but in the tradition of earlier editions this movement is again divided into three categories of tactical, local, and overland movement.
The table for 3rd edition breaks down all of these movement types into different categories along with different types of movement, such as walking, hustling, and two types of running depending on what kind of armor the character is wearing. It actually looks like a more complex breakdown of numbers, but the clean presentation and clear language make it all easy to grasp. Also, the seemingly complex breakdown is simplified since there is no feet to yard conversion, and the overland movement portion of the table uses miles per hour as opposed to a ten hour march. Take a look for yourself:
I think the 3rd edition movement rates start to lose some integrity once you start looking at the running speeds because those seem a little too high and probably reflect humans at athletic peaks instead of average human capability.
Now let's do a quick comparison of movement types with editions:
|1st edition||2nd edition||3rd edition|
|Indoor||120 feet / 1 minute||120 feet / 1 minute||30 feet / 6 seconds|
|Outdoor||120 yards / 1 minute||120 yards / 1 minute||300 feet / 1 minute|
|Overland||20 to 40 miles? / 1 day||24 miles / 10 hours||3 miles / 1 hour|
I had never looked at the 1st edition rules before and I was hoping I would like them the best, but they are an utter mess. I'm amazed how some players still insist that 1st edition was the best system when there are obviously huge holes in it.
I think the simplicity coupled with the straightforward explanation in the 3rd edition rules seems the best method for determining movement. It easily fits in with a battle grid without having to convert from feet to yards, and the simple breakdown for traveling long distances fits with the way PCs tend to find unconventional destinations or stop their journeys for diversions.
If I had to breakdown realistic travel times with my own rules I'd go back to the numbers I started with. If a round is six seconds then a human should be able to walk 30 feet (29.34 feet) and run 60 feet (62.10 feet). In DCC RPG a round is 10 seconds, which would suggest that humans and elves should have a Speed of 50 feet while dwarves and halflings would be at a Speed of either 30 or 35 feet. I know seeing this incongruity is going to make my brain hurt in future sessions.