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How big are the biggest cities in your campaign world?

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Recently I was rereading the 3.5 Dungeon Master's Guide and took note of the listings for various settlements by population (p. 137):
  • Thorp: 20-80 people.
  • Hamlet: 81-400 people.
  • Village: 401-900 people.
  • Small town: 901-2,000 people.
  • Large town: 2,001-5,000 people.
  • Small city: 5,001-12,000 people.
  • Large city: 12,001-25,000 people.
  • Metropolis: 25,001+ people.
What bothered me about this was that I knew that I'd seen a listing for a larger population center somewhere. After some checking around online, I was finally able to zero in on where. The Epic Level Handbook revised the population tables (from the 3.0 DMG; the revisions weren't kept in the 3.5 book, which is part of the reason I had such a hard time finding it initially), and in so doing added the following:
  • Planar metropolis: 100,000+ people.
Now, it's fairly intuitive that these population distributions are meant to reflect a pseudo-medieval world, where urban centers aren't nearly the size that they are today. Even so, I found it quite amusing to consider that a town with a hundred thousand people or more is so large that it constitutes being known across the multiverse for its size.

"Across the planes of existence, there are places where untold masses live, converging in groups so large as to boggle the imagination. Places with names such as Sigil, Dis, the City of Brass, and...Akron, Ohio."

So that got me wondering: how large are the largest population centers in your campaign world? Are they places with a few tens of thousands of people, like in the DMG? Or do you have them approaching more contemporary standards? How big are your world's "big cities"?

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Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Both Rome and Alexandria topped 1 million back in ancient times, so megapoles aren't impossible. As my campaigns tend to draw heaviest inspiration from the Ancient Near East, the largest cities in my campaigns tend to have over a half million, easy.

Our supplement on the City of Brass estimated the City's population at 400,000 to 3 million (from the comically reduced 4e population to the old 2e estimates). Our forthcoming book estimates the population of Golden Huzuz at 800,000, per 2e.
 
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TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
I tend to run settings that are more high-magic and therefore more modern-ish in their population assumptions. When I ran Ravnica, I set the population at around 250M. I'm running Eberron right now, and I have Sharn and its environs set at around 4M, and some other major cities (Wroat, Thronehold, Korth, Thaliost, and Flamekeep) are all around the 1M range.
 

Nytmare

David Jose
I was assuming that the biggest city in my Sumerian post apocalyptic Torchbearer campaign was around 6000 people, a little less than a tenth of what it had been in real life sans apocalypse.

I also think that you're reading the chart a bit backwards. It's not saying that a population of 100,000 people allows a place to qualify as an interdimensional metropolis. It's that if an interdimensional metropolis exists, it's going to have at least 100,000 people living in it.
 

zarionofarabel

Adventurer
My games tend to follow the numbers in the chart. Within a country there might be a single large city, and perhaps a second smaller city. No more than a handful of towns, most of which will be on the smaller end of the scale. The Thorpe, hamlet, and village make up, by far, the vast majority of settlements.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
A quick google shows London had a population of about 18000 in 1086 (the Domesday Book) and about 45000 in the 1300's.

Given as the settings usually seem to assume a 1300-1500-ish level of advancement, having a few cities get a bit north of 50000 doesn't seem inappropriate. Add in some conveniences magic can bring and it might go even higher.

Im my own campaign, the biggest cities the PCs have yet encountered are in the 20K-to-30K range; there's two bigger ones on the continent that they've heard of but have yet to get anywhere near (those being my game's vague equivalents of London and Rome), and other than that they've got to go off-continent to find anything bigger.
 

aco175

Legend
Does a town include the smaller farms and sections of a place in the total. A town may have a core location and several outpost areas or townships that are dependent on the main place. A cluster of farms may be listed as a hamlet, but be considered part of the town proper.

For example, Waterdeep has a base population living inside the gates, but do you add the population living in the surrounding area of the Undercliff.
 

Now, it's fairly intuitive that these population distributions are meant to reflect a pseudo-medieval world, where urban centers aren't nearly the size that they are today. Even so, I found it quite amusing to consider that a town with a hundred thousand people or more is so large that it constitutes being known across the multiverse for its size.
Note well that the tables in the 3E DMG were stated clearly to be for use in coming up with details for a settlement on the fly. They were never designed for use as a template for all settlements and indeed work quite badly for that. However, they were seized upon by players as if meant for it anyway, to the extent of reverse engineering complete world-building principles and rules from it that were never intended.

For my own games, if not specifically using a commercial game setting (and sometimes even IF using one), the largest cities I cared to assume were perhaps 100,000 population at best, with MOST major cities being in the range of about 30,000. Those are much more manageable sizes to draw detailed maps for. A city of 1,000,000 or better can't be mapped in practical terms by the DM, much less by the players. And a city that size always feels to me that it wants to be a setting in its own right rather than just one location within a larger setting.
 


Both Rome and Alexandria topped 1 million back in ancient times, so megapoles aren't impossible. As my campaigns tend to draw heaviest inspiration from the Ancient Near East, the largest cities in my campaigns tend to have over a half million, easy.

Our supplement on the City of Brass estimated the City's population at 400,000 to 3 million (from the comically reduced 4e population to the old 2e estimates). Our forthcoming book estimates the population of Golden Huzuz at 800,000, per 2e.
Byzantium has been said to have topped 1.2 million before the Ottoman Empire.... but it sprawled, and was utterly dependent upon imperial tribute to survive.

The biggest I've used in any RPG as a place players have been was a city of 10.5 billion (1e9) persons... but that was a quirk of Traveller's world gen. In no small irony, it was a size 1 world (~1600 km diameter).

For a fantasy game, one of my two homebrews had a city of about 100,000... but it was a capital, part of a trading empire, and supported strongly by the ruling cabal of wizards.

Most of the "Cities" in my game worlds only qualify as such by the "definition" of "A city is a village with a bishop and a royal charter."
 

A quick google shows London had a population of about 18000 in 1086 (the Domesday Book) and about 45000 in the 1300's.

Given as the settings usually seem to assume a 1300-1500-ish level of advancement, having a few cities get a bit north of 50000 doesn't seem inappropriate. Add in some conveniences magic can bring and it might go even higher.

Im my own campaign, the biggest cities the PCs have yet encountered are in the 20K-to-30K range; there's two bigger ones on the continent that they've heard of but have yet to get anywhere near (those being my game's vague equivalents of London and Rome), and other than that they've got to go off-continent to find anything bigger.

In fantasy, seldom more than 50,000. Rome was indeed vastly larger, but it also dominated the known world.
In the Late Middle Ages, London was decent. There were dozens upon dozens of cities larger. When Rome dominated Europe, there were still many cities over 50k, though none matched Rome at its peak in the Bronze Age

 

My Free City of Greyhawk, Dyvers, and Raxus all run about 1M people. They are the exception, rather than the rule, with the rest of the population similar to the DMG listings.
 


In the Late Middle Ages, London was decent. There were dozens upon dozens of cities larger. When Rome dominated Europe, there were still many cities over 50k, though none matched Rome at its peak in the Bronze Age

Yes, people using London as an example of a prominent medieval city are ignoring the fact England was a rather minor power until after the Renaissance.

The big cities in the Middle Ages were the wealthy, urban centres of the "Roman core" - the Italian city states, the southern parts of modern Spain, Thrace, and Egypt.

Amalfi in Italy was 80,000 people when London was only a 1/4 of that size. Constantinople was 500,000 and Cordoba 350,000 in the same period. Palermo, probably not much smaller than Cordoba and Seville around 100,000.

Northern Europe had been an undeveloped backwater during the Roman era, and it took a few centuries for the cities there to catch up and overtake the more established cities that hugged the Mediterranean/
 

Really I think as a rule of thumb, cities can be around 10,000, important capitals of minor realms around 3 or 4 times that, and six figures for the big important trade centres. And it isn't unusual for a 1 million megalopolis to exist you just need to be able to justify it.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Hmmm...the "biggest"...I'm going to say 1 million. As someone noted above, Rome and Alexandria has a million.

My world, I will say, has a single megapolis of that size. The second/next largest would be around 500,000. Those are the two giant, largest cities, both known the continent over. Often looked at as "sister cities" one sits on the southeastern coast and on a western sea coast they are referred to as, "the Gem of the East" and "the Jewel of the West," respectively.

Following those two, "Metropolis" cities, which I would put 50-100k, would number...six? Maybe seven.
"Cities" 25-50k... I'm thinking only about 5.
"Large Towns" or Medium towns with something notable, say 10-25k. Maybe a dozen.
Medium towns or smaller, farming villages, hamlets, trading posts, clumps of homesteads, lone "keeps" housing a few dozen to a few hundred, etc... there are 4 or 5 I can name off the top of my head ("starting points for most campaigns). But realistically, they are innumerable/generated as needed.

I guess that sounds like a lot, but if you consider we're talking about a continent of seven different established HUMAN nations, at least four nations of other species, and wide swathes of unconquered (or conquered, fallen, and reclaimed) wilderness. So, divvied up, it's really not that many people in any given place.
 

John Dallman

Explorer
About 250,000. The setting is more Renaissance-like than Medieval, and the city has several favourable circumstances: it's a trade hub, with very fertile hinterlands, and has a rather dynamic culture, capable of integrating immigrants in volume.
 

It hasn't come up explicitly in my current campaign (E6), but I'd say about 10,000.

Although I did once put together a setting that I never ran where the city covered the whole world. Like Coruscant, but then fantasy.
 

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