D&D General Need wheat. Too dangerous. (worldbuilding)

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
The Forgotten Realms was created by an 8 year old American boy. At least that is when Ed wrote his first stories of it. He created the D&D setting at age 16 in 1975.

I think perhaps you give anyone too much credit for being able to produce a viable world that accounted for agriculture, commerce, etc at that age and in those years prior to the internet and the mass availability of knowledge that would allow such today. I know its fun to poke at Americans, but really, I don't think what you want could have been done by any child the world over in those years.

(And no, I'm not a fan of the Realms, but I do often run games set there because it is readily available and good enough setting for the feel that interests me.)
To be fair Tolkien fails hard at the economic, ecology and population dynamics level.
 

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Silvercat Moonpaw

Adventurer
Also, I'm not pointing these things out because I think people should be able to write them. I'm pointing them out because they fit in with the observation I once read about nations in these kinds of settings often being large because Americans are used to lots of distance between things.
 

Oofta

Legend
Also, I'm not pointing these things out because I think people should be able to write them. I'm pointing them out because they fit in with the observation I once read about nations in these kinds of settings often being large because Americans are used to lots of distance between things.
I gotta admit, back in the day I fell into that trap as well when designing my home campaign world. Eventually went back and broke it up into a variety of kingdoms and said that the old kingdom was similar to the Roman Empire at it's height. There's still evidence of the old kingdom, but now there are many, many individual countries in the same region and regions that don't really have a government outside of city states.

Good thing my setting I created when I was a teen was never published. :)
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
The Forgotten Realms was created by an 8 year old American boy. At least that is when Ed wrote his first stories of it. He created the D&D setting at age 16 in 1975.

I think perhaps you give anyone too much credit for being able to produce a viable world that accounted for agriculture, commerce, etc at that age and in those years prior to the internet and the mass availability of knowledge that would allow such today. I know its fun to poke at Americans, but really, I don't think what you want could have been done by any child the world over in those years.

(And no, I'm not a fan of the Realms, but I do often run games set there because it is readily available and good enough setting for the feel that interests me.)

And he's kept writing in and refining it since, still at it at the age of 61. So treating it like it is still the product of an 8 year old is a bit disingenuous
 

I have always divided lands by civilizations, locales, and wilds.
Civilizations need not be giant cities. But are lands that are tame. Watched for the most part.
Locales are places people know, such as a ruin. But most dare not tread there, for there is no reason or it is rumored to be dangerous.
Wilds are unknown. Maybe a handful of people know, but tracking down info on the area is tough.

Farmland falls into the civilization areas. Some of it, like ranching, can drift over to the locales or edge of the wilds.
 

And he's kept writing in and refining it since, still at it at the age of 61. So treating it like it is still the product of an 8 year old is a bit disingenuous
Not an 8 year old, but a 16 year old. When he laid out the foundations (for himself). Besides, by that time his vision was established, at least in his head.

Ed has shown anything but a willingness to deviate from the vision he has of the Realms. Hence the return of the original Durnan, Halaster, etc. Besides, it is hard to argue with success. Apparently very few D&D gamers actually care if the setting has a viable economic model to support it. So what would motivate a change from success? Sounds to me like a risk with virtually no reward.
 


Also, I'm not pointing these things out because I think people should be able to write them. I'm pointing them out because they fit in with the observation I once read about nations in these kinds of settings often being large because Americans are used to lots of distance between things.
I always enjoy this observation. In a significant way, it is certainly true. But, it also assumes that Americans are all the same in this perspective. And we are not. There are certainly regional aspects. A couple of amusing (to me) stories to point this out;

My maternal Grandmother lived in upstate New York. When visiting her as a child, I remember us planning days in advance to go visit one of my Aunts in Vermont. It was a big trip. We took water, blankets, made sure the car was filled with gas, all that. It was about a 1 hour drive.

I grew up in the Southwest. I remember my Grandmother visiting us, and she was astonished that the closest shopping mall was 45 minutes away (at the time, late '70's). High school was a 45 minute drive, without rush hour traffic, then it was an hour to 1:15. Those drives were daily occurrences to us.

Sometime in the '00's I was working in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the siblings of a co-workers wife were coming from the northeast to visit for a 3 day weekend. And named all the places in New Mexico they had heard of and wanted to visit. They had no idea the distances involved. After all, they were all in the same state, so it couldn't be much driving right? He mapped it for them, it was something like 60 hours of straight driving. And they went "Oh".

America may be a melting pot, but it is far from homogenous!

I'm fortunate, I've travelled both as a kid with my family and for work. I understand distances, travel times, and scale. For those who want to understand how big their world/region is compared to other parts of the world, check out this website, really cool. Compare Countries With This Simple Tool
 
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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Well, this is CoS, which came out a long time before they decided Ravenloft relied on nightmare logic.
ah, a "fond" memory of my teenage years playing ravenloft. We rotated GMs, and 2 of my friends/fellow players were obsessed with Ravenloft. They were not happy when I pointed out that forever winter (a feature of a domain, we were playing an adventure) would result in everyone starving from hunter. "they are hunting rabbits" they answered "oh yes, and what are those eating??

"but that's not the point". Sure... so make sure your story holds together so that we don't fail to notice the point because the nonsense either breaks suspension of disbelief, or worse, is seen as deeply significant by the players because surely no one is silly enough to forget that people need food...
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
ah, a "fond" memory of my teenage years playing ravenloft. We rotated GMs, and 2 of my friends/fellow players were obsessed with Ravenloft. They were not happy when I pointed out that forever winter (a feature of a domain, we were playing an adventure) would result in everyone starving from hunter. "they are hunting rabbits" they answered "oh yes, and what are those eating??

"but that's not the point". Sure... so make sure your story holds together so that we don't fail to notice the point because the nonsense either breaks suspension of disbelief, or worse, is seen as deeply significant by the players because surely no one is silly enough to forget that people need food...
Yeah, there’s also an expectation issue there. I can’t imagine ever wanting Ravenloft to make any particular sense in terms of economics and food production. It’s a magical prison for histories biggest donks. The people have food because the rabbits and deer are fed magically, and the only reason it’s that way instead of the food just appearing in pantries is that needing to hunt leads to more encounters in the snow covered woods.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Not an 8 year old, but a 16 year old. When he laid out the foundations (for himself). Besides, by that time his vision was established, at least in his head.

Ed has shown anything but a willingness to deviate from the vision he has of the Realms. Hence the return of the original Durnan, Halaster, etc. Besides, it is hard to argue with success. Apparently very few D&D gamers actually care if the setting has a viable economic model to support it. So what would motivate a change from success? Sounds to me like a risk with virtually no reward.

My point is saying "he was 16 when he made it" is completely beside the point, because these maps and designs HAVE changed. He wasn't 16 when the Spellplague changed the map and Realms entirely. He wasn't 16 when 5e reversed that. He could have made the decision to change during any of these periods of alteration.

Now, if you want to argue that he has no reason to care, because no other settings care, then that is a different argument. One that is slightly valid, because there is no real reason to get bogged down in minutia like window dressings. But Greenwood HAS gotten bogged down in that minutia, and had plenty of chances to change things (it isn't like Phandalin's map is 55 years old, it was designed for 5e's adventure). So the age at which he created the Realms is not a defense against criticism.
 

ah, a "fond" memory of my teenage years playing ravenloft. We rotated GMs, and 2 of my friends/fellow players were obsessed with Ravenloft. They were not happy when I pointed out that forever winter (a feature of a domain, we were playing an adventure) would result in everyone starving from hunter. "they are hunting rabbits" they answered "oh yes, and what are those eating??

"but that's not the point". Sure... so make sure your story holds together so that we don't fail to notice the point because the nonsense either breaks suspension of disbelief, or worse, is seen as deeply significant by the players because surely no one is silly enough to forget that people need food...

Again, some people have always wanted more grounded realism in Ravenloft. But I think the thing is this isn't a 'this way or that way is better'. What you are saying sounds to me like a valid preference, but as a critique, I think it falls short when you are dealing with a setting inspired by a genre that includes dream-like qualities and even dream-like logic. In the original boxed set there is even a domain where reality changes shape behind you. This is a place created by the dark powers. What the dark powers are exactly isn't known, but they can create new worlds, fill them with inhabitants, and change the land around you. In a setting like this there is plenty of room for cause and effect to not always work how we expect, there is even valid reason why you'd want to disrupt peoples' logical expectations (to build the sense of something not quite being right; a glitch in the matrix). For some players, something like the rabbit not having an obvious food source is going to be a source of disrupting their disbelief, but for others, it adds to the surreal nature of the setting. The problem is you can't please both preferences. The setting can go in either direction. I think it would be a very different story if the aim and purpose of the setting was to be a more plausible place. But I see both preferences as entirely valid.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
ah, a "fond" memory of my teenage years playing ravenloft. We rotated GMs, and 2 of my friends/fellow players were obsessed with Ravenloft. They were not happy when I pointed out that forever winter (a feature of a domain, we were playing an adventure) would result in everyone starving from hunter. "they are hunting rabbits" they answered "oh yes, and what are those eating??

"but that's not the point". Sure... so make sure your story holds together so that we don't fail to notice the point because the nonsense either breaks suspension of disbelief, or worse, is seen as deeply significant by the players because surely no one is silly enough to forget that people need food...
Also, rabbit starvation is a thing.

Rabbits are so low in fat and carbs that if you just eat them, your body starves to death; it needs fats to metabolize the protein, and there isn't enough in the rabbits.

 

S'mon

Legend
I include farmland in my fantasy worlds. Some settings like Mystara and Greyhawk have vast settled agricultural kingdoms. In others like the Wilderlands it's a mile or so beyond the fortified village wall.

In my Wilderlands the villagers come out in the daytime, do farming in daylight (often watched over by large wardogs), retreat behind the walls at night. Few monsters have much interest in eating wheat. Even goblins & such aren't much into milling.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Yeah, there’s also an expectation issue there. I can’t imagine ever wanting Ravenloft to make any particular sense in terms of economics and food production. It’s a magical prison for histories biggest donks. The people have food because the rabbits and deer are fed magically, and the only reason it’s that way instead of the food just appearing in pantries is that needing to hunt leads to more encounters in the snow covered woods.
in my experience - and maybe that's because my GMs were teens at the time and not very experienced ha - was that each domain/adventure was sort of a giant "puzzle" that we had to solve. It's hard to solve a puzzle when so many things don't make sense.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
According to medieval census data one square mile could feed 180 to 200 people (that includes the farmers). So even with a lot of blessings 20 square miles are awfully small to supply even the core city of Waterdeep (200k) let alone the region with its ludicrous 2 million.
So let's say that with magic, each square mile can feed 500 people - a nice round number.

So to feed Waterdeep, you could need 400 square miles... or a 20 by 20 miles area. Which is smaller than the area NYC takes. This is not crazy. Rome had 1 million.

do the math people.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
So let's say that with magic, each square mile can feed 500 people - a nice round number.

So to feed Waterdeep, you could need 400 square miles... or a 20 by 20 miles area. Which is smaller than the area NYC takes. This is not crazy. Rome had 1 million.

do the math people.
Rome had 1 million people who were kept fed by Egypt and the entire north African coast, thanks to the Roman Empire having complete control over them.

And Waterdeep has 2 million inhabitants.
 

nevin

Hero
I understand this view, but I always take it with a grain of salt, because when you look at the Monster Manual... that's just too many things.

Just to give a rough example, @nevin mentions that the Polynesian people fish in shark infested waters. That is impressive, because we know that sharks are a dangerous threat.

But oceans in DnD have:

Giant Crabs
Merfolk
Tritons
Sea Elves
Giant Seahorses
Sharks
Giant Sharks
Sahuagin
Giant Octopus
Sea Spawn
Merrow
Plesiosaurus
Sea Hags
Deep Scions
Killer Whales
Kraken Priests
Water Elementals
Dragons
Sea Serpents
Dragon Turtles
Marid
Storm Giants
Krakens
Leviathans


And there used to be more, so you can pull from older editions as well for even more ocean or coastal threats. Now, obviously, it isn't going to be all of these things all of the time... but a lot of these things have large populations, and any of them could pose a major problem for a fishing village.


Now turn your gaze towards "forest monsters" or "surface cave-dwelling monsters" and these numbers swell. And, again obviously, a DM doesn't have to use all of these, but all of them do exist somewhere in most DnD worlds, and while in the real world something like a tiger can't really threaten a village or city too greatly... that's doesn't hold true for giants or a troll which could actually kill an entire village.
Again they cant be everywhere unless your world is a Mad Max survival game where all the monster manual creatures and pc races are struggling for survival. reasearch the amount of deadly creatures in the amazon. Or african jungles and remember they've never really prevented human survival. also if regular attacks are common then average levels will be higher. you might have level 15 farmers out in those fields being guarded by level 15 warriors and clerics. everything is relative.
 


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