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D&D 5E Questions about population density and map size. (new DM)

Zethnos

First Post
Hello everyone!

So I am making my own adventure and right now I am having a bit of an issue. I am not sure exactly how many kingdoms, cities, villages, etc to put on a map that is about the size of the USA.

The world I am creating is very young. Only about 12 million years old. Humanoids have been around about 89,000 years. Large cities and empires started about 4,000 years ago. The setting is traditional medieval-ish D&D.

Currently I have 6 kingdoms, 12 cities, and 10 villages (Which I know is way too few villages.). I am just not sure how many kingdoms I should have, how many cities and or villages per kingdom and about how much area one should take up. Would looking at maps of medieval Europe give me a good base as to how populated it would be?
 
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ccs

41st lv DM
There is no standard. You should have as many Kingdoms/City States/etc as you need to tell whatever story you have in mind.
 


Zethnos

First Post
Well, I know there is no set thing of you need this many people per this many sq miles and what not. I have another empire who's population is rather odd, and is explained in its lore. I was just wondering if this seemed vastly under populated under normal circumstances of the land not being extremely dangerous and so on.
 


How prevalent is magic?

With clerics able to cure disease and druids able to speed plant growth and wizards able to fabricate stuff with a click of their fingers, you have a ton of spare time on your average peasants hands, and a major population boost right there.

Such a world would only be sparsely populated due to a) lots o monsters and b) repeated cataclsysms (the latter almost certianly caused by magic gone awry and MAD style exchanges/ backfires of epic magic stuff) - like what happened to the Suel empire or the Netherese.

Even with relatively stock DnD magic, you would wind up with a massive population boom and remarkable advances in technology (due to the spare time on everyones hands not used for farming or making stuff). From there magic gets involved and it becomes exponential.

If you can imagine the effects of things like divination on something like the stock market, you get the idea.

More magic = civilisation needs to have been wiped out several times or else you approach a 20th century population figure dominated by very wealthy and powerful meritocracies (with enormous temporal, magical, military and economic might) very fast.
 

Zethnos

First Post
How prevalent is magic?

With clerics able to cure disease and druids able to speed plant growth and wizards able to fabricate stuff with a click of their fingers, you have a ton of spare time on your average peasants hands, and a major population boost right there.

Such a world would only be sparsely populated due to a) lots o monsters and b) repeated cataclsysms (the latter almost certianly caused by magic gone awry and MAD style exchanges/ backfires of epic magic stuff) - like what happened to the Suel empire or the Netherese.

Even with relatively stock DnD magic, you would wind up with a massive population boom and remarkable advances in technology (due to the spare time on everyones hands not used for farming or making stuff). From there magic gets involved and it becomes exponential.

If you can imagine the effects of things like divination on something like the stock market, you get the idea.

More magic = civilisation needs to have been wiped out several times or else you approach a 20th century population figure dominated by very wealthy and powerful meritocracies (with enormous temporal, magical, military and economic might) very fast.
Ahh I see what you are getting at.
 

How prevalent is magic?

With clerics able to cure disease and druids able to speed plant growth and wizards able to fabricate stuff with a click of their fingers, you have a ton of spare time on your average peasants hands, and a major population boost right there.

This part heavily depends on whether the deities of your world take an active part or not, or if they even exist. You can easily have a world with only non-divine magic.
 

Ahh I see what you are getting at.


I read an article once comparing the three big staples (corn vs wheat vs rice).

In Europe, wheat was the big staple. It requires a lot of space (hectares/ acres) per kj per person. Rice requires less space per kj/ person, and corn is the best of the three (you get the most kj per acre with corn than you do with rice than you do with wheat).

The problem being that corn is incredibly succeptable to pestilence and disease.

A society based on corn as its staple will accordingly have a ton of the population not involved in farming (and with free time on their hands). The end result will be civilisations rising at a great rate of knots with spectacular technolgical advances in a short period of time, before suddenly collapsing. Those societies will have extremely elablorate priest castes (people with time on their hands devoted to warding off the 'evil spirits' that wipe out civilisation) (Mayans, Aztecs, Incas etc). Their entire culture will focus on 'end of the world' type prohesies and cylical mythos (the Mayan calendar etc).

The technology such a society develops is geared towards wardning off famine and pestillence. An advanced priest caste, and extreme measures to ward off 'end times' (human sacrifice was a big deal). Also astronomy and knowledge of the seasons will get a massive look in.

Society is run by an elaborate priest caste, and wars are fough not for resources, but for sacrifices to keep society running.

Contrast to a society based on wheat. Wheat is very rigorous (compared to corn) but a society based on it pretty much the entire population needs to be involved in its production and harvesting. Such a society will stagnate (there are no free citizens devoted to philosphy, invention, technology and mercantile activities) but it also wont rise and fall like a society based on corn would. It would be more stable, but progress slower. Wheat can also be stored much easier than corn for bad seasons.

The society itself, power projection will be in the form of the distance a man on horseback can ride in a day. Lords will rule lesser lords, who themselves rule even lesser lords like knights. These lesser lords run the system with serfs at its base (owned by the lords whose sole role is to harvest wheat and other crops and livestock). They in turn are protected by the attendant knight or lord in his realm. We called it the feudal system.

The technology a wheat based agrarian society develops will be based around better harvesting wheat. Iron and steel, the plough and the plough horse (and the development of full plate armor and the war horse). Once technology allows for faster and more efficient wheat harvesting, more people will have more time on their hands and the merchant class will rise who (despite not making or producing anything) make money and have spare time. Bang presto, the reneisance happens, technology booms and the population surges.

Rice as the third main staple sits between the two extremes. It produces more kj/ hectare than wheat, but not as much as corn. Unlike corn, it is incredibly labor intensive to harvest reducing its many other advantages. A society built around rice features a combination of things seen in both wheat based agrarian societies and corn based societies, with more reverence for elders (who can organise the complex agriculture and mangagement necessary to harvest rice). In wheat based societies elders neither produce anything of value and are just overall drains on the overall kj needed on society. They tend to get shufffled off when old, and devalued compared to corn and rice based agrarian societies.

You can see from the above that simply deciding on what staple the society uses makes a massive difference to the values, structure, organisation, size, stablity and technology (rate and direction) of a society.

Now add magic.

With magic able to stop famine and pestilence, rapidly grow crops and protect them from plauge and pestilence, or preserve them indefinately you onlly require 1/10 of the (ostensibly agrarian) population required to feed the other 9/10. Technology booms faster than it did in our own reneissance (and as fast as it does now in the 20th century, if not faster). A lot of people have a lot of spare time on their hands suddenly. More ideas, and a sudden rise in the merchant class follows. The merchant class is again influenced by magic (divination and fabrication to start with) and modern economic boom and the elimination of disease creates a massive population and technological increase. Technology adopts the scientific paradigm, which in turn is influenced by diviniation magic rendering scientific theory instantly falsifiable.

Which of course inevitably leads to a massive population and technology surge, which (following our own moldel) leads to territorial and cultural wars fuelled by technological and magical weapons of mass destruction, knocking everything into dust again.

Most fantasy worlds account for just such a 'ctaclysm' in the past. The Netherese (Faerun), Suel (Greyhawk), Istari (dragonlance) and Azlanti (Golarion) empires.

Heck, in Darksun all that is left is a giant bloody desert!
 
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This part heavily depends on whether the deities of your world take an active part or not, or if they even exist. You can easily have a world with only non-divine magic.

For sure. Like I said, the prevalence of magic plays a part (what spells, how frequent etc).

But it would play a massive part (see my post above).

Most fantasy worlds adress this point by way of a massive cataclysm that destroyed a previous civilisation. The Netherese in Faerun had flying cities, plumbing, refrigeration, lighting, and minor magic items that were rendered them at the same level of technology as an advanced high tech society. They were akin to Star Trek levels of 'technology' travelling into other planes of existence, creating matter out of energy, teleporting around, extending their own lives, and with time spent studying the universe and not having to work. No one had to do anything they didnt want to do, and everything was done for them.

Then came Karsus folly and it all came crumbling down.

Conveniently explains the ruins everywhere too. Ancient civilisation, went 'boom', rebuilding from the ashes with little knowledge that they were once more advanced than our present day civilisation, with ruins still everywhere.

Mustve been how our ancestors must have lost their minds when they saw ancient Roman ruins. We mustve thought they were Gods.
 

Zethnos

First Post
I read an article once comparing the three big staples (corn vs wheat vs rice)...

Which of course inevitably leads to a massive population and technology surge, which (following our own moldel) leads to territorial and cultural wars fuelled by technological and magical weapons of mass destruction, knocking everything into dust again.

Most fantasy worlds account for just such a 'ctaclysm' in the past. The Netherese (Faerun), Suel (Greyhawk), Istari (dragonlance) and Azlanti (Golarion) empires.

Heck, in Darksun all that is left is a giant bloody desert!

I love this post. It gave me a pretty great idea as to where to go with the story :p as well as helped with the civilization planning.
 

KahlessNestor

Adventurer
I read an article once comparing the three big staples (corn vs wheat vs rice).

In Europe, wheat was the big staple. It requires a lot of space (hectares/ acres) per kj per person. Rice requires less space per kj/ person, and corn is the best of the three (you get the most kj per acre with corn than you do with rice than you do with wheat).

The problem being that corn is incredibly succeptable to pestilence and disease.

A society based on corn as its staple will accordingly have a ton of the population not involved in farming (and with free time on their hands). The end result will be civilisations rising at a great rate of knots with spectacular technolgical advances in a short period of time, before suddenly collapsing. Those societies will have extremely elablorate priest castes (people with time on their hands devoted to warding off the 'evil spirits' that wipe out civilisation) (Mayans, Aztecs, Incas etc). Their entire culture will focus on 'end of the world' type prohesies and cylical mythos (the Mayan calendar etc).

The technology such a society develops is geared towards wardning off famine and pestillence. An advanced priest caste, and extreme measures to ward off 'end times' (human sacrifice was a big deal). Also astronomy and knowledge of the seasons will get a massive look in.

Society is run by an elaborate priest caste, and wars are fough not for resources, but for sacrifices to keep society running.

Contrast to a society based on wheat. Wheat is very rigorous (compared to corn) but a society based on it pretty much the entire population needs to be involved in its production and harvesting. Such a society will stagnate (there are no free citizens devoted to philosphy, invention, technology and mercantile activities) but it also wont rise and fall like a society based on corn would. It would be more stable, but progress slower. Wheat can also be stored much easier than corn for bad seasons.

The society itself, power projection will be in the form of the distance a man on horseback can ride in a day. Lords will rule lesser lords, who themselves rule even lesser lords like knights. These lesser lords run the system with serfs at its base (owned by the lords whose sole role is to harvest wheat and other crops and livestock). They in turn are protected by the attendant knight or lord in his realm. We called it the feudal system.

The technology a wheat based agrarian society develops will be based around better harvesting wheat. Iron and steel, the plough and the plough horse (and the development of full plate armor and the war horse). Once technology allows for faster and more efficient wheat harvesting, more people will have more time on their hands and the merchant class will rise who (despite not making or producing anything) make money and have spare time. Bang presto, the reneisance happens, technology booms and the population surges.

Rice as the third main staple sits between the two extremes. It produces more kj/ hectare than wheat, but not as much as corn. Unlike corn, it is incredibly labor intensive to harvest reducing its many other advantages. A society built around rice features a combination of things seen in both wheat based agrarian societies and corn based societies, with more reverence for elders (who can organise the complex agriculture and mangagement necessary to harvest rice). In wheat based societies elders neither produce anything of value and are just overall drains on the overall kj needed on society. They tend to get shufffled off when old, and devalued compared to corn and rice based agrarian societies.

You can see from the above that simply deciding on what staple the society uses makes a massive difference to the values, structure, organisation, size, stablity and technology (rate and direction) of a society.

Now add magic.

With magic able to stop famine and pestilence, rapidly grow crops and protect them from plauge and pestilence, or preserve them indefinately you onlly require 1/10 of the (ostensibly agrarian) population required to feed the other 9/10. Technology booms faster than it did in our own reneissance (and as fast as it does now in the 20th century, if not faster). A lot of people have a lot of spare time on their hands suddenly. More ideas, and a sudden rise in the merchant class follows. The merchant class is again influenced by magic (divination and fabrication to start with) and modern economic boom and the elimination of disease creates a massive population and technological increase. Technology adopts the scientific paradigm, which in turn is influenced by diviniation magic rendering scientific theory instantly falsifiable.

Which of course inevitably leads to a massive population and technology surge, which (following our own moldel) leads to territorial and cultural wars fuelled by technological and magical weapons of mass destruction, knocking everything into dust again.

Most fantasy worlds account for just such a 'ctaclysm' in the past. The Netherese (Faerun), Suel (Greyhawk), Istari (dragonlance) and Azlanti (Golarion) empires.

Heck, in Darksun all that is left is a giant bloody desert!
Um...that's really, really simplistic. It fails to account for things like environment, weather patterns, religious outlook, geography, etc.

Sent from my SM-G900P using Tapatalk
 

KahlessNestor

Adventurer
For sure. Like I said, the prevalence of magic plays a part (what spells, how frequent etc).

But it would play a massive part (see my post above).

Most fantasy worlds adress this point by way of a massive cataclysm that destroyed a previous civilisation. The Netherese in Faerun had flying cities, plumbing, refrigeration, lighting, and minor magic items that were rendered them at the same level of technology as an advanced high tech society. They were akin to Star Trek levels of 'technology' travelling into other planes of existence, creating matter out of energy, teleporting around, extending their own lives, and with time spent studying the universe and not having to work. No one had to do anything they didnt want to do, and everything was done for them.

Then came Karsus folly and it all came crumbling down.

Conveniently explains the ruins everywhere too. Ancient civilisation, went 'boom', rebuilding from the ashes with little knowledge that they were once more advanced than our present day civilisation, with ruins still everywhere.

Mustve been how our ancestors must have lost their minds when they saw ancient Roman ruins. We mustve thought they were Gods.
Well, considering that Rome was a continuously inhabited city for its entire existence and a center of both ancient and medieval civilization, I doubt they were all that completely surprised. ..

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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
You should treat your world fractally :) - just mark in some of the big stuff to start (coastline, large mountain ranges, major rivers and the largest settlements - i.e. the political powerbases). Then as your group goes in a particular direction fill in the parts of the map they encounter. The Fantasy Name Generator is a big help when you need some town and village names.

But definitely avoid trying to get it all down at once. Let the details of the world be revealed alongside your campaign.

Good luck!
 


MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
Another thing to consider is biology. Some of the nonhuman races can live places that humans traditionally haven't (dwarves living underground), and smaller races can have higher densities.

In terms of maps, I wouldn't worry too much about villages, except for the ones that the PC's know about already (you can fill in the blanks as you go on). Just remember, cities, towns, and villages usually have a geographical reason for being where they are: being near food (plains converted to farmland), near an easy access point (to a body of water, a point where 2 or more large roads cross, or a mountain pass), or being near to a natural resource (often some kind of mine).

The area near cities is often best described using Von Thünen’s Rural Land Use Model (https://www.e-education.psu.edu/geog597i_02/node/7).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Um... Rome was?
Also, the Roman Empire lasted into the early Rennaiscance. The idea that the eastern Roman Empire was a separate empire is a hugely inaccurate oversimplification. Not all that much was actually lost. Western Europe just crapped its pants for a few centuries while the rest are of the world continued advancing.
 


Zethnos

First Post
So based on a lot of what you guys gave me, I have pretty much completed one of the empire maps. When I finish I plan on releasing everything I make for anyone to use so I will show you guys what it looks like so far.

The icon placement is not the exact location of everything. As in, if you see the village symbol, that represents around 10 villages in the general area. One city is one city, and the kingdom is pretty much a castle, keep, living areas and so on. Generally the kingdoms control everything in the nearby area so all of the villages and cities closest to it are under it's rule. Let me know what you think! :)

Map (1).jpg

So the north west and south west are connected to the rest of the continent. So #11 is a trade city pretty much. "The Pit" has a kingdom that plays a mysterious role in the world as to how it exists and what not.
 
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Um...that's really, really simplistic. It fails to account for things like environment, weather patterns, religious outlook, geography, etc.

Sent from my SM-G900P using Tapatalk

Environment and weather patterns influence harvest. Things like a bad season or blight wipes out a corn harvest, but wheat can be stored for years, and is less suceptable to blight.

The argument isnt that the staple of a culture is the sole determinant of that culture. Something as simple as geographical isolation is a massive factor as well. European cultures and civilzilisations were heavily influenced by Roman (and Greek and Persian) philosophy and culture and even central and far eastern Asian clultures as well. The civilisations in the Americas were more isolated from the rest of the world.

I remember just finding it fascinating that the main driver of a civilisation was its staple. In Europe during the feudal ages and dark ages, the majority of people (serfs etc) were at least indirectly involved in the production of food, and this served as a bottleneck not only to population growth, but also to technological advancement and cultural norms.

If wheat provided more kj per hectare, population would have boomed much quicker, and more people would have been free from food production to engage in other activity (mercantile, philisophical, economic, scientific etc).

It wasnt until the invention of the horse drawn plough and other inventions that sped up the production of wheat (and trade routes were opened bringing other staples like corn and so forth into the old world) that European society was left with a surplus of people who were not directly involved in food production. Population boomed with stable exesses of food, a mercantile class (and tradesmen and proeffesionals) emerged, this led to scientific advances in medicine and more complex economic systems and the growth (in both population and scientific advancement) rapidly became exponential.

Today, few people are farmers and people work in millions of different professions and trades. In the dark and feudal ages, pretty much everyone was involved in the production of food in one way or another.

Something as simple as a druid increasing the nutritional value of a harvest, reducing the man hours needed to bring in the harvest (or speeding up the time taken to bring grain to market), while protecting the harvest from blight and environmental effects frees up a lot of spare man hours and creates a population boom (and a lot of people with free time on their hands to create advanced economic, mercantile, scientific and other professions and endeavors). With PHB clerics able to cure disease on a level that is beyond modern medicine being in any way commonplace, you would expect a rapid and exponential growth in population, technology, and cultural complexity akin to the latter part of last millenium.
 
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