D&D General What are some of the populations of D&D kingdoms and cities?

Voadam

Legend
I mostly don't sweat things like populations and specific map distances and farms supplying food to population centers, but sometimes the numbers or lack of numbers will catch my eye and I will think about comparisons and scale and scope.

I remember being surprised when I read in the third party statless Pirate's Guide to Freeport that the international trade hub island city state "has a population that tops ten thousand in the busiest months, featuring people of all major humanoid races and cultures, as well as quite a few of the others." My college had a larger student population.

I know that population dynamics and scope were much different in the medieval and ancient world with constraints like farming networks necessary to support population centers, transportation and living area limits, starting from smaller numbers, etc. Also D&D setting materials are fantasy fiction with magic and story focus elements. Sometimes the numbers and size can jump out at you though, or raise considerations if you focus on the numbers that are there and think through the implications.

What are some of the given populations of kingdoms and specific cities in various D&D worlds? What sources provide these kinds of numbers?

How do they stack up against modern, medieval, and ancient places?

How do they stack up against other D&D worlds and places? How big is Greyhawk versus Waterdeep versus Sharn versus Lankhmar?

How divergent are reports about the same places? In the 1e World of Greyhawk boxed set Greyhawk city has a population of 58,000 for the city and 75,000 if you include the surrounding area. In the 3.0 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer it is listed as 69,000 for the city and 160,000 for the territory it controls.
 

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kigmatzomat

Adventurer
Historical populations are hard to know as complete censuses were generally nonexistent.

E.g. Roman census data was limited to military aged males (17+). Even that gets fuzzy around the City of Rome vs the Empire. I have seen estimates that during the Punic Wars (~250BCE-150BCE) the cities of Rome, Syracuse and Carthage had populations of 100k, 150k and 200k respectively.

Later during the reign of Augustus, Rome is believed to be between 800k-1.25M. This would likely include the "metro" area around Rome as it is based on grain deliveries.

This number drops after Constantine goes east, with Rome in the 500s probably back to 100k, between the Ostrogoths and plague.

Byzantium, pre-plague in the mid 500s, was up to around 500k and then people fled/died from the plague, with the city down to 30k-75k.

around 400CE in what is modern Mexico, Teotihuaca was up to 200k.

900CE Chichen Itza was 50k

Edo, the capital of Benin in modeen African Nigeria, was 200k in the 1100s and up to 300k in 1897 when British destroyed it. (Totally worth reading about Edo: Story of cities #5: Benin City, the mighty medieval capital now lost without trace)

London was under 20k in 1100Ad but was up to around 1M by 1800. London grew rapidly, adding a couple hundred thousand people every decade until WW1. It also lost a lot of people as various disease outbreaks were common.
 

I remember reading a thread about a Harn city described as a busy port that had a population of 800.

There is usually a 10-1 ration of rural to urban, which would mean big cities like Waterdeep would be surrounded by villages numbering a million people, which I feel doesn't get addressed very much in their descriptions.
 

I remember reading a thread about a Harn city described as a busy port that had a population of 800.

There is usually a 10-1 ration of rural to urban, which would mean big cities like Waterdeep would be surrounded by villages numbering a million people, which I feel doesn't get addressed very much in their descriptions.
It is glossed over a lot, but it has been mentioned from time to time. The 3e FRCS gave the population of both Waterdeep city (132,661) and the area it controlled (1,347,840; that includes the city). People tend to not notice that Waterdeep controls a fairly substantial hinterland - everything between the Dessarin River to the east, Amphail to the north, and the sea to the west and south.
 

kigmatzomat

Adventurer
I remember reading a thread about a Harn city described as a busy port that had a population of 800.

"Busy" can mean a lot, and doesn't mandate scale. Whatever that can keep the roustabouts active, with cargo moving any time the sun is up. It could be as little one large ship a week or a small ship each day. A ship can carry anything from a few tons up to several thousand tons (the "Isis" of 500sCE Roman Empire carried 2k tons of grain) with all that moved by muscle power and lots of pulleys. (high magic settings might have constructs or wizards do work)

Population of a port town depends a lot on its nature. Is it a ship-to-ship transfer point (like on an island) or a ship-to-shore transfer point? The former can be much smaller, not even having much in the way of farm land if grain and such is carried in by ships. The latter needs wagons, barges, oxen, fodder, and staff needed to support them.

There is usually a 10-1 ration of rural to urban, which would mean big cities like Waterdeep would be surrounded by villages numbering a million people, which I feel doesn't get addressed very much in their descriptions.

Yes and no. Yes, 10:1 is a common rural/urban ratio but the rural doesn't have to be close. I mentioned the grain ship Isis above. It spent its life carrying African grain (pre-desertification of Libya et al) to the Empire's big cities. That puts a LOT of those rural on a different continent. They are usually* part of the same polity but may not be subservient to the city in question. I.e Byzantium called the shots in the 400s and the city of Rome had to petition for grain allotments. Or (shudder) negotiate with tradesmen.

*a lot of conquest often comes down to securing vital supplies. Dependant on a weaker neighbor-state? Try to finagle a political marriage to foster an empire by bloodlines. If that fails, arm your hungry urban populace and go conquering.
 

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