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What proportion of the population are adventurers?

Dausuul

Legend
Well, consider - the population of England and Wales together, in 1500, was probably about 3 million. Is the city state/region of Waterdeep comparable to... half of Renaissance England? If yes, then fine. If not...
The city of Rome at its height was about 1 million, and Rome's walls enclosed about 16 square miles. These numbers come from different sources, and it's not clear if the population figure refers to people inside the walls only. However, both are at least in the same ballpark as the figures given for Waterdeep.

As others have observed, food is the real challenge. You can't feed a city that size by operating a few farms outside the walls; Rome was the capital of an empire, and it needed that empire. A whole fleet of ships was built to do nothing but ferry grain across the Mediterranean and stuff it into Rome's gaping maw. I don't claim to be an expert on the Realms, but I don't believe Waterdeep rules an empire at all. My impression is that it's a mercantile city with little territory of its own.
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
These are the great debates of our time, if indeed a fantasy setting can exist in a fantasy land using fantasy rules and magic when we over-analyze it using real-world comparisons.
 
If people want to compare to real world populations of the late Middle Ages to early Renaissance, try to compare to pre-Great Plague populations, as the Black Death swept the world in the 1340s-1350s and killed as much as half the population of the known world. Or look at populations from about 1550 onward, as it took about 200 years for the world population to return to pre-plague numbers. Though some urban centers, such as London, still had more outbreaks that killed 20-25% of the population, making numbers from certain years not good to use.

But on the subject, the biggest creator of adventurers, mercenaries, etc, would be a just concluded major war. Thousands of now unemployed soldiers with nothing to do and nowhere to go could become mercenaries/adventurers or brigands/bandits. The end of the 100 Years War was a good example of that, with many of the former soldiers in the service of either England or France were suddenly on their own. It would be similar in a fantasy world. A long period of peace means less people out looking for their fortunes, while a recently ended period of war and turmoil would have many more people out there. And a peaceful fantasy world is a boring fantasy world, so this heightened number of unattached adventurers is normally common.
 

Hussar

Legend
The city of Rome at its height was about 1 million, and Rome's walls enclosed about 16 square miles. These numbers come from different sources, and it's not clear if the population figure refers to people inside the walls only. However, both are at least in the same ballpark as the figures given for Waterdeep.

As others have observed, food is the real challenge. You can't feed a city that size by operating a few farms outside the walls; Rome was the capital of an empire, and it needed that empire. A whole fleet of ships was built to do nothing but ferry grain across the Mediterranean and stuff it into Rome's gaping maw. I don't claim to be an expert on the Realms, but I don't believe Waterdeep rules an empire at all. My impression is that it's a mercantile city with little territory of its own.
Fair enough. And, if Waterdeep controlled a fair chunk of the known world at the time, then, I'd have no problems with that. But, even so, that's a city that's half again as large as Waterdeep with half the population posited.

I find the 200 (ish) thousand population within the city walls to be a lot more plausible.
 

Li Shenron

Adventurer
One PC-classed person in 1000 sounds like a nice round number to me. I'd increase the rate to maybe 1% for smaller, demihuman communities, or for everyone in a more heroic-era setting.
 

Derren

Villager
2 million is a bit much, but 1 million is reasonable as several cities reached that size without having an empire like Alexandria and having magic in Waterdeep is certainly more than equal to the fertile nile delta.

Some proposed number of adventurers look a bit low to me. An adventurer is basically a mercenary and there were a lot of them around.
 
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Well, consider - the population of England and Wales together, in 1500, was probably about 3 million. Is the city state/region of Waterdeep comparable to... half of Renaissance England? If yes, then fine. If not...
In addition to what others have said about Rome, Alexandria, et al, during the Renaissance, Britain was far less populous than France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of Europe.

But I think the point is, could Waterdeep have 200,000 people, with a region of 1.5-2M? The answer is: yes. And that is all that really matters; it doesn't have to closely fit real world analogs, it just has to be plausible, and it is.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
Well, consider - the population of England and Wales together, in 1500, was probably about 3 million. Is the city state/region of Waterdeep comparable to... half of Renaissance England? If yes, then fine. If not...
The Savage Frontier is huge, yes: the Sword Coast region is the size of the Western US, Canada and Mexico from the Pacific to the Rockies. The territory controlled by Waterdeep is probably comparable to England, or bigger; and if the Lord's Alliance is considered a nascent state, it's bigger than just about anything in Europe.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
Some proposed number of adventurers look a bit low to me. An adventurer is basically a mercenary and there were a lot of them around.
I think the issue is how you are defining it. I see it in 4 buckets:

1) 1st level “warriors”
2) higher level “warriors”
3) 1st level “fighters”
4) higher level “fighters”

Bucket 1 is probably where most mercenaries come from, and having there be a number of those makes sense. Likely the other buckets are a lot lower, especially bucket 4
 

sgt-d

Villager
There's also a chart in the 2e Players Option book for high levels that breaks it down by levels too
 

snickersnax

Explorer
These kinds of conversations always make me realize I live in a different world. IRL the number of people I know who DON'T have "levels" is quite small. My instinctive response to what percentage of the population has levels is: near 100%
 

Derren

Villager
I think the issue is how you are defining it. I see it in 4 buckets:

1) 1st level “warriors”
2) higher level “warriors”
3) 1st level “fighters”
4) higher level “fighters”

Bucket 1 is probably where most mercenaries come from, and having there be a number of those makes sense. Likely the other buckets are a lot lower, especially bucket 4
Imo there is no difference between mercenaries and adventurers so all those buckets would be counted together.
 

Radaceus

Villager
Im certainly a multi classed citizen. I've levels in several trades, skilled in several tools, some instruments, writing, poetry, carpentry, masonry, manufacturing, animal handling, farming; Computer systems, software, HR, Management; Sailing, Longshoreman, Deckhand...

I'm probably above average (I prefer the term 'abnormal'), but its my experience that I'm more common than most
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
Im certainly a multi classed citizen. I've levels in several trades, skilled in several tools, some instruments, writing, poetry, carpentry, masonry, manufacturing, animal handling, farming; Computer systems, software, HR, Management; Sailing, Longshoreman, Deckhand...

I'm probably above average (I prefer the term 'abnormal'), but its my experience that I'm more common than most
How many spell slots do you have...?
 

R_Chance

Explorer
Im certainly a multi classed citizen. I've levels in several trades, skilled in several tools, some instruments, writing, poetry, carpentry, masonry, manufacturing, animal handling, farming; Computer systems, software, HR, Management; Sailing, Longshoreman, Deckhand...

I'm probably above average (I prefer the term 'abnormal'), but its my experience that I'm more common than most
Education and training is more readily available today than in most fantasy settings. Job specialization is high in our society; not so much in a typical fantasy setting where most people are farmers. Even with farming techniques more efficient than the European Middle Ages (not a high bar...) where 90-95% of the population were farmers most people will be producing food so that a relatively few can specialize outside of food production. And few of those specialists will be "adventurers", most will fill needed slots like "smiths", "carpenters" and "priests". Adventurers... some soldiers / martial types, some rogues, a few non-sedentary priests and, imho, damn few magic wielders. All this would vary with the particulars of the setting, it's location, it's economy, tech level, magic availability, etc. In short, your guess is as good as mine :)
 

Radaceus

Villager
Education and training is more readily available today than in most fantasy settings. Job specialization is high in our society; not so much in a typical fantasy setting where most people are farmers. Even with farming techniques more efficient than the European Middle Ages (not a high bar...) where 90-95% of the population were farmers most people will be producing food so that a relatively few can specialize outside of food production. And few of those specialists will be "adventurers", most will fill needed slots like "smiths", "carpenters" and "priests". Adventurers... some soldiers / martial types, some rogues, a few non-sedentary priests and, imho, damn few magic wielders. All this would vary with the particulars of the setting, it's location, it's economy, tech level, magic availability, etc. In short, your guess is as good as mine :)
In my case, I dropped out of highschool ( note, I did have high marks, it's a longer story..), did 8 years in the Bering Sea, got my GED in the mean time, as well as learned several aspects of the building industry on my off seasons, which I parlayed into my next chapter as a carpenter and builder...etc. and so on...
But I digress,

In my travels, which includes living on three continents, I've toiled next to all manner of folk, and your blanket textbook assessment above is, in my humble opinion, inaccurate. Many 'skilled' people that I have had the honor of working beside had no degrees, little in the way of education; they learned their trades by application, not in a classroom. And this has been the way of the worker since time immemorial.
 

dnd4vr

Explorer
These kinds of conversations always make me realize I live in a different world. IRL the number of people I know who DON'T have "levels" is quite small. My instinctive response to what percentage of the population has levels is: near 100%
I'm curious IRL what people you know who have "levels"? I could see someone in the military (or ex-military) having some fighter, ranger, or other warrior class levels. Someone who grew up "on the street" might have some rogue levels. So how are things IRL that makes you realize you live in a different world?

In game, what levels would the greater percentage of the population have? Farmers are druids or rangers? Shopkeepers are rogues? Blacksmiths are fighters? I wouldn't find it unusual for any "profession" to have a level or two in a class due to their background (e.g. a blacksmith might have served in an army and have the soldier background and gained two levels in fighter), but I would never consider it normal.

That being said, so much depends on the flavor of your game. A world where travel and opportunity is limited is less likely to have commoners with levels IMO, because such things lead to experience (which translates into levels). Since levels 1 and 2 in many games are considered apprentice levels, it wouldn't be crazy to think many adults might have one or two levels in a class.

When I DM I give levels as needed. If I want an merchant to know a bit of magic learned from a remote place during his travels, I'll give him a level of sorcerer or something. This amounts to maybe 1-2% of the general population in my estimate. In a city of 10000 people, I could see a couple hundred of them having some levels, but in general it isn't really necessary because of the way "monsters" work. A "Thug" for instance, already has a stat block, so I don't need to make him a fighter/rogue 2/3 or something unless I want him to be a "leveled" NPC for some reason.
 

snickersnax

Explorer
I'm curious IRL what people you know who have "levels"? I could see someone in the military (or ex-military) having some fighter, ranger, or other warrior class levels. Someone who grew up "on the street" might have some rogue levels. So how are things IRL that makes you realize you live in a different world?
As far as fighter levels go:

I know a lot of martial artists - both eastern and western, many of whom are excellent. I know a lot of street fighters who even in their 40's - 70's are getting into fights. I live in Amish country and every weekend they get together and wrestle. Because it seems so common in real life, I can't imagine fighter training not being a natural part of survival in a world where death is often caused by losing a fight.

As far as other classes go:

I live near a spiritualist community and mediumship and healing are not an uncommon pursuits.

I work as a healer and witness miracles quite often, in a professional capacity many of my colleagues do as well.

I know many people who study and practice shamanism.

I know people who have fought bears, survived mass shootings in foreign countries, killed lots of people, won fist fights vs multiple opponents, are expert hunters. Magic IRL is poorly modeled by D&D, but I know many people whose lives are filled with magic. When I start to add up the people in my head who have at least one level and many who I would consider to have 5+ levels It doesn't talk long to be thinking about hundreds of people.

There are "classes" that I don't see many of, but I don't think that they don't exist; they just aren't in my circle of acquaintances. Rogues fall into that category.
 

Hriston

Explorer
I figure that adventurers come from a fairly small subset of the population - those who have the drive and determination to leave a life as a merchant or scholar or priest, to take up the extremely dangerous role of "adventurer". I also figure that not all strong-willed, determined people will become adventurers. Some would direct their drive and determination into politics or business.

So, is it one in a thousand? One in ten thousand?

The greater territory of Waterdeep has around 2 million people. How many of them are adventurers?
If you compare the distribution of a 4d6 drop lowest roll with something like the normal distribution of scores you'd expect to find in a given population, less than 2/10ths of a percent would have an adventurer's distribution, so out of 2 million, there are at most around 3,800, or about 1 in 531.
 
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