D&D General World size and climates (Eberron population vs size)

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
A common solution to the perceived problem of Eberron having "too few people", with Sharn being very empty with 200,000 inhabitants for example, is to multiply the numbers by whatever fit your fancy (I've seen x10 often). The second most common solution is to reduce the distances (so countries like Breland don't have wide swath of empty, uncultivated area and a density similar to that of Siberia). I can see the interest in reducing distances, and I have seen map with a proposed reduced scales on reddit.

However, I know next to nothing about climate, and I wouldn't want players who might have their suspension of disbelief broken by population figures complain about the abruptness of climate transition. Northern Khorvaire has icecaps, Sharn is tropical... So my question is : if the whole world was smaller, could the climate change that much over a fewer distance, or does the variety of environment relies on having roughly Earth-sized planet?

[I'd like this thread not to devolve into "don't play with players who complain about population figures", if possible, I am just asking the collective wisdom about which of the two solutions feels better before implementing one].

Thanks in advence for your thoughts.
 

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Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
I was not aware that this was a problem. Would you mind summarizing and unpacking this part a bit more?

At the city level it's like "Sharn is, say, London-sized, but it's also miles-high, so if it has 200,000 inhabitants there is no way the street are bustling with activity, and if it has 2 or 5 millions inhabitants, then all of Breland's population (4.3 millions) is in Sharn, with no-one left outside to populate the other cities (or to do farming to feed them, given that they don't all rely on magic to create food). So a fix commonly suggested is "have Breland 43m inhabitants, Sharn 2, and everything is fine".

The density problem is "if we assume the population and size, it really means that when you go from Vathirond to Starilaskur, you'll travel a month on foot without meeting another humanoid", which is certainly a solution but is certainly extreme in the Point of Light way (and for example, who would mind the 20,000 Cyran refugees if they just settled hundreds of miles from the nearest human settlement ? They'd be more than welcome by local lords as were the peasants after the Great Plague, to cultivate the large stretch of land they have with nobody on it".

More detailed criticism have been made saying that the "early industrial feel" of the dragonmarked houses requires some population to support it.
 

Eberron has already been shrunk. The map scale IIRC is now about 75% of what it originally was. Khorvaire is still rather big, about the size of Europe or USA, many countrifies being larger than the largest European countries. I think you could easily shrink it by a further third (to get us to about the half of the original 3e size) making the countries more comparable to European county sizes.

Climate is complicated, and depends on ocean currents, axial tilt and all sort of other things. In a fantasy world elementals might be involved too... Also, what size is the planet? On a smaller planet (with a comparable axial tilt to Earth) the climate zones obviously are smaller too. In any case, I think the climate being far more complex topic means it is much easier to handwave than the population of a city. People instantly realise that the stated number and the description of Sharn do not really match, it is not so clearly apparent with the climate.

Also I don't think you need to increase all the population numbers by the same multiplier you increase Sharn's. Though you need to still increase them somewhat. But it makes a perfect sense for a huge percentage of country's population to be concentrated on one giant metropolis.
 
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Yora

Legend
I wrote two posts about this just a year ago.

How large does a setting have to be?
Worldbuilding Scale References

This map section here is an area of 1000 x 1000 miles.

1kx1k.png


It pretty much includes all places you'd typically think of when thinking of "the Middle Ages". There are of course things going on in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Iberia, but those are not usually included in the images of knights and castles. They are commonly treated as different "settings" by media.
You got all of England, all of France, almost all of Germany, and the wealthy parts of Italy that historians care about. All of it on just a 1000x1000 miles map.

With a 2000x2000 miles map, you can include pretty much any type of climate and environment you want. (See the maps in the second link.)
 

Aldarc

Legend
At the city level it's like "Sharn is, say, London-sized, but it's also miles-high, so if it has 200,000 inhabitants there is no way the street are bustling with activity, and if it has 2 or 5 millions inhabitants, then all of Breland's population (4.3 millions) is in Sharn, with no-one left outside to populate the other cities (or to do farming to feed them, given that they don't all rely on magic to create food). So a fix commonly suggested is "have Breland 43m inhabitants, Sharn 2, and everything is fine".

The density problem is "if we assume the population and size, it really means that when you go from Vathirond to Starilaskur, you'll travel a month on foot without meeting another humanoid", which is certainly a solution but is certainly extreme in the Point of Light way (and for example, who would mind the 20,000 Cyran refugees if they just settled hundreds of miles from the nearest human settlement ? They'd be more than welcome by local lords as were the peasants after the Great Plague, to cultivate the large stretch of land they have with nobody on it".
I'm still not sure if I entirely agree with the problem. There may be one, but I'm not sure if the solution is to bump Breland to 43 million inhabitants as opposed to redistributing the 4.3m Brelish population around.

Ancient Rome had an estimated population of 1 million people, but the city of Rome had only about a population around 25K at the start of the 1400s, but many would still have considered it a relatively bustling city of its time, despite the fact that it was a shadow of its former glory. But there were a fair number of larger urban centers in Europe around the time of the 1400s, including in the rest of Italy, which had populations in the 200K+ range (e.g., Milan, Florence, Naples, etc.). Plus, a lot of these European cities were hammered by the Plague.

Moreover, one also has to consider that the year is 998 YK, and the continent of Khorvaire is still recovering from a one-hundred year war, which also featured its share of famine, drought, disease, and other issues. There were areas in Germany, particularly in the nothern regions, that took decades or centuries for their populations to recover from the Thirty Years War.

More detailed criticism have been made saying that the "early industrial feel" of the dragonmarked houses requires some population to support it.
While there is a bit of an "early industrial feel," I think that there is also meant to evoke the European guild system, Italian merchant guilds, Hansa League, etc.

In general, I think that the problem is looking at the population of a city, nation, or continent as something static that has to conform to preconceptions without sight of the bigger picture. There still may be a problem with demography in Eberron, but the solutions may stem from misidentifying what those problems are.
 

Yora

Legend
The thing with Eberron is that we know it's technologically and culturally similar to the 19th century, and the nations are organized similar to Europe and North America. For that to work, you'd need population densities at least roughly comparable. And the original map scale for Eberron was way off that many times.
A continent with that size of area and size of population could exist, but it would be a setting more like Australia than Europe.
 

LizardWizard00

Explorer
A common solution to the perceived problem of Eberron having "too few people", with Sharn being very empty with 200,000 inhabitants for example, is to multiply the numbers by whatever fit your fancy (I've seen x10 often). The second most common solution is to reduce the distances (so countries like Breland don't have wide swath of empty, uncultivated area and a density similar to that of Siberia). I can see the interest in reducing distances, and I have seen map with a proposed reduced scales on reddit.

However, I know next to nothing about climate, and I wouldn't want players who might have their suspension of disbelief broken by population figures complain about the abruptness of climate transition. Northern Khorvaire has icecaps, Sharn is tropical... So my question is : if the whole world was smaller, could the climate change that much over a fewer distance, or does the variety of environment relies on having roughly Earth-sized planet?

[I'd like this thread not to devolve into "don't play with players who complain about population figures", if possible, I am just asking the collective wisdom about which of the two solutions feels better before implementing one].

Thanks in advence for your thoughts.
Simple solution - don't think about. I know as a player I never would!

If it really bothers you just adjust the number of people. Though I wouldn't worry about the climate. Climate is very complex and we are talking about a fantasy world with magic. Climate can be whatever you want.
 

Aldarc

Legend
The thing with Eberron is that we know it's technologically and culturally similar to the 19th century, and the nations are organized similar to Europe and North America. For that to work, you'd need population densities at least roughly comparable. And the original map scale for Eberron was way off that many times.
A continent with that size of area and size of population could exist, but it would be a setting more like Australia than Europe.
The geographic size of Eberron has changed multiple times between editions. The original size of Khorvaire in 3e was actually much larger than what Keith Baker wanted. It was increased in size because WotC thought that the continent should be "big." It's actually smaller in 5e - and closer to the original vision - than it was in 3e:

lcywda103y341.png

It's still huge, but thankfully nowhere near as huge as it once was.
 

éxypnos

Explorer
However, I know next to nothing about climate, and I wouldn't want players who might have their suspension of disbelief broken by population figures complain about the abruptness of climate transition. Northern Khorvaire has icecaps, Sharn is tropical...
I wouldn't worry about it unless you are running a Sci-Fi crunchy game. One could run a D&D type game using a setting like Discworld. And many do and it follows no real laws for climate or anything related. If you run a fun game I think the players will be happy with it and not notice. But if you want abrupt change in climate stick in a narrow mountain range that is said to funnel in cold or warm air from a cold or warmer region... The oppoiste is true too. The Himalayan mountains help keep a colder climate north of them than would naturally occur if they weren't there.
 
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I think professional setting create an expectation to build planet size setting for home brew.
Most of the time it is no use.

all geographical error can be explain using fantasy or magical implication.
a lake with no water source? no problem, at the bottom there is a nexus to the elemental water plane that produce continual water.

Lack of population can be explained by past war, on going curse, malediction and so on.

don’t pretend to create a realistic historical setting if you don’t have to knowledge to do so.
otherwise dm need to become an expert in geographic, economic, social trait, warfare, plus the implication of magic on top of that. Dm will continually trying to patch errors they made to correct previous errors.

anyway just look at most movie and tv show, they make very funny short cut to build up their world. in Star Wars most planet is condensed into a far west town size society.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
The thing with Eberron is that we know it's technologically and culturally similar to the 19th century, and the nations are organized similar to Europe and North America. For that to work, you'd need population densities at least roughly comparable. And the original map scale for Eberron was way off that many times.
A continent with that size of area and size of population could exist, but it would be a setting more like Australia than Europe.
IIRC, population of France during the Napoleonic wars (circa 1800), an era that matches the cultural and technological level of Eberron IMO (if you want to keep it pre-industrial, or at least pre-steam), was around 40-something millions. A 43M Breland in a Khorvaire where all distances are reduced by half makes it a good turn-of-the-19th-century Europe analogue.

I love sparsely populated medieval settings and I love Eberron, but they aren't the same at all.
 


Laurefindel

Legend
A common solution to the perceived problem of Eberron having "too few people", with Sharn being very empty with 200,000 inhabitants for example, is to multiply the numbers by whatever fit your fancy (I've seen x10 often). The second most common solution is to reduce the distances (so countries like Breland don't have wide swath of empty, uncultivated area and a density similar to that of Siberia). I can see the interest in reducing distances, and I have seen map with a proposed reduced scales on reddit.

However, I know next to nothing about climate, and I wouldn't want players who might have their suspension of disbelief broken by population figures complain about the abruptness of climate transition. Northern Khorvaire has icecaps, Sharn is tropical... So my question is : if the whole world was smaller, could the climate change that much over a fewer distance, or does the variety of environment relies on having roughly Earth-sized planet?

[I'd like this thread not to devolve into "don't play with players who complain about population figures", if possible, I am just asking the collective wisdom about which of the two solutions feels better before implementing one].

Thanks in advence for your thoughts.
Khorvaire is also a (relatively) contained island, meaning that there are seas and oceans all around. A lot of these climate variations are most likely due to oceanic currents, in turn affecting weather patterns and air currents, rather than latitude proper. Southern Breland and Zilargo are probably made warmer by southern current from the coasts of Xendrik, and northern Aundair made more temperate by the warm waters of the Scion Sound. Karrnath is colder at the same latitude. Something seems to keep moisture from entering the eastern Talenta Plains and nortrhern Valenar, instead keeping it in Q'barra. Lhazzar sounds pretty temperate for its latitude, until it turns freezing cold west of Cape Far. There must be some mighty storms there! At any case, you don't need to make complete sense out of it, and the creators are probably not experienced meteorologists, but there is enough to keep disbelief in reasonable suspension.
 
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However, I know next to nothing about climate, and I wouldn't want players who might have their suspension of disbelief broken by population figures complain about the abruptness of climate transition. Northern Khorvaire has icecaps, Sharn is tropical... So my question is : if the whole world was smaller, could the climate change that much over a fewer distance, or does the variety of environment relies on having roughly Earth-sized planet?

For the most part you don't have to worry about changes in planet size altering the climate unless you are going fantastically large or Mercury small. Even so, a basic understanding of climatology relating to worldbuilding is enough. There is a great series of YouTube videos by Artifexian that cover climates in worldbuilding exercises.

What I find lacking in Eberron is the lack of smaller countries. There aren't any Belgiums, Prussias, or Tusconys. (From what I remember anyway.) I would expect more small buffer states between the larger, more imperial countries.
 



tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I'm still not sure if I entirely agree with the problem. There may be one, but I'm not sure if the solution is to bump Breland to 43 million inhabitants as opposed to redistributing the 4.3m Brelish population around.

Ancient Rome had an estimated population of 1 million people, but the city of Rome had only about a population around 25K at the start of the 1400s, but many would still have considered it a relatively bustling city of its time, despite the fact that it was a shadow of its former glory. But there were a fair number of larger urban centers in Europe around the time of the 1400s, including in the rest of Italy, which had populations in the 200K+ range (e.g., Milan, Florence, Naples, etc.). Plus, a lot of these European cities were hammered by the Plague.

Moreover, one also has to consider that the year is 998 YK, and the continent of Khorvaire is still recovering from a one-hundred year war, which also featured its share of famine, drought, disease, and other issues. There were areas in Germany, particularly in the nothern regions, that took decades or centuries for their populations to recover from the Thirty Years War.


While there is a bit of an "early industrial feel," I think that there is also meant to evoke the European guild system, Italian merchant guilds, Hansa League, etc.

In general, I think that the problem is looking at the population of a city, nation, or continent as something static that has to conform to preconceptions without sight of the bigger picture. There still may be a problem with demography in Eberron, but the solutions may stem from misidentifying what those problems are.
The population size numbers are a big problem for eberron because it is moch closer to late 1800s early 1920s in tech & culture than ancient Rome but the actual densities are often dramatically lower than the lower populated parts of the Sahara desert. It gives a feel less like recovering from the last war than tiny isolated pockets that survived a major apocalypse if you even glance at it casually at any point
This gets especially notable with Sharn where you have a city on scales akin to all of NYC London & Tokyo all stacked endover end on the island of Manhattan with a population that is well below 10% of the small town I live in. From there it becomes instantly apparent that the population is one that makes the walking dead's look positively crowded


With the weather if you shrink it, that's different Imo because weather is complex in ways others have notedand because of manifest zones like the risia ones all over the frigid khorvaire so the fantasy excuses for weather are literally baked in with a spotlight on them in many cases.
 

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