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    Canonfire :: View topic - Low Population Density Effects
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    Low Population Density Effects

    How densely populated do you like your Flanaess?
    I'm a purist - leagues of wilderness as far as the eye can see
    25%
     25%  [ 4 ]
    I'm a realist - dense Medieval population figures for me
    12%
     12%  [ 2 ]
    I like my populations sparse but not 1st edition sparse
    62%
     62%  [ 10 ]
    Total Votes : 16

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    Adept Greytalker

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    Tue Feb 14, 2023 12:22 pm  
    Low Population Density Effects

    I know this topic has likely come up before over the decades but I've been considering the low population figure for the Flanaess afresh.

    As written in the Guide to the World of Greyhawk population density roughly compares to Mongolia in the denser regions (e.g. lands of Dyvers, Nyrond) to Greenland in the less densely populous regions (e.g Wolf Nomads).

    Using the premise that the human population figures refer to fighting males only (as they do for listed demihuman figures) that still only makes the densely populated regions equate to somewhere like Canada.

    Rather than hash out what the figures *should* be I'm interested to hear how anyone who embraces the very low population density of the Flanaess and how that effects their campaign world.

    The Guide gives regions a humanoid population as well as human/demi-human. I always went under the assumption that these humanoids dwelt in the geographical features like hills, forests etc but the Guide states that these features have seperate population figures. Does it allow for much larger or established humanoid settlements to exist within sparsley populated regions like Ket or Sunndi for example? There are so many different creatures in the monstrous manuals and bestiaries it also opens up space for more creatures to happily exist in these regions.

    Would sparse populations mean fewer smaller rural settlements spread out due to the danger of being surrounded by so much wilderness. Does it allow for much more autonomy of individual settlements?

    It would make sense that adventurers become an important resource as governmental troops couldnt possibly defend such huge tracts of wilderness.

    Any thoughts very welcome!
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Tue Feb 14, 2023 12:54 pm  

    For my game, I multiply the populations by 10 (except for cities like Gradsul which I double). It's a simple answer... not the best perhaps.

    I've read the articles by Grognard - Armies of the Flanaess, especially for Keoland. They seem small to me, but I have no idea how to judge this.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Tue Feb 14, 2023 8:55 pm  

    Skech wrote:
    For my game, I multiply the populations by 10 (except for cities like Gradsul which I double). It's a simple answer... not the best perhaps.

    I've read the articles by Grognard - Armies of the Flanaess, especially for Keoland. They seem small to me, but I have no idea how to judge this.


    Skech, multiplying by ten is probably fairly sound, if not conservative. A reasonable assumption, as Wolfling states, is that only military age males are being counted. I would go further and state that the population returns are skewed based on the cultural region reporting them.

    Old Aerdy: Reaching from the Solnor to the Perrenland, the Oeridian society is based on serfdom as the bottom strata of society. In my view, serfs are simply not counted towards the population. In fact, only free men capable of bearing arms are counted. So really, this is the middling classes and up of military age. People in the militia are expected to "come, and fight as they are"; there is no national guard armory handing out uniform equipment.

    The Sheldomar Valley: I don't consider the Oeridian/Suel/Flan hybrid societies outside of Gran March to be based on serfdom, but it is based on client/patron relationships like medieval Byzantium and Ireland/Wales (in the foothills). Again, service in the militia is a "come as you are" affair. Only those capable of bearing weapons and equipping themselves are counted. This would likely also come with some sort of legal status setting them above the poor.

    I would also point out, that while most of the states of the Flanaess appear to have wide open plains, the settlement would be primarily in the best areas.. along well-drained rivers, rich topsoil, and the like. Just because an area is green on the Darlene map, does not mean it is covered in farms and hamlets. Historically, late medieval Europe came up against a resource limit in the early 14th century; all the land that could easily be brought into cultivation has been, and the marginal cost of brining new lands into cultivation was excessive. After the population eventually rebounds a couple of centuries later from the Black Death, new farming techniques and crops (potatoes!) enable more food to be grown and more land to be brought under cultivation, resulting in a population boom. The Flanaess are not at that inflection point yet, if they ever will be.

    Based on this logic, a multiplier of 10 is probably conservative. This is not to say the armies are too small. Medieval societies simply could not field large armies for a variety of resource and logistical reasons, not least of which is the comparative inefficiency of agriculture. There is a tendency in fantasy writing, even today, to project the roles, functions, and practices of a modern (18th century on) military onto what are essentially feudal forces. An army of say 10,000 medieval troops, with say 10% cavalry (2,000 horses to enable the riders to rest their mounts, plus a like number of draft horses, donkeys and oxen to haul carts) would eat out all the forage in the district within a week or so, forcing the army to move on like a plague of locusts. The books Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton and Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army show just how hard it was to keep any sort of large military formation permanently established until railroads and the internal combustion engine.

    I usually assume that if the players are traveling from one city or town to another, that there are settlements with an inn at least each day apart. If they are not heading from major population centers, than perhaps they find a farmstead or the like with a hayloft, or eventually they find that settlements are rare as they move into less desirable land, land where the monsters dwell...
    Adept Greytalker

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    Wed Feb 15, 2023 12:31 am  

    Thanks for your feedback. With small standing armies and lots of uninhabited wilderness it brings into the perspective the need for more outlying communities to hire mercenaries for protection. I guess it depends on how safe the region is.

    In a sparsely populated but relatively safe region like Celene, going by Glossography encounter tables there's ony a 4% chance to encounter brigands/bandits and only a 20% chance to encounter something from the standard encounter tables. It would be pretty safe for there to be numerous small communities scattered throught the whole region. Wayside inns wouldn't need to be too heavilly protected. Most of the threats are going to come from the borders with the forests, hills and mountains.

    Keoland on the other hand also seems fairly sparsely populated but you're 3 times as likely to encounter bandits/brigands (6%) and there's twice as much chance to encounter creatures from the standard encounter table (44%). My assumption was always that these creatures likely come out of the Dreadwood or hills but with such large areas of wilderness theirs a good chance they're indigenous threats to the countryside. There's probably not enough soldiery and rangers to deal with it all. If that's the case settlements would be less spread out than in Celene. Wayside Inns might need sturdy stockade walls and guards. Travel becomes more dangerous - it might make the various internal regions more isolated with greater regional variance in customs and dialects? Guilds for mercenaries or caravan guards might be more numerous? Fharlanghn's clergy would be in higher demand too.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Wed Feb 15, 2023 11:25 am  

    I didn't vote. None of the categories exactly fit what I do, which (since 2005 or so) is to use the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, although that often amounts to either choice 2 or choice 3. I assume that the Guide to the World of Greyhawk was not meant to be perfectly accurate (written in the voice of a fallible in-game narrator). I now use it as the source that players may use (sometimes, I even allow PCs to buy a copy in-game).

    tarelton wrote:
    ... Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton ...


    -Ah. A Van Creveld plug. IIRC, Katherine Kerr used him as her inspiration when she wrote an outstanding article in Dragon #94 (the one with the female ranger on the cover).
    CF Admin

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    Wed Feb 15, 2023 10:00 pm  

    Thanks for (re)starting this conversation Wolfling.

    Like jamesdglick, I've adopted the population number presented in the LGG, which increased the population of the Hold of the Sea Princes from 100,000 to 420,000 and specified its demographics as follows: humans (Sofz) at 79%, halflings at 8%, elves at 4%, dwarves at 3%, gnomes at 2%, half-elves and half-orcs at 1% each, and "Other" at 2%.

    Like Wolfling, I've used the Glossography's encounter tables to shape aspects of my campaign. For the Hold, it provides a three-percent chance of encountering demihumans, four percent for humanoids, thirty-eight percent for various "men," and fifty-five percent for the DMG's Standard Encounter Tables.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Wed Feb 15, 2023 10:16 pm  

    Complaints about the allegedly "low" populations of the Flanaess have always bothered me somewhat because they don't account for the fact that all the many, many other races and monsters (guesstimating upwards of 700+ just by the 1E monster books alone and excluding monsters that live on other planes) all need living space and resources too.

    The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer also noted that there are any number of potentially small, independent lordships and mini-states all over the place, even within the likes of Keoland. My Greyhawk's Flan, based as they are on the First Nations, also have a lot of independent nations that are not part of any formal state and have no rulers besides their own leaders.

    That IMO makes the actual concrete numbers for the Flanaess close to choice #3, which is what I voted. Here are the implications for my Greyhawk:

    -The "humanoids live in forests, mountains and swamps" concept only applies to the majority of humanoids. Small bands of orcs and goblins are a constant low-level threat pretty much everywhere. They don't have the sheer numbers they do in the Bone March or Pomarj, but there's a very good reason any state worth the name relies so heavily on patrols.

    -The rulers of those states would be happy if they didn't have to spend so much money on permanent standing armies and occasional mercenary bands, but they really don't have a choice. Peasant levies and citizen militias are the sort of thing you only use when you're forced to. No less than George Washington himself had some very bad experiences with militia forces and in turn a very low opinion of their usefulness in war.

    Monsters like orcs, ogres and giants fight and kill for a "living"-your average Fred The Farmer is going to be half-trained at best, and making him serve in a militia is more likely to get him killed. Louis The Lord is better off spending money to hire and train Stewart The Soldier to protect Fred, since Stewart has better motivation and training. That also ensures Fred can concentrate on the agriculture he's actually good at and that keeps making Louis money.

    -As a result, local lords and rulers often have discretion over how state militaries are used and directed, and authority to hire mercenaries and adventurers to deal with various problems. The question of how much control royal or other ruling authorities have as opposed to the aristocracy usually comes down to other political issues, not the local lords' ability to deal with certain threats on the spot.

    Given that not every lord is going to have all the resources he wants or the skills to necessarily use the ones he does have effectively, the orders of knighthood often exist to provide this kind of leadership in particularly bad areas. The Knights of the Watch help defend against the monsters of the Crystalmists and Jotens as much as they do the Baklunish. The Knights of the Hart provide a "first response" to any threat from Iuz, the Yatils, the Bandits or the Horned Society, given that their realms are often decentralized (due to historical and political factors rather than rural populations) and it takes time for the national armies to be rallied.

    This changes for Furyondy after the Greyhawk Wars, when a newly reinvigorated Belvor and the provincial nobles agree on the funding and composition of a larger full-time army. (The Horned Empire nearly conquering the country convinced most people of the need for it, and anyone who'd protest doesn't dare do it too loudly, given that the returned Thrommel is revered as a national hero for saving the kingdom in its darkest hour)

    -Most travelers tend to stick to the larger and more civilized roads. When they have to go into wilder areas, they realize that they do so at their own risk. The Ghosts Of The Past Silver Wolf novel has the party encountering a married couple traveling through the Gnarley Forest on their way to a new life in Verbobonc. The couple is extremely relieved when the party agrees to accompany them.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Thu Feb 16, 2023 10:32 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    Complaints about the allegedly "low" populations of the Flanaess have always bothered me somewhat because they don't account for the fact that all the many, many other races and monsters (guesstimating upwards of 700+ just by the 1E monster books alone and excluding monsters that live on other planes) all need living space and resources too...


    -I may have made that point the last time this came up. I do think that the somewhat larger human populations make a little more sense even allowing for this, but the main reason I go with the LGG is to be consistent.
    GreySage

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    Thu Feb 16, 2023 11:24 am  

    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the 'Points of Light' concept yet. That seems to fit well with the comments above supporting wide open tracts of unpopulated land. This is my preference.

    It concerns me that if humanity is too prevalent across the land, it would push out all other competing interests. This includes demi-humans, to an extent, but mostly it means that monsters of all kinds would be hunted to extinction. I prefer humanity to be holding on to existence by a thread. A few strong points of light (cities) insure that we aren't wiped out, but small communities too far from their protection are destroyed by indigenous monsters as often as they spring up.

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    Adept Greytalker

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    Thu Feb 16, 2023 8:41 pm  

    Another thing about the lower population densities is how, if the green flat prairies that make up most state territories are all settled and civilized, then how much territory is there left for aspiring player characters to settle and build their own towns and castles on? Do players have to go to the forests and mountains for any territory that isn't already claimed by some established nobility?
    Adept Greytalker

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    Fri Feb 24, 2023 5:52 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    Another thing about the lower population densities is how, if the green flat prairies that make up most state territories are all settled and civilized, then how much territory is there left for aspiring player characters to settle and build their own towns and castles on? Do players have to go to the forests and mountains for any territory that isn't already claimed by some established nobility?


    Assuming that all the easily arable land is claimed, there are always lords who die without issue, lose their title for various offenses ranging from treason to neglect, and lands that fall out of cultivation. Occasional invasions could end a noble line, or reveal it as too weak to continue in its responsibilities, all of which open up opportunities for the players. Burne and Rufus in T1 appear to be filing this role fon behalf of the Viscount for a vanished/displaced/removed lord. Also, if a state "adjusts" its borders, it may suddenly have new border lands requiring proven heroes to hold for them.

    Of course, the most productive, safest, best-located estates will likely be reserved by a ruling family for the more politically connected, but what hero wants a sinecure anyways?

    So, what about bringing new lands under the plow? I suggest reading McCullough's The Pioneers for a look at how new land was brought into cultivation. While it deals with the Ohio Country in the late 18th century, somethings would be similar to a medieval frontier, particularly the time it would take to actually clear a field. Demi-humans and certain character classes, if they build a stronghold, might also not necessarily be interested in vast tracts of farmland. A ranger would want a wilderness fort, a druid a grove, a dwarf would want to build a hold in the mountains, an elf in the forests, a gnome in the hills, and a halfling, well, they would would likely open the Flanaess first all-you-can-eat restaruant.
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    Fri Feb 24, 2023 7:29 am  
    Re: Low Population Density Effects

    Wolfling wrote:
    I know this topic has likely come up before over the decades but I've been considering the low population figure for the Flanaess afresh.

    As written in the Guide to the World of Greyhawk population density roughly compares to Mongolia in the denser regions (e.g. lands of Dyvers, Nyrond) to Greenland in the less densely populous regions (e.g Wolf Nomads).

    Using the premise that the human population figures refer to fighting males only (as they do for listed demihuman figures) that still only makes the densely populated regions equate to somewhere like Canada.

    Any thoughts very welcome!



    A few things about the Middle Ages :

    The birth rate in the Middle Ages

    In the Middle Ages, families were formed very early. Girls married between the ages of 16 and 18 for the most part, and boys between 22 and 25. Couples therefore had their first offspring at this age and often nearly a dozen (and even more) children in total. But infant mortality being very high (lack of care, poor hygiene, lack of comfort, severity of daily life...), there were generally only four or five "reliable" ones left.
    Life expectancy at the time may be between 50 and 60 years for people who were lucky enough to survive the first ten years (if life expectancy is calculated in a normal way, i.e. taking into account all births, the average falls between 35 and 40 years). Half of the women were widowed at fifty.


    Urbanization in the Middle Ages

    The town is an “innovation” of the urban expansion of the Middle Ages, it dates from this period. Cities are a legacy from earlier times. Because the creation of a town represented a real economic advantage for the lords of the time, the latter granted privileges to those who agreed to come and populate and develop it (and therefore fill the lord's coffers more easily). The cities were jealous of these privileges granted to the bourgeois, some claimed their own charter from their lords, and it didn't always go very well...

    There is no connection between the term burg in the Master's Guide and the real burg of the Middle Ages. In D&D it defines an urban community size; in the Middle Ages it defined a way of creating an urban community.

    The major city line corresponds on average and by adding the non-adult population to a city of approximately 5,000 inhabitants (the non-adult population represents approximately 25% of the population in the Middle Ages, the DMG, for its part, proposes between 10% and 40% depending on the race, without specifying more). The town line corresponds on average and by adding the non-adult population, to a town of 2,000 inhabitants. If we believe the few information gleaned from left to right on the subject, the urban population rate (2,000+ inhabitants) in the Middle Ages during the period of population growth (1000-1340) was around 13-15%. By crossing the 6% to 9% of the population living in the major cities according to the DMG and the 13 to 15% of the urban population in the Middle Ages, we can already attribute 6% of the population to the towns.


    Towns and cities of the Middle Ages

    According to Paul Bairoch, in the year 1000 there were between 27 and 31 cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants for a population of 30 to 34 million inhabitants in Europe and in 1340 about 83 to 88 cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants for a population of 70 to 74 million inhabitants. That is approximately 1 city of more than 20,000 inhabitants (city and metropolis lines) for 1 million inhabitants. In the journal Les Cahiers de Science et Vie on the city in the Middle Ages (No. 120 of December 2010), we learn in particular that around the year 1000, there were approximately 120 cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants for approximately 23 million inhabitants for Western Europe. If we compare to the 30 cities of more than 20,000 inhabitants for 30 million inhabitants above, we see that there is roughly a factor of 4 between the number of cities between 10,000 and 20,000 inhabitants (large city) and cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants (city and metropolis).

    For rural communities, it is difficult to find elements to judge the number of so-called places per hamlet, the number of hamlets per village, or even the number of villages per town. But to be honest, this only has a marginal influence on the rate of individuals with a level greater than 1. The variation of the modifier linked to the community is small and will only affect the relative proportions of the small levels, (between 1 and 3).

    from https://www.aidedd.org/adj/articles/de-la-signification-des-niveaux/

    Jacques
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    Thu Apr 13, 2023 9:36 am  

    I am a little in between.

    I don't like multiplying the populations by a fixed factor of say x5 or x10, because that makes the large cities way too big.

    Folio populations of the largest cities are in the 50k range, which is comparable to
    London right before the Black Death. So that seems reasonable even with no adjustment.

    Paris and Venice were larger than London, admittedly, but still...

    I'd prefer to keep city sizes the same and increase rural populations... some but not a lot, x2 or x3 maybe. I do think it actually works better as a world for adventure (more wilderness/room for monsters and more need for adventurers) if it's sparser than historical.
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