Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Building Worlds by the Numbers this time

  So, as defined last time, it seems reasonable to extend nations influence to 6 days as the crow flies.  For the puposes of fantasy kingdoms, we can imagine a central point of authority, this would be where the King keeps all of his stuff, and up to 6 days in all directions.  Nations can go further than this, up to 12 days, but that requires more power to overcome more conflict; say 6 days for middle powers and up to 12 for larger, richer powers.

  Marching a day means moving 24 miles, as per D20 rules.  A nation that can exert influence for 6 days as the crow flies equals 144 miles from the border, and twice that, about 288 as a diameter.  Nations won’t have a perfect circle of influence, of course, but we can use this to solve for a total land area; that sets the circumference at 904.8 miles and an area of 65,144 square miles.  By comparison, England is listed by Wikipedia as about 50,000 sq. miles, Denmark as about 42,000 sq. miles, and most other nations in Europe are much bigger.  The numbers aren’t unreasonable, but as a reminder, most of the numbers I can find are decidedly modern.  I think 65,000 sq. miles might be unreasonable for a Dark Ages Kingdom, but could fly as a measure for High Middle Ages Kingdoms.  Maybe. 

  It might work really well if that number becomes reduced by coastlines.  All numbers discussed so far should not have bearing on naval power at all!  Additionally, the nations should be built to 6 days journey, not necessarily in miles of distance, but time.  The above figure of 65,000 can be taken as a very rough estimate, and rocky, hilly, mountainous, swampy, or tundra (tundra-y? tundra-nous?) terrain can sharply reduce the surface area of the land.

  Still, this gives us a working framework for building new fantasy kingdoms, and I’ve found another tool to play with, I mean, experiment.  QZIL is a Kingdom generating calculator by Derek Bryan for the web, based on the work of S. John Ross.  This tool is highly effective, and gives us a means to use the numbers figure above and in the last post.  Indeed, a test of the calculator may be in order.

  We have enormously detailed numbers of Medieval England from the Domesday Book.  We should be able to plunk in the numbers coming from the Domesday book into the calculator, and obtain something vaguely like the 11th century Kingdom, making exceptions for recent conquests and executions, of course.

  The Domesday book does not record exact figures for population; lucky for the QZIL calculator then, that population isn’t a required input.  We need an estimate of the land area (miles squared) and the approximate population density, with a third line recording the relative fertility of the land.  The result has to work out to something close to 2 million, as the UK Source for the Domesday Book Online

  Three regions, Licolnshire, East Anglia and East Kent, are given a density of 10 people per square mile, with the rest perhaps as low as 3 people per sq. mile.  Fertility of the land is much trickier; it is estimated by the hide, or unit of land required to sustain a family.  By the time of the Domesday Book, there are several fixed definitions, including 0.19 sq. miles generally, and, in Dorset and Wiltshire, as little as 0.06 sq. miles.  For reference, the definition of “enough to sustain a family” was long gone.  We could, by way of solution, just average the two extremes, but it seems the low end is far more uncommon.

  For the purposes of building a quick and dirty role playing setting, we could simply call Dorset and Wiltshire under-performing; England therefore sustained a family (which was what, again? 3?  5?  Google seems to be leaving me without answers again, so I’ll just plunk in 4 and be done with it).  That means the population density should be about 20 people per sq. mile (which is below the minimum range).  Finally, the land area in 1066 seems to have been, including lands under and not under cultivation, includes a small sliver of Wales and loses a small number of other counties.  Heck, London and a few other cities are plainly not polled.  Still, the land area of modern England should do in a pinch, which I previously ballparked at around 50,000 sq. miles.

  For all the rough estimates I’ve worked in, it certainly seems like I could make any number of excuses for the calculator turning up random numbers.  Still, we’ve come this far.

  The End Result comes up with a population of about 1,000,000 people, about half of the estimate above.  Also noteworthy is that most of the population lives in villages, 645,000 to 54,000 “urban,” or about 12:1.  The actual breakdown was stated as at least 90%, or 9:1, but maybe that number was low.  Also curious is the 300,000 listed in the calculator as itinerant.  The region had just endured a deadly war…

  The calculator helpfully generates a list of cities.  One Big City, presumably London, two “cities,” and the rest are towns numbering five.  There are 1613 villages, no universities at all, five “urban” castles, 15 wilderness castles, and three ruins.  That one may be off for my own fault: I entered that the Kingdom was 300 years old, but England is sitting on top of a far older civilization of Romanized Celts.  This estimate would not include such things as Hadrian’s Wall; there are way more than 3 Roman ruins in all of England.

  The Calculator is extremely handy, breaking down the city, town, and village availability of services to the nth degree.  Adventurers could journey to the region immediately, and if they ask the DM what services they can blow their exotic, unsupportable gold on, the DM has a ready list of answers.  Two of the towns have no booksellers at all, so if the PCs intimidate the two who work in London and lose their support there, then they have to go a long way and risk being left without service!  It surely seems like a highly playable setting, even if some numbers tend to go away from the expected.

  Just as an experiment, I try changing a few values, but I’m not at all sure how I would settle down that third of the population in motion.  That seems excessive for a nation where people live to serve their lord, but not for a population that does not own land …

  No matter how I change the numbers, it seems the ideal for itinerants is a third of the total population, where S. John Ross, the man who cooked up the formulas but not the calculator, suggests they should be smaller numbers.  There should be itinerant workers, farm hands looking to work seasonally, or moving carnival folk, but a third still seems a lot.  The Domesday book made express mention of slaves and unfree, non-landholding laborers, and if their number added to the “itinerants” then we may see numbers slightly more reflective of the Domesday book. 

  All of this is irrelevant, of course.  If the DM chooses to have the players interface with an itinerant gypsy, then the odds of encountering one is exactly 1:1 odds.  If the PCs choose to pursue itinerants, then they will find them or cut down every DM-erected barrier in their way to get to them.  I think the calculations are serviceable, so  I remain impressed by the calculator and Mr. Bryan’s work.

Next time: I hope to have something a little more original.

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