Welcome back! Today I’m going to muse on the ideas of Population and Peerage within a fantasy setting.
For everyone that doesn’t know, so pretty much everyone reading, I DM several D&D 5th Edition campaigns, the main one being a high fantasy, relatively stereotypical world. It is set is a quasi-medieval period of history, expect the divine intervention of deities etc. have obviously warped a lot.
Something I’ve been caught up on lately is the realism of the world. How do I make it seem legitimate? How do I make it feel like the world exists without the players? I think a major part of this is having a realistic demography and political system.
To start with, I thought about my fictitious continent. It’s called Northern Tharn and is around the size of the UK (96,768mi² compared to 94,058mi²). This is super helpful for me because it’s the size of home.
As you can see, it doesn’t look much like the UK, but it is similar in size (promise).
Despite the similarity in size I thought that my world ought to be wilder than medieval england, so my population is significantly less (~200,000 compared to the 1.5 million of England in 1086 – according to the Domesday Book). Part of this came from number came from looking at Wizards of the Coast’s cities. A quick google reveals that huge cities such as Waterdeep have a population of ~130,000 citizens, where as smaller cities such as Neverwinter have populations of ~25,000.
I also looked at my local area. I’m currently living in Cornwall, so I checked out the size of my nearby towns to get a rough idea.
Eventually, I settled on major cities having populations of ~25,000-30,000, with smaller towns ranging from 5,000-6,000.
This basically means that civilised people are few and far between, as I think it should be. I want the adventurers to feel like they can go where other folk haven’t ventured, even in this relatively small continent.
As you can see, Northern Tharn is split into a few different Kingdoms, each of which has a ‘capital’ and a few smaller towns. This is where I started to think about peerage and politics.
In England, we have a pretty complex aristocracy including dukes, earls, viscounts, barons, counts and lords. I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around it all, so I simplified it;
Lord/Lady – Member of a noble family.
Mayor/Mayoress – Democratically elected leader of a Capital City.
Baron/Baroness – Royally appointed leader of a town.
King/Queen – Ruler of a Kingdom.
I then went on to create a whole host of human noble families to fill in these ranks, making sure to provide a few spares (you never know what your players will do). Before long, I felt like George R.R. It looked good, I had Houses with crests, tenets, mottos, bases and leaders. I knew when each was founded and what they stood for as well as who the current head of each house was.
Then I realised I’d only though about humans. In my world, the Common Folk comprise of humans, dwarves, halfings and gnomes with the odd half-elf and half-orc milling about (Elves live in Fervedôr on their own (bloody elitists) and Bleak Sands has a whole nomad vibe going down).
So it left me thinking, would the other races have their own nobility? I added in some Dwarven peerage, with different titles etc. but having halfling aristocrats and gnomish royalty just seemed a bit weird for some reason.
After much thought I stopped at 5 Dwarf Houses and 10 Human Houses. I’m curious as to what other people do in their settings though? Do you have whole worlds built? Are there gnome queens?!