Discussion – Population & Peerage

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.

northern-tharn

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?!

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