# Thread: How do I know the size of my world, and its population

1. ## How do I know the size of my world, and its population

Hi everyone,

I've been doing this map, helped by one of the great tutorials found here. I'm writing a story that takes place in this world I'm mapping, and now that my map is almost finished, I encounter some problems.

The first one is that I don't really know the size of my world. I mean, I «feel» its size, enough to draw borders, places cities, and those sort of things, but I could not make any scale bar. And as I'm writing a story about it, this is the kind of things I should know, in order to be more coherent to my readers. Do you have any ideas how to proceed? I know that some characters travel by boat on a river between two points in two or three weeks, but I don't know the speed of a ship... Do some of you know that kind of stuff? That, or the number of kilometers one man can travel in a day in foot/ on horse? That could help me define the distances, but if there's is any other ways...

My second problem is the population of my world. I have absolutely NO idea how many people live in a country/ big city/ town/ village. My story takes place in a middle ages - renaissance - pre industrial world. How do I know what is a credible population for my world? And, by extension, how big an army must be? In other words, is there a guide to creating a fantasy world?

2. Well, we had a few discussions along those lines here at the Guild, and here is one of the links that came up a couple of times. I believe you would find quite a few of your answers in the General Discussions forum. You might have to look through the threads, but that is never a waste of time.

I hope this helps a bit.

3. On my current map I just took that northern coast-town in a cool temperate climate and the southern coast that is supposed to be where it's really subtropically warm. And then I checked some random site on the Internet for the distance between Hamburg, Germany and Tunis, Tunisia (that just happen to lie on exactly the same longitude) = 1800 km. And so I had my scale.
Let's see if I find another few good examples... Bristol (directly west of London, UK) to Madrid, Spain: 1230 km (765 miles)
Similar: From Chicago straight south to the Gulf of Mexico (Pensacola): 1261 km or 784 miles. (Hong Kong to Beijing is just about the same, too, just for some cultural diversity in what twelvehundretsomething km can be.)

So much about the big distances, you can break it down from there.
Areas:
I often find it difficult to get a feeling for the right sizes of islands. Thus for comparison, I check Wikipedia. Good points of reference are:
Crete: 8,336 km² (3,219 sq mi)
Sicily: 25,711 km² (9,927 sq mi)
Ireland: 84,421 km² (32,595.1 sq mi)
Britain (the isle): 229,848 km² (88,744.8 sq mi)
Japan: 377,944 km² (145,925 sq mi)
Iberian Peninsula (not an Island but still): 581,471.1 km² (224,507.25 sq mi)
Australia: 7,692,024 km² (2,969,907 sq mi)

Distances: Well, if it's approximately rectangular, the distance is area / the other side. If its approximately a circle, the diameter is twice the root of (area / Pi).

And finally Population density. Yes, I have my own lookup table there, too. (Source: Maddison Project)
The area of todays nation of Germany (357,021 km² or 137,847 sq mi) had:
Year 1: 3,000,000
Year 1000: 3,500,000 (sounds a bit low - or a bit 8th century to me but whatever)
Year 1500: 12,000,000
Year 1600: 16,000,000
Year 1700: 15,000,000
... people.

The today United Kingdom (compare Great Britain above)
Year 1: 800,000
Year 1000: 2,000,000
Year 1500: 3,942,000
Year 1600: 6,170,000
Year 1700: 8,565,000

The today nations Spain + Portugal (compare Iberian Penisula)
Year 1: 3,750,000 + 400,000 = 4,150,000
Year 1000: 4,000,000 + 600,000 = 4,600,000
Year 1500: 6,800,000 + 1,000,000 = 7,800,000
Year 1600: 8,240,000 + 1,100,000 = 9,340,000
Year 1700: 8,770,000 + 2,000,000 = 10,770,000

And Norway (to show that climate really matters - 385,186 km² or 148,720 sq mi)
Year 1: 100,000
Year 1000: 200,000
Year 1500: 300,000
Year 1600: 400,000
Year 1700: 500,000

Now about traveling speed, I often find that difficult, too. There are really lots of factors involved (horses?, terrain?, streets?, fitness?).

4. The base travelling speed for a human, which I got over at a writers forum some time ago, was that we can travel between 3 to 5 kmph. From there it's all about your story and map. If they're travelling uphill, then it'll take longer; are they fleeing from someone? They'll travel faster, etc. It's very crude, but it's worked for me.

5. I have created a table which I use as a guide for travelling speeds in my medieval-esque world. There are many factors which have an effect; not just the geography but the time of year, weather, and most importantly the size of the group. One thing worth noting is the very common mistake of thinking that being mounted improves travelling speed. It doesn't, over the long run. Horses can't walk much faster than humans; their main advantage is the amount of weight they can carry. Of course they can also travel much faster for very short periods of time, but these are very short. Most horses would be utterly exhausted after galloping for more than 5-10 minutes.

Here's my guide, km's per day:

SINGLE PERSON
On Foot - 35km (paved road) - 35km (open ground) - 20km (broken ground)
Mounted - 35km - 35km - 20km
Forced March - 70km - 70km - 40km

SMALL PARTY (up to 50)
On Foot - 30km (paved road) - 20km (open ground) - 15km (broken ground)
Mounted - 35km - 35km - 15km
Forced - 60km - 45km - 22km

LARGE PARTY (50-200)
On Foot - 30km (paved road) - 20km (open ground) - 12km (broken ground)
Mounted - 35km - 30km - 12km
Forced - 50km - 40km - 16km

SMALL ARMY (200-2000)
On Foot - 28km (paved road) - 22km (open ground) - N/A (broken ground)
Mounted - 28km - 22km - N/A
Forced - 40km - 35km - N/A

ARMY (2000-5000)
On Foot - 26km (paved road) - 12km (open ground) - N/A (broken ground)
Mounted - 26km - 12km - N/A
Forced - N/A - N/A - N/A

LARGE ARMY (5000+)
(here the determining factor is the length of the column, thus the width of the clear route is more relevant)
Wide Path (4 across) - 16km
Narrow Path (2 across) - 8km

For a group larger than about 10,000 the actual travelling speed will have to be determined on a case by case basis due to the complexities of composition, and the length of the column.

In addition to the above, I use the following multipliers to take into account variables. The guide above assumes good conditions on a summer day. For the factors below, the multiplier is a general guide, but obviously depending on the size and composition of the group, many of these variables would render travel impossible.

Desert - X 0.7
Rain - X 0.8
Storm (heavy rain) - X 0.5
Snow (on ground) - X 0.2
Blizzard (snow falling) - X 0.1
Swamp - X 0.1
Forest (light) - X 0.40
Forest (dense) - X 0.2
Winter - X 0.5
Autumn - X 0.75
Spring - X 0.75

You can see how these quickly affect travelling speed. For example a small party can nicely make 30km a day on good open country in summer. But in winter, through a light forest on broken ground in the middle of a Blizzard? Suddenly you're down to 300m a day!

6. Not sure where you got your number but they seem similar to the one I have in my old dnd 3.5 edition book.

a normal person would walk 36km per day, seems ok
But I think the horse is faster even for longer distances, but since I have never been on one, I only rely on dnd and common sense. There are different kind of horses too. Donkey ( not an horse but often used) is nearly as strong, much smaller and also slower, for example. I mean the Spanish used heavy cavalry against the Moor that used light cavalry, much faster. Useful for guerilla tactic or skirmishes, the where butchered on the field of battle against the tougher horses (more armored too). So some horse are good for speed wile other races are more strudy.

There are also other mean of transportation such as ships but when I look at the table here : (scroll down) SRD:Movement - D&D Wiki
I get confused because the distances in my book are in km and in miles on internet and nothing matches but it's the same version.
Ship with sails can usually move all day long so that is why they have greater distance and some are faster than walking too, but noit too much. If someone could walk all day long, he could do 70km or more maybe. That is as fast as some sail boat it seems.

7. I think Gumboot is right, horses are not significantly faster than people. I do however think they can be pushed harder than people and that when they are they also move faster. This will however result in injuries or loss of the horses, they also present an absolute logistical nightmare if you can not depend of a supply of feed on your route. They are a logistical nightmare in general even if you do have a sure supply of feed on the route, anything other than really small parties likely have spare mounts and packhorses/mules to help.

There is good reason donkeys and mules were so heavily used in the past and are used even today, and it has nothing to do with their sunny disposition. Same thing with camels. Horses are good for many things but long distance travel is not the area in which they shine.

Edit: Oh right as to the OP http://www.cartographersguild.com/tu...e-realism.html is a pretty interesting tutorial on just what you want to know.

8. Originally Posted by Azelor
Not sure where you got your number but they seem similar to the one I have in my old dnd 3.5 edition book.
I created the table myself, from a wide range of different sources. I certainly wouldn't claim it as any sort of definitive source, it's just a good relatively realistic guide that I use to ensure travel times in my writing are consistent and realistic.

Originally Posted by Azelor
But I think the horse is faster even for longer distances, but since I have never been on one, I only rely on dnd and common sense.
They're really not. Horses can undeniably travel much faster than humans, yes, but only in brief bursts in the same way that people don't sprint or run, or even jog long distances, but walk.

Originally Posted by Azelor
There are different kind of horses too. Donkey ( not an horse but often used) is nearly as strong, much smaller and also slower, for example.
I think you'd be surprised how similar the walking speed of a variety of different animals is.

Originally Posted by Azelor
I mean the Spanish used heavy cavalry against the Moor that used light cavalry, much faster.
Sure, but over short distances, such as a battle. If you're covering a short distance, or you have way stations along the route where you can change mounts regularly, a horse is certainly a much, much faster option. But if you're going for long distance travel with the same horse, it won't cover it much faster than you will. And as Falconius excellently points out, there's significant logistical considerations with a horse.

Originally Posted by Azelor
There are also other mean of transportation such as ships but when I look at the table here : (scroll down) SRD:Movement - D&D Wiki
I get confused because the distances in my book are in km and in miles on internet and nothing matches but it's the same version.
Ship with sails can usually move all day long so that is why they have greater distance and some are faster than walking too, but noit too much. If someone could walk all day long, he could do 70km or more maybe. That is as fast as some sail boat it seems.
That's another great consideration. I didn't include vehicles because there's such a host of variables, particularly with wind-powered ships or river craft. I tend to calculate those sorts of journeys on a case by case basis.

9. The vehicle thing reminds me; Viking posted a great link to ORBIS recently over on the Resources forum. ORBIS has calculations for sickening amounts of variants of travel in the Roman Empire. It is really, really, cool, and can be used to help determine the size of your countries and what to expect in your world.

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