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Thread: Does anyone know a good "base minimum" population for a sustainable medeival city?

  1. #1

    Default Does anyone know a good "base minimum" population for a sustainable medeival city?

    Edit: Boy do I look dumb with that typo "medeival" lol.

    Sorry for the bad title. Let me try to explain in better detail.

    I am creating a fantasy game, with a very large world composed of 8 regions or "kingdoms". I have done a lot of research on creating Medieval Demographics, such as Medieval Demographics Made Easy, along with tons of research on medieval life, jobs, travel speeds, and so much more.

    I sifted through what felt like at least 30 pages of the "Reference Material" and found some gems. However, this is too much information to sift through to find what I need. I figured I could ask someone with greater knowledge of semi-realistic medieval world building.

    PROBLEM: My continent is 2.6 million sq miles, or a bit smaller than Australia. I followed the Medieval Demographics Made Easy. However, the results were insane.

    The suggested 30-120 population per sq mile, ended up with a world population of 150 million people. This doesn't make sense to me, as google has told me that Europe in the 14th century only had 80 million people.
    My world, actually includes a lot of land that goes below the 30, and only a small section that goes above 100. The average density is 58, which according to Medieval Demographics Made Easy, is only slightly more populated than the least populous area (British Isles, 40 density) in 14th century Europe.
    Yet my nation is actually MUCH smaller than Europe, which according to google is almost 4 million square miles.

    So my continent is 65% the size of Europe, but with almost double the population...despite having much LOWER average density and mostly "Hills" type ariability? And this is my taking the suggested 30% "mostly ice land" and making it 10%. So according to the description, my population density should be much higher.

    I thought this was a reliable source, but the numbers seem horrifically inaccurate in the formulas used. The facts, I naturally assume are true. They just don't match the formulas, even when I lower my suggested density a good amount.

    Going to another reference material, I find that "The Domesday Book, Penned by Brandon Blackmoor" uses a range of 10 to 45 max. The 45 being very fertile land, instead of the 100-120 MDME suggests. This is an enormous difference, with little explanation.

    I am not interested in randomly making up numbers, when they are so far off from reality. I could just make up my own numbers using reference material if I wanted that. Or just randomly throw out numbers and see what sticks.

    I notice that in Blackmoor's site, he uses a % of land that is ariable, based on the type of land. However, this doesn't effect the population. Why would the ariability not effect the population density? This doesn't seem to make sense either.

    Am I doing something wrong? Misread the equations?
    Continent Area: 2.6 million square miles

    Population Density: 8 Regions (average 58.75 density)
    Icy North & Tundra: (10 density) @ 330,000 sq miles
    Chilly Mountains (30 density) @ 270,000 sq miles
    Lush Highlands (100 density) @ 280,000 sq miles
    Enchanted Magical Growth Forest (120 density) @ 310,000 sq miles
    Plains & Massive Grasslands & Fields (80 density) @ 310,000 sq miles
    Desert region, but with an enormous and thriving oasis and set of islands (50 density) @ 400,000 sq miles
    Jungle region (60 density) @ 400,000 sq miles
    Lava-like region (20 density, because most inhabitants are demons immune to fire and lava, but still lower than MDME's minimum) @ 300,000 sq miles
    Current Population according to MDME's numbers, despite worse land and less land: 144.8 million, compared to 14th century Europe's 80 million and the 14th Century Earth's 360 million population (meaning almost half of the world's population is in "65% of Europe". This isn't suppose to be China/India type populous.)

    Question: Are there any other reference materials I may have missed, to help me create the world and region population quickly, or through excel mathematics?

    Honestly, I am thinking of just making up unrealistic numbers for the sake of simplicity, and forsaking a semi-realistic simulation, for at the very most a unrealistic fantasy world simulation. By this, I mean instead of 150 million, it'll probably be a continent pop of only 3 million.
    Last edited by RonnyRulz; 10-24-2013 at 01:23 AM. Reason: Corrected my data

  2. #2


    My game, has the map divided into the following types:

    1 Massive Continent (islands are all so close by, they're included as one continent.)
    8 Kingdoms (All with entirely different Biomes- Mountains, Plains, Tundra, Jungle, etc.)
    20x16 Regions, which are composed of 100x100 miles of grid. Although there is 3.2 million square feet of map, there is actually closer to 2.6 million square feet of land.
    10x10 Sections inside each region, composed of 10x10 miles of grid. So each region, has a 10x10 grid inside of it.

    Each section, contains a specific type of area, such as: Plains, Mountains, Farmland, Grassland, Hills, Swamp, Forest, Jungle, Volcanic, etc. The type of terrain which consumes the section the most, in case of terrain type transitioning, is what the section is considered for the sake of the game's simplicity.

    I assign population density to every single section type. Since sections are tied to regions, the regions can then tell me the population, such as if a City or Town should be there. Villages would not be drawn, as there are thousands of them. They are just assumed to be all over the place.
    In a simple equation, based on the section's data, I can translate a world map into a realistic population, and then take that population to create City Maps and Town Maps, based on population of the town and number of specific jobs in each city/town.

    Then I just hope and pray that the number of towns is manageable. If not, make them randomize too, or use a set of various "town templates" from a pre-created handful of towns and some random generation for jobs.

    The MDME, although giving me crazy formula populations, is still a great source for me to create a living populous inside what is already my created World-Map.

    Is it safe to assume that the facts are still legit, even if the suggested population density numbers are too high?

  3. #3


    Quote Originally Posted by RonnyRulz View Post
    PROBLEM: My continent is 2.6 million sq miles, or a bit smaller than Australia. I followed the Medieval Demographics Made Easy. However, the results were insane.

    The suggested 30-120 population per sq mile, ended up with a world population of 150 million people. This doesn't make sense to me, as google has told me that Europe in the 14th century only had 80 million people...Europe, which according to google is almost 4 million square miles
    If 14th century Europe had 80,000,000 people living in 4,000,000 square miles, then there were 20 people per square mile.

    Therefore, your land of 2,600,000 square miles would have a population of 52,000,000.

    Just a guess...probably in Medieval Europe, 10% of the land was urban and probably contained 90% of the population. Or maybe even 5%/95%. Who knows?

  4. #4
    Guild Expert Azelor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008


    80 000 000 people in Europe was in the begining of the 14th century but the population was at it's peak. With the soil having very good yeild for the era. Things then started to change because the climate got colder and it's population started to dwindle. So actually, 80 millions was too high for Europe.

    The population of Norway probably topped around 200 000 people at the time for 150 000 square miles. Wich seems to fit the north and tundra thing. Sweden is more populated but it's climate is probably too hot to be a good example.
    So you would end up with something like 300 000 or 400 000 people for the area and not 3 300 000. The density is in fact around 1.

    By chilly mountains I think something like the Ural or the Alps if you want a more frendly surrounding climate. It would be around 600 000 for 16 000 square miles if you take Switzerland as example. 10 millions or so. Density 37,5 wich seems pretty high but not all the country is covered by mountains. If you want just mountains, Tajikistan is another example but the numbers are hard to find.

    Lush highland: Like Ireland 33 000 square miles with 1.3 millions people or so. 11 millions (density 39)

    Enchanted Magical Growth Forest (120 density) @ 310,000 sq miles. I'm not sure this make sense since it's mostly covered by forest wich are usually unsettled by humans. The population should much lower than that unless there is a magical explanation. Now it's 3 times the density of Switzerland wich was already high. The density should be around 5 or 10 maybe. Maybe around 2 millions

    Plains & Massive Grasslands & Fields aka Russia or Ukraine. Or the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to nbe more precise. It had a population of 0,7 millions for 135 000 square miles. density 5. It seems a little low but it depend of the climate. 1,6 millions

    Desert region, but with an enormous and thriving oasis and set of islands. Apparently Egypt had about 3 millions people at the time for 387 000 square miles wich give a density of 8. It make about 4 millions.

    Jungle: the density is even lower than the forest since there is no humans cities but only villages scatered. The desity should be around 1 or 2 I think. Roughly 400 000 people.

    Lava-like region. That's not an earth-like climate so I guess it's possible. 6 millions

    So to sum up: it's something like 35,3 millions people. It's not exact but your problem is that some zone are too densely populated mountains, jungle and forest have a very small density as it's generally unsettled. And as for the plains, it depend of the climate so it might be higher. In general, the drier and colder the climate, the lower the density will be.

    I hope that I have been able to help you figure out the numbers.
    Last edited by Azelor; 10-24-2013 at 01:25 PM.

  5. #5


    Thank you these population densities are far more accurate, and the information way more realistic (closer to the reality in history).

    This definitely helps more

    If I don't instead go the route of making random (totally unrealistic) numbers up... then I will probably use some programming algorithms to create population based on very detailed data. Everyone from % of land that is arable, to special factors such as imps being able to thrive in hotter environments or live in lava or elves using magic to enhance food growth in a forested area.

    That way I can have a realistic human population for my fantasy volcanic lava area (the humans would reside in the cooler part of the region- near the sea) but also a "realistic" fantasy race population as well.

    It will be interesting to come up with the components used in the formula to determine a specific race's density. With your help which I am so grateful for, I will have my base minimum population to work with for the humans. Then I can get a general idea of what I want for the non-humans from that data.

    So yesss! Happy birthday to me! hahaha

    Edit: Ouch, I do have some pretty big problems with the mountains and hill region being far too populated compared to the rest of the world. Hopefully, when I factor in the unique races (such as undead, or insectoids), it will balance out.
    Last edited by RonnyRulz; 10-25-2013 at 06:01 AM.

  6. #6


    Alright, I have actually already decided what % of the population will be each of the 8 "factions" in each of the 8 regions. I tried to keep it balanced, with the rarer races/creatures being significantly less common, and the masses like human or insectoids to be the highest. I will use the current populations for each region, then figure out the populations for each race. Then try to boost the ones who would thrive better in areas (imps for lava, insectoids for being non-human breeders).

    I spent a few hours perfectly honing the percentages after deciding on a permanent population density rate, unique to all races. I greatly increased the tundra density and hellfire, to even out the regions.

    The Frozen Expanse
    Population: 3.5 million
    Tundra Density: 6

    I decided to increase the Density to 6, to represent factions hugging less harsh areas of the expanse.

    Zombie 1,425,600
    Mindflayer 742,500
    Bear-People 501,600
    Barbarians 356,400
    Troll 158,400
    Golem 138,600
    Ice Spirit 115,500
    Ice Giant 33,000
    Frost Dragon 8,250

    Zombies are basic undead. This is how the zombies differ from the undead. They're mostly (rotten) meat bodies; ranging from traditional zombie or Warcraft undead, to mummy type husks. Skeletons are just bones, Wraiths are ethereal entities, Constructs are frankenstein-like living mortals, and Vampires are immortal mystical humans. They compose the vast almsot 1/3rd the population of the tundra and taiga.

    The Mindflayers, may or may not end up being actual mindflayers. Instead, this is the old race before deciding on some design changes. They will be coldwater creatures who are the evil counter to Merfolk. I have yet to determine if they will be octopus/squid-like a mindflayer or simply a more "bad boy" or slightly creepier version of merfolk. Since they live in coldwater, they thrive on special coldwater farms which cause them to thrive in such a harsh environment.

    The Bear-People's thick coats help them survive better than the barbarians, as well as living in less harsh part of the expanse. Barbarians live in a harsh part, but reside on the other side of the mountains.

    Elementals, Giants, and Dragons have a universal density, which is rarely adjusted. The populations vary in region. With the exception of the hills, the Ice Spirits and Frost Giants are extremely common for this region compared to the other 6.

    The Frozen Expanse is home to twice as many ice dragons as any other region's dragon type. It is an extremely dangerous region, if not for the high number of elemental spirits, giants, and dragons- then for the frigid temperatures and scarcity of food.


    The Iron Kingdom
    Population: 8 million
    Mountainous Density: 30

    Goblin 2,025,000
    The Academy 1,944,000
    Dwarf 1,701,000
    High Elf 1,134,000
    Forged 1,080,000
    Construct 54,000
    Earth Spirit 54,000
    Rock Giant 12,150
    Rock Dragon 1,350

    Goblins are not very powerful, but their numbers make them a force large enough to pose a big threat to the adjacent Lush Highlands.

    The Academy is an almost industrialized faction. The Academy is a type of human faction. A mix of steampunk, inventions, frankenstein-esque style, and the world's most talented wizards and alchemists. "The Academy" itself is a big city which is home to humans, dwarves, high elves, forged, and even earth spirits and a few rock giants.

    The High Elves rival in population to their distance relatives: The Dark Elves.

    The Forged are very numerous, due to the magical stone and metals which are so abundant in The Iron Kingdom. The Alliance between The Academy and the Dwarves' Iron Fortress created the Forged.


    The Lush Highlands
    Population: 10.8 million
    Hills/Farmland Density: 40

    Kwaynos 3,192,000
    Gnoll 2,016,000
    Half Elf 1,792,000
    Halfling 1,456,000
    Wraith 1,120,000
    Fox-People 1,064,000
    Scarecrow 112,000
    Hill Giant 39,900
    Dragons 4,200

    The second largest faction are the Kwaynosian humans of this region.

    Their enemies, the Gnolls, although 2/3rds the population- still pose an enormous threat to Kwaynos.

    Half Elves are quite populated, due to the Wood Elves, High Elves, and Dark Elves who are not far off from this enormously populated region.

    The Wraiths have a population density of 50, which is the largest of all factions. This is due to both having the default 40 of this region, with the +10 density bonus of being undead. Although the Lush Highlands are very fertile, they can also be very spooky with wraiths and spirits inhabiting Scarecrows throughout the region's farmland.


    The Enchanted Realm
    Population: 7.2 million
    Magical Forest Density: 20

    I raised the density by 20, due to the magical nature of this region. I felt it should remain low (half the Lush Highlands) but raised due to the massive adjustment I did to the Tundra/Hellfire's minimums.

    Wood Elf 1,937,500
    Gnome 1,860,000
    The Druids 1,550,000
    Fae 930,000
    Werewolf 496,000
    Satyr 310,000
    Animal Shapeshifter 124,000
    Treant 27,900
    Fae Dragon 3,100

    Wood Elves and Fae both have a +5 density bonus for their growth magic. The Druid human faction is unable to match such powerful magic, but are still competent enough in this magic to have the normal 20 density.


    The Trader's Paradise
    Population: 8.4 million
    Oasis & Coastal Density: 20

    Ratling 2,320,000
    The Pirates 2,240,000
    Merfolk 1,440,000
    Dark Elf 1,120,000
    Bird-People 1,040,000
    Vampire 120,000
    Genie (Air Spirit) 72,000
    Air Giant 18,000
    Sea Serpent 8,000

    I raised this to 20, as this is an extremely water-based region. The aquatic life in the region is rich and delicious. This was suppose to be the most populated region of all the 8, but it was unrealistic. Instead, I have fertile lands surrounded by an extremely successful fishing and trading economy. I gave its desert density bonuses for the high amount of Trade, and the fact most of the populous is nearby both the Lush Highlands and The Enchanted Forest. Sea Serpents are high in number just like the harvested seafood.

    Air Spirits & Air Giants are extremely common, as a large portion of this region is empty desert, where they roam.


    The Eternal Fields
    Population: 8.5 million
    Plains & Grassland Density: 25

    Skeleton 2,256,800
    The Church 1,395,000
    Orc 1,317,500
    Froglok 1,209,000
    Cat-People 968,750
    Centaur 775,000
    Ogres 503,750
    Angel (Light Spirit) 62,000
    Undead Dragon 3,100

    I wanted this to be far more like the States than Russia or the Ukraine. Assuming that those were a lot colder. This is also home to the largest collection of Undead: The Skeletons, Skeletal Giants, and Bone Dragons.

    Bordering The Eternal Fields and The Hellfire Domain, is a great wall made by The Angels, guarded by the human Church faction.


    The Primal Lands
    Population: 7.5 million
    Jungle Density: 13

    Most of the creatures who live here, are subhuman and survive better in the jungle. This land is also prehistoric, so the plant life and growth is quite different than normal.

    Insectoid 3,968,000
    Tribal Humans 1,092,000
    Ape-People 936,000
    Lizardman 717,600
    Spiderpeople 364,000
    Naga 260,000
    Plant Spirits 160,000
    Cyclops 20,000
    Dragon Dinosaur 4,000

    This region is composed almost entirely of Insectoids in their city, "The Mind Hive". The Insectoids are by far the world's largest faction, matched only by the Kwaynosian humans, who are 1 million less in population. The density of the insectoids is incredibly how, due to enormous bonuses due to endless breeding.


    The Hellfire Domain
    Population: 3.4 million
    Hellfire Density: 10

    The Hellfire is a volcanic region, with rivers of lava in the center, hot springs to the north, mountains to the east which border the plains and jungle, and to the west the land is cooled off by the ocean.

    Imp 1,080,000
    Maniacs 840,000
    Drake 660,000
    Gargoyle 330,000
    Demon 240,000
    Minotaur 120,000
    Fire Spirit 60,000
    Fire Giant 12,000
    Fire Dragon 3,000

    The Imps thrive in the lava and volcanoes, while the City of Madness is home to the maniacs- among other demonic evils. The section they live in is surrounded by water and further away from the volcanoes, making it a more livable environment.

    To the east of the wall the angels built, are mountains where rivers flow into, forming the Minotaur's hot springs.
    Last edited by RonnyRulz; 10-25-2013 at 09:14 AM.

  7. #7


    Continent Population is 57 million.

    If I want it lower, I may half it similar to the results of the famines and black plague of the 14th century.

    It is less important about the actual number, and far far more important that I literally have the faction's populations perfectly balanced. Every single faction, is exactly as populated as it should be. The land, is as ariable as it should be. This will not only help me make cities, but also to adjust the World Map I am creating to fit with the new (higher) density.

  8. #8
    Guild Expert Azelor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008


    57 is probably ok since you have races that can live in harsh climates where humans can't.

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