Population Figures

Population Numbers /Square Mile

Real World = Approximate values based on historical European and North American farming circa 1450s. Numbers simplified because it’s way easier that way. J 640 acres per mile, one farm = 10 acres 7 used, 3 unused for crop rotation.

All of this is inspired by a very old document (manifesto) from years and years ago and aimed at MMORGPs contemporary to Ultima Online, but I’ll have to track down a citation. I have tweaked their suggestions into unrecognizability for my own purposes. Also, as a caveat, any use of the word “real” or “reality” should be taken more in line with the goal of verisimilitude rather than accuracy.

Fantasy uses the following assumptions: Women are equal in all ways to men physically and socially. Given some time off for childbearing this means that instead of having 1 “worker” and 4.5 dependents (as in our simplified version of reality plus 1 extra dependent because fantasy likes to have high mortality rates) the average farm has 1.8 “workers” and 3.5 dependents. Additionally, hedge magic is available that reduces infant mortality, increases food output, blunts the impact of blights, storms, drought, and pests all to a slight degree (nothing extraordinary). This means that crop rotation is less valuable because fertility spells and so forth can compensate somewhat. The end result is that “fantasy” farms have 40% higher manpower/square mile (more acres being worked, and women working beside the men) but produce 170% higher surplus (beyond what is needed to feed the farmer and family).

Example: Wheat in the real world supports 64 farms/sq mile (at 10 acres/farm), and each farm produces a 10% surplus (meaning for every 10 farms there is enough food for 1 non-farmer) so each sq mile of wheat farms supports 6.4 non-farmers. In a fantasy world, this is converted to 90 farms/sq mile and each farm produces 27% surplus, which is enough for 24 non-farmers. So it’s a 4:1 ratio instead of a 10:1 ratio, which is really a huge difference. Of that, 5.5:1 would be the effect of women, the remainder is from hedge magic.

For my campaign setting, I use these fantasy numbers to reflect what the natives can produce. They want to pack in tightly due to the dangers of a world full of dinosaurs and dragon spawn. My ancients have access to much more magic and vastly superior transportation techniques, so packing them into a small area isn’t as important. Combining golems, slaves, and a very extensive use of magic the ancients can really push the limit of what land is capable of supporting. They have two methods of feeding: Sparse and Harsh. Sparse is their ideal, it greatly spreads out the land (each farm takes up twice the land area as reality so 50% reduction in manpower per sq mile) but provides a 300% increase in the food surplus per farm (a little less than twice as effective per farm as the natives). Harsh is just the opposite. Using abusive and non-sustainable magical techniques (such as rapid aging, and multiple harvests per year) combined with intense slave labor they pack just over double the farms per sq mile and force an additional 440% surplus per farm.

Wheat thus has the following breakdown:

  Farms / sq mile Surplus / farm = Non-Farmers
Real World 64 10% 6.5
Natives 90 27% 24
Sparse 32 40% 13
Harsh 126 54% 68

When it comes to grazing, the people eat dinosaurs as there are no mammals. Reptiles, being cold-blooded can support 10 times the population /sq mile. Additionally, larger animals need less food per pound of body weight. Song birds eat about 5 to 6 times their body weight per day, while elephants eat just a few tenths of a percent of theirs. However, dinosaurs don’t herd as easily as mammals because they are stupid and dangerous. Additionally, the natural hunter of sheep and goats and cows are wolves. Most shepherds were children because wolves are not willing to attack humans. A tyrannosaur does not have that aversion. So herding dinosaurs doesn’t net 10 to 20 times the food surplus as herding sheep. It is, however, amazingly productive.

Real-word grazing requires about 10 times the land as a wheat farm, and produces about the same food surplus as corn+beans (33%). I give dinosaur herding a relatively arbitrary +250% surplus with an extra 50% manpower cost. Then the same rules kick in for being in a fantasy setting. Now with dinosaurs, this doesn’t really represent more farms per square mile, but rather more farmers working fewer farms. I still need to tweak this as the manpower numbers are too high and the land use too low, but for now it is good enough.

Fishing is special as the number that the land can support is relatively dependent on the rivers, lakes, and ocean, not so much the total sq miles. You can’t really have a fisherman “work twice as much water” the same way as a farmer can twice as much land (not counting nets and traps, of course). But I’ll leave some of the effects in place. So fantasy fishermen produce more per fishing family, and the ancients can abuse their fish stocks for even better returns than that. Normally, they do about the same as the natives when they’re not being hurtful.

With the notes out of the way, here are the charts.


Corn Farms / sq mile Surplus / farm = Non-Farmers
Real World 80 33% 26.5
Natives 112 89% 100
Sparse 40 132% 53
Harsh 168 178% 310


Fruit/harvst Farms / sq mile Surplus / farm = Non-Farmers
Real World 32 50% 16
Natives 45 135% 61
Sparse 16 200% 32
Harsh 67 270% 181


Herding Farms / sq mile Surplus / farm = Non-Farmers
Real World 7 33% 2.5
Real Dinos 11 82% 9
Natives 15 221% 33
Sparse 6 328% 20
Harsh 23 445% 102


Fishing Farms / sq mile Surplus / farm = Non-Farmers
Real World 1* 150% 1.5
Natives 1* 400% 4
Sparse 1* 600% 6
Harsh 1* 800% 8



Fishing is still the best return per family, as is how I like it. Grazing is a nice second, but you don’t want herds of diplodocus all over due to their attracting predators, and because they’re bloody a pain to keep from wandering where you don’t want them to go. Harvesting and Fruit are really how most of the South American tribes supported themselves and it is so astoundingly easy that they never needed to improve their technology, thus some remain at a stone-age level today. In my setting, most of the villages get their food primarily from corn+beans (as the ancient Mayans and Olmecs in Mexico) supported by herding and fruit to flesh out the menu. Fishing is done wherever possible simply because it is so astonishingly efficient. There are specialty farms (vinyards, potatoes, oats, olives, figs, dates, coconuts, cacao, and so on) that grow luxury foods. These are a small enough percentage of the overall food supply, that I just lump them in with Corn and call it good. As a “generic” breakdown, any given settlement gets 55% of its food from farming (corn), 25% from herding, and 20% from harvesting. A town or city would have less harvesting, most farming, and would add fishing (cities need serious water supplies).

In theory, I could take the tack that hedge magic and women’s lib would allow each farm to work more land without packing in more people. That is, the husband works 7 acres, so the wife works 6 (accounting for time off for childbearing). That is true, except for the extraordinary danger level of fantasy worlds, and one full of giant predatory reptiles in particular. In such situations, keeping the population close, is safer than spreading them out. In overly safe areas it is reasonable to propose an intermediate level of agriculture between native and sparse. Say 80% of “regular” manpower and 33% of the way from native to sparse in surplus. So this theoretical wheat would be 51/sq mile @ 31% surplus = 16 city folk. This could be used for places like the Imperial Province and Goldenrod, and very small areas of Quick and Haven.

The Ancients only use the Harsh methods in the Imperial province, and only to feed the capital itself. They assume they will need to do this for 3 to 5 years, and it looks like the land can survive it for about 10 to 12 years without lasting damage. The outlying lands are always worked either with 100% native technology or Sparse techniques, depending on resources available.

When figuring the range from town that the farms occupy, always round up a little as both the natives and ancients prefer to leave large areas of land unspoiled. In particular, they don’t like to have farms immediately outside the walls of a village. Big cities might have fields on one or two sides, but they would not be extensive.

The Urban population should subsume some of the farmer’s dependents just to make things more interesting (and to cut back the number of farmers needed overall). So break the urban population into 70% adults and 30% dependents. Give each farm 2.5 dependents, and move 1 dependent per farm to the settlement (start with 4.5 “dependents” per farm, one moves to the city, one is the wife who gets converted to an “adult farmer”, leaving 2.5 actual children or elderly per farm). Totally unrealistic, but it makes for more adults. J Professional Warriors tend to be of the warrior class with some rangers and barbarians mixed in, numbers are about 1 in 50 of the non-farmer adults and another 1 in 80 of the dependents. Any group of less than 15 is likely to have a communal lodge that supports multiple villages, rather than one per village. Additionally, villages tend to use a levy as needed, these are typically commoners. They can typically field 20% of all adults (farmers and urban) +1/herding farm (ranchers are tougher than most) with a 10 minute-or-less warning (minute-man concept due to monsters existing in the world). In emergencies go all the way up to 40% of the farmers (+1 per herding farm) and 30% of the non-farmers, plus 5% of the dependents. Bulking up their forces is the fact that harvesting and herding farms provide the occasional expert or ranger instead of mere commoners. Even so, emergency levies can’t be supported long-term and heavy casualties will be permanently crippling to the settlement. Remember that due to the women’s lib effect 30-40% of the levy will be female (men are still more likely to want to be violent).


Standard Native village

280 living “in the village” (includes those who have farms within a very short distance of the village, but who spend extensive time in town). So we’ll assume 250 of the townsfolk are truly Urbanites. So the goal is to determine how many farmers it takes to feed 250 people (at a 70/30 split there would be 175 adults and 75 dependents).

  • 55% Farming (feeds 137.5) = 155 farms =1.4 sq miles
  • 25% Herding (feeds 62.5) = 28 farms = 1.9 sq miles
  • 20% Fruit/Harvesting (feeds 50) = 37 farms = .8 sq miles

So the village has 4.1 sq miles of farms, but in all actuality probably taking up 4.5 to 5 sq miles of land (roughly a 1.5-mile radius of the village, so the farthest farm would be at most 2 miles out) with a fair bit of wilderness mixed in.

Total Population (1460, 615 adults; 14 professional warriors; 151 levy; 271 emergency levy)

220 Farms = 990 base dependents: 220 adult women, 220 urban & 550 farm dependents

250 Urbanites = 175 adults, 75 dependents

Now, lets take the same number of farmers, but make them an Ancient village using sparse agriculture.

  • 155 Corn Farms = 204 urban = 3.9sq miles
  • 28 Herding Farms = 92 urban = 4.7sq miles
  • 37 Orchards = 74 urban = 2.3sq miles

So this settlement has 10.9 sq miles of farm, but probably uses 13, or roughly a 4-mile radius of the settlement (so the farthest farm might be 5 miles out).

Total population (1580, 700 adults; 16 professional warriors; 168 levy; 298 emergency levy)

220 Farms = 990 base dependents: 220 adult women, 220 urban & 550 farm dependents

370 Urbanites = 260 adults, 110 dependents


So the difference is 220 native farms feed 250 people, while those same farms feed 370 ancients. A net gain of 85 adults. It doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but look at it in terms of Toxin’s plans to conquer the whole world, and the ongoing conflict between the ancients and the natives in each province.

More importantly than 85 extra adults is the ratio. 440 adult farmers for 175 adult urbanites among the natives = 28% urban. The ancients pull 260 for the same 440 farmers or 37% urban. So, as the ancients conquer native lands, they can convert an additional 9% of the adult population (mostly farmers) into slave soldiers at no loss to the infrastructure. Assuming the ancients conquer the default native village above, they could pull 55 of the 615 adults into the slave auxiliary troops, and the village would still be able to feed itself just fine. Take another 10 or 20 dependents who are 15-18-year-olds and you still haven’t hurt the town in a long-term sense. They put 10 of their own soldiers to garrison the town, leave 1/3 of the new soldiers as support for that garrison and operate with 33 soldiers guarding the town, and 46 auxiliary troops replacing the 10 they dropped as garrison. For every 3 villages they capture, they gain more troops than 1 village can supply to defend itself at no loss in infrastructure. It’s even uglier if you think about offensive capabilities. All of those slaves can be used to attack a neighboring village without hurting the harvest. If the neighbor wants to strike back, it will only send its professional warriors. That’s 14 against 84 defenders (slaves plus the 14 professional warriors a village of its population can support). Only in the areas like Goldenrod where the native population is huge and can travel easily are they capable of fighting back against this extraordinary economic advantage.

Now, obviously, it requires time to train the slaves, and ways to maintain morale and prevent massive uprisings and so on and so forth. The point is the ancients have options that their enemies simply don’t have and the longer the conflict goes on, the greater this advantage grows. As far as the natives are concerned, the lizardman and sea devil invasions are their best, and possibly only, defense against Toxin.


          About GavinRuneblade

          I'm a gamer. Currently in Star Wars the Old Republic and Fantasy Grounds for D&D. RIP City of Heroes, I'll never forget you. Check out www.thecaperadio.com they rock.
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