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Mr. Mask
2014-01-23, 08:35 AM
Here's an interesting one: Fantasy ecosystems. Why aren't all the monsters dead? Why aren't all the people dead? Why hasn't one kind of monster dominated the others?

We don't need to get into a deep science with this, but discussing it in general is fun, and a good mind exercise.

Also, we don't need to use DnD as a setting and consider the ten billion monsters... we can talk about the dynamics of specific monsters in a vacuum, and add others to a given ecosystem as the discussion progresses.


A popular example, is vampires. If people know about them, why don't they just start cremating bodies?

hamishspence
2014-01-23, 08:39 AM
Maybe they had to choose between "having bodies around in case a person needed Raise Dead or Speak with Dead cast on them" - and extra protection vs undead coming into being.

I could see "cremating anyone suspected to have been killed by a corporeal spawning undead" becoming standard policy, though.

Mr. Mask
2014-01-23, 08:40 AM
If we assumed a high level of magic available in most places, then they could probably use Protection Against Evil to prevent people from becoming vampires just the same.

hamishspence
2014-01-23, 08:47 AM
Spell only works on creatures- not bodies, which are objects:

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/protectionFromEvil.htm

BWR
2014-01-23, 08:48 AM
Sometimes people learn: In the Rokugan setting, people used to bury their dead until one particularly powerful caster raised an army of corpses and nearly destroyed the empire. After that, they started cremating their dead.

Mr. Mask
2014-01-23, 08:56 AM
Hamish: What? Seriously? That's.... nevermind. Talking about DnD makes my brain cry.


Bunnies With Radishes: What effect does it have on the undead population of the setting?

hamishspence
2014-01-23, 08:59 AM
Hamish: What? Seriously? That's.... nevermind. Talking about DnD makes my brain cry.

I think Libris Mortis might have some means of treating bodies that prevent them being turned into undead though.

Mr. Mask
2014-01-23, 09:08 AM
I think we need to simplify this conundrum to its base elements.


Vampires are a problem, supposedly.

Supposedly, you have ways to prevent and eradicate their existence.

Are those methods utilized? If not, why not? If so, what effect does it have on the vampire population?

hamishspence
2014-01-23, 09:12 AM
I'd go with "They're used where affordable, once vampires are known to be a problem."

Result- population rises and falls- with vampires fleeing once the vampire hunters get into the swing of things.

Rhynn
2014-01-23, 09:16 AM
Here's an interesting one: Fantasy ecosystems. Why aren't all the monsters dead? Why aren't all the people dead? Why hasn't one kind of monster dominated the others?

Generally, three things:
- Non-overlapping niches & environments
- Predator populations are kept naturally low by the availability of prey: if they overbreed, they deplete the prey population and most of them die off; the prey population recovers, the predator population recovers, and it takes a long time for things to get unbalanced again
- Humans are apex predators, but it took us a long time to even seriously deplete wolf populations (which we were trying to exterminate probably since 6000 years go or so), because they can just live where humans don't


A popular example, is vampires. If people know about them, why don't they just start cremating bodies?

Why would that help? The vampires don't have to leave the bodies lying around - if they want to create spawn, they can take the corpse (or the live victim, for that matter) into their lair.

That is, generally, a good point, though: funerary customs, etc., should develop in response to the reality of the setting, which includes things like becoming undead or coming back from the dead.

In Glorantha, the seven-day mourning period is observed across almost all cultures, where the corpse is laid out on display for seven days before being interred, cremated, or whatever the local custom is; the major reason for this is that sometimes, people come back from the dead (but after seven days, their spirit has reached the Underworld, and only the greatest magic could recover them - and no body is required for that). Corpses left lying on their own, etc., are going to invite Chaotic spirits, like ghouls, that possess the corpses and become undead monsters.

In Artesia: Adventures in the Known World, the Path of the Dead likewise takes up to seven days to traverse. Uninterred corpses are more likely to produce vengeful ghosts, so after battles, victorious armies usually give rites to the defeated enemies. Mourners are frequently hired for funerals, because their prayers actually speed the dead spirit on its way. Murderers wear masks to conceal their identities, because the dead can be summoned by priests and divinations used (and, more importantly, if their victim recognized them, their spirit will be at the Court of Seedre when the murderer dies, to have them condemned into the Hells for murder). Hanging someone dooms their soul to be lost in Limbo, so it is only done as the most extreme form of punishment.

warty goblin
2014-01-23, 10:10 AM
In most typical fantasy, my impression is that there really aren't loads of super-predator monsters wandering around the densely settled areas. It's the improbably large wilderness areas that are crawling with 'em. The prevalence of large, extremely durable creatures with assorted supernatural abilities and no qualms about eating people may also help to explain the improbably large wilderness areas.

Although you also get species that are, for all practical purposes, specialist human predators. Vampires for instance. They can't really be eliminated because the defenses against them aren't foolproof, their camouflage is good enough they aren't detected readily, and they're strong and fast enough to escape from most attempts to capture them. I'm not talking about D&D here mind, don't know what cheesed-out munchkinism 'everybody' would be doing in D&D-land, don't care.

Airk
2014-01-23, 10:12 AM
That is, generally, a good point, though: funerary customs, etc., should develop in response to the reality of the setting, which includes things like becoming undead or coming back from the dead.


Once ran a homebrew game in which undeath was a Significant Problem, and it manifested as very strict Church structures to prevent and combat the problem. Even the average village priest had enough power and training to use a sort of 'Last Rites' spell that would consume a body in holy fire (no effect on the living). Organized militant wings to protect people and hunt necromancers and the undead. The concept of 'resurrection' was essentially unknown and pretty much treated as heresy by those who did understand that it could happen. (note: Overall, having resurrection be 'common' or even 'not virtually impossible' tends to have all sorts of ridiculous consequences that are seldom included in games that include it. Even the oft-discussed "Why didn't they just use a Phoenix Down on Aerith?" stuff (Or this (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic))really only barely scratches the surface.)

Of course, having this kind of Church has interesting political repercussions too.

I guess the moral of this story is that you should either try to think your setting all the way through, or you shouldn't think about it much at all. ;)

Grinner
2014-01-23, 10:21 AM
Here's a question: How do beholders strip the crunchy, metallic shell from humanoid warriors?


I guess the moral of this story is that you should either try to think your setting all the way through, or you shouldn't think about it much at all. ;)

Quoted for truth.

Jay R
2014-01-23, 11:22 AM
Here's an interesting one: Fantasy ecosystems. Why aren't all the monsters dead? Why aren't all the people dead? Why hasn't one kind of monster dominated the others?

In our own world, life has existed for billions of years, and large numbers of species for at least 500 million years. while species always come and go, and there have been several Extinction Events, there has never been a time in which all the species except one have died off. Even after the Permian-Triassic event, when 96% of all marine species and 70% of all land species died, there were many species around at the same time.

So hundreds of millions of years of data indicate that such a scenario is extremely unlikely.

I consider any area in a fantasy world near a wilderness that contains monsters to be similar to any frontier. Humans have managed to "civilize" an area, but by pushing away the native fauna, not by exterminating it. And nature pushes back.

Not far from a town in the American west of the 19th century there could be black bears, grizzlies, mountain lions, wolves - and of course, the intelligent but less technologically advance races that were there before. (Even today, wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions are problems for ranchers.)

Similarly, in a fantasy world, the monsters have been pushed back, but until the forests and mountains are completely explored, conquered, and civilized, the monsters are still there, lurking.

Axiomatic
2014-01-23, 12:16 PM
Of course, the difference is that, unlike in our colonization, sometimes the wilderness pushes back hard enough that it depopulates an area you spent the last couple of decades colonizing, and the wilderness grows back. So the frontier doesn't get just pushed ever onward, it's more like a fluctuating front, closer some years and further away the next.

Mark Hall
2014-01-23, 12:29 PM
A popular example, is vampires. If people know about them, why don't they just start cremating bodies?

Actually, I've thought about that (http://rpgcrank.blogspot.com/2013/07/corpses-and-caches.html).


Of course, the difference is that, unlike in our colonization, sometimes the wilderness pushes back hard enough that it depopulates an area you spent the last couple of decades colonizing, and the wilderness grows back. So the frontier doesn't get just pushed ever onward, it's more like a fluctuating front, closer some years and further away the next.

This has also happened; the Roanoke disappearance, ghost towns in the Plains and Rockies, the Black Plague depopulating Europe, Mohenjo-daro... all places where the wilderness pushed back hard enough to stagger "civilization". Heck, the traditional narrative of Thanksgiving is an example of the wilderness pushing back hard enough to stagger a colony, only to be supported by another civilization.

EDIT: Ooooh! And Skara Brae!

Rhynn
2014-01-23, 12:40 PM
Ooooh! And Skara Brae!

Damn that Horace! I knew he was bent in The False Prophet!

ellindsey
2014-01-23, 01:08 PM
Here's a question: How do beholders strip the crunchy, metallic shell from humanoid warriors?


Repeated uses of their Telekinesis eye ray.

Tvtyrant
2014-01-23, 01:30 PM
It could be that some of the top predators only eat other predators. Dragons prefer eating Tyrannosaurus or purple worm meat to humans, and Balhannoths might prefer Mindflayers to humanoids. The actual apex predator in D&D might be much further up the chain than in our world.

hamishspence
2014-01-23, 01:33 PM
Problem is- there's only so much biomass- huge drop with each "tier"

A predator that only eats other predators of smaller size, will be exceedingly rare, if the food chain is long enough.

Airk
2014-01-23, 02:04 PM
A predator that only eats other predators of smaller size, will be exceedingly rare, if the food chain is long enough.

And there's a problem with Dragons being 'exceedingly rare'? I thought that was pretty much the problem we were trying to solve here. "Why haven't the dragons eaten all the humans?"

hamishspence
2014-01-23, 02:07 PM
If they're too rare, questions about inbreeding start to be raised. One a population shrinks past a certain size, it becomes somewhat unsustainable.

"Because they're a dying taxon about to go extinct" is an answer, but not one conducive to their long-term presence in the future.

Mewtarthio
2014-01-23, 02:31 PM
Sometimes people learn: In the Rokugan setting, people used to bury their dead until one particularly powerful caster raised an army of corpses and nearly destroyed the empire. After that, they started cremating their dead.

Tales of Maj'Eyal mentions something similar in one of the lores. The necromancers just started binding ghosts instead, which are even worse than ghouls and skeletons. At least with the latter, there's the possibility that your loved one's soul isn't bound in hellish servitude.


(note: Overall, having resurrection be 'common' or even 'not virtually impossible' tends to have all sorts of ridiculous consequences that are seldom included in games that include it. Even the oft-discussed "Why didn't they just use a Phoenix Down on Aerith?" stuff (Or this (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic))really only barely scratches the surface.)

I wonder if that's just a D&D thing. In just about every Final Fantasy game except VII, being at 0 HP is described as "KO," or "Wounded," or otherwise non-lethally incapacitated (and FF7's translation was pretty spotty).

Back on topic, Final Fantasy is not particularly relevant to any discussion about fantastic ecology because the games rarely even pretend to have realistic ecosystems. It's usually heavily implied (if not stated outright) that the wandering monsters you randomly encounter are there because of some supernatural force that spawns or summons them.


Vampires are a problem, supposedly.

Supposedly, you have ways to prevent and eradicate their existence.

Are those methods utilized? If not, why not? If so, what effect does it have on the vampire population?

Vampires are in interesting case in that, unlike almost all forms of life, they often don't want to reproduce. In RPGs, there's often a limit to the amount of spawn a vampire can control (whether D&D's HD cap or White Wolf's combination of blood magic and politics); go beyond that, and you're just creating more competition and a greater risk of the human community realizing they've got a problem (plus you'll be giving vampire powers to someone who's probably not very fond of you anymore). Thus, vampires often voluntarily keep their numbers down; if they go about creating spawn willy-nilly, then internal competition and angry men with stakes push things back to sustainable levels.

Other[i] spawning undead, however, tend to be unintelligent creatures that attack every human they sense (wightpocalypse, anyone?). As for why [i]they don't exponentially explode all over the world... *shrug*. In most real-world legends, the angry spirits of the dead to hang around either where they died or where their mortal remains are; if you go with that, then spawning undead would naturally be found in notoriously "haunted" areas. All you need is one Shadow Zero to cause some mysterious disappearances, and soon you've got a whole host of shadows who've died in that area and whose bodies were probably not recovered. Eventually, the living would figure it out and give the place a wide berth from then on, and the shadow population would plateau.

Hangwind
2014-01-23, 03:02 PM
One reason may be the fact that people keep turning themselves into monsters. Think about it: how many times would it make sense to turn yourself into a non-human monster? Especially a legendarily powerful one that is rare to extinct?

One spell later...

TheThan
2014-01-23, 03:25 PM
If people know youíre a vampire, youíre doing it wrong.

That being said all you have to do is build out a plausibly functional ecosystem. Monsters donít always have to eat humans after all. Itís quite possible that an owlbear is perfectly happy munching on deer for instance.

Jay R
2014-01-23, 03:41 PM
Of course, the difference is that, unlike in our colonization, sometimes the wilderness pushes back hard enough that it depopulates an area you spent the last couple of decades colonizing, and the wilderness grows back. So the frontier doesn't get just pushed ever onward, it's more like a fluctuating front, closer some years and further away the next.

Unlike ours?

The globe is dotted with abandoned cities, sunken farmlands, ghost towns, etc.


And there's a problem with Dragons being 'exceedingly rare'? I thought that was pretty much the problem we were trying to solve here. "Why haven't the dragons eaten all the humans?"

According to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

And there is nothing a dragon likes so well as fresh dragon. That is why you so seldom find more than one dragon in the same county.

I think it likely that the biggest threat to dragons is other dragons.

warty goblin
2014-01-23, 03:50 PM
Unlike ours?

The globe is dotted with abandoned cities, sunken farmlands, ghost towns, etc.

Generally when the wilderness pushes back in reality, it isn't a hundred odd feet of up-armored sapient flaming airborne lizard. That might slow the spread of civilization more than a bit. Which is to say people abandon cities, farms etc because of natural disasters, or shifts in the economy, or it simply being too marginal for longterm survival. I can't really think of an example of a human colony of any size being abandoned because the wildlife ate everybody. Given some of the wildlife that populates your average fantasy world however, this isn't that unreasonable of a possibility.

Mark Hall
2014-01-23, 03:55 PM
Generally when the wilderness pushes back in reality, it isn't a hundred odd feet of up-armored sapient flaming airborne lizard. That might slow the spread of civilization more than a bit. Which is to say people abandon cities, farms etc because of natural disasters, or shifts in the economy, or it simply being too marginal for longterm survival. I can't really think of an example of a human colony of any size being abandoned because the wildlife ate everybody. Given some of the wildlife that populates your average fantasy world however, this isn't that unreasonable of a possibility.

Not necessarily. After all, in FR, elven civilization was initially fostered by the dragons.

The_Werebear
2014-01-23, 04:42 PM
And there's a problem with Dragons being 'exceedingly rare'? I thought that was pretty much the problem we were trying to solve here. "Why haven't the dragons eaten all the humans?"

Because Humans (and other sentients) are controllable by dragons, and can provide more than a snack. Which is preferable to a Dragon: Devouring a village and then having no more people, or making the villagers give you a cow a day not to eat the rest of them?

warty goblin
2014-01-23, 04:56 PM
Because Humans (and other sentients) are controllable by dragons, and can provide more than a snack. Which is preferable to a Dragon: Devouring a village and then having no more people, or making the villagers give you a cow a day not to eat the rest of them?

Neither. As an absolute apex predator with extraordinary mobility and extremely long life, a dragon should have an enormous range. The better solution is to 'farm' villages. Laying waste to a couple of towns provides a lot of food and wealth for the horde, keeps a dangerous if edible pest from getting out of control, and ensures a diverse food web under the dragon, guaranteeing nutritional security. A landscape completely under the plow is a landscape capable of mounting a threat to the dragon. One of mostly untamed wilderness and the occasional settlement is one that produces the necessaries of dragon life while minimizing risk to the beast itself.

It'll take fifty or a hundred years for the town to come back, but what of it? There are other towns to be harvested that have grown up on the other side of the range. In the event that the human population is too badly depleted, the dragon need only hibernate for a few decades, and more of the vermin will move right in.

veti
2014-01-23, 05:27 PM
This has also happened; the Roanoke disappearance, ghost towns in the Plains and Rockies, the Black Plague depopulating Europe, Mohenjo-daro... all places where the wilderness pushed back hard enough to stagger "civilization".

But "civilisation" adapted, it evolved - after each of these setbacks, it learned to push harder.

Why hasn't that happened in ye olde fantasy setting?

I think one of the unwritten assumptions behind a D&D RAW world is that it is very sparsely populated, at least by anything we would call "civilisation", and has absolutely huge areas of wilderland where, for one reason or another, nobody has ever been able to establish a permanent human (etc.) settlement.

Mark Hall
2014-01-23, 05:54 PM
But "civilisation" adapted, it evolved - after each of these setbacks, it learned to push harder.

Why hasn't that happened in ye olde fantasy setting?

I think one of the unwritten assumptions behind a D&D RAW world is that it is very sparsely populated, at least by anything we would call "civilisation", and has absolutely huge areas of wilderland where, for one reason or another, nobody has ever been able to establish a permanent human (etc.) settlement.

After how long? The Roanoke colony, for example, was established in 1585, but disappeared. It was 80 years later that North Carolina was intensively settled (and, of course, we're momentarily ignoring the Native Americans for these purposes).

Mewtarthio
2014-01-23, 06:09 PM
Why hasn't that happened in ye olde fantasy setting?

I think one of the unwritten assumptions behind a D&D RAW world is that it is very sparsely populated, at least by anything we would call "civilisation", and has absolutely huge areas of wilderland where, for one reason or another, nobody has ever been able to establish a permanent human (etc.) settlement.

I think warty's "Farmer Dragon" theory explains that pretty well.

Slipperychicken
2014-01-23, 06:25 PM
Perhaps the monsters did win out against civilization and topple it to the ground, but that was long ago, and only recently (in the events of the campaign setting) have humans and demihumans come back to reclaim the old lands and ruins from them?

Perhaps the will of the gods keeps them at bay, and only through sacrifice and worship can men persuade the gods to protect them?

Maybe monsters are rare, but the few heroes around at any given time are usually strong anf clever enough to keep them from completing their extermination of the demihuman races.

Maybe monsters live in a twisted harmony with civilization: when monsters overeat and their numbers swell too much to live off the remaining humans, they starve and kill one another until their numbers are once again small enough to be fed by the populations of their prey.

Or perhaps all those monsters are content to simply lurk in the dark corners of the earth, maybe to return on some ill-fated day and take civilization by storm.

Airk
2014-01-23, 08:26 PM
Neither. As an absolute apex predator with extraordinary mobility and extremely long life, a dragon should have an enormous range. The better solution is to 'farm' villages. Laying waste to a couple of towns provides a lot of food and wealth for the horde, keeps a dangerous if edible pest from getting out of control, and ensures a diverse food web under the dragon, guaranteeing nutritional security. A landscape completely under the plow is a landscape capable of mounting a threat to the dragon. One of mostly untamed wilderness and the occasional settlement is one that produces the necessaries of dragon life while minimizing risk to the beast itself.

It'll take fifty or a hundred years for the town to come back, but what of it? There are other towns to be harvested that have grown up on the other side of the range. In the event that the human population is too badly depleted, the dragon need only hibernate for a few decades, and more of the vermin will move right in.

Exactly. Dragons have such a tremendous range and lifespan that the number of them needed to sustain a 'viable' population is probably a WORLDWIDE number, or pretty close to it.

They can be quite rare over any given area with no real issues.

TuggyNE
2014-01-23, 09:14 PM
Exactly. Dragons have such a tremendous range and lifespan that the number of them needed to sustain a 'viable' population is probably a WORLDWIDE number, or pretty close to it.

They can be quite rare over any given area with no real issues.

Well, the rule of thumb for short-term population viability is apparently 50 members interbreeding, which means 50/dragon color, while long-term viability is roughly 500 members. Given how many dozens of dragon types there are*, some several times more common than others, this means there needs to be somewhere around 12000 to 25000 dragons worldwide. That's kind of a lot, especially since each would have a territory of between 1000 mi2 (four times the average gray wolf pack home range) and 25600 mi2 (the area they can cover in a day without leaving their lair alone), while an Earth-like planet only has about 70 million mi2 of land, leaving a maximum of around 2800 mi2 per dragon if there's 25000 of them. Whether a dragon can actually survive on 2800 mi2 worth of assorted prey I'm not sure, since I have no clue what their metabolism is like, nor what percentage of their diet is typically rocks, plants, insects, herbivores, carnivores, and intelligent species respectively.

*Fortunately some dragon types are only found on the planes, which spreads it out a fair bit. Still, I suspect there's well over a thousand of each chromatic and metallic type on most Prime worlds.

warty goblin
2014-01-23, 09:36 PM
Having ten bazillion different types of dragons has always sat wrong with me in the first place. Just have one species with very heterogeneous colors.

There's also no reason dragons can't eat seafood. Whales would, I'd figure, be pretty good dragon-chow. Just fly around, find a whale, follow it until it comes up for air, and slash at it with the talons. Wait for the beast to expire, and you've got a serious amount of meat.

Finally, about the time the hundred foot long combusting reptiles show up is the appropriate time to no longer worry about actually feeding the damn thing. The firebreath alone would take far too much energy.

Alejandro
2014-01-23, 10:08 PM
A popular example, is vampires. If people know about them, why don't they just start cremating bodies?

To use a real world example, our world knows about AIDS, but many still won't use protection. In other words, people are dumb, real or fantasy.

TuggyNE
2014-01-23, 10:14 PM
Having ten bazillion different types of dragons has always sat wrong with me in the first place. Just have one species with very heterogeneous colors.

*shrug* Not my problem.


There's also no reason dragons can't eat seafood. Whales would, I'd figure, be pretty good dragon-chow. Just fly around, find a whale, follow it until it comes up for air, and slash at it with the talons. Wait for the beast to expire, and you've got a serious amount of meat.

I actually included that in my estimate of land area, cranking it up from Earth's 29% to 35% to represent coastal regions that would be accessible. (Very rough estimate.)


Finally, about the time the hundred foot long combusting reptiles show up is the appropriate time to no longer worry about actually feeding the damn thing. The firebreath alone would take far too much energy.

"It's magic, ecosystems just work no matter what" is a boring and unsatisfying answer for certain people, among them myself, mostly because it does not actually explain anything.

Jay R
2014-01-23, 10:23 PM
Generally when the wilderness pushes back in reality, it isn't a hundred odd feet of up-armored sapient flaming airborne lizard. That might slow the spread of civilization more than a bit. Which is to say people abandon cities, farms etc because of natural disasters, or shifts in the economy, or it simply being too marginal for longterm survival. I can't really think of an example of a human colony of any size being abandoned because the wildlife ate everybody. Given some of the wildlife that populates your average fantasy world however, this isn't that unreasonable of a possibility.

Bear in mind that in D&D, the wilderness pushing back includes the sapient races you've displaced. So every peasant uprising, barbarian horde, or other raid on a town qualifies as the equivalent.

olthar
2014-01-23, 11:20 PM
Fantasy monsters are pretty equal to humans.

SRD averages
int wis
Gnoll 8 11
goblin 10 9
ogre 6 10
orc 8 7
kobold 10 9
lizardmen 9 10

This is just a list of the weakish common monsters. It totally ignores the dragons, ogre magi, rakshasas and stuff that are on average way smarter than humans. All in all, the monsters and humans are pretty evenly matched.

Slipperychicken
2014-01-24, 12:01 AM
Fantasy monsters are pretty equal to humans.

SRD averages
int wis
Gnoll 8 11
goblin 10 9
ogre 6 10
orc 8 7
kobold 10 9
lizardmen 9 10

This is just a list of the weakish common monsters. It totally ignores the dragons, ogre magi, rakshasas and stuff that are on average way smarter than humans. All in all, the monsters and humans are pretty evenly matched.

That's just the average, though. In terms of the sort of exceptional beastmen who would find themselves in command of armies and such, you're talking about a difference of maybe 1 or 2 points of either intelligence and/or wisdom, and that's simply not enough to make a real difference, compared to other stat differences, such as strength, constitution, and size.

Using anydice (http://anydice.com/) and 3d6 +/- modifiers, you only have a ~63% chance that a given human will have a higher intelligence score than a given orc, and a ~8.37% chance they'll be equal intelligence. I don't think that's a noticeable difference. Even a random ogre (by far the dumbest of the races you listed) is 20% likely to have equal or greater intelligence than a random human.

Felcat
2014-01-24, 12:17 AM
But "civilisation" adapted, it evolved - after each of these setbacks, it learned to push harder.

Why hasn't that happened in ye olde fantasy setting?

I think one of the unwritten assumptions behind a D&D RAW world is that it is very sparsely populated, at least by anything we would call "civilisation", and has absolutely huge areas of wilderland where, for one reason or another, nobody has ever been able to establish a permanent human (etc.) settlement.


Well, if you look at Dark Age and Medieval population analysis, you'll find that sparse population WAS the case. If I recall correctly, Medieval France just before the 100 Years War and Plague had the highest population density of Europe, being generally rich with Farm-able land, and it's estimated that maaaaaybe 50% of the land was actually used by humans. And that was RICH land, not densely forested, very Cold, very Hot, etc.

The Pre Industrial word was not swarming with people, and certain not concentrated enough to go out on effective genocidal campaigns against "monster" life forms that have any kind of mobility.

olthar
2014-01-24, 12:27 AM
That's just the average, though. In terms of the sort of exceptional beastmen who would find themselves in command of armies and such, you're talking about a difference of maybe 1 or 2 points of either intelligence and/or wisdom, and that's simply not enough to make a real difference, compared to other stat differences, such as strength, constitution, and size.

Using anydice (http://anydice.com/) and 3d6 +/- modifiers, you only have a ~63% chance that a given human will have a higher intelligence score than a given orc, and a ~8.37% chance they'll be equal intelligence. I don't think that's a noticeable difference. Even a random ogre (by far the dumbest of the races you listed) is 20% likely to have equal or greater intelligence than a random human.

Total agreement on everything you said.

Given that, the question of why have humans not wiped out monsters seems to be pretty clear. Monsters mainly have the upper hand. If it comes down to a straight battle of # of wizards, humans may have a numeric advantage against these guys, but they are way behind the crazy high intelligence monsters.

So why have monsters not wiped out humans? Assuming humans are no different than humans IRL, they breed at insane rates. It's possible to imagine that a D&D world may have low infant mortality (cure disease is a 3rd level spell), but there's no evidence of birth control. So to offset their dangerous and intelligent neighbors, humans have lots and lots of kids that strap on armor and go fight. Humans also like to congregate into large communities.

Even kobold tribes seem to max at 40d10 (srd). Since I seem to remember the monstrous races having a short lifespan, it implies that they don't have as much time to shoot out kids; unlike humans who can do it from around 13 until 35 no problem.

I'd say it's much more likely that if you thought of the d&d world as a true ecosystem, then the various other races would be treated in much the same way we treat other countries in this world. Sometimes there would be war. Sometimes there would be peace.

Rhynn
2014-01-24, 12:38 AM
Medieval France just before the 100 Years War and Plague had the highest population density of Europe, being generally rich with Farm-able land, and it's estimated that maaaaaybe 50% of the land was actually used by humans.

Medieval France was pretty much the most densely populated area of Europe, with IIRC 100 people/sq mi. Modern France has 301/sq mi. Modern Germany has 583/sq mi. Modern India has 975/sq mi. And all these countries still have "empty space" ...

Medieval England, meanwhile, had a mere 40/sq mi, same as modern Finland (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Population_map_of_Finland.svg), which is mostly "empty space." Of course, a medieval-level fantasy realm would probably have a far, far less concentrated population, with small villages set about 2 hours from each other (more on a frontier, of course; maybe much more) and about 8-12 hours from a market town.

But yeah, there'd be a lot of empty space, especially on a borderland. How densely populated was Siberia, or Mongolia, in 1200 AD?

Mark Hall
2014-01-24, 03:19 AM
Well, the rule of thumb for short-term population viability is apparently 50 members interbreeding, which means 50/dragon color, while long-term viability is roughly 500 members.

Assuming, of course, that those numbers hold true for dragons. I would not be surprised if they needed a far lower population for long-term viability, due to a lack of dangerous mutations.

warty goblin
2014-01-24, 09:17 AM
"It's magic, ecosystems just work no matter what" is a boring and unsatisfying answer for certain people, among them myself, mostly because it does not actually explain anything.

If you put nonsense (dragons) into a scientific theory designed to explain reality, you don't get an explanation, you get reprocessed nonsense. You can't realistically explain dragons, because realistically they can't exist in the first place.

Slipperychicken
2014-01-24, 10:02 AM
So why have monsters not wiped out humans? Assuming humans are no different than humans IRL, they breed at insane rates. It's possible to imagine that a D&D world may have low infant mortality (cure disease is a 3rd level spell), but there's no evidence of birth control. So to offset their dangerous and intelligent neighbors, humans have lots and lots of kids that strap on armor and go fight. Humans also like to congregate into large communities.


Pathfinder and BoEF statted out some methods of contraception, but I think WotC avoided such content to keep 3.5 plausibly marketable to families and children.

Also, I think demihumans' organizational skills and discipline are an advantage over CE species, who are often portrayed as wandering chaotic beastmen tribes rather than as coherent political units.

Mr. Mask
2014-01-24, 10:12 AM
Goblin: Depends on what your idea of a dragon is.

Frozen_Feet
2014-01-24, 02:54 PM
If you put nonsense (dragons) into a scientific theory designed to explain reality, you don't get an explanation, you get reprocessed nonsense. You can't realistically explain dragons, because realistically they can't exist in the first place.

Reality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draco_%28genus%29) begs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komodo_dragon) to (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quetzalcoatlus) differ. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crocodile) :smallamused:

Just think of the Komodo Dragon, for example. They are parthenogenetic. You put a virgin girl dragon on an island, give it some time, and lo and behold, it is suddenly giving birth to male and female dragons both. Who then proceed to have merry incestous breeding relationships with each other in order to fill the island with dragons. Supposedly, this wreaks havoc on genetic diversity, but hey.

Also, newly-hatched dragons roll around in dung of their parents, because if they don't, their parents will eat them.

I think my point is that reality occasionally comes up with some weird ****.

Jay R
2014-01-24, 05:02 PM
But "civilisation" adapted, it evolved - after each of these setbacks, it learned to push harder.

Why hasn't that happened in ye olde fantasy setting?

The most common assumptions for D&D - ruined castles, lost dungeons and temples, hidden treasures with no owners, etc - assume that that's exactly what's happening. The adventurers are the civilization adapting, evolving, and pushing harder.

Mr. Mask
2014-01-24, 11:03 PM
Let's leave dragons and vamps a moment and move onto to something a bit different: Humanoid civilizations.

If you have beastmen, orcs and ogres inhabiting an area, what's going to happen? If they don't need to compete for resources, they're likely to give each other way, might even trade.

However, if resources get a little tight, what then?

Jay R
2014-01-24, 11:12 PM
Let's leave dragons and vamps a moment and move onto to something a bit different: Humanoid civilizations.

If you have beastmen, orcs and ogres inhabiting an area, what's going to happen? If they don't need to compete for resources, they're likely to give each other way, might even trade.

However, if resources get a little tight, what then?

Rivalries, raids, or wars, just as you get if they are three villages of humans, of course.

Slipperychicken
2014-01-24, 11:14 PM
If you have beastmen, orcs and ogres inhabiting an area, what's going to happen? If they don't need to compete for resources, they're likely to give each other way, might even trade.

However, if resources get a little tight, what then?

Assuming finite resources, populations will compete for them, not only because the greed of men knows no bounds, but this is also the very nature of politics itself. Also, they might go to war, perhaps with one faction coming out on top and leading the rest into war against a demihuman (human, halfling, elf, dwarf, etc) faction.

Mark Hall
2014-01-25, 12:05 PM
If you put nonsense (dragons) into a scientific theory designed to explain reality, you don't get an explanation, you get reprocessed nonsense. You can't realistically explain dragons, because realistically they can't exist in the first place.

"It's not realism, it's verisimilitude... the appearance of truth, within the framework of the game."

Basically, you're right. Dragons are a realistically messed up creation, and it's possible to overthink this and declare it doesn't work. However, it's also possible to handwave it, and leave things very unsatisfying for players who think about such things.

So, you strike a middle ground, where dragons eat X, and live by Y. It doesn't precisely meet Earth-reality, but it's a fig leaf to cover the worst abuses.

warty goblin
2014-01-26, 12:01 AM
"It's not realism, it's verisimilitude... the appearance of truth, within the framework of the game."

Basically, you're right. Dragons are a realistically messed up creation, and it's possible to overthink this and declare it doesn't work. However, it's also possible to handwave it, and leave things very unsatisfying for players who think about such things.

So, you strike a middle ground, where dragons eat X, and live by Y. It doesn't precisely meet Earth-reality, but it's a fig leaf to cover the worst abuses.

To be clear, I'm not saying no effort should be made. I'm saying that at some level the answer is going to be 'it's fantasy' because ultimately that's the entire reason for dragons. If a person can't accept that, it seems to me that either they're going to engage in some serious mental compartmentalization, or they're not going to like fantasy.

So yeah, pretty much what you said.

russdm
2014-01-26, 01:33 AM
I think some wrong assumptions are immediately being made:

1) Monster numbers: Monsters have a level of rarity to them in the D&D game, so there aren't huge numbers of all kinds of monsters, but a large number of certain kinds with a considerably smaller number of other kinds. Humanoid races have large numbers, whereas the dragon or beholder or mindflayer has considerably less numbers.

2) Predator-Prey relations: There isn't an actual breakdown for what monsters need what kind of sustenance to survive everyday. Its usually viewed as being water and some kind of food product such as meat or plant or fruit.

3) Monster areas: Each monster has a given area that they are likely to be found, rather than found everywhere. So its not likely to encounter every single kind of monster in a given area.

That said, the main reason is that it requires a massive commitment to destroy other nations or races, and the game defaults to few casters of sufficient power to completely destroy things utterly. Also the population numbers in D&D should be pushed downward towards there being more like 100,000 to 500,000 members of a race max, not several million. If you read battle the lines in Red Hand of Doom, the Horde is around 5000 to 7500 in numbers or so, and it might be less as I don't have the book handy. The largest population centers in D&D have 25,000+ and that's a metropolis. And in the same section where that bit of information is found is some comments about how a metropolis of 100,000 people is an exception rather than the rule.

The average D&D world's population is hitting somewhere in the low millions like 5-6 at most, which means there aren't that many members of races. D&D is not our world, so you really shouldn't be using our numbers because there simply isn't a big enough population. In one major sense, you could probably fit nearly all of the humanoid races into something like New York City or Washington DC.

Rhynn
2014-01-26, 02:22 AM
Also the population numbers in D&D should be pushed downward towards there being more like 100,000 to 500,000 members of a race max, not several million.

Given that all the published settings that give us numbers disagree, it seems pretty bold to say that the average setting is barely the size of an early medieval kingdom! Forgotten Realm explicitly has tens or hundreds of millions of humans, and Greyhawk isn't much different.

England in 1066, a tiny and very sparsely inhabited realm (continental realms often had twice the population density of England), had a population of 1 to 3 million people.

A realm of 100,000 - 500,000 people would be akin to a Norwegian petty-kingdom, with maybe one or two cities and a handful of towns. Just on a functional level, that'd make a very different setting than most D&D settings. Earth in 0 AD is estimated to have had 150,000,000 to 300,000,000 people (which apparently remained relatively stable for 1000 years). Why would D&D settings be so much smaller?

fireinthedust
2014-01-26, 10:51 AM
DEUS IN MACHINA: (not sure i got the latin right...) but we do have in-game plot devices determining fate/reality/etc. It's not a cop-out or hand-wave to say that the pantheon has decided to bolster certain populations.

It is a part of the ecosystem.

Dhavaer
2014-01-26, 05:14 PM
DEUS IN MACHINA: (not sure i got the latin right...)

It's deus ex machina.

Scow2
2014-01-29, 03:45 PM
If they're too rare, questions about inbreeding start to be raised. One a population shrinks past a certain size, it becomes somewhat unsustainable.

"Because they're a dying taxon about to go extinct" is an answer, but not one conducive to their long-term presence in the future.

For inbreeding to be a problem, it requires dragons to have imperfect recessive genes. With dragons being dragons, that's impossible (All their genes are perfect, because Dragon). They can inbreed all they want, and they won't get any weaker/more degenerate from it. Same for a lot of species of the "Magical Beast" subtype.

Beleriphon
2014-01-29, 07:54 PM
For inbreeding to be a problem, it requires dragons to have imperfect recessive genes. With dragons being dragons, that's impossible (All their genes are perfect, because Dragon). They can inbreed all they want, and they won't get any weaker/more degenerate from it. Same for a lot of species of the "Magical Beast" subtype.

This. Also, dragons can breed with anything and produce dragon-like offspring. If rocks could breed you'd end up with half-dragon rocks.

warty goblin
2014-01-29, 08:04 PM
This. Also, dragons can breed with anything and produce dragon-like offspring. If rocks could breed you'd end up with half-dragon rocks.
Just how do you think we got dwarves?

russdm
2014-01-29, 08:19 PM
Just how do you think we got dwarves?

I always believed that they were the products of Elves breeding Ogres and Halflings since I couldn't figure out any other way for it to happen. Like how Elves breed bears and owls, or Humans and orcs. After all, if any wizard did it, it was an Elven one since Elves happen to be silly like that.

Mark Hall
2014-01-29, 09:04 PM
Dwarves were created by Moradin in the dawn of the world. The other races are the imperfect creations of other deities, jealous of Moradin's prowess.

Scow2
2014-01-29, 09:41 PM
I thought Dwarves were the servants of Armok, God of Blood, and came to the world in a caravan of 7 founding members, from which sprang the first Dwarf Fortress, and spread from there.