View Full Version : Questions of Scale

2016-01-09, 04:05 PM
I'm planning dipping my toe into DMing by running a few one-offs for friends. I've played D&D for years and by and large I feel comfortable with most aspects of putting together a quest, but one thing that I'm unsure about is appropriately scaling things, as far as size and population of towns, and the sort of distances parties might be covering as they adventure. It's something I'm kind of terrible at in real life, and the prospect of working it out for my invented world seems a little daunting. Maybe I'm needlessly focused on it, but I'd like to be able to have some specifics to tell the players as far as "It's a small city with a population of X, and covers Y area, and has Z number of services and temples, etc." Or likewise, "The nearest town is about a day's march, which is X miles" Does anyone have any pointers, or know of any guides I could check out that might be able to help with figuring some of these kinds of numbers?

2016-01-09, 04:23 PM
It depends on your setting, but here's a few numbers for reference's sake.

The Roman Legion could cover 20 miles (~30 km) on foot in a day. This was considered very remarkable at the time, since most armies could only cover about 10-15 miles in a similar span.

The Pony Express was able to cover about 190 miles a day by riding 20 hours a day, and switching horses every 75 miles or so. Given that, it seems reasonable to estimate that your average riding horse could cover 30-40 miles in a day's riding.

Cities in medieval europe were rather small by today's standards, rarely reaching 100,000. London had only 18,000 people in 1100 CE. Given better healthcare (due to clerical magic) cities could be up to 50,000 pretty easily, but anything larger ought to be a major metropolis. At the height of the empire, Rome had 300,000 citizens and 700,000 slaves (very rough numbers).

Cities themselves were often quite small, because large cities are harder to defend. People tended to build up (if they're dwarves, down as well), and rarely occupied more than 10 square miles with buildings. That being said, farmland surrounding the city could easily be 50 square miles or more.

Hope this helps!

Edit: These are just ballpark estimates, but they're on the right scale. One of the cities I've helped excavate held 3000 people and occupied a narrow 2 square mile ridge.

2016-01-09, 04:28 PM
In general, meaning outside professionals doing it, or postal horse chains, or flying or...., an average amount of 20 (imperial) miles per day can be considered a normal march.
On good streets, with inns every say 3.4 hours, you can add up to another 6-7ish, but thats stretching it unless of course you ahve means to accelerate the Characters, or only want to reach a certain point and thenr est to your hearts content.

Interestingly horses, if used for more than a day or two, are not markedly faster, as their ensurance drops more quickly.

But unless you have a real buff on that topic in your group I say: dont fret it.
Stay around 25-30 miles, consistently, in civilized and maybe half that in the woods and you should be fine.

As for the size: depends on the culture, standards of technology or Magitech,e tc.
If you`re talking about the usual "semimiddlages with magic" D&D often favours I`d put hamlets at around 50 along a single muddy path, (small) villages between 80 and 200 (maybe even with a second street!), Towns between 500 and 3000 (averaging somewhere around 250*250 feet for every 200ish people) and small cities from there on up (often covering a square mile or more already if buildings are mainly 1-3 floors).
Metropoli and Main Cities can reach 100k and more even in Low Tech societies ... but they are HUGE regarding the amount of ground they cover.
However this is, as I do not know where exaclty you are playing, a VERY vague estimate.

2016-01-09, 04:49 PM
Humans walk about 3 miles per hour, horses and carrages are about double, carts and wagons are about 1/2 to 3/4 depending on the load and the animals.

The AD&D DMG has some good info on it and www.d20SRD.org is pretty much the same. Watch out for the brage/rowboat numbers though, those are a little low.

Here's Medieval Demographics Made Easy (http://www222.pair.com/sjohn/blueroom/demog.htm), it's useful.

2016-01-09, 07:56 PM
Awesome, thanks guys that's perfect. This gives me a nice framework and rough numbers I can sink my teeth into to build my stuff. Much appreciated!