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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Jergmo's Avatar

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    Default Theory About D&D Civilization

    Inspiration for this came from reading Altair_The_Vexed's installments on fantasy gaming, particularly Fantasy Settlements 1.5 - Excessively Urban?

    Altair figures based on historical demographics and the city types and sizes listed for D&D that the average urban population in a D&D setting is 23%, which is a level that was only ever reached in the real world in the post-Industrial era, implying the use of magic to increase food production and travel in order to make it feasible. It also suggests that there are over 300,000 settlements of varying size required to support a single metropolis.

    In my mind, this makes a settling like the setting of Tippy's games, Points of Light, an inevitability, as the basis is already there and simply needs to be expanded upon. However, to me it feels like this D&D civilization was created in a vacuum, and doesn't feel realistic. It seems to imply that the monsters of the world are static creatures that never come looking for trouble and exist only for adventurers to kill them for experience.

    My main example is a dragon, a powerful creature that may live for thousands of years and grows extremely large. Most folklore/mythology seems to suggest that a dragon spends most of its time sleeping, but when it wakes up, it would have a voracious appetite.

    I think of dragons as a balancing force: if a civilization of humans expands too far, causing deforestation and the destruction of wildlife, I would think a dragon would wake up, find that its surroundings are becoming unstable, and it would do something about it to make sure that its own way of life can be maintained - that means if there's a sudden drop in the population of animals, the dragon is going to turn to the next best source of food: humans. A small group of dragons in a region could wind up destroying an entire series of communities in order to sate themselves for the next few years.

    That doesn't include other races of humanoid marauders, such as orcs and goblins, who have a history of raiding settlements for supplies. Goblins in particular have short lives and reproduce quickly, which means if they have to raid settlements to supplement their lifestyle, they are doing so often.

    Those are just a few examples, but they're some of the most common. There also seem to be a lot of high level NPCs present that powered up in a vacuum as well - think about the level of optimization most NPCs have. Usually only boss-types and PCs or a few others have above Elite stats. If I remember correctly, only 5% of the population has the Elite array. How many have Heroic-level stats?

    It seems only a lucky few would get the chance to reach higher levels, and their expendable resources are limited by what they have to use to defend their own communities or protect their own lives.
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    I think part of the issue is that the majority of a city's population is assumed to be that of a city-dweller, working city-dweller jobs. That's a no-brainer in a modern setting, but what about in D&D? How much of a job market for city jobs can there really be in a high fantasy city?

    I also don't see a huge number of small communities surviving that provide the success of a few small communities. Even with a highly mobile army, you can't cover every base and if your resources are spread, you're going to have attacks that are strong where you are weak, crippling civilization over time.

    That said, I live in a small Mid-Western town of 10,000+ people. It's a single community, but it's spread over a fair amount of space - there's K-12 and a small college campus that can give you many 2-year degrees, a national guard outpost, civic/government services, competing stores and a business district that offers crafted goods, machinery and other household appliances, a factory, service stations, restaurants, several well-known and prolific businessmen that basically own half the town between themselves, and there are plenty of rural farmers that live within the town and have fields surrounding the community.
    In theory, if it were a different setting, the geography is very well defensible. It is bordered by what is essentially a village and a few hamlets, all bundled together in a small area based on natural resources and good farmland.

    Now, I'm looking at this setup, and I was thinking, this would be a great example for civilization in D&D to be based off of. Instead of a widespread empire that has a very fragile sense of stability, you have smaller city-states surrounded by villages with tight defenses, and while there is a government structure, wealthy merchant families are a significant part of the process. Nobles were originally given title and land in return for military service and provided their own armies - all that changes is that the wealthiest merchant families provide security services for community assets and caravans. They may even be the majority of the mages in such a setting, as they would have the most resources to research magic.

    It would be important to limit the consumption of resources, as raids of goblinoids are much easier to repel than a hungry dragon, or a colossal treant that decides humans have cut down too many trees. There would be no such thing as a ghost town - the moment an area has been stripped of certain resources, the town would be completely salvaged of wood and metals and carted away elsewhere.

    This provides a great deal of opportunities for adventurers. Monsters are no longer random happenstances, they are a constant threat to civilization as they know it. Brigands are extremists that have split off from society and have their own ideologies, instead of simply being nameless, faceless mooks looking to make a buck. Salvage operations may be beset by monsters, and the PCs may be hired swords protecting the assets of a wealthy merchant, providing important contacts that can give plot hooks anywhere they might stumble.

    The dragon is no longer a meatbag full of gold that provides a new tier of challenge. Its death may mean the difference between an entire way of life being destroyed.

    How would a setting like this compare?


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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Theory About D&D Civilization

    I find this both interesting and sensible. Good job.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: Theory About D&D Civilization

    Quote Originally Posted by Jergmo View Post
    I think of dragons as a balancing force: if a civilization of humans expands too far, causing deforestation and the destruction of wildlife, I would think a dragon would wake up, find that its surroundings are becoming unstable, and it would do something about it to make sure that its own way of life can be maintained - that means if there's a sudden drop in the population of animals, the dragon is going to turn to the next best source of food: humans. A small group of dragons in a region could wind up destroying an entire series of communities in order to sate themselves for the next few years.
    The problem with this is that, while you're thinking of humans as rational, you're not extending the same logic to the dragons themselves.

    Dragons are sapient, can use language, and furthermore are quite intelligent in general, with their difficulties with tool use pretty easy to make up for with their racial spellcasting. There's no reason for them to be marauders that live out in the wilderness, primarily concerned with food. In a region with dragons they're going to be the center of the local civilization, if not as rulers, then as equal partners in other races' communities. A dragon isn't going to go rampaging around the countryside when it can just leverage its vast wealth, intelligence, and magical power to purchase food from the surrounding community.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Seharvepernfan's Avatar

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    Default Re: Theory About D&D Civilization

    Quote Originally Posted by rmnimoc View Post
    I find this both interesting and sensible. Good job.
    Ditto.

    Quote Originally Posted by Urpriest View Post
    The problem with this is that, while you're thinking of humans as rational, you're not extending the same logic to the dragons themselves.

    Dragons are sapient, can use language, and furthermore are quite intelligent in general, with their difficulties with tool use pretty easy to make up for with their racial spellcasting. There's no reason for them to be marauders that live out in the wilderness, primarily concerned with food. In a region with dragons they're going to be the center of the local civilization, if not as rulers, then as equal partners in other races' communities. A dragon isn't going to go rampaging around the countryside when it can just leverage its vast wealth, intelligence, and magical power to purchase food from the surrounding community.
    Dragons are tough to figure out. On one hand, they can rule entire civilizations of lesser races, either openly, secretly (by taking human/elf/whatever form), or through proxies ("owning" the king, for example). On the other hand, they're supposedly extremely arrogant, have no desire to live like we do, and can do pretty much whatever they want (unless you have a bunch of high-level people running around, or there are tons of other big scary monsters). Personally, I do both in my games: I assume some dragons are playing puppetmaster to civilization, others are hermets (some of which are occasional rampagers).
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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Clistenes's Avatar

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    Default Re: Theory About D&D Civilization

    As a matter of fact, during Antiquity and the the Middle Ages it was very common for farmers to live concentrated in a walled village or town and go out every day to tend their fields. The population in those D&D towns and cities probably should have a high percentage of farmers and peasants.

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