I have a really hard time placing villages and towns in my campaign settings, anyone whose read this blog with any sort of regularity will have probably picked up on that by now. What it essentially boils down to is that whenever I look at a map I've made I have no idea how many villages feels "right." My eyes just sort of glaze over and I don't get any settlements. I have long searched for some sort of process that will spit out a number of villages that I could place on a map.
This problem has caused me to post a number of times about demographics. Whenever I do so, someone inevitably suggests Medieval Demographics Made Easy or one of the many tools designed to make calculations based on that article. It's very easy to see why. First of all, if the same people who are concerned with demographics are usually concerned with a sort of bean counting realism that I find strangely attractive but could never wholly embrace. More importantly, it does exactly what I want it to. It spits out a number of villages that should be in a given area.
But there are a few problems. The primary reason I had previously been uncomfortable with these tools is that they generate a massive amount of villages. An area the size of a Wilderlands map -- like the Dark Country -- would have thousands of villages even on their lowest population density levels. I want villages I can name and plop near a dark forest so they can be menaced by werewolves, not an endless blanket of them.
This used to be my only problem with the system. I decided it was simply too "realistic" and that I was better off looking for solutions elsewhere. However, in doing a bit of "research"* I found some scant information of the population of Tranysylvania in the 15th century. Now that is a bit later than my assumed time period, which is somewhere around the late 14th century, but it seemed like a good place to start.
It was then that I discovered another problem with the Medieval Demographics Made Easy system. When I plugged in the area of Transylvania (roughly 77,000 square miles) it told me that at the lowest population density it would have about 1.5 million people. It turns out that the figures I found for Transylvania said it only contained about 500,000 individuals. That's a margin of error of one million people.
As regular readers will remember, the Dark Country is loosely based on medieval Transylvania (mixed heavily with the Northern Crusades). So it would seem that the Medieval Demographics system doesn't account for the realities for that part of the medieval world.**
What I'm currently thinking of doing is figuring out about how many people would live in the Dark Country based on the populations of Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia. Then I'll divide up the population among the cites and try to make enough farms for them to reasonably eat and raise armies and stuff. I'll also need to leave some room for the lingering pagan tribes so that they can be a realistic military threat to the Seven Cities.***
If I've messed up somewhere in my calculations, please let me know.
*looking on wikipedia -- so grain of salt yadda yadda
**I will assume it represents the populations of England fairly well without actually checking. Those more concerned with that area can do so if they're interested.
***Post on pagan/settler warfare coming shortly