Measuring Westcrown

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's no secret that sometimes when we build an Adventure Path key bits of information slip through the cracks. For example, Council of Thieves takes place entirely within and near the city of Westcrown, and to support these adventures we're printing a nifty map of Westcrown on the inside front covers for the duration of this campaign. That map was always intended to be more of an art piece and a representational map that gives folks a basic idea of the shape and layout of the city, as well as a spatial aid to keep track of where the various adventure locations take place. But for much of the Adventure Path, the exact distances between those various locations hasn't really mattered. That changes with the final adventure, though, where the PCs are going to be moving all over Westcrown to handle a lot of different situations in a relatively short period of time.

And so I needed to figure out what the scale was for the map of Westcrown.

As with so many other Adventure Path-related tasks, this rapidly exploded into a pretty complex problem. While on the one hand the map implies a specific scale (there are houses on the map, after all, and we all have a pretty good idea of how big a normal building should be), the map was never created with a scale in mind and thus, those buildings and streets are not accurately sized. So that's a deceptive measurement to base a map's scale on—initially, I used this to estimate a scale of 1 inch = 600 feet, which as it turned out, was really a rather poor estimation.

You see, for better or worse, the only actual unit of measurement we have nailed down in print that helps us to measure Westcrown's size is its population—114,700 people. Having no frame of reference as to what population density numbers were realistic or not, I went to the Internet to do some research. And as it turned out, one of the real world's most densely populated cities, Paris, has a population density of something like 66,000 people per square mile, so that should probably represent the uppermost end of the scale. And more to the point—Westcrown, for all its importance in Golarion, is no Paris. I looked around a little bit more. Rome's is 5,495 people/square mile. Seattle's is 7,179/square mile. New York City's is 27,440/square mile. Mexico City's is 15,410/square mile. Venice's is 1,705/square mile. Los Angeles's is 8,205/square mile. San Francisco's is 17,323/square mile. London's is 12,331/square mile. Renton's is 4,625/square mile. Point Arena's is 348/square mile. And all of these were numbers for modern cities—what would benchmark numbers from a fantasy world like Golarion look like? Even worse... I'd gathered these numbers off the Internet from Wikipedia... who knows how accurate the numbers really are?

It was about this time that I started stressing out, realizing that I was perched at the edge of a bottomless pit of statistics and urban planning and history from which I could well fall into forever, and since I had to get back on target and finish developing the latest adventure, I didn't really have the luxury of such an oblivion

So I made a few assumptions. I assumed that Wikipedia's numbers were accurate. I assumed that Golarion's baseline levels of urban density are comparable to the modern world, and given the fact that magic can more or less replace technological advancement and that the Inner Sea region's been civilized for far longer than any current real world civilization, I'm not worried that anyone can prove me wrong on this assumption.

Armed with these assumptions, I started assigning scales. At a scale of 1 inch = 600 feet (my original assumption), we'd have a Westcrown that covered an area of only about 0.26 square miles for a ridiculous population density of 441,153 people per square mile. Obviously this is way out of bounds. My desire to have numbers that fell into something closer to the range of real world numbers, combined with my desire to have a scale on that map that's easy to summarize, ended up with me settling at a scale of 1 inch = 4,000 feet (just over 3/4 of a mile). At this scale, Westcrown covers an area of just over 20 square miles, for a population density of about 10,000 people per square mile. Kind of at the low end for modern-day numbers, but given Westcrown's lack of skyscrapers and its relatively empty ruined quarter... I'm actually pretty content with that figure.

We're still a few weeks away from me having to nail down the city's scale in print, and I'm still not convinced the complex and confusing thought process I've gone through to reach the three scales I list above are 100% solid. So I decided to make this long-winded blog post, and to put the numbers up for everyone to look over and pick apart and challenge! Hopefully if there's some sort of critical flaw in my theories, someone will point them out on the messageboards in time for me to not make a fool of myself in print with a ridiculously unrealistic scale for the city of Westcrown in Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #30!

So, unless I get proven wrong by the end of the month or so, the scale of the map of Westcrown on the inside covers of Pathfinder Adventure Path volumes #25–#30 is... 1 inch = 1 mile. Kind of a complicated post to arrive at such a simple number, but that's sometimes how it goes in the wild and crazy world of game design, I suppose!

James Jacobs
Pathfinder Editor-in-Chief

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Council of Thieves Maps Pathfinder Adventure Path
Sign in to start a discussion.