Golarion Population Totals


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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I posted a long list of quibbles and my thoughts on the Chronicles Campaign setting book, but I put it in a forum that is infrequently visited (this board is really kind of hard to use; and thanks to Charles Evans who suggested I try here).

One of my big complaints about the book is that the nations are not given population totals. This puts a bit of a burden on a GM, since not even the continents and world are given rough totals to extrapolate from.

My first question is whether this information is available anywhere and, if not, how one would go about figuring out the rough population of most of the major nations and regions.

This information is important in extrapolating army sizes and the actual relative balance of power between nations in order to craft believable backstories of political intrigue.

I have other questions and comments, but I'll stick to this for now.

Thanks.


Off-topic: You have a response from Paizo developer SKR on the thread you posted over on the Chronicles forum. Okay. I'll leave people to debate population numbers here...


jscott991 wrote:

My first question is whether this information is available anywhere and, if not, how one would go about figuring out the rough population of most of the major nations and regions.

Seriously? Make something up.

I don't think it was given much thought by Paizo, and if it was, I guess they didn't want to be pinned down with something, and didn't want the GMs to be pinned down with something, either.

jscott991 wrote:


This information is important in extrapolating army sizes and the actual relative balance of power between nations in order to craft believable backstories of political intrigue.

And that shows that it is in fact very important to leave this information out of the book.

This shouldn't turn into a numbers game. "Look, the population count suggests that Cheliax has an army 10 times as big as Andoran, so they should just invade and take the punks back into the fold"

Plus, it should be up to the GM which nation is stronger than which.

Nothing more frustrating than having your brilliant campaign idea (say, of a struggling Cheliax which is besieged by Andoran, and the players find shocking information that forces them to help defend the Infernals - for the greater good of the whole Inner Sea Region) by numbers (because it turns out that Androan got nothing against Cheliax)


I sincerely doubt this information will always be in the dark.

The book provides city population totals already.

If I go through and make up population totals for every nation (something I intend to do), and then an offhand reference later says that Avistan has fewer people than I've given to Cheliax, that's kind of a problem.

Furthermore, if they had intended to keep the population levels up to the GM, why provide city populations?

I still think its critical information and its available for a lot of other settings.

I can list dozens of reasons you need to know it (from structuring local political and police forces, to crafting believable international wars, to figuring out economies of scale for mercantile issues), but the most important is that it simply allows you know the value of an individual soldier, NPC with character levels, and high level villain. High populations mean more clerics, wizards, fighters, soldiers, etc. High populations also mean you can have the party fight 20 knights without considering would this decimate an entire province's defenses.

It's about the level of detail you need as a GM to feel comfortable.

I'm a major political/diplomatic history buff and so the balance of power is always the first thing I think about when entering a new setting (right ahead of the structure of religion and deity pantheons). I'm not in the majority I guess, but population totals are usually provided in setting books that I have.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

While the lack of a population total for each nation was a specific choice by us, I can see how that might be off-putting to some readers. This might be something that we'll revisit if and when we reprint the Campaign Setting, and that might be a better time anyway for us to make those decisions since now we're two years-worth more familiar with the setting than we were when we first created it, of course... and are more confident about what nations we DO want to be populous and what ones we don't.

Alternatively, you could just look at the population figures for the major cities that we list, total them, and then just increase that total by, say, an extra 50% or so to get a ballpark figure. (WARNING! I just pulled that percentage out of the blue, so it might not end up being accurate in all cases!) Most of the citizens of a nation are going to be denizens of the big cities anyway, since we want to leave large parts of each nation wilderness for adventure purposes.

Scarab Sages

James, what drove your initial population totals for the various areas? Just good guesses based on various fudge factors, or did you have things in mind like "this country should have a capital somewhere around the size of Paris in the early Middle Ages" and you consulted some source to get that?

I find pinning down population totals the hardest factor to settle my mind on for my home campaign. Adding in factors like guesses at how to fudge it for nations with non-human life expectancies or lower mortality rates due to abundant healing makes it... a problem.

Surely someone wrote a Dragon article on this at some point???


Goodness gracious!

A 50% urban population is more akin to a late industrial age society than anything medieval.

Are clerics really creating that much food that you don't need people tilling the land?

Frankly, 10% urban population would be high for a non-mechanized society.

I was assuming that the cities represented in the book were only a small percentage of all the cities in an empire and then those cities were only a small fraction of the empire's total population. I was going to give Cheliax something in the millions, but I can see I would have been way off.

And the fact that Paizo will revisit this just makes it more frustrating that you didn't initially. Now if I make up numbers, I know that eventually they will be superceded at some point. So I'm just left with nothing until something fills it in.

This is exactly what I was talking about when I thought about creating my own numbers. I would never have created numbers that assumed 50% of the population would be represented by city dwellers.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
jscott991 wrote:

I

If I go through and make up population totals for every nation (something I intend to do), and then an offhand reference later says that Avistan has fewer people than I've given to Cheliax, that's kind of a problem.

.

nah... it doesn't have to be a problem. The game desginers are not going to bang down your door, refute your population numbers, burn your campaign records, and denounce your game as being unofficial and unworthy. If a further supplement comes along and contradicts what you said.... ignore it. If you like what it said adapt it. You are not chained to what appears in the books. Certainly I understand the desire to be accurate to canon but don't be confined by it.

If you want Cheliax to be over populated because that is going to have a factor in your campaign then make it happen.

If you want the royal bodyguard to be made up of 10,000 soldiers just pen them in somewhere. If your players say..."whoa the royal bodyguard has 10,000 soldiers but the population of Cheliax is the same as the Holy Roman Empire in 1249 A.D. yet the Holy Roman Emperor only had 1000 knights in his bodyguard. This is so unrealistic!" Then I think they might be jumping off the deep end a little bit. Just make whatever you want happen. That's the best part of a role playing game.

what was that old torg axiom....something about the infiniverse. Its been years since I played that game but as a safety net aimed at ensuring the defeat of the dimensional invasion forces besieging Earth millions of alternate Earths were created in the hopes that on one Earth the heroes would win.

there are as many versions of Golarion as you want. Mine may be different than yours and is certainly different than the designers. Do as you please. Make your population numbers your own and be confident of their veracity because they are yours and the world your playing in is yours. Post them and let others see because someone will surely be interested and may adapt them too.


jscott991 wrote:

Goodness gracious!

A 50% urban population is more akin to a late industrial age society than anything medieval.

Are clerics really creating that much food that you don't need people tilling the land?

Frankly, 10% urban population would be high for a non-mechanized society.

I was assuming that the cities represented in the book were only a small percentage of all the cities in an empire and then those cities were only a small fraction of the empire's total population. I was going to give Cheliax something in the millions, but I can see I would have been way off.

And the fact that Paizo will revisit this just makes it more frustrating that you didn't initially. Now if I make up numbers, I know that eventually they will be superceded at some point. So I'm just left with nothing until something fills it in.

This is exactly what I was talking about when I thought about creating my own numbers. I would never have created numbers that assumed 50% of the population would be represented by city dwellers.

So explain, with examples (if using them would make sense), where and why a figure in the region of 10% might be closer then...

My experience is that Paizo are good at paying attention to debates on important details such as this that go on on their boards.

Sczarni

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber
jscott991 wrote:

Goodness gracious!

A 50% urban population is more akin to a late industrial age society than anything medieval.

Are clerics really creating that much food that you don't need people tilling the land?

This is again something that is hard to guestimate... a larger amount of danger in Golarion would force more people into the city way of life. medieval cities didn't have the threat of dragons, terrasque, deities who may actively participate in everyday life, and creatures who take over individuals when they are alone, and then act as them (intellect devourers ect). Not to mention spells like fireball, lightning bolt and such, which means that without the active protection of a army or police force in the area, individual farms could be razed to the ground in a manner of minutes, forcing a greater % of the population to live less than a day's ride from the city wall..

50% does still seem a little high. I'd say closer to 40% in any home games, another 35% in towns... 15% in outlaying farms (over a day's ride from city walls, but less than 3 days ride by cart) and 10% woodsmen, underground workers, druids, innkeepers ect.


I hate using other fantasy settings as my first argument, but FRCS provides total population figures for each of their nations or regions and the urban dwelling population doesn't remotely approach 35%, much less 40% or 50%.

For example, Damara in the Cold Lands, has 1.3 million people in the Forgotten Realms. Of those, only 58,000 dwell in the two largest cities. Assuming that smaller cities double this (which I doubt, actually), that would still give an urban percentage below 10%. Chessenta, a realm of city-states modeled somewhat on late ancient Greece, has a population of 3.4 million. Of those, 333,000 dwell in the only listed city-states. Again, that's an urban percentage of under 10%. Nothing here binds Golarian, of course, but they are good figures for illustration.

Now for perspective from the real world:

In 1086, between 5% and 6.5% of English dwelled in cities out of a total population of around 1.5 million.

In 1377, the population may have been as high as 2 million, with 8.5% to 10% living in cities.

In 1348, over 90% of a French population of 10 million lived in rural areas.

In a fantasy world, you have to assume several things:

1. A higher population because magical healing and fewer food shortages because of divine magic-wielding clerics will both increase life expentancy and the food supply. More food = more people, according to a basic Malthus curve.

2. A higher urban percentage to some degree, because monsters are more dangerous than medieval bandits and people would be rewarded by living closer together. However, this assumes that you are counting "suburban" farmers as urban dwellers. These people would be OUTSIDE any city walls. I believe this fact is contradicted by many fantasy settings, that give populations for inside the wall dwellers.

3. Fantasy worlds aren't always set in the Dark Ages and thus might reflect a mixture of Renaissance (but pre-industrial) technology and medieval farming/sewage techniques. This also might push urban percentages higher since city infrastructures might resemble more late 14th or early 15th century rather than 11th century or other points in the High Dark Ages.

Generously, though, I'd say any fantasy setting would be hard-pressed to justify more than 15% to 20% of an empire's population dwelling in a city. Obviously a city-state would be different, but any kingdom like Andoran, Cheliax, Taldor, etc. would probably be on the low end of that urban spectrum.

Even if we could agree on an urban percentage of 15%, that would still leave us short of extrapolating Golarians populations. Not every city is listed in the book and therefore you'd still need to come up with some way to roughly estimate populations using other factors (namely, touch and feel on how populous these nations are relative to one another). I would love to put the work into doing this, but I want to know that I'm not completely wasting my time. I almost started tonight, but hearing a 50% urban dwelling number (or even 67% if you read the post above carefully or differently) means that I almost was on a totally different page than the game designers. I would have had a Cheliax in the millions (like medieval France) and their Cheliax using these figures would be in the low hundreds of thousands.

Here is a nice article on fantasy populations:

http://www.io.com/~sjohn/demog.htm

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

I'm as much a fan of detailed world information as anyone, considering my involvement in the PathfinderWiki, but I am glad this information hasn't been presented. Of course the Realms detail population--they detail everything. Pathfinder doesn't do that on even their city sourcebooks. The philosophy of Pathfinder, at least to date, has been to give enough detail to make the world feel distinctive, but not so much that it hinders GMs from doing what they want within the confines of the setting. It seems you might be looking for the type of setting that Golarion just wasn't meant to be, at least not in a design/development sense.

Contributor

D&D 3.5 assumes that 90% of a country's population lives in small, rural settlements, villages or smaller, 10% lives in the listed cities.


(much edited, clarification)
The demographics article *link* seems to be based on European experiences: Russia, Germany, France, etc.
Would it be appropriate to apply such modelling techniques to countries where climate and terrain such as Thuvia (a lot of which is desert) occur?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Much of the industrial revolution didn't take place until agricultural processes were advanced enough that fewer and fewer people could feed more and more. That's what drove rural people into the cities. It's actually going on in India and China right now, as their fairly primitive farming network is actually starting to modernize, leaving people open for cheap factory labor.

Also, remember that magic items that make food, or ignore the need for food (like Sustenance Rings, my favorite elitist magic item) stay around forever. There's never a reason to destroy them, keep them for yourself! Most of your upper class and decently wealthy middle class should be absolutely free of the 'need' for food. This would allow a higher urban population, because all those people don't need to be figured into the food distribution demand. Picture a society where all the grown nobles wear Rings of Sustenance, and never bother to eat or drink save at engagements, and then only the finest fare. This would encourage high quality level agriculture to be developed, instead of mass fare.

Glorian has had magic items for thousands of years, and likewise Empires. If a noble only orders one food-making item per generation, in a thousand years the upper class is going to be totally self-sufficient. Cornucopias should be literally everywhere, along with Sustenance rings.

===Aelryinth


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
D&D 3.5 assumes that 90% of a country's population lives in small, rural settlements, villages or smaller, 10% lives in the listed cities.

That's exactly what I would assume too.

That's what I was going to work off of and then come up with populations for everyone using mostly my own guessimation on the city information given.

The 50%-67% figure threw me.


yoda8myhead wrote:
I'm as much a fan of detailed world information as anyone, considering my involvement in the PathfinderWiki, but I am glad this information hasn't been presented. Of course the Realms detail population--they detail everything. Pathfinder doesn't do that on even their city sourcebooks. The philosophy of Pathfinder, at least to date, has been to give enough detail to make the world feel distinctive, but not so much that it hinders GMs from doing what they want within the confines of the setting. It seems you might be looking for the type of setting that Golarion just wasn't meant to be, at least not in a design/development sense.

It's not in the book. It should have been, in my opinion, but it's not. They aren't going to print a special copy just for me with population figures. :)

So I'm not trying to make the setting something it isn't. That ship has sailed and I'm too late.

What I am trying to do is come up with something that won't be superceded or won't be so off that it's useless. The developers are very kind and have provided a little information (contradictory, but still anything is good).

I'm not going to throw my book away because they didn't give me the population figure. But I don't want to stat up the entire world and then next week a book comes out and says "Avistan has 5 million people." My time has a little value, not a lot, but a little.


Because I have no idea where to start and can't narrow down any reasonable population total within a factor of 10 (as I mentioned elsewhere, using one calculation from this thread would yield a Cheliax population of around 300,000, while another would yield a population closer to 3 million), I have abandoned any attempt to determine the populations in Golarion's nations.

Since James Jacobs keeps indicating that this information might be available in the future and since I can't be assured of being anywhere close to future canon information, it makes little sense to construct this model on my own.

It's depressing. It makes the setting somewhat unusable for me.

And I realize that no one else really cares, so please don't take this as some attempt to cause acrimony or a fight. It's just a fact that applies to me, and maybe only me.


Might I suggest going the other direction and actually forging ahead with your project? I've been following both this thread and the general campaign setting thread and I've noticed you take a different approach to campaign building than most folks on this site. Pointing out holes you perceive in the setting might raise some folks' ire (we do love us some Paizo), but over all you've seemed to handle that well. As you've obviously gathered, the specifics of population in the setting range from unimportant for some to interesting side info for others to integral for development with folks like you. As a new member on the boards, I've also seen the surprise you exhibit when the "big folks" respond to the boards. Paizo is very good about that, and indeed it's in their job descriptions. One very cool thing about that is I've seen them be open to influence, and at times even direct contribution, from board members. So, if population is important to you (it obviously is), you take it seriously (you obviously do), and you're good at putting this type of stuff together (you seem to be), then what you come up with on the board may very well influence what happens in the 2nd printing of the campaign setting book. You'll also eventually attract like-minded folks (you need to meet yellowdingo on these boards, for instance) and you'll likely also get continued direction from Paizo folks as things progress.

Oh, and of course, welcome to the boards! Have you had cookies from Lilith yet?

The Exchange

Although I don't really care much for population totals one way or another, in my campaign, I think I would lean more towards the 10%, maybe up to 25% (it is fantasy after all), maybe do some reserch to determine the equivelants of Golarians RL counter parts rates. Just my 2cp on an interesting subject. Let us know what you come up with, I would be interested to see what you get.


I see your problem, but it's your game world. PCs wouldn't know, anyway. No one would have really accurate info.

Rich, settled farmlands- more people.

Barren deserts, frozen wastes and wild jungles- way fewer, and more monsters.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

jscott991 wrote:
I'm not going to throw my book away because they didn't give me the population figure. But I don't want to stat up the entire world and then next week a book comes out and says "Avistan has 5 million people." My time has a little value, not a lot, but a little.

I'm not sure this'll help... but if you do come up with population totals for these nations, and later on we release different numbers... what's wrong with you just keeping your numbers the way they are and not worrying if the book has different numbers? One of the points of Golarion... of ANY RPG world... is so that each GM can make it their own. One of my GMs in college put the Pommarj from Greyhawk into Forgotten Realms's Sembia... and that campaign was GREAT fun. Or how about an even crazier example... I ran a Greyhawk game in college that started out in Diamond Lake and used that village as a mainstay for the campaign, but when Erik and I built up Diamond Lake for Age of Worms... THAT Diamond Lake ended up being quite different. And BOTH of those versions were different from the late 2nd edition adventure "The Doomgrinder" which had even more information about the town. All three are equally valid.

So my advice to you is to actually go ahead and work out some numbers that make sense to you for the various nations in Golarion. It seems obvious to me that you're not only passionate about the subject but have a lot of interesting ideas on how to go about it. Making a game setting your own is half the game for a GM, in fact. In a lot of ways and at times, it's even more fun to build worlds or modify worlds than it is to run games in those worlds!

And who knows! If you build population figures and share them with folks online (perhaps on these boards) and they start to gain traction... well, that's an EXCELLENT way to prove to Paizo that there's a need for the numbers and at that point, chances of our numbers matching up with your numbers are actually really rather good. A lot of really great ideas for Golarion come from these boards, and from the interaction between the customers and fans of Golarion and us here at Paizo. We're gamers too, after all!

Dark Archive

James Jacobs wrote:
I'm not sure this'll help...

Bravo !


James Jacobs wrote:


So my advice to you is to actually go ahead and work out some numbers that make sense to you for the various nations in Golarion. It seems obvious to me that you're not only passionate about the subject but have a lot of interesting ideas on how to go about it. Making a game setting your own is half the game for a GM, in fact. In a lot of ways and at times, it's even more fun to build worlds or modify worlds than it is to run games in those worlds!

And who knows! If you build population figures and share them with folks online (perhaps on these boards) and they start to gain traction... well, that's an EXCELLENT way to prove to Paizo that there's a need for the numbers and at that point, chances of our numbers matching up with your numbers are actually really rather good. A lot of really great ideas for Golarion come...

Being off by a factor of 10 in population totals would make a huge difference in using any flavor products that come out. I like diverging from canon when it makes sense (for example, I have never run an FR campaign where Myrkul wasn't the god of the dead or Bhaal was dead), but to me population is one of those things that, like geography, provides the foundation for a ton of other numbers. Population is used to determine commerce (how much gold is in a nation, which comes up for PCs all the time), military (how many soldiers it is reasonable for the PCs to confront in sleepy frontier towns), economies of scale (how many peasants it's reasonable for slave drivers to kidnap for export), and wars (how many men die or participate in this and that battle).

I can't shake the idea that Paizo intends for the populations to be very, very low, despite the fact that numbers provided for city populations implies populations more in line with medieval Europe.

For example, again using Cheliax, here is what my methodology would be:

Cheliax has 18 cities (I think) shown on the map. Only a few of those cities are given population stats (I think it's 7, but I'm doing this from memory since I'm at work) and those cities total about 280,000, most of which are in Egorian and Westcrown. Assuming the other 11 cities average about 5,000 people each (maybe high), that would give you a Chelish urban population of 335,000.

Even advanced medieval kingdoms like France struggled to achieve 10% urban population, but let's say Cheliax is more urbanized than France and has an urban percentage of about 15%. That would yield a population of about 2.2 million. Since medieval France had a population of about 10 million, 2.2 million strikes me as too low. So I would adjust that population upward to about 3 million, which brings us back to the default DnD 3.0/3.5 urban percentage of about 10%.

Once you have Cheliax in place at 3 million, it is relatively easy to come up with populations for the nations that interact with it, like Andoran, Molthune, Isger, and Taldor. You can do them the same way (when a detailed map showing all cities is available) and then adjust the figure up or down based on whether you think Cheliax is more or less populous. Or you can just set their populations relative to Cheliax based on your interpretation of how big or small they should be relative to their powerful neighbor. Personally, the latter strategy would work very well for everyone but Taldor. Taldor would be another of my flagpole nations that I construct more carefully and then use to set its neighbors.

But, all of this is worthless if Cheliax has only 300,000 people, which is the number you would get by adding up the city population listed in the setting book and adding 50%. This is the 67% urban model mentioned above.

Edit: The other thread has obsoleted all this, but hopefully this crude calculation will be of some value.


Watches thread with growing interest.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Population numbers are not as useful to me as a description of the countryside.

Saying that Varisia has 1,200,000 people does not help me.

Saying: Varisia is densely populated near the cities of Korsova, Riddle port, and Magnimar with many small villages within 15 miles of these cities. Outside of the cities human habitation is sparse with small walled farming communities scattered here and there banding together for mutual protection.

Now that helps me!

Or maybe:

The countryside of Cheliax is dominated by many small keeps and castles scattered around the countryside to keep the nobles interests protected and to make sure that the serfs are squeezed for every last copper. Roadside "tax" collectors are as common as road repairs are rare.


dulsin wrote:

Population numbers are not as useful to me as a description of the countryside.

Saying that Varisia has 1,200,000 people does not help me.

Saying: Varisia is densely populated near the cities of Korsova, Riddle port, and Magnimar with many small villages within 15 miles of these cities. Outside of the cities human habitation is sparse with small walled farming communities scattered here and there banding together for mutual protection.

Now that helps me!

Everyone has a different conception of what is necessary. For me, comparative terms like "dense" and "sparse" have no value unless you know the underlying comparison value.

If there are only 100,000 people in all of Varisia, then something can be densely populated and have only 10,000 people. If there are 10 million people in Varisa, 10,000 people would qualify as sparse.

What's the difference?

It's huge. A region with 10,000 people is probably going to be protected by only 50 or so men-at-arms or constables. Also, a region with 10,000 people is going to have considerably less gold, meaning the players will only be able to sell so much excess gear to make money.

However, a region with 100,000 people is going to, obviously have roughly 10x as much of everything.

1.2 million is a good guess on Varisia. I personally would see it slightly higher maybe. But we're in the same ballpark. 120,000 would be too low.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Having a hard number is great if you want to run a war game pitting each nation against the other. Actually a break down of the armies make up and how well trained and equipped would be better. (can we get this too?!?)

How about:

Varisia is densely populated near the cities of Korsova, Riddle port, and Magnimar with many small villages within 15 miles of these cities. Close to the cities villages are often built within site of each other and the villages are not allowed walls. Away from the cities human habitation is sparse with small walled farming communities scattered miles apart banding together for mutual protection.

The number 100,000 population doesn't really tell you how many soldiers there are. In a peaceful part of the land there may be one soldier for every 1000 people. In an area gearing for war or highly oppressed it could be as many as 1 for every 50.


dulsin wrote:
Having a hard number is great if you want to run a war game pitting each nation against the other. Actually a break down of the armies make up and how well trained and equipped would be better. (can we get this too?!?)

I suspect a hint of facetiousness.

But I remember when AD&D provided this information.

The number tells you a great deal more than no number at all.

If you find the information superfluous, that's fine. I don't. It's a different perspective.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

No fair using words I have to look up!

No seriously I would like the army descriptions as much as the descriptions of the country. I want to know what the character of each nation is.

Dark Archive

dulsin wrote:

The number 100,000 population doesn't really tell you how many soldiers there are. In a peaceful part of the land there may be one soldier for every 1000 people. In an area gearing for war or highly oppressed it could be as many as 1 for every 50.

True ... also how well equipped and well trained the army would be would make a great deal.

In real world, a nation like north korea is not so populated (24 millions) with 1.2 million soldiers, that makes a crazy 1 soldier for 20.
So we have a relatively small population in number with a very big army.

France for example, has currently 150k soldiers for 60 millions inhabitants. i.e. 1 for 400.

Do the two compare ?


Chewbacca wrote:
dulsin wrote:

The number 100,000 population doesn't really tell you how many soldiers there are. In a peaceful part of the land there may be one soldier for every 1000 people. In an area gearing for war or highly oppressed it could be as many as 1 for every 50.

True ... also how well equipped and well trained the army would be would make a great deal.

In real world, a nation like north korea is not so populated (24 millions) with 1.2 million soldiers, that makes a crazy 1 soldier for 20.
So we have a relatively small population in number with a very big army.

France for example, has currently 150k soldiers for 60 millions inhabitants. i.e. 1 for 400.

Do the two compare ?

Yes, but if a nation has 300,000 people, it can't possibly have an army of 30,000. If a nation has 3 million people, it probably has an army of at least 30,000.

Also, French armed forces total 780,000 men, with 260,000 being in the army, 419,000 being in the reserve, and 100,000 serving in the Gendarmie. Another thing to keep in mind is that modern populations are very large, creating a point of diminishing returns in peacetime militaries, and modern technology has reduced the importance of standing armies. France, prior to WWI, maintained an army of nearly 800,000 men out of a total population of only 40 million.

As I've tried to convey several times, a precise population number isn't all that necessary to do what I feel is required to use a setting. But at least enough context to establish a usuable range is vital.

The Exchange

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
jscott991 wrote:

Now for perspective from the real world:

In 1086, between 5% and 6.5% of English dwelled in cities out of a total population of around 1.5 million.

In 1377, the population may have been as high as 2 million, with 8.5% to 10% living in cities.

In 1348, over 90% of a French population of 10 million lived in rural areas.

While real-world examples are extremely useful in determining the populations of these countries, there are a couple things that need to be taken account for.

First, while many fantasy settings assume a feudal type of system, Golarion simply does not apply this philosophy to the world as a whole. In fact I can only think of a few countries that this might even remotely apply to (Cheliax/Taldor). Golarion nations are as we say... nation-states. If you went back 1000 years in Earth and asked a Frechman what country he lived in, he wouldn't know what you were talking about. Neither would an Englishman or a German. The differences between countries were minute, small, and to be honest, convoluted. It wasn't until the late 1600s that the idea of a nation as one unit even began to solidify. By the 1700s this had truly solidified and we could even begin to compare population numbers.

Secondly, Europe was devastated by the Bubonic Plague between approximately 1100-1300. In fact in many places you can find that population was HIGHER around 1000 AD than it was in 1300 AD. Using any population numbers to compare to Golarion at this time would simply not be valid for this very reason.

Third, also remember that these "nations" have been around for longer than any of the nations on earth. Even China is only 2000 years old as a single country for all intents any purposes (221 BC to current). This would gives more time for population to grow.

The big variables to compare then would be:

Technology vs. Magic
Real-world threats (War & Disease) vs. Fantasy Threats (Dragons/Monsters/Deities)
Rate of Innovation in Earth vs. Golarion

From these I'd probably use a rough estimate to say that Technology and Magic are mutually replaceable.
Fantasy Threats I see as much higher than real world, which would reduce the population in Golarion.
For the rate of Innovation I'd guess that Technology has a higher rate currently, but was much lower than magic for most time... Essentially I'd view magic as having a higher beginning point but being a linear increase, with technology having a lower starting point but some sort of exponential increase.

Just my two-cents, and probably way too involved. Personally I'd use land-mass/density comparisons of Europe in the 1700s-1800s and Asia in the 1800s as a good comparison to find figures.


As Sean Reynolds has accurately pointed out, DnD has done some of this work for us.

DnD 3.0/3.5 assumes an urban/rural mix of 10/90. Obviously you can adjust up (Absalom) and down (Irrisen, Lands of the Linnorm Kings) as necessary, but anything going over 20% urban population is likely to be extremely rare.

Unless you think magic is aiding in the delivery of fresh food and the maintenance of sewer systems (this would require more epic-level spellcasters than I think exist in Golarion), it is unlikely that magic would allow a fantasy setting of this type to maintain much higher urban densities.

As for total population, I'm all for the population of Cheliax being higher than medieval France. But that would be over 10 million people and I doubt Paizo has a number that big in mind.

In fact, I'm much more worried they have too small of a number in mind, based on some other posts in this thread.


jscott991 wrote:


crafting believable international wars

Hey, I have read or otherwise experienced lots and lots of stories featuring international wars. Very few of them even hinted at the population count, but that didn't make them any less believable.

jscott991 wrote:


High populations also mean you can have the party fight 20 knights without considering would this decimate an entire province's defenses.

I can do that without the numbers.

jscott991 wrote:


It's about the level of detail you need as a GM to feel comfortable.

I don't need that detail to feel comfortable. I can make stuff up without it. If I needed that information, I'd make something up myself. If they later gave conflicting numbers, I'd ignore them.

jscott991 wrote:


I'm a major political/diplomatic history buff and so the balance of power is always the first thing I think about when entering a new setting

Here's the thing: 99% of the people who play this game, maybe more, aren't. They can live without that information. So you probably have to live without that kind of official information.

Just as the few players who happen to be geographers will have to live without detailed topographical information and the occasional oddities/errors in maps. And the biologists with incomplete/erroneous information about animals. And all the other specialists with incomplete or not-quite-right info about their specialty.

I am a software developer, and when some of my non-software developer friends run a modern game and do stuff with computers that just doesn't work like this in real life, or modern RPG rulebooks have that stuff, or in motion pictures, I don't go ninja on everyone. I just realize that not everyone can have everything, that when it comes to specialised information, I will often have to do without because the people who make that stuff aren't specialists like I am, which is great because I don't want them to write me software. I want them to write me great RPG stuff. I want them to be great at that.

My advise to you: Come up with your own numbers. Extrapolate from the numbers you have. I'm sure your numbers will be better than Paizo's, because you're a specialist in that field, while Paizo is a specialist in writing really great RPG stuff.


KaeYoss wrote:


Here's the thing: 99% of the people who play this game, maybe more, aren't. They can live without that information. So you probably have to live without that kind of official information.

You make good points, though you seemed to take a lot of what I said as being too critical or personally directed towards you. I use "you" generically, often to refer to myself in some cases or people like me, and not always to refer to the post I'm replying to. So I was not attempting to say what "you", specifically, needed.

As for the rest of your post, I am more than willing to craft my own numbers as I've said repeatedly. But, I am not going to do this if Paizo is going to supercede those numbers in the future (James Jacobs hinted as soon as October) and certainly not when I have no context on where to start. One post in this thread hints at a 67% urban to rural ratio, and populations in the low hundreds of thousands in Golarion's largest nations. That is way off from anything I'd do and so low that it would severely impact any campaign I would craft in this setting.

Also, if Paizo intended to leave us totally on our own, why provide the city populations? That's just enough context to imply there are national numbers in Paizo's head somewhere, but too little to really figure anything out.

I keep making the same points in response to a lot of posts.

The gist of it is that I feel population numbers are vital to determine a whole host of things (most of which are necessary for me to enjoy any actual gaming in a setting), I'm willing to go through and create population for the entire setting, but Paizo seems like they are going to do this on their own and so I feel stuck in limbo.


jscott991 wrote:

Goodness gracious!

A 50% urban population is more akin to a late industrial age society than anything medieval.

Are clerics really creating that much food that you don't need people tilling the land?

Frankly, 10% urban population would be high for a non-mechanized society.

See? That's what I'm talking about. Paizo doesn't specialise in that sort of thing. Just like me, they took a number and ran with it (seriously, while I was reading the previous post, I had some idea like "just add up all the listed cities and double that number" - and then revised that thought to "sounds high, make it 1.5 times, at least for stuff like Varisia"). And it was, as you said, completely wrong (unless you are wrong).

So now you had "official" numbers, and all you did was criticise them. Instead of coming up with your very own.

That's like me harassing Paizo to finally go ahead and program some, say Character Generator in house and then jeering them for having bugs in it. :P

jscott991 wrote:


And the fact that Paizo will revisit this just makes it more frustrating that you didn't initially.

You know what they say: "Be careful what you wish for, it might come true."

And "might" is important here, as James stressed that this might be something they change if and when they revisit the book.

A maybe within a maybe.

I applaud the original choice to not include the numbers, and the reasons for them: They were still trying to get comfortable with the world, so they chose to not give us numbers, rather than give us something they weren't happy with. They chose to spend their energy on stuff more people could find useful.

jscott991 wrote:


Now if I make up numbers, I know that eventually they will be superceded at some point. So I'm just left with nothing until something fills it in.

You're left with your own knowledge about the matter. Make your own numbers. Ignore theirs if and when they give us those numbers.

jscott991 wrote:


This is exactly what I was talking about when I thought about creating my own numbers. I would never have created numbers that assumed 50% of the population would be represented by city dwellers.

As I keep saying over and over again: They're not specialists in demography. Their numbers don't hold up to those of specialists.

It's optimistic to the extreme to expect everything to be accurate, especially special stuff.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
KaeYoss wrote:
See? That's what I'm talking about. Paizo doesn't specialise in that sort of thing. Just like me, they took a number and ran with it (seriously, while I was reading the previous post, I had some idea like "just add up all the listed cities and double that number" - and then revised that thought to "sounds high, make it 1.5 times, at least for stuff like Varisia"). And it was, as you said, completely wrong (unless you are wrong).

Actually in a medieval agrarian society it probably takes 20 farmers to support one townie.

Their idea of a plow would be a heavy rock with a pointed stick.


KaeYoss wrote:


You know what they say: "Be careful what you wish for, it might come true."

And "might" is important here, as James stressed that this might be something they change if and when they revisit the book.

A maybe within a maybe.

Actually, after telling me to come up with my own numbers, post them, and Paizo might actually consider them, James Jacobs in my other thread said that this would/might be the subject of an October blog post. I would quote it here, but you can see the posts in my thread on reactions to the Chronicles setting book in the Chronicles products subforum.

I can only hope they keep in mind urban/rural ratios, the population of Europe during the middle ages (for comparison's sake), and avoid setting the population too low.

Edit: Another reversal. I will do my own numbers, at least on southern Avistan and post them by Friday. Hopefully if I'm off my rocker, Paizo will tell me and I'll stop and wait for the blog post.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

The ratio is likely to vary a lot more than what you're implying, however, because most of the Inner Sea nations (the ones that correspond most closely to Western Europe) are closer in both technilogy and society to the early Renaissance, a point at which (for instance) one out of every ten Englishmen lived in London alone. In Cheliax, Taldor, Andoran, Qadira and so on, I'd assume a ratio much closer to 20% than 10%. The further north and south you go from there, however, the lower the urbanization rate will be.


Shisumo wrote:
The ratio is likely to vary a lot more than what you're implying, however, because most of the Inner Sea nations (the ones that correspond most closely to Western Europe) are closer in both technilogy and society to the early Renaissance, a point at which (for instance) one out of every ten Englishmen lived in London alone. In Cheliax, Taldor, Andoran, Qadira and so on, I'd assume a ratio much closer to 20% than 10%. The further north and south you go from there, however, the lower the urbanization rate will be.

According to the Handbook of European History:1400-1600 by Thomas Brady, in 1500 Europe as a whole had a 10% urban percentage. In 1600, Italy and Iberia had an urban percentage of 17%, but that of the rest of Europe was around 8%.

A large empire like Cheliax is unlikely to have an urban percentage much over 10%. Just the sparse nature of cities on the detailed map could be seen to imply that. Smaller nations, like Korvosa or Absalom, could be seen as more like Italy, which supported a 17% urban percantage. I would even put Abasalom over 20%, perhaps, because of its small land area.

A large rural population is essential, though, to produce enough food to support urban populations. Golarion is littered with large cities. Those cities imply large rural populations.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

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Keep in mind that some nations really are just the cities listed, though, like Rahadoum and Absalom. While not entirely realistic, much of the flavor of these nations are their pockets of civilization among encroaching wilderness/cairnlands. Having a poor agriculture to population ratio establishes some nations as trade centers, though, and is vital to the flavor of those nations.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
jscott991 wrote:
A large rural population is essential, though, to produce enough food to support urban populations. Golarion is littered with large cities. Those cities imply large rural populations.

Indeed they do, but the precise size of those rural populations depends entirely on your assumptions about how much food yield per area the food producers can manage. I would primarily disagree with your assumptions because they force an outcome that is medieval, where I feel pretty strongly that "civilized" Avistan is much, much closer to the Renaissance in feel. There is some incidental evidence to support the idea that food production technology in Cheliax in particular is higher than you are giving it credit for, actually: a thriving and permanent opera culture requires a culture with a food surplus, and a fairly substantial one at that.


Shisumo wrote:
jscott991 wrote:
A large rural population is essential, though, to produce enough food to support urban populations. Golarion is littered with large cities. Those cities imply large rural populations.
Indeed they do, but the precise size of those rural populations depends entirely on your assumptions about how much food yield per area the food producers can manage. I would primarily disagree with your assumptions because they force an outcome that is medieval, where I feel pretty strongly that "civilized" Avistan is much, much closer to the Renaissance in feel. There is some incidental evidence to support the idea that food production technology in Cheliax in particular is higher than you are giving it credit for, actually: a thriving and permanent opera culture requires a culture with a food surplus, and a fairly substantial one at that.

I agree, but that implies to me a surplus rural population. :)

Some of this is ends justifying the means. To me, Cheliax has to have at least 3 million people (or around there). When you adjust the percentage in favor of urban centers, you are actually decreasing the total population, since the setting book provides a lot of urba population data.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

jscott991 wrote:
Smaller nations, like Korvosa ...

A quick note there... Korvosa's not a nation. It's a city-state in a region called Varisia. Varisia isn't a nation either, really. There's three city-states in Varisia (Korvosa, Magnimar, and Riddleport) all vying for control over the less-wild southwestern portion of the region and its numerous villages and towns.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

jscott991 wrote:

According to the Handbook of European History:1400-1600 by Thomas Brady, in 1500 Europe as a whole had a 10% urban percentage. In 1600, Italy and Iberia had an urban percentage of 17%, but that of the rest of Europe was around 8%.

A large empire like Cheliax is unlikely to have an urban percentage much over 10%. Just the sparse nature of cities on the detailed map could be seen to imply that. Smaller nations, like Korvosa or Absalom, could be seen as more like Italy, which supported a 17% urban percantage. I would even put Abasalom over 20%, perhaps, because of its small land area.

A large rural population is essential, though, to produce enough food to support urban populations. Golarion is littered with large cities. Those cities imply large rural populations.

For an empire like Cheliax, using numbers from 1500 Europe as a base is probably not really correct. You'll probably instead want to look at Rome during its decline for inspiration there.


Good point.

This doesn't change the ranges too much, though. The Roman Empire is estimated to have an urban percentage of between 6% and 20% based on a brief survey of sources.

It is likely that the urban percentage fell over the course of the empire in many areas, just as the population of the city of Rome, itself, declined.

The urban percentage is only one tool. I don't plan to over-rely on it and as a result produce populations that would seem too small for a world as long-lived as Golarion.

The Exchange

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Shisumo wrote:
jscott991 wrote:
A large rural population is essential, though, to produce enough food to support urban populations. Golarion is littered with large cities. Those cities imply large rural populations.
Indeed they do, but the precise size of those rural populations depends entirely on your assumptions about how much food yield per area the food producers can manage. I would primarily disagree with your assumptions because they force an outcome that is medieval, where I feel pretty strongly that "civilized" Avistan is much, much closer to the Renaissance in feel. There is some incidental evidence to support the idea that food production technology in Cheliax in particular is higher than you are giving it credit for, actually: a thriving and permanent opera culture requires a culture with a food surplus, and a fairly substantial one at that.

Another large factor would actually be the technology used in farming. A farmer in the 1600s produced a massive amount of food compared to the 1300s. In fact even in the 1500s there was a large difference. As another point farming was actually more productive in the Roman era than it was in the Middle Ages. There really is a reason that the Dark Ages were called the Dark Ages. Lots of technology was lost, and hence using this period of time as an example isn't a very good comparison point in my opinion.


And many of those productivity increases are due not to mechanization, but to new crops from the Americas and agricultural practices like improved crop rotation. Technology, even medieval technology matters; sanitation in Roman cities was better than it would be until the 1900s. A thousand years after the decline of Rome, the bubonic plague was killing half or two-thirds of Italy's population.

Population dynamics are important and interesting, but certainly not a determining factor in international power dynamics: how else did Britain conquer India, or Spain have an empire stretching over the known world? Firearms were important, but so was bureaucratic organization and a host of other influences.

I think that when you are playing a game with the assumptions about magic in default 3.5e or Pathfinder, you can't then base the social history or military organization on medieval Europe.

Military tactics that dominated in the ancient world simply cannot function if one man in 100 is a wizard and one man in 1,000 is a wizard of 5th-10th level. Ranks of pikemen were the gold standard for high medieval militaries, but a guy with a wand of fireball can tear it to nothing. Firearms have been in Golarion for several thousand years, even huge cannons, but have made little progress. Fireball is superior artillery to a lot of what we have today.

Nerfing fireball (to a 40-foot cone) helps, but it's an inherent problem. Getting a pit fiend or adult dragon to fight for you, for example... what's that worth in a massed melee? Powerful devils on the battlefield are going to be more important to Cheliax's military tactics than some of the details of its demographics. And that sort of thing is something that DMs have to come up with, if they want to run military conflicts.

I suspect that in quasi-medieval societies in which fireball exists, wars fought with typical medieval tactics would quickly look like the trench wars of WWI. Which problems were only overcome by the infiltration tactics of WWII, relying on small teams of elite troops to circumvent fortifications.

Which seems like it'd be favorable tactics in a world that needs a lot of adventurers and heroes.

Also: plant growth.

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