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    • CommentAuthortreczoks
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2020
     
    Someone has posted an interesting tidbit about towns and the size of farmland that is needed to support the town:

    https://imgur.com/6Nuunuh

    I wonder where this puts some of the larger D&D cities...
    •  
      CommentAuthorMonsen
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2020
     
    Always interesting to see those numbers in pictures.

    Coastal tows would be able to offset some of that with fishing though, and some hunting may take place as well (although large scale hunting tends to quickly cause extinction)

    And since you mention D&D, it really makes me think about those more exotic settings (Such as Dark Sun). The more "standard" settings, like Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk do have large farming areas, although probably not nearly large enough, but some other settings packs large amount of people in a city with a desert-type terrain going on forever.
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      CommentAuthorQuenten
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2020 edited
     
    Most cities ancient and modern, import food from quite some distances eg ancient Rome from Egypt, London now from everywhere. That is what made trade so essential from prehistoric times on. The same applies to metals and building supplies. No city or even medium sized town can ever hope to be self sufficient in food, metal or building supplies. Even clothing, mobile phones or computers, essential items from before even writing was invented, as you all know.
    And ancient Egypt is an example of a land surrounded by desert with large cities, no t only along the Nile, but in various oases, notably the Siwa oasis; Petra in Jordan, cities along the Silk road. Sure, these latter imported food, but they became rich on trade.
    •  
      CommentAuthorMonsen
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2020
     
    True enough, but for these cities to import food, it still needs to be grown somewhere. And to be able to import food, they do need to produce something in trade in sufficient quantities. Both points are often overlooked in fantasy world.
    Food also spoils, which limits the distance it can be imported from. Many food preservation techniques do exists, but not everything can be easily preserved.

    In the real world, these "problematically placed" cities usually limited themselves in size through natural processes, i.e. starvation if the population became larger than what could be imported. Very few fantasy cities seems to take things like this into account, assuming imports can be scaled indefinitely.
    • CommentAuthorseycyrus
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2020
     
    I really appreciate the visual presentation of this data.

    Do we know where the person is getting their numbers from?

    I also wonder how livestock would change this information.
    • CommentAuthorWyvern
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2020
     
    The images are of course hugely misleading, and almost impossible to interpret because there's so little information given as to how and why they've been drawn as they have. Plus the opening comment completely ignores the fact the Watabou generator creates ONLY the settlements, and is NOT intended to show the land necessary to feed whatever size of population the person generating the map chooses to fit to the settlement.

    As luck would have it, Quenten already opened a topic whose online links and sources deal with exactly this kind of topic elsewhere on the PF Forum. For anyone wishing to explore further, I found six topics on Reddit with a quick search that provide a lot more material to examine and contemplate, which specifically handle the topic from a gaming-world building perspective:

    How much farmland is needed to support a city?,

    How many farms does it take to support a small trading city?,

    Dungeons & Dragons & Economics,

    Mega-Tutorial on worldbuilding Medieval Towns, Cities, Population, Professions, Armies, Technology, Justice, and Trade!,

    Question About Population Density and Required Farmland Needed to Maintain a Medieval Mega City, and

    To feed a medieval european city with a population of ~10.000, how large would the agricultural land around it have to be?.

    There'll be more elsewhere, I'm sure, as this wasn't an attempt to be comprehensive by any means on my part!

    What's interesting to me about all this is none of it's new. As the early RPGs, especially the original, D&D, grew out of wargaming, there was already quite a strong emphasis on the historical realities behind the settings involved, drawing on the situation as established by the early to later 1970s for medieval Europe, and adapted, often with little alteration, into a fantasy setting. Mind you, how much of that was strictly adhered to is another matter! This blog posting, Agriculture in D&D, has some interesting, if brief, comments on the matter.

    Of course, swapping real-world features into a fantasy setting isn't especially straightforward either. Few settings take much account of what adding widespread, if often low-level, magic use into the mix might have, for instance. So, for instance, effects such as magical food preservation techniques and magical transport can dramatically amend what size of areas, and where they need to be in relation to a settlement, are required to support what size of population.
    • CommentAuthorseycyrus
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2020
     
    Posted By: WyvernThe images are of course hugely misleading, and almost impossible to interpret because there's so little information given as to how and why they've been drawn as they have.


    I Don't think they are widely misleading. Looking at how the scale it appears that they simply show the relative area of town and the farmland necessary to support that population normalized to the area of the town used.

    I've been through those links and more, and still don't find lots of information regarding livestock and how they affect the relative areas.
  1.  
    In later medieval England cattle were predominantly raised in northern England and in Wales a driven to London and other key cities. So the hinterland for various food stuff varied widely based on what it was and accessibility to it.
    •  
      CommentAuthorQuenten
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2020
     
    As they show only the town and a small area of the surrounds, I* don't think we need assume that the farmlands are the only ones needed for that settlement. And if you want more, just add more (which is what I did on my renditions). I don't understand what the problem is about Watabou - change , add, subtract what you want, and please don't assume that the only farmlands for the city are those shown. And as I said, the bigger the city, the more it needs to import food from often large distances away eg ancient Rome and the need for grain from Egypt.
    Here is an interesting png I got from Reddit, showing the area of farmland needed if you need to show all the farmland needed to feed the settlement if you insist on putting all that is needed right beside the city. And NO settlement in the world was ever self-sufficient in resources, so what really is the problem.
      6Nuunuh.jpg
    • CommentAuthorseycyrus
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2020
     
    Quenten, those images are what was linked to in the original post.
    •  
      CommentAuthorQuenten
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2020
     
    so sorry for posting them then
    • CommentAuthorseycyrus
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2020
     
    Posted By: Quentenso sorry for posting them then


    I hope I didn't come off as snippity. Your points of discussion are certainly welcome, if not desired.
    • CommentAuthorWyvern
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2020
     
    Posted By: seycyrus
    Posted By: WyvernThe images are of course hugely misleading, and almost impossible to interpret because there's so little information given as to how and why they've been drawn as they have.


    I Don't think they are widely misleading. Looking at how the scale it appears that they simply show the relative area of town and the farmland necessary to support that population normalized to the area of the town used.

    I've been through those links and more, and still don't find lots of information regarding livestock and how they affect the relative areas.


    Essentially I find the images misleading as they're simply a mathematical exercise in Flatland, and bear little relation to anything usable in a real- or game-world setting. Others above have already made the point that the regions used to feed a settlement needn't be at all nearby to it, for instance, while supporting a population isn't simply about having farmed fields producing food, as people also need building materials (particularly timber), and textile materials (considering here only plant-based textiles, so not including things like wool), none of which seems to have been factored-in. These all take up additional space and are among the essential requirements for survival. And that's aside from the domesticated animals question.

    Indeed the farmed livestock problem is particularly complex, because there are many gaps in the available information from real-world medieval settings, whether textual or archaeological. Aside from comments among the topics on Reddit I linked-to previously - which hint at something of the problems at least, although one or two do try to address the matter directly - I found a thread on StackExchange today that highlights the difficulties somewhat more clearly, sparked by a question regarding D&D world-building, Size of family-owned medieval farm?. Plus not all domesticated creatures are raised as food animals, such as draught oxen (ploughs, carts), riding and draught horses, yet still require feeding themselves. Pigs can thrive on relatively tiny land areas, including in areas of forest, and on "waste" food, whereas other domesticated quadrupeds (especially cattle and horses) are much "fussier" and need a lot more open grazing land to support themselves, aside from also needing winter fodder growing and storing, and shelter structures building. Again, such aspects merely increase how misleading the farmland area images are.
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2020
     
    Food doesn't have to be grown in fields either. Most large cities are on a nice large river with relatively easy access to the sea (which is why we are in a bit of a mess with rising sea levels today). Fish or other kinds of ocean produce like edible seaweed can account for a surprisingly large proportion of the diet, so you probably wouldn't need half as many fields.

    Then there is trade to consider. You could cover half that area in commercial forest if the land was more suited to growing trees than crops and trade with other cities via sea routes - exchanging timber for food produce. If you have metal ores or limestone you can quarry or mine the resources and trade using those.

    Overall, while the food producing area required to feed a town or city is important, it is not the be-all and end-all. There are too many other factors not being considered here. So many real settlements have very few fields but rely entirely on some kind of resource they are processing and exporting to fund the food supply.
    • CommentAuthordagorhir
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2020
     
    Towns and cities depend on crop being harvested from surrounding villages, which all had to support themselves in the process. How much cropland and pasture required depends a lot on the effective yield of the agriculture. Doing a bit of research online will reveal that there are a lot of different numbers on how much land is needed to feed a person year round. Modern agriculture has a very high yield and less area is required to feed a person, while medieval farming had relatively poor yield requiring more land per person.

    For a medieval context, I've seen as low as 3 acres per person to as high as 12 acres per person. I typically use a starting point of 5 acres per person when I creating a community. And that's the minimum farmland area for that community. It will always have much more, but not too much more as it takes time to plow and harvest.

    Fortunately, the acre is more than a measure of surface area. It is also a measure of work. 1 acre is generally understood to be a single days work of a single person, both to plow (with an ox) and to harvest. So a 1200 acre land requires a 1200 man/days to work. So to harvest it within 10 days, you need to have 120 adults to perform the work. So it takes half the harvest to feed the working adults in the village while the other half can be sold for profit or store for lean times. That of course is using the 5 acre per person value explained above.
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2020 edited
     
    But again this doesn't take into account the reality of resource exploitation, fishing and trade.

    Inuit settlements are a good example of settlements that can thrive with no fields whatsoever.

    I think we may be getting just a little bit to concerned about showing all the fields needed for a settlement in an RPG map. Its RPG. Maybe some of the food is produced by magic :P
    • CommentAuthorShessar
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2020
     
    Thanks for making this comment Sue.I've been biting my tongue.

    I mean no disrespect to those players who want to see miles of farmland on their maps rather than the actual city that they'll be playing in, but this discussion made me giggle. My players would mock me to no end if I gave them a city map that was mostly farmland.

    This is why we differentiate between regional and city maps. A regional map will likely show miles of farmland around a city. A city should show the city and a hint of where the farmland begins. Unless of course your adventure is all about chasing crows from the wheat fields and rats from the corn. LOL
    • CommentAuthordagorhir
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2020
     
    You are correct Loopysue, other resources like fishing can affect the requirement for acres. As I mentioned in my post, towns and cities relied on foodstuffs from nearby communities, and this was generally through trade.

    Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a reliable source of information about how much actual foodstuffs fishing actually supplied. I would love to have a good comparison where one fishing boat supplies the equivalent of x acres of farmland. That would be very useful when designing coastal communities, such as the town of Saltmarsh in D&D.

    When I design towns or cities, I never bother with the actual farmland around the city as I would rather concentrate on the city itself and have it dominate the map. I only bother with fields when I design villages and small fiefs as in their case the fields does become part of their character.
    •  
      CommentAuthorMonsen
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2020
     
    Personally, I would never put it on a city map, but these things are extremely interesting in a world building sense, both this, and the demographics Quenten posted.

    While the accuracy of the data/representation can certainly be discussed, keeping things such as this in mind when designing cities helps to add a degree of realism. I never opt for perfect realism in my campaign, but I do try to make things seem somewhat realistic without having to resort to the "it's magic" explanation.

    That desert city might be able to flourish in a hostile environment, but the food for it needs to come from somewhere. Where is that? And what valuable resources do they have to trade for that food? How much food is it realistic to bring in at all? How difficult is it to bring the food to the city? Limited local growth and limited opportunity for export means that the city wouldn't be able to grow large, while a city with ample local crops and/or food import opportunities can easily grow much larger.
    Same is true for other resources. If no source for stone is nearby, where did that huge city wall come from?

    This is why I love discussions like this and the demographics thread. They give me so many ideas for increasing that apparent realism in my campaign. It doesn't always show up on the maps, but the maps themselves are inspired by such things.
    • CommentAuthorJimP
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2020
     
    I remember such a discussion about food back in the 1980s.

    One of the rpg designers said he came up with a plant and animal unknown on Earth, and claimed it produced vast quantities of food when harvested. I think it was something like double or triple 'known' animals and plants on Earth could produce. He suggested similar for other people's game worlds.

    I decided to do that for some areas, and not for others. It really hasn't come up during game play.
    •  
      CommentAuthorMonsen
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2020
     
    It certainly is a possible approach. A different world would work different than Earth (especially if you throw magic or magic-related into the mix)

    Myself, I am more of the "keep as much the same as on earth as possible". Makes it easier for me to find inspiration, makes it easier for players to understand and reason within any given situation, and makes it possible to google to find real-world data to base things on. This also make the special things stand more out.

    Of course, many people would call my approach "boring" and "sucking the soul out of fantasy", but I find it works well for me and my group. They call me stingy with the magical items every now and then, but it is never a major topic.
    • CommentAuthormike robel
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2020 edited
     
    The drawings provided by Quenten provide an interesting view of the resources apparently required to support a town, but we don't really have a scale, nor does it show the town's neighbors. The relationship in people to required land, those maps may be accurate, but in practice, they don't show the whole situation. This can be seen by the density of towns/villages today in France, near Arras, an area I've studied a lot. The first shows Arras off to the right, which even in Medieval times was fairly large. While these are modern, they do show the relationships of villages to each other. As those of you in Europe know, many of these villages have been there a long time and have grown, but the relationship is still valid. (As a soldier, I long ago noticed that many villages are 3000 meters apart, this is excellent for defense because you can set up a maze of anti-tank guided missiles in them to cover the open area. But I digress.)

    What always surprised me is the size of fields in Europe as compared to the US. Today, 1 US farm feeds 166 people, and the US has 11,000,000 farms. Average size of a US Farm is 446 acres today, as compared to a French Farm 135 acres. They of course would not have had the capability of today's farms.

    Apparently by the time of Columbus, Europe was having a hard time raising its own food, was depleting its fishing stocks, had a rising population, and of course did not have the potato. Major villages were supposed to be less than a day's walk apart. Probably, most families had a small garden, a cow, a pig, and some chickens. Even then, the population did not subsist of hunting. France in medieval times has about 25% of the European population (13.7 million?). I can't easily find a listing of french city populations for the time, but Arras today has approximately 41000 people (https://www.citypopulation.de/php/france-pasdecalais.php?cityid=62041)thats about the same size as Alexander the Great's army, which had a total strength of about 65000 (counting camp followers). (My google-fu is weak today.) The army's daily grain consumption for would be 195,000 lb for people, for the 6100 cavalry horses, 61,000, for 1300 baggage animals 13,000, and for 1,200 animals carrying provisions 11,210 lbs, for a DAILY total of 280,210 lbs of grain. They probably didn't get that much. But it gives an idea of how much food is required for a similar population.

    The two attachments are about the same scale. One is obviously a screenshot from Google Earth and the other of the same region at about the same scale from http://www.francetopo.fr/.

    So, you could portray a map with a fairly rich landscape centered on a large town with lots of opportunities for interaction in it and the surrounding towns and villages without worrying about the true size of the resources needed to support the town. After all, it's an adventure game, not a farming game. Logistics games, while interesting are not the most entertaining genre.
      Arras.JPG
      France 1.JPG
      Fance 2.JPG
    • CommentAuthormike robel
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2020 edited
     
    and for fun and comparison, an antique map of Arras with a modern map from http://www.francetopo.fr/ and a close up showing the city center and fortress to compare with the antique map.
      Arras antique.JPG
      Arras Today.JPG
      Arras Close.JPG
    • CommentAuthorseycyrus
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2020
     
    Yeah, I'm not getting the commentary about the original images not being scaled. You can eyeball either the scale on the original town map, of the provided acreage, and apply that to the latter images. They all scale pretty well in fact. Certainly within 15%.

    They also provide me with a nice visual understanding of the amount of farmland needed to support a given population. I'd love to have additional information expressed in terms of the contributions to these numbers in terms of hunting,fishing and livestock(including poultry), but that's MORE information, not less.

    These maps might not show the whole picture, but they're aimed in the right direction. Certainly "magic-ing" it away or continuing to state that "it's complicated" isn't bringing more of the picture into focus.

    Many of my players also want this type of information to be reflected in the world I run. They ask questions about food shipment schedules, distances between towns, villages and cities, and all sorts of crazy stuff.
    • CommentAuthorJimP
    • CommentTimeMar 4th 2020
     
    Most characters wouldn't know those sorts of things.

    Such and such town is two days ride, or a weeks ride, etc. are some of the answers the locals would give them. Details as they want simply wouldn't be available.

    And asking too many questions of the locals could arouse suspicions of the local constabulary, the local duke, etc. that they could be gathering information for an invasion by enemies of the locals.
    • CommentAuthorWyvern
    • CommentTimeMar 4th 2020
     
    Spoken like a true GM, Jim! And highly apt to do so, given this is GM's Day (March Fo(u)rth).
    • CommentAuthorJimP
    • CommentTimeMar 4th 2020 edited
     
    Its not Ice Cream Day !?

    Okay, I'll accept that it is GM Day.
    • CommentAuthorShessar
    • CommentTimeMar 4th 2020
     
    Well then, to all GMs, no matter if your players wonder about travel distances and food shipments, or ship parts and planetary travel, or demon lords and curmudgeons, happy mappy GM's day! May all of our players enjoy what ever we throw at them. :)
    • CommentAuthorseycyrus
    • CommentTimeMar 4th 2020 edited
     
    Posted By: JimPMost characters wouldn't know those sorts of things.
    ...


    Most characters should be able to get an answer along the lines of, "Four wagons full of grain arrive at this outpost every two weeks, from the nearby city of Jonston which is about two days away."

    It's much better than, roll 3d4 = 7, roll 1d100 = 97,roll 3d12 = 11, roll 3d4 = 3

    "... Seven wagons full of ... " "...purple porcupines arrive at this outpost every..." " ... eleven days from the nearby city of Jonston which is about ... " "...three days away."

    And even if all the characters wouldn't be asking these questions, many of my players are. Having wacky answers ruins the sense of consistency for some of my players.
    • CommentAuthorJimP
    • CommentTimeMar 5th 2020
     
    Surprisingly, my players never asked most of the time.

    They looked for 'what is the average travel time/distance to such and such adventure area'. They would get different answers which taught them to be more selective on whom they asked.