Just Guess: Demographics in Seekers of Lore

Over the last few days I’ve been doing a lot of calculations regarding population and demographics in medieval times, in part because I’m working on rules for Demesne-Level Play.

Seekers of Lore
Seekers of Lore

These calculations are mostly to lay groundwork for the rules I’m working on, to ensure they produce credible results. I’m certainly not looking for realistic results, but results that appear like they could actually happen.

It seems many demesne-level games end up with some pretty precise calculations for population growth, right down to single-digit percentages on a per-hex basis. I’ve seen people break out spreadsheets to do the tax calculations for their realms.

I have no intention of being that precise and accurate. I don’t want to apply these calculations during play.

The relationships described yesterday in Imperial Scale to Manorial Scale in Mapping and Rulership could be good enough. Just as an emperor probably doesn’t know all the earls and counts (and possibly not even all the dukes) in his demesne, and a king is unlikely to personally know all the barons (and maybe not even all the earls and counts, there could nominally be over 250 just of the lower nobility!), there’s no practical or even meaningful way to know how many people there are in total. Or, honestly, likely any real need for that information.

If I need to know, I’ll just roll. Probably 2d8, that feels like a good number of direct vassals to have of the next lower rank, and possibly throw in a number of the rank below that, since it’s rarely so tidy. Or perhaps d12 of each of the two ranks below.

Thus, in the absence of other information, a king might have 1d12 or 2d8 dukes and 1d12 or 2d8 earls as direct vassals, each duke could have 1d12 or 2d8 earls and 1d12 or 2d8 barons, each earl 1d12 or 2d8 barons and 1d12 or 2d8 lords, and each baron 1d12 or 2d8 lords. If I really wanted to know how many peasants, let’s say 1d12 or 2d8 families, each with 1d12 or 2d8 people (including old folks and kids).

This should generally leave some room in each demesne that is not assigned to a vassal. This might leave a bit of room for elevation and expansion within the realm. On the other hand, it might indicate allodial (actually owned outright, without obligation to a liege) land. I’ll want to think about this.

This should work fairly well, unless the rolls run really high for a while. If a king has 16 vassal dukes and they each have an average of more than vassal earls (i.e. “not likely to happen”), and the king has 16 vassal earls, there will not be enough earldoms within the kingdom! Unless, of course, there are earls who have taken land outside the nominal hex of the kingdom and are working on making it bigger, which is entirely possible, permissible, and in fact encouraged.

Help, help, being digressed, etc.

Of course, this is relevant only if I need to know how many bodies there are. I’m satisfied with “an earl’s territory can support a large town, and because there are four baronies surrounding that one, and all five have small towns, that one can grow into a large town”. Enlarge the number of building slots in the city (for improvements that can apply at the county level), possibly enlarge the garrison, and start collecting bigger revenue from the greater commerce.

How many people actually live there? A large town’s worth. When we have a plague I’ll downgrade it back to a small town with lots of empty buildings around it. Move on.

I so dearly look forward to answering the question, “how many people in my demesne” with “Dunno, want to run a census?”


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  3. David Lamb

    Wouldn’t you need the near-equivalent of a spreadsheet (or simple database) to keep track of the information you generate randomly? I get that the random way lets you ignore levels of detail, or regions of the demesne, that aren’t relevant yet, but spreadsheets can do that, too.

    • It might, at that, there can still be quite a few numbers involved if you actually look at a region. I think this reduces how many numbers are involved, and there is a reduction in resolution as you move up the scale. This loss of resolution means you can largely defer refined examination, and only need to work on what is currently being looked at.

      I wouldn’t want to keep a lot of this in my head at once, true… but honestly, if it’s interesting enough that I’ll want to keep the numbers on it, I’ll want to keep more than that anyway — like NPCs, possibly a map, and so on.

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