Questions about Road of Kings maps and numbers


One of the things that stood out to me as being odd about some of the Conan books are the weird attempts at being very precise about large numbers. In spots a book might say Country X has access to 29732 archers or whatever. Same thing goes for geographical numbers. I was re-reading the section on Asgard in ROK today, and I noticed that it said that there is an estimated 5,439,550 people living there. These people live in 10,900 villages and 67 towns. My question is where in Asgard do you fit 10,900 villages? Using the inside cover map as a guide Asgard appears to be approximately 700 miles by 900 miles. Much of it is taken up by Snow Devil Glacier. If you spaced villages evenly 10 miles apart from each other in perfect rows you could only fit 6300, and it doesn't make sense to me that that could be nearly that densely packed.
Anyone agree with this? I want to believe that these numbers have some real thought behind them, but they just don't make sense to me at this point.
When I designed those numbers, I used a different map (because Mongoose's was not published) that used a different scale than Mongoose's map used.

Still, you are talking about 630,000 square miles (700 miles x 900 miles = 630,000 sq. miles)! At one every ten sq. miles you could fit in 63,000 of those villages. So 10,900 villages is not a very dense population at all for a nation of that size.

Also, the maps I had access to when writing The Road of Kings did not include maps for Khitai, Hyrkania, Vendhya or the Black Kingdoms, so at the time I supposed Hyrkania was the size of upper Asia, Khitai was about the size of China and the Black Kingdoms were about the size of Africa. Those estimates, when I finally got to see the maps (when RoK was published!), were wrong. Hyrkania turned out to be MUCH smaller than I had presumed, for example.

I will try to correct those things if and when I do regional supplements to match Mongoose's scales.
VincentDarlage said:
Still, you are talking about 630,000 square miles (700 miles x 900 miles = 630,000 sq. miles)! At one every ten miles you could fit in 63,000 of those villages. So 10,900 villages is not a very dense population at all for a nation of that size.

You seem to be mixing up miles and square miles. One village every 10 square miles makes the villages less than 3.5 miles apart from each other.
I hope I'm not being too nitpicky, I am just trying to straighten some stuff out.
At that size, it still works out to an average of 8.6 people (approx.) per square mile, which is NOT a dense population. 10,900 villages means one village every 57.8 sq. miles. That makes the villages about 8 miles apart on average. I figured they were about 3 miles apart in the south and almost non-existant in the north. If you want the world less populated, then use smaller densities. Of course, if the density gets too small, then it is unlikely a culture of raiders would develop. It would simply take too long to get to the next village to raid it, there would be little conflict over resources and there would not be enough people to perpetuate such a violent lifestyle.

I found a lot of material about population densities that I used to calculate those numbers. If you don't like the numbers, don't use them. A village every 3 miles is consistent with medieval history (at least with the handful of sources I found at the local library) - but, of course, the Hyborian age is prehistory, so who knows? Howard based his cultures on real-world cultures, so I did the same with the population densities. Some research did go into it, but I am not an expert on the subject. If you don't like the numbers, don't use them. Personally, I don't want a Hyborian age that seems as vast and unpopulated as Middle Earth appears to be. I want lots of people competing over scarce resources, giving them reasons to go to war. If my village were ten miles away from all other villages, would I even care what that village was up to? Would I even know that another village existed? That is a lot of distance to travel for a people without horses.

Anyway, I did do some research, but I had to do a lot of research on that project on a lot of stuff, so I am no expert. If I did it wrong, I did it wrong. In the end, it really doesn't matter - if a GM wants a village in a spot, he will put a village in that spot. Does that impact the GM who does not want a village in that spot for his games? No.
If I remember these statitics are a new version of what you did on your web site. The first version was too generic (mere statistics), but this one gives a good idea of population. The exact numbers are not important and should only be taken as an approximation. Anyway who cares if there are 8,000 instead of 10,000 villages.
Most relevant are the important settlements (cities big and small). It must be very hard to give an approximation of city population based merely on history. The Middle-Age was known for its rather sparse population (excepted Constantinople, Baghdad, etc.). However I read recently that Rome hosted as many as 1 million people at its height in 100-200 A.D. (source: Gurps Imperial Rome).
This enormous population for that time demands :
1) a perfect administration for the organization of supplies.
2) a lot of money to buy the supply or a mighty empire with rich colonies (such as Egypt) to supply the population.

Taking this aspect into consideration, you did a good job with the big cities of the Hyborian world. Taking for instance Aghrapur, one of the greater cities with 160.000 inhabitants, Turan never had the requested colonies and never had an organization that could provide supply to a massive population.
Thanks for the response Vincent. Your response sounded like I offended and/or annoyed you. If that is the case I'm sorry. I just know that you had to do a lot of research with incomplete/imperfect information at your disposal so I just wanted to get some clarification. I love your books and I plan to continue buying them.

thanks again
Since this has been brought up, I thought I'd chime in with a few comments and questions.

In RoK, page 130, it is stated that "The Turanians have built thirty-six large and small cities, over 190 towns and more than 24,000 villages or nomadic encampments".

Then, on page 134, we read "Turan has built at least 26 of these grand cities, 133 smaller towns, and over 14,000 villages".

Is this a case of poor editing/proofreading, and/or simply a typo? Or am I missing something? Which (in your opinion) is correct? I know I can simply decide for myself which figures to use, but it would be nice with a common understanding of population figures.

Also, why use exact numbers like for Kherdpur (7,731 people) and Luxur (18,894 people), and more approximate figures for cities such as Zamboula (28,000 people) and Khawarizm (50,000 people) ?

Why not be consistent and use approximate numbers for all cities? I mean, giving a figure like 7,731 people is pretty meaningless given the constant movement of people, births and deaths, etc. It hardly matters in actual gameplay, but it just looks silly to have these exact numbers in the text.

- thulsa
Well, that error crept into Turan because of the variable size of the nation. While writing Road of Kings, the core book with its map was not published. I was not sure if the published map would have Turan at its expansion to Shem's borders or if it would use the size usually depicted in the maps (a sliver of land along the Vilayet).

I calculated populations for both instances, but could not get an answer from the editor of the time on the issue. Essentially, the smaller numbers are for use with the map that was published with the original Conan the Roleplaying Game and the larger numbers are for use with the map published with Road of Kings and the Atlantean Edition.

So, on my part, it was not poor proofreading or a typo. I just didn't know how big or small Turan was going to be in Mongoose's map. Although, in hindsight, I should have clarified better.
All right, that's an acceptable explanation. I thought there might be some logic behind it since the two sets of figures were so different.

Excellent work on the book, though -- this is really just nitpicking :)

- thulsa