Following on from the demographics of the Border Kingdoms, I thought it would be interesting to apply the same rules to D&D 4E’s Nentir Vale setting. With what I have – the DMG and module H1, Keep on the Shadowfell – I probably have enough data to reverse engineer the population.
Applying a ruler to my Dungeon Master’s Guide, I see that Nentir Vale has an area of 18,984 square miles. I also see on the map three towns (Hammerfast, Fallcrest and Winterhaven); one keep (Raven’s Roost); and three ruined fortifications (Kalton Manor, the Keep on the Shadowfell, Kobold Hall).
Nothing on the map is big enough to be a city. We know that Fallcrest has a population of 1,350 and Winterhaven, one of 977 – too small to be officially a town, but we’ll stretch a point. Hammerfast is bigger than both (says so in the DMG), so based on S John Ross’ research, on average luck it will have a population of 2,700.
Working that backwards and assuming average luck, the total population of Nentir Vale is 32,400. The total urban population of 5,027 is about 16% of the total, unusually high.
The population density is 1.7 people per square mile, a bit more than present-day Alaska. The total farmed land area is about 180 square miles, or roughly 1% of the total. As one would expect, Nentir Vale is a “points of light” setting – flickering candles of townships set in a vast, pitch black landscape.
One functioning castle is credible for that population level.
However, three ruined castles at this population level would indicate castle-building cultures have occupied the area for nearly a quarter of a million years; a bit long even for the D&D 4E world of continuously rising and falling empires.
It’s easier to assume that prior to the Fall of Nerath, population density was closer to 30 per square mile – still very low for a mediaeval society. Running those numbers there tells me that the Nentir Vale has been home to castle-building cultures for at least 694 years. The setting background tells me that humans from the Empire of Nerath moved here around 400 years ago, so prior to that the castles must have had non-human builders; probably the minotaurs who built Thunderspire Labyrinth. Raven Roost may still bear traces of this, as it’s easier to recycle a partly-ruined keep than it is to build a new one from scratch.
Something really bad happened to Nentir Vale a few centuries back – something bad enough to kill off over 90% of the population, and leave the survivors surrounded by ruins. Something bad enough to obliterate a dozen or so castles so thoroughly that not even ruins remain.
Now there’s a plotline for you.