Advice for Converting Greyhawk Nations to ACKS Realm Standards

I’m in a quandary over converting nations in the Greyhawk Campaign setting to the standards set out in ACKS in Chapter 10.

Here’s an illustration of the problem, using the kingdom of Keoland as a test sample.

I’m using the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer and the very nice poster maps Paizo created when they were publishing Dungeon Magazine, which are already hexed. Those maps have a scale of 1 hex = 30 miles, but I’m changing it to 1 hex = 24 miles… it’s still quite a large area by ACKS standards. I’m making an educated guess that the area is roughly equal to about 1/3 the size of the U.S.

The realm of Keoland has a population of 1,800,000.

Counting the number of hexes on the map, Keoland is composed of about 150 24-mile hexes.

1,800,000 / 150 = 12,000 people per hex

A 24-mile hex is 512 square miles.

12,000 / 512 = 23.4 people per square mile

The minimum suggested population density in ACKS is 40 per square mile and Keoland, is a bit more than half that. Pretty much all the nations in Greyhawk will have this “problem”.

So I’m wondering how to reconcile this. My possible answers:

  1. Leave it as is? I’ve tested other realms and so far all have been at even less than 23 people per square mile. From a real-life historical perspective, would that be reasonable or feasible?

  2. Use a population density of 40 people per square mile, which would cause the actual realm sizes to become smaller (but not the nation’s claimed borders)? This would result in large amounts of land being classified as wilderness within each nation. I don’t mind this conceptually, but the result often looks weird when domains are drawn out. I find myself ending up with realms that look like hexes “strung together” since, on the map, the settlements are spread throughout each nation, and it seems they should be linked. Alternatively, I could simply not link them which results in “pockets” of domains within each realm that are essentially isolated from one another.

  3. Use a population density of 40 people per square mile as above, but re-draw the nation’s borders, and move the existing settlements so that they fit within a realm whose domains are all contiguous and “look right”? Note this is not as difficult as it sounds, as I’ve already re-drawn a copy of the original map that I can print and alter as I see fit. The end result would be large tracts of wilderness very frequently separating the various nations. (Think of an alternate Europe with buffer zones of land that lie unclaimed between each nation.) Also, I’m not married to the source material… I’m more interested in using it as inspiration rather than sticking to Greyhawk canon.

  4. Ignore the populations in the Living Gazetteer and determine them based on each nation’s size in hexes? In this case, assuming 40 people per square mile, Keoland would have a population of 3,072,00. I could use the original maps “as is”, but there would be a lot more people.

150 hexes at 512 sq/m per hex X 40 people per sq/m = 3,072,000 people

  1. A combination of 2 and 4? For example, the map shows that Keoland controls 150 hexes, but in reality, I could arbitrarily say that they actually control 130 hexes, leaving a 20-hex tract of land that Keoland claims in name only. Then, I assume that there are 40 people per square mile within the 130 hexes. I think the advantage here is that I could adhere to the borders delineated on the source maps, and NOT have realms that look like they’re strung together or have isolated pockets of domains. Realm populations would rise, but not by so much.

  2. Something else I’m not seeing?

I hope the question makes sense, and I’m not looking at all of this completely backwards. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

You’re not the first person to notice that: I think multiple blogs have pointed out that Greyhawk looks post-apocalyptic, and that’d be an interesting flavor to apply. ( for one)

So I’d go with Option 2. Assume half of the land ‘claimed’ by each nation is only patrolled a couple of times a year, in some sort of ‘beating the boundaries’.

You could even call it “Points of Light”

To echo Tom’s comment, you could check out Greyhawk Grognard here: I’d go with option 2 as well – it makes for a great excuse for nation building if Keoland wants to clear out some wilderness in its ‘borders’.

Mirroring the comments of the other posters above, I’d go with Option 2.

  1. It will allow you to use ACKS realm and domain structures more easily
  2. It will create lots of empty wilderness which is good for adventure

Thank you for your replies. I think I’ll go with option 2 then! That one is the easiest to implement I think as well. I sketched out Keoland this morning and it doesn’t look that bad actually. I’ll try and post a pic of the example when I get the chance. The Yeomanry on the other hand looks rather sparse… more than half of its purported realm as delineated by the maps and Gazetteer are wilderness!

The “settlements on a string” observation from #2 could be explained thusly: Most of the realms grew up around major surviving cities after the various disasters/wars/random stuff EGG and others came up with. As trade routes (re-)developed between those cities, lesser settlements were formed at places along those trade routes where there were resources or where travelers would rest for the night. The realms claim much more land than they actually control, but they occasionally send patrols through the wilderness and try to encourage settlement of those areas, so you’ll get a few small villages widely separated from each other.

There’s also precedent for huge population density declines when an apocalyptic event happens, even if it’s not necessarily local. (PDF warning) is a paper looking at best estimates for population density of the Rhine valley from the neolithic period to the 19th century (it also briefly displays estimates for other population groups as a comparison - Rome, Southern Mesopotamia, and the various New World polities get lines on the chart). During the Roman period, population density along the Rhine averaged 37.3 per square mile, but during the Merovingian period it plummeted to no more than 3.4 per square mile - less than 10% of what it had been a few centuries earlier. It’s not impossible that similar shrinkages occurred in the Flanaess due to various disasters.