City states and demographics

My players are currently in a desert where the population is concentrated in a few city states. The rest are nomadic tribes. I’m working with a realm sized map and thinking to fill it with the large cities (one class I market, and two class II). Two of the cities are seaside. I imagine trade between them will be mostly done by ship. The third is inland, connected by treacherous trade routes that only the nomads tend to travel (in the very least, travelers and merchants should hire them on as guides).

My two big questions are as follows:

1.Is it reasonable to have all the population concentrated in these three big cities and perhaps a lonely scattered village or two, foregoing the ACKs realm mapping suggestions?

  1. What effect do you think it would have on demographics?

Thanks in advance for anyone’s thoughts.

Also, I am loving this system.

Core answer looks like shifting Urban Population two columns downward (urban realm) and Largest Settlement two columns downward (centralized settlement) on page 231, then place smaller settlements by the book.  Going much farther than that raises the question of what the city populations eat and where they get it from.

A partial answer might be imported grain for the coastal cities, provided they have some valuable and reliable good or resource to purchase it with, but if that's the whole answer then that's a precarious position to live in.

Alternately though, I wonder if you could treat the remaining realm population after a city as ocean fishermen and nomadic herders instead of as fixed-location farming villages.  Essentially treating a city-state and the surrounding nomads as the same realm for demographic purposes, and conveniently giving you numbers for the fishers or herders necessary to support the city.  Whether the nomads and the city-state actually have a unified rulership is up to you to decide.

I see that farmers and herders could cooperate though.  Regarding Palmyra:

Professor Meyer and his colleagues came to realise that what they were studying was not a desert, but rather an arid steppe, with underground grass roots that keep rain from sinking into the soil. Rainwater collects in intermittent creeks and rivers called wadi by the Arabs.

The archaeologists gathered evidence that residents of ancient Palmyra and the nearby villages collected the rainwater using dams and cisterns. This gave the surrounding villages water for crops and enabled them to provide the city with food; the collection system ensured a stable supply of agricultural products and averted catastrophe during droughts.

Local farmers also cooperated with Bedouin tribes, who drove their flocks of sheep and goats into the area to graze during the hot season, fertilising the farmers' fields in the process.

Still, that's not no farmers.  Presumably that inland city especially has some good source of fresh water, enough for irrigation and to supply visitors as well as themselves.

And after typing all the above I remembered Kiero's thread about trading cities which may be of help to you as well.

Thank you for the thoughts and references! I figure food in the two coastal cities won’t be hard with plenty of Fisher folk and trade. I have some mountains to the south where a river forms and flows past city three. I thought that would supply enough viable land to farm. The nomads in the area are from one race, though there are a few branches that have resulted in different tribes. Most are horse people, so they have a Mongolian type diet of meat and dairy, though their emphasis on trading gives the much more access to grains and vegetables.

I threw the river in just so I could place the settlement. I might like the idea of wadis more. I’m going to check out that post on trading cities now.

That thread is absolutely amazing. There is so much juicy stuff there. I’ll be nerding out over that for a while.