Settlement Sizes

I got in a discussion on Talysman’s blog ( and previous) about settlement sizes, and said I’d follow up here.

Where do the sizes of settlements in ACKS come from? I assume there must be an economic model - can you summarize? Give pointers to research sources for the curious?

The context originally was in laying out small-scale maps of settlements + nearby features; Talysman was suggesting that there were a half-dozen buildings in a hamlet, or maybe 30-40 in a village. This conflicts pretty strongly with ACKS, where I can’t see a small village having fewer than 50 buildings, and 75-100 more likely (since there are 75-99 families, and so 375-495 people, right?).

Your numbers are in line with S. John Ross’ famous demographics site (, but there aren’t exactly footnotes there. I’ll have to add some of his references to my wishlist…

The sizes of settlements at the low end are relatively arbitrary. There is often very good documentation about the population of famous cities, such as Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Athens, or Sparta, and so one can safely say that such cities are rare and require large realms. But with regard to, e.g., the average size of a village in Attica, there’s much less information, and historians often disagree sharply. Even the sizes of well-document sites like Jerusalem can trigger major disputes.

An earlier version of ACKS used a very complex model to determine the maximum size of a city based on the land value, number of peasants in the domains, number of trade routes, and so on, but it proved way too complex for a tabletop game. And no matter what I did, I couldn’t “account” for all settlement patterns. It’s just hard to model something like Tyre (island city). I abandoned it in favor of just allowing settlements to grow indefinitely provided infastructure gp was spent.

I’d love to see that model even in rough and unusable outline. One of the issues I have with the system as it seems to work is indeed with the size of settlements at the larger end, but also with large (and large-ish) cities with sufficient population to support them but not rganized into nations per the guidelines in the rules. This is easy enough to handwave at, admittedly, but more grist for the worldbuilding mill can’t hurt.