(World-building, part 2)
In our previous article we looked at an overview of World Building and some of the problems that I personally had with it. Grant it, you don’t have to include everything you read about in your world but at least have an idea how something works so that if a storyline comes along that would feature that portion of the world, you’d know how to handle it.
In this article we look at creating a town and what is necessary for it to function and I’ll share hardships of the first town I created. I’ll be using the word “locale” for an overall use of the setting. The population listed in each is my own guesstimation. I’m sure everyone has their own idea of how many people reside in each size of a locale. These descriptions are for a Fantasy or Medieval setting.
Village, Town, City
Before building, you must decide how large of an area you are creating. There are three basic sizes of locales: A Village, A Town, and A City. There are additional sizes but these three will suffice for the purpose of this article.
A village consists of approximately 50 people and, depending on your story will have a larger town or city nearby. Villages will not have all of the amenities that are found in the larger towns; and most likely will not have any kind of elected official or mayor. Depending on your story, you might select someone to serve as Matron or Patron of the village which could be the eldest member of the village. It could also be the one with the most knowledge of the village or area in general.
Usually a village will have that country feel to it; featuring farmland, orchards, and a fishing hole. A fishing village will be near a large body of water with fishing as its main line of business. Not every village will feature standalone shops for people to purchase items. A shop generally is someone’s home where the business is conducted in the front room (with the family living in the back) or on the first floor (with the family living above).
A town consists of approximately 500 people and is mostly self-sufficient. A town will have either a mayor as an elected official or a town council; sometimes both. Aside from having more people, a town will feature several businesses and even have a residential section. A town will also house a couple of guilds where people from villages, farms, and the general area can come in for meetings. A guild is an organization of people with similar interests. A Merchant’s guild will feature a place for all shopkeepers to get together and discuss the latest news and suggestions for improving business. I’ll feature guilds in another article.
A city is the largest of the three and usually has towns and/or villages nearby as suburbs. A city consists of 1500-2000 people and will feature a ruler such as a king or governor. A city council might also be included, plus law enforcement; city guards, possibly a night watch, and soldiers from the castle.
A city will also have various districts which make it more of a “melting pot” of citizens. You’ll have your residential sections of: Wealthy (merchants, royalty, etc.), the Working Class (bartenders, laborers, and families), and the Lower Class (thieves, outcasts, etc.)
The advantage of a city is that you have several businesses that feature the same service thereby bringing a little friendly competition or that they cater to certain individuals. For example, I have a tavern called Noblemen’s which caters to the upper class of a city. On the flipside, there is a tavern called The Hangman’s Noose which caters to a seedier clientele. And right in between, I have a tavern called, Quenchers which caters to the rest.
As you can see all three locales vary in size and naturally won’t house all businesses that are available. The smaller the locale, the fewer the businesses; or specialty shops that you would find in a bigger town. Here are some suggestions of businesses that can be featured in all three regardless of size.
There should be some sort of religious facility that people can come and worship. It can be a proper church building, temple, or a simple garden grove with a shrine. Even farmers and dairy owners would want to pay homage to a god of nature for crops or health of cattle.
Tavern or Common Room
No locale would complete without at least one watering hole. This is usually the location where everyone will gather in the evening to socialize with their neighbors. A common room is more of pre-restaurant idea that centers on food service and less on alcohol. Some places will have both a tavern and a common room in the same building.
Call him a shaman, priest, or simply the local healer; a locale should have someone who can tend to those who are sick and in need of medicine. In a village, it would most likely be the Matron of the place; in a town, an apothecary (pharmacy) might be available; and a city would have all of these and possibly a hospital.
Some might ask why would a village have both a healer and a church? I mean afterall a priest is a healer, right? Correct! However, there might be people in the village that aren’t comfortable in dealing with a priest; especially if they are not of the same faith. A farmer with an axe wound would not want to listen to a priest attempt to convert him while healing him. This could make for an interesting conflict in the story too.
There are many other business ideas and I’ll provide links at the end for further help.
This Town ain’t Big Enough
One of my earliest experiences as a DM (Dungeon Master) I created my first town called Tsangu. Don’t know where I came up with the name but I wanted some strange and Fantasylike. Anyways my first concept was that of a one-street Western Town; buildings on both sides of the street (maybe an alleyway between buildings) but nothing more. I wasn’t too familiar with towns and this came long before the internet was around. I don’t recall any of the names of the businesses except for one and it was called Nuthin’ for Sumthin’. It was a front for the local thieves’ guild and the business they ran was for looks and not for profit. The prices were outrageous as they weren’t expecting customers.
Since then I have slowly improved in designing towns and villages but that’s been possible with the help of the internet and mapping programs. For my current project, DWC, the main locale is the village called Caldera Falls. I have a few ideas of what is featured but haven’t quite worked out everything yet. The neighboring city is called, Ciudad (Spanish for ‘city’).
What about a Shantytown?
Finally, I want to discuss a possibility for you that might help with story ideas. A shantytown is worse than the seedier district of a city. Shantytowns are instant locales that are created with a series of people and tents or wooden shacks. If you have a group of people who are suddenly homeless due to war or disease, they become a band of refugees who own whatever they can carry.
A local town can provide tents or scrap pieces of wood or cloth to help construct places to live. Food is whatever is brought with them or given by the locals and sanitary needs are virtually unheard of. This setting can help you to hide a thief who is on the run from the law, created sudden robberies in town, or create problems due to traditions or language barriers of the foreigners.
In my next article we’ll continue the discussion of town building and look at what the focal point is for your setting. Plus, I’ll make suggestions for some towns that you might haven’t thought of. In the meantime, share with me any of your problems you’ve had in creating towns or comments you might have in businesses you’d add.
Featured links for further assistance
DMG II (Dungeon Master’s Guide 2): This free PDF of the manual can help you in your creation. Chapter 3 gives you an idea of how to create a fantasy city including tables from which you can choose professions and trades for characters. Chapter 4 is about an old D & D city called Saltmarsh. This gives you all of the details of this town and you can get an idea of what you want to create.
AD&D 2nd Edition: (*Sorry for the nudity on the front cover*)This collection of 26 books holds every type of book a gamer could want plus valuable information for the writer. In the DMG, chapter 6 covers money and equipment which will give an idea of how much things costs and of what value certain item are.