View Full Version : How to figure a large desert city (about 100,000 inhabitants) ?

01-25-2013, 05:20 PM
Hi all,

I'm actually trying to draw a city map, a big city with about 100,000 inhabitants. But... I'm not sure what is the best way to do this.

If I figure every house and building, the map shall be... more than huge, I guess. Don't know if this is a good idea.

But how could I figure less than every house ? Only display districts and important buildings such as keeps, temples and so on ?

Another question would be : how dense the road net should be ? I saw straight-lined roads on some maps, and twisting on others. Maybe a mix of both, for such a large city ? Large and straight roads in importants districts (governement, noblemen...) and twisting for the others ?

Thank you for your advices ! :)

01-26-2013, 04:49 PM
Why don't you hunt down some historical cities with the population density (100K) that your after. This should give you a good starting point of land mass required and the transportation layout.

01-27-2013, 12:24 AM
Some things to consider when determining the road and street layout of a city are:

1) The geography of the site. Is it a flat valley floor or is it hilly? Flat terrain is more likely (but not necessarily) to have a grid layout. Rich people usually live in the hills, and the roads are curvy there.
2) The history of the city. Is it an old city? It's more likely to have curvy, narrow streets. Newer cities would have been planned with cars and freeways in mind and therefore would have a network for people to drive in and out of suburbs.
3) Are there important or historic buildings there? A cathedral? A stadium? A crowded downtown area? A shopping district? Those are going to have major roads leading to them.
4) Is there a main thoroughfare like 5th Ave. in New York or Market Street in San Francisco? Major roads are going to provide access by way of linking directly or indirectly to it.

01-27-2013, 04:17 PM

thank you for your answers !

Why don't you hunt down some historical cities with the population density (100K) that your after. This should give you a good starting point of land mass required and the transportation layout.
Well, this is but a good and simple idea ! Thank you !

Some things to consider when determining the road and street layout of a city are:

1) The geography of the site. Is it a flat valley floor or is it hilly? Flat terrain is more likely (but not necessarily) to have a grid layout. Rich people usually live in the hills, and the roads are curvy there.
2) The history of the city. Is it an old city? It's more likely to have curvy, narrow streets. Newer cities would have been planned with cars and freeways in mind and therefore would have a network for people to drive in and out of suburbs.
3) Are there important or historic buildings there? A cathedral? A stadium? A crowded downtown area? A shopping district? Those are going to have major roads leading to them.
4) Is there a main thoroughfare like 5th Ave. in New York or Market Street in San Francisco? Major roads are going to provide access by way of linking directly or indirectly to it.

Argh, I didn't clarify myself :blush: ; this is a medieval-like city, it has much importance for its display...

1) an almost flat terrain (some minor variations but nothing important)

2) the city is only twenty-five years old, it has been specifically built to become the capital of the country

3) there are important buildings such as temples for many deities, a palace for the emperor, and even a stadium (like the coliseum in Rome)

4) there may be important roads like the 5th avenue, I guess the one that crosses the whole city for example.

Thank you one again ! :)

01-29-2013, 09:36 PM
Also, Washington D.C. in the United States was a planned capital city and built very rapidly. It isn't in a desert, but its layout may give you some ideas. Look for 18th century maps; it had a population of over 100,000 by 1870.

01-30-2013, 01:13 AM
Planned Capital Cities | Museum of the City (http://www.museumofthecity.org/exhibit/planned-capital-cities) has some excellent links to some of the delightfully disastrous planned capital cities.

The technology level of your city will have an impact on the city layout. A modern city will likely have relatively a hidden water supply and sewage systems combined with fairly prominent gardens/parks. Pre-industrial cities are more likely to have prominent aqueducts and likely open sewers with private gardens more likely than public. Pay special attention to the cultural heart of your city: Roman cities were built around the forum and its attendant temples/public buildings, while medieval cities wer emore likely built around a lord's castle and market.

An important part of any city will be the slums. Lots and lots of slums, with their fetid lifestyles and regular fires.

01-30-2013, 02:22 AM
A medieval city, in the desert, built as a planned national capital? you don't have too many historic examples to choose from, if that's the brief.

Here are some pointers:
You should know the terrain. You say it is mostly flat - how flat? where are the bumps? how big are those bumps?

This is a desert. Where do people get their water from? Is there an aquifer beneath the sand, so they can build wells? Is the city located near an oasis or a river? I've heard that in the deserts of western Peru in pre-Columbian times, people would set up nets to catch the dew that blew in off the Pacific Ocean - so if you're coastal you can get a small amount of water that way (although definitely not enough for 100,000)

Next question: do you know why this site has been chosen for the city? If you are the leader of a nation, you are going to be extremely reluctant to site your brand new capital somewhere so inhospitable, unless you have a very good reason (eg. defence, cultural beliefs, keeping control over your subjects). Furthermore, historically it is rare for a nation to emerge in a desert environment. A quick scan of Wikipedia reveals that the Arabian peninsula, the religious heart of Islam, became politically peripheral - the capital cities were Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus; much more favourable climates.

Remember, your city - no matter how important it is - needs to provide water and food to its citizens, be capable of attracting more people to live in it (being the centre of political power will bring a lot of people, but what other reasons do people have to settle here - will they have jobs? will they have security? if importing food is expensive, the cost of living is going to be high, so you want to be pretty sure you can find a decent wage before moving to the new city), have access to building materials (think how hard and expensive it is to get timber and stone into the desert, for example), not to mention dealing with the heat of the day. You also don't want your national capital to be too far from anything else - if a rebellion breaks out in some province, you might receive word too late to stop it.

Of course, it's your world, and you are welcome to ignore all those questions. They can just bring everything they need by magic, if that's what you choose. Or there can be more realistic explanations (like Egypt, which had the Nile to provide water, food, transport of building materials, communications etc.). It's up to you.

So, assuming you proceed with the city as you suggest, what should it look like?
You definitely don't need to render every house. Medieval cities rarely, if ever, had free-standing houses and buildings. More often than not, you'd share at least one wall with your neighbour. There's nothing particularly modern about apartment buildings, either. The Roman insulae, for example, was basically just an apartment block. Of course, tall buildings need to be light, so you're getting back into the area of building materials. I started a map a while back that tried to represent the way different buildings would get packed together. The post is here: http://www.cartographersguild.com/town-city-mapping/20260-practice-map-arabesque-city.html.

As for important buildings, Waldronate is right - cities are often clustered around areas of power - from the sound of it, your city will have a prominent palace. But remember, most of the ordinary people will never have a reason to go to the palace. They'll be more likely to congregate around a plaza/forum (as W. said), a temple or temple complex, or a market. Having said that, your city might not have many of those things visible - who wants to spend their day in the hot desert sun? The markets, forums, plazas will all be roofed or covered up, as in the Isfahan bazaar.

The stadium idea would probably also have some way of sheltering the crowd from the sun, but it can be an impressive public building nonetheless. But do they hold games/fights/tournaments every day? That would get very expensive. It might be an important building, but that doesn't mean people congregate there regularly.

Lastly, the layout of the city and the road network. The idea of big avenues and grand vistas is quite a new one - it was essentially developed during the European baroque (~17th-18th C). The Romans and Chinese (and probably others) also had major avenues, but not for the same reason - the Romans, for example, used them to march soldiers down.

That aside, follow the suggestions that others have made - look at maps and satellite images of cities for inspiration, but be sure what you are looking for. If you want examples of desert cities, look at Egypt, Africa and the Middle East.

If you want planned cities, Waldronate's link is pretty good. My suggestion - steer clear of Washington DC (no offence meant to Washingtonians). Brasilia has an interesting design from the air, but it is much bigger than your city. You could try looking at Palmanova in NE Italy - it's a planned town from the Renaissance era, but it's population is only about 5500.

The best city to look at is Canberra, Australia (yes, I'm biased). I don't think Canberra is very well known internationally, but it is still worth checking out:
- It isn't very large (about 300,000)
- It isn't very old (100 years exactly; although most of the city was only built in the past 50)
- It was planned as a national capital, and has the things you're looking for (avenues, and important buildings)
- It's design is more interesting than a simple grid (sorry again, Washingtonians)
- Canberra may not be in a desert (we're mostly scrub and bushland), but this is a dry continent
- If you look at Canberra, look carefully at the central area - you'll find that there are straight roads, twisty roads, and combinations of the two, which might help you solve that particular problem.

Well, I only meant to give you a couple of tips, but looks like you got more than you bargained for. Hope all of that helps. I'll keep an eye on this post, if you have any more questions/clarifications.

01-30-2013, 04:45 PM

Thank you for your answers ! I wouldn't expect that much :)

I will try to clarify my ideas, this may really help to understand what I'm looking for...

The world is Dungeons&Dragons, so it is medieval-fantastic, there are magic, deities, monsters and things like this. The capital city, Melandis, has been built on demand from a major deity, and its leaders are tyrannical, most of the inhabitants are poor and oppressed but faith guides them. It is watered (is it the good verb to say that ? crossed by a river ?) by a large river that provides fresh water for enough people, even if that water may not be completely safe to drink. I think in medieval times, this was not much considered...

Economically, the city lives from trade (magical stuff, minerals, slaves, things like that) and has some military importance. Food is mainly carried from minor cities from the empire of Melandis, by boat (along the river) or road (there is a road that crosses the city, too).

There are many temples in the city, as many deities are venerated. Logically, you would find more houses near temples than anywhere else.

I imagine a small, rich quarter surrounded by a inner wall, and within, the palace. Outside, the rest of the city with slums, commercial quarter, river port... and another wall. And outside, some houses... or not ? Would it be logical to build houses outside the city wall, in a desertic area ?

The desert is mostly flat, with sand/small rocks and rock bumps, but those are quite rare (there are none at the city's location). It would look like a reg (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reg).

I looked a bit to the Google satellite view of Canberra, I think this would be quite the disposition I am looking for. Maybe a bit less regular (the central circle ? I don't know exactly), but this is great !

Thank you once again for your answers, this helps me a lot 8)

01-31-2013, 12:10 PM
If the outer wall was part of the city's original plan, and the population is greater than what was originally planned for, then it is certain that there will be houses outside the walls. There will probably also be marketplaces, and perhaps warehouses, outside the walls where the roads enter the city. Caravans carrying bulk goods will sell to local merchants here so that large numbers of animals and carts are not clogging the gates and making a mess inside the city. Many local merchants who sell travel supplies and rare local wares will have booths here, as well, to sell to the caravaners and other transients.

If the river provides some farmland, even if it is not enough to support the city, then there will be numerous farm houses running along the river outside the walls.

02-01-2013, 05:56 AM
OK, I see what you mean. To be honest, these are points we never cared about before, as city was "only" for background purpose in roleplaying, but with time, incoherences appeared and drawing the map could be the only solution to fix them, in my opinion.

I guess there will be some buildings outside the gates because of the lack of space... or for convenience.

Thank you ! :)

Last goal : imagine the style of the map... eh ! :P

02-01-2013, 10:10 AM
The best way to get good feedback would be to post a sketch of what you are planning. In this case you will get specific suggestions to help refine the town / city etc. Don't be afraid to post what you have, the object here is to help if we can and you to take the comments you like to workout your particular situation.

02-02-2013, 03:44 AM
I made a sketch a few weeks ago, just to figure out where districts, walls and the river should appear. Here it is :


Then I made a first trial, and that's when I realized it IS difficult to figure such a big city and being credible :P


This trial was made two weeks ago, just before I decided to ask some advices on this topic. So I still didn't take into account any advice given here :)

As you can see, the palace is figured into an inner wall, with other buildings that are not figured (it is in the district called "Havre Bourgeois").

For the walls and towers, I worked on this (http://www.cartographersguild.com/mapping-elements/21920-circular-tower-crenels-merlons-2.html#post206473). Guess it could fit.

The biggest difficulty for me would be to figure buildings (houses, but also and mostly important buildings such as temples, warehouses, magic school, barracks and so on) without beeing too small or blur or anything like this.

Another question would be : is it a good idea to draw the sand/rock ground on the map, or is it better to keep the scroll background ? I took some generic scroll but I could make it myself so don't take it into account.

Thank you ! Nice of you to help me. I'm wading about this map :)

02-03-2013, 01:33 AM
Mornagest, here are a few comments, in no particular order (I'll try and keep it shorter this time). [EDIT: failed :?]

Start with the facts: your city is -
- in a desert (flat, stony, has a river, sits on top of a trade route)
- a planned national capital, about 25 years old
- medieval
I apologise if I've left something out.

The map
• There are probably other people on the guild who can give better advice about how to show the different buildings.
• If this map were a project of mine, I would start with the main streets, and work down to the alleyways; that will give you the size/shape of the different blocks, and you might find that that is enough.

The Desert
• As I said previously, the desert will present a lot of difficulties for this city, although the river makes it a bit easier.
• Assuming the river water is safe to drink, the need for water is resolved.
• The river edge is a good place to grow food, as Midgardsormr points out. Since the land is flat, you might also get irrigation channels stretching from the river, to expand the useful farmable land (it is also possible that the stoniness of the ground will make farming of any sort difficult, I don’t know).
• Every farmer is going to need to transport their goods to the city. This might mean they have roads and dirt tracks leading to their front door, or it might mean that there are loading jetties along the river edge where barges can transport it. I would suggest both roads and jetties in different places. I would also suggest that you might have small villages occurring, especially near the jetties, but along the roads, too. A farmer doesn’t want to travel all the way into the city to get his tools mended, does he?
• If you add roads, they will likely run parallel to the river. (Small) bridges will be needed to cross the irrigation canals.
• Imagine travelling with the caravans. You and your party have just crossed a hot, dry desert, and you are now close to the river. You’ll want to get some water for yourself and your animals. Therefore caravans will also want to use roads near the river, if at any point it runs near their usual pathway.
• If you have roads along the river you will also have houses along the roads. Suburbs will start near the city gates, and spread along the most travelled routes. As Midgardsormr mentioned, these suburbs will want to catch some of the gold that the caravans bring, so marketplaces are likely to occur here.
• There are some professions that you are also more likely to find outside the gates then inside. Fishermen/women want to have access to the river, and somewhere to tie up their boats. Tanners often lived outside of the cities because of the stink of their trade. Travellers (including the caravans) will prefer to set up camps outside the walls which might eventually become (semi-?) permanent.
• Also, of course, land is going to be cheaper (i.e. free) outside the walls, so the people living in these areas will not be wealthy. Other poorer industries, therefore, will gravitate to the extra-mural (outside the walls) marketplaces – people who sell beads, pawnbrokers, butchers.
• Lastly, all this activity means you’ll also have some warehouses/storehouses near the river. The main port will, as you identified, probably be inside the walls, but the population that lives outside the walls will still try to make a living from trade, if they can – they all want the wealth to live inside the city, one day.
• It is rare that a city in history simply came to a stop – where you have any well-travelled route, you will have more settlements strung out over sometimes very long distances – inns, villages, towns. Having said that, your city is only bout 25 years old, and it takes time for those additional features to grow up. There might be a few, but probably not many.
• I predict (and this is purely an assumption) that you could have up to three quarters of your city’s population living outside the walls.

What sort of things would you find inside the city?
• The palace will, of course, be inside the walls. It will probably be associated with gardens and will have the best real estate that’s on offer (probably alongside the river where it enters the city, rather than where it leaves it)
• Temples will be inside the city walls (although don’t forget to give the poor people outside some shrines to pray at). They might have their own complex, with parks around them, or they might be spread across the city. That’s up to you. The main temple will, of course, be near the palace, and probably used for special occasions (coronations, celebrate the birth of royal children/death of royal family members). It will likely, therefore, have a significant avenue linking it to the palace, so that all the pomp and ceremony of a procession can occur.
• Aristocrats will want to live close to the palace. The closer they are, the better their chance of speaking to the monarch. Their houses wil be grand and will also have private parks/gardens. They might be formally laid out (wide straight roads, open plazas, planted avenues etc.). You will not find narrow passages and winding alleys where the rich live. The thing to remember here is that the rich/powerful will want to be seen, to show off their wealth and influence.
• Certain businesses will have pride of place inside the city – traders of luxuries, silks, jewellery, goldsmiths etc. The shops that sell luxuries are often small, so they don’t need a lot of room. They will be clustered together, not far from the aristocrats, and not far from the main marketplace/bazaar. It is not as important to be seen in this area, but, while shopping, you would probably want some shade from the desert heat. The streets, therefore, might be covered and/or narrow.
• The port will be located inside the city, but downriver. There is no point making ships spend more time travelling upstream when they don’t need to. Warehouses will probably occupy a lot of space near the port. If you have a farmers’ market type of marketplace it is going to be near the gates (either inside or outside the gates); if you have a marketplace for imported goods (eg slaves, artworks etc.) it will be near the port.
• Does the ruler of this city enjoy the stadium performances, or are they meant to appease the commoners? If the sovereign enjoys them, he/she will want the amphitheatre near his/her palace; otherwise, it can be located elsewhere in the city. One thing to bear in mind with stadiums, though – if it is anything like the Roman gladiatorial combat, it will be noisy, smelly (from all the animals) and if you’re bringing dangerous animals like lions and tigers in, you won’t want to lead them through busy streets. That’s why Roman ampthitheatres were often located near the gates (look at a map of Pompeii for an example).
• Other important buildings to include: bathhouses, military buildings (barracks, training/parade grounds, firing ranges, stables), administrative buildings, schools, and embassies (might simply be the house of a wealthy member of some foreign nation). There are probably others that I’ve forgotten.
• If you have any space left inside your walls, you can probably fill it up with housing for the middle classes (the shopkeepers, clerks, civil servants etc). Their housing is likely to be medium-density. I see that you’re from Lyon; I looked at Lyon on GoogleMaps, and I think it might be useful for you to use your own city to get an idea of how large the middle-class homes might be. The streets will be narrower, so more people can fit in – remember, land is expensive in a city (even in medieval times) and so you want to get as many people onto a piece of land as you can fit.
• If you’re dividing this city into districts, therefore, you’ll have: palace (large, open spaces with the palace buildings surrounded by gardens); aristocratic districts (wide and straight boulevards, large buildings spread out); port (lots of warehouses, narrow streets, probably quite straight roads); marketplaces (narrow streets, possibly shaded, possibly crooked; possibly also a large open plaza for people to set up stalls); middle-class housing (narrow streets, moderately high buildings, somewhat cramped). What you will NEVER see in a planned city is a deliberate area for slums. Slums might occur anyway (more likely outside the walls) but not as part of the original design.

Some more examples of cities that might help you out:
• Carthage, Tunisia (from memory, Carthage had a very interesting port design, which you might be interested in)
• Timgad, Algeria (Roman-age fort-town with a highly planned appearance)
• Any city from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, or the Indus Valley civilisation

Lastly, 25 years is a very short space of time for a city of 100,000 to grow, especially in medieval times. It took Canberra 50 years to reach that population, and that was with modern technology. Remember, even today, a team of builders spends about a year on a single house. If your city is 25 years old, I suspect the builders are still working on the palace, and probably haven’t even started work on the rest of the buildings.

I want to emphasise – this is your city so feel free to disagree with what I’ve said. It is not my intention to tell you how to design your own world. I’m just trying to give suggestions.

Hope all that helps.

02-03-2013, 10:03 AM

First of all, thank you very much for your involvment in my project ! :) I will try to answer quite precisely.

The period of twenty-five years for building the city was not a choice of mine, halas. It was decided in 2003 when our roleplay universe was "created", regardless of any coherent considerations such as this one. As we played for ten years now (as "play", I mean "write", of course), it is impossible to change everything that was done since then.

The overall population is only an estimation of mine, and the city's quarters disposition is only a sketch I drawed a few weeks ago, so those criterions can be easily modified. I estimated the population by comparison with real medieval cities, and taking into account some facts, such as this is a desert city, and it is quite (very ?) young. Maybe 100,000 is still too much, I really don't know.

In "our world", important building are already built. Even if that can seem strange or stupid (that I would perfectly understand :)), the counter would be to explain such a celerity by using some magical powers. If in the real world, building a cathedral took sometimes a few centuries, this could be considerably sped up with mages participation, I guess. Well, I would explain it like this, though other players could find this eccentric... but in Dungeons&Dragons, magic is really present, almost everywhere.

Most of the elements you listed are already existing in our city. They just don't figure on a map, but in writing, they exist. Glad to know there is some credibility in our creation, though we are often inspired by the real medieval world. The most important difference between what you listed and what I imagined is the proportion of the population that lives outside the gates. I admit I have but very few knowledge in history, but prices and other considerations are credible to explain this fact.

I think I will firstly draw the roads net to imagine what final disposition I will adopt, taking your advices into account. This could be a good start, setting aside the global look of my drawing... first, a new sketch, and next, more details...

Back to work, then.

Thank you again for your help !

02-03-2013, 01:05 PM
By medieval standards, a population of 100,000 is absolutely huge. Byzantium may have been this large. 50,000 would already be a large city, with 10,000-20,000 probably a more reasonable figure for a city in the desert, with only a religious/governmental purpose. That's still plenty respectable for a medieval city and your task of mapping will be more manageable.

02-03-2013, 02:48 PM

OK, I will keep that in mind. Thank you ! :)

02-03-2013, 03:08 PM
Cairo was something like 300,000 in the 14th century, and Cordoba was half a million in the 11th. And don't forget that we're talking D&D here, where ubiquitous magic added to medieval tech yields production similar to the Industrial Revolution.

That said, mapping a city can be an enormous undertaking. I suggest you paint with large strokes and indicate blocks of buildings as a large shape rather than trying to depict every individual house.

Stylistically, if you go with the scroll, I'd say don't use any textures. The implication of a parchment background is that this map is something that was produced by an in-world cartographer, so it should probably look as though it were drawn with pen, brush, and ink, unless you have mages in your world who can produce photograph-like images with a spell.

02-03-2013, 03:26 PM
A point about large cities is that they are unlikely to follow the post-war US suburban pattern that too many of us are familiar with. Far more likely is blocks of multi-story apartment buildings, likely with a central courtyard to serve the inhabitants. Higher-density apartment buildings allow for a pretty smallish footprint without the sort of urban sprawl that you're showing here.

A planned city is likely to have wide boulevards from the gate to city center / temple district. Deciding on a scale for your city map is important, because it will dictate the sort of things that show on the map. The Harn city maps ( http://www.columbiagames.com/pix/5741golothamap-1200.gif is an example) show one way to map fairly largish cities while still leaving lots to the imagination. An internet search for the term "old city maps" can be quite instructive.

02-03-2013, 04:50 PM

I found this map (http://leonetedangely.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/braun_hogenberg_i_10_b.jpeg) of Lyon. This is interresting and could fit with Melandis, in terms of population and wideness...

However, the "3D" view is beautiful, but I don't know if this is easy or not to draw... I saw many medieval maps of this style, I guess it was the trend before.

02-03-2013, 04:57 PM
Cairo was a much older city than this, the largest thing west of China, and a key trading center. It also borders the desert, being almost on the Nile Delta. If this city is also on the desert edge near a great deal of fertile land, the population might be much higher.

If magic becomes common, calling it "medieval" is meaningless. But, yes, D&D, so slightly less realism is expected than in, say, Toon. But historically, 10,000 people in one place was a large, not a small, population. There's no need to pump the population up just to make it a "city", in spite of modern sensibilities seeing that more as a sizable town.

02-03-2013, 05:23 PM
100,000 is not impossible. 100,000 in 25 years probably is impossible (magic not included). One of those things will have to change, or a non-realistic explanation created. rdanhenry is also right - somewhere between 10-30,000 is also quite plausible.

Waldronate, I should probably clarify what I mean by suburbs. I don't know how widely known this is, but in archaeology we often use the word suburbs simply to refer to the parts of a city outside the city walls. When I said 3/4 of the population could be outside the walls, I really didn't mean the suburbs that proliferate in America and Australia.

I also didn't mean to suggest sprawl. The people living outside the walls will live in fairly densely packed clusters.

The main point I wanted to make is that any city of this size will have many poor people, and probably some large slums; but no planned city will ever include slums as part of its planning. So, the poor people will come, and settle outside the walls. Their access to building materials will be limited, and they won't be investing in high-rise apartments. The houses would be much more haphazardly built, probably only one storey high (two at most) but also very tiny. The density would come from the smallness of the buildings rather than their height.

I once heard that in Istanbul in the 1970s(?) the government wanted the city to grow. The policy they came up with was to say that if a person can build a house on some land, that land would belong to that person. This resulted in lots of poor people from the countryside arriving at the city with all their friends/family, and putting up cheap shacks overnight. There was no planning, no laying out of roads or infrastructure. The best places were near existing roads, but, naturally, houses spread out from those. That is how I imagine the 'suburbs' of this city to look.

I may have used the word sprawl, though. What I meant was houses that spread (sprawl) along roads. Sometimes they will cluster, and sometimes they will be sparse. Sometimes they will form separate villages. As a caravan gets close to the city, it might be near dusk, and so rather than going to the gates, they'll stay at an inn. That means you'll have some people who set up their homes near the inns to try and sell odds and ends to the caravaneers etc.

The multi-storey apartments that Waldronate mentions are quite plausible for inside the walls, but I suspect they would have a higher class of resident living in them.

The wide boulevards I agree with. I originally posted a comment where I said that the European Baroque developed the notion of wide avenues quite late in history. This is not entirely accurate. Major avenues leading to important parts of a city existed in Roman, Egyptian, Chinese and Mesoamerican cities, but they were mostly processional ways (places for armies to make triumphal arches, or ritual events). The Baroque simply modified the idea substantially.

Mornagest, that map of Lyons you found looks like a Braun and Hogenberg. They were mapping the cities of the world between 1572 and 1617. The style they use is quite indicative of that period in mapping (and they are works of art in themselves). I don't know how good you are at drawing, but I doubt anyone on the guild (with perhaps one or two exceptions) could rival that type of thing. It might not look as pretty, but I'd recommend you stick to top-down images, and follow Midgardsormr's advice.

02-03-2013, 05:37 PM
I'm... a pure novice in drawing, so maybe it will be easier for me to draw a top-down map, then.

Tonight it is late (23:30 PM for me), tomorrow I will make some sketch to figure roads, important buildings, gates and maybe some houses clusters.

Thank you all for your precious help !!! :)

02-03-2013, 07:20 PM
I do realize that the definition of suburb is "near the city". I was using suburbs in the modern post-WWII American pre-planned subdivision that is usually substantially outside the city. They are characterized (typically) by a grid of boulevards and then curvilinear infill of single-family dwellings. In short, a completely atypical layout in terms of human architecutre, as I understand it (mostly because it was a car-based plan and the car has been relatively unavailable in most of human history). A broad overgeneralization is that most of the folks who get into this sort of mapping seem to be the types of folks who are intimately familiar with this type of suburbs and so draw their cities along the same pattern. Symbol sets reinforce this sort of situation and I keep seeing whole city maps with walls that look like American post-war mushroom communities.

One of the fun parts about magical communities is the large number of fun ways that magic can be turned toward the construction industry. Some amusing ways that we can up with 20+ years ago included:

+ Earth elementals can clear a building site in a day or two.

+ A Rock to Mud spell will basically provide you with large amounts of instant-set concrete. Find a rock outcropping, turn it to mud, transport the mud to forms on site, and Dispel Magic to turn the mud back to rock. City walls roughed in within a couple of weeks.

+ Some of the potentially nastier monsters can work to great advantage converting random organic materials into usable forms. A specially-bred member of the pudding family could produce a leather-like material at a huge rate. Sessile fungoid creatures could produce wood or wood-like sheets. Even trolls could be turned to producing large amounts of bone that could be inactivated by fire. The input organic materials could be whatever you have, including sewage, unusable forest products, or even kelp.

+ Increasing plant growth rates could allow for the production of trees at a huge rate.

+ Imagine a special breed of ivy that grows at high rates and fuses the stems together. A simple form and a season's growth gives you a basic structure.

Some day, I'll probably post the devil-grass doomsday scenario, which is basically about a fast-growing perennial grass that fruits several times a year. This grain would allow the production of huge amounts of food on otherwise marginal lands.

If a god commanded the construction of the city, there will probably be special treatment given to the temple(s) of that god. There will also likely be special considerations given to hygiene, especially water in and sewage out. With magic, there might not even be sewage output from the city: it might all be captured and repurposed (here's where that pudding thing comes in again: random organic material in, cheap meat for the poor folks / heretics out).

I really would like to second the examination of Timgad as an example of what happens to a standard Roman layout as it grows organizally outward from the walls and central grid.

An example of the pre-planned, god-driven, forced-growth city might be Amarna, in Egypt.

02-03-2013, 10:59 PM
Cairo was a much older city than this, the largest thing west of China, and a key trading center.

If I recall correctly, Cairo actually wasn't all that old when its growth exploded. It was, however, built around an existing town, which, I believe, grew up around a Roman fortification. When the Fatimids moved in, mid 10th century, they established it as their new capital, although it took them something like 150 years to actually move into it. I don't remember exactly what happened there, but it involved them retreating from their existing capital in the face of Crusaders and finally moving into Cairo, which had been better fortified, I guess. The key here being, I think, that the bulk of the population relocated from another city that had been destroyed. I don't know how large the city was around 1100. The only population figure I remember is the one from around 1350, which was 300,000. And… I don't remember which side of the Black Death that number came from. So it may have been much more, if the number was post-plague.

Something about that timeline doesn't feel right. Did the First Crusade involve Egypt? I thought that didn't happen until the Second, which started in the middle of the 12th century. Or maybe it went on between the two, after Ascalon. I guess that would make sense, if the Crusaders chased the Fatimids back to Egypt after the battle. That's completely beside the point, though.

The point was, if I can remember it, that the city might have grown to its present size because of some kind of forced migration. And it raises a question: If this land is capable of supporting such an enormous population, there was probably a settlement there before the city was built. What happened to the structures that predate the new city? Were they destroyed or incorporated? If they were incorporated, you might have some opportunity to build in some idiosyncracies, like a small walled ghetto where the natives still live, or a nearby mass grave where they were laid to rest after their town was taken by force. Maybe a small fortress that used to be the administrative center of the town, and is now the ruler's vacation home, or the army's headquarters.

That's actually a notion that I used for a city I developed a while back: after conquering some choice land, the newly self-appointed Emperor built himself a lavish capital city, but he left the previous city intact and awarded certain prominent citizens from the native population titles in order to appease them and discourage revolts. After a couple of generations had passed, it became very fashionable to live in the Old City, even though it's cramped and outdated, because all of the aboriginal families had held onto their property there. Having a residence in the Old City meant that you were part of the superior, elder culture, and not one of the outsiders.

I am rambling, which I suspect means that I should think about going to bed.

02-04-2013, 07:56 AM

Well, here's a new sketch taking into account your advices (when it is possible to do so...).

The key of the map :

in blue, the main river and irrigation canals. The little blue spots are supposed to be fountains...
On canals, the light green are fields (vegetables, wheat, wine and so on). I don't know if they are large enough ?
In grey, walls and gates.
In black, roads.
Red rectangles are for the temples. The biggest one dedicated to the divinity that ordered the building of the city was recently destroyed (the god is dead and other cults took advantage of that to attack the temple). This is the rectangle stroke with black.
In dark green, this is supposed to be grass, trees, gardens and so on, in the rich governement district, where nobles also lie.
In orange, these are administration and rich buildings (palace, mansions, and so on).
Yellow clouds are for marketplaces, that I placed near and around fountains. That seems to be logical...
And finally, black crosses figure crypts. This is not a christian city, but I didn't want to spend much time to figure tombs, pyramids and things like that just for a sketch :)

Hope this is clear enough... :blush:

02-04-2013, 10:51 AM
In a world with magic, crypts will likely be behind walls. Undead are always a real threat when there's magic running loose. Cremation and scattering are safe; crypts behind tall and sturdy walls are not as safe, but much safer than crypts behind city walls.

Do you have a sense of scale for this map? Is it 1km across? 5 km? 20km?

02-04-2013, 03:39 PM
A point to you, indeed :)

I don't really know for the scale. I know the size of the quarters in Lyon figured on the map I linked before, I would say one kilometer and half (so one mile in american metric system) ? I think it would be credible.

I could also figure more landscape outside the walls... but with that size (4000 X 3000 pixels), this is already quite big. It will allow the map to be quite detailed...

02-04-2013, 04:57 PM
This really will be a short post (I hope).

Your latest map is much better in terms of layout. A few things I noticed:

- the crypts inside the city walls did look unusual to me, but there's nothing wrong with it (except of course, the slavering hordes of walking dead that Waldronate pointed out)

- when building the wall around the government precinct, the builders would want to minimise the cost and time. Where suitable, therefore, the city wall could double as the government district's wall. As it is you have that strange space squeezed between the two walls on the left and top of the gov. district. (That may be a bit confusing so if you don't understand, say so).

- you might want to show the direction that the river flows. The palace will be upriver (to avoid the smells of dirty water); the port will be downriver (assuming the trade partners of this city are also downriver). It might be you've already got those things correct, in which case the placement of those buildings is also suitable.

- the suburbs aren't bad, but I think they could be improved. Rather than explaining what suburbs on a medieval town looked like, though, why don't I show you: this map (http://historic-cities.huji.ac.il/british_isles/london/maps/braun_hogenberg_I_A_b.jpg), from the same city-atlas as the Lyon one you found, shows London. Look carefully at the areas outside the city walls. All of those houses outside the walls are, technically, suburbs. Of particular note:
- the suburbs follow the main roads to and from the city
- the main roads often follow the river
- in some places (perhaps not as many as you would need) there are farmhouses among all those green fields)
- in some areas (notably Smythe Fyeld in the north) what probably began as a stretched out road begins to form a larger cluster
- and last, at a certain distance from the city, whole new villages appear (eg. West Minster). Spitel Fields is probably another example of a village on the outskirts of the metropolis.

Braun and Hogenberg's London map is actually a really good source for medieval suburbs. The difference between your city and London is that yours is in a desert. All those roads leading away from London go to various towns and cities in the English landscape; your city won't have so many other towns and cities, so you will have fewer roads leading from it (the three that you've got is probably about the right number).

The other difference is that London is not a planned city, and yours is, so London's roads are more twisted and chaotic.

The other thing worth noticing about the London map (I swear this is the last point) is that there is a mix of densities - some places are very crowded, others much less so. Yours being a planned city, the architects would probably have wanted to avoid making anything overcrowded, but they'd also try to make the best use of their space.

Well, I kept that fairly short, didn't I?

02-04-2013, 06:00 PM

You did it ! :)

The crypts are part of the city because of two of the previous members of the council, that were undead themselves. So they decided to improve the crypts and leave them inside the walls (that's what really happened in our roleplay in writing). So I'm not sure I'll figure walls around them, as it is not the case in writing...

About the inner walls, yes, I understand your explanation and it is logical ; didn't think about that when I draw this... I will correct it.

The direction of the river flow will be shown by the direction of the block letters of its name... ah. I guess this is not enough, eh ? :D actually, I refer to the map of the continent (http://www.baldursgateworld.fr/filesforums/dorrandindefinitif.png) where lies my city, that river is figured on it. Would this be sufficient ?

And lastly, the suburbs... well, I think I had no idea how they could look (in terms of display) so the example you give is quite enough for me :) maybe the suburbs of Melandis shall be less expanded, as the city has... 20,000 inhabitants, finally ! But the general idea is good for what I expected.

Thank you !

PS : please point me out if my English is really too poor... I'm not sure to be understandable all the time...

02-04-2013, 06:58 PM
No worries Mornagest. If you want to post any more maps (for this city or others), or have any questions, I'll try and give what advice I can (as I presume will other members of the website), but for now I'd say you're on the right track. Good luck.

(And your English is understandable, which is what matters)

02-08-2013, 10:30 AM

After some days of erring way, I post this trial as a work in progress. I know it can largely be improved, but this is what I manage to do with my little knowledge of GIMP...

The beautiful flashy green and magenta are just there to delimit the future walls and the river's bank.

I am not really satisfied by the paved roads pattern, but I didn't manage to get one that comes into roads alignment... maybe with a rotating brush ?

02-09-2013, 10:16 PM
Not bad. I agree about the roads - a different texture, but which one I can't say. You could possibly make some of them a bit narrower, too (try to imagine what it would be like standing on those main roads - adding a scale might help with this).

I also like that curved road leading to the royal quarter in the lower left. You could try turning it into a real feature - a curving avenue for triumphant generals to march down, or where diplomats are shown the splendour of the city. Something like that, anyway.

I don't know how other members of the CG feel about it, but you might also want to transfer your maps to a WIP thread in a separate forum. It'll probably help you to get more feedback, too.

02-10-2013, 08:43 AM

I found another pattern for the roads, with irregular rocks instead of those too regular (in my opinion). The advantage is that I do not have to care with directions...

Adding a scale could also help me : which size will buildings have, for example...

I'm still looking for a good desert rock pattern... I even searched NASA pictures of Mars, but that doesn't really fit ! :P

I will post my next trial in a WIP topic, so :)

Thank you !

Edit : here it is (http://www.cartographersguild.com/town-city-mapping/22241-%5Bwip%5D-melandis-pavement-desert-city.html)

02-10-2013, 12:42 PM
I'm still looking for a good desert rock pattern... I even searched NASA pictures of Mars, but that doesn't really fit ! :P

The film Hanna had some terrain like you describe. I believe it was shot in Morocco, so if you might be able to find what you need from satellite images of that desert.

02-10-2013, 03:16 PM

Yes, I tried with satellite pictures but they are often too wide to be as detailed as I'm looking for. And when zooming, it pixelizes a lot :(

02-10-2013, 07:21 PM
You could try looking for aerial photos if you want a closer view.

02-11-2013, 07:13 AM

I searched a bit yesterday but didn't find something that fits. Pictures are often in perspective, or too blur...

Anyway, the biggest problem would be to have a "drawing look" for those pictures, and that may be difficult for me to modify that. The best way would be to find a real pattern but...

Maybe I ask too much, I don't know :blush: but thank you all for your help :)

03-15-2013, 11:47 PM
What about this map (http://nowgamer.net-genie.co.uk/siteimage/scale/0/0/303985.gif)? Assassin's Creed has some pretty decent maps if you ask me.