View Full Version : Town shaping question? (WIP map and debate?)

01-07-2014, 08:18 PM
tetI started trying to draw my first town yesterday *(I've only made one map, and it was a world-map, and not very detailed), and I was pretty pleased with my progress.

Then I showed the town map-in-progress to a friend (I'm really excited lol) and she didn't have anything nice to say!

Her main problem is that the town is... well.. round. She said that round(ish) towns aren't realistic.

I've always assumed that's the way a town grows... outward from a central/important location. You want to be close, right?

Now... my map *is* too round... it's just a basic outline, I mostly just stroked some paths for walls/roads, so I could fill in the buildings really, and I need to rough up the edges. But I don't want to make a round-ish town at all if towns aren't (realistically) going to be round.

So does a town grow outwards? inwards? toward other towns? You all seem to be pretty good with details, so I thought I would put it out there before I mess anything up....

So I'll do what I should have done instead of showing a random friend... I'll show people who know something about maps :p


Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


01-07-2014, 08:36 PM
It depends.

I suppose on a flat plain with major roads meeting at equal distances apart, a town might grow organically in a rough circle. And if it's a preplanned town (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a2/Palmanova1600.jpg) it could be round. And if there is a specific thing in the middle at the centre of town society, earlier forms of the settlement may look round.

But it is going to be mostly dictated by geography and transport routes. The land may not be flat. Buildings will spring up along existing routes such as the major roads and the river, which will become more pronounced as the settlement grows larger. The end result could possibly still be something looking sorta-round though (if the settlement is where a lot of roads meet), but not perfectly so even if that is the case.

These are just my thoughts on the matter anyway.

*edit* On your map it looks like you have four major roads meeting roughly equally apart at the coast. In this case the middle of the settlement is going to look roundish. And the main city walls will look roundish. But then outside of that you will get the outer fauburgs (suburbs basically) that will spring up along those incoming roads and that will start to distort the shape. Those suburbs will be bigger along the more important roads, and along those where it is easier to build.

01-07-2014, 08:55 PM
Jalyha, it is good that you are asking this question before you map your town too far. It generally makes things easier, in my experience.

You are right that most towns start with a single settlement and grow outwards (eg London). A town that grows from a starting point doesn't tend to grow outwards evenly. The nucleus settlement will generally grow first along major roads or rivers, and therefore give an elongated appearance.

Some towns can become roughly circular if they are located on dome-shaped hills, or if they are coastal. In the case of coastal towns, land routes into the city are generally less important, and so the city will grow with everyone wanting to be as close as possible to the waterfront. The result can be very roughly circular. Check out some maps of European towns to get an idea (eg Genoa, Naples, Dubrovnik, Thessaloniki).

Lastly, you can get round cities if they were planned from the beginning. The best example I know of is Palmanova.

The key pieces of advice I can offer are A. research (i.e. browsing Google Earth, checking out maps on the internet etc.), and B. think about the people who live in your city. They would have the same needs and desires as you, regardless of the technology level (eg. not having to travel too far from their workplaces, not having to pay too much in rent, being close to prestigious or high status people). And C. ask more questions here if you're still stuck.

Good luck with it.

01-08-2014, 10:44 AM
If you don't want to get a city that looks planned, try to get a rectangular, triangular or even irregular central square.

And to answer your second question: A town usually grows outwards first, along the main roads. Those main roads could be quite irregular, e.g. if they pass a valley or a river at a certain spot. Later, the town will grow inward, too; any free space available in the city centre will be used for house building, which results in building on former squares (example (https://maps.google.de/maps?q=52.377174,1.10838&ie=UTF-8&ei=fnDNUpjwJoKHtQbjwIGYBQ&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAg)), in the centre of wide roads (which will result in two narrow lanes; example: this english town (https://maps.google.de/maps?q=52.047027,-0.023835&ie=UTF-8&ei=fnDNUpjwJoKHtQbjwIGYBQ&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAg)) or even against bigger buildings like churches. But the outer quarter will still provide much free space for gardens.

There's a good example for this in Germany: The medieval town of Duderstadt (https://maps.google.de/maps?q=51.512402,10.259339&ie=UTF-8&ei=fnDNUpjwJoKHtQbjwIGYBQ&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAg)

And another thing about the city walls. Theirs size and shape should depend on who founded or owned the city. If it was a rich duke or even the king, think about large walls including also the outer quarters of the town, or even a double wall ( a low curtain wall in front of the actual city wall). If it's a less important city, maybe only the central part is surrounded by city walls, or even be a palisade and ditch, maybe combined with stone gatehouses. And if there's a castle, it should be part of the walls and not inside or outside of them (because when there's a castle, the owner usually owns the city, too, and then he'll include his castle in the city's defense line).

And if there are bigger buildings close the central square (especially churches), never place them with their main facade to that square; it looks very planned)

01-08-2014, 11:12 AM
Obviously I haven't got all the buildings in yet, and I was going to rough up the placement more with each ... um... degree of prosperity, but I think I was still planning too "neatly" :p

I was also thinking, though, that what I have so far would be the "inner wall"... protecting the wealthy, sort of? Would this work, do you think?

The city is run (in fact the "nation" is run by a council of leaders from different areas; scholars, priests, merchants; etc (and even Constance, the last dragon is a council member... but she lives outside the town)

So, anyway, If I made this as, say, the "inner wall", and outside the wall, things sprouted more along the roads/waterfront, do you think that would be more realistic?

What I'm thinking of, thanks to all of your advice, is something like this: (Excuse the cruddy lines, I just put it in to show you the areas).


I have *everything* on different layers (even smaller roads from the bigger ones) so I don't really mind changing things. Much of my story will take place inside the city, so I'd prefer to get it right. :)

Thanks again for advice!!

01-09-2014, 01:40 AM
To throw in some contrary opinion: If the shape of a town is defined by the outer wall, the land doesn't dictate any particular shape, and the builders are concerned with maximizing the use of their resources, then a perfectly round town is completely reasonable because a circle maximizes the internal volume vs. perimeter. An example of this kind of settlement is the motte-and-bailey fort that commonly appears in iron age civilizations. Of course, as the town spills out over the walls, it will develop a different shape, with new buildings growing up first around the gate, then probably following roads or resources outward.

Someone's already touched on planned cities, but even in the absence of deliberate planning, there may still be cultural reasons for a settlement to be round. I think it's likely that the larger the town is the weaker the organizing principle will be, but that certainly doesn't preclude a central district with a circular pattern.

For some historical round cities, consider Baghdad in the 1st millenium AD: Round city of Baghdad - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Round_city_of_Baghdad)
Ecbatana in the 5th century BC: Ecbatana - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecbatana) (no map, just a description by Herodotus)

01-15-2014, 05:02 AM
It depends on many factors. First of all it is a great start. Towns / villages / cities are a dynamic creature. If they do not grow and change they will die. For an adventure this is not a bad thing; however, I do not think you want that for this project.

Depending on how the town /village / city is and why it was created can determine the shape and how it grows. Let me give you a few examples.

Washington D.C. was designed to intimidate foreign dignitaries when they arrived on the docks; however, at the same time it needed to allow a flow of civilian and military traffic quick access throughout the city. This dictated how the spoke and wheel was employed for traffic and the intimidating but beautiful docks were created. From there the city grew.

Anchorage Alaska, after the major earthquake in the 20th century it was redesigned to make it easier for the population to move throughout the city. It was rebuilt in a grid section with rules of what size and type of buildings could go where.

London and to an extent Paris are examples of it seamed like a good idea at the time, the older versions of the cities. What was needed or wanted was placed where there was available land and or resources. The same can be said for a great many old cities. Even New York when it was first developed was the same way and in areas now it is the same.

As for your map, if you have a reason why it is so neat and planned out that is great. You might want to add some randomness in the size of the buildings. Also you might want to make sure there is green space in the center of the city. The ruler (mayor, noble lord, company CEO) might want to walk in a park or a park of their own. In the Foundation Series Isaac Asimov the known universe capital planet had 100 square miles of green space for the leader of the known universe.

Is there a primary material that the city makes and or grows for export or are there many items they can trade?
Is there a Grand Market? Depending on the size of the city there will be several markets and types of markets. A grand market will allow wheres from foreign cities and lands to be exchanged.
Your town / city is on the water, this makes the docks and harbors important to trade and life to the city / town. Harbors, ports, and docks can be its "own" town within a town or city. I do not see any harbor or port facilities. You probably have not gotten there yet.

These are just some thoughts. I have hoped they have helped. You have a good start.

01-15-2014, 04:51 PM
I just have one quick point to make. With all due respect to Tracker, avoid using American (or Australian, for that matter) cities as models for yours, unless you are deliberately aiming for the colonial era or later in the technology/society/politics of your world. Some of the earliest American cities might suffice, but you are better off looking to Europe if you are thinking of the medieval period.

01-15-2014, 05:09 PM
If you use Windows and a PC, download the free Roleplaying City Map Generator (http://inkwellideas.com/worldbuilding/roleplaying-city-map-generator/), which is a great tool to spec out your city, or at least give you some ideas on city layout for varying kinds of situations. The generator offers parameters for African village, thorpe, viking village, old west town, small towns, large towns, cities and large cities. There are parameters for medieval town/cities and modern town/cities. You can make adjustments to size of streets, size of buildings, size and makeup of city walls. Once parameters are placed, hit 'go' and it randomly generates a community based on your parameters. If you don't like the result, hit 'go' again and again, until you get something you like.

I never use the results verbatim, rather only getting a good idea on how to present this or that part of the street plan, though this is a really nice tool for city plans.

01-15-2014, 05:17 PM

I saw someone (you?) mention that program on another thread, but there was no link.

I was sure the link was on the forums somewhere, so I didn't ask, I never found it, and I forgot about it. :P

So thanks for reading my mind LOL!!

01-15-2014, 05:27 PM
It probably wasn't me, though I've mentioned it on other posts. Whenever I post about off-site content, I always provide a link if I can (so I'm sure it wasn't me). Even though I am a pro game cartographer, I actually do use that app to generate ideas on most of my city map designs.

01-15-2014, 05:47 PM
Well, whoever it was originally, it was you that got me the link, and since 1 simulation that took about 30 seconds just showed me exactly what I've been doing (thinking) wrong, so I must thank you! :)

I do see a small problem in that many of the buildings in the simulation seem to overlap... a LOT. Of course, that's problem a setting I did wrong, so... :P