View Full Version : City on a Turtles Back

03-31-2014, 06:34 PM
For my next RPG campaign I want to make a city on the back of an outsized sea turtle. It will be a trade port with an older very run down section and a newer fancier part from renewed commerce. I've not pinned down what style I want to try to execute the map in, aside from that it will be fairly top down not isometric as the size of the city and my desire to track movements on a scale down to house-to-house make isometric unwieldy. I've only gotten some base details of what I want for the world and would invite any of the many world builders in the guild to toss in ideas if they like.

The Map: The turtle in question has a back of which the none submerged section is several miles across in either direction, unlike an actual sea turtle it has a more ridged back (like that of a snapping turtle) that form a series of oddly regular hills. The turtles head is to be avoided so there will be a light house there, and the tail section is prone to irregular currents from the motion of the turtle swimming. Said turtle doesn't have much vertical motion in the water. The city is large, makes most of its wealth through trade, and supports itself through a combination of trade and fishing (the turtle seeks out the richest fishing grounds making harvests well above average). The city is newly popular after having been in long decay so new sections are springing up among the derelict sections. I could use some suggestions on what patterns of urban decay and renewal are most likely as I have no idea at all about such things. I've tried searching for some good examples of representing terrain height in a city, but aside from using topography lines I didn't find many. This might just be due to my poor seach skills.

TLDR RPG related material: The world will have embodied animal gods, different gods like to throw around their divinity differently. In the case of turtles its thrown out a number of truly outsized specimens (because when you are a turtle the best thing you can be in bigger and tougher than anything else, why mess around with anything thoughtful or clever?) that have become competing merchant cities (they sink way less often than actual ships and can carry a huge amount of goods). This gods are by no means immortal, but the divinity gets recycled when they are destroyed. I'm considering one of the other turtle cities has recently died off opening a better territory for the turtle that our headline city lies on thus the reason for its changing fortune. I want a number of places for the party to explore that they will have little or no knowledge of, not too much time spent getting to these unknown lands, a good urban sprawl environment for city adventures, and good stable of familiar NPCs to continually interact with. A moving city seems a good solution to all these problems. Magic will be physical, animal based, and limited to a smaller section of the population. The lack of fireballs and ice-storms will make magic less of an army breaker in the direct death sort of way, but leave it powerful information gathering wise. That's really all I've worked out so far so any brainstorming type ideas are welcome.

03-31-2014, 07:10 PM
Very cool idea, this something that I will have a lot of fun watching as you develop it. The first thing that I think you need to make sure you do is have a clear idea of the size of the turtle so you can plan and build your city accordingly. I wish I had more ideas for you but you are doing so well on your own...

03-31-2014, 07:11 PM
This sounds like an interesting city, but I can imagine it will have a number of technical problems to confront.

First up, you might want to refer to some other cities for architectural styles, urban form, and size: Venice, most obviously, comes to mind--trade city, once great but now decaying, and it is even on water.

Regarding scale, the City of London (as opposed to the suburbs of Greater London) is often called the Square Mile, because that really was its size. And despite that small size, it was a major trade hub. I mention this just to show that a compact city (as all old Europeans towns tend to be) doesn't need to be physically large to house a large population and/or lots of commerce.

Now, regarding your idea, the top problems I see are (note: I have made a number of assumptions about your world, so make corrections as necessary):
what building materials do they use and where do they get them?
If they are using local materials, I think driftwood would be too scarcely found to provide the primary material, but seaweed, bones, and maybe coral might be abundant. Otherwise they must import from elsewhere. Reeds and grasses (eg bamboo) might conceivably be able to be grown on the turtle's back.

what do they eat?
This one might be relatively easy: fish, but a diet only of fish is probably not very healthy. Is there space on the turtle's back to grow their own food (as I suggest with the bamboo thing), or must they import it?

where do they get clean water?
This is going to be a major problem for them.

--what does the turtle eat, and how does it get its food?
--wouldn't a lighthouse on the turtle's head weigh it down and force it to be permanently underwater?
--where did the town begin and in which directions did it expand first?
--how/where are noxious industries like tanning located?
--same as above for industries that use fire (bakers--if they have wheat--potters, smiths etc.)

That's all I can think of for now. If my comments are useful, I'll happily answer any other questions you have.

Good luck with it.


03-31-2014, 07:14 PM
Is the turtle a male or a female ? (Terry Pratchett)

03-31-2014, 07:52 PM
Thanks THW, always full of wisdom. I'll find some old maps of both those cities.

The turtle is several miles across I'll call it two wide by three long in none submerged area. Its shell is thick enough that fire short of burning the city down doesn't much catch its interest (should that happen it might decide to put out the fire which would be bad for the citizens and makes a good cautionary tale for what happened to another turtle city). Fuel wise and building wise they are reliant on it coming close to shore periodically this has the down side of meaning its not always available and the upside of not exhausting the resources around it quickly and having to import them from further and further away. The inhabitants were originally land dwellers so their building style is what they know wood and stone. The turtles shell is many feet thick, and though you wouldn't want to put in a lot of basement sinking support posts many feet deep doesn't catch its attention (I was picturing it as having something between an actual turtles shell and an earth like crust).

Farming would be limited to the areas between the "hills" were enough dirt has gathered and insufficient for the support of the city . Fish is as mentioned abundant for the dwellers of the city, the rest of the food must be imported. Your points make me think that I should have the turtle frequent inhabited waters, which makes sense as it eats fish and the deep ocean is a vast desert from the biological perspective. Its always on the move seeking out the richest fishing grounds for its fantasy sized appetite. The light house is on the shell nearest the head as the head is mobile, dangerously bitey, and less constant in its vertical position.

The city started closer to the rear on the left side of the turtle (port side if you prefer) as a fishing village, the swirling currents where a great place to drag a small net to catch some of the dazed fish left in the turtles wake, just a poor place to land a laden cargo ship. The city spread forwards from there the population boomed and then through some political or economic nonsense I've not yet worked out (and would welcome ideas for), busted. Now its on the upswing again and folks are flocking to the city (or arguably just waiting for the city to come to them).

Water is the most problematic resource. Either I have to make the oceans fresh water(I'm from the great lakes and secretly believe all water should be unsalted anyways), have the turtle stay in high precipitation areas, sweat fresh water, or come up with some other solution that is more fun than hand wavey magic. I'm up for good ideas on this resource.

And yes Azelor its turtles all the way down.

03-31-2014, 08:22 PM
No worries, MCC. I'm trained as an urban historian (sort of), so I tend to get kinda obsessive about the details of fantasy cities (a mixed blessing, for sure).

Regarding the turtle's visits to coastal waters, another possibility is that it goes to shore to lay eggs (although I don't know whether god-turtles reproduce or not), which would pose all sort of opportunities and dangers to the inhabitants.


03-31-2014, 08:40 PM
Obsession about details is just what I need. In this case it really is a feature not a bug. Cities that form through a attention to detail are often times far more interesting, have more noteworthy locations, and a better feel than generic fantasy megaopolis Hammerheavendor.

A four mile long turtle climbing onto the beach to bury eggs the size of houses is a terrifying prospect, does have the right element of fantasy about it. All the ships have to take off, people tie down everything loose as the thing lurches and wobbles onto the beach, it would make a earthquake look mild by comparison. On can only hope there isn't a city where it decides this all needs to take place. Would certainly lead to some political tension between communities built on sandy tropical shores and the turtle cities.

04-01-2014, 12:47 AM
I love this concept! Really looking forward to seeing what you do with it. :)

Here's an idea that popped into my head: What if there were a couple (or more) baby turtles with small fishing/gathering communities on their backs, that periodically return to the "mother" to offload their sea harvest? Ropes could be thrown (or swimmers could pull them across) to secure the babies to the mother while everything is offloaded (either by small boats/canoes, or by pulling a rope bridge across). These smaller communities could be like "villages" with fixed families, or they could be made up of temporary workers who are swapped out each time the babies "pull into port". :P

And here's some top-down images that might be useful for reference, and some artwork for inspiration. :)

Saltwater Turtles
Sea Turtle (http://www.123dapp.com/123c-3D-Model/Sea-Turtle/591803) by Autodesk Premium
Green Sea Turtle 06 (http://wolverine041269.deviantart.com/art/Green-Sea-Turtle-06-366238804) by wolverine041269
green sea turtle 1 (http://meihua-stock.deviantart.com/art/green-sea-turtle-1-198018533) by meihua-stock
turtle stock 21 (http://hatestock.deviantart.com/art/turtle-stock-21-74276571) by hatestock
turtles 2 (http://fa-stock.deviantart.com/art/turtles-2-73736594) by fa-stock
Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) (http://www.fws.gov/northflorida/seaturtles/turtle%20factsheets/loggerhead-sea-turtle.htm) by NOAA, Jack Javech
Black Turtle HD Wallpapers (http://wallsbot.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Black-Turtle-HD-Wallpapers.jpg)
Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) (http://www.fws.gov/northflorida/seaturtles/turtle%20factsheets/green-sea-turtle.htm) by NOAA, Jack Javech

Freshwater Turtles
Turtle (http://touchy-stock.deviantart.com/art/Turtle-81122656) by Touchy-Stock
Turtle.2_Mind-Matter (http://mind-matter.deviantart.com/art/Turtle-2-Mind-Matter-258972314) by Mind-Matter
Turtle (http://macn3xu5.deviantart.com/art/Turtle-414117698) by MACN3XU5
Turtle - 1 (http://elaineselenestock.deviantart.com/art/Turtle-1-178751905) by ElaineSeleneStock
Turtle 01 (http://aussiegal7.deviantart.com/art/Turtle-01-149270529) by aussiegal17
Turtle (http://lindowyn-stock.deviantart.com/art/Turtle-132103496) by lindowyn-stock
Turtle Stock 7 (http://squirt-stock.deviantart.com/art/Turtle-Stock-7-123829054) by Squirt-Stock
oh noes more turtle :: 004 (http://linkch-stock.deviantart.com/art/oh-noes-more-turtle-004-78443913) by Linkch-stock
turtles 3.2 (http://meihua-stock.deviantart.com/art/turtles-3-2-74307200) by meihua-stock
TemocStock243-turtle- (http://temoc-stock.deviantart.com/art/TemocStock243-turtle-1922628) by temoc-stock
Yellow-Blotched Map Turtle (http://www.tnaqua.org/OurAnimals/Reptiles/YellowBlotchedMapTurtle.aspx) by Tennessee Aquarium
Turtle Top View Wallpapers (http://img.wallpaperstock.net:81/turtle-top-view-wallpapers_13001_1920x1200.jpg)

Land Turtles
franklin agian (http://deadlystryker.deviantart.com/art/franklin-agian-11530600) by DeadlyStryker

Alligator Snapping Turtles (excellent species for "mountains" reference)
Alligator snapping turtle (http://www.deviantart.com/art/Alligator-snapping-turtle-348505883) by Gobius
Alligator Snapper (http://www.korbo.com/ecology/AlligatorSnapperA29s.jpg)
Alligator Snapping Turtle Shell (http://www.boneclones.com/images/ko-038-lg.jpg) by Bone Clones
Alligator snapping turtle - Macrochelys temminckii (http://turtle-pictures.blogspot.com/2011/03/alligator-snapping-turtle-macrochelys.html)
Alligator Snapping Turtle (http://fbcdn-sphotos-a-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/701999_4748894598575_1340085968_o.jpg) by Dr. Andre Mursch

City Layout Idea
Pattern 4 - Turtle Shell (http://poppylady.deviantart.com/art/Pattern-4-Turtle-Shell-183344817) by PoppyLady

Artwork Inspiration
Turtle City (http://nydwyngreendragon.deviantart.com/art/Turtle-City-39881369) by nydwyngreendragon
Turtle City (http://manillalu.deviantart.com/art/Turtle-City-315906435) by manillalu
The Moving City (http://my-wishful-thinking.deviantart.com/art/The-Moving-City-69091513) by my-wishful-thinking
Turtle Island (http://kenhuys.deviantart.com/art/Turtle-island-342209619) by KenHuys
A Very Big Tortoise (http://r-tan.deviantart.com/art/A-Very-Big-Tortoise-177887153) by R-Tan
turtle city (http://nclclaudiu.deviantart.com/art/turtle-city-348378379) by nclclaudiu
Slow Motion (http://darkangelpandora.deviantart.com/art/Slow-motion-385856617) by DarkAngelPandora
Cast Away (http://pranjal22.deviantart.com/art/Cast-Away-301265342) by pranjal22
Collapse (http://kaiserflames.deviantart.com/art/Collapse-406643393) by KaiserFlames
The Underwater City (http://ti-design.deviantart.com/art/The-Underwater-City-255719636) by ti-DESIGN
Tortuga voladora (http://pintoro.deviantart.com/art/Tortuga-voladora-99580539) by Pintoro
Scrap (http://pintoro.deviantart.com/art/Scrap-87097818) by Pintoro
Untitled (http://pintoro.deviantart.com/art/Untitled-87097013) by Pintoro
Negotia (http://coolcurry.deviantart.com/art/Negotia-379846621) by CoolCurry
Lepus: Page 03 (http://joewierenga.deviantart.com/art/Lepus-Page-03-327925696) by JoeWierenga

Maybe the city could generate a magical domed shield in times of danger, protecting everyone and everything inside while the turtle is submerged? (think: Stargate Atlantis) Or, maybe this happens periodically anyway, when the turtle feeds. It gorges itself for a period of time (a few days, a week, maybe more?) and its body stores the food so that it doesn't need to feed again for a few months?

Underwater City (http://www.deviantart.com/art/Underwater-City-428078483) by TracyGiza

04-01-2014, 01:56 AM
MCC, you should create some sketches or diagrams to show the direction you're heading in. In the meantime, though, I've had a few more ideas:

--the turtle is the main platform for this city, but the city does not need to be limited to the turtle only. The inhabitants could also have extensions of the settlement on rafts that drift behind the turtle, on nearby ships/platforms (or other turtles, as Neyjour suggested), or even underwater (clinging to the turtle's belly, or floating freely, but tethered to the main city) if they have a waterproof material. By allowing the city to exist beyond the confines of the turtle alone, you can make the best use of the limited amount of construction and farming land (as I said before, old cities don't need a lot of space, so I imagine farming would be the key).

--defence: how safe is the city? It seems a bit like a silly question at first (a moving town is automatically rendered some level of protection) but it probably wouldn't be too hard for pirates to board an undefended city, and trading success always makes something more of a target. My suggestion: the inhabitants wouldn't rely on walls and towers for protection (they are clearly going to be impractical to build and maintain in the circumstances), so a strong and fast navy would be the first line of defence (if I was running things).

--even with a navy, you wouldn't want to leave things too much to chance. A fortified position might be the smart move, and if it was my town, I'd give the lighthouse some fortifications.

--water: I don't know where the inhabitants get their water from, but maybe they could create enormous waterproof sacks that float beneath the turtle. They wouldn't significantly slow the turtle's movement, and they could provide secure cisterns. Also, the natural runnels in the turtle shell could be used to the advantage of water collection and irrigation.

--it seems probable there would be people whose jobs are to tend to the turtle (cleaning it, removing parasites, perhaps tending to injuries caused by other animals or accidents). Furthermore, there would be people who need to spend a lot of time underwater. A lifetime of training can let people stay underwater for long periods (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free-diving#AIDA_recognized_world_records), without any need for technological assistance.

Anyway, I'll leave it there for now.


04-01-2014, 02:32 AM
I love this idea! Really looking forward to watching this. And I think Neyjour's idea about baby turtles is pretty awesome :D
For fresh water, they could boil sea water and collect the steam. Would give them salt as well, so they can stock up on meat when given the chance and preserve it.

04-01-2014, 05:41 AM
Excellent idea! It makes me think of a fantasy book with cities close to your concept (it wasn't turtles but mythical beasts). in this book, the city and its inhabitants is a kind of a symbiot with the giant beast : they free it of its parasits and problems, took resources from its waste (like used scales for building, etc.).

Do you intend to consider the turtle as unique? I mean, other turtles with the same size would pose possibilites or problems for the city.

04-01-2014, 11:56 AM
OK sketches I'll get on that. The turtle is not unique, there are several of them. Each has a standard route that represents a major ocean basin such as the pacific rim, the Mediterranean, or for a young turtle god the gulf of Mexico. The towns on them compete mainly through trade. The turtles themselves avoid each other rather than going to pathetic turtle battle. I was thinking the death of another one has altered this ones route to new lands less known by the inhabitants of this turtle, thus new possibilities for trade and as its for and RPG ultimately adventure. Who knows what other new and exciting animal gods they can't meet along the way.

Defense of the town will be a real issue, it not only moves but lingers at times (both to feed itself and allow for adventures without your down moving on without you) and its route is predictable enough to allow trade meaning anyone who doesn't like you has time to prepare for your arrival and only needs a fleet of small boats to get to the city as it comes close to shore. The turtle isn't in much danger a 60' wooden spike at the size I've laid out is still shorter than a thumb tack as far as trying to ram the turtle and its made of tough stuff (though not as tough as it would have to be for the weight of its own skin not to pull off its bones if real physics applied but clearly we are ignoring those to allow for a several mile long turtle you can't make me think of the cardiovascular nightmare scaling up a creature this large would lead to). As a off idea for defense I was considering maybe having mirrors shine light on the water the sparkle catches the turtles eye and he thinks there is fish there and turns in that direction. Its not going to make him steerable in the long run just get him to face an enemy, but that might be overly gimmicky. Most ancient navies where extensions of merchant fleets (Venice is a great example of that) and as the turtle is accompanied by a large fleet at all times to move goods to and from shore and fish the navy idea seems a natural extension of this.

Looks like using just run off with cisterns to collect it a city of good size could be supplied, which makes sense as that's all that is happening on land in the long run. I'm using Ventotene (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandateria) as a rough estimate (just because I remembered the story of the exiled Roman princess and that they had to collect rain water there). The estimates of water use per person per day in medieval society seem to fall into the 3-5 gallons per day range. As the shell is impervious to water that leaves a good sized collection basin, not sure if anyone is better with these number than me, but I'm going to assume the turtle travels in fairly wet conditions as coasts tend to be giving ample opportunity for rainfall to collect and making building for rainy conditions a necessity.

I considered making the shell a resource too, one that has to be carefully used as you don't want to give the turtle an itch by cutting away too much. It would be a super hard material a bit hard to cut but great for armor pieces and the like being divine turtle shell. Not sure if that's adding to much economic factors in that I wouldn't have to track and consider later on.

Probably going to make the turtle in turtle fashion dislike others of its own kind, though I think the idea of a flotilla of baby turtles is adorable and you should make that right away so I can see how your turtle city turns out so I don't feel bad about not using that awesome idea.

Edit: If I start liking all the great ideas and points people are throwing out I think I'd have to like every post here. You people are great.

04-01-2014, 12:59 PM
Sketch to give some idea of what I'm talking about, might be totally unrelated to the final map (still can't decide what style I want to do) but at least shows my thought process (for some values of the word thought).


04-05-2014, 02:36 PM
Looking good! I like the idea of using the shell as a resource, assuming it could be cut properly surely it'd be an ideal material for ship-building?

04-05-2014, 03:17 PM
Ok I've done more layout work, but I'm having a hard time finding out exactly how many people could be supported on a given area of water collection but the crude estimates I have based on an average rainfall of around 60 inches a year (the turtle tends to visit wet coastal areas) and a person requiring about 5 gallons of water a day (the high end for medieval) comes out to about requiring 1825 gallons a year per person which takes roughly 60 square feet of surface area at the rainfall I've listed (assuming 100% efficiency which isn't going to happen). Assuming a probably over generous 50% efficiency (so 120 square feet per person per year) a square mile could support 232k people (this number does nothing to account for agriculture just personal use. That looks wrong to me where have I messed up or is it just my unrealistic efficiency throwing the number into question? Or is the simple answer that there is more than enough water to support a reasonable sized population on my turtle even assuming poor efficiency of water collection and storage. By comparison the couple square miles of farmable turtle produce only enough food for a bit over a thousand people (using the classic ~2 acres per person medieval farming number), which is fine as any city is supported by the countryside around it, it just happens that the countryside on the turtle is a moving one. I was thinking of a population in the 20k-40k range, does this seem reasonable for a large medieval trade city with only a few miles of surrounding land?

On the map side of things I've decided on a more "painted" style which I've never done before but should be fun to try my hand it. Trying to learn from my past errors I'm trying to work out my layout before hand. I've laid out areas for insets, borders, and the like to begin with rather than adding them at the end. the lines on the back will go away replaced with much lighter sketchier lining but they are there for ridge and gulley guides for me while I try out the fancy stuff. Its off center because the port side of the turtle is more developed and thus a focal point, but I'm not set on the idea if others think that is madness.


04-05-2014, 04:27 PM
It all depends what "5 gallons of water a day" constitutes. I'm guessing it'll be the water used for drinking, cooking, washing, etc - everyday water use. In that case, the reason the numbers this gives you seem extremely low is that this particular section of water use is actually a tiny proportion of the amount a person's daily life consumes.

Take food for example, it takes over 100 gallons to produce 1 pound of corn, about 100 gallons to produce a single potato, and exponentially more to produce meat, such as 4,000 - 18,000 gallons to produce a hamburger. Clothes also use a lot of water, a modern cotton t-shirt taking 2,700 gallons being a common statistic. Industry also consumes a huge amount of water. Generally speaking, water use embedded in property and food seems to outstrip "basic" water use by a factor of several thousand (or actually tens of thousands if you're eating a lot of meat and consuming a lot of processed goods).

I guess that's why it's hard to find out concrete numbers - so much depends on the level and distribution of technology in the society. A less developed society would use a lot less water than one with heavy industry. I'd guess that the population density estimates people generally use would have this kind of limitation included inherently - at medieval technology levels, those densities would make sense based on all limitations, rather than just crop productivity. Also, a heavy dependency on fish as a source of food would help to lower water use. Maybe they could also plant and grow kelp underwater too (might have been mentioned before, but I can't remember).

As to the map, looks like a good start, though it bugs me that the shell isn't centered! :D

I also think it'd be nice to include the head in the map too, it looked better when it was included. :)

04-05-2014, 05:42 PM
Thanks that helps clarify my thinking a bit. I'm less worried about food production than just everyday water use. Water is simply too heavy, and high in volume to picture a city thriving if it has to make constant trips too and from the shore to supply it with water. Most large medieval cities probably produced only a tiny fraction of the food they consumed within a couple of miles around the city proper and I don't figure this one should be any different. Being mobile will help insulate them from the worst of famine. I do like the idea of developing the cuisine of the city a bit as well as some possible specialty goods (purple cloth anyone (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_purple)). Seaweed, shellfish, and other things that grow well on the shell could be the old peasants cuisine for the area. Being a large city it would ideally need enough water to fuel at least a medieval level of processed goods, though its role as a goods delivery system would make it just as profitable even if it didn't produce much anything itself.

04-08-2014, 11:59 AM
The "turtles views" on the down are an excellent idea!

04-09-2014, 02:33 AM
Hiya :)

Very cool idea, indeed.

Do you happen to know the Dino Riders? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dino_riders - Picture: http://www.allmystery.de/i/tkavDIg_dino20riders.jpg)
The "good guys" in this series used some Kind of telepathy to communicate the dinos and to have them follow their will.
You might want to introduce something similar in your city: Each turtlecity hosts 1 mage whose job it is to keep the turtle and the damage it might cause under control. Maybe he can not directly control the direction the turtle swims, but he can install, operate and maintain his magical devices protecting the city from the turtle's shore leaves or it's dives. Or he uses his magic in order to bait the turtle into a certain direction. And since he is a scholar, it is also his job to map the journeys of the turtle and everything encountered and discovered on the way.

Regarding your city size: As you noted, you did not account for agriculture. Neither did you do so for ather things such as cleaning, steam-power (or rather water-power?) and the likes.
I come from Ladeanburg (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladenburg), a town founded about 2000 years ago. Under the rulership of the Romans, it used to have a trade harbour, a marketplace, a library, a theatre, a basilika, a forum - buildings only Major cities used to have. Population: a couple of thousands. Even today its population is ~12k (and the political importance of the town has vanished over the centuries).
So: 20k-40k rather represents a vast thriving metropolis.
One question you should ask yourself: A city that is most of the time on the water will have only very few people coming there from elsewhere with the intention to stay there. Since the City has not been "planned" (as in "hey, let's send a couple of thousands colonists there to raise a giant city on a giant turtle") but started out as a small fisher village, then why or how did the population reproduce, if your reply is NOT incest?

Kind regards,

04-09-2014, 03:46 AM
Here's a tip from me: try not to get bogged down in plausibility details like whether there is enough food or water for a certain population. You aren't on trial, and so 'beyond reasonable doubt' isn't necessary. Definitely, I think, give a nod towards those things--add as much farmland as possible, in a way that looks convincingly like it could have been done artificially or naturally--but trying to work out precisely how much is just going to cause you a headache (and nobody is ever going to try and work it out anyway). Consequently, I think it is more important how the layout of the farms appears, than their number (i.e. are they laid out in large fields, with communal workforces, or narrow plots that are divided amongst the peasant population, and so forth). Each to his/her own, of course.

So, looking at the layout you've added so far, I have a few questions that you'll hopefully find helpful:
--the town starts near the tail, and then grows headwards: why? is there some advantage in the city moving towards the head rather than the tail? what were their priorities when the town expanded (eg. more room for fishing jetties, closer to the fields, away from polluted water etc.)?

--as Schattentanz commented, how did the population grow and change over time? Natural growth (births minus deaths) tends to be too slow to result in substantial population growth; your city would have needed to be founded many thousands of years ago if it was only natural growth. By contrast, immigration is, as stated above, less than easy given the unusual nature of the town. If I might venture a suggestion, perhaps the settlers of this turtle were refugees (i.e. did not have the luxury of choosing a mainland place to live, migrating in large numbers over a short space of time, bringing with them few possessions but an entrepreneurial spirit etc.).

--same question as above, but applied to the "upstart estates" and new town.

--where is the most prized 'land'? is it near the water, or the higher 'ground' of the shell? do they prefer to be close to the head or the tail? where is it the most stable (if this turtle was going onto land, the front is going to face major upheavals, as it hauls itself onto a beach, but the back might have sand flung over it as the turtle moves--just watch one of David Attenborough's nature documentaries, and you'll be able to see how awkwardly turtles move on land).

--I know you mentioned that the inhabitants of the turtle brought their traditional style of architecture with them, but I always find it enjoyable and rewarding to try and think of what adaptations a population has made considering their position. How has this population adapted to life on a turtle's back? What can they do now, that they couldn't before (and, equally, what can they no longer do, which they used to do often)? How has their architecture changed (for example, being resistant to earthquake like tremors)? How has their calendar changed (not staying in the same place surely means they have to think differently to landlubbers about planting and harvesting times)? Have they added/dropped any festivals from their year, and do they have special locations to hold festivals/markets/public events? If space is at a premium, I think it is likely they will try to give a place multiple uses (eg. the stadium doubles as a meeting hall; the church is also used as a schoolroom; the town square serves as market, meeting place, and festival ground etc.)

To sum it up more concisely, it is a ridiculous idea (I think) that living on a turtle is not going to require some level of lifestyle/cultural/economic/architectural/religious adaptation.

And regarding Schattentanz' other comments, a) I don't think magic is a good idea to explain how they navigate the turtle (if they do at all); I think you suggested at one point that they shine light on the water to suggest a shoal of fish, that the turtle then heads towards--that is, I think, a really clever idea, and gets away from the magical fix-all (no offence Schattentanz); b) for a good idea of the kind of services/goods available in cities of various sizes, this fantastic tutorial/guide (http://www222.pair.com/sjohn/blueroom/demog.htm) should be used (I once tried to check it out to see if the stats really added up, and as far as I could tell, they do).

I'd like to see some more sketches, when you have them. It's looking good (the inset views in turtle-frames are an excellent idea).


04-18-2014, 01:18 PM
Hi, I am a nub. I've been watching this site as an outsider for a little while now. I find your Turtle city so fun I am inspired to register. See the influence you have over people?!:)

Anyway, I have a suggestion for you to think about with regard to the fresh water problem. I hope this isn't too late. (It may not be the most politically correct for circa 2014 but it seems to me to be an obvious old school solution.) You have some pretty nice valleys in the center of the island, so with 60 inches of rain per year you also likely have some pretty nice rivers there, too. Why not create a storage reservoir(s)? I can help you size the reservoir to your needs, if you don't already know to do that. The size of the reservoir may influence how large you decide to size the island. It may create some valuable lake-front property. The whole thing would be done at the expense of farmland, if you kept it on the surface, so you would have to consider that. Something to think about.

If you are worried about the weight of so much high-elevation water, you could consider a subterranean reservoir or low level surface one toward the coast. You would have to pump the water or come up with a pressurized infrastructure, depending on your tech level. I personally think you're going to have plenty of buoyancy from that large a turtle and this isn't a concern.

If you are high tech, you could consider hydropower. A city near me (Idaho Falls: 50,000 pop.) supplies all of its power needs to its citizens with one river and a couple of dams.

Super idea! Can't wait to see how it all turns out!! Good luck.

04-18-2014, 02:55 PM
Thanks for the suggestions. Its never to late, especially since this project is on the back burner till I complete a couple of others. Its the reward at end of the stick for myself.

06-06-2014, 04:14 PM