PDA

View Full Version : Your best advice for city-building/drawing



pyrandon
09-04-2007, 02:33 PM
Friends:

Okay, so in the future I plan to create another city-making tutorial (for the Alliance), but this time more of an article than a step-by-step tut. So I've been working hard researching medieval cities (i.e., having heaps of fun looking through books and calling it "work" :) )

I was inspired by the info-rich recent posts about canal cities, so I though I'd ask if you could help me out. What are the most important factor(s) you think about when designing medieval cities--and especially medieval city maps? Plus, what are the most interesting/important historical facts you remember reading/hearing?

I'll compile all these into the article, and there shall be great rejoicing!

ravells
09-05-2007, 05:46 AM
For me one of the most important factors is a fundamental understanding of negative and positive space. A must have book is Form, Space and Order (http://www.amazon.com/Architecture-Space-Francis-D-K-Ching/dp/0471286168)by Francis Ching. It's not cheap ($34 on Amazon) but it's worth every penny er..cent.

I'm really looking forward to your article!

Ravs

Eru
09-05-2007, 06:34 PM
For me the history, evolution, and fundamental purpose behind the city is what's most important. So often I see fantasy cities that seem to have poofed into existence fully formed.

Why did a population choose to gather together in that place at all? How did their settlement grow over time? What resources did they have available to them during the history, both in terms of building material, architectural expertise, and, in a fantasy setting, magic? All these things determine how a city got to be where it is. They are the path along which it and its populace has tread.

Take, for example, Oxford. The name says it all. It was originally a ford on the river Thames where oxen could cross. This caused it to become a key post along a limited trade route. Read a little of its history and you understand it has a rich past with the church, military, and so on, all of which have resulted in the city we have today.

I take the greatest pleasure in experiencing cities (and their accompanying maps) that have a similar level of depth and verisimilitude.

NeonKnight
09-10-2007, 09:19 AM
Yes, Cultural aspects of the people need to be considered. For example, in a fantasy campaign, what are the racial relations between the various peoples. Are Elves and Dwarves welcomed or mistrusted. Humanoids, present or not?

With fantasy, we knw that undead are definitely an issue, so what is done with the dead? In real world cities, we have regions/areas for the internment of the deal, whether it is in ostuaries like Ancient Judah, or huge burial pits in parts of Europe, or bone pits under Paris.

Other examples, of city design is places like tanneries, were situated usually well outside the city districts, due to the stench of the various chemiclas used to cure the hides.

ANd, examples of 'planed cities', the Egyptians planed a great many of their cities, especially the cities of workers who built the pyramids. These cities had streets devoted to one particular trade. Examples being 1 street of bakers, and streets of workers, tool makers, etc. See the example with a nice map of the 'Lost City' here:

http://www.aeraweb.org/lost_city_home.asp

Looking forward to what you 'dig up".

RobA
09-10-2007, 12:25 PM
Following up on what Eru posted....

Political and geopolitical issues will also drive the development of urban development. (Now all of this assumes people are past the nomadic/hunter gatherer stages, ans is coming from some pretty dusty memories, but eh, you get what you pay for...)

Compare, for example, the difference between an urban area in near a hostile border with that in the middle of a peaceful (or dominant) nation. The border city will be more heavily fortified, with little outside the walls and farm land will be clustered near location of protection. A lot of this will depend on the level of technology, but even if good stout walls will not protect you, people tend to feel psychologically protected inside walls.

-Rob A>

pyrandon
09-10-2007, 12:38 PM
This info is great--never thought of much of these things! Keep it coming!

jaerdaph
09-10-2007, 06:50 PM
Here's a link to an older article called A Guide to RPG Mapmaking by Denis Tetreault:

http://melkot.com/mechanics/map-guide.html

I thought it had some great advice for making city maps.

Eru
09-11-2007, 10:59 PM
Oh, one thing I've learned from Jürgen Hubert, who has created a world all about cities (http://eruvian.com/locale.asp?localeID=74), is that having a strong visual theme is also a good idea. In Jürgen's case, the cities in his campaign setting are all based around a common visual theme, the Nexus Tower (http://eruvian.com/item.asp?itemID=81) - these massive magical towers at the hearts of cities and metropolises that draw upon the very life force of those near them.

Personally, from a roleplaying perspective, I think it is a good idea to have a central feature for key cities or locales that acts as a verbal cue to the players, something that they are always reminded of by the GM whenever they visit. In most cases, it might be visual in nature - a fantastic tower, a tremendous bridge, or the like. In other cases it might appeal to some other sense - a certain smell, the dampness of endless fog, or even a sense of foreboding.

While my earlier post addressed the verisimilitude of a city, GMs shouldn't forget the amazing cityscapes side of fantasy, if they have the opportunity for it.

NeonKnight
09-11-2007, 11:38 PM
Here's a link to an older article called A Guide to RPG Mapmaking by Denis Tetreault:

http://melkot.com/mechanics/map-guide.html

I thought it had some great advice for making city maps.

I read his article, and very good. The only thing I had in complaint of his article was the down-thinking he had on CC2/Profantasy. With a stock CC2 program, no add-ons or anythng else, I could make an exact replica of his Greyhawk Map. But, that's me ;)

It also seems he has not looked beyond a base CC2 program or any of their suites of software (Dungeon Designer, City Designer, etc)., but critiques of CC2 aside, it had a lot of useful information as well as I agree, most of the city maps from The Fate of Istus mode publish by TSR are abyssmal! YUCK!:((

To me, it would be critique the user not the software in CC2's case, but I agree, programs like Autorealms is very limited, and personal thought on Dunjinni is the maps look nice....too nice for an adventure key, but great for miniature gaming etc.

jaerdaph
09-14-2007, 01:31 PM
My thoughts exactly, NeonKnight. :) But I agree, if you look past the CC2 bashing, there is a lot of useful info in there.

Midgardsormr
09-15-2007, 02:06 PM
On the topic of verisimilitude, here's an excellent article about demographic calculations: http://www.io.com/~sjohn/demog.htm Especially note the calculators linked from the bottom of the page.

Knowing how many of a given professional should be working in a city of a particular size can help in allocating space for various neighborhoods. In the case of a planned city, knowing just how many smiths there should be in a city of 12,000 will help you to know how long the Smith's Way should be. In a more organic city, you can spread out some basic professional, such as the bakers, and build your neighborhoods around access to that particular crafter.

When designing a city, I typically start with the history: why did people settle here, and how did they build at first? What caused a small settlement to become a large city? How did those forces shape the way the city grew?

There are a number of factors that might go into such questioning: its military significance, the economy of the area, the personalities of its rulers, its proximity to other cultures/rivals, local terrain, building resources, weather, food supply. Any or all of those things might need to be considered.

Wraith
10-26-2007, 08:16 AM
When thinking of city development, think of a few major events that shape the city's history. if we take Florence as an example, after the Plague wiped out half it's population laws were enacted so that people had to build larger buildings to a high qualiy. They could do this because the city was still rich from it's wool trade. The result? a lot of very large well built houses in the city with more public space.

Joshua_101
10-26-2007, 02:34 PM
Knowing how many of a given professional should be working in a city of a particular size can help in allocating space for various neighborhoods. In the case of a planned city, knowing just how many smiths there should be in a city of 12,000 will help you to know how long the Smith's Way should be. In a more organic city, you can spread out some basic professional, such as the bakers, and build your neighborhoods around access to that particular crafter.

This can also be affected by geographical location. Is the city is located in or near mountains with rich veins of ore? If so then there should be lots of miners in the city (perhaps a miners quarter or specific residences for miners) as well as specific smithies/forges for smelting raw materials from rock, gemcutters, goldsmiths or silversmiths... maybe even a rock quarry nearby.

The same if its a coastal city... Lots of fishermen! Docks, shipbuilding yards, lots of dockside taverns, a trader's market, fishmarket, entire stores devoted to netmaking, ropemaking, sailmaking, anything that goes into or on a ship. Towns that build ships should also be located near a large forest and have a significant logging operation with loggers, plainers, and carpenters.

These are just two examples but you can see how geography effects occupations. So a desert city probably wouldn't have that many carpenters but might be famous for its glassmakers (as glass comes from melted sand). A port city might not have that many metalsmiths but might make a lot of money on tariffs levied to export a nearby city's metals. I could go on and on but I won't.

Can't wait to see this article when its finished! Cheers!

pyrandon
03-10-2008, 01:23 AM
Just sticking this in here in case this tutorial ever materializes. Bryan recently posted a link to "A Magical Medieval Society: City Guide", a free publication about cities in Western Europe, available at Your Games Now from Expeditious Retreat Press.

http://www.yourgamesnow.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=2

Airith
03-10-2008, 01:48 AM
Just sticking this in here in case this tutorial ever materializes. Bryan recently posted a link to "A Magical Medieval Society: City Guide", a free publication about cities in Western Europe, available at Your Games Now from Expeditious Retreat Press.

http://www.yourgamesnow.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=2

Thanks for that link pyrandon, although I wasn't really looking for the 'City Guide,' the mapping guide just below it looks awesome. I got both all the same though :)

Midgardsormr
03-10-2008, 12:26 PM
Bear in mind that those are just sample chapters from larger books, and the complete books are well worth their weight in Jolly Ranchers.

StillCypher
03-16-2008, 02:12 AM
Along the line of S. John Ross's "Medieval Demographics," I came across this Online Population Generator. It is pretty generic, but it looks like it could -- at the very least -- provide a good jumping-off spot. The first portion deals with regions, while the second goes into settlements (cities/towns). As a bonus feature, it's got an offline version (scroll way down to the bottom of the page!)


Online Population Generator (http://www.welshpiper.com/lowfantasy)

Kagehito
03-16-2008, 06:47 PM
First of all, a great compolation of ideas from various sources. I think most of the key points have already been hit (demographics, terrian, politics, etc.) but a couple of other things should also come to mind as well.

A couple of side notes after reading everyones posts.
-Though this has been hit a few times it need restating. Some sort of sembiance of origionality. It has to be unique. No one wants to be there if "vannila town 1" and "Vannila town 2" are essentialy thesame thing. Many cities have prospered simply because they were different then all of the surrounding places (venice for example). This is one of the reasons for rebelious teens from suburbs to "go out in the world" after they reach 18.

-Taking things in from the history side is a must! but it doesn't have to be the end all be all. Hell, rome wasn't built in a day... But the Arch Magus Of Eternity could do it in a few days atleast! Magic and things we deal with in our games can make the process of town creation, gradual or semi-instantanious, have a little more diversity then what there actually was, but it shouldn't be overdone either. A blending of the "real" way that history shows and the extremety of game wrolds that utilize forces not known to us will lead to something that is not only familar, but fantastic at the same time.
(I have to quote the matrix on this, but "the first matrix was a utopia, but you humans denied it..." If we can't wrap our heads around it, it wont seem real enough to believe, but a right amount of odd is perfect for creating things that will be relavent to our understanding, and just enough to make us remember it as great and leave a lasting impression in our minds.)

Thats about it for right now... I might try and think more about it latter... I'm at work right now, so I'm jummping around doing alot of different things.

Maldin
08-05-2008, 03:13 AM
Greetings everyone! Its been a VERY long time since I've stopped by here. I see I have a private message from quite a while ago, however I can't respond to it until I've posted a few more times, so apologies to Ravells. Please feel free to email me directly at maldin (at the) canonfire.com (domain name)...

Anyways, I'm afraid several people misread my article... as did half - but only half! - of the CC2 users group over on their listserv back when I originally uploaded that webpage several years ago (it caused quite a stir over there).

To me, it would be critique the user not the software in CC2's case,
That is exactly what I actually do in my article.
If I may be so bold as to quote myself several times... ;-)

"While the nature of CC2 might foster the bad design principles described above by encouraging shortcuts (and hence is reflected in the majority of maps being done that can only be described as terrible), the problem is not with the program's capabilities. The problem is bad design by the user, no matter what program you decide to use. "

and

"With good design sense, even CC2 can be used to great effect, ..."

and

I also go on to heap well deserved kudos on the VERY good work the Harn mapping group has done using CC2, consistently showing that it is not the program, but the average user.

When I describe the mistakes often made when creating maps, I go through great pains to stress each and every time that it is not a problem of the CC2 program, but a problem of "CC2 users" and "CC2 mappers".

Anyways, just wanted to clear that up. ;-) Many thanks for the compliments! Recently, by the way, I've added a couple of new maps (Khor - both the Greater Cavern and City maps) which you can get to from my mapping advice page by clicking on those particularly map snippets at http://melkot.com/mechanics/map-guide.html

Denis, aka "Maldin"

jezelf
08-05-2008, 10:02 AM
I was watching a documentry on Motte and Bailey castles (narrated by Leonard Nimoy actually). One thing, which I expect has already been mentioned, is the layout of rank among the people radiates outwards - it's obvious really, but worth mentioning...

the Lord> bishops and nobles > troops > trades and craftmen > common folk

It was where the placement of trade and craftmen interested me. I assumed they would live among the common people, ( which has more in common with modern life ) but now I think about how people like blacksmiths and carpenters would be important menmbers of a community to keep it going it makes sense and so a higher importance.

here's a site on Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle (http://www.castles.me.uk/life-in-a-motte-and-bailey-castle.htm)

http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/life-in-middle-ages.htm

http://www.castles.me.uk/motte-and-bailey-castles.htm

http://www.learner.org/interactives/middleages/feudal.html

ravells
08-05-2008, 03:33 PM
Sorry Denis, I have long forgotton what the pm was about and have done some spring cleaning on my outbox, so can't resend it :(

Ascension
08-05-2008, 04:01 PM
Jezelf...love that show, it's frequently on the History International channel. I think it's called something like "England's Lost Wooden Castles". Nice to know I'm not the only one who has seen it :)

jezelf
08-05-2008, 09:10 PM
I actually found it as a trio of DVDs in T.K.MAXX - that's right, history channel, Lost Castles of England, Atlantis, and Machu Picchu a right bargain at £5 I think it was.

found the Lost Castles one on the History channel site (http://store.aetv.com/html/product/index.jhtml?id=73922), though

Ghalev
08-07-2008, 04:03 AM
Folks have already linked to my trusty old demographics article, so I don't need to rehash that. Instead, I'll offer up the most common oversight I see in medieval-styled fantasy-city maps, which is maps that are filled wall-to-wall with small buildings but which forget to leave appropriate spaces for larger structures analagous to cathedrals, theaters, arenas and so forth. These aren't details most folks forget when thinking about adventures in cities, but for whatever reason a lot of detailed street-maps (the kind that are groovy enough to show every structure) omit them entirely, giving the impression of a city made up entirely of craftsmen's houses, inns, warehouses, and the occasional walled manor-house :)

I personally keep a large spreadsheet filled with the comparitive sizes of real-world things that I use when city-mapping, so if I want something analagous to (for example) Seville Cathedral or the Colosseum or Vatican City, I can know at a glance what dimensions I should shoot for (or what dimensions I may choose to playfully deviate from). The same spreadsheet includes things like ordinary tree sizes, a selection of river-widths/bridge-spans from actual medieval cities, notes on typical distances between wall-towers, the sizes of select types of seagoing vessels (for including appropriate symbols next to the docks), and so on. At the larger end it compares whole cities, both real and fantastical, that I've measured for the purpose (did you know that the City State of the Invincible Overlord is just over double the size of TSR's Lankhmar? Or that Thyatis is 220% the size of Specularum? Now you do! Is the information useful? Probably not but I'm a dork that way)! ;)

(Another related large-area issue which some folks overlook, but which any cursory glance at a good collection of historical maps will show, is just how much of the interior of a medieval city can be orchard or garden-oriented, containing no structures at all)

... and for what amounts to a micro-article on medieval urban cemeteries, see one of my recent posts on one of the city-WIP threads on this board ;)

Midgardsormr
08-10-2008, 08:16 PM
Ok, you've got me salivating now. I don't suppose there's any way you'd be willing to share that spreadsheet?

Mowgli
08-15-2008, 08:56 AM
I second that request! That would be fantastic info to have at the fingertips!