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

  1. #11
      Vellum is offline
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    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.

  2. #12
      Mornagest is offline
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    I made a sketch a few weeks ago, just to figure out where districts, walls and the river should appear. Here it is :

    How to figure a large desert city (about 100,000 inhabitants) ?-croquismelandis.jpg

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

    How to figure a large desert city (about 100,000 inhabitants) ?-melandistravail2.jpg

    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. 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

  3. #13
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    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.
    THW
    Last edited by TheHoarseWhisperer; 02-03-2013 at 01:36 AM.

  4. #14
      Mornagest is offline
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    Hi,

    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 !

  5. #15
      rdanhenry is offline
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    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.

  6. #16
      Mornagest is offline
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    Hi,

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

  7. #17
    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
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    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.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist
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  8. #18
      waldronate is offline
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    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/574...hamap-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.

  9. #19
      Mornagest is offline
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    Hi,

    I found this map 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.

  10. #20
      rdanhenry is offline
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    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.

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