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Thread: Accurate city layouts -- resources? [Med-Low Fantasy]

  1. #1

    Help Accurate city layouts -- resources? [Med-Low Fantasy]

    Hey all,

    Wondering if anyone has resources for how to do medieval city layouts authentically. I know enough to avoid some of the more egregious errors (i.e. allocating far too little space to housing, or scaling the city size inappropriately for the population), but I'm sure there's still quite a lot I'm missing. I found a few useful links for empire-scale demographics and placement of cities, like this one, but not much on an individual city scale.

    Any and all pointers appreciated!

  2. #2
    Guild Artisan Falconius's Avatar
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    Jul 2013


    I don't know, but I would suggest you think of it as a progressive construction rather than as a whole. Then you just sort of draw it as it grows up, only lump it all into one map.

    Also there is this tutorial also:
    I find the scatter diagram idea especially useful if you really let it take you somewhere.

  3. #3


    That tutorial looks excellent, I'll have to give it a read through. Thanks so much for the link!

  4. #4


    Posting to follow this topic. I'm also mapping out a city and would be grateful for any layout help.

  5. #5


    The best way to get help is to post images of your city as you work on it. I have tried writing about the layout of cities, as have many others, but all cities are different. Therefore, I recommend you take advantage of this community by starting a WIP thread. Studying the layout of old towns in maps and satellite imagery is also a good method of research.

    If you don't want to post pictures of your city for whatever reason, try asking specific questions. Although I find the topic fascinating, it is so huge and complex that summarising it is nearly impossible, and can never do it justice.

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  6. #6
    Guild Member Facebook Connected wisemoon's Avatar
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    It's important to remember that "medieval" covers a very broad span of time, and even if you just look at Europe as an example, there is a HUGE variety of city styles across areas and time periods. For example, in the Roman period, city planning did exist. Roman engineering was extremely advanced, and at its prime the Empire was able to assemble a large enough force of soldiers and engineers to build very well constructed roads, sewer systems, aqueducts, etc. that were still in use over a thousand years later! So if a "medieval" city was originally built by an ancient empire (like Rome), it's possible that the heart of the "old town" would have very geometric street layouts, it might have some sort of underground sewer system, some type of plumbing system, etc. Particularly if the setting involved magic, or dwarves (who are usually depicted as having some mechanical engineering ability), these ancient systems may have at least been maintained at a serviceable level, even if improvements or replacements were not made. Likewise, if you have a medieval city which began in a "dark age" but then later that country/region experienced a sort of "renaissance", then older parts of the city might have been demolished, and a newer more orderly section of the city laid out and built.

    Cities are almost like organic life, in that they grow and expand, or shrivel and shrink and die. Some cities are more orderly than others, depending on the general culture in which the city is founded within, or what culture it grows or shrinks within. Environmental factors have a definite impact on whether a city grows or shrinks, or whether it is abandoned altogether (making those awesome ruins adventurers love to explore!). So think about your culture, think about the environment, think about the level of technology (if it is low level and people are restricted to horses for transport, the city will be much smaller and settlements will be closer together), think about government systems and how much support there is from the regional/national government in terms of security or infrastructure building...all of those things can influence how you build your cities.

    On the other hand, it's fantasy, right? Don't get so caught up in making it "realistic" that you never actually finish it! Good luck!

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  7. #7
    Guild Adept Facebook Connected xpian's Avatar
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    One technique I used is pretty simple. I use Apple Maps and Google Earth to visit some of the remaining ancient and medieval cities around the world and then take screenshots of the city centers, those areas that have been unchanged for hundreds or thousands of years. You can find cities all over Europe, the middle east, Africa, China, etc. Where to look? Do some Google searches on "medieval cities", "preserved cities", "ancient towns" and the like. You'll find web sites happy to educate you on where you can look on our planet to find places that haven't changed in a very long time.

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