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Thread: Help in building an old town

  1. #1
      michis84 is offline
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    Help Help in building an old town

    Hi! Im am new in this forum so I don't know where to post this. Hope im doing right now...
    I want to make a town/village map for my fantasynovel. It's about a young girl from a small town that takes place during the medieval times. Like many other fantasynovels and films does.

    1. What does the town need to survive? A mill, a bakery, a blacksmith, a market, a butcher but what else? What can be found in a medival town?

    2. How do I put the buildings, in which order? I mean do I put the houses in the middle, or the market in the middle? Where do i put everything to make an effective town? How do I plan everything?

    3. Where can I find more information aboute building medival towns? I've tryed to google but I don't know what to search for. I've tried "town map, town structure" and so on but I cant find anthing that helps me.

    Thank you!

  2. #2
      jbgibson is offline
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    Welcome to the Guild!

    1) What it needs is partly dependent on where it is. Seashore, maybe river's edge, there'll be fishmongers. Midforest, not so much. On a main road, maybe an inn, but not a necessity. If isolated, needs to be more self-sufficient -- do you want to have wagonloads of grain going to the river-town a mile or two away, to mill flour? Some shopkeepers might be week-long; a market might be one day a week. That latter in particular if your town is a hub for nearby hamlets and villages to come buy supplies and swap news. Does your town have a specialty? Not every burg would have glassmakers, big-time weavers, a boatwright or a tannery, but some would.

    2) In what order? You're probably shooting for 'plausible' instead of 'historically correct' -- there's far less record of town and village layout from half a millennium ago, than cities. Given a bit of thought how your town grew, whatever would have made sense to 150 years of locals will make sense to the reader - especially if you have it mapped. There you'll get the benefit of the "it's documented so it must be real" effect :-). If your folks are so organized as to have a common grazing area, for instance, then that commons might need to be central, and protected, if you're in woods with carnivores. Or if all is peace and tranquility it could be out of the way, at town's edge. Imagine how smart your townfolks are -- are there public wells usefully sited? Or does everybody dip buckets of water out of the river just downstream of the stable (now you need a bugger graveyard...).

    3) I know what you mean about hard to search for. I bet most of what you've turned up has been tourist info on how a bunch of medieval towns are NOW. Try googling "recreated medieval town" or "preserved medieval town". "Medieval town map" seems to pull up some useful stuff. Hey, in Sweden you probably have more of that available than where I live - all MY local medieval towns were Cherokee or Chickasaw Indian villages :-). What I can see from a look at a few pages of results is a vast difference among sizes of towns - do you have a good idea how many people inhabit yours?

    A thought - try using the image-specific search when googling "medieval town map" .... if nothing else you'll use up a whole evening perusing the interesting results (akkk - I know I will, now! )

    You have a delightful enterprise in mind -- an opportunity to teach as well as entertain. Thanks for trying to 'get it right' instead of just blindly winging it!

  3. #3
      tilt is offline
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    Try checking out Ravells guide here: http://www.cartographersguild.com/sh...on%20depiction ... good luck and remember you can post your Work in Progress in a WIP thread for help and critique while you work
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      Lukc is offline
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    I'll just go for number 2.

    Start with what was there first and then build around it. How did the town start? Did some pioneer farmers in the late stone age come to a river fork and build a few huts first, and the thing grew from there? Was it built around a mine? Was it a defendable area? What was the landscape like? Usually, in times of peace, people will settle where they can get two basic things right off the bat: water and food. If you have hazards, like bandits or raiders, you need to add defenses to your thinking - maybe in a river bend with difficult access, so there's only a narrow area to defend, or on a hill-top (like a hill-fort). The town could alternatively grow up around a monastery, a sacred place or temple, a castle, a strategic trading area (i.e. a crossroads, or below an important mountain pass), etc. etc.

    Then, once you have the basics - why did settlement start where it did - you grow it from there. In a peaceful area it would have spread in areas where it didn't disrupt agriculture - so, usually, hillsides or less fertile areas, to leave enough ground for producing food - a big limitation in an period of relatively poor transport of bulk goods.

  5. #5
      michis84 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by tilt View Post
    Try checking out Ravells guide here: http://www.cartographersguild.com/sh...on%20depiction ... good luck and remember you can post your Work in Progress in a WIP thread for help and critique while you work
    Thank you! how kindly of you to show me this book. I'm sure it will give me lots of imformation! Thats a great idea of making a wip thread. I will probably make one later when i start a map!

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      michis84 is offline
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    Thank you all for your kindly advices and for your help. This really gave me alot to think of.

  7. #7
      michis84 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lukc View Post
    I'll just go for number 2.

    Start with what was there first and then build around it. How did the town start? Did some pioneer farmers in the late stone age come to a river fork and build a few huts first, and the thing grew from there? Was it built around a mine? Was it a defendable area? What was the landscape like? Usually, in times of peace, people will settle where they can get two basic things right off the bat: water and food. If you have hazards, like bandits or raiders, you need to add defenses to your thinking - maybe in a river bend with difficult access, so there's only a narrow area to defend, or on a hill-top (like a hill-fort). The town could alternatively grow up around a monastery, a sacred place or temple, a castle, a strategic trading area (i.e. a crossroads, or below an important mountain pass), etc. etc.

    Then, once you have the basics - why did settlement start where it did - you grow it from there. In a peaceful area it would have spread in areas where it didn't disrupt agriculture - so, usually, hillsides or less fertile areas, to leave enough ground for producing food - a big limitation in an period of relatively poor transport of bulk goods.

    I was thinking that the small town would be in an open landscape so that they could have lots of farms around the little town. I really need to think this through.. why the heck would they start a village in the middle of no where? haha. Its really good advice your giving me here. I will think about the town history before I try to plan a map.

  8. #8
      michis84 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbgibson View Post
    Welcome to the Guild!

    1) What it needs is partly dependent on where it is. Seashore, maybe river's edge, there'll be fishmongers. Midforest, not so much. On a main road, maybe an inn, but not a necessity. If isolated, needs to be more self-sufficient -- do you want to have wagonloads of grain going to the river-town a mile or two away, to mill flour? Some shopkeepers might be week-long; a market might be one day a week. That latter in particular if your town is a hub for nearby hamlets and villages to come buy supplies and swap news. Does your town have a specialty? Not every burg would have glassmakers, big-time weavers, a boatwright or a tannery, but some would.

    2) In what order? You're probably shooting for 'plausible' instead of 'historically correct' -- there's far less record of town and village layout from half a millennium ago, than cities. Given a bit of thought how your town grew, whatever would have made sense to 150 years of locals will make sense to the reader - especially if you have it mapped. There you'll get the benefit of the "it's documented so it must be real" effect :-). If your folks are so organized as to have a common grazing area, for instance, then that commons might need to be central, and protected, if you're in woods with carnivores. Or if all is peace and tranquility it could be out of the way, at town's edge. Imagine how smart your townfolks are -- are there public wells usefully sited? Or does everybody dip buckets of water out of the river just downstream of the stable (now you need a bugger graveyard...).

    3) I know what you mean about hard to search for. I bet most of what you've turned up has been tourist info on how a bunch of medieval towns are NOW. Try googling "recreated medieval town" or "preserved medieval town". "Medieval town map" seems to pull up some useful stuff. Hey, in Sweden you probably have more of that available than where I live - all MY local medieval towns were Cherokee or Chickasaw Indian villages :-). What I can see from a look at a few pages of results is a vast difference among sizes of towns - do you have a good idea how many people inhabit yours?

    A thought - try using the image-specific search when googling "medieval town map" .... if nothing else you'll use up a whole evening perusing the interesting results (akkk - I know I will, now! )

    You have a delightful enterprise in mind -- an opportunity to teach as well as entertain. Thanks for trying to 'get it right' instead of just blindly winging it!
    Thank you jbgibson!

    This is all good things to think about. I have not thought this through, I realise I need more details on the town history and ideas for my town before I can start building it. I was thinking it should be in a open landscape so they could farm a lot. How many inhabitats lived in a small town during the medival times? I mean I lived in a small town with 10.000 inhabitats thats small for today. What was small back then? How do I compare?

    Thank you for your kindly thoughs! I think its really important that i do some reaserch before i start writing. If i don't know what im writing about, neither will my readers.

  9. #9
    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
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    There's an excellent little article called "Medieval Demographics Made Easy" by S. John Ross located here:
    http://www222.pair.com/sjohn/blueroom/demog.htm

    It's aimed more at constructing cities than smaller settlements, but I think you might find the Bibliography at the end useful.
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  10. #10
      michis84 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Midgardsormr View Post
    There's an excellent little article called "Medieval Demographics Made Easy" by S. John Ross located here:
    http://www222.pair.com/sjohn/blueroom/demog.htm

    It's aimed more at constructing cities than smaller settlements, but I think you might find the Bibliography at the end useful.
    Thank you for this article! It was helpful in many ways! Now i know what kind of buildings to put in my little town and i can also check how much inhabitats it should have. I really appreciate all the help you guys have given me

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