View Full Version : Urban Design

2010-09-05, 09:11 PM
One of the things I constantly struggle with in my games is designing and mapping cities. I usually start out wanting to make a city from scratch, but I swiftly get overwhelmed and just google maps of real cities and use them as a loose base in order to save time. What tricks/ tools do you use when designing your cities?

2010-09-05, 09:13 PM
I only ever end up designing like one or two cities, and I put days worth of work into each one, since I like my cities to be characters in their own right.

I tend to have cities with some creative or unique feature to them, such as the 50 story city built into a cliff in five layers, or the city built around a 300ft high planar rip to the Astral Plane. Each time, the city's unique trait defines it and I build around that afterwards.

2010-09-05, 09:37 PM
Start with the origin of the city. Why is it here? Keep in mind that historically, trade defined most cities, and thus, cities sprang up around good harbors, river mouths, and the like. Define the geography and the origins first. Then, work forward, considering who the local population is, and who they would trade with. This gives you your general population, though you can sprinkle in oddball races here and there.

Start mapping out the city, starting with the central stuff. If it's a harbor city, the dockyard area is defining for it. Warehouse districts will spring up nearby, as will bulk industries that require a great deal of shipping. Textiles, mills, etc. Of course, as the city grows, it's going to get a great deal more people, so add the residential districts, and all that they bring with them. The newest areas will end up being the nicest, generally, so your major functions will be there. The biggest and newest temples, and such. City government may be there, or it may be in an older location for historical reasons.

Now, cities in D&D are prone to disaster, thanks to the wild amount of horrific things in the world. Consider what they do to avoid this.

Just going through this process, and sketching with pencil on graph paper, I can lay a city out district by district in an evening, though most people don't use the level of detail I do.

2010-09-05, 09:42 PM
Also some cities built up around military outposts. Families wanted to be together when fathers were stationed there. and thus residential areas sprung up. And because of this commercial areas grew to accommodate this.

2010-09-05, 09:58 PM
oddly enough i just finished making my first map for a small village. I used some software to make a generic map and then used gimp to make it look cool. Right now im working on populating it with NPC's. THe PC's will all be from this village and they are going to spend lots of time there so it needed to be detailed.

2010-09-05, 10:07 PM
Also some cities built up around military outposts. Families wanted to be together when fathers were stationed there. and thus residential areas sprung up. And because of this commercial areas grew to accommodate this.

Definitely. Find the origin of the town, and things just sorta flow naturally from there. If you get stuck, google and wiki can help you find a historical example for mundane causes.

And of course, you get fun hooks like WHY a military outpost was stationed there.

2010-09-05, 10:49 PM
I've heard that A Magical Medieval Society: City Guide (http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=55264) is useful for city planning. And it's free (legally and everything).

2010-09-06, 02:17 AM
I just draw a rough map with the largest streets, city walls, squares, forts and harbours, superimposed on the natural features.

Then I just mark in the most important buildings, palaces, city hall, nobles residences, temples and the taverns of course, along with every plot specific attraction.

I mostly just memorize what sort of neighbourhoods are where, how the street life is and the ethnic composition. The NPCs that live in the city and their organizations are the most important features of the city.

2010-09-06, 05:00 AM
I personally use Campaign Cartographer.

great lil program

Zeta Kai
2010-09-06, 08:52 AM
The Cartographers' Guild (http://www.cartographersguild.com/forumdisplay.php?39-Town-City-Mapping) calls to you... hundreds of free city maps await... along with the means to make your own... join us...

2010-09-06, 09:24 AM
Tried Cityscape?

I just started reading through it to try and flesh out Brindol in the Red Hand of Doom campaign a little better, and at the very least there's some inspiration there. Even has different paradigms like the 'military', 'merchant', 'slaver', 'capital' city, etc, etc, right down to what kinds of stuff you can expect in different types of "quarters" in the city.

2010-09-06, 09:31 PM
I must admit, I'm lazy too - I love using premade towns. The sample towns in Cityscape are quite nice, and Saltmarsh in DMG II has it's own chapter.