View Full Version : What sorts of things would you expect in a Fantasy Village or Town?

2015-09-08, 05:17 AM
What sorts of buildings and businesses or other features would you expect to find in each?

What sort of infrastructure or features would you consider to demarcate the difference, beyond just population and size? Would something like walls or a granary or granaries count in your mind? The presence of a magistrate or some amount of bureaucracy?

What would you consider essential to founding a place as a town that will grow, even if it initially starts out smaller than a village? What about founding a site so it can eventually grow into a city?

What about for a place that's the midpoint of a caravan or other overland trade route? What sort of buildings or businesses or features would you expect to find there that you wouldn't in a place not directly on such a route?

Especially things beyond the obvious like inns or places for people to live or a water source like wells or a body of water. For example, granaries are something that people very rarely think about, at least in my experience.

2015-09-08, 05:56 AM
You will want a reason for the town. It could be as simple as a bridge or a crossroads. It might be a source of production - a mine or in the middle of arable land. It could be military - a town sprung up around a watchtower.

Personally I pick the reason for the town being where it is than add buildings appropriate.

For examples the crossroads:

Grown as on two roads so lots of travellers-> more inns.
Visitors-> trade so markets.
As it grows it will need a police force, and information may begin to be traded there. Populace grows and a few more shops spring up.
Visitors + information gives rise to needs for communications. Being on a couple of transport routes the town acts as a communications hub. Add a stable to send riders out or maybe a low level wizard who knows sending.

Conversely there will be some things missing or less abundant in this type of town. Clerics or religious orders may be more limited than in other settlements of a similar size and more of the population is passing through rather than a permanent "flock". Gods of travellers may be well represented.

Basic goods may be less likely to be produced here than in other towns of a similar size - buying from caravans coming through gives more choice and probably lower cost for a given quality. Only the cheapest goods not worth transporting will be produced on site here.

2015-09-08, 06:47 AM
I've found Medieval Demographics Made Easy (http://www222.pair.com/sjohn/blueroom/demog.htm) to be an invaluable resource for this sort of thing.

2015-09-08, 09:50 AM
What you'd find:

A building for whoever controls the settlement - whether that's the village chief's hut, a Knight's keep, a Mage's tower, a sheriff's office and jail or whatever.

Most settlements would have a smith and maybe one or two other professions, and all but the smallest would have a tavern - which could be a single purpose building, part of the local general store (or the general store could be a part of the tavern), or someone's front room. There may also be a local brewhouse. Larger settlements may have makers of luxury goods, or people might order from a trader for delivery the next time they pass through.

Some place to get fresh water - a well, a fast flowing stream or something. And if they've any sense, any cattle watering, laundry, sewage disposal and the like would take place downstream of that location.

Larger settlements would have a place of worship, smaller ones might share a single one, but they would all be in walking distance of it (say 2-3 miles). Depending on the diety(s), there may also be a place for the dead to be treated according to ritual alongside it (burial, cremation, left for carrion animals), or that could be elsewhere in the surrounding area - there would be such a place though.

Some form of communal space for various uses - a village green in smaller settlements, a market square in larger ones.

Other thoughts:
Why the settlement is there defines what's there, and in a lot of cases, the architectural style. Market towns will spring up where trade routes cross each other (crossroads, bridges over rivers, where rivers join each other, areas of the coast which have either a natural or an artificial harbour, and so on), and in the rough centre of a group of agricultural villages (as the central point where everyone can bring their produce for sale). They would give you purpose built taverns, merchants warehouses etc, and likely a bank/money changers (although some money changers may move around the smaller market towns on a circuit, rather than be tied to a single location).

Processing equipment (wind/water mills for grain, smelters for ore, charcoal ovens) may be in the area, or they might be further away and the raw materials transported to it - if there's a river nearby, or a canal has been constructed, it probably makes better sense to transport it in bulk, while if there's difficult terrain (a mountain pass), it probably makes better sense to process it in place and transport the refine product.

Settlements near potentially dangerous areas - the borders of the realms, a forest/mountain range if there's hostile creatures around etc - would be quite militaristic and fortified. If there's buildings outside the main settlement, they'll be similarly defensible, and if possible, there'll be a quick route back to the main settlement.

Best way to tell the difference between a village and a town in my opinion? Do they have at least two taverns and the population to keep all of them operating at a minimum of break even?

2015-09-10, 04:52 PM
The simplest answer---it's a slight oversimplification but it works---is that towns have walls. Villages don't.

Of course more often than not the walls have nothing to do with defense. They're a means of enforcing economic control--making sure everyone going in or out of the town passes through the designated toll-gates, and making sure all products produced in the town stay there unless they're bought/sold in the regulated market-place, and keeping out foreign goods.

Villages can have markets of course, but unless they're economically tied to a larger town nearby they're not going to be producing finished goods. We're talking cereals, vegetables, raw wool and undyed cloth, etc. Most villages are part of a larger economic network and exist somewhere on a "chain" of production--they make the wheels but the wagons are made elsewhere, that kind of thing.

In order for a community to reach "town" size it simply has to be at some kind of hub on that trade network---near an important crossroads or highway, or a convenient harboring point along a river or sea. Whether or not a major population center is topographically stable is actually somewhat secondary to this---as long as they can be profitable, cities can live off imported grain or whatever else they need, and even long after they stop being profitable if there's a government strong enough to enforce that import.

You'll know your community has truly reached town status when whoever's in charge of the imports and exports--it might be a mercantile class, it might be land-owning aristocrats, w/e---has established warehouses. For the most part, historically, merchants literally lived on top of the goods they had bought, storing it in large residences located near a harbor or trade station. Something a town needs that, IMO gets overlooked in gaming, is simple storage facilities---where you keep all that corn and peas, wool, linen, wine, timber, whatever---for goods that are on their way to somewhere else.