To continue this series on world building, we are going to start by giving a creative example so that you can more easily follow the process. In the first part we talked about the idea of a region and a starting town or village. We also explored a few options. Well let’s begin by naming it. Hence forth we shall call it Newton.
We decided that Newton would have grown up besides a Riverbank, and close to a forest. This will provide Newton with a water source, a resource for building and trade and some available food options. We also desired that it would have a road leading to it from East, West and North. We examined the idea that it also raised small livestock, specifically chickens. So we have these basic notes down on paper about Newton, so let’s start structuring things and detailing the various aspects and entities of the settlement..
Once again I am telling you that you will probably never finish. Oh you could finish Newton, as it is not that big and even with the depth of detail we are going to add, it is well within your ability to complete. In reality however, you don’t want to, and shouldn’t. We are going to detail each building, social group, notable person etc but we will also be creating some blank canvases.
When you begin the initial detailing phase, there will be some things you miss. Some aspects that once your players begin exploring Newton you will realize you may have omitted or wish you had included. This is where the blank canvases come in to play. I always have a few unlabeled buildings. I ensure I have some people that I have not yet named or detailed. Doing this allows me the freedom to add and grow in a favorable way. In short, I don’t pigeon hole my settlement.
So first lets decide on the population of Newton. Well I want it to be a reasonable sized Village that has several opportunities either within or close by for my players. We are dealing with a medieval fantasy settlement here, so lets assume the average family is three persons, and maybe we have about thirty families. We have a few single people and persons of note so I am going with a population of about one hundred and twenty people.
At this point lets look at a few demographics that work for a fantasy setting based on some medieval studies.
- Typical Village: 20 to 1,000 people, (50 to 300 being average).
- Typical Town: 1,000 to 8,000 people, (2500 being average).
- Typical City: 8,000 to 12,000 people.
- Major City: 12,000 to 100,000 people.
These are good guide numbers for determining settlement size and population.
So now I need to make sure I have enough housing to support the population so around forty five houses will suffice. Now to support them I need to examine the ancillary buildings that I need. Different businesses and trades have different Support Values (the number of people required to support a single business of its type). We will start with the Inn and tavern. Its only a village so a single Inn/tavern is plenty. The support value of this kind of establishment is around two thousand so until we get close to that we wouldn’t want a second Inn. We have a forest full of furry critters so their is a need for a furrier. Typically a single one would support a village of this size, but as it is a prominent resource and trade commodity, I am going to include two. we will have a Baker, a Tailor, a Blacksmith and a single General store. We will have a Fishmonger and prominent Lumber yard. We will also throw in a couple of less essential establishments. A local Herbalist would make sense due to the forest being so close, and we will add a local Barber/Surgeon to handle cutting hair, pulling teeth and basic medical needs. I decide not to include a church here, but instead shall include a church in the next closest town, that I am going to make reachable within a days travel. instead we will add a shrine and a single local priest to tend it. The mayor and five council members we decided upon previously, will need a place to meet, so we will include a simplistic town hall, that will also serve as a base of operations for the local militia (three militia men will be plenty) and a single jail cell.
This gives me a basic idea of how to put the town map together and decide upon the layout. If I decide to make this village sit on a popular trade route, I may want to add a few more services to support extra non resident people.
Next I need to create a Non Player Character and his or her family that belongs in each of the main buildings. I need to flesh them out enough to make them a viable source of interaction for our players. I do this by again making simple notes.
Lets start with the Inn Keeper.
- Name: Johan Stevenson
- Age: Forty two
- Spouse: Maggie Stevenson
- Children: None
- Siblings: Dorian Stevenson (Local baker)
- Born here: Yes
- Demeanor: Jovial, Happy, enthusiastic, sociable.
- Appearance: Five ft nine, Chubby, brown hair (slightly greying), no facial hair.
This is enough info for now. It tells me I need to create a relationship for him and Maggie Stevenson, as well as Dorian Stevenson. Of course I also need to make similar notes on both of these individuals too.
I will not do this for every single family. although I will probably flesh out about half of them beyond those essential, just so I have some ready to go at a moments notice. I will also create a few solo individuals.
When I work on the relationships I create a few different levels. I create the social relationships, Business relationships, political relationships and special relationships.
So for example. Johan Stevenson has obvious social relationships with Maggie and Dorian, but will have several others too. He also has a business relationship with Dorian as well as the Fishmonger, Chicken farmers, Blacksmith and more. He has a political relationship with the mayor and council (as he runs a business, and has taxes and fees to pay). We could decide that as Inn keeper he may be one of the elected council men, but I do not want to have him in that roll. I decide he has a special relationship with a local thief. For a cut of the take, Sometimes Johan informs the thief about any wealthy looking guests he has staying, and what room they are sleeping in. He may also ensure that a wealthy person has one of two rooms that he keeps reserved, that have windows with broken locks.
A simple little addition of information like the special relationship between Johan and the local thief, already creates opportunities for interaction or an encounter. Maybe the players will end up in one of these two rooms and become victims of the thief. Maybe they will be in the Inn the following morning when a wealthy Nobleman comes downstairs proclaiming that he was robbed during the night. This could become an enticing adventure hook.
By now we have the basic requirements to make Newton a visit able place for our players, but we will not stop there. We need to decide on how the village is run. We look at the mayors demeanor as well as the demeanor of the council members and decide are they just, fair, crooked, power crazed etc? We decide that the council will be fair and just, but the mayor will be a bit on the shady side. He is fond of visiting the closest town and loves the gambling hall. It is not uncommon for him to gamble with tax money and he frequently gets himself in financial hot water. Again possible adventure hooks spring to life. We need to look at laws and in particular any that are non standard. Also punishments and how they are handled. The town has three militia men which can handle day to day petty crime etc, but what happens when something major happens? Maybe the mayor calls for aid from the closest town, or appeals to the lord of this region for aid.
Next we will look at the religious and philosophical aspects of the village. We have a shrine and a single priest. The shrine is to a deity that has forests as part of his domain. This makes sense as the forest is a big part of what keeps Newton thriving. The local priest will be Father Herbert Fallen. We will of course have already fleshed him out and have a basic profile for him. However as he has an actual class (a cleric) we need to go a bit further and detail more about him to include his main spells etc. I would make a short form character sheet for the priest too and detail his level, stats, prominent skills and Hit points etc. Sundays father Fallen holds a service in the village hall for the citizens of Newton. he also offers a blessing each day to those heading into the woods to hunt and cut lumber etc. The town for the most part are all religious, so the service is attended well. Visitors to the town will often hear comments such as “thanks be to (insert forest deity here)”.
Next we take a look at the economy. The general economy of the village should be fairly decent, as it is largely self sufficient. However the village is heavily taxed due to current personal financial problems of the mayor. We will set up trade routes with the other close by settlements and in particular ones for items that the village needs that it can not produce itself. Importing metals, beef, pork, textiles etc as well as exporting of lumber and maybe fish northwards where there are some settlements that are not situated on a natural water source.
The general contentment level of the village will be a little disheveled. The excessive taxation without evidence of where the money goes, has most of the population at unrest. They may not be rioting or resorting to an uprising, but to an observant outsider it may be apparent. Once again here is a great opportunity for adventure.
There is still work to do, and you will have left yourself room for later expansion or adding situational details. You now have the workings of a functioning village and its inner factions and social makeup.
In the next part of the series will will look at developing the region, and adding external features and places of interest.
Happy World Building……………….