Welcome back world builders!
We’ve been speaking about world building generally for a while now, as someone who creates worlds for fiction and worlds for tabletop, my personal perspective makes me see a lot of overlap between the two.
But, this fortnight I’m bringing the focus back to tabletop specifically, with what will hopefully be some helpful tips for building towns or cities!
Instead of just giving my opinions this fortnight, I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and provide a couple of free (and easily modified) small cities for my fellow world-building-GMs to use! (You’ll find the download link at the bottom of the post c; )
Alright then my dudes. Let’s talk about town-building!
The Gold Piece Limit
Last time we talked about the economy of fictional worlds, and economy is definitely something which every game master takes into consideration in one form or another.
When you’re building towns as a game master you need to establish how much money the town has the capacity to handle. In tabletop games, currency is the path for players to unlock access to all kinds of things – powerful weapons and vehicles, magical items and spells. Depending on the system the importance of currency does vary, but inevitably it’s something that every GM has to think about.
One easy way to approach it is to establish what resources you want the players to have access to. If you want certain things off-limits, keep them out of reach by creating an economy with smaller towns who don’t have the infrastructure or resources to deal with thousands of gold coins or millions of credits. If you’re aiming for high-powered adventure then cities with large economies will give your players access to bigger rewards.
Every good city and town has an anchor. A location that the players at the table will be able to associate with the town, even if they might forget the name you spent hours coming up with.
A good iconic location for a town or city doesn’t have to be related to the party’s quest. Although it could be, it could just as easily be a local tavern or a town square. In fact, my advice to GM’s is to always develop a couple of places that the PC’s might endear themselves to in each city, and let the party choose one naturally. Don’t limit yourself to fantastic architecture when you’re building them either, the personalities of non-player-characters, the wildlife, and even the rocks can make a location unique!
Festivals and Celebrations
We talked about creating myths and legends and a little bit about incorporating religions into our fictional worlds a little while back. When we’re creating a town or city, creating some simple festival customs or celebratory rituals can be a good start to overcoming the road-block of giving a places its own cultural feel and aesthetic.
This weekend I’ll be running a little homebrew Pathfinder on Roll20, a couple of Christmas Themed one-shot campaigns. To do it I whipped up two locations within the magical merry world of ‘Merth’. Imaginatively named by myself as Upnorthton and Underdown. I created both of these towns with a December holiday flavour, one for each hemisphere of our own world.
Because this is a one-shot, the gold piece limit was actually the first thing I looked at when I was designing both of my cities. I’d designed my adventure for a party of level 5 PC’s, and just in case some of players wanted to come from the local area, I wanted to make sure they had access to somewhere they’d be able to kit themselves out with the appropriate gear. I settled on a 15,000 GP limit for both of them.
I designed some fun iconic locations in each, drawing on the two different types of terrain, and using unique architecture for some and NPC personalities for others. And of course, the whole adventure has a Christmas theme, and so I’ve drawn heavily on different holiday traditions and imagery from our own real world cultures throughout the course of the adventure!
You can access the super basic maps and information I created for each of these towns here!
Feel free to take them and use them however you want in your own campaigns!
#WBW will be taking a mini-hiatus for the rest of December, but we’ll be back again fresh in January with more world building tips and discussions! Hope to see you all then frens!