#WBW – Town Building Tips for Everyone

Welcome back world builders!

I’ve covered the idea of town building briefly in a post specifically for GM’s, and let’s face it. For many of us tabletop gamers, it’s town building that takes up the bulk of our time. Crafting those cities and breathing life into every corner of them. The same can be said for fiction writers. Often, we’ve dedicated entire notebooks or multiple word documents to the inner workings of districts and denizens in our world, or at least thought about these aspects in detail. Even though sometimes half of those details won’t even make it into the book!

Town building, or city building is an immensely rewarding part of crafting a world, but it’s also one of the areas where it’s easiest to get bogged down and burnt out.

Building cities that feel real, just like building world’s that feel real, benefits from a bit of real-world knowledge. We’ve been talking about aspects of infrastructure and institutions since way back on this blog, but this fortnight we’re going to create a list of some of the components of any town, from buildings to professions. Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. It’s impossible to nail down a list of what buildings or technologies will be essential to every imaginary world that could ever possibly be thought of! There are too many variables in our individual imaginations to even attempt that. It’s also pretty hard to make a generic ‘catch-all’ list for every genre people might write or play in, so this list probably skews a little toward the fantasy world side; but I’ve tried to keep everything as simple as possible, imagining a town on the smaller side in a historical, real-world sense, and drawing on as many real-world buildings and professions as I could think of as I was creating it.

Think of this list as a starting point, not a checklist. Its purpose is to get you thinking about the inner workings of your world and help you nail down your variables.

Raw Materials and Natural Resources

An obvious place to start when deciding what kind of buildings and structures your little town or big city is going to have, is with what there is available in your world. After that, you need to work out what the process is for turning those resources and materials into something you can build and power structures and societies with on a large scale.

Stone, wood, mud, wind steel, even magic needs a means of processing to enable it to build or power a city or town. The following suggestions also provide a good springboard from which to start thinking about the occupations available to your residents.

  • Mine
  • Quarry
  • Wind-Mill/Farm
  • Dam
  • Aqueducts/Irrigation
  • Logging Camp
  • Refinery
  • Textile Factory
  • Foundry
  • Farm
  • Plantation
  • Hunter’s Camp

There are plenty more that could be added to this list, depending on the setting of your world or the genre you’re working in. Solar farms, desalination plants… look at the ways we make use of natural resources around us to power the towns and cities we live in today, and use that to inform your creation.

Trade and Economy

All these raw materials and resources are worth something to the citizens of your world, and that’s where trade and economy come in. In terms of the kind of buildings and professions you should think of in your world

Workshops, Inventory, and Trade-Based Professions

These places and professions can encompass a lot more than meets the eye at first glance. A Smithy could mean a simple Farrier’s in a small town, or a workshop capable of producing and repairing equipment for an entire army.

  • Smithy
  • Carpenter
  • Potter
  • Glazier
  • Tailor
  • Tanner
  • Glassblower
  • Plumber
  • Ranch
  • Bakery
  • Fish Monger
  • Butcher
  • Alchemist/Chemist
  • Granary
  • Warehouse
  • Docks

Specialty shops/niche professions

In the biggest city’s, there’s probably a niche for everything and anything. These are just some simple suggestion to get the wheels turning and help you start to think about what people might want to buy with their hard earned money, as well as the unconventional professions that might exist.

  • Book shop
  • Magic shop
  • Spice shop
  • Pet shop
  • Arms & Armory
  • Cartography and Map Maker’s
  • Farmer’s Market
  • Black Market

Education and Information

Without some kind of buildings dedicated to teaching and learning, there’s no way for towns to become cities, or a city to become a metropolis. Knowledge is something else of value in the world, and it’s something we start to spend money on once our essential needs are met. The value of knowledge is something which many seek to profit from, and others use as an economy unto itself, trading it as its own form of currency. The following few ideas will hopefully help to whet your appetite when you start thinking of the kind of places your own town or city would need to have.

  • School
  • University
  • Trade Academy
  • Military/Martial Academy
  • Guild Hall
  • Library
  • Treasury

Recreation and Leisure

The best part of cities and towns, the part where the fun happens! Depending on your setting, the kind of entertainment your world might have could be wild. I’ve kept the list below pretty bare-bones and simple, but hopefully, it will help you get the ball rolling on your own entertainment district.

  • Inn
  • Tea House
  • Restaurant
  • Speakeasy/Bar
  • Museum
  • Art Gallery
  • Theater
  • Brothel
  • Park/Hunting Grounds
  • Zoo
  • Shrines/Churches

Other stuff I couldn’t figure out where to fit

There are other things not covered above which are absolutely essential to most of our cities, and which play an important role in fictional worlds too. I wasn’t really feeling any of the other categories I’d created, so I included this random one to fit them in!

  • Roads
  • Postal System
  • Transportation Systems/Stations

Like I said at the beginning, this list is hardly exhaustive. But I hope it can provide a launching pad for you in your city building endeavors!

Apologies for the lack of pretty eye-candy in this post. With so many options for pictures, I really couldn’t decide on what kind of buildings to feature. Consider this a toolbar for your blank canvas, and let your imagination fill in all this blank, bland space I’ve left!

Until next time frens, happy world building!