Designing a fantasy city (Part 1)

Following from designing a world, I’m now considering designing a city.

We all have to think about this when designing our own campaign, but there are some simple rules we all should follow.

So you’ve decided to make a Settlement, I’m using the world Settlement to mean virtually anything from Hamlet to large cities the premise is just the same.

I like to consider reality before anything else, yes I know this is a fantasy world, but in the real world Settlements pop up for a reason. These are typically:


  • Most Settlements exist near a regular water supply, from a stream to a huge river.
  • Ports appear where a large river meets the sea (Look at London…)
  • Prime farmland attracts people to work it, and settlements grow.
  • Lastly a main trade route will need frequent resting places (the number of small villages that exist in the UK because of the local coaching inn). Settlements will grow as demand increases.


So what size should your settlement be? They range from a single dwelling in the middle of no-where through to large cities.

Typically settlements are:


  • Villages: these range from 20 to 1,000 people, although most are 50-300. Your average kingdom is going to have far too many to detail. These villages typically provide the food and farm the land in the feudal society. Hamlets also exist, these are not the small village we typically title them as, they supports orchards.




  • Towns: these range from 1,000 to 8,000 people, although most average at 2,500. These appear at smaller crossroads, they only have walls if situated on the frontier.



  • Cities: these range from 8,000 to 12,000, although most are around the 10,000 mark. Your average Kingdom is only going to have two or three cities like this, major “Universities” or Churches are going to exist here.




  • “Big” Cities, or Capitals: these range from 12,000 right up to 100,000, some might even pass this range! These will be your largest city, where all the characters would like to be.



Anything larger than a Village is going to exist because of “traffic” of some kind, coastlines, navigable rivers and overland trade-routes form a criss-crossing pattern of trade-arteries, and the towns and cities grow along those lines. The larger the artery, the larger the town. And where several large arteries converge, you have a city. Villages are scattered densely through the country between the larger settlements.

More on this tomorrow…

One thought on “Designing a fantasy city (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Fantasy City Building: 14 Suggestions | Evil Machinations

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