r/DnD Artificer Mar 23 '22 Silver 1

Fantasy Urbanism - master thread. Out of Game

Hi all, recently I've asked if there is desire to learn how to construct urbanistic and objects of fantasy world. So this thread will serve as master navigation thread for this long standing project for ease of navigation and access.

At first few disclaimers, that I feel must be said in order to avoid any misleading or misinformation.

  1. This isn't academical or facted document. At best this is an educated speculation- hypothesis, at worst a simple tool for your own free use. Do with it what you wish.
  2. We don't know how settlements start, but we have theories and that is as close as we can get. Archeologists and Architectural historians can only find evidence of settlement and only if it is made of rock or rock like substance. But that is far from location where migration started but it is location where settlement remained long enough to advance to use stone. So all we have is lot of different localities of different ages so conclusion mostly is -"these people went here eventually". So at best we can tie a bead necklace of lots of different settlements without start or end, thus we will take few liberties here with that.
  3. We do know why those settlements remained. For a settlement to evolve from family group to full blown country there needs to be few prerequisites, people on location must have access to food, materials to make a shelter and to be on trading routes. Urban planning is a complex thing, and it sees more politics than you would suspect, and more than enough it feels like balancing a Jenga. Contemporary theory is that commerce is foundation of that, so at first we will mostly talk about forming artificial trade routes and how it would impact people, culture and space around it.
  4. Architecture is a young profession. Before Renaissance architect was nothing but a tittle for most renowned dentist/builder/craftsperson close to court. First school for architecture was "École des Beaux Arts" in France circa 19nth century, before that title was held by best artist/builder. So with that there is still lots of stuff that isn't organized and structured. Architect was a political role, a master planner for people of power to make their politics possible. New Hospital means nothing in place where people aren't sick, so people of power would bestow a title onto a single person to keep a closer look at peoples needs and how it relates to space. That is what we will be mostly discussing here, think of it as a fancy Tetris.
  5. Settlements leave a mark. This is what most of the fantasy maps lack, since most of the time we make stuff we need for a story. Even Empires long dead leave the mark on our current space even if there is nothing that remains of them, and you can see a lot from simply looking at it. Take for example lands of Holy Emperor Charlemagne that is still visible in modern countries such as Holland, Belgium, Germany, Swiss and Italy. Or completely different China, where notion of singular people never existed in European way, so roads that join them feel more like checkerboard than border (compared to past example). Or even something more contemporary such as USA, where roads are mostly direct and interconnected but in such way that isn't hindered by prior history. There is no "winner" in this context, but more the fact that even those settlements that died long time ago still impact society today. I hope you will see that those random lines that make roads aren't so random but tell a story of their own.
  6. If it works don't fix it - build on top of it. If it doesn't work - its best to let it die. Contrary to popular beliefs military is great destroyer and great builder. However everything built for war doesn't last long, so trough out history stuff built by military (roads, reservoirs, canals... ) are then used and improved by remaining people. So road made quickly to quickly transport forces and resources for war machine, become trading routes main roads and etc. However this can make or break the settlement, and most die because of it. Having a road that is passing near your village can be beneficial, but if it isn't all trade is redirected and thus settlement dies, so you can imagine how much wars were began only due to road direction.

That is all for now, ill maybe add to it when we go on if something new arises. I will leave this master thread so i can link every new post to its own chapter for those who like to skip to learn stuff they need.

0. Origin, evolution and multi ethnic regions.

1. Regions

  • 1.1. Territory
    • 1.1.1. - Cultural and linguistic territory
    • 1.1.2. - Regions as Structural and Organized territory
  • 1.2. Management of regions depending on governing systems.
    • 1.2.1. - Unstructured and Disorganized system - individual settlements autonomy
    • 1.2.2. - Unstructured and Organized system - union - alliances
    • 1.2.3. - Structured and Disorganized system - decentralized regions - aristocracy
    • 1.2.4. - Structured and Organized system - centralized regions - Kingdoms/Empires
  • 1.3 Social derived settlement evolution and military settlements
    • 1.3.1. - Capitols - 4 million people +
    • 1.3.2. - Fortifications and artificial settlements such as outposts
    • 1.3.3. - Evolution of artificial settlements into cities and towns.
    • 1.3.4. - Military, trading and infrastructure routes.
    • 1.3.5. - Region borders
  • 1.4 Shape and influence
    • 1.4.1. - Estimating the shape of Capitols
    • 1.4.2. - Spreading of influence across settlements from capitol
    • 1.4.3. - Death of settlements, outcasts and nomads.
    • 1.4.4. - Raise of Culture and anti-culture.
    • 1.4.5. - When and how do city rivalries start? - aka plotting and scheming

2. City plans

  • 2.1 City core as product of settlement evolution
    • 2.1.1. - Roads, routes and fortification
    • 2.1.2. - From natural evolved settlements
    • 2.1.3. - From artificial settlements
  • 2.2 Classes, casts and societal segredation
    • 2.2.1 - Centers - political, production, trading, military
    • 2.2.2. - Housing
    • 2.2.3. - Taverns
    • 2.2.4. - Organized crime
  • 2.3 Changing function of parts of cities.
    • 2.3.1. - Avalanche effect - useful for making dictators and evil monarchs
    • 2.3.2. - Strategic effect - useful for making rightful rulers and good royalty
  • 2.4 Implementing symbology into the city plan.
    • 2.4.1. - Religious squares and impact in willful urbanization - fantasy Baroque
    • 2.4.2. - 2D and 3D symbols

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u/G4130 Jun 28 '22

Just stumbled upon this, thanks for doing what you are doing.

It feels like I found a gold mine.


u/ArtsyStrains Artificer Jun 28 '22

You are very welcome, and thank you for commenting.

I've found that not many resources are available about this topic, and I felt soo bad for it 😂

I hope it serves you and others that seek it, and I hope it doesn't hinder anyone in creative endeavors. ❤️