... now with 35% more arrogance!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Quarter System

A quick little post about a concept: I've seen many fantasy books and games that refer to towns and cities divided into "quarters", but haven't seen anyone formalize the idea. It's a quick, no-frills way of designing towns. Here's my simple take:
  • one quarter of the town is for common laborers and food providers;
  • one quarter is for necessary craftsmen;
  • one quarter is for merchants and/or nobles and any others who control the town;
  • one quarter is for whatever the town is notable for: a town with a strong academic interest will have a scholar's quarter, which could also contain a temple district; a town with mining interests will have a quarter devoted to refining, working with, or trading in metals.
These are arranged around a hub, which may be a lord's keep, a marketplace, a central temple (if the town has a uniform religious structure,) or even something as simple as a bridge across a river that splits the town.

Each quarter might actually be larger or smaller than others; they do not have to be literal quarters, just conceptual quarters. Each quarter can be divided into four border districts around a central core, and the contents of each district can be based on what the district is bordering; thus, the temple district in a scholar's quarter might border the central hub, to make general access easy, or the merchant's quarter might contain a petty merchant's district that border the commoner's quarter.

The "thieves' quarter" will probably be a district in the commoner's quarter, in whichever position seems like the least desirable. In a really corrupt city, the entire quarter might be considered the thieves' quarter, with one district being considerably rougher than the rest.


  1. "they do not have to be literal quarters, just conceptual quarters."

    I think 'quarter' in the sense of part of a town is more like "officer's quarters" or "general quarters" as on a ship, and just means where some group is located or stationed. So definitely more on the conceptual line rather than a literal 1/4th or even anything remotely close to 1/4th.

  2. No confirmation, but the term may have come from the division of Jerusalem into four parts along ethnic/religious lines. "Living quarters" comes from an entirely different French word than "quarter" meaning "one-fourth" : ├ęcarter means "to set apart or at a distance", so it's a conceivable alternative.

  3. Though I do agree with the system, I think it's just easier to call them districts instead.

  4. @Talysman: can you email me at oldschooljump(at)gmail.com?