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Monday, February 25, 2013

Mapping Towns

I'm going to be doing some more on the Last-Minute Hexcrawl in a bit. But leading up to the next post, I've been thinking about towns, especially since I may have been stingy with the size of settlements on the local map. I've been reading Ancient Town Planning by Francis Haverfield (since it's freely available.) Have only gone through the first five chapters, but I have some ideas already.

The terms "hamlet", "village", "town" and "city" aren't really precisely defined, anymore than most common concepts are. They certainly aren't defined in terms of population. So I've been going by loose functional definitions: a hamlet is just a couple building dedicated to one support function for the local rural industry, for example. In terms of size on the local scale map, I think a hamlet as a circle three hexes in diameter actually works about right. But I just created a simple mathematical progression for the sizes of other settlements in the local map post, and I probably went too small, even if most ancient and medieval towns and cities were much smaller than the modern examples we think of. Ancient Town Planning so far has listed a couple towns about 300 to 900 yards across, but there are a few examples 1 to 4 miles wide. Only the smaller towns would fit on the local map.

But that leads to the question "Should we map a town at all?" And if so, do we need to do a hex map?

The intention of the local map, for the home base area, is to show a few nearby points of interest, including a possible dungeon entrance. It's not really meant to provide navigation information for the settlement itself, especially since I tend to use improv town techniques instead of pre-defining all shops in town, with their location. If there is nothing to explore, like an abandoned building, and no combat situation at hand, there's no need for a precise map. So really, we can just do a sketchmap of the town on a scale of 1 inch to the mile, just for player orientation, and reserve the local-scale map for the actual dungeon area(s).

Most "city blocks" in ancient towns seem to be anywhere from 1/5th to 1/3rd of a mile, from what I've read so far. At one inch : 1 mile, a standard 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet or A4 sheet will certainly hold a town or village, and just about any medieval or ancient-style city. You might want to change the scale to 1 inch = 1/2 or 1/4 mile for towns or villages, and map just part of a city, to make the streets clearer. You only need to label things as the players learn what they are.

I'll have some more to say about buildings and city blocks soon.

1 comment:

  1. I'll second your recommendation of Haverfield's work as a campaign resource. Durobrivae is a nice case study of how a small late classical community develops and sees it's footprint change over time too. Both are in my Appendix N.