5 World Building Tips (Vol 2, #5): Settlements
Here are today’s world building tips! The theme is settlements. You can read more in Chapter 6, “Creating a Settlement”, from Creating Places, (The Art of World Building, #2).
Tip #1: “Do Quarters Exist?”
In Louisiana we have the French Quarter. We can do the same with our species, resulting in an Elven or Dwarven Quarter. We should decide if these exist based on population density, as there should be enough of a race to do this but not so many that they just live everywhere. Decide how accommodating they are of other species entering or staying in their quarter, and how much that quarter caters to their needs.
Tip #2: “Who Lives Here?”
It’s easy to make a settlement mostly human by default, but strive to include other species in prominent and even equal (or dominant ways). Are joint settlements likely at some point, at least somewhere on your world, like the melting pot of America and other parts of the world? Decide where this takes place and what sort of tensions and prejudices creep into daily life. This makes our species seem less like islands.
Tip #3: “Where is Old Town?”
In large settlements, there’s probably an Old Town, which might be called something else, from when the place was just a village. Decide where this is and whether it’s a rundown warren of thieves and back alleys or a highly preserved source of pride. Either way, it’s likely near the original water source and has smaller streets and shops.
Tip #4: “What’s the Terrain Like?”
Both in and around a settlement, terrain can affect placement and layout of structures, from walls to buildings. Few places are uniformly flat, so where is the higher ground? Did the wealthy stake it for themselves? There might be giant boulders and other obstacles that have been built around. Maybe a wetlands encroaches on the town so that some of it is built on stilts, like Venice.
Tip #5: “What’s the Climate?”
Climate affects the way people dress and behave. If it’s hot and humid, maybe people only work during the morning and night. If it’s frigid, maybe they work during the afternoon heat. Customs and expectations also arise from such things. If you’ve worked out your continent’s location, figuring out climate is relatively easy and is almost done for you.
Summary of Chapter 6—Creating a Settlement
Location impacts a settlement more than many world builders realize, from climate to terrain and water supply, but our neighbors also determine how much fortification is needed and the number of armed forces, including their skill sets. Ancient and recent history can bring lasting change and cause attitudes that enrich our setting. Our population’s diversity is also critical for determining what life is like for the majority and minorities alike, but first we need to decide who is who (and why), how much power they have, and whether they can subvert those who are supposedly in power. Whether outposts, castles, villages, towns, or cities, or even an orbiting station, a settlement will have secrets, a reputation, colors, symbols, and local lore that characterize it in the minds of inhabitants, friends and enemies.