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There is a lot of material written on random generation of dungeons for play. But inevitably characters have to return from the to spend those ill-gotten gains. And where else but a nearby settlement, be it village, town, or city?

Obviously the larger the settlement the more involved or recursive the process could become. But does anyone have some good methods for quickly generating or stocking a village or town? For example, information like (but not limited to):

  • Local leader (e.g. minor noble, major noble, church official, usurping villian, etc)
  • Defensible structures (wall, keep, castle, etc)
  • Number, size, and affiliation of temples
  • Number and size of taverns or inns
  • Major export / economic focus

My goal is to be able to generate something like the Keep in the Keep on the Borderlands (or at least a sketch that could be developed into something similar). For reference, I've consulted AD&D 1st edition, D&D 3.5 DMG, A Magical Medieval City Guide, and Judge's Guild Ready Ref Sheets. Now I'm looking for you help and recommendations. Thanks.

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Been a while since I've used these and I think most are 3rd ed at best but they are good to have around for ideas. I still use the tavern one all the time.

For taverns try: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dnd/20010223d

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The Random Village Generator from hackslash.net is exactly the level of detail I was looking for. The other resources are very welcome as well. Many thanks. – Adam Flynn Aug 30 '10 at 13:53
    
hackslash is not a broken link :/ – o0'. Feb 20 '11 at 11:06
    
@Lohoris fun to answer myself-from-3-years-ago, but now it is. – o0'. Apr 30 '14 at 13:48

Medieval Demographics is one of my goto sites on generating material.

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Yes, Medieval Demographics Made Easy is pure awesome. I have both Fief and Town on my wishlist. – gomad Feb 24 '11 at 0:44

Check out Kellri's CDD#4. It has a good section on settlement design (written for AD&D 1e, but easily adaptable to other editions).

Another resource that's less useful for the nitty-gritty details but is great for inspiration is the Settlements and Countries section of Tables for Fables. It's eclectic and not very well organized, but it's a treasure trove of ideas.

Lastly, I haven't used it, but tons of people swear by AEG's Ultimate Toolbox.

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Before you can place a town or city, you must first have a world to place it in. When building your world you will need to determine general aspects that apply to your entire world, such as gods and their religions, races and their cultures, empires and their locations and other questions beyond the scope of this question. Once you have your world, you then want to create some general tables for different aspects of the hamlet/town/city you want to place.

Develop tables for describing and possibly randomly determining different factors. Note that some of the factors will not apply to any but the largest cities, but having them allows you use them for flavor in smaller settings, such placing either a government in exile or an assassins guild in an isolated hut somewhere.

Tables for the town or city you are building:

  • Differing town sizes:

    • isolated hut
    • isolated shop/tavern, possibly with a few houses
    • small hamlet
    • village
    • town
    • city
    • capital or important large city
  • Geographic features:

    • abundance or lack of local water transport
    • abundance or lack of mineral resources (mining town/trade-town)
    • abundance or lack of fresh water
    • abundance or lack of good farmland. Clay soil? Sandy soil?
    • forested? Desert? Swamp? Rock slab? Volcano? Glacier?
  • Cultural influences:

    • how long ago was the town/city founded?
    • what races make up it's population (and what cultures did they come from?)
    • nearby nations or empires, and their relations
    • commerce: who trades with them, what do they have/desire to trade?
    • What religions are represented locally?
    • who are your neighbors? Evil empire? Necromancer? My little pony?

Now build smaller template tables for substructures to place in town:

  • Temples

    • size of temple
    • population and probably power/influence of local priest
    • alignment of god, unusual practices of religion
  • Government:

    • type; dictator, monarchy, democracy, anarchy, mixture
    • leader and personality: paranoid, thoughtful, secretive
    • quality and skills of leader's cabinet/yes-men
    • infrastructure: quality of roads, water/waste distribution, taxation
    • type of laws currently in force (passing on the left results in beheadings)
    • defensive ability: military recruiting, size of walls/moats/giant lava trap
  • Economic structures/buildings/groups:

    • retail sales: (taverns, chandler/general store, specialty stores)
    • manufacture: (smith, wagon, building, ship, baker, butcher, candlestick maker)
    • resource extraction: Loggers, miners, farmers, fishers, hunters
    • trade: warehouses, factors, shippers, docks
    • guilds: assassin, shoemaker, scribe, necromancer

Once you generate buildings and arrange them pleasingly in your city, think of how the tables above interact with one another. You may have a mining town that is landlocked, has little trade, and poor farmland. This will tend to drive food prices sky high, which won't be helped by the new law that restricts imported foods types that are acceptable to the local temple, but the population won't have time to starve due to the plague problem drifting in from the nearby swamp and the fact that the local mayor is recruiting everyone not nailed down to provide cannon fodder for defense from the recent zombie invasion.

You can assume generic NPCs for the most part, but you will still want to place some quirky NPCs for flavor, random encounters, and also as agents or henchmen for your planned Big Bad. But NPC generation is also outside of the scope of this question, so I'll leave my answer at that.

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This has become my favorite resource for generating towns:

http://www.mathemagician.net/town.html

It does pretty much everything you describe here.

To give an example of the level of detail provided, it tells who is likely to be at a tavern at any given time in the day, including staff, entertainers, and patrons.

Combine that with the RPG City Map Generator, and you are set.

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I found an incredibly helpful table in one of the D&D subreddits that does exactly this. It takes a few minutes to use, but it's very thorough!

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Link only answers are discouraged on RPG.SE, and tool recommendation answers are off-topic. This question isn't asking for tool recommendations, specifically, and as you can see the bounty on this question is asking for "answers that either describe their analog process or that when citing a digital "helper" describe the data sources and decision algorithms employed." Can you elaborate on your own process for city creation or go into more detail about the process in the link? – LegendaryDude May 21 at 1:04
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...That being said, I've bookmarked that reddit thread for my own future use. ;) – LegendaryDude May 21 at 1:05
    
all this^^, @LegendaryDude (including the bookmarking!) In fact I think it's be worth asking, Robert, whether the author over at Reddit has any interest in posting that here or has objection to you blockquoting much of that here? That'd be an excellent scheme to have in this database, I think. – nitsua60 May 21 at 17:47

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