Your Ambrian places all look the same to me.
– Harkarl, Kazarian warrior
Artwork by Andrei Pervukhin
Several years ago I stumbled on this quirky little system for randomly generating a city’s layout. I didn’t do much with it at the time, though something similar momentarily featured in a system a friend of mine was working on. Now that I’m running Symbaroum, it was struck with a need to be able to quickly generate towns and cities in case my group went off the beaten path, so I dug up some of my old notes and decided to beat them into shape.
The gist of this resource is that you just grab a handful of dice, throw them on the table, and based on the physical arrangement of the dice and the values on the dice faces you immediately get a layout of a town or city.
The types of dice you pick depends on the size of the settlement you want to roll:
Small village: A few D4s
Large village: Add a couple of D6s
Town: Add some D8s, D10s, and D12 depending on the size you want.
City: Add some D20s
Just grab a bunch and throw them on some paper. The arrangement represents the shape and layout of the city. The face values correspond to items on the table below and tells you what is in that district. If something seems odd, just re-roll or figure out how to justify it.
|1||Farms and fields or gardens|
Certain cities or locations may have special features that need to appear. Just make those up and give them some rules to appear (like replacing the highest or lowest roll, for example)
|The Ancient Bridge||Replaces a low roll at city edge. Marks location of river.|
|Castle Berakka||Replaces Castle, Fort, or Palace. Otherwise highest roll.|
|The Troll Tower||Replaces Ordo Tower, Church, or Cathedral. Otherwise lowest roll.|
|The Permanent Expedition||Replaces Expedition Camp or Temple District.|
Rivers & Roads
Either start by drawing rivers and roads and then roll on top of them, or roll first and then draw the interesting features.
Designate a special D6. Roll it at the same time as the rest of the dice, but its result will be taken from this table instead:
This is to help the GM set the mood of the place and also to help make the place a unique and memorable location to the players.
As they arrive, the party notices…
|1||A foul stench hanging over the place.|
|2||Everyone having the same hair colour. 1: Blond, 2: Brown, 3: Black, 4: Red.|
|3||A starving population.|
|4||An incomprehensible dialect.|
|5||An alternate religion.|
|7||Criminals, controlling the streets.|
|8||A powerful all-pervasive taste of copper.|
|9||Strict controls and checks.|
|10||An ongoing celebration, feast, or carnival.|
|11||All the roofs being tiled in a distinct colour. 1. Blue, 2: Green, 3: Purple, 4:Gold|
|12||The unmistakeable signs of plague.|
|13||A raging fire.|
|14||A constant gentle noise like wind chimes.|
|15||Masks. Everyone is wearing masks.|
|16||The place seems to be divided into two rival factions.|
|17||The place seems to have been built in a swamp.|
|18||Some very unseasonable weather.|
|19||A distinct lack of menfolk.|
|20||Absolutely nothing remarkable. What was the place called again?|
Just to test the system, I rolled a bunch of dice using a mobile dice app, then drew over the results in Photoshop.
|City sitting at a bay and mouth of a river. Estate at water’s edge, overlooking the old fishing town on the other side of the bay. Fort on a hill and several watchtowers dominate eastern part of the city, looming over the pristine Guilds Quarter.|
|Town at forest edge. Farms and fields to the north. Church and watchtower in the south. Large temple being constructed, drawing stone from nearby quarry and an ancient ruin. Expedition camp of builders at edge of town.|
One Reply to “On Towns and Cities”
Hey, just browsing through your blog… a great idea and applicable to any number of RPGs!