_ lost settlements are agricultural villages, supporting
themselves and nearby towns or cities with crops and
meat. Villagers produce food in one way or another-if
not by tending the crops, then supporting those who do
by shoeing horses, weaving clothes, milling grain, and
the like. The goods they produce feed their families and
upply trade with nearby settlements.
A village's population is dispersed around a large area
of land. Farmers live on their land, which spreads them
videly around the village center. At the heart of the
\·illage, a handful of structures cluster together: a well,
a marketplace, a small temple or two, a gathering place,
and perhaps an inn for travelers.
Population: Up to about 6 , 000
Government: A resident noble rules and appoints a lord
m ayor to oversee administration. An elected town
council represents the interests of the middle class.
Defense: The noble commands a sizable army of
professional soldiers, as well as personal bodyguards.
Commerce: Basic supplies are readily available, though
exotic goods and services are harde·r to find. Inns and
taverns support travelers.
Organizations: The town contains several temples,
as well as various merchant guilds and other
Towns are major trade centers, situated where important
industries and reliable trade routes enabled the
population to grow. These settlements rely on commerce:
!.he import of raw materials and food from surrounding
·illages, and the export of crafted items to those villages,
as well as to other towns and cities. A town's population
i more diverse than that of most villages.
Towns arise where roads intersect waterways, at the
meeting of major land trade routes, around strategic
defensive locations, or near significant mines or similar
Population: Up to about 25,
Government: A resident noble presides, with several
other nobles sharing responsibility for surrounding
areas and government functions. One such noble is
the lord mayor, who oversees the city administration.
An elected city council represents the middle class
and might hold more actual power than the lord
mayor. Other groups serve as important power
centers as well.
Defense: The city supports an army of professional
soldiers, guards, and town watch. Each noble in
residence maintains a small force of personal
Commerce: Almost any goods or services are readily
available. Many inns and taverns support travelers.
Organizations: A multitude of temples, guilds, and
other organizations, some of which hold significant
power in city affairs, can be found within the
Cities are cradles of civilization. Their larger
populations require considerable support from both
urrounding villages and trade routes, so they're rare.
Cities typically thrive in areas where large expanses
of fertile, arable land surround a location accessible to
trade, almost always on a navigable waterway.
Cities almost always have walls, and the stages of a
city's growth are easily identified by the expansion of
the walls beyond the central core. These internal walls
naturally divide the city into wards (neighborhoods
defined by specific features), which have their own
representatives on the city council and their own noble
Cities that hold more than twenty-five thousand people
are extremely rare. Metropolises such as Waterdeep in
the Forgotten Realms, Sharn in Eberron, and the Free
City of Greyhawk stand as vital beacons of civilization in
the D&D worlds.
What do the adventurers first notice as they approach
or enter a settlement? The towering wall bristling
with soldiers? The beggars with hands outstretched,
pleading for aid outside the gate? The noisy hubbub of
merchants and buyers thronging the market square?
The overpowering stench of manure?
Sensory details help bring a settlement to life and
vividly communicate its personality to your players.
Settle on a single defining factor that sums up a
settlement's personality and extrapolate from there.
Maybe a city is built around canals, like real-world
Venice. That key element suggests a wealth of sensory
details: the sight of colorful boats floating on muddy
waters, the sound of lapping waves and perhaps singing
gondoliers, the smells of fish and waste polluting
the water, the feel of humidity. Or perhaps the city is
shrouded in fog much of the time, and you describe the
tendrils of cold mist reaching through every crack and
cranny, the muffled sounds of hooves on cobblestones,
the cold air with the smell of rain, and a sense of
mystery and lurking danger.
The climate and terrain of a settlement's environment,
its origin and inhabitants, its government and political
position, and its commercial importance all have a
bearing on its overall atmosphere. A city nestled against
the edge of a jungle has a very different feel than one
on the edge of a desert. Elf and dwarf cities present
a distinct aesthetic, clearly identifiable in contrast to
human-built ones. Soldiers patrol the streets to quell
any hint of dissent in a city ruled by a tyrant, while a city
fostering an early system of democracy might boast an
open-air market where philosophical ideas are traded as
freely as produce. All the possible combinations of these
factors can inspire endless variety in the settlements of
your campaign world.
In the feudal society common in most D&D worlds,
power and authority are concentrated in towns and
cities. Nobles hold authority over the settlements
where they live and the surrounding lands. They collect
taxes from the populace, which they use for public
building projects, to pay the soldiery, and to support a
comfortable lifestyle for themselves (although nobles
CHAPTER 1 I A WORLD OF YOUR OWN