The Video Corner: Town & City Generation

Today I ran across this video on Town Generation.
A nice enough (and very generic) work, but I think it can be improved upon with some additional knowledge of medieval cities as well as use of a random business generator (which I just "happen" to have from back before 2001, and which uses a table from GriftMaster's Guide) and some additional basic rules of thumb from actual medieval (and even modern) cities. But first, the video:

1 thought on “The Video Corner: Town & City Generation”

  • The first point I have an issue with is his comment “They are frequently found on coastlines”. That would be incorrect. Cities in the Colonies were frequently found on coastlines because of the way they were formed and settled, with people coming in from the old world at starting slowly migrating in from the coastlines and thus one reasons cities formed there. Most major cities in Europe are typically found at the “head of the tide” or “tidal limit”, aka the furthest point upstream that tides affect the flow. This is because sea-going vessels can largely catch the tidal bore and head upstream with minimal effort, unload and load cargo in port, then catch the tide back out again. By being inland as far as possible the city gains all the advantages a city along the coast would gain as well as all of the advantages of an inland town, but with few if any of the drawbacks, particularly from storms (coastal cities). London on the Thames at 50 miles and but 36 feet above sea level from the sea is an example of a city at such a point, as is Rouen which is 75 miles from the sea on the Seine. Note that although Paris is 277 miles inland, and is located beyond the head of the tide, it is still only 79 feet above sea level. Further, cities built at the tidal limit will have easier access to fresh water as upstream the river is not polluted by the brackish waters of the tide. Even so there is often one or more small streams flowing into the river at or near the point the city is built and these would likely be the main sources tapped for fresh water.

    Towns build along the coast itself will be subject to the full ravages of the sea and will generally need other streams if not wells for sources of fresh water particularly if any river or stream that flows through or by them are within the tidal limit and thus typically more brackish waters. Coastal towns may well be located in areas with sea cliffs as water running down from greater elevations would be fresh and tidal limits measured in tens of feet or so rather than tens of miles.

    When looking at the advantages of an inland town versus a coastal one it is a matter of the amount of land around them that can support crops as well as drawing from upstream. For an inland city roads can bring in agricultural goods within a 3-mile, 8-mile, or even 30-mile radius (aka, immediate area, 2-3 hours, and 1-day travel) whereas for coastal cities that is halved at best and potentially only 120 degree cones or smaller. Similarity agricultural goods coming in by stream can do so for nearly a 360 degree radius for an inland town whereas for a coastal town this is generally limited to 15-30 degrees at best until the waterways are well inland. Therefore coastal cities have to rely more heavily on the sea to support their population and potentially also have to rely on sea traffic for grain and other agricultural products. Inland cities located at the tidal limit will have nearly the same ability to rely on the sea for food, and even shipped agricultural products, but also have the benefits of local agricultural products and thus be able to either support a larger population or have a better “balance of trade” outside of their home territory.

    Do not take this to mean that there are no coastal cities in Europe, but rather coastal cities would tend more to be middlemen (aka, taking advantage of their location as quick storage & turn-around ports, saving shippers miles going inland) or have to work harder to establish themselves as centers for a particular trade or good to compete with inland cities.

    -D.M.Zwerg, September 12th, 2020

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