World Building 501

Your First Town – Novato

You’ve spent the first five months of the year building your world from the biggest of picture and this month we your to develop the first town of your new fantasy world.


Novato is a small community located on the headwaters of the Railing River surrounded by the forests of the Blackwood. Novato is central trade hub as five different roads pass through the town. The first place to begin is to draw a map of the town, as shown above. Still remembering my years of playing Dungeons & Dragons I start by labelling 9 key locations in town as well as the three farms closest to the town. Not every single building needs to be developed unless your story is only set in this town, since this is where I start, there are a few chapters set here, but then we move on.

  1. Corner Keep: The large stone structure is primarily three stories in height with three different towers reaching even further into the sky. Town council is located within the keep’s walls as well as the barracks for the town guard. As we develop the town for the story, we would start to name leaders, staff and troops as well need, building a detailed description of this location. If your characters are going to spend any time inside this structure it might be wise to draw a map of the keep itself.
  2. Orithian Order House: The Orithian Order maintains a Order House in Novato. Up to 100 members can sleep in the house at one time, but most of the time there is rarely half of that present. Again detail the order house with maps and characters as needed by the story. Don’t develop more than you’ll need.
  3. River Bridge Inn: This is the largest inn in Novato. It’s a two-story structure made of wood with a clay tiled roof. There are 8 rooms of different sizes with in the building. Six are upstairs and two smaller rooms are located behind the common room. The inn offers food and drink as well as a bed. Guests can order a bath or clothes washing service while they sleep. Here you will need to develop the owner, wait staff, workers and patrons to round out this location.
  4. Northern Inn & Tavern: Located across the room the Northern Inn & Tavern includes three separate structures, the inn, the tavern and a stable. While it’s nowhere near the level of service as the River Bridge Inn, it is just as busy. Another set of inn and tavern people will be needed if the characters are to spend any time here. Maybe the characters are staying at the River Bridge, but come up here to the tavern to hear some of the latest gossip and news.
  5. A Merchant’s Shop: Decide on the type of shop based on your story needs. Maybe the characters are looking to sell some diamonds that they had come across during their travels, this could become the shop. Is it a jewelry shop, or a hock shop? That depends on your needs. A store owner would be needed as well as a loose inventory of the stores holdings.
  6. The Novato Stables: If the characters come to town on horseback they are going to need somewhere to keep their horses while they’re in town. If they stay at the Northern Inn & Tavern they have a private stable, but anywhere else they will need to use the public stables. Who would you need to create? A manager of the stables as well as a couple of stable kids who do the work.
  7. Blacksmith Shop: With a forge around back the blacksmith is willing to feel the character’s metal needs, if they have the cash. The blacksmith and his apprentice would be good characters to use if there is a need of someone who knows local military movements and equipment. These characters could also step in to defend the town if the need arises.
  8. The Novato Miller: Characters can bring wheats and other grains to the mill to be turned into flour. Again, strong characters will be needed to operate the mill. The miller only mills the grain, he is not the baker as that would be another building in town. A miller sees everyone in town at least once a week. If there is a need for gossip or local rumours this would be a great place for your characters to stop.
  9. The Out of the Way Place: Is it a mine, an abandoned tower or some other structure the story needs, this could be the place. This is completely up to you to decide. It is about a two hour walk from the center of town (the Order House) through some of the most dense parts of the Blackwood. Maybe a hermit lives here who has a key piece of information, or a map, that the characters are in need of.

I’ll leave the three farms up to you to design, but remember when designing your town there is a need for conflict within the town’s residents. I don’t mean war, fighting or arguing, but remember that not everyone likes everyone else. If the two inn owners don’t like each other, make sure that makes the story and that it affects the characters. What if the characters River Bridge Inn but the owner refuses them entry because they are staying at the Northern Inn & Tavern. Or a dislike between the blacksmith and his apprentice; there’s definitely a story there.

Building towns and cities are going to take time, so a strongly advise that you do it as you need it.But remember it is important to be consistent. If Brandi is working in the River Bridge Inn then remember when your characters return to the inn that Brandi should be working – there were rarely shift work or days off – unless something has happened to Brandi between then and now (which would make a good sidetrack in the story).

Happy creating

– Steve


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