Starting with this post I am going to build a Fantasy World and you’re welcome to follow along with me. When building a fantasy world there are two ways the creator can go, Big Picture down to Thumbnail or back the other way. I’m going to start with building my thumbnail, a single village, and work my way to the Big Picture. Keep all focus on the village, politics as it affects this village, religion as practised by the single church in town. Maybe a second religion is represented by a small shrine located elsewhere in the village. There are some questions that we need to answer before we begin to draw the map.
What is the population of the village? I am going to make an assumption of 5 individuals represent the average family. So a population of 200 people is 40 families (average). We’re only going to create the families as we need them, but knowing that there is a limit ensures that we will, at some point, be finished. So, the population of my village is 194 people.
Why was the village founded? The world is full of villages and they each serve a purpose. For example, there are fishing villages, farming, mining and lumber villages. There are villages that serve a distant point on a trade route. For any settlement, there must be enough fresh water for the population to survive. Wells, lakes or rivers serve these purposes. I like the idea of a fishing village, much like the villages of Nova Scotia, Canada or Maine, USA. This means when drawing the map the village will need to be on a major water source.
Who rules and why? A village can be ruled by a elected official like a mayor or a council, or both. The Lord of the land may have appointed the leadership, as a titled Noble. Maybe the leader is in fact the founder of the village, a former adventurer who was awarded land and a title for serves rendered. The is the first taste of the bigger world’s political system, but it doesn’t need to be a large taste. I’m choosing to go with a mayor appointed by the land owning noble.
Where do they rule from? The village may have a town hall where village meetings are held or the mayor may make rulings from his living room. The town hall could take any shape, an old tavern, a tower or small keep. Maybe it was the first building built on the site or maybe it’s the only structure made completely with stone. In my village, the mayor and his appointed council rule from a town hall building that is used for many village events, including a safe house in the basement to protect the population in case of attack.
What commercial products are available? If it’s a lumber town then the main export is lumber, a fishing village is fish and a farming community may be hay or fruit or maybe sheep’s meat, but what are the imports? Is it difficult, time consuming or expensive to get supplies to the village? If so, then the prices are going to be increased to account for the difficulty in keeping the village stocked. Do they citizens wait for a caravan come through the village twice a year, or do they have their own craftsmen who supply the village. Such a small village, I will have a miller, baker, blacksmith, seamstress and a cobbler otherwise the villagers must wait for the trade caravan to pass through in the fall, on their way to the south. This establishes that the village is northern and it’s possible they see snow in the winter.
Why was the village founded and when? Did a single fisherman bring his family north and built a house and started to fish here and then settlers followed him after hearing of the great supplies of fish available in these waters? Did the lumberjacks settle this village as they moved through the forest cutting down trees to build the structures the kingdom needed? Where farmers and settlers were moved to this land by the king to increase the food supply? Every village has a history. A fishing boat with three onboard followed the fish north and was amazed when the stock of fish increased the further north they went. After fishing their fill the boat returned home and the three men convinced their families to move north so they can fish the waters. The town hall was built first to house the families. The fisherman became wealthy on their catch and three independent homes where built. As word reached the south, other settlers arrived and the village was founded 88 years ago.
What is your village’s name? This is a very personal answer, one that may not easy to discuss. Look at a map at real-world villages that are similar to your own to see how they are mapped. Often a farming village can be named after the first farmer that had settled on the land such as Conner’s Corner or Conner’s Farm. Maybe it is named after a nearby feature such as a river, Conner-on-the-Jalama. It could be named after a member of the founder’s family, Sarah Hill. I took a look at Nova Scotia for some ideas. I decided to name the village after my grandfather, Hobbs’ Harbour.
With just these questions answered, are you able to visualize this village. I sat down and drew up my first visual of this village, as seen on the left. I’m not sure if these is the final version as I really don’t like how simple the coastline is, I might sit down and redraw the village. With about forty family I need to make sure there are enough homes for them, including houses in the village, residential on the second floor above the commercial as well as farms outside the village, but within the town line. In the next instalment we’re going to discuss the map and the various structures and how we can build the support system needed without going overboard.