World Building for Game Devs and Writers 101 – Lesson 15 – Let’s Talk City Building part 1!

I am Mark, and welcome to Amazing Gaming Productions!

I am the developer of Tales from Trinity City, a dark sci-fi tabletop RPG. You create a superhero who explores and protects the last unoccupied city from aliens and threats within. You can download the rulebook, lore book and character sheets from this website.

My blog is about building a city, like the one I made in my game!


City building is vital for storytelling. If you want to amaze your audience, drawing maps and detailing histories, landmarks and demographics is essential!

City building is crucial for Urban Fantasy/Sci-fi stories. Everything from races to magic can change the makeup of the story you are telling. Do cities with teleportation booths need public transit when you press a few buttons to be anywhere they want or need to be?

Sure, speculative things will change the character of a city, but there are mundane things that will change it too. Where is it? What industries are dominant there? What kinds of landmarks are there? What is the history? What are the demographics living there, age and race?

Time to start!


Map Making

First, you need to sit down and create a map. There is no way around it. No matter how much you plan out what is going on, maps allow you to see what is going on in the story. Mapmaking for stories can create an extraordinary cycle – the more you define the map, the more you figure out the story, leading to a better map!

As I am working on the map for Trinity City, I see the stories in each region. In turn, those story changes help define the map more, leading to many changes as I create a better map for the story.

Maps ensure you understand the story. The more complex the map, the better the story will become. J.R.R. Tolkein spent decades working on maps and languages before he wrote the Hobbit. You may not need decades, but taking a few months to create a map will allow you to see a better story.

When you create a map for a city, look at google maps to see how we build cities. Trinity City is in the region of Alexandria in Egypt, so I drew out the coastal line and filled out the city with the available space.

After that, I followed these steps in this video.

Steps –

  1. Create element list – what you need in your city
  2. Create the key – how to draw these things.
  3. Block out landmarks and places of interest.
  4. Draw roads – connecting everything significant to the story.
  5. Start inking in the map – draw in all the buildings, the walls, the major landmarks.

If the city is massive with diverse cultures, you will want to break down all the maps for specific areas, as I did for Trinity City.

What landmarks do you need to include in your city? Where are industries located? How does the city get their food – you have to draw those farmlands? Where does commerce take place? Are different racial or age groups in separate areas in the city? Are there more affluent areas of the city?


Location

I’ve got a blog about the geographical influences for stories which you can read, linked here. Read it so you can understand how geography can influence your city and the story you are writing.

Where your city is can define the story. Is it a coastal city where fisheries are vital to the economy? Has a new threat come from the sea, like Gorgo, Godzilla or Cluthulu?

Godzilla through the years!

Or is your town near a deep forest filled with a tribe of werewolves? Or does it take place in a castle built from the side of a mountain? Or is it Hogwarts, a castle built on a cliff, overviewing a bay and the ocean?

These will have an impact on your story, so you need to think about them.


Industry

Much of the geography blog was also on industries. Where you place your city will determine the vital occupations of the citizens.

Cities near huge forests will have many forestry professionals and hunters. Coastal communities will have large populations of fisherfolk. Municipalities near the prairies will survive on farming and husbandry.

Remember, this is so important!

You need to define the location and industry for your cities, it will have a great impact on the story.

Trinity City is crumbling because it has to do way too much. The city proper will take the majority of the materials to maintain the most vital parts of the city. Less crucial areas get less materials, allowing a slow decay. The Projects almost gets no materials to help maintain it and could collapse in a moments notice.


Welcome to the end of part 1 for city building for the world-building blog series. Thanks for reading through the blog. I hope I got your creative juices flowing, thinking about the cities you are creating for your games, comics and novels.

Next week, I will finish everything up with landmarks, history, and demographics for city building. We see how these three things can spark so many stories in our world. You will need to create similar ideas in your cities to help your audience suspend their disbelief.

Maps, locations and industries are a necessary part of your city and your world. Take your time to think about each city in your story to provide the much-needed context.


Thanks for your attention!

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to comment below.

And follow me on Twitter if you want to see what I am up to with Tales from Trinity City.

Have a great day, guys!

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