Founding a City

I’ve never had the pleasure of officially founding a city before. Except for the occasional one in my stories and those are the ones that got me thinking. What does it really take to found a city? What steps need to be taken? What processes are involved? And I’m still talking about fantasy cities here. Medieval fantasy. With these questions in mind, I set out to create and develop my cities on a deeper scale…

(for your convenience, I’ve decided to make this into a series of steps)

  1. Choosing a Name
  2. History
  3. Making a City Map
  4. Making a City Flag
  5. Um…


City Cornerstone

STEP 1 — Choosing a Name

This would probably work better as a final or middle step, but I like to have a name for what I’m working on. I think it helps with designing.

The example I’ll use for this, well, I’ll use two examples; LigrarenNabatae and Desramoth. There I’ve got my names!

Along with this step I’ll throw in what races rule these cities. LigrarenNabatae is ruled by the Ashtains (an elven-like race) while Desramoth is ruled by the Burgansies and defended by the Dwarves.


What is the city's history?

STEP 2 — History

The next thing (I do) is create a history for my cities. Who built them? Why were they built? And so forth… I’ll split up my two examples.


Built by the Ashtains after they were driven out of North Ashta by the Duvat. Located in the central area of the Endless Sands Desert. LigrarenNabatae was built as the new capital of the Ashtains. From this city the Ashtains ruled over the desert.


Built by the Dwarves for the Burgansies. Located near the edge of the Janga Mountains in West Zara. Desramoth was built for the Burgansies for house their large libraries. since the Burgansies are pacifists, the Dwarves defend the city. This is the only true city of the Burgansie and is therefore their capital.


What does the city look like?

STEP 3 — Making a City Map

Now I’ve got backgrounds for each city, I have an idea of how each city will be built. This is because I know the different building styles of the Ashtains and the Dwarves. The Ashtains tend to make strong, smooth buildings where as the Dwarves make thick, rough, sturdy buildings.


I took some ideas from Ashtains culture to create the design for LigrarenNabatae. I knew I wanted something different. After the initial diamond shape, I remembered star forts (which, by the way, are pretty awesome). With a vague memory of those in mind, I continued to shape my city. If course, my final design doesn’t really mirror the original star fort designs, but this is fantasy!


For Desramoth, I know I wanted something symmetrical, defensible, and yet again different (did I mention logical? They’re a logical people). I chose to use an octagon. This allowed me to alternate gates and create inner walls easily. I knew the Burgansies were a very literate nation, so the entire center area would be filled with libraries.


I don’t know if you’ve ever seen (old/fantasy) city maps before, but they can look pretty sweet depending on the amount of time put into them. One of the longest parts is drawing all the streets and houses inside the city (especially if you have a very large city). Besides adding streets and houses, you need to add important buildings.


Alright, important buildings. Since the Ashtains are ruled by a king they need a palace. They also (like any city) need one or more barracks. Cities also need “official” market places where citizens can buy and sell goods. Since LigrarenNabatae is such a large city I decided to add smaller market places within the streets and houses. These are also mini town “squares.” In my star fort type shape, I have four place where an enemy would only have to break through one wall to get in the inner city. These four place are directly defended by barracks and no houses are allowed near them. The palace is also surrounded by a think wall and there is a large space between this wall the and surrounding houses. This is so that in battle enemies cannot use the houses to overcome the palace walls.


For the Burgansies, libraries are the most important buildings. Thus their libraries are the best protected of all their buildings. Since the city is defended by the Dwarves, they had first pick of where their barracks would go. They choose the most obvious places; near the gates. This allows them to dispatch soldiers to the weakest points of the city, the gates, very fast.


What does the city's flag or banner look like?

STEP 4 — Making a City Flag

Every city and nation needs a flag, a representation of their beliefs or history, displayed for all to see. I like to create city flags/banners that are closely related to the actual city. For both LigrarenNabatae and Desramoth, I crafted the symbol of the city to mirror the literal shape of the city. This is not the most creative way to create a flag/banner, but it works very nicely.


The flag for this city is quite simple. I once again brought out my history on the Ashtains to create their flag. Since I took the flag shape from the city, I ended up making the flag into a banner (a banner is vertical whereas a flag in horizontal). I knew their “color” was blue and decided on a blue banner. To create the symbol on the flag I thought of their religious beliefs. Thus the fifteen stars. The largest was to represent their form of God (who they call Attensie). The other stars represented His servants; the E’shawnti. All of the stars were white, except for one. This one represented Natorii, the fallen E’shawnti, and was made black. But stars weren’t enough. I needed a creature like the heraldry of Old England. I choose a creature revered by the Ashtains; the Dragle. This became their symbol and was centered on the banner. I placed the stars with the Dragle and after a few attempts finalized the design.


This flag (it’s a flag) was a bit different to create compared to the LigrarenNabatae banner. The Burgansies (at this moment) don’t really have a set religion so I couldn’t use that to influence their flag. But! I did know that they are literature freaks! So…along with this flag, I created their political ranks. Since the city is an octagon (and I already mentioned that I used this shape for their flag) I decided to give them ten ranks/levels. For their flag, I put a small octagon inside of one about three times its size. I then made eight trapezoid areas between the small octagon and the large one. Each area represented one rank/level and was a different color. The small octagon was white and had an eagle and key in the middle. The eagle represented Jatul, a hawk the Burgansies gather feather to write with from. The key represented their search for unlocking new knowledge.


STEP 5 — Um…

Yeah, there is no step 5. This is all I did for creating my cities. This list may expand as I continue to develop, but as of right now, this is all I’ve got!

I was hoping this would a short little post, but it kind of expanded and so I should stop typing… (I’m a writer, what can I say?)

Enjoy, God bless and continue developing on your own!


~ by R.S.Sharkey on December 7, 2010.

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