Mapping Cities Part 3 – Laying Out Districts

In the previous two installments of this series, we determined where a city is likely to arise, and did some basic planning for a city (read Mapping Cities Part One here and Part Two here).  In this installment we will plan out a district in more detail.

There are four things to keep in mind when thinking about the structure of the district:

  • Roads and Traffic:  Are people mostly passing through (e.g., a gate ward) or heading to this district (e.g., a merchant area)?  This will determine road size and pattern, with wider roads for main thoroughfares and places where livestock must travel.
  • Planned or not?  Cities rarely arise all at once, and different areas get different amounts of planning.  Unplanned sections typically grow up along a road, or near a point of interest such as a well, then fill in between the spaces.  Planned areas are more likely to have uniform plot sizes and more organized roads.
  • Style of the buildings:  Do the buildings face inward, typically toward and inner courtyard?  Or do they face outward toward the street, typically with stores or other commercial endeavors facing the street.  Buildings with courtyards will require more space.
  • Density:  Near the center of a city there is little open space – houses are more tightly packed.  Further away from the center there is often room for livestock or family gardens.

Affecting all four of these mapping factors is the question of age:  As districts age, they change and deviate from plans, space is filled in, walls are torn down, roads and squares infill.  A fundamental right for city dwellers was the right to own land, and new cities are laid out in standard-sized burgage plots.  The size of these plots vary from city to city, but are uniform within the city:  Typically 10-20 meters wide facing the street, and 50-100 meters deep when first laid out.

The plots are large enough for outbuildings, keeping animals and small gardens.  But as space pressure increases, the plots are subdivided and filled in.  Usually the divisions stay within single plots, but the example below shows two plots that were split up together.

Evolution of Burgage Plots

Over time city plots are filled and subdivided

As you lay out plots, you need to make sure that every building has access of some sort to the road, even if it is through an alley.  In the example I give above, the grey areas are alleys.  As you have ideas for points of interest, add them now or make notes for later.

I occasionally cheat and put in plot divisions that are not road-accessible.  I just know that they will need a passageway through another building (maybe an arched gateway) or they need to be abandoned buildings that I can use later in my campaign.

Next time, I will show you how to apply these rules in Campaign Cartographer, using an entertainment district of my city.

The City Mapping Series
Part 1: Location, Location, Location
Part 2: Urban Planning
Part 3: Laying out Districts
Part 4: Districts in CC3
Part 5: Sizing Buildings
Part 6: Filling Blocks in CC3
Part 7: Houses Galore!
Part 8: Outside the Gates

3 Responses to “Mapping Cities Part 3 – Laying Out Districts”

  1. Thanks a lot for this series. Looking forward to the next part. Citys where always some thing I shied away from.

  2. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. Stayed tuned for the next one which will run through making the map in CC3.

  3. […] Cities Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 by Steve […]