Mapping: Towns
September 1, 2020
September 1, 2020

Mapping: Towns

Mapping: Towns



September 1, 2020

After my last tutorial on Mapping Interiors, many people asked for help with the exterior of a town. So that is what we are going to do today. Let’s make a starting town for our hero!

I just mapped the starting town of my game and just need to add some events for the doors and then… Nah, I am just kidding, this map definitely needs some work.

But before we start, a disclaimer: Some things are style preferences. You might encounter things you would do differently. They are not necessarily wrong, sometimes they are just different approaches. And never be ashamed of your maps. 

So what is wrong with my map?

  1. I used the ground tile instead of the autotile with the grass border, making the ways even more blocky then they would have to be.
  2. The paths are also not very natural, there are curves where people would walk straight and hard corners where people would just walk in curves. Also, the town seems to be full of paths, but no one ever seems to visit the well.
  3. Talking about the well. There is a well, on top of a very rectangular pond. It serves no purpose and everyone would have a veeeery long way to get to it.
  4. Everybody seems to have a business in this very small village, which might work if there are a whole lot of travellers, but given that this is a small village in a deep forest, a mage shop seems a little off.
  5. There is plenty of room that no one seems to use. No animals, no more crops, just… plain grassland and then deep forest? Weird.
  6. Everybody seems to import their home building materials. Where do they get them from? So much wood around and people import fancy different shingles and stones?
  7. The map is very square-y, the houses seem to match a grid and the whole map is boring. Only the guy hoarding firewood seems to be someone to have a closer look at.
  8. There are mapping errors on the houses on the bottom left and the other ones are just squares and boring.

Now, how are we going to approach this?

I want a starting village, where my main hero is from. A charming small village, maybe around 5 houses. Deep in the forest, the men go logging and hunting (maybe some of them not returning due to monsters might start the journey of the hero?). The villagers trade the wood for food and eat the game, but they also use their small patches of land for some crops.

I want my starting place to be charming, something where the player could feel “home”. Nothing very special, but still a place that is pleasing to look at and that has some interesting parts to explore and supplies the hero with everything he needs to start off on his journey.

Tip: Even if you don‘t want to edit tiles, here I added InsideC to the D slot of Outside so I had some more mapping opportunities.

I usually start my map smaller than I want the final map to be. You can always add some rows and columns, but too much empty space is just boring and it can be very hard to fill it up.

The upper right corner will be my entrance into the woods, the upper left is the slightly isolated home of the hero’s family.

Let's start with the forest entrance. The bows are there ready for hunting and the crates are for the loot that is brought out of the forest on a regular basis. Here the hunters and loggers meet and prepare their daily work.

The hero‘s family lives in a wooden home. They have their own well and they harvest their own crops. I added some details, as the weed between the crops, some stones and the firewood. The wall size of the house is consistent and big enough for the hero‘s family.

There is a second well in the center of the village and instead of all the shops, there is a travelling salesman, selling whatever one could need. I also added the first NPC home. Inspired by real life grannies watching the town, I gave this house a balcony for an old lady to hang out on and watch the people.

The village now has three important points (trade, home and “dungeon” (forest entrance), now I will let it grow organically.

Given that this forest has some loggers, I thought there should be a big house, where the richest villager lives and meets with customers and traders. Also, he has some rooms for “guest loggers”, people looking for work that join for a while. Maybe one of these people is a retired veteran to teach our hero some basics?

The sign wears the name of the town and since only loggers live there, the house does not have crops around it.

Also, since the logging is very central to the town, this house got the central spot in the map.

Because we need more people living here, I added two more simple houses to the map. One of them  has some crops as well and a fence around its property, probably to keep the annoying elderly neighbour out. The other house is smaller and I thought here would be a good place for a hunter. Since he spends most time in the forest and makes a living that way, he does not really need extra crops, he can just trade for what he needs.

Now we can also have a closer look at the structure, the “market place” is the center, with the well and the trading spot and the logging headquarters.

Therefore, the entrances of the homes are directed to that important spot, so the ways are short and make sense. You can easily put an entrance to the side or the back, if you have a clear path leading there!

Some people like to add some small arrows to point out where the doors are, but that is personal preference.

At this point of the map we have a very solid base and already a lot to explore, but still… Given that we have all the loggers needing axes and saws and that our hero might want to have a weapon to begin with, a blacksmith sounded like a good addition to our village.

Here again it is a huge advantage that I had imported the InsideC Set, because now the blacksmith has all the equipment he needs. A little sign lets the traveler know where he is at and points out that he is ready to forge steel.

Add in a few more details and the map is done. I added a second layer of the tree autotile to give the big dark spot a more dynamic look, but that is another personal touch, whether you do it is up to you.

Now all that's missing are the events to add doors, NPCs, animals and life in general to the place!

In contrast to:

Some handy parting tips:

  • Think about the purpose of the town and how it came to existence!
  • How do the people get their goods? Trading? Fishing? Mining?
  • What building materials are available in this region?
  • Where is the water source, where are the crops.

Make sure that every shot of the map is pleasing to look at, because that is what the players will see in game! Not all houses have to have a door in the front and too much variation in things like building materials can end up looking inconsistent!

This is of course just one of the many approaches you can take. I am looking forward to seeing your results!

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