Where there is civilization, there are settlements, towns, even cities. In this article, I would like to talk about creating smaller villages, and how to make them believable.
Just to be clear, I will be talking about villages for fantasy worlds – based on medieval times. Most of the principles should, however, apply when working in different genres.
The starting point of creating villages are, often, farms. Farms are pretty much everywhere where there is farmable land. On each farm, a family. When two of these farms exist close to each other, they join forces. Maybe they can trade some stuff, marry a daughter from one family to a son of the other, etc.
This lays the fundamentals of a village. After that, it’s just about making life a bit easier. One farmer might make a good blacksmith, so the other ones build him a small workshop, where he can make horseshoes. With horseshoe-making, the village might get more attractive to outsiders. Merchants can buy the horseshoes and sell them somewhere else for more money. With all these merchants, there has to be a tavern for them to rest. People start talking about the small village.
The village will also use its location to its advantage. If it’s built next to a river, a fishing business will bloom. The river can also be used as a means of transport. And the village grows once again.
With more and more people, crime starts appearing. Someone accuses his neighbor of stealing a pig, someone else has to settle it. Bigger villages could have a guard, a small court, or a mayor who serves as an authority.
Religion could also be important for the village. This will depend on your culture, but they could have a small chapel, a sacred cave, or something like that. This ties in closely with some sort of sanctuary. If someone, or something, were to attack the village, the people have to have a place to evacuate to. Sometimes, it’s the main religious building, or the town’s hall, etc.
Make sure to consider where do the villagers bury their dead (or what do they do with them, if they don’t bury corpses).
Villages are populated by people. You should figure at least some of them, to give the place a little more believability. Think about what characters is a random traveler most likely to encounter. Probably the tavern’s owner, maybe a priest, the mayor, or a merchant.
Here’s a village I made with these things in mind:
Hillfar is a small village, counting about a hundred people. The center of the settlement holds a small marketplace, where merchants from the surroundings go to trade their wares with the locals. Hillfar is close to a cluster of hills, which contain precious materials, such as iron. Iron is the main economic resource for Hillfar.
Close to the marketplace, there’s a big blacksmithing workshop. In here, the mined iron is transformed into all sorts of products that are then sold at the market.
As many of the men in the village work in the mines, a dangerous job, the village’s graveyard is located near the hills.
There is a small chapel built at the edge of the village. Some of the people gather here every week to praise the three Gods.
If a merchant was to travel through the village of Hillfar, he would stop at the Pig’s Tail, the local tavern. In there, Helton Mavis, the tavern’s owner, mans the bar, while his wife, Felice Helton, serves the tables.
The old blacksmith, Tibor Adimus, is who teaches all the apprentices of the blacksmith workshop. His great-grandfather was part of one of the founding families of Hillfar.
The mayor of the village is Theodoric Mavis, Helton’s older brother. He sees Helton’s tavern as a potential power-rivalry to his position as mayor. Despite that, the villagers say he is a good mayor.
As your village grows, it will start wanting to protect itself. More and more people move in, they build a wall, maybe even a few stone buildings. The village becomes a city (I talk more about cities in my article on Creating Cities. You can also check out these other worldbuilding articles!).
For a more in-depth look at towns, be sure to check out the post on the BuildKingdoms site!
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Tell me about some of your small villages; you can send your descriptions to the comments below the article!