There are two major schools of thought among hardcore worldbuilders, which are colloquially referred to as ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down.’ The former refers to creating a point on the map, i.e. a village, and then expanding from there–creating the countryside, the roads to surrounding cities, the culture of the country, the map of the continent, and there on up to the gods governing the world. The latter refers to creating the geography, history, or even cosmology of the world, and then focusing on and developing one continent, one country and its culture, a city and its people, and then the framework for a story or adventure.
I tend to take the top-down approach when worldbuilding, just because it’s what I started out doing and so I’m more familiar with it. So, just for kicks, I’m going to try starting a small bottom-up project, and see what happens.
IN WHICH I DO SOMETHING COMPLETELY AGAINST MY INSTINCTS FOR NO APPARENT REASON (ALSO, I SUCK AT NAMES)
Ennistra is a smallish town on the outskirts of the Saroskana Kingdom, in the foothills of the Redstone Crags, near the Lake of Trov. It is known for its many skilled craftsman, who upon occasion ship their work down the Trova River to the larger cities of Ostton and Eriwald. Due to its location on the Trova, the surrounding land is rich and the harvest is plentiful, and there is plenty of food to be had from fishing and hunting.
There are no large roads going to Ennistra, due to the relative impassability of the Redstone Crags, but there is quite a bit of river transport up and down the Trova. Adventurous horsemen or hikers could travel over the beaten-down dirt paths to get to the road through Ostton, but the river is certain to be faster.
The town center (well, east-of-center) is on top of a small hill, which contains the town market square, a clock-tower, and several of the larger town buildings, including temples, taverns, the Mayor’s house, and the Guard barracks. There are also a number of relatively upscale dwellings and shops scattered along the west hillside, and a number of relatively downscale dwellings and shops scattered along the east hillside.
The majority of the town’s buildings, however, are located right on the river, separated from the mainland by a deep and swift-flowing moat, redirected from the Trova. On the east side of this artificial island are the town’s water-powered mills and factories, as well as piers and a dry dock. The west side of the island contains bridges, vendors, row-houses, and tightly-clustered buildings, all arranged in some sort of disarray.
Between the hill and the island is the flat grassland, covered with gardens and orchards and dotted with warehouses and other such buildings. A large variety of temperate fruits, vegetables, and nuts are grown here.
And now for the D&D notation:
Ennistra (Large Town): Conventional; AL NG; 3000 gp limit; Assets 319,500 gp; Population 2130; Mixed (human 82%, halfling 5%, half-elf 4%, elf 3%, gnome 3%, dwarf 2%, other 1%).