Chapter 2

Ultimate Settlement Guide

A step by step process for building robust settlements for use in your campaigns.
Chapter Two

Demographics, Water Source, and Defenses

In this chapter we’re going to:

  • Determine the basic details of your settlement, including population, races, and name
  • Review the minimum requirements for a settlement to sustain itself
  • Decide on one or more water source(s) for your settlement
  • Determine what defenses your settlement has

Now that we’ve figured out why our settlement exists and where it’s located, we can start looking at how the settlement can meet the minimum requirements to sustain itself over time (water, food, and money). We will also be looking at the defenses used to protect the settlement and the government structure that keeps the day to day operations of the settlement running smoothly (or not).

Step four

Settlement Size, Races, and Name

First, let's get to know your settlement a bit better. Specifically, let's look at the possible settlement sizes, the breakdown of the people that live there, and the settlement name. It’s important to note, you do not need to have all of this figured out right away – however, you should have an idea of how big your settlement will be. You can come back to this section at any point along the process and make changes (don’t worry, I do it all the time).


Choose aN Settlement Size

Review the settlement sizes below and decide what size you want your settlement to be, along with the estimate population. Record your answers in your town builder’s booklet (pg. 3) and then move onto the racial make-up of your settlement.

Settlement Size

Basic Settlement Sizes

There are three sizes of settlement, defined by population, that are relevant to this building guide: small, medium, and large. Let’s look at each size in detail.

Small Settlements

A small settlement is a settlement that has between 0 and 1,000 people living in it. These settlements may only have 1-2 industries to support the population. The settlement’s racial make up is likely homogenous, at least in comparison to larger settlements. You may refer to a settlement this size as a village, hamlet, or town.

Medium Settlements

A medium sized settlement is a settlement that has more than 1,000 people and less than 10,000 people living in it. These settlements are likely to have 2-3 (or more) industries that support the population. The settlement’s racial make up may be homogenous, however, as the population increases there is likely a more diverse population present. You may refer to a settlement this size as a town or small city.

Large Settlements

A large sized settlement is a settlement that has more than 10,000 people and less than 100,000 people living in it. These settlements are likely to have 4-5 (or more) industries that support the population. The settlement’s racial make up is likely diverse, as the settlement is large enough to support multiple communities within. You may refer to a settlement this size as a city or metropolis.

Settlement Races

Choosing Your Settlement's Races

Depending on the size of your settlement, the citizens may all be from one region and one race. However, as the settlement grows the chances of other people immigrating to the settlement increase. The racial make-up of a city provides a great indication of the cultures present and the influences that may be recognizable to outsiders who are visiting (i.e. your players). As a creator, you have total freedom in who lives within your settlement and who does not – it’s up to you to come up with an interesting combination.


Choose Your Settlements races

In your town builder’s booklet, there is a section for you to enter in the % of each race in your settlement (pg. 3). The basic races from Dungeons and Dragons have been added in, however, there are empty lines for you to write in any race that you see fit. Write in your results and then move on to naming your settlement.

Settlement Name

Name Your Settlement

Naming your settlement can be one of the easiest tasks or the hardest. There is no magic process to get the perfect name, however, there are some easy to answer questions that can help get the creative juices flowing.

If you get stuck here, move on. There’s nothing saying you can’t come back and find a name you like! Don’t worry, the next steps do not rely on you to have a name already.


Choose Your Settlement Name

Brainstorm some names on a scrap piece of paper for 15-20 minutes. Once you’re done, narrow the names down to 2 or 3 that you really like. From that short list, pick a name for your settlement and write it into your town builder’s booklet (pg. 3).


Settlement Requirements

When establishing a settlement, there are a few requirements to consider:

  • There must be an adequate supply of food
  • There must be an adequate supply of water
  • There must be an adequate degree of safety
  • There must be enough resources to support the development and sustenance of the community (money, labor, etc.)

Not all towns are made equal, and not every community needs the same amount of food, water, safety, or resources to exist sustainably. As a creator, you can turn these dials to create a settlement that not only makes sense but feels unique.

For example, a town located within a day’s wagon ride of a large walled city may not have the same defenses that a town on the territory’s border would. If trouble arises, the villagers can find safety within the city walls. You may place a bandit camp somewhere that an ordinary town would never be located because safety for criminals is defined by the distance from civilization, not close proximity.

A note on resources

Of all the criteria for settlements mentioned above, I believe creators often overlook the importance of access to resources (not only money but natural resources). Take the construction of a castle, for instance. The cost of transporting stone is immense, which means that almost every castle built near where the quarried stone originated. It is not only the availability of a natural resource but the ease of access to it.

This level of thought is not a necessity for great tabletop gameplay – however, it will allow you as a creator (i.e. dungeon master) to build more immersive settings.


Source of Water

If your chosen terrain type does not provide a sustainable source of freshwater for your settlement you will need to decide how they meet this requirement. Below are some common examples of meeting this requirement, which can be used in combination or as a basis for a more creative solution.


Choose Your Water Source(S)

Review the options below and determine how your settlement will supply water to their people. You can choose multiple sources; however, you must have a least one. Once you’ve decided on what source of water your settlement will have, record the results in your town building booklet (pg. 4).  If you have chosen multiple sources, make sure to check off all the boxes that apply. There is a note section below in case there is any additional information that you believe is important to keep track of.

Water Source Examples

Basic Water Sources

If your chosen terrain type does not provide a sustainable source of freshwater for your settlement you will need to decide how they meet this requirement. Below are some common examples of meeting this requirement, which can be used in combination or as a basis for a more creative solution.

Hand-dug Well

A hand-dug well is just that – a well dug by hand that goes below the water table. Because of this, it’s limited in how deep it can go and is large enough to fit one or more people with shovels inside. These wells are likely the type of well you imagine when you think of medieval/fantasy times (the ones with the buckets on a rope).

Drilled Well (e.g. Artesian)

A drilled well is dug using an auger (drill bit) and can be far deeper than a hand dug well. Drilled wells typically require some means of pumping the water to the surface, however, if there is enough pressure in the aquifer a pump may not be needed (i.e. an artesian well).

Water purification

If a well can’t be dug or there is easy access to salt water a settlement may invest in technology that allows them to filter the water for everyday use. There are various technologies that could allow for this, however, it’s up to you, the creator, how detailed you’d like to be.

Rain collection

The collection of rain in containers allows for quick and relatively easy gathering of fresh water. Rain collection is often used on top of a primary source of fresh water, typically to water crops.

Magic water source

In a fantasy setting, we’re not limited to real world solutions. As a creator, you can use magic as a quick and easy hand waving solution, or an opportunity to dive deeper into the lore and history of the settlement and its people. It is up to you to determine how the magic works.


Settlement Defenses

Any settlement will require some measure of safety – whether it’s an armed guard or stone towers. As a creator you have the freedom to add whatever defenses you see fit to your settlement. To help you along the way, here is a list of things you should consider:

  • Defenses require resources to upkeep and a settlement with defenses outside of their means should have a valid explanation as to how they exist
  • Defenses are generally used to survive long enough for outside assistance to arrive. The average settlement is not equipped to take out an army
  • Defenses normally have an alternative escape, which is typically used to keep the vulnerable citizens out of harm’s way (e.g. escape tunnel into the mountains)


Choose Your Settlement Defenses

Review the options below and determine what defenses make sense for your settlement. You can choose multiple defenses, as most settlements invest in different strategies to increase the safety of the settlement (e.g. walls and a moat). Once you’ve decided, record the results in your town building booklet (pg. 4). If there are additional defenses that aren’t listed below you can use the empty fields. There is also a note section for you to write any additional information that you think is important.

Defense Examples

Common Defenses


A large trench dug around a structure or perimeter (e.g. town walls) to keep attackers away from the base. These are generally large enough so that they are not easily traversed or filled. Under siege, attackers will likely build turtle shell like constructs to provide cover while the moat is filled in with rocks and other material so that it can be crossed easily.


A simple defense with varying materials used for construction based on available resources (e.g. wooden in smaller settlements). Walls protect the settlement from direct attacks, provide a vantage point for ranged attacks, and typically force attacks to focus on one central point (i.e. the gate). Depending on how high the walls are, attackers may bring ladders or other wooden constructs to ascend the walls and enter the settlement.


Towers, like walls, can be built of a variety of materials based on available resources. They can be built in isolation or along walls and give defenders the ability to attack over greater distances than normal (e.g. top of wall).

Pit Traps

Like moats, pit traps are passive defenses that prevent attackers from accessing the base of a defensive structure (e.g. wall). Pit traps can be empty or filled with lethal objects such as sharpened spikes, poisonous animals, or any other dangerous encounter you can think of!

Artillery & Constructs

While siege constructs are generally thought of as an offensive weapon, there are anti-siege constructs that could be used as a defense (e.g. ballista). Depending on the settlement’s ingenuity, they may have unheard of constructs that are effective in repelling attackers.


Checking In

You've made it through chapter two! By now, you should have added to your settlement booklet by completed the three tasks outlined in the instructions panels. This includes:

  • Choosing a Settlement Size, Name, and Races
  • Choosing a Water Source
  • Choosing Defenses

In the next chapter, we'll be looking at the industries that support your settlement's population and the government structure that keeps the settlement running.

Go to the Next Chapter ->

Table of Contents

Quick Travel

Chapter 1: Biomes, Settlement Origin, and Terrain

In this chapter we’ll decide what biome your settlement is located in. We’ll look at the common reasons for settlements to start and choose your settlements origin. Finally, we’ll consider the terrain that your settlement is placed upon, using the origin as a key influence.

Read Chapter One ->

Chapter 2: Demographics, Water Source, and Defenses

In this chapter we’ll look at some common demographics for your settlement including name, population, and races. We'll review the minimum requirements for a settlement (e.g. source of food) and decide on a source of water and the settlement's defenses.

Read Chapter Two ->

Chapter 3: Industries and Government

In this chapter we'll review the concept of an industry and decide on one or more industries to support your settlement's population, including a source of food (e.g. agriculture). Next, we'll look at common government structures and decide what type of government you want your settlement to have.

Read Chapter Three ->

Chapter 4: Events, Organizations, and Buildings

In this chapter, we’ll review the concept of events and choose one or more annual events to be celebrated in your settlement. Next, we’ll look at common organizations and use our past decisions to determine what organizations exist in your settlement. Lastly, we’ll take all of the decisions we’ve made so far and determine what buildings will be placed in your settlement.

Read Chapter Four ->

Chapter 5: Neighbours and Landmarks

In this chapter, we’ll look at the surrounding areas of your settlement, including the neighboring communities and their relations with your settlement. While we’re at it, we’ll look at landmarks and determine what significant landmarks exist in and around your settlement.

Read Chapter Five ->

Chapter 6: Drawing your Settlement

In this chapter, we’ll take all of the decisions we’ve made and start drawing a settlement map. We’ll go through a step by step breakdown of the drawing process that I use, using an example settlement that I built using this guide.

Read Chapter Six ->

Resource: Town Building Booklet

If you would like to use the templated booklet to track your answers, use the link below to download the booklet for free.

Download the Booklet ->