Chapter 5

Ultimate Settlement Guide

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

Neighbours and Landmarks

In this chapter we’re going to:

  • Review the surrounding area of our settlement and decide on what neighboring communities exist and their relations with our settlement
  • Decide on what significant landmarks exist around our settlement
STEP Thirteen

Neighbouring Communities

So far, we’ve focused on what’s happening within the walls of your settlement. However, there are neighbouring communities that play a role in the development of your settlement too – more specifically, the population and the road placement. For example, if there is an allied settlement to the north of your town, whom they do a large amount of trading with there is likely a well-maintained roadway between the two settlements. There may even be patrols that are sent along the roads to ensure that travel is safe.

There are three factors that we care about when first considering neighbouring communities. First, we need to understand the make up of the neighbouring community in case there are any racial disputes between your settlement and theirs (e.g. orcs vs. elves). Second, we want to know the relationship between the two settlements (on a scale of hostile to allied). Third, we want to know the ongoing trade status (on a scale from non-existent to critical).

By understanding these three things, we can better inform ourselves on how to place the roads leading away from your settlement.

Allied Neighbours

When a neighbouring community is seen as an ally, investment in that relationship is likely to follow. This may come in the form of shared roads and defenses, as well as pacts between the settlements in times of crisis. For example, if one settlement is attacked, aid may be requested from the other.

Hostile Neighbours

When a neighbouring community is seen as hostile, there are extra precautions that may be taken in case conflict arises. Roadways passing the hostile settlement may be seen as less safe and hinder trade or require military escorts. Your settlement’s defenses may be bolstered in a way that protects from attacks in the direction that the hostile settlement is forced to attack from (e.g. build settlement on opposite side of river).

Trade Partners

When a neighbouring community is a trading partner, there is likely to be more investment in the connections between the two settlements. This is likely done through more developed roads or waterways and defenses along trade routes. The dependency on trade may be a catalyst for other agreements to be made (e.g. defense pacts). A settlement that is too dependent on trade relationships could see this as a vulnerability, if those trade routes were to become compromised.


Choose Neighbouring Communities

For each neighbouring settlement determine the racial breakdown, the relationship status with your settlement, and the trade status with your settlement. If you’re placing your settlement in an existing world, you may already have the neighbouring settlements fleshed out. Once you’ve decided, record the results in your town building booklet (pg. 10).

STEP Eleven

Choosing Landmarks

A landmark is merely a well known, easily identifiable structure or object that can be used for navigation. Landmarks are useful in developing settlements as they can play a role in the placements of roadways leading out of town, as well as populating the larger regional maps with points of reference for players. By determining what significant landmarks are around your settlement, as the creator, you give yourself a clearly defined set of references when talking for NPCs.

Note, that a landmark may not be well-known to everyone within the region. For example, a significant landmark to a wood elf deep in the forest may be nothing more than a weird looking tree to others. The context that is given to landmarks can play an important role in how cultural differences are shown in your world. Some settlements may have different names for the same landmarks, which in and of itself provides your players with some knowledge of regionality within your world (i.e. giving depth).

There are three categories of landmarks that are useful for developing settlements: natural, historical, and synthetic.

Natural Landmarks

Natural landmarks are landmarks that naturally occur in the terrain of the region. Some good examples of natural landmarks are mountain peaks, waterfalls, bays, capes, peninsulas, large rocks, or large trees.

Synthetic Landmarks

Synthetic landmarks are landmarks that do not occur naturally, but instead are constructed. Some good examples of synthetic landmarks are monasteries, temples, towers, castles, spires, or lighthouses.

Historical Landmarks

Historical landmarks are landmarks that may be natural or synthetic, but also have a historical significance to them. These landmarks are far more likely to be region or settlement specific, as the history of the area is less visible than a mountain peak. However, historical landmarks can play a significant role in more targeted navigation, off the beaten paths and roads outside of the settlement.


Choose Landmarks

Consider the region around your settlement for a moment. What landmarks exist and where? Determine what landmarks you believe to be significant to your settlement and record the results in your town building booklet (pg. 11). There is space for X landmarks, each with a section for notes that you believe are important to keep track of. Note, you’re not limited to 3 landmarks, you can certainly have more.


Checking In

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

  • Choosing Neighbours
  • Choosing Landmarks

In the next chapter, we'll be taking all of the decisions we've made so far (i.e. your booklet) and drawing your settlement map. This includes a step by step breakdown of my personal process as well as an example settlement that I built using the process outlined in this guide.

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 ->