How Many Settlements to Create


If we’re creating a world, or part of it, to tell one story, our focus is clearly on those locales where events happen now or in the past, and which influence our work. Creating full details is advantageous for these places. Other settlements mentioned in passing can have little more than their sovereign power, location, climate, terrain, reputation (including defensiveness), population type and disposition, major products, and a few identifiers such as symbol and colors decided.

If we’re creating a world we intend to use often, we can become overwhelmed with scores of settlements to invent. There’s a way to manage this. Full details on a place are still only needed when we’re going to use it in a tale, or if we happen to have ideas. For the rest, a master spreadsheet with high-level details on every settlement can make it easier to invent that information. We’ll avoid creating the same symbol for two places, because we can see, in one file, all the ones we’ve already done. We can also more easily find this information when we need it.

A spreadsheet with columns like the following gets us started:

  • Name
  • Sovereign power
  • Location
  • Population size
  • Species here (and percentage of overall population)
  • Products
  • Symbol
  • Colors
  • Military

Despite this information being in a spreadsheet, we’ll probably want a file for each settlement, where this information is potentially duplicated, and get in the habit of updating both file and spreadsheet when we make changes.

Why would we want to create this high-level information for everywhere? We might want to remark that a character is drinking one of the fine wines from a place, or wearing clothes from there (or in their fashion). Maybe they’re sitting on chairs from another place, evident in its design. Or they’re sailing on a ship with a distinctive style. These little touches add realism and are easy to accomplish, but, as mentioned under the previous section about products, animosities and friendliness can result in added tension on regional levels.