Generating Towns


Faerûn is fairly well documented but not all towns are and thorps are as well fleshed out as Shadowdale and Waterdeep. And of course there's a village on that road your players just had to take.

People, in general, live in the most convenient places possible. They try to place their communities near sources of water and food, in comfortable climates, and close to sources of transportation (seas, rivers, flat land to build roads on, and soon). Of course, exceptions exist, such as a town in the desert, an isolated community in the mountains, and a secret city in the middle of a forest or at the top of a mesa. But there is also always a reason for those exceptions: The city at the top of the mesa is placed there for defense, the isolated community in the mountains exists because the people there want to cut themselves off from the rest of the world

Random Town Generation shows a breakdown of different community sizes. Small communities are munch more common than larger ones. In general, the number of people living in small towns and larger communities should be about 1/10 to 1/15 the number living in villages, hamlets, thorps, or outside a community at all. You might create a metropolis at the civilized center of the world with 100,000 people, but such a community should be the exception, not the rule. The more closely a city's location conforms to the ideal parameters (near food and water, in a comfortable climate, close to sources of transportation), the larger it can become. A secret city on top of a mesa might exist, but it's unlikely to be a metropolis. People living in cities need food, so if no nearby sources of food (farms, plenty of wild animals, herds of livestock) are present, the community needs efficient transportation sources to ship food in. It needs some other renewable resource as well, such as nearby forests to harvest for timber or minerals to mine, to produce something to exchange for the imported food.

Small, agricultural-based communities are likely to surround a larger city and help to supply the city population with food. In such cases, the larger community is probably a source of defense (a walled town, a castle, a community fielding a large number of deployable troops) that inhabitants of surrounding communities can seek refuge in or rely on to defend them in times of need.

Sometimes, a number of nearby small communities clump together with no large community at the center. These small villages, and hamlets form a support network, and the local lord often boasts a centrally located castle or fortress used as a defensible place to which the villagers can flee when threatened. On a larger scale, the borders of kingdoms and countries usually coincide with physical, geographical barriers. Countries that draw boundaries through plains, farms, and undulating hills usually fight a lot of battles over such borders and have to redraw the borders frequently until they coincide with natural barriers. Therefore, mountain ranges, rivers, or abrupt landscape changes should usually mark the borders between lands in your world.

Town Generation

When the PCs come into a town and you need to generate facts about that town quickly, you can use the following material.

Random Town Generation
d100Town SizePopulation*GP Limit
01-10Thorp20-8040 gp
11-30Hamlet 81-400 100 gp
31-50Village 401-900 200 gp
51-70Small town 901-2,000 800 gp
71-85Large town 2,001-5,0003,000 gp
86-95Small city 5,001-12,00015,000 gp
96-99Large city 12,001-25,00040,000 gp
100Metropolis25,000+100,000 gp
*Adult population. Depending on the dominant race of the community, the number of nonadults will range from 10% to 40% of this figure.

Community Wealth And Population

Every community has a gold piece limit based on its size and population. The gold piece limit is an indicator of the price of the most expensive item available in that community. Nothing that costs more than a community's gp limit is available for purchase there. Anything having a price under that limit is most likely available, whether it be mundane or magical. While exceptions are certainly possible (a boomtown near a newly discovered mine, a farming community impoverished after a prolonged drought), these exceptions are temporary; all communities will conform to the norm over time.

To determine the amount of ready cash in a community, or the total value of any given item of equipment for sale at any given time, multiply half the gp limit by one-tenth of the community's population. For example, suppose a band of adventurers brings a bagful of loot (one hundred gems, each worth 50 gp) into a hamlet of 90 people. Half the hamlet's gp limit times one-tenth its population equals 450 (100/2 = 50, 90 + 10 = 9, 50 X 9 = 450). Therefore, the PCs can only convert nine of their recently acquired gems to coins on the spot before exhausting the local cash reserves. The coins will not be all bright, shiny gold pieces. They should include a large number of battered and well-worn silver pieces and copper pieces as well, especially in a small or poor community.

If those same adventurers hope to equip their one hundred newly recruited followers with new longswords (price 15 gp each), they can find a longsword in even the smallest community, but a community of at least 300 people is necessary in order to have the resources to construct that many weapons (100/2 = 50, 300/ 10 = 30, 50X 30 = 1,500).

Power Center For The Community

Sometimes all the DM needs to know about a community is who holds the real power. If this is the case, use Power Centers, modified by the size of the community as follows:

Power Centers
1d20Power Center Type
13 or lessConventional*
*5% of these have a monstrous power center in addition to the conventional.
Community SizeModifier to 1d20 roll
Hamlet 0
Small town+2
Large town+3
Small city+4 (roll twice)
Large city+5 (roll three times)
Metropolis+6 (roll four times)

Conventional: The community has a traditional form of government - a mayor, a town council, a noble ruling over the surrounding area under a greater liege, a noble ruling the community as a city-state. Choose whichever form of government seems most appropriate to the area.

Nonstandard: While the community may have a mayor or a town council, the real power lies in other hands. It may center on a guild - a formal organization of merchants, craftsmen, professionals, thieves, assassins, or warriors who collectively wield great influence. Wealthy aristocracy, in the form of one or more rich individuals with no political office, may exert influence through their wealth. Prestigious aristocracy, such as a group of accomplished adventurers, may exert influence through their reputation and experience. Wise elders may exert influence through those who respect their age, reputation, and perceived wisdom.

Magical: From a powerful temple full of priests to a single sorcerer cloistered in a tower, a cleric or a wizard might be the actual, official ruler of the town, or she may just be someone with a great deal of influence.

Monstrous: Consider the impact on a community of a dragon who occasionally makes nonnegotiable demands and must be consulted in major decisions, or a nearby ogre tribe that must be paid a monthly tribute, or a secret mind flayer controlling the minds of many of the townsfolk. A monstrous power center represents any influence (beyond just a simple nearby danger) held by a monstrous being or beings not native to the community.

Power Center Alignment
01-35Lawful good
36-39Neutral good
40-41Chaotic good
42-61Lawful neutral
62-63True neutral
64Chaotic neutral
65-90Lawful evil
91-98Neutral evil
99-100Chaotic evil

Alignment of the Power Centers

The alignment of the ruler or rulers of a community need not conform to the alignment of all or even the majority of the residents, although this is usually the case. In any case, the alignment of the power center strongly shapes the residents' daily lives. Due to their generally organized and organizing nature, most power centers are lawful.

Lawful Good: A community with a lawful good power center usually has a codified set of laws, and most people willingly obey those laws.

Neutral Good: A neutral good power center rarely influences the residents of the community other than to help them when they are in need.

Chaotic Good: This sort of power center influences the community by helping the needy and opposing restrictions on freedom.

Lawful Neutral: A community with a lawful neutral power center has a codified set of laws that are followed to the letter. Those in power usually insist that visitors (as well as residents) obey all local rules and regulations.

True Neutral: This sort of power center rarely influences the community. Those in power prefer to pursue their private goals.

Chaotic Neutral: This sort of power center is unpredictable, influencing the community in different ways at different times.

Lawful Evil: A community with a lawful evil power center usually has a codified set of laws, which most people obey out of fear of harsh punishment.

Neutral Evil: The residents of a community with a neutral evil power center are usually oppressed and subjugated, facing a dire future.

Chaotic Evil: The residents of a community with a chaotic evil power center live in abject fear because of the unpredictable and horrific situations continually placed upon them.

Conflicting Power Centers

As shown on Power Centers, any community at least as large as a small city has more than one power center. If a community has mote than one power center, and two or more of the power centers have opposing alignments (either good vs. evil or law vs. chaos), they conflict in some way. Such conflict is not always open, and sometimes the conflicting power centers begrudgingly get along.

For example, a small city contains a powerful chaotic good wizards' guild but is ruled by a lawful good aristocrat. The wizards are sometimes exasperated by the strict laws imposed by the aristocrat ruler and occasionally break or circumvent them when it serves their (well-intentioned) purposes. Most of the time, though, a representative from the guild takes their concerns and disagreements to the aristocrat, who attempts to fairly resolve any problems.

Another example: A large city contains a lawful evil fighter, a lawful good temple, and a chaotic evil aristocrat. The selfish aristocrat is concerned only with his own gain and his debauched desires. The powerful fighter gathers a small legion of warriors, hoping to oust the aristocrat and take control of the city herself. Meanwhile, the clergy of the powerful temple helps the citizenry as best as they can, never directly confronting the aristocrat but aiding and abetting those who suffer at his hands.

Community Authorities

It's often important to know who makes up the community's authority structure. The authority structure does not necessarily indicate who's in charge, but instead who keeps order and enforces the authority that exists.

Constable/Captain of the Guard/Sheriff

This position generally devolves upon the highest-level warrior in a community, or one of the highest-level fighters:

01-60Highest-level warrior
61-80Second highest-level fighter
81-100Highest-level fighter

Use Highest-level locals (PC Classes) or Highest-level locals (NPC Classes), modified by Community Modifiers, to determine the constable's level.


For every one hundred people in the community (round down), the community has one full-time guard or soldier. In addition, for every twenty people in the community, an able-bodied member of the local militia or a conscript soldier can be brought into service within just a few hours.

NPCs In The Community

For detailed city play, knowing exactly who lives in the community becomes important. The following guidelines allow you to determine the levels of the most powerful locals and then extrapolate from that to determine the rest of the classed characters living there.

Highest-Level NPC in the Community for Each Class

Use the following tables to determine the highest-level character in a given class for a given community. Roll the dice indicated for the class and apply the modifier based on the size of the community.

A result of 0 or lower for character level means that no characters of that type can be found in the community. The maximum level for any class is 20th.

Highest-level Locals (PC Classes)
PC ClassesCharacter Level
Barbarian1d4 + community modifier*
Bard1d6 + community modifier
Cleric1d6 + community modifier
Druid1d6 + community modifier
Fighter1d8 + community modifier
Monk1d4 + community modifier*
Paladin1d3 + community modifier
Ranger1d3 + community modifier
Rogue1d8 + community modifier
Sorcerer1d4 + community modifier
Wizard1d4 + community modifier
*Where these classes are more common, level is 1d8 + modifier.
Highest-level Locals (NPC Classes)
NPC ClassesCharacter Level
Adept1d6 + community modifier
Aristocrat1d4 + community modifier
Commoner4d4 + community modifier
Expert3d4 + community modifier
Warrior2d4 + community modifier
Community Modifiers
Community SizeCommunity Modifier
Small town0
Large town+3
Small city+6 (roll twice)**
Large city+9 (roll three times)**
Metropolis+12 (roll four times)**
*A thorp or a hamlet has a 5% chance to add +10 to the modifier of a ranger or druid level.
**Cities this large can have more than one high-level NPC per class, each of whom generates lower-level characters of the same class, as described below.

Total Characters of Each Class

Use the following method for determining the levels of all the characters in a community of any given class.

For PC classes, if the highest-level character indicated in the method is 2nd level or above, assume there are twice that number of characters half that level. If those characters are above 1st level, assume that for each such character, there are two of half that level. Continue until the number of 1st-level characters is generated. For example, if the highest-level fighter is 5th level, then there are also two 3rd-level fighters and four 1st-level fighters.

Do the same for NPC classes, but leave out the final stage that would generate the number of 1st-level individuals. Instead, take the remaining population after all character types are generated and divide it up so that 91% are commoners, 5% are warriors, 3% are experts, and the remaining 1% is equally divided between aristocrats and adepts (0.5% each). All these characters are 1st level.

Using these guidelines and Highest-level locals (PC Classes), Highest-level locals (NPC Classes), and Community Modifiers, the character class breakdown for the population of a typical hamlet of two hundred people looks like this:

In addition to the residents you generate using the system described above, you might decide that a community also has some sort of special resident, such as the single, out-of-place 15th-level sorcerer who lives just outside a thorp of fifty people, or the secret assassins' guild brimming with leveled characters hidden in a small town. Residents such as these that you create "on the fly" do not count against the highest-level characters who are actually part of the community.

Racial Demographics

The racial mix of a community depends on whether the community is isolated (little traffic and interaction with other races and places), mixed (moderate traffic and interaction with other races and places), or integrated (lots of interaction with other races and places).

Racial Mix Of Communities
96% human79% human37% human
2% halfling9% halfling20% halfling
1% elf5% elf18% elf
1% other races3% dwarf10% dwarf
-2% gnome7% gnome
-1% half-elf5% half-elf
-1% half-orc3% half-orc

If the area's dominant race is other than human, place that race in the top spot, put humans in the #2 rank, and push each other race down one rank. For example, in a dwarven town, the population is 96% dwarf, 2% human, 1% halfling, and 1% other races. (All dwarven communities are isolated.) You may also change the figures slightly for various racial preferences. For example, a mixed elven village is 79% elf, 9% human, 5% halfling, 3% dwarf, 2% gnome and 2% half-elf (with no half orcs). You might even switch the percentages of gnomes and dwarves in an elven town.

More on Community Alignment