This post will highlight the general rules around each level that can be applied to all buildings. This idea came to me when I began creating my first city. The level system is a simple 1-5 scale with Level 1 being the lowest tier and Level 5 being the highest. I felt 5 levels was a good number as 1-10 would create too many strict rules to keep the tiers separated, and the scale would be less open to interpretation as it’s intended to be.
In the world I’m building I’ve conceptualized where the large cities are and their basic political structure, but I have yet to fully flesh one out. The north is dominated by three major cities. Carran, the smallest in population, is southwest of the Northern Sanction.
I wanted to draw out a map of the city but I realized I didn’t actually know what buildings should be included. I knew there would be multiple inns, blacksmiths and shops. There would be a lot of homes, farms and barracks. But exactly how many of each? More importantly, what were they like?
It was when I was trying to answer these questions that I decided to create this system that all cities and settlements in my world will follow. This would give me and anyone who wants to DM in the setting, an easy way to create settlements and cities while maintaining consistency throughout the world. In creating the system and applying it to building types I found many opportunities to create quests, role play and create more interesting lore. My hope is that others can adopt a similar system and apply it to their settings!
I will use this city as the staging point to highlight the leveling system and shed some light on some of the lore and flavor of the world I’m building.
The breakdowns will be generic and each subsequent post in this series will highlight a specific building type and what they look like at each step up the scale.
Level 1: Poor Quality
This level of building has the worst quality of supplies or lodging. Any weapons or goods purchased at a Level 1 building are halfway to broken or close to useless. Lodgings are wildly uncomfortable and players should question why they didn’t just set up camp outside of town.
Of course, businesses like these should not be in business! How do they make money? I came up with three different role playing “excuses” for these hovels to still be servicing clients:
- This is the only building of its type for many many miles around. They are the “only option”.
- The owner(s) of the establishment are down on their luck due to local trouble which will provide some unique questing opportunity. Should the PCs complete the quest you can upgrade the Level 1 building to a Level 2 or more depending on what was lost and/or recovered.
- The owner is a real jerk and refuses to provide good service or quality goods. The poor need things too, ya know! There are always plenty of those in a medieval setting.
Level 2: Average Quality
These are the most common building types across the world. They are the typical inn and blacksmith operated by a husband and wife or individual trying their best to make it in the world.
Food and items purchased at this level are not special in any way, but they will last and get the job done. Lodgings are better than being out in the wilds. Level 2 buildings are what you would find in towns/settlements once the population gets over 250 people.
Settlements smaller than this can have Level 2 buildings of course, but DMs should come up with a good reason why someone with the skill to run a real business (perhaps not counting an inn that helps travelers along the road) would be in a town with very few people.
Level 3: Good Quality
New adventurers would not be used to the kind of quality found at Level 3 buildings. These buildings will be larger than average and employ multiple people doing the same kind of work. Craftsmen of all kinds will begin to specialize at Level 3 and offer a higher quality product, but not as much variety. Think of a blacksmith that no longer makes “everything” the town needs but only weapons.
Level 3 vendors may have magical items. Keep in mind that in my setting no single person has the knowledge to create magical weapons or items anymore. That knowledge was lost when the Dwarven Sky Forge went cold and they were routed from their mountain kingdoms. So if any building owner has magic items they are either:
- Personal items from their own previous adventures, found in ruins perhaps?
- Gifts or Bartered items for their other wares
- Family Heirlooms
These businesses are typically run by self starters or former apprentices who had trained with other masters and were ready to ply their trade in a new town. They might even maintain a brand name and work under their master’s banner.
Level 4: High Quality
Buildings of this level will very rarely exist outside of big cities. There may be a reason for one to exist in a smaller town, but the DM would need to create a very specific reason for its existence outside of an urban center.
Those who produce goods will be very specialized, perhaps only offering one or two specific kinds of items. Those items will be of a very high quality with art and design work infused within the products. Lodgings at this level will be incredibly expensive and only entertain a certain “level” of clientele.
Businesses/Organizations of this level will be well known to the common folk and elites alike for miles around. There will be one or two of each type per city. Having two rival Level 4 buildings in a city can make for some great adventuring:
- Family rivalries going back centuries leads to the murder of one of the patriarchs.
- One organization has been there for a long time and the other Level 4 is very new.
- Both try to hire the players to help take out the other.
- A daughter from each family have fallen in love, they approach the players to help get them out of town without being noticed.
Level 5: Elite Quality
There should only be 3 or 4 Level 5 buildings of any type in the world. Everyone in the Northern Sanction who has ears would know where they are located, their names, and who runs them.
These craftspeople work on commission only. They do not produce goods for the general public to peruse and purchase off the street. Depending on the item, the goods need to be ordered weeks or months in advance and all payment made upfront.
They will have magical items and may even have the ability to manipulate existing enchantments. These businesses can be owned by anyone but typically will have the best of Dwarven talent doing the actual labor.
A Level 5 building would typically be smaller in size than a Level 4 of the same type as it is so specialized and only works on commissioned items. These operations will be owned or at least influenced by the local rulers/governing bodies. Special permission from nobility or armed forces would be needed to even have the opportunity to commission a piece.
Those are the levels!
As I stated before – each new post in this series will take this structure and apply it to a specific building type.
Stay tuned for the next installment – Blacksmiths!
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