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Article - 'Cultural & Sociological Locati' by Guest

An item about Game Design posted on Dec 7, 2004

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Article for amateur game developers concerning creating cultures in an RPG.

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Cultural & Sociological Location Development
Written by Sogon Cires

The towns and locations in RPGs have been fairly lackluster in many of the games developed, commercial or otherwise. Most game designers look at towns as ‘where people live,’ and castles as ‘where kings live.’ While this train of thought does embody the basic element of location development, it doesn’t create an air of realism in a game. This is really only for an added touch of history to your RPG, but it’s more for knit-pickers and perfectionists who want to create a complete and viable world, not for those who want to make a light hearted game.

I’d like to point out that I have done some research for this article, as I do all articles, but I don’t claim to know any more than any one else, and a lot of these phrases I’m making up just for easy reference. This is merely the train of thought I use, and I’m not implying this is the only or the best way to go about it.

Trade
The most common reason for a city being born would be that it was once a trade post. The town I grew up in has a train station and water tower for the steam-locomotives. It started as just a refueling station, and then people started growing Peanuts in the surrounding land since the train was just right there. Thus my hometown grew from a bustling train depot to a sleepy little town full of cow ranchers and peanut growers, even though trains don’t stop in town anymore. If that train didn’t stop there, I’d be born seven miles down the track, and if not there, another seven miles. Trade equals survival, and people will always be where they have the best chance of surviving.

A landlocked area will never get as much trade as a port town. If my grandfather’s grandfather hadn’t of bought the wrong ticket I’d have spent my youth sleeping in a bed of fish-money, instead of gluing googly eyes to a peanut shells and selling them to tourist on the highway (okay, I didn’t really do that). A port city can import and export, and it’s accessible by many different sources.

Self-Sustaining
Not many of these cultures remain, in the U.S. anyways. There is no federal government; a simple system of right and wrong is the basic law. People grow what they need, and they trade or sell what’s left over. Most small towns in a fantasy genre RPG are self-sustaining. Before communication was a little harder than picking up the receiver a self-sustaining city-state with a small local government was really the only option available. There were some countries that followed one ideal and took one man as their leader, but for the most part all the smaller communities were self-sustaining.

Religious
Yes, it’s true; a lot of societies and communities were born from religious need. New York, Mexico City, and Austin, just to name a few, were created largely because of religion. Mexico City is sitting on a lake as you read this, the first settlers in Mexico saw an eagle devouring a snake on a rock in the middle of a lake, they took that as a sign, filled the lake with crap, and started a city. Mexico City still sinks about two inches every year. Religion doesn’t always make sense to an outsider, and it can be lots of fun making a city founded on religious beliefs. You can make a secluded island culture with a sail in the middle of the island, and they believe they’re making the world spin. How about a culture that thinks dung is sacred so they build their homes out of it?

Keep in mind geographical limitations while you’re designing your locations. People need water and fertile land to survive unless the culture is largely based off trading (Los Vegas for example). Good luck.