One aspect of my games that I’ve often found lacking is the way that I deal with cities. For years now I have treated my cities like they were simply locations on an electronic Japanese role-playing game. I have a shop, usually with a silly name, an inn, maybe a few specialty shops, and once in a great while a few other notable locations like a University of Magic or some other such thing. The cities have no real sense of verisimilitude; they paper cutouts that my players couldn’t care less about because I don’t care about them.
This year I’m attempting to change all of that by learning about the way that cities are constructed, thought about, and planned in the real world. To do this I’ve been slowly picking up a few book about Urban Theory and planning, and a few books about architecture.
The first book that I picked up, and the one that sent me down this line of thought about improving the way that my imaginary cities function, was Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City. The book asks, and attempts to answer, what does the city mean to the people who live there? How can we make the city’s image more vivid and memorable?
I’m not yet sure of the answers to either of those questions but I desperately want to find out.
The next book that I’m going to be reading is Susan Fainstein and Scott Campbell’s Readings in Urban Theory Second Edition. This one is more of your classical text book and it looks like it’s going to give me a firm grounding in the actual thought process of city planning – something that if I want to make my cities better I need desperately.
I’m going to be following this up by reading Timothy Beatle’s Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design. This book is all about green spaces inside of cities and how to make them work within the urban context. I’ve had a few gardens in my games but they’ve always been an afterthought. This will help place them front and center, and make them something meaningful within the city.
The last book I’ve picked up for this project – for the moment a the least – is Trent Elwood Sanford’s The Story of Architecture in Mexico Including the Work of the Ancient Indian Civilizations and that of the Spanish Colonial Empire Which Succeeded Them, Together with an Account of the Background in Spain and a Glimpse of the Modern Trend. If you’re wondering why this one would show up it’s because I love Aztec and Mexican architecture. So I’m going to start making a better effort at bringing them into my games.
Anyway, this is a long term project that’s going to be going on for a while behind the scenes because these books are thick (except for The Image of the City) but I wanted to talk about it for a few minutes to organize my thoughts on the project.