GURPS · Town Creation · Worked Example

Creating Dunmoss – Part 1

My GURPS solo character Temian Fell has just arrived back in his hometown of Dunmoss.  And since his broken hand is going to take 3 months to heal, it looks like he’s going to be stuck in Dunmoss for a while.

This seems like a great chance to try out some town adventures!

Sadly I can’t begin those adventures today, since I’m still putting together my alpha-version town adventures system (hopefully I’ll have it ready soon).  But never fear – I can still do some fun stuff to prepare.  Specifically, I’m going to use my new Fantasy Town Creation System to create Dunmoss itself.

What we know about Dunmoss so far

Dimlight Range 1
A view over Eldervale.  The whole valley is littered with ancient ruins.

During world creation, we discovered that this whole part of the world is called Eldervale.   It’s a rugged and mysterious valley full of ruins.  The people of Eldervale have their own culture, and people from other regions suspect them of being a bit fey, odd, or witchy.  Most of Eldervale is very sparsely settled: the only civilized areas of note in the whole region are three medium-sized towns strung out along the Cairnflood river.

Heirloom PeakDuring Episode One (“One Evening at the Phoenix”), we found out that one of those three towns – the one in the center of the valley – is Temian’s home town.  It’s named “Dunmoss”.

Before I go ahead and create Dunmoss properly, I need to recall what’s been established as “canon” regarding Dunmoss so far.


  • In Episode one, we learned that Dunmoss, like all the towns along the Cairnflood, is just a faded remnant of its former self – it’s built among the ruins of a much larger city from ancient times.
  • We also know that Dunmoss is home to a soothsayer named Aed Steadlark.   He’s another one of Temian’s old friends.  According to Episode Two (“The Witch of Dunmoss”), Aed lives in “a small wooden hut on the banks of the Cairnflood,” presumably somewhere near the edge of town.
  • During Episode Seven (“Into the Wistwilds”), we learned that Dunmoss has a “docks” area – Temian went there when he wanted to get a riverboat to take him down the Cairnflood.  A well-known singer named Lillistan Squires stops in there from time to time.
The Castle of Heirloom peak, previously owned by the mad Baron.  Does the presence of a “Baron” mean that Eldervale runs according to the feudal system?  Well, sort of…

While listing things we already know about this region, I should also say that I’ve been imagining Eldervale’s mode of government as something other than traditionally “fantasy feudal.”

Now, there are certainly some elements of feudalism here – after all, Temian’s first adventure involved a trip to a ruined castle once owned by the Baron of Heirloom Peak.  But according the the world design system, this whole Region is rated as “semi-civilized,” rather than “civilized,” so it makes sense to say that full-on fantasy feudalism hasn’t really taken hold here in earnest.

So my assumption throughout has been that, though there are some titles floating around, real political power rests in the hands of a Council of Elders, most of whom rose to positions of prominence by trading along the river.

I believe that’s everything we’ve established as “canon” regarding Dunmoss so far.  Whatever we create now, we’ll try to fit in with that.

So let’s head over to the Fantasy Town Creation System and get started!

Creating Dunmoss

Step 1: A Theme for Dunmoss

According to the Town Creation rules, if you’re creating a new town to fit into an existing world map, then that town has a 50% chance of having the same Theme as the Region it’s in.  We’ve already determined that Dunmoss is located in Eldervale, which has a “Historical” theme.  Is Dunmoss “Historical” too?

On a 1-3, no; on a 4-6, yes.


5.  Yes, Dunmoss is “Historical.”  Great – it looks like the old, crumbling ruins are really a very obvious feature of this town.  That seems appropriate – after all, it’s Temian’s home town, and Temian is obsessed with exploring ruins (e.g. he has Obsession (Exploring Ancient Ruins) [-10]).

Step 2: A Memorable Feature for Dunmoss

What’s the most memorable feature of Dunmoss as a whole?

(Rolling…) 6, 5: “Unusual Streetplan”.

Ah, interesting – there’s something odd or unique about the streetscape here.  Is it laid out in a strange pattern?  Are the streets somehow elevated, or sunken?  Is the whole town a maze of little alleys?  Hmm….

I often find I get the best, clearest results when I tie the central “Memorable Feature” to the Theme.   So let’s try to connect up this “Unusual Streetplan” to what we already know as a result of the “History” theme, which is that Dunmoss is full of ancient ruins.

The ancient stone blocks that pave the streets of Dunmoss.  Note that each of these blocks is truly massive – in this picture, the larger ones are almost as long as a person lying down.

Ok, here’s an idea: let’s say that Dunmoss is notable for its extremely impressive, extremely ancient stone streets.  These streets are made of very massive stone blocks, and were laid down centuries ago, by the ancient people who lived here in The Previous Era (TM).  The stone blocks are crumbling in places, and are very well-worn in others – after all, people have been walking on them for the better part of a thousand years – but the sheer size of the blocks means that they’re still quite solid, despite being so old.

So the ancient stone streets of Dunmoss are quite striking – particularly since Eldervale is a “semi-civilized” Region, in which even fair-sized towns tend to have streets that are just dirt and mud.  In fact, even just within Dunmoss itself, the contrast between the monumental stone streets and the rough wood-and-thatch buildings is pretty striking.


A blank town plan of Dunmoss, before we determine what’s where.

Step 3: Determining the Layout of Dunmoss

Now let’s work out the layout of the town.  We already know that Dunmoss is built along the Cairnflood river, so I’ll roll on the “Town Plans With Rivers” table.

(Rolling…) 3, 2.

Ok – we’ve just learned that the the town plan looks like the image on the right ->

Step 4: Creating Districts within Dunmoss

What kind of districts occupy all those hexes on the town plan?  Let’s find out.

Rather than walking you through this step-by-step, I’ll just roll to create all the districts, and then tell you all the results at once.

(Rolling, rolling…)

Right – done! Check out the updated town plan below.

A rough town plan of Dunmoss, simply showing the layout and district types.

At first glance, there are quite a few interesting things about this arrangement.

The heart of Dunmoss is a “Poor” district, which stretches along both sides of the river, and is the only point within the town at which the river can be crossed.  I was kind of imagining Dunmoss having a bridge, but maybe not – maybe it just has a ford, and this “poor” area is low-lying, slightly swampy ground, prone to flooding?  Hmm… but if there’s only a ford, how does the river traffic get through?  Food for thought.  In any case, maybe one reason that this low-lying “Poor” district is so swampy and undesirable is that here, unlike in the rest of the city, the ancient stone streets have been destroyed by a thousand years of spring floods, and so everyone has to walk around in the mud.

The “Portage” district is obviously the dock area we already know about.  Docks tend to be good places to find inns, so I wonder if The Phoenix Tavern is in this district too?

The “Historic” district right up in in the North-West of the map is obviously an old ruin – perhaps the ruin of an old castle or tower.  If it’s an old castle, then it’s probably built on high ground – which means that the North-West of the map is probably elevated in some way.  Maybe there’s a steep cliff here where the Cairnflood has cut away at a hillside, and the old castle ruins perch on top of that cliff, overlooking the river?

While we’re talking elevation, I wonder if the Ruling district down south might also be elevated – rulers like to plonk their buildings on the high ground, after all.  This would make a good contrast with the “poor” area, which we’ve just found out is low, muddy, and prone to flooding.

What does it all mean?

Taking it all in, it starts to look to me as if Dunmoss might be a town with three main areas.

North of the river, we have the oldest parts of town: the ancient castle ruins on the cliff, plus the “Public Amenity” and “Academic” districts.  Whatever they turn out to be, they’re presumably very ancient.  These districts are all on relatively high ground – particularly the old castle ruins, perched on the top of the cliff overlooking the Cairnflood river.

In the heart of town, we have the muddy, low-lying “Poor” district.  The lack of stone streets, plus the damp, plus the real possibility of  spring floods, make this a much less desirable place to live (though it is convenient being so close to the river).  If you follow the cairnflood south-east out of the “poor” district, you come to the rougher end of the dock (“portage”) district.

Lastly, on the high ground at the South end of town, we have the “Ruling” district, where the Council of Elders sits.  This is probably a relatively new district, since in ancient times Dunmoss was ruled from the castle, now in ruins, in the city’s North-West.  (Though of course “new” here is relative: everything in Eldervale is pretty old.)  In any case, this newish “ruling” district is probably the most desirable (and expensive) district to live in – it’s nicer here, away from both the crumbling ruins and the mud.

The ruling district is also close to the nicer end of the docks area, which makes sense, given that we’ve decided that the Council of Elders is composed of mostly of people who make their money through the river trade.

That leaves the “Hazardous” area as a real mystery.  I wonder what’s so dangerous here?   A rocky slope?  An actual swamp?  My instinct is to say that this area of town is built out right on top of the crumbling foundations of the ancient city, which means that there’s a buried district right underneath the live one.   Thus, the foundations of the streets and houses are very unsteady, and so buildings here have a tendency to collapse or cave in.  But is that the best solution?  We’ll see.

Well, I think that’s it for today.  If this sort of thing floats your boat, then stay tuned for my next post, in which I flesh out Dunmoss by working out the details of each district.

8 thoughts on “Creating Dunmoss – Part 1

  1. Regarding a river crossing, I think there should be an impressive bridge built with the same huge stones that pave the streets. Since the area is swampy, the bridge rises high over the slums and is approached on either bank by an raised causeway. This imposes further inconvenience on the slum dwellers since they have to go a long way around the causeway to get from one part of town to another, even on the same bank of the river.


    1. Jacob, as further evidence that great minds think alike, I’ll announce that I’m working on the next post about this *right now*, and that’s *precisely* the solution I’ve come up with. So I can only endorse this idea, and with loud applause!


  2. As a further thought, maybe in the ancient Dunmoss, the poor area was never paved at all, and there was never a plan to have that area built up, the poor who couldn’t afford anything else simply moved in out of desperation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wonder whether the Hazardous area is a dark, dank swamp area with regular outbreaks of water-borne diseases and its own legend of a witch or evil creatures that take away inquisitive children (who really just fall in and drown)? As it’s right next to the poor area and the docks it would make sense for it to be swampy and to be somewhere anyone with any money would stay far away from…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, he already mentioned it being built on the ruins of the old city, with building being liable to collapse. There must be basements, old buried streets, sewers, etc. Given the proximity to the swampy poor section, I’d say that at least some of the underground areas are flooded and people can fall through and drowned. On the other hand, maybe not all the falls are an accident…

    Liked by 1 person

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