Location Creation Worksheets
Art by Joakim Olofsson
"...but there is a price to be paid for all good places,
and a price that all good places have to pay."
-- Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere
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Whether you're designing an entirely fictional city or putting your own spin on a neighborhood, you need a place to start. If you're going to keep track of all the details that come up over time, you'll also need a way to record everything and stay organized. This work might not sound very sexy but it can make a big difference in the quality of your settings.
While I've found books and articles that give plenty of inspiration for worldbuilding, I couldn't find a resource that brought everything together in a digestible way. So to aid myself and others, I've put together some customizable and flexible location-building worksheets. The master sheet gathers everything, the simplified sheet is bare-bones, and the other sheets focus on what's needed for developing a small site, a building, or larger places.
Download the Worksheets in Google Sheets
Download the Worksheets in Excel (zip file)
The basic worksheet starts with Names because most places have them (even if it's just a street address). While Genre might seem like a strange field, depending on your game different neighborhoods could fit into entirely different genres. Era and Age help to define when your location is being visited and how much of a history it has. Reputation is a quick measure of how other areas feel about the one you're defining. Finally, Virtue and Vice can serve as guidelines for everything else. They might be hidden or displayed proudly, but Virtue and Vice can color everything from what the place offers to the types of people who live and work there.
The next section sets up History and Mystery, beginning with Recent Events. These are things that are in local memories and are likely to still affect the residents. It can also be a good idea to figure out some basic things that the place Desires. Yes, a place can have needs that go beyond material supplies, and those who dwell within it will feel the pressure of those Desires.
I have a section to cover a place's Inhabitants, starting with Population density. This is given in descriptive terms rather than hard numbers, but Storytellers can enter estimates as needed. You can add racial breakdowns, as well as supernatural types and their numbers. It's not always a big deal to talk about the local Government, but if you're running a political game, or if the real power structure varies from what's on the surface, then government becomes key. The overall level of Security not only affects how people act or feel in the area, but can serve as a guide to bonuses or penalties to Larceny and related rolls.
The next major section of my worksheet deals with the place as a physical thing. Access to the area, its state of Repair, and the primary Impression it makes are likely to be things that strike characters first. Sanitation, Lighting, Water, and Streets might matter to tracking rolls and chases. Many places have at least one man-made Landmark, and the District Type is good to know. Climate, Terrain, and Natural Features set the scene for everything else.
Since there are many types of Buildings that could be present and useful, I have provided lists of them to give quick ideas. The same follows for Interior Areas, which can range from one Room to enough rooms to fill a mansion.
For the larger view, you can figure out the major Industries in the area as well as its Shortages. Deciding the basic Technology Level can help establish how present and expensive tech is in plain sight. Mass Transit and Area Services can make living there considerably easier or worse, depending on how widespread and reliable they are.
Every place, like each person, can be menaced by Threats from within or without. Natural Disasters are easy to forget about in a roleplaying game but can provide great detours and difficulties. Downturns, either recent or starting to brew, will color conversations, motivations, and stories in the location. More specialized threats are given room, as well, since they are bound to come up in a game.
Locally based groups round out the worksheet. Church organizations, gangs, and cults can become allies or enemies of the player characters who stick around. Some groups have a lot of Age and Influence; others have little Power and a laughable Reputation. Virtue, Vice, and Goal can quickly help you determine how a group will act (or refuse to act), and Key NPCs have space so that these groups have faces that can be interacted with.
Every major section ends with a space for your Notes because it's likely that you'll want to add specifics, reminders, or other things.
Whichever sheet you use is open to becoming what you need it to be. You can leave some fields blank, rewrite them, or write your own answers instead of picking from the supplied lists. The lists are all on the last sheet, called the Data sheet, and you can expand on them as you wish. (Just don't delete the Data sheet or the drop down lists won't work at all.) You can cut out or add anything you wish. Each sheet has minimal formatting for easy printing and altering.
A note of warning: You can cut and paste information from one sheet to another in the same workbook in Google Sheets but the information in the drop-down lists will not transfer from one workbook to another. You can make another copy of the whole thing and begin anew, or download it as an Excel file, which will retain the lists.
I'm hoping this will help me quickly draw up and keep track of more details for my ongoing games - and if it helps anyone else with theirs, all the better.
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