2. Write each location on a strip of paper (or make it a text element in a program like Adobe Illustrator) and arrange the locations in relation to one another. The feel and function of each place will suggest its proximity to several others.
3. Once you've got the locations set, draw bubbles that enclose two or more locations that seem to share common themes. The thieves' guild, the pawn shop, the illegal fighting pit, and the not-quite-legitimate surgeon might make a good group. Congrats, you just made a neighborhood. Let's call it Lookout Alley, as in, look out if you go there at night.
4. The narrow spaces between the bubbles suggest borders between neighborhoods, defined by natural or human-made structures: main streets, canals, walls, chasms, rivers... Go ahead and label them as such.
5. Any big empty spaces between bubbles must be empty for a reason. Are they lakes, swamps, royal palaces, market squares, burned-out areas, cemeteries, hills, harbors?
6. Where are the shops, inns, guard houses, etc.? Who cares? Legal amenities and public services usually don't make a secret of themselves. You can just add them to the map whenever a PC needs to find one. What's cool is that if the inn or guard house is in Lookout Alley, you already have some idea of what sort of character it would have.
7. Last thing, make a map to the best of your ability that corresponds to your schematic but don't label anything. That's for the players to explore. Fancy lads like me will scan the map and superimpose the schematic on top of it.
|Schematic overlaying city map.|