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Building a settlement from scratch, how much progress by month?

Lackofname

Explorer
(MINOR spoilers for Ruins of Azlant 1 - The Lost Outpost)

Currently doing the prep work for a campaign, I'm using some adventure modules to handle frameworks for things I'm unfamiliar with, but I'm looking to change them, and I'm not sure how to gauge things for that. Also "checking the math" of what's in the adventure.

Campaign setup
It's about the very first colony/settlement/expedition on a newly discovered continent. Said area is dense, tropical jungle (Central American/Central African style).

My question is how much could 50 colonists build/setup after 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, and 4 months?

How much would they scout the local environs, based in terms of miles, again in dense jungle?

Example from Paizo

"The Lost Outpost", first adventure in Ruins of Azlant, presents a colony at the 5th month mark (shown on the map image I've attached). They've managed to build:
  • Whatever work needed to clear the settlement site
  • 1 wood-frame mud-brick smithy (smithy+small home)
  • 1 large chapel (logs)
  • 1 large long home
  • 1 log cabin
  • 1 two-story (wood frame, mud brick) government building
  • 2 long wood-plank buildings (barracks)
  • 17 small cottages
  • 2 wells
  • 2 mud-brick sheds
  • 5 vegetable patches
  • Partial palisade (1 finished wall, 2 started walls)
  • 1 small dock
  • 1 canoe
Does that seem unreasonable amount of progress for 5 months' work?

Why this matters

Haven't decided yet if the PCs are on the first or second boat.

If on the first boat, then the PCs will be there as the colony works from nothing. I'd need to know how much advancement the colony is accomplishing monthly.

If the PCs are on the second boat, then they'll be arriving to an empty colony, all those already there having mysteriously disappeared. The reason I am not using the setup from the adventure is this: my setting will have some local inhabitants about a half-day's walk from the settlement, on the other side of a river. I want the PCs to be the first contact with them. It feels unlikely the natives wouldn't have bumped into the foreigners in 5 months, so I want to dial back the progress. I also want minimal exploration/scouting to have been done before the PCs get there, so again, the colonists prioritizing buildings and supplies would cut down on NPCs having ventured out and how far they'd go.
 

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Eltab

Is this a moon, or is it a space station?
Pick any Midwest US city and find a "History of the City of ____" book. The first chapter or two will give you a reasonable estimate of how much can get done.
 


TheSword

Legend
Supporter
First month, living in tents, prospecting, hunting, fishing, scouting the land, setting animal traps. Picking suitable sites. Identifying fresh water. Dealing with local threats in the immediate area. Begin felling trees. Temporary corralling of animals and storage of food.

Second month. Building initial living spaces and food storage/animal storage (if animals have been brought with expedition). Potentially build key infrastructure buildings like a smithy that’s would enable the construction of other sites. Planting begins for long term crops.

Third month. Continue living spaces, allowing more comfort once the initial needs of survival a passed. Cottage Industry begins in the home though where necessary longterm bespoke buildings are constructed for necessary industries - slaughterhouse or sawmill for instance.

Fourth month - Begin foundations of major projects, larger buildings or more complicated ones - town hall, temple or mill for instance. Work begins in securing the site - palisades and watch towers.

Fifth month. The foundations of a thriving settlement are finished off. There would be a large public gathering place e.g temple or hall, along with ample housing, the requirements of industry and secure shelter for livestock.
 

Lackofname

Explorer
First month, living in tents, prospecting, hunting, fishing, scouting the land, setting animal traps. Picking suitable sites. Identifying fresh water. Dealing with local threats in the immediate area. Begin felling trees. Temporary corralling of animals and storage of food.

Suitable sites for what?

Also, prospecting? Worrying about finding ore before you've even started building housing seems a bit premature.

The rest looks sensible.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Suitable sites for long term building. Stability of ground, risk of flooding, proximity to water sources, access - navigable river or safe harbor. Access to lumber, access to farmland.

Regarding prospecting sorry maybe it’s a UK translation. By prospecting, I mean searching out local resources and determining appropriate distances between any settlement. This may include ores but also could include slate for building materials, quarryable stone, clay deposits, suitable soil, herdland, lakes for fishing, rivers, forest for lumber etc. There is obviously overlap with finding suitable sites for building.

Scouts and explorers may have made note of what resources are in the area, and potential sites. I would expect settlers would do most of the planning, particularly as they start to spread out. You can’t just plonk a building down anywhere - not unless you’re happy tearing it down and rebuilding six months later when you realize you have to carry everything 3x further than you otherwise would have needed.
 

aco175

Legend
Quantity or quality?

The romans used to march 20 miles and then build a camp in the barbarian lands each day. I gather it was a pretty impressive fort each night too. I would think that settlers could throw up shacks in a few days and then need to improve them over time. Water and Food sites need to take priority over people shelter to a point and living under a canvas roof for a few months works.

I would most likely put the PCs on the 2nd boat and have a few things ready for them. I would think there are good plot hooks either way, but new people always bring new problems and the 1st settlers can now have old ruins and such to explore. Plus, the PCs need a tavern and other places to spend their money. I'm not sue how much my players would enjoy the primitive aspects of the first settlers.
 

Lackofname

Explorer
Thanks for more details, @TheSword

I'm very likely going to be doing what's on the image. That's a fine enough setup, I'm just dialing the clock backwards to see what would be there at every month.
 
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Lackofname

Explorer
Quantity or quality?

The romans used to march 20 miles and then build a camp in the barbarian lands each day. I gather it was a pretty impressive fort each night too. I would think that settlers could throw up shacks in a few days and then need to improve them over time. Water and Food sites need to take priority over people shelter to a point and living under a canvas roof for a few months works.
One needs wood for shacks, and that wood needs to be logged.
I would most likely put the PCs on the 2nd boat and have a few things ready for them. I would think there are good plot hooks either way, but new people always bring new problems and the 1st settlers can now have old ruins and such to explore. Plus, the PCs need a tavern and other places to spend their money. I'm not sue how much my players would enjoy the primitive aspects of the first settlers.
The point of this game is for everything to be primitive. If players won't enjoy that, this is not the campaign for them.

The difference between boat 1 and boat 2 is "will you be living in a tent or a temporary structure".

Hell, look at The Stolen Lands adventure path, which is sending Pcs on a Hexcrawling adventure in the middle of the wilderness, and then just handing them gold and sayin g "Go build a kingdom" once they've explored it. The only "tavern" is a trading post at the far edge of a territory the size of Maine.

This is more or less that, except the kingdom/settlement/bla is being built at the same time as the exploration.
 

Hand of Evil

Adventurer
Epic
Break down your work force, how many people are doing which job? Are there enough people to do the same job and can teams be formed to work on different projects at the same time. You will have hunters, wood cutters, builders, guards. First month can be very productive, long houses, walls, basic forge, lumber yards. The second and 3rd months would be expansion for additional setters.

The biggest unknown here is magic.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
One needs wood for shacks, and that wood needs to be logged.
As you mention plank structures above, that wood also needs to be sawn in bulk, which means one of the first things you need is some sort of sawmill.

Without that, you're left with logs - fine for cabins, palisades, and similar but not so useful for anything more refined...or anything large unless the settlers have a competent engineer among them.
The point of this game is for everything to be primitive. If players won't enjoy that, this is not the campaign for them.

The difference between boat 1 and boat 2 is "will you be living in a tent or a temporary structure".

Hell, look at The Stolen Lands adventure path, which is sending Pcs on a Hexcrawling adventure in the middle of the wilderness, and then just handing them gold and sayin g "Go build a kingdom" once they've explored it. The only "tavern" is a trading post at the far edge of a territory the size of Maine.

This is more or less that, except the kingdom/settlement/bla is being built at the same time as the exploration.
Much will also depend on the composition of your PC group. If three of them are Dwarves, for example, mining and stone/metal craft will become way more important than if they're all Elves. If they're all Hobbits, they'll build farms before anything else. And so on.
 

Lackofname

Explorer
As you mention plank structures above, that wood also needs to be sawn in bulk, which means one of the first things you need is some sort of sawmill.
I mention plank structures above because that's what Paizo's module says. Although even their own product only lists one building as planks, so they clearly didn't have a lot. It's probably what they brought with them.

If I wanted to be incredibly fussy, I'd look at the type of wood available; the module mentions that the island where their stuff takes place has palm trees, but palm makes poor wall building material (outside of like, thin logs) so the preferred is pine and oak, found further inland. However a little googling shows that palm species are the most common in the Central/South American jungles I'm basing this on.

But I'm not going to be that fussy.

Much will also depend on the composition of your PC group. If three of them are Dwarves, for example, mining and stone/metal craft will become way more important than if they're all Elves. If they're all Hobbits, they'll build farms before anything else. And so on.
Oh, PCs won't be the actual architects and building planners; it's a rare player who would enjoy that sort of thing. The PCs, being troubleshooters for the settlement, get their work duty cut in half, and said work will be handwaved as just "general help". Although I figure their class and skills would be more indicative of the type of contribution they would be better at.
 
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Depending upon how much detail you want, I would recommend GURPS Fantasy and/or GURPS Low-Tech.

Yes, they are game books. However, a large chunk of both books talks about the logistics of how things historically worked (and what technologies were available at various times) for settlements. Fantasy has more detail for fantasy elements and building a fantasy setting; Low-Tech is more geared toward the nitty gritty of how things were done with various forms of real-world technology. There's enough detail that a common joke about some sections of the books involve being able to use them as a source for a college paper.

It may be a bit of information overload for you, depending on how in-depth you are looking to get. On the other hand, they may make a good crunchy counterparts to the online searches which others have recommended.

Preview of Fantasy Table of Contents
 

Lackofname

Explorer
@Johnny3D3D I appreciate the suggestion, as well as other tips like "Look up books on this" and such, but I honestly am not intent on being that detailed.

I came to the message boards hoping someone would be able to tell me. I've done this before, asking how far settlements should be from one another, and got a lot of helpful answers. So ultimately care only as far as it is interfering with my sense of believability and the potential conflict of what I want from the setup. "Good enough", in other words. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Oh, PCs won't be the actual architects and building planners; it's a rare player who would enjoy that sort of thing. The PCs, being troubleshooters for the settlement, get their work duty cut in half, and said work will be handwaved as just "general help". Although I figure their class and skills would be more indicative of the type of contribution they would be better at.
Ah - from your initial write-up I took it that the PCs were driving all of this.
 

Your map basically looks like Jamestown. I'm sure that was probably the inspiration.

My only problems with it are:

1. You'd build the first settlement somewhere with access to fresh water. Either a river or a lake. Wells are expensive (in terms of labor) and springs are complicated by a lot of things. Assuming your people have water mill technology, rivers are extremely attractive. Mills can be configured to saw logs, grind wheat, etc. It also gets you river travel, fish, etc. There's a very good reason that people build cities on rivers.

2. Nobody wants to live in a strange wilderness without a complete palisade, and simple palisades are fairly easy. That means both that the palisade should be done, and that nobody is sleeping outside the palisade. You might have structures outside the fort, but nobody stays the night out there until you've tamed the wilderness.

3. Individual homes are one of the very last things you build. They're expensive in terms of labor and materials (both construction and heating) compared to great halls and longhouses. They're what you build when everything else you need is done and your settlement is fairly safe and established. There's good reasons that humans often lived in communal structures like great halls and long houses. They're one of the first structures you'd build.
 

Lackofname

Explorer
Your map basically looks like Jamestown. I'm sure that was probably the inspiration.

My only problems with it are:

1. You'd build the first settlement somewhere with access to fresh water. Either a river or a lake. Wells are expensive (in terms of labor) and springs are complicated by a lot of things.
The good thing is that this is a rainforest, so natural water is just a few hours wait. Also Mexico's Yucatan has cenotes, which are natural wells--sinkholes that expose groundwater. The Mayans made heavy use of them. I'm going to say there's one in the settlement's back yard, which while not a well in the center of a palisade, is a stone's throw from safety.

Because I don't actually want them to be on a river, for campaign reasons. So the BS reason I'm going to say is that this was the best site due to a natural harbor.
2. Nobody wants to live in a strange wilderness without a complete palisade, and simple palisades are fairly easy. That means both that the palisade should be done, and that nobody is sleeping outside the palisade. You might have structures outside the fort, but nobody stays the night out there until you've tamed the wilderness.
Yeah I found the unfinished palisade to be a little suspect.
There's good reasons that humans often lived in communal structures like great halls and long houses. They're one of the first structures you'd build.
I didn't know those were lived in! I thought they were just celebratory/official structures.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
A palisade and the earthworks to support them is a massive undertaking involving chopping down hundreds of trees of the right size and thickness and would be balanced against identified threats. Unless it was known that the area was particularly dangerous I don’t think this would take precedence over shelter or basic industry needs like weaving, pottery, butchery etc.

Secondly, people were shaping wood for building before mechanized wood mills came along. Three a-frames and a good saw. It’s more Labour intensive but very do-able.
 

Eltab

Is this a moon, or is it a space station?
Yes we are on a river, but it is short, steep and full of rocks, doesn't go anywhere interesting, or has eroded its way down to a deep canyon. Nobody uses it as an easy transport route because it isn't one.
Heading out to sea, on the other hand...
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I use Building value/Labour/10+skill = Days

The DMG says a Guildhouse and Trading Post can be built for 5000gp, I’ll assume the same price for a Hall (Longhouse/Barracks). so if I have 5 unskilled workers

Hall 5000gp/5 workers/10 (skill) = 100 days
Of course if you have more workers or a Proficient Carpenter then the job will be done quicker.

You can extrapolate to build a village allocating your fixed pool of Labour Remembering though that Food harvesting also needs Workers to attend to it - indeed for a new colony the first 3-6 months should be focussed on food supply and avoiding starvation
 
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