I am creating a world with roughly medieval levels of technology (It is actually in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign) and the world has just been almost destroyed.

A city has been flattened to the foundations, and the survivors are trying to rebuild. They can find all the common resources they need (There is stone all over the place, tools are easy enough to come by etc) but have to rely entirely on the manpower of the townsfolk that survived (No magic for example). Anything uncommon I probably haven't thought of because I can't even put up flat-pack furniture never-mind build a wall, but they would likely have to acquire that so it would be an obstacle to progress, and useful for me to know

They won't be looking to rebuild a metropolis, just a town / village big enough to be called a worthwhile* settlement. Considerations are probably building a defensive wall, setting farmland, and enough shelter for however many people are in the town (The first place this will apply to has ~250 people).

*Worthwhile can be defined as: buildings that don't fall over in a storm, though they can be part wood and part stone; enough of them to provide shelter for the individuals; some kind of gathering hall (tavern maybe); plus clearing enough land to farm enough produce to sustain them.

  • $\begingroup$ There are some other details you should probably put some thought into. What was the original population? If you started with a city of thousands, then all those dead bodies are going to be a pretty significant problem. How big was the city? What's the climate/terrain like? A defensive wall isn't likely to be high on the priority list at first until everybody has houses and food, and your survivors are a lot more likely to rebuild with wood rather than stone, at least initially, regardless of how much debris is around just because stone is HEAVY. You can put a wood house up in a day or two. $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Sep 24 '19 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ @user535733 thank you, updated. $\endgroup$ – SeriousBri Sep 24 '19 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @MorrisTheCat dead bodies is a really good point, this particular place did have 10000, but they died over 15 years of earthquakes so the bodies will have been dealt with generally (Probably burned where they were recoverable). $\endgroup$ – SeriousBri Sep 24 '19 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ If your survivors have managed to live through fifteen years of earthquakes, they must be starting from a position of having at least basic levels of food, water, shelter, and safety available or they wouldn't have lived through all that, yes? So this isn't a scenario where a couple hundred survivors are standing around in the rubble of Yesterday trying to figure out what to do, these are hardened survivors who are now thinking about upgrading from Basic Survival to something more comfortable, is that understanding accurate? $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Sep 24 '19 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ This really depends on how much money there is to throw at the problem, including what kind of income the place can still generate, this controls how much time the townsfolk can spend rebuilding vs just feeding themselves and how much specalized labor they can hire. If they are poor and only have the townsfolk to rely on then about the same amount of time as it took to build in the first place. $\endgroup$ – John Sep 24 '19 at 19:23

Trevor and his source are right, but I don't think it tells the whole story. Certainly London lost a great deal of population because of the fire. Many people must have died, and many more would have been displaced, a large percentage of whom likely just moved away. Why would you rebuild a whole city that could house 100k people when you only need to house 20k? Further, it seems like the people already had somewhere else to live; they must have lived somewhere during 1667 after all. The point being there is not much call for new housing.

Most medieval European civilian structures would have been wattle and daub. The most time-consuming part of wattle and daub construction is simply gathering materials. A wattle and daub house requires a lot of mud or clay after all. Given 250 workers, they will be able to make relatively short work of this. I think that these people could, given adequate resources, finish housing themselves in a matter of a few weeks. Consider this video, in which someone builds a wattle and daub hut by himself in 30 days. I think it would be even faster, because his house looks like it could house 5 people or more. Assuming there's no diminishing returns in labor, that means a household could finish their house in just 6 days. I think it's likely there will be other delays; these people have other things they need to do besides build after all, but I also think it would be quicker than the 30 days in the video. So to me, anywhere between 6 and 30 days seems reasonable.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for this, specifically the mention of wattle and daub which I forgot about since my school days! That's probably the go to method my town will use. $\endgroup$ – SeriousBri Oct 21 '19 at 11:56

If townspeople have all resources (lumber, tools, beasts of burden) and there are no other urgent tasks to complete (like harvest), they can erect housing for everyone as well as wooden palisade within a month.

This will certainly look like town, but probably not a "worthwhile" one. Stone construction used to take much longer in medieval times and relied on guest artisans and laborers. For a settlement of 250 people, stone wall appears like a formidable structure, and without outside help it should take decades to complete.


According to this PDF https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/application/files/6514/5511/5493/what-happened-great-fire-london.pdf When London burned down, it took about 50 years to rebuild.

It took nearly 50 years to rebuild the burnt area of London. St Paul’s Cathedral was not completed until 1711. The city and the cathedral looked very different afterwards as this view of London in the 1700s shows. Throughout 1667 people cleared rubble and surveyed the burnt area. Much time was spent planning new street layouts and drawing up new building regulations. By the end of the year, only 150 new houses had been built. Public buildings, like churches, were paid for with money from a new coal tax.

This seems accurate for any sophisticated structures. If you however don't mind a shanty town, then probably a few months to get started.

There are some additional factors though.

First, if the world, or even just a town has been reduced to nothing, there will be massive die-offs as people freeze and starve to death. With no sanitation, the survivors will die of disease. Eventually the few survivors will be able to rebuild and begin this process.

Also, for working families, the family home could take a life time to build.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Keep in mind there was a lot money around for rebuilding since only a small part of london was damaged. The invention of the mortgage at the exact same time probably had an affect as well. $\endgroup$ – John Sep 24 '19 at 19:24

If you take a look at Gdansk then you'll see that it was burn to the ground by Teutons in 1308. According to wiki it look a couple of year before new buildings and roads were build upon what was left of Gdansk. In 1340 a considerable fortress was build and in 1358 Gdansk joined the hanseatic league. In 1361 people of Gdansk rose in revolt against Teutons.

It seems that "rebuilding" a city could take a couple of years but regaining the power and prestige of the city will take circa 50 years. This does seem to support Trevors answer.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gda%C5%84sk#Teutonic_Knights https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teutonic_takeover_of_Danzig_(Gda%C5%84sk) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Gda%C5%84sk#Monastic_State_of_the_Teutonic_Knights_(1308%E2%80%931454)

  • $\begingroup$ Teutons != Knights of the Teutonic Order $\endgroup$ – Sebastian Oct 21 '19 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Unless you assume that i was talking about Anno Domini 200 then there is no possibility for misunderstanding. And you cannot assume that as I mentioned the years. if you want to be pedantic then there is no "Knights of the Teutonic Order" but "Brothers of the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem" but this is not an official and academic history article but a post on Worldbuilding Stackexchange. BTW you are welcome to edit the answer if you find it unsatisfying. $\endgroup$ – Bartors Oct 22 '19 at 10:10

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