In my world, there is a magic civilization. They are on a far away continent, but it is harsh and snowy. In the current time, they have now giant cities, the main ones being a mix of both steam and magipunk. For worldbuilding notes:

  • The continent they live in has a lot of similarities to that of Siberia, but the further North you go the more it starts to be like Antarctica

  • The coast is fertile, and the higher up North there are lots of mountains and eventually icebergs

  • The magic system is energy-based, and is used for mass-heating, powering cranes and other machines, and curing illness

  • The settlement was created back in the 1200-1300s. The current story takes place in the 16-1700s

  • The wizards and witches brought along not just aristocrats but also carpenters, blacksmiths and welders, and carpenters along on their odyssey.

  • Due to conditions, the local natives (based on Vikings and Eskimos) will not be a problem. They ended up either becoming part of the civilization or eliminated by magic warfare

  • Where they built this new city there was a previous civilization that had been mysteriously abandoned. Not much is known about them, but the walls and sewers are still intact

  • The architecture is mainly based on Rome (as a whole kingdom, architecture varies, but this is for the capital)

My Question: With all these conditions, how could a sustainable city in such a harsh environment be built completely?

If I am missing other factors, I will also accept those too.

  • $\begingroup$ What exactly are you missing? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Feb 13, 2023 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch What I mean are other worldbuilding and factor elements I may have not taken into consideration. $\endgroup$
    – Crafter
    Feb 13, 2023 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ An interesting solution would be to make the elder civilization very advanced. You say walls and sewers, but think about a 100km diameter, 10 m thick diamanoid material dome heated by a geothermal powerplant. Not only do you offload the sustainability issue on the elders, but, you get a very attractive oasis. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2023 at 6:34
  • $\begingroup$ The main thing you need to have a giant self-sustaining city is lots and lots of food. Which means, agriculture. The reason why no pre-industrial cities developed in Siberia or, say, Alaska is because crops that can feed a city won't grow where it's that cold. So, you either need something like wheat that grows in really cold weather, or your wizards' magic has to be able to maintain huge greenhouses year round. Or, even magic that somehow terraforms the climate into a milder one. $\endgroup$ Feb 15, 2023 at 14:00

2 Answers 2


Generally on big cities there are a few things to consider:

  1. Energy: The use of magic energy as a source of power can greatly aid in the sustainability of the city. However, it's also important to ensure that the energy source is replenishable and that there are backup systems in place in case of a failure.

  2. Agriculture: The fertile coast of the continent could be utilized for agriculture to provide food for the city. This would require proper irrigation systems, greenhouses, and other techniques to grow crops in such a harsh environment. Additionally, fishing and hunting could also be important food sources.

  3. Transportation: The city would need a reliable transportation system to bring in goods and resources from other parts of the continent. This could include a combination of magic-powered trains, ships, and sleds.

  4. Building materials: The use of local materials such as stone, wood, and ice could greatly reduce the costs of building and maintaining structures in the city. Additionally, the remains of the previous civilization could also provide useful building materials.

  5. Waste management: Proper waste management systems would be crucial in keeping the city clean and healthy. This could include the use of magic to purify waste and recycle it back into useful resources.

  6. Healthcare: With magic being used to cure illness, it's important to have a robust healthcare system in place to ensure that everyone in the city has access to medical care.

  7. Economy: A strong economy would be crucial in supporting the infrastructure and services required to maintain a sustainable city. This could include industries such as mining, fishing, and manufacturing.

Also, since your society is a magic-based one and the arquitecture is based off Roma, you could say that the Magic Architects built some huge monuments in the city's entrance, attracting people all over the world, merchants and travellers would come by from time to time, making the city prosper overall.

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    $\begingroup$ If they are using magic, you don't need a health care system since magic takes care of it. (Your point 6). Your point on Waste Management is a good one, and one often ignored by world builders. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2023 at 17:07

To make this happen, there must be something that can make (some) people in the city wealthy. Maybe there is rare resource nearby (magical oil)? Or maybe some rare and useful magic works best in cold and frigid climate of the city? Or there are magical artifacts left over to scavenge? And the more people are needed to produce that wealth, the better.

Even if living in the city is more expensive than in cities with milder climates, if people can acquire more wealth than average, they will be willing to live there. Imagine you are magician who sells special cold-magic. Even if building a luxury house costs more in this cold climate, you will do it as you can both afford it and still be left with more than if you used lesser magic in milder city. This trickes down to other people. House-builders could ask for more for buiding the houses, knowing they will be paid. Construction-material traders could have higher prices, knowing there is still good demand.

And the more useful the special product becomes, the more people are willing to move into the city. Both to create the product itself. Or to support lives and lifestyle of people who do.


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