Tier I: Major Hold Capitals (mostly). Between 50 and 80 interiors . A wealth of quests, services and faction headquarters. Usually ruled by influential Kings. Examples: Haafingar, Whiterun, Winterhold, Kynholm and Karthwasten.
Tier II: Minor Hold Capitals and Large Towns. Between 30 and 50 interiors. They feature modest guildhalls, a variety of shops and a decent selection of quests. Usually ruled by minor Kings or Jarls. Examples: Dawnstar, Dragonstar, Falkreath, Riften, Markarth.
Tier III: General Towns. Between 15 and 30 interiors. They include modest market-towns, large villages and other sizable settlements. They offer a number of services, but not a complete selection, and don't feature many faction options (if any at all). Usually ruled by a Jarl or Thane. Examples: Falkirstad, Felsundhal, Lainalten, North Hall and Cascabel.
Tier IV: Villages and Larger Hamlets. Between 5 and 15 interiors. They feature a single tradehouse, tavern or meadhall, rather than multiple shops, very limited services and usually no faction quest-givers. Governed by Thanes. Examples: Karthgad
Tier V: Smaller Hamlets, Homesteads, Peasant Farms, Camps. These are very run-down and virtually destitute. Almost no services. Might be ruled by an elder, chief or shaman. Examples: Reachmen and Orc villages.
The Nords generally established their original settlements in Skyrim on rocky crags overlooking a river valley. Many of these still survive as villages or outposts in the province's more isolated regions. In most of Skyrim, however, this defensive posture was deemed unnecessary by the mid-First Era, and most towns and cities today rest on the valley floors. In some cases, they are still overlooked by the picturesque ruins of the earlier settlements, long since abandoned.
As masters of wood-craft, Nords utilize largely wood-based architecture. Their dwellings are usually simple structures, though it varies between and inside Holds. A gap exists between the more civilized Nords who live in the capitals, the poor, primitive folks who eke out an existence in villages, and loners dwelling deep in the wilderness. Cities along the coast are generally richer than the ones of the interior. Some of the poorest settlements are mere collections of tent-like buildings built of stone, wood and fur, and serve as homes for hunters and raiders.
Skyrim is a rugged, lonely, mountainous province; small villages and homesteads outnumber large towns. Nords build their settlements to fit the natural landscape. Fortress towns sit on rocky outcrops or mountain-cliff slopes, and rough-and-tumble run-down mining camps sit along rivers at the bottom of mountains. Nord farmers grow their crops in the narrow valleys between mountain ridges, sewing in stony ground, or on rocky terraces.
The more Imperialized settlements are more tightly packed in general, like typical medieval towns, while towns in the more traditional holds have more open spaces. Most large cities in the east have formed foreign quarters where the hold's elves live. Depending on the city, these can be dirt-poor slums or thriving mercantile centers home to talented craftsmer and tradesmer.
Scamp wrote:Morrowind really succeeded in making a smallish town seem like an actual city. When I first played Morrowind I had the feeling everything was so huge and vast. After all, we're still modding Morrowind and we should stick to what made Morrowind that atmospheric in the first place (there were a lot of other factors, obviously).