View Full Version : Please critique my mountains

11-13-2011, 05:17 PM
This is a map I'm creating for a game world. It's really big, but that's no bother, since I'll likely only use a portion of it. The rest I may save for a later project.

This is my first digital map. I normally draw my maps by hand and just place my mountains along plate lies and be done with it. But with this one, I want to get it right. Problem is, I made this map from a fractal, so I really didn't get to choose where I wanted to plates.

Can anyone with more experience please have a look-see and tell me where i went horribly wrong? If something's only slightly off, but it looks okay, I don't have a problem with that. Doesn't have to be perfect.


Problems I already foresee:

I have a Western continent that is almost completely devoid of mountains. I don't see how this is naturally possible and plan on changing it.
The southernmost continent has a range of mountains going the wrong way (latitudinal instead of longitudinal like the others nearby). I'm not even sure if that's a problem.
North-Western continent has a huge plain on it that I can't see being anything but a giant arctic desert, and I don't like that. However, I don't see how mountains could form right in the middle of it either. So... I'll either have to create an arctic lava flow or leave it as it is and work with it.
Not too sure about my river placement, but I did it backwards, so it's bound to be wrong. No lakes yet, since I'll probably be re-doing the rivers anyway.
I don't have weather patterns yet, so I don't know if there's any problems I'll run into there.

Anyway, thanks in advance for the help!

11-13-2011, 10:51 PM
I may not be the river police.. But you have some crazy rivers, a river rarely and I mean.. Rarely splits, the longest split is only like 10 km(?) before it comes back together.

This right here..
I don't even know what to say to that.. Plain crazy.

11-13-2011, 11:27 PM
I may not be the river police..

Haha, river police. You'll probably catch me at some point since I don't know how rivers and stuff like that work in reality.

As for the original poster and the mountains. The border between the mountains and the rest of the land seems a bit too harsh to me. I'm not expert so I probably don't know what I am talking about but maybe some hills around the mountains would made it look a little less harsh? Like I said though, I'm not expert. I only just joined this forum :P

Can I ask how you made your mountains? I do like how you did it :)

11-14-2011, 12:12 AM
5) Do you want to figure weather patterns? There are some threads that would help. Search for currents or winds, and some will show up.
4) Yup, the rivers are wonky. What e_e said --- figure a number of small tributaries join to form a bigger stream, and multiples of those join to form bigger rivers, and so on, going from high land down to the sea. The only time you're likely to see watercourses divide again is in very restricted areas where certain rivers slow down when they hit the sea. Certain meaning even there specific conditions have to be met before a delta can form - shallowish coastal waters, no strong crosscurrents onshore, and plenty of sediment. Don't think of a delta as what happens to a river when it reaches the coast, but rather what builds up sometimes PAST an original coast, as river water slows and drops its silt and mud. And a river will never connect two oceans - water always flows down and one coast will be the same elevation as the other side of a continent. There's a couple of really good threads on figuring where your rivers should logically run.
3) The big plain isn't bad per se ... except that you don't want one there :-). Which is sufficient reason to rationalize a way to place something else in that spot - it's your world so it should please you. Now, mountains do not have to come from volcanism - the other big case is when crustal plates run into one another. That pushed up the Himilayas, when India rammed into the south edge of proto-asia. The Appalachians were probably a much earlier uplift from a similar process, or could have been a coastal uplift as one earlier plate curled under the edge of another - both pushing the upper one higher, ANd accumulating sediments from the lower one as they 'scraped off', so to speak. You can get coastal ranges next to such a subduction zone by your assumed mountainbuilding process - the subducted plate melts and the resulting shake, rattle, roll, and boil can spawn volcanoes overhead - here you might picture the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada. So if you want higher land than a boring ol' arctic tundra plain on that NW continent, you can do it without stretching credulity. While lots of mountains are at coasts and a typical fractal generatot gets mostly central ranges, SoMe number of central ranges is OK.

If you WANT a bunch of old lava flow made flattish highlands, like the Canadian Shield, that could work too. All in what you want. Heck, say there was originally hills and roughness there but an ice sheet ground it down. That would five you another kind of interesting terrain, the moraines and other features left by retreating ice.

2) Well, yeah, some of your ranges look kind of random, rather than forming coherent systems. But they also seem to be of uniform roughness, which could loosely translate to uniform age. if the transverse range was WAY lower-relief than the N-S ones, maybe it was a previous plate-collision - look at the WAY old Ozark Mtns right in mid- USA.
1) Western continent devoid of mountains.... huh? I assume all that gnarled roughness is mountains, yes?

If it's a game world, no problem with what we see being partial. But if you want to figure stuff like climate, it might be good to rough in the whole globe, since what happens at 30N-90W can seriously affect what happens at 55N-87E. Or just do some really rough rules of thumb and don't worry about whole-planet systems. See previously referenced climate & wind & current threads.

From your previous posts it sounds like you enjoy working things out sensibly as you build a world. The physical geography is no different from what you do with societies - a few rules of thumb and a handful of physical processes; stir and iterate. I'm no geologist or geographer by training, I just read a bunch of books. These days you can probably pick up the basics ( and details) of how landforms happen on the internet, way cheaper than my longstanding used bookstore habit :-).

What you've got down here is a reasonable start. Maybe do some more variety of heights of hills and mountains, string a few of your blobs together into chains of ranges. You've got a way better distro of terrain than your average mechan-o-generated fractal world, since those tend more toward uniform roughness (if that is a phrase that makes sense... ). Some of the places where mountains are right at a coast I'd expect some corresponding islands just offshore. You've done well to have most coastal-ish ranges have a bit of plains at their feet. The shapes are nice - interesting enough that one starts thinking "yeah, farms across there, corsairs probably here..."

11-14-2011, 01:26 AM
Typical fractal height fields really don't make very good continent shapes. You'd be better off adding factal noise to shapes you place yourself. Continents tend to be much more along the lines of compact lumps. Rifts, continental seas, collisions, and subduction driven vulcanism can add a limited amount of deviation from compact lumps, they should be just that, rare and generally fairly small deviations.

Also, for small scale maps of continents, or entire globes, you need to worry about where things are, how big they are, and how you are projecting things onto a plane.

11-14-2011, 03:14 AM
Ha! @ my rivers.
Didn't see how ridiculous those deltas look until it was pointed out.
And yeah, I ended up adding the mountains to the W continent after I made the post.

Thanks for all the help guys.

I think I'm going to go with a new rule of thumb for making rivers for a game map: if I were the one who had to blind-map it, how hard would it be? In a dungeon it's probably a good thing for the party to get lost. On the world map... not so much.

I'm getting rid of all those rivers first of all. Then, looking more closely at where the plates lie and re-doing the mountains. They don't glare out WRONG and they look okay. My biggest concern is that perhaps they cover too much of the land, so I my scale them back as well. Right now, most of the western rages look far too big to me. Then, I'll run my rivers in a much more orderly way. Even though I do have one river that's enchanted and for story purposes, I won't be turning it into a catastrophe like what I did above. Then, climate, deserts, plains, forests and swamps.

Thanks for the help guys.

11-14-2011, 03:51 AM
Well ... the mountains don't really have ranges or water erosion features, they look a bit like the mountains of the moon. But that's what semi-random embossing does, unfortunately ...

11-14-2011, 11:46 AM
It's not random. I drew them in. That's why I came here to ask, to see where they could be better placed, but I think I answered my own question by not having weather patterns.

Lukc, could you explain ranges, please? I understand erosion and windward/leeward sides, tropic zones, etc already, but I'm not sure what you mean when you say my mountains don't have ranges.


11-14-2011, 03:57 PM
Lukc, could you explain ranges, please? I understand erosion and windward/leeward sides, tropic zones, etc already, but I'm not sure what you mean when you say my mountains don't have ranges.

I think he means that real mountains tend to be arranged in lines and large mountainous areas tend to consist of several lines packed together. The North American Cordillera is a good example. In southern BC for instance the Cordillera consists of the Insular Mountains, the Straight of Georgia, the Coast Mountains, the interior plateau, the Columbia Mountains, the Rocky Mountain Trench, and the Rocky Mountains.

11-17-2011, 03:17 AM
Thanks for the info.