View Full Version : Geology vs. Higher Power - Your Opinion Welcome

02-28-2012, 04:11 PM
I have viewed as maps as not only a map of locating yourself, but as a way of learning your growth. However, in my opinion, maps are another way for people with God-complexes to fulfill their ambitions.
Most of us do not have God-complexes and often use the phrase higher-power to describe your maps.

I think that I am one of a small few who makes his maps through geological processes as opposed to "higher power." Where mountains form, there is a converging fault zone; where volcanic islands pop through the waves of an ocean, either a volcanic hot spot or a subducting tectonic plate.

1) Who else within this guild constructs their maps using Earth geological processes?

2) Which do you find easier to make a map; geology or higher power?

02-28-2012, 09:03 PM
I have stumbled across some discussions in the past about geological formation of islands and mountains. I am afraid I don't recall who was involved .

Higher power requires only faith so is easier than Geology which requires some understanding of the science of geology .:lol:

02-28-2012, 11:18 PM
If you search, you'd find alot of people do. What I do though is I initially create the tectonic plates of the world, figure all that stuff out, then the climate, and then the landmasses and then finally the mountains. And, only then do I factor in the existence of god and add little tweaks such as a magical catastrophe decimating a peninsula making shard like islands, or a fallen god slamming into the earth initially shattering a plate and causing a massive influx of volcanoes in his crater.

03-01-2012, 10:07 PM
At first I thought you were after a theological debate.

There are some real world mappers here who are involved with GIS and all that goes along with that. There are a lot more of us here who are gamers and fantasy art lovers who just map from the gut. Personally, I like learning some of the GIS stuff but I would rather paint than do math. :)

Tesara Tria
03-05-2012, 06:05 PM
Very interesting topic. I suppose it somewhat depends on the setting. If the world formed naturally, then a lot of geological logic and science should be at play. but if it's a world heavily influenced by myth/legend/the gods/magic, then you have a lot more leeway. The setting I'm working on definitely falls in the latter category, and science be damned.

eViLe_eAgLe, I find that utterly amazing that you put so much effort and thought into your maps. Bravo Zulu.


03-06-2012, 05:23 PM
I like to do a mix; start with a basic tectonic map, determine mountain ranges and flat areas, and then just extrapolate climate logically without heavy calculations or anything. I like maps that look consistent but aren't totally accurate; I'm too lazy to go all the way. :P

03-06-2012, 07:28 PM
For my D&D purposes I really don't need all of the faultlines and other subsurface phenomena, so I tend to go the route of "I want a mountain... here."

03-07-2012, 07:52 AM
I write GeoTerSys - the Geological Terrain Simulator - so I am firmly in one of the camps. To my eye, noise just does not seem to generate realistic looking terrain. However I know that people want to put down the terrain features in specific places so my GTS starts with a user input height field and works on it to try to 'improve' it based on geological processes. Tho it has some success, actually getting proper geological processes working on a small computer is quite hard work. There are no strict mathematical formulas to apply, its more like a set of heuristics derived as guesses on what is happening to the ground. Its an impossible task that you can only approach a good answer. The real world is too complex to model accurately enough but I try all the same.

03-13-2012, 08:51 PM
Redrobes, I would like to thank you for your insight.

Do not get me wrong, folks; I do a little of both myself, but I tend to be more geological than fantasy based.
Of course, I would like to mention that I do not firmly believe that map-making is a science tool. It is another form of art that I can bring forth to the world, along with my photography and my writing.

03-13-2012, 09:01 PM
Well I can tell you that were very short on people here with good geology knowledge that can impart a bit to help make maps or software for making terrain / maps. I'm always looking for people with some knowledge of the physical properties that drive geological processes especially erosion and river formation. Many people here just want a map to play their next game or one for a book they are writing. Not many of the fantasy books had proper geology for their maps and that's especially true of the early ones. People are making more of an effort in recent times which may be due to their expectations and demands being set higher every year.

03-13-2012, 09:09 PM
I certainly agree, Redrobes. At least, new authors that do provide maps do show some effort to make it seem possibly Earth-like,

For instance, probably the best Science/Higher Power map that I hold in high regard is Arda (the world of Middle-Earth, created by Tolkien). He combines known science of the time (remember, continental drift and geology is actually 100 years old) with his strong Catholic roots. He did a superb job.

Even still, for one fairly large project I am working on, I am trying to combine science with faith much like Tolkien. I hope that one day, I can show the regions I have worked on.

03-13-2012, 09:19 PM
Thats a little odd. I am one of the admins on MeDem the project to map middle earth to ridiculous resolution and whilst I am not a Tolkien nut the other guys there are. They say that he draw the map without any regard to the geology and this is why its being a bit of a pig for us. For instance we have the Misty mountains running down the middle of the map which is somewhat unusual. Then the Anduin flows all down the side of them down Rauros and along by Mordor which is clearly peaky and out to the sea. Its at least 1000mi long and passes next to three mountain ranges. I'll see if I can find the quote or get Monks to comment...

03-13-2012, 09:27 PM
That is primarily because he built a world from the ground up using the very limited science of his early years in Middle Earth. In fact, the first map that he provided to readers which got great reviews was the Hobbit, the map that Bilbo had while looking for Smaug at the Lonely Mountain.

We are usually defined by the knowledge of our era. For Tolkien, continental drift and plate tectonics was nothing more than a theory; nowadays, it is pure fact.

03-14-2012, 08:26 AM
Yes thats probably true...

I was searching for some geology links for Tolkien when I found one and had to laugh... its from our own site :) Well this is pretty in depth. I did say they are a bit nuts about Tolkien there.


Hope you enjoy. Check out the galleries there too - apart from lots of middle earth stuff there are sections on my GeoTerSys with some more videos as well showing how its calculating it.

03-14-2012, 09:28 AM
Hi, regards Tolkien, he created his world originally as a setting for his languages. Later on, he did express regret in his letters that he hadn't paid more attention to the geology from the outset. I guess the world he created came into focus more, the more he added to it. He based it loosely on Europe, but Europe from a philologist point of view, not a geologist. That's why I believe his rivers play such an important role. He saw rivers as an analogy for the fractal (branching) nature of language transmission, history, and indeed reality generally. The word fractal was not in his vocabulary, but he clearly understood the self similar/referential nature of the world, for eg, in his representation of his various myths and stories in his 'Tree of Tales' and in his preoccupation with family trees. To him, rivers were a representation of time and you may remember the poem:
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

'Until it joins some larger way', and "down from the door"- rivers flow down to meet larger ways- suggesting an invitabilty of being propelled forward once you begin the journey. Goldberry is symbolic of 'time': the River Daughter.
That's why I think the Anduin is so long anyway, because it's a (albeit not literal) representation of the narrative flow. A river runs through it kinda. He didn't create it from geological principles. There's also another angle to it about axes in his world but that's another story!

I can see it from both perspectives. Making fantasy maps and worlds is just a bit of fun at the end of the day. The fun is in the myth creation. The fun can also be in understanding and appreciating geology too though!
I did find a paper in the Britsh Library I think by a geologist who interpreted the various features in M-E in geological terms. I still have it, and I've yet to add that to our project database. Global Mapper, the software we use, supports geological symbols.I'd love to be able to use that as basis for understanding and generating the terrain, ie, along fault lines, etc. Right now though that's something for the future :)
I'm definitely with you on beginning your world continental drift and tectonic plates. If only we had software that could do that!

You can find some stuff here you might find useful for creating your world.

//beat me to it! :D


03-14-2012, 12:25 PM
Thank you greatly, Monks. Your insight is true about the setting for his languages.

In a sense, I have a bit of tendency to create new languages to help create the worlds of my stories. After all, for Tolkien, he used the natural world around him to create his world for M-E and the peoples that inhabit it.

Geology and science may not be my ultimate answer while creating my stories, but it is a driving force for me. Only once have I ever made a map where higher-power took precedence.

03-14-2012, 10:01 PM
I'd be very interested to see how exactly you go about the geological route. I myself would love to take the scientific/realist approach to worldbuilding- in terms of climate and geography, I attempt to simulate the same processes that shape Earth, and for that matter I do the same for history and culture (but of course only to some degree, otherwise I wouldn't really be creating much of a unique world), but when it comes to geology I've found that despite my searching resources are hard to come by. While many worldbuilders choose forgo such formalities, it doesn't take a genius to learn basic atmospheric circulation (the primary determinant of climate), and even astrology/astronomy one can take the time to learn the concepts behind (and therefore create a more realistic world in a cosmic context). Geology, and specifically plate tectonics, on the other hand, as I've come to find in past weeks, is quite devoid of resources readily applicable to the world-building process. Sure, a basic understanding of the existence of plates is not rare, but how do you translate that to a fantasy setting? While we may be able to retrospectively explain Earth's geological history with plate tectonics, it at least appears to me that in the field of plate tectonics we are far from knowing exactly what a feasible shape for a plate would be, or what might cause them to move in a specific direction. Once I realize these difficulties, I think I do begin to doubt whether it wouldn't just be easier (and no more of a crapshoot) to just arbitrarily draw continents myself... So yeah, I'd be interested in how you would account for these problems (or perhaps I'm just not entirely well-informed about plate tectonics, in which case I'd love to be educated). I'm sorry if my language is a bit informal... I'm kinda going stream of consciousness here.

05-31-2012, 07:32 AM
well i do try to use basic tectonic/geology (things like induction/subduction zones and other simple things like young mountains being higher than old ones which are more weathered etc) but that can get annoying when you simply must have a mountain right there regardless of wisdom dictating otherwise!

05-31-2012, 01:33 PM
I am a combiner.

I personally enjoy the notion of if a higher power/extra-worldy force (which could actually be science attempting to terra-form) did X then what would happen to Y? This could range from where in my world planular-tectonic forces slammed two large bodies of land together, forming an extreme mountain range, but then those two pieces of ground are left to sit on two divergent tectonic plates, splitting the mountains back in two, to a real world example of what exactly would happen if we turned the Sahara green? The implications of that could be environmentally staggering... or not so much...

Educated fantasy guessing, heh heh.