View Full Version : Advice needed concerning a fantasy map and the courses of rivers :)

03-17-2012, 06:12 PM
Good evening to you all :) By some lucky coincidence I happened to stumble upon this forum just today, and this seemed like such a great place that I simply had to register :)

I hope I made this thread in the right section of the forum, but if not, I sincerely apologize for my newcomer's ignorance :p

I have been writing fantasy stories (that have all tragically gone unpublished :p) ever since I was ten (so 18 years now), and have been working on my fantasy world for about as long, which needless to say has gone through a great number of changes and revisions over the years. I have been growing increasingly aware and embarrassed of all the completely unrealistic aspects of my world maps, so little by little I've tried to re-design them to have them make at least some kind of sense. Unfortunately part of the problem is that I laid down some of the most important corner-stones of my maps back when I was a kid who didn't have a slightest clue about climatology (or anything else for that matter :p), and I don't want to change them unless I absolutely have to, so I have had to change the rest of the map to try to have those important map elements make any sense. Not really an ideal way to approach map-making :p

Anyway, today I drew a rough sketch of the latest design for one of the continents in my world, and I would be very grateful for any advice :) I'm especially worried about all those rivers, since my knowledge of hydrology is quite lacking.

That map is hand-drawn with colored pencils, and unfortunately the scanning process wasn't very kind to the colors, but hopefully the map is still clear enough.

A few important notes about the map:

- As you can see from the bottom of the map, the scale of the world is pretty huge (1 centimeter on the map is 1000 kilometers), and the world has a second continent which is actually slightly larger, so the planet probably end up quite a bit bigger than Earth. I'm aware that this might seem excessive, but I like to have enough room where to put all my different countries :p There is of course the risk that adding both those land masses and all those seas together I may well end up with a cylindrical planet, but there's an ocean to the west that i can pretty much make as wide or narrow as I need to so the planet still ends up as a sphere.

- Winds blow a huge number of rainclouds from the western ocean all the time, so the western shoreline gets great amounts of rain (on the eastern side of the mountains is mainly deserts and savanna). However I haven't quite figured out how that huge lake on the southern part of the central plains (the one located in that "bowl" in the mountain range) gets its water. Especially since I've been toying with the idea that the land around the lake and river could be mostly swamps and marshlands, but that would require insane amounts of water, and the plains probably can't get nearly that much rain. Any suggestions?

- That large forest in the northern part of the continent is pretty problematic, since it has been in all my maps from pretty much the beginning, and realistically speaking the forest would probably never get enough rain in order to exist. So I came up with the idea that it really shouldn't exist, it's an anomaly in the world (I've always intended the forest to be a very nasty place, so this actually fits quite well), and the forest seems to create heavy rainclouds out of nowhere, so it's almost always raining there against all logic. This also nicely explains where that massive river that flows south all the way through the central plains gets all its water. I usually hate to explain anything with "a wizard did it!", but in this case it might just work. Also note inside the forest the "ridge" of hills which runs from North-West to South-East, and acts as a watershed (which is why lots of the water flows south, and the rest flows into the northern sea). Unfortunately that large river flowing to the south is one of the most important aspects the map, and I've mostly designed the most important countries around it, so I desperately tried to make it somewhat realistic that all that water goes to the south instead of the western sea (which is much closer) by adding more and more hills on the western side of the river to act as a watershed.

- Also somewhat problematic is the smaller river system on the east side of the great northern forest over the mountains. Once again I tried to use hills to channel part of the rainwater into the south instead of the closest sea (since I pretty much need that river to flow south and join up with the massive river in the center of the continent), but does that look too strange? If so, are there any better ideas to get that river flowing to the south from the mountains?

Thank you very much for any advice you can give :)


EDIT: There was supposed to be a little thing below the map to show it's scale, but it seems I've managed to accidentally crop it out of the picture. I've meant 1 centimeter on the map to represent about 1000 kilometers, so the continent seems to be over 8000 kilometers wide. I might have overdone it a little, but at least my countries won't run out of space :p

03-17-2012, 11:37 PM
Most of your rivers/lakes seem reasonable; keep in mind that rain also dumps as it hits mountains so that lake is probably fine.

My major question is the northern forest that is surrounded on all sides by mountains; either some of those mountains are very low or there is some weather abnormality.

03-18-2012, 11:24 AM
Thank you for your answer :)

There is indeed a weather abnormality around the northern forest, due to supernatural corruption and other unpleasant reasons the forest is saturated with unnatural energy that creates heavy rainclouds over the forest pretty much out of thin air.

Though I'm not yet entirely sure I'm happy with a magical forest which can only exist due to it's magical ability to create rainwater out of nowhere. If I removed most of the mountains between the North-East corner of the forest and the northern sea, do you think that would allow enough rainclouds to reach inland and water such a massive forest?

03-18-2012, 12:22 PM
Yup, they seem fine :)

03-18-2012, 01:13 PM
You could easily have the wind patterns reverse on the top half of the map. From what I recall others saying, on Earth, there are 4 bands and each rotates the opposite direction from the adjoining one... So the bottom half of the map could have huge amounts of precipitation from the West while the top half could have the reverse and it come from the East instead. Also, given the size of the bay in the middle, there could easily be a Southernly wind that dumps lots of precipitation up North. As an example, here in North Carolina, we get quite a bit of rain traveling from the Western part of the Gulf of Mexico with the rain generally traveling North-North East....

03-18-2012, 05:37 PM
rivers look fine to me, you seem to be following the cardinal rule which is that rivers tend to join and not split, and they're not flowing obviously uphill anywhere :)

I interpret that northern forest as a very heavily wooded foothills/mountain area which in that light doesn't seem like an anamoly to me.

03-19-2012, 11:12 AM
depends too, if the mts were high enought to have ice and snow they'd tend to still create rivers from the runoff, the area does seems to have an large ammt of rivers however, compared to the rest of the map that is... possibly less "major" rivers in that area might even it out.. or.. create some other reason why that land is saturated with water.. the kingdom of the water elementals anyone? :P

03-19-2012, 11:13 AM
wheres roba when you need him! we need to consult the river police!

03-19-2012, 12:19 PM
Well.....IOHO, and only a lowly dep-u-tee ;) I see no problems with that northern forest and the rivers flowing (both north and south) as they do, given that Opa has already stated that the area is explained as potentially magical in nature (be it "naturally" so or influenced by acane or divine magics is up to the characters to discover at some point I am sure ;) ). In a more realistic, non magic world, I do mot think that there would be nearly as much water coming from that area.

One thing though, if you wanted to use thaose more southern mountains as a watershed for the river, shouldn't they be on the eastern side of the river?

03-19-2012, 03:00 PM
note to self... read more, look at the perty pictures less :P

yes.. again nothing is actually wrong as far as the rivers.. but if you look at the large river in the middle, i just noticed that it looks as if the river flows through a mt range into the souther coastline.. that doesn't seem right.. it's still possible, since both of those ranges could be actually separate, but the way it's drawn it looks like it's one single mt range, which would mean the river would be flowing up and over an mt pass... generally a river wouldn't flow toward mts only from them, again unless they are forced to for some reason, or there is a very steep fault between them for some reason.

Also the rivers seem a bit straight to me, which is fine, but generally rivers (especially when they flow long distances through flatter terrain) begin to meander and swerve back and forth... Not really a rule, but a general concept would be to make rivers straighter when the start in the mountains (fast, cutting flow) and as they leave the mts and hit flatter land they begin to slow and meander, due to contours, terrain composition (harder vs softer rock) etc... on a large plain-like terrain the river slows down even more causing very large S patterns, even eventually developing into oxbow lakes... While this happens on a very small scale, (as in when your close up on the map) rivers seen in a region-sized map will still basically follow this concept, being wavier the closer they get to the ocean.

Depending on your maps scale accuracy and detail, these meanderings may not show on the map, and depending on the land it may not even happen. The beauty of fantasy mapping is that you don't have to make excuses or reasons if you don't want to :P it just happens, and no one can argue with you.

03-21-2012, 04:52 PM
Agreed on both of loogie's critiques: river looks like it's going through a mountain range so make the mountain range look shorter (I fixed this in the attached image), and rivers need more meanders and oxbows where crossing the plains.

One more thing: watersheds. You've got two obvious watersheds here, marked in red and yellow on the attached map, one going west and the other southeast; so far so good. The river that originates in the basin that I've marked in turquoise, though, is giving me trouble. It looks like it ought to go into the yellow watershed because mountain range B currently looks like it's lower, but it goes into the red one. So I'd change one of two things: either erase part of mountain range A and make B look higher so that the river flowing west out of the basin makes sense, or switch that river so that it flows east into the big one that drains to the bay.

03-22-2012, 11:33 PM
Thanks everyone, I really appreciate your help :) Everyone gave me some really good advice, I try to make the necessary changes to my map as soon as I can :)