View Full Version : Help! Feel like I've reached a dead end with my world map! Advice needed.

04-19-2013, 08:30 AM
Hia worldbuilders.

I've been working on and off on a realistic world map for years now. It seems I do quick bursts every now and then and then leave the project for months and months.

I'm really happy with the layout of the continents and landmasses. I've got a written language and back story all written up. I've ideas for history, economy, and politics.

What I'm really struggling with is finalizing the map itself. I'm a stickler for realism, and I think sometimes it can be quite the disadvantage because I get so preoccupied with the details that I end up making no progress.

Currently I'm trying to work out a way to create a proper topography, instead of the various height shades I have on the map currently. I've experimented with wilbur and photoshop, but I can't get it to look right (or maybe I'm doing it wrong). Is there a good way to make or generate realistic looking mountains from the shaded height guides I already have?

I'm also slightly struggling with the rivers. The planet is highly dichotomical, and I'm envisioning that the far North will be a sort of steppe climate. But I can't figure out how to place in rivers, as there is neither mountains or a sea to drain into in the North. I don't particularly want it to be a desert up there, is there a way I can bring water to the North realistically?

I'm struggling too with climate, and how the dichotomy would alter global wind and rain and temperature patterns. Does anyone have any advice or resources?

I'd also love some advice/criticism/suggestions on the map as is. How do the current state of the mountains look, for instance? I'm open to changing pretty much anything as long as it further makes the world believable.

Thanks, and feel free to ask questions!


Lord Nelson
04-19-2013, 08:35 AM
Maybe you have to study some geographical pictures of the earth to understand the climates (it's just an idea)

04-19-2013, 10:38 AM
Mhm, I have been. But this world is much smaller than Earth and has totally different land sizes.

04-19-2013, 11:34 AM
How much smaller than Earth? Scale is critical to getting mountains and rivers right.

For worlds much smaller than Earth (not that we have many examples), tectonics are unlikely to play a big part because the planet cools quickly. With lots of water (difficult with a small world because it's hard to hold onto those small molecules without a lot of gravity), I would expect to see a low, eroded terrain with possible volcanic areas not necessarily grouped into mountain ranges.

If you goal is "be just like Earth, but smaller" then you've likely got a workable result, subject to the question of map scale.

Having a hemisphere that's not ocean and one that is will likely result in some hideously dry interior regions, especially with it being polar. Pangaea here on Earth seems to have had vast, permanent interior deserts very much drier than even the depths of the Sahara or Gobi today. A huge polar contnent would make for some very interesting effects if there's much of an axial tilt. Temperatures in summer would get incredibly hot and in winter incredibly cold. A circumpolar jet stream might well keep out any moisture that does get pulled poleward from the equator. The coastal regions might be subject to massive monsoon effect, with big storms in spring and summer and a long (very) dry spell in winter.

As far as tools to get good mountains, it really depends very much on the scale of your map. "Realistic" mountains on a map 5000 km across will look very different from one 20000 km across, which will look different again from one 40000 km across. Similarly, a volcanic province will have mountains quite a bit different in appearance than an old folded range, which is again different than a young tilted block (approximately the Andes in South America, Urals at the boundary of Europe and Russia, and Sierra Nevada in westerns North America).

04-19-2013, 12:05 PM
Hey waldronate, wilbur is a fantastic tool!

The planet is a tad bigger than Mars. In fact, I'd kind of based the single large northern landmass on a terraformed version of Mars. It always fascinated me how Mars had an almost equal amount of low and high ground half way around the planet.

I've attached what could be a correct map showing habitability? Do correct me if I'm wrong. Everything South of the black line is comfortable, and the hatched yellow is permafrost/desert. I haven't really taken into account rainshadows.. how would that effect things?

As for mountain styles... this is something I've been having a lot of trouble with too. The lonely rage of mountains at the top right of the map I was thinking are old mountains, ala the Urals. The white flecked mountains on the far top left are a volcanic region (ala Tharsis Rise on Mars). But what about the rest of them? I've no idea.


04-19-2013, 02:41 PM
I notice on your map you have quite a few areas of coastline and on islands where the higher levels of the mountains drop straight into the sea. Was this deliberate? Its going to make for some crazily high cliffs. There isn't anywhere on earth like that, but maybe you wanted giant cliffs? Looks like an interesting project anyway.

04-19-2013, 03:42 PM
Yeah, I was kinda going for a Andes-type vibe. Do you think it'd work? The mountain shades ARE pretty rough, I was kinda thinking some would drop off like in Bolivia, while others would be a gradual descent.