View Full Version : Introduction and request for advice

06-22-2007, 12:44 AM
Hello all - I'm brand new here but with a problem I've been trying to solve for the better part of a year. I'd be very grateful for any advice.

I'm trying to put together a fantasy map. I've got the outline of the major continent and I can do the artwork, but I'm hoping to find advice on geography. By that I mean I want it to have realistic features in a realistic combination that lead to believable trade routes, city placement, agriculture, etc.

It may not be all that critical, but I've held off setting up the major cities and all because I feel that the geography should be fundamental to the concept.

The dark purple area in my map has to be kept isolated from the central area - I figure I'll put "sea monsters" in the middle to prevent quick travel north and south. The only features I know have to be there are Swiss Alp style mountains to the east and a harsh desert to the west.

So - after that wordy introduction, I'm looking for guides or advice on how to place logical geography and how to extrapolate civilization growth based on that.

Again, any help at all is deeply appreciated!


06-22-2007, 01:08 AM
First off, Welcome to the community Calendril! Great to have you here.

A couple questions:
1) So do you want us to help you fill in just the blank areas?
2) Are you looking for placement of mountains and such?
3) Do you already have some ideas for movement to the east or west?
4) How old is the world? Age of the world helps with mountain placement and height.

06-22-2007, 01:38 AM
Sorry, I guess I left that out.

1-3 would be, I'm really interested in learning the hows and whys more than than just having it filled in for me. More than just some mountains and a forest, I'm interested in figuring out what features work in tandem with others based on proximity, climate, and such.

I know I'd like to have some of all the basic land types common the central Europe: mountains, volcanic soil for farming, forests, valleys, cliffs, rolling plains, a desert, etc.

4 The world is only about 500 years old, but I'm going with the "group of deities hand crafted it", so we can have whatever makes the most sense.

A long while ago, I just randomly dropped some simple color fields onto the outline, added some rivers, cities and connected them via "trade routes." It just didn't feel natural. I had no way to feel confident that things would form that way. Even with 'gods' doing the work, I wanted something that would hold up to my players. Instead, I kept this campaign on a back burner, and went with something else.

06-22-2007, 02:06 AM
Hi Calendril!

Check out this thread: http://www.cartographersguild.com/viewtopic.php?t=63

Something else you might try (although I've never tried it myself, so I'm not sure how well it would work) is to import a snapshot of some terrain from Google Earth into a paint program like ps or gimp and then warp it roughly fit your continents and use that as a guide.

All the best


06-22-2007, 09:59 AM
First off- Ravs made a great suggestion. That is an excellent reference.

Second off, I'll give a kick at the can from first impressions, cause world building is FUN!

The first thing that jumped out at me was the distinct crater(?) in the NE. I decided this was a recent (geologically) event caused by a meteor impact. It disrupted the local terrain, and has left residual radiation that makes the area impassible.

I chose a dominant wind direction that makes the interior sea incredible violent. From this I picked out possible harbor location for sea-travel (blue circles).

Then I threw in a mountain chain that explains the existence of the narrow isthmus on the W side. This is also virtually impassible. The chain loops cw and ends at the odd shaped island I decided is a volcanic atoll (from the shape)

Based on the wind direction, and the mountain placement, as well as the distance from the equator, I filled in other terrain.

The next big step is rivers which I didn't get to.

Re: trade routes - follow the contours of the land. use water (#1 river, #2 coastal travel, #3 land) as much as possible, preferred over land routes. Remember, people started building canals before they built rail lines even!

Then communities start at the intersection of trade routes....land/land land/sea or at start points of trade routes (sources of resources....mines/quarries in the mountains, agricultural areas, locations of timber...)

Agriculture springs up to support these centers...

Just like realestate... location, location, location :)


-Rob A>

06-22-2007, 11:28 AM
Nicely done Rob. The only thing I would disagree on is the northern desert. Since the wind direction is blowing the moisture from the inner sea and there isn't a mountain range extending into the middle that moisture would be able to make it farther inland before the heat of the land mass caused it to drop so that area would be a bit more jungle like. I don't think it would be Amazon like unless there was a lot of run off from the mountains into that area which is definitely feasible. That said, the northern edge of the continent could be much drier as the jungle would be pulling a lot of the moisture out of the air. It would probably be similar to the Nile area actually with the riverbanks being lush with vegetation carried down from the jungle area, but it turns dry fairly quick as you move away from the river which would prevent the jungle from spreading into the area.

I'm also iffy about the radiation area. It would sort of depend on the makeup of the meteorite that hit.

06-22-2007, 12:03 PM
Wow - That is incredible. I've been spending most of the morning trying to find various maps and such via Ravells suggestion. Then when I check back in here, boom!

The explanations of how X affects Y is what intrigues me the most, I just have no foundation in this type of stuff to suss it out for myself. Though a place like this seems to be a great starting point to get some initial education.

I'm really tickled that a few of the bits came through - while the NE corner isn't from a meteor it was a massive explosion that cratered and fractured the land (death of a god).

The atoll you picked out was based on a volcanic chain in Greece that I thought looked interesting (Santorini).

Thank you very much everyone - I think this will give me a running head start for this weekend's work!

06-22-2007, 01:38 PM
I'm also iffy about the radiation area. It would sort of depend on the makeup of the meteorite that hit.

How 'bout a nuclear weapon test site :)

(hey... how else do you kill a god?)

Good catch on the northern desert....If one was really desired, I figure that the range could be extended along the inner sea edge, making the south side of the range a rain forest and north of the range a desert......

-Rob A>

06-22-2007, 01:52 PM
How 'bout a nuclear weapon test site :)

(hey... how else do you kill a god?)
Now that we know it was the death of a god, how about instead of radiation it is a high magic area with wild unpredictable results. Even those that can't cast magic suddenly find that they can to some degree, but it is totally out of their control. No one would want to go through the area for fear that they would get changed into a newt or something. That would make a greater barrier than any geological formation.

06-22-2007, 05:58 PM
Admirable goals.

Check this out as well:
Geoff's Climate Cookbook (http://www.cix.co.uk/~morven/worldkit/climate.html)


06-22-2007, 06:05 PM
All I can say is that I just love to see Americans using expressions like 'suss it out for themselves' - it's good to see language is porous both ways across the pond!



06-22-2007, 06:55 PM
Check this out as well:
That sir is a most excellent link! Thank you!

06-22-2007, 06:56 PM
across the pond!
What is this pond you speak of? What strange language are you using? :wink: :P :lol:

06-24-2007, 10:17 PM
So I spent this weekend redesigning a big chunk of the map and rescaling it. Most of my time was eaten up buying and trying to figure out Fractal Terrains Pro and getting very frustrated. Then I downloaded the free Bryce 5.5 and decided that I'll commission an artist at a later date to paint the durn thing once all the climates and such are in place. At that point, I may be brave enough to try CC3 (who knows).

I dropped in an outline of California to show the scale in a bit more visual vein.

My question is, Given that the land mass is so narrow, is it even possible to get a southern california-like desert in any of the unshaded areas?

06-25-2007, 06:30 AM
The Atacama desert in Chile might be a good reference to work from.


06-25-2007, 10:58 AM
Those types of deserts are caused by what is known as mountain shadow. The mountains cause the rain laden clouds to dump their moisture on the seaward side of them and thus they are dry before they make it to the other side with the exception of monsoon seasons and such. If you want deserts in that area, you just need to make sure the precipitation levels are very low.

I think I made a post up above explaining the geography and concept based on RobA's suggestions.

06-25-2007, 11:56 AM
I did read through the messages and the links posted by ravells and Climate Cookbook. I'm just a bit confused and I thought that my land mass may be too narrow to sufficiently dry out the air. I thought I might just place things according to the Koppen table.

I've experience the mountain shadow effect before and it's really kinda weird. I used to live in Washington state and the Cascade mountains are just weird. On the western side, they're lush, green, and full of pine. Just after you cross them to the eastern side, the terrain is all brown and very dry. That lasts pretty much the entire way until you get to Spokane.

The odd thing is, both the Atacama desert and the San Diego area have very little precipition, though they are right on the west coasts with their mountains to the east. According to references I could find, they both have air currents that should bring moisture to them and be blocked by the mountains. But the Koppen table does list a dry/hot climate on west coasts if the ocean currents are cold. I guess I can go with that.

06-25-2007, 12:13 PM
That would work. The SD area doesn't have frigid water, but it is the colder half of the ocean currents in that area.

06-30-2007, 10:34 PM
This week I've been reading Geoff's Climate Cookbook and nagging a oceanographer who's in my D&D group. The sad thing is, I found out that I can justify almost any climate/geography and still have the principles based on real earth conditions. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/n7068/images/438565a-f1.2.jpg

Apparently the ocean currents can run differently at different depths: ice-cold currents running through the equator. But I am very glad of the help here on the board that has let me have just a peek at understanding how those elements relate to each other.

To that end - here's my work so far. There's still a lot to go though; it has a lot of blank areas that aren't meant to be just grasslands. I need to do rivers, lakes, set up cities, roads/trade routes, and so on.

06-30-2007, 10:41 PM
Here's the primary water currents I came up with. The major wind direction is shown at the bottom. From the south, it blows N-NE

06-30-2007, 11:35 PM
Shouldn't that small central current be rotating the other direction?

06-30-2007, 11:51 PM
That was my first thought. But if it did that, it would most likely be subsumed into the larger one. I admit I could easily be waay off base, but the theory was that the smaller (faster) current would essentially be kept in check by the larger (slower) one.

Can you tell I didn't do so well on the ASVAB that had all the gears turning different ways? Anyway, yes - I'll go change those arrows right now. Thank you.