View Full Version : Where to place mountains (and forrests)?

08-31-2009, 03:53 PM
I've scanned the forum, and while I can see references to 'the river police', which apparently is a title bestowed upon the people who know more in-depth on how rivers work, I couldn't find 'any' reference as to mountains.
And on that thought track, it made me question other aspects that haven't been covered by settlements and rivers.

What are the common ways a mountain range pops up? what are the characteristics of such a mountain range?
Basically the usual 'how, when & where' questions.
Made me wonder why certain places spawn forrests aswell, they don't litter the landscapes.. and usually form sort of clumps, at least that is how I've seen it with my eyes.
What causes a forrest to grow? what slows / stops its growth? In which regions are they more likely to show up, etc.
I suppose this could go in the tutorial forum, but since I'm in the process of making a world map, and plan on finishing the regional map after that, I'm particularly interested in regards to those kind of maps.

Any insights on this would be greatly appreciated.

08-31-2009, 04:15 PM
I am an amateur at this, so I am sure people will come along to correct me ;)

Mountains are mostly formed by moving plates, pushing material upwards or downwards. Material that is pushed upwards forms hills or mountains (depending on their height). So to know where mountains appear, you would need to map all the plates in your world I guess and the way they behave towards each other :D I have seen some people on this forum make these kind of maps by the way. For me it's too much work. I just pick spots where I would like to see some mountains. Oh, some mountains are formed by volcanoes (the famous volcanic islands in the middle of the ocean!).

As for forests: where they popup depends on many factors. Climate, altitude, rainfaill, soil, etc. Forests can cover immense stretches of land. Humans have been a mayor cause of deforestation though. Most of Western Europe was once covered in forests for example...
It kinda depends on the technology level of your world, but as soon a lot of humans settle down your forests will probably be scattered and there might not be any old growth left. Elves might have a different effect though ;)

(a map of the loss of old growth forest in the US: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/Oldgrowth3.jpg)

So if you want to make a totally realistic map you will need to study geology and probably biology. Or at least get an understanding of the basics, which I don't have. It's too complicated for me :P

08-31-2009, 06:01 PM
"Physical Geography" is a very good term that you can feed into a search engine to answer exactly the type of questions that you asked. I can go into great detail (sometimes even correct detail) on the items you describe, but learning the basics yourself is much more satisfying, I have found.
Also, remember that the way the world looks now is not the way it would if people were not present. Axial tilt, planetary rotation speed, desert size, forest location, and lack of glaciers can all be laid at the feet of humanity and their bovine minions.

08-31-2009, 10:10 PM
I don't have the URL handy at the moment, but Expeditious Retreat Press offers a free chapter from one of their books entitled "A Magical Society: Guide to Mapping." Search the forums for that, and you should find a link to take you to a place where you can download it. It gives some decent guidelines on climate and mountain placement.

Also, for mountains, try searching the forums for the word "tectonic." You should come up with some threads where those forces are discussed. (In great and sometimes correct detail. Thanks for the chuckle, Joe.)

09-01-2009, 06:56 AM

How do Mountains form. There are FOUR methods by which mountains form.

#1: Plate Tectonics. This is the means by which large portions of the earth crusts 'float' over a liquid core. This is how the Rocky Mountains have Formed. These are NEW (formed around the Cretacuos period @65 million years ago) mountains geologically speaking, and have formed as the PACIFIC PLATE is forced under the NORTH AMERICA PLATE. This is why at the tops of the mountains fossils of Marine Life can be found.


Now, OLDER mountains like the Appalacians were formed many millions of years ago but through erosion these mountains are worn down and appear more gentle and covered with vegetation, compared to the Rockies or the Himilayas which are more barren and rugged.

#2: Volcanism. This method is responsible for mountains like those in the Hawaiian islands, as well as mountains like Mount Baker, Mount St Helens and Mount Fuji and Mount Vesuvius. These mountains, while not 'huge' like the Rockies or the Himalayan mountains, can form large ranges, most notably like those along the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' most notable with the Alaskan Pan Handle and the Japanese Islands.

#3: Meteor Impacts A large enough Meteor could theoretically through up enough matter as to create a ring shaped mountain range, such an event would likely never be witness by us on earth, as it would likely spell the extinction of most if not all life on earth.

#4: The Gods Simply put them there: OK, this final method is fine for some forms of fantasy worlds (Flat Earth, or other non-realistic/fantasy worlds).

Now, regardless of which method you use for your world/concept, understand that in the case of the Earth, we have a molten core. If the world you are thinking of does not have a molten core, you will likely never have mountains. No Liquid Core = No Plate Tectonics = No Volcanoes which means no new mountains would form, and those that were present from past events would have likely worn away from erosion long ago.

Note in a Fantasy Campaign with Gods etc., These factors would not matter as the Gods/Magic could create new mountains at any time.


Forests are probably the oldest terrestrial vegetative collection on earth. Conifer trees outdate decidious by millions of Years. They date back to the Carboniferous period (approximately 300 million years ago).

Deciduous trees did not appear until the Cretaceous period along with flowers and grasses did not evolve until this period. That's right, other than ferns, evergreen trees, and other cycads, the time of the the dinosaurs were not very 'green'.


So, where do forests form? Any temperate climate with ample rainfall. They will not form in areas of permafrost (Tundra/Arctic regions), or deserts. This is why the prairies are mostly devoid of forests, (Rain Shadow region), and the Province/States of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon are mostly forest. Temperate/Ample Rainfall.

Again, in a fantasy world, these can be located anywhere as best fits the story you are trying to tell.