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Thread: [Wip/Question] Devoloping "realistic" fantasy worlds - The SV Project

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    Wip [Wip/Question] Devoloping "realistic" fantasy worlds - The SV Project

    Realistic Fantasy Worlds ... Sounds like a contradiction, doesn't it? World building has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember, but as of the last decade, I've found myself holding greater expectations of my own projects. No longer are the randomly and fantastically generated worlds good enough. Even in a fantasy genera, I find myself demanding a level of reality that tends to result in my setting aside old projects and re-working them later, or scrapping them entirely. Now, you might be wondering why or what this has to do with World Mapping ... Well, to be honest. Everything.

    We all have our own means and processes, so this should be in some way familiar.

    1) Vision and Inspiration: A flash of inspiration. A fleeting glimpse of your world.
    2) Contemplation and Imagination: You consider and imagine this world. What it looks like, who are it's people, etc.
    3) Where is it in the universe? Even fantasy worlds have a star to give them light, possibly a star-scape to navigate by.

    Now this is where I take a step back and ask myself. Just how big is my world? Is it the same as earth? Is it bigger? Smaller? What's the gravity like? Is it a ringed world? Warm? Cold? How many moons? etc.
    This all may seem more related to science fiction, but all of it relates in some way to how your world is going to look. As an example, lets say that your world is actually a moon, orbiting a Hot Jupiter. We know that some of Jupiter's moons in our own solar system, are active moons. The volcanic activity on Io, comes to mind. What would similar gravitational forces, as exhibited by our own Jupiter, affect a large moon orbiting a Hot Jupiter? Would such forces be strong enough to cause plate tectonics?

    Another example. What if this habitable moon orbited a traditional gas giant, further away from the sun. Far enough that the star they each orbit, was no more than a spec of light in the night sky. How would that affect the world?

    This is what I mean by realism. How the forces of the universe actually affect the formation and evolution of a world. This is also why a lot of my older projects have been set aside to be re-wroked. Now, before anyone asks, there is a reason for the madness here. I truly am mad but aside from that, every little piece of the puzzle can add to the story of your world and it's people. Plate tectonics? Great, now we know if the people in one region are plagues by earthquakes, and from that devise ways for their society to circumvent or prepare for the level of destruction caused by an earthquake. The evolution of Japanese buildings may be a source of inspiration for that society.
    What about an island culture living in a "ring of fire". Lots of volcanic activity. How have they developed to keep their people safe? Take that a step further ... In the case of a fantasy world, how would either culture perceive their gods, based on the regions they live in? Would one worship the earth, while the other worships fire? These are all questions I've been asking myself when considering a new world ...

    Now that my stram-of-consciousness rambling is out of the way, on to the point of this thread. The SV project is a world I have been working on for a long time. Re-worked several times over, a few things have remained the same. It is an earth-like near-ocean planet. By near-ocean planet, I mean, contrary to what the link suggests, is a world similar to our Earth where continents rise and fall into the sea. It is a ringed planet and the rings are probably composed of water-ice. Finally, it is a world boasting two moons.
    With all that in mind, I've got quite an endeavor ahead of me, as far as making things realistic ... not only for myself, but for those of us who have the same standard. There are of course, a dozen other questions to figure out just for the formation of the world itself, but I'll get to those in time.

    The main purpose of this thread is as a WIP and discussion on how to best work out how to set things up realistically. The first questions to work out are ...

    1) The world's position in relation to the sun (Goldilocks Zone) vs. it's relative size (How big must it be to support two moons and a ring system?)
    2) [Map Design] Position of landmasses and oceans based on plate tectonics.
    3) [Map Design/Lore] Locations of societies (How their locations have influenced the evolution of their culture.)
    4) [Agriculture] Determine how the seasons work on the world.
    5) [Astronomy & Astrology] What the skies look like (Constellations) and fictional "zodiac" system.

    I bet some of you can guess where Astronomy and Astrology can be related to a map. Still, with just those 5 steps, it's a fairly big project and a lot of information to delve into. The end result? One hell of a challenge completed and a fictional world to defiantly be proud of.

  2. #2
    Guild Journeyer Facebook Connected Robulous's Avatar
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    Just as mapping is related to world-building, so astronomy is totally related to world-building. I'm the same as you, I've put a lot of thought into my world-building projects, I do try to make them as plausible as possible, or at least rationalise and explain any eccentricities.

    Your idea about a ringed world grabbed my attention. I assume you really want to have a ringed world, so you'd have to think about how it's possible according to physics. Saturn, out in the cold depths where the sun is a bright star, has rings composed of chunks of ice. The rings are visible, and even glitter, because the chunks are constantly smashing into each other, forming and reforming. If this wasn't the case, interstellar dust would accumulate on the chunks and make them dull.

    Big problem: chunks of ice won't survive in the goldilocks zone. The temperature in space on the day side of Earth, unprotected by the atmosphere, is hundreds of degrees.

    Therefore, either your rings have to be made of something more durable (diamond dust?), or be constantly replenished. Jupiter also has a faint ring system mostly made up of dust kicked up from meteor impacts on the moons, cryovulcanism (geysers erupting ice crystals into space), and sulphur volcanoes on Io but unlike Saturn's glittery ice bling, it's not easily visible.

    It's possible your planet could have a rocky ring system, but a large amount of solid matter in orbit would be a terrible hazard to life (ask a dinosaur), and it wouldn't stay up there long.

    So I'd say lunar vulcanism or cryovulcanism is your answer, possibly one of each. The ring system would form in the orbit between the two.

  3. #3


    Yes, I'd have to say you're right about the water-ice within the "goldielocks zone," Robulous. Found a nice wiki page about [The Roche Limit] which at least details a starting point for ringed worlds and other matters to consider. Another site has this to say about the Roche Limit ...

    The Roche limit is the minimal distance, with respect to the center of a planet, at which a satellite is able to orbit without being destroyed by tidal forces. If the planet and the satellite have the same density, the Roche limit is 2.5 times the radius of the planet. Within this limit, the satellite is destroyed by tidal forces.

    Each of the ring systems in the Solar System are within the Roche zone of their planets.

    Solid satellites can exist inside the Roche zone if they are sufficiently small, since the tension of the rocks prevent them from breaking up.

    In a disk of remnants around a newly formed planet, the matter outside the Roche limit can form satellites, whereas nearer to the planet, the tidal forces prevent the formation of any satellite.

    This mechanism still holds in the neighbourhood of a star : no planets can exist nearer than 2.5 times the radius of its star.

    Yet another site mentions this about "Shepherding Moons."

    What are shepherding moons?

    Shepherding moons are satellites that orbit along side a ring. Due to gravitational effects from the shepherding moon, the edges of the rings are kept sharp and distinct. If the shepherding moon was not present, then the ring material would have a tendency to spread out. If two satellites are orbiting on both sides of the ring, then ring will be constrained on both sides into a narrow band.

    So, that brings up the most likily position for a pair of moons, on this ringed world. On the outlaying edge of the ring, which have the pleasing effect of keeping the rings "sharp and crisp at the ends."
    Certinally some things to consider here. I forget which site it was, but one had mentioned that large worlds are commonly ring worlds, so what I am looking at is the feasibility of a world that is at least twice the size of earth to have ringsof it's own.
    [This Chart] compares Earth to both Uranus and Neptune. Both of which have much dimmer rings thatn Jupiter or Saturn.

    This SV world is already taking shape.

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    Guild Journeyer Facebook Connected Robulous's Avatar
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    Interesting. Of course moons large enough to be able to create a constantly replenished ring would only be able to form outside the Roche limit, otherwise they'd boil away too quickly. Your world would therefore need sufficient mass to be able to hold two fairly large moons. Mars has two moons of course but they're tiny - astronomers expect Phobos to fall low enough to break up into a ring around the planet, but this would be a thin debris ring that wouldn't last long.

    As far as the size of your planet is concerned, if you want it habitable for humans there's a fairly narrow range for Earth-type life. If it's bigger than Earth the gravity will increase, although you can reduce the gravity by making it less dense. My conworld Helevos is small than Earth, but with an extra-dense core. The density and size of the planet will influence vulcanism, and also how easily useful minerals are in the crust. A large, light world will likely have less easily available metals because they would have sunk to the core - in fiction Robert Silverberg's "Majipoor" is a good example of this.

    Astronomer's say the moon was important at stabilising the rotation of the earth - without it as a counterbalance, Earth would "wobble" more, as it spins like a spinning top. Not sure how two large moons would influence your wobble, but it would certainly make tides quite complicated.

    The tides and cycles of the two moons would also influence the indigenous life and cultures on your planet. Calendars are often based on phases of the moon, and even the life cycles of plants and animals follow lunar cycles - humans included.

    Incidentally I use Astrosynthesis - it's quite useful for juggling size, gravity and density to come up with a realistic world.
    Last edited by Robulous; 02-27-2012 at 02:22 PM.

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    One thing i would be sure to look at in your process is how mountains affect climate. Clouds and rain are carried by winds that tend to blow in the same patterns. When clouds hit mountains, they dump their rain, causing lush forests. But on the other half of the ridge, there is no rain and a desert is created. a wonderful example of this is California vs Utah. As you go over those mountains you go from forests, strawberry farms, and wineries to slat flats and cacti.

    Certain general worldwide patters (caused by the earths rotation) are shown on this map:
    Attachment 42596
    Exceptions are common, for example this is how winds generally are:
    Attachment 42597

    These rainfall areas will affect multitudes of other things as well. Winds coming off deserts will be warm; one of the reasons for the warmth of europe is the wind from the sahara.
    This cavern is below all, and is the foe of all. It is hatred, without exception. This cavern knows no philosophers; its dagger has never cut a pen. Its blackness has no connection with the sublime blackness of the inkstand. Never have the fingers of night which contract beneath this stifling ceiling, turned the leaves of a book nor unfolded a newspaper.

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    I've been doing this kind of thinking for years, but my stories are science fiction, so it follows. I don't know how well anyone has thought about this, but if one is particular as to include astrology, astronomy, and the like, don't neglect other physical sciences. Sociology and cultural developments based on resources and realistic aspects are important, but remember geology has influence too. Galveston, Texas would have been the Dallas of the state except for a hurricane; England would be almost subtropical if not for the Isthmus of Panama; any number of islands or resources have been lost from tsunami or vulcanism. They may be peripheral factors most of the time, but occasionally they are the linchpins of history... even artificial history.

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