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.