I have been working on a fantasy RPG setting for several years, often revising great parts while keeping those that work well for what I have planned. By now I have pretty well worked out what the world is about and what kind of things are to be found there. I have all the pieces but I think before I can go to the next step of creating specific locations and go into greater detail on the interactions between the various factions, I need to get this map thing nailed down. I had some basic layouts drawn up, but they never satisfied me and the last one I had didn't really allow for some of the things I had in mind.
But I guess many of the problems are the same that many other people had to deal with before and this is probably the best place to find the most people who would be able to give me any hints and pointers.
As said, I already have a number of parameters that are fixed and for which I need a geography that supports them:
> The map will be a regional map. Somehow world lose a lot of their mystery if you know the layout of the whole planet and it kind of makes a great difference when the regional map just fades to white on some sides and on the others there's just ocean with no idication what my lie beyond.
> The area will range from rainforests at the southern edges, which you might find in southern China or India, to evergreen forests in the north that see enough snow to justify a culture that uses dog and reindeer sleds. I still would want the map to be somewhat larger in width than in heigt, but also cover a fair amount of ocean.
> The ocean goes to the eastern side.
> Some large islands like Indonesia would be a nice addition I think, though they wouldn't have to be such a drawn out chain but could also be some kind of smaller cluster.
> The world is a primal one with most parts being completely untouched by civilization. Only about 10% of the land surface is claimed and to some extend controlled by humanoid people. All the rest is just the wilderness without any infrastructure or political organization.
> Since there has been almost no large scale clearing of land yet, almost everything that isn't ocean or mountains should be forest. Some large wetlands or highlands with alpine tundra are still an option of course.
> Generally speaking the world is a bronze age setting dominated by tribal societies. There is some rare and very expensive steel, and no great empires, and also not much of deserts, so it's not a lot like Akadians or Sumerians, or even Trojan War Greece. But that's still a rough guideline.
> I like the general concept of having elves to be a bit like greek city states and Lizardfolk to be like Egypt, and all the other races being the "Barbarians" of the Black Sea, the Balkans, Nubia, and so on. However not so dry and dusty but with more forests and no real deserts.
> I think in the absence of roads, sea travel would probably be a major thing in the world. For that some central body of water like the Mediteranean or Baltic Sea would probably be neccessary to get a lot of coastline that connects to many diverse lands.
> Humans are recent arrivals in the region, having originally been hired as guards for exotic goods coming from the West beyond the edge of the map, and since then having established a couple of small vassal collonies that now start to become independent from the established elven and lizardfolk overlords. I think some kind of Steppe to the west might be quite appropriate, allowing for a kind of silk road to unknown lands.
> There will be an Underworld, but it is actually the underground portion of the Spiritworld that can be reached through very deep caves that serve as portals. But since it's not actually "below the feet" of the mortal races, there doesn't need to be any concerns about how to keep the Underworld ventilated and from being drowned.
I think that's mostly all of the factors that the world map needs to accomodate for.
As some additional information, the cultural inspirations for the people of the world are Norse, Finns, Sami, Rus, Ainu, Ryukyuans, Khmer, Maori, and Iroquois if this might be useful for anyone to know. And I am also taking liberally from Dunmer, Jungle Trolls, Turians, and Krogans.
I also like the movie Conan the Barbarian and the D&D world Dark Sun, though they are both very Desert-Heavy.
One of the themes I have in mind is that the first frantic land grabbing for farming has ended a couple of generations ago when agriculture became more advanced to get more food from less than optiomal ground, and now most people are relatively settled in. Now the interest has shifted towards taking control over the trade of rare goods with which great profits can be made. Wars and alliances between the big players are now about trade and no longer about holding territory that can feed the people. Even with the small clans, fighting for food is now a rare thing.
And lastly, the wilderness is still full with undiscovered and undisturbed ruins from a time when fey people where the only civilized beings and were almost as common in this world as they are in the spiritwold. Getting hold of anything they might have left behind has priority over everything else when new ruins are discovered. Though I don't think this would have any impact on the design of the overall geography.
Now to the real issue of comming up with other things that will be neccessary to make all these requirements possible.
> As I mentioned before, some main central body of water will probably be inevitable. I'm from Lübeck, which has always been the most important port on the Baltic Sea together with St. Petersburg, and also the main center for all sea trade in northern Europe before it shifted to Hamburg and Rotterdam, so this is something that has always been of great interest to me.
> All ancient civilizations started on rivers. Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China. All based on rivers. The first humans probably came into Europe on the Danube and the same route was taken later when farmers from asia brought their knowledge of agriculture to the Europeans. And for centuries the Alsace region was incredibly rich since it was at the headwaters of tributaries to the Seine, Rhone, and Rhine, and as such also the Danube. With just a short overland track, you could transport goods from the Mediteranean and Black Sea to the North Sea and from there to Brittain and Denmark on rivers. So I guess having a couple of major rivers that connect the hinterlands to the central sea is also a given. To allow non-seafaring cultures to be relevant and participate in global affairs, and also to provide large river basins where the great cultures are having their farmlands that support the city states.
> If I want to jungles for the lizardfolk and dark elves in the south and lush european and canadians forest for wood elves in the center without huge deserts inbetween, I would probably require a rather humid climate, no? Or would a body of water the size of the mediteranean sea be large enough to fit right on the altitudes where deserts usually form? I've been to Genoa and Marseille in early Summer and even though it's pretty much the northernmost edge of the Mediteranean, I found that already very hot and arrid. But then, I'm originally from the Hamburg area, which you could call one big cold rainy peat bog, so I may be biased. Also, European climate is an annomaly, being far too up North when compared to similar climates in America and Asia, so this might make it a rather poor point of reference.
Well, that's what I have so far and I need to make it into a map somehow. Any ideas how to continue from here?