View Full Version : Designing a World Map

2011-06-08, 08:50 PM
Hello all! I am in the process of making a map of the main continent in the world I usually use for the fantasy game (Pathfinder, D&D, etc.) campaigns I run, and I was wondering if I could get some help/support/hints/tips while designing it.

Here's the map so far. I can't help but think it needs some lakes and rivers, I just dunno where to put them. A warning, the map is BIG. Or, at least, it was until I photobucketed it. I dunno how big it is now.

2011-06-08, 09:04 PM
Here's a few tips I am thinking of using using to design my game's map (much smaller scale though) when deciding where to put rivers lakes etc. First pick out locations where you want deserts, dry plains, or any other dry areas. These areas should be left without water, so don't change anything. Then start making rivers. The general rule I use is to place rivers with their starting end at a mountain range, so as to provide a steady flow of water, and to account for the elevation change necessary for a river. To decide where the river flows through try to avoid deserts, and dry areas (reason they needed to be decided earlier), and try to ensure that most arable portions of land in your map has a fairly close river. This will ensure that the farmland your kingdoms are using is actually farmable. Then decide if the river will end at an ocean or a lake. If it ends at an ocean then connect the other end to an ocean, problem solved. If you want it to end at a lake then decide where the lake is and connect the river to it.
To decide where lakes should be, I would just put them where the monotony needs to be broken up.

2011-06-09, 05:07 AM
The Cartographers Guild (www.cartographersguild.com) is a wonderful resource for such mapmaking questions. They will be able to answer any questions you have about mapmaking. Nice looking world, though. :smallsmile:

2011-06-09, 01:58 PM
if you really want to be a stickler and get a good looking map, think about wind currents and the ocean. when the winds from the ocean hit the mountains any thing on the other side will be dryer. You may wonder then what about the mountains where both sides are wet, and in those cases winds can blow on both sides.

the area where the mountains circle an area is probably a desert. it might also have some lakes in the middle.

also, while deserts don't have massive rivers, they do have long large important ones. The Nile. The Colorado. Tigris and Euphrates. The Indus.

true, the Sahara doesn't have any, but thats a very formidable desert.

Arid land is much more common than desert.

Dalek Zek
2011-06-10, 12:59 AM
When building maps, it helps to have a mental picture of the cultures that live there. Those who live by trait would have rivers near them and probably coast lines. These rivers normally come from mountains.

How high north/south the continent lies is important fore river mapping. If fore instants the northern region is very cold and most of the land is frozen, there will be les rivers than in a warmer climate. Also forest, grasslands and dessert would have to be planed along with the placing of rivers and sins every great culture of old had important rivers ore similar water supplies, the greatest city’s usually are near important rivers.

So mapping rivers is not a simple plan, it involves looking ad how you want the world to be in a hole and should match the background of the continent.

If I assume the continent is large, about the size of Asia, nations and regions within the midland land could neat large rivers to function. In this case the type of river is determining factor fore the cultures. Here I would build several large rivers and possibly bring the south and west together with a continent spanning river.

If the continent is smaller, like Europe, five major rivers would do really, perhaps with one ore two large delta’s like the Nile has.

Also, you may want to look ad linking the form of the rivers to the mythologies and religions found on the continent. If you make your own creation myth, it could say where rivers came from. If fore instants they where formed because Elypsa and Couy, the son and daughter of the first leader of the Gods Mallikon, kilt there father and let his blood leak free on the earth, there need not be a natural way fore them to have formed. You could let maybe seven of them all spring from the centre of the continent, maybe make a large city where they all come together. These rivers than wind al around the major land mass and leak into the Northern Sea, witch is how the islands where formed.

Ore they could be scares on the Earth Mother made during the celestial wars, where here children fought over would be in charge. They are just places where the Gods mist each other, now all containing water. This way they need nor even be sweet water. All the service water could be salty, and people need to get water from beneath the ground to survive.

So it really depends on what you want to do with your world. The more you know about that and the more you know about the worlds history and creation (either Devine ore natural), the easier it would get to plan the lakes and rivers, until they really insist upon them self’s.

Personally I always keep redrawing my maps and rewriting the worlds background until I believe I found a harmony in what I want, ho the world looks and how it came to be that way.

I hope this helps. If not, there is a easier way. Just take a bleu pen on a copy of the map draw some lines from the mountains to the oceans and seas with a lose hand and without really looking ad where your going. Rivers will form them self’s and seam to have natural forms that way. Then you can plan the rest of the world from there.

2011-07-06, 11:19 PM
The way I look at it, you can place rivers one of two ways. You can place them as needed for other aspects of the world, or you can place them as they would likely form realistically.

The first way simply involves putting rivers and lakes in pretty logical places, where you need them. It's a good option if you've got a lot of the rest of your world done already. Trader culture probably has a big river running through it. Farming culture probably has a flood plain or large lake (maybe a lake system). That kind of stuff. Keep in mind that rivers tend to form in mountains via the rain shadow effect, from springs fed via aquifer or underground river, or simply the collected rainfall from a large valley.

The second way is more involved, and works best at a point before you've placed a lot of people. Take into account as much information as you can find on how rivers form, and place them that way. The location of your lines of latitude to help determine prevailing wind directions, mountains for the mountain shadow effect, things like that.

I use a realistic style myself, and the Cartographer's Guild Forums (http://www.cartographersguild.com/forum.php), the Climate Cookbook (http://jc.tech-galaxy.com/bricka/climate_cookbook) (I also use Creating an Earthlike Planet (http://jc.tech-galaxy.com/bricka/earthlike_planet) by the same author, and The World Builder's Cookbook (http://reocities.com/area51/chamber/2838/cookbook.html)... but those are both resources you likely do not need), and one of my favorite single resources is "A Magical Society: Ecology and Culture" which you can find in pdf form at this RPGnow link (http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=2019&it=1). A Magical Society: Ecology and Culture is an exceedingly dense book at times, but it's got pretty much everything you'd need to make a world pretty realistically from the ground up.

More on-topic, I'd start by placing your cursor or a pen/pencil on a mountain and draw a wandering line to a relatively nearby sea. then go back up the river and branch it wherever it looks appropriate (you're actually creating tributaries; rivers don't usually fork, they merge) repeat until you think you've got enough rivers. Pick a few places to put lakes ahead of time, or just draw them at sensible spots on rivers.

2011-07-14, 11:12 AM
Not to poke fun, but your map seems rather Europe-ey. This isn't a bad thing though, and honestly, you could probably look at the geography of Europe for inspiration.

Also, deciding what kind of climate starts where is important. How cold is the coldest part, and in which direction does temperature change (this is assuming you're on a traditional spherical planet).

As far as cultures/countries, my favorite way to do it is to "introduce a group in one area and then think about how they would spread out and change based on the climates/geography I set up beforehand.

Hope this helps!