Wasting Time on the Internet

Crafting a World Map

Oct 112018

I've found that coming up with a realistic map for a fantasy world is surprisingly difficult. At least, it is difficult to come up with one that allows me to suspend disbelief. It is likely I'm overthinking things, but none the less I am often not pleased in one way or another if I try to create a map by hand.

There are several factors to take into account, of course, when putting such a world together. Earth's continent layout as we know it is the result of roughly 4.5 billion years of plate tectonics. In a fantasy or sci-fi setting, on the other hand, we might have factors such as warring gods or terraforming by advanced, spacefaring races to take into account.

When working in my own mind what world I wanted to build for this map, I decided I wanted to stick with something that could pass as a naturally occurring planet. While this setting might have beings we could consider to be gods (or god-like) in nature, my idea is that these beings did not have much of a direct hand on creating the terrain of the world itself.

I created the following map over the past few days, using the following methods, and am so far pleased with the results:

  • First, I generated a map using a fractal/procedural map generator application. It took me several tries to get a map that was close to what I had in mind.
  • To make the map look a bit more organic, I traced the map by hand, and in the process made some mostly minor modifications here and there.
  • I added in mountain ranges and determined where arable or forested land and deserts would be. Mostly this was based on the elevations the procedure map program started with, but I made a few modifications to this as well.
  • Determined where the arctic and antarctic regions would be. I did not actually draw in any ice caps over water, but colored the colder climate zones in a lighter color. On this map, the northern supercontinent covers the north pole. There is no major landmass that covers the south pole.
  • Finally, I drew in some rough political borders that I'll probably change around quite a bit later. It is unlikely that the entirety of the world will be inhabited/explored.


Of course this is just the starting point. I will need to take another look at the elevations (I think the south of the southern continent could maybe use a bit more mountainous terrain) and then add major rivers. This will probably cause me to adjust the political borders quite a bit.


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