Whether you’re creating a setting for a novel, story, or game, it’s a good idea to think about some basic geography, so things make sense … for the most part anyway. I consulted a geologist about some basic guidelines for the geography of imaginary worlds. Of course, there are always anomalies, and fantastical explanations for unusual features or even entire worlds, but if you want your world to be vaguely earth-like, these simple guidelines may help in your worldbuilding:
- Large mountains almost always occur in ranges.
- Rivers flow from mountains and hills down into bigger rivers or open bodies of water.
- Forest can occur almost anywhere there is sufficient water for trees.
- Grasslands and hills can occur almost anywhere.
- Swamps, marshes, and lakes occur in flat areas with a lot of water.
- Canyons are carved out by rivers or streams.
- Major deserts are a regional function of the trade winds, but small deserts often form inland, on the far side of mountain ranges.
- Springs and oases can occur almost anywhere.
- Volcanoes occur in chains or regions of vulcanism. This usually happens closer to coastlines or islands.
- Glaciers, like water, flow downhill, and glaciated areas tend to have broad U-shaped valleys.
- Towns and cities need a source of fresh water. Larger cities often occur on trade routes.
- If you’re looking at huge timescales and you want some billion year old ruins, the centers of continents tend to be the oldest geologic areas.
3 thoughts on “Geography for Worldbuilding and Fantasy Maps”
Thanks for the info, Matt. As a fantasy writer, it’s nice to be reminded about reality.
Some of these may seem obvious, but it pays to think it through if a story involves a significant amount of geography.
[…] To quote from the far more knowledgeable Matthew Lowes: […]
Comments are closed.