So I was working on a map, when I suddenly realized that despite the many helpful tutorials on this site I have very little idea what I'm doing. I thought it might be a good idea to put on the breaks and ask for a reality check before I build myself into a corner. Hopefully this will provide me with some guidelines for going further. (And hopefully it's not already a total mess.)

Here is the map as it stands. I've projected it over an equirectangular map of Earth to give a better idea of coordinates and scale. I've left the western antipodes, north, and any other landmasses basically uncreated for now, to give myself a free hand for later.

My priority is to get as close as I can to the projected biome placement. (I know, better to start at the bottom and work up. But here I am.) Please keep in mind this is my first attempt at creating a realistic map - I want to get it right, but many concepts are still new to me.

Map 1 - Elevation and Projected Biomes

What I would like the map to look like. Priority biomes are marked with an asterisk*, like so. Other biomes could be moved around more easily if needed. Mountains ranges are shaded. The biomes and elevation are pretty broad and simplistic right now, to be complicated later on - if anything is unclear please ask in the comments.

map one


Savanna - Preferably resembling northwestern sub-Saharan Africa. The saltwater swamp needs to be near it, but could be moved from its current location.

Highlands - Preferably resembling Ethiopia and the great rift valley.

Volcanic Desert - A bit of a misnomer, an important small desert surrounded by plains.

Map 2 - Tectonic Plates

map two

Map 3 - Ocean Currents

map three


Do the above maps hold together, and is the projected biome placement shaping up to be realistic? If not, what can I do to improve it? If yes, does the current geography also imply other necessary or probable features?

  • $\begingroup$ You have southern continent, and likely will have ice shield there. Yet on Antarctic peninsula's latitude you have "Steppe". I would expect to find Tundra there. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Feb 2, 2018 at 22:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Alexander - possibly, though it depends on his ocean currents...the large ocean at the equator is going to warm, and those warm waters will travel...if they hug the southern steppe coastline, it will heavily regulate the climate and an ice sheet wouldn't form. Era - Your ocean currents are a bit erratic and with this much equatorial water, you will have many more warm currents. Take a look at thermohaline circulation (google images work). $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Feb 2, 2018 at 22:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm thinking a larger loop...start at the center of your large ocean and go left to right...circle south along the steppes (keeping the steppes warmer) and transiting to the cold plains on the other side of the world (it will cool during this part and sink, it will keep the cold plains colder). From there it moves northwards, warms and comes towards your unknown landmass (keeping it temperate as well). from there it transitions to cold and moves right to left hitting the far north west of your landmass, where it moves south, warms, and connects to the start of your loop. $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Feb 2, 2018 at 22:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Twelfth if we would have a major "Gulfstream", it would make things different, but not 500-1000 km away from the coast. The "Steppe" on the map is beyond 60 degree latitude on a southern continent - imho only ice shield or dry desert can realistically be there. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Feb 2, 2018 at 23:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Alexander - that is true...the word 'steppes' itself is quite a ways south...if he took that a few degrees (10?) north it'd make more sense. $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Feb 2, 2018 at 23:34

2 Answers 2


I like it! ...but it could still use a little work

First of all, it's awesome to see someone so dedicated to a realistic world map. However, following all the rules all the time makes a novel non-fiction, not worldbuilding- so feel free to take any of these with a grain of salt or throw them out altogether.

Map 1 Comments

As you point out, this layout looks a little oversimplified and has very large biomes, so you may want to fill in some of the details after you've worked out the wind patterns.

Biome assessment from the north to the south:

  • Unknown landmass: Probably going to be desertlike at the top (think Middle-East) and hot/rainy at the bottom.

  • Stormy region: I completely agree. This area seems to be under the ITCZ and will also have some monsoon effects from the small waterway to the north.

  • Wet tropical rainforest: Looks good! You've placed it near the equator, so it's guaranteed to get lots of rainfall and be warm. The nearby mountains create a small problem- rain shadowing. One side of the mountains will likely be much drier than the other, and this will depend on the wind direction.

  • Volcanic desert: Again, depending on wind direction, this area might get a lot more rain than you'd expect due to the nearby sea. Other than that, it looks fine- you can put Mordor essentially wherever you'd like and blame it on mantle plumes.

  • Dry highlands: The dry part is fine, it's the highlands that might be problematic. See below.

  • Savannah: This whole area wouldn't be savanna, it's almost surrounded by ocean and will thus be relatively humid, especially if it's low to the ground. The center part is probably savanna, due to middling rainfall and absence of mountains, but the borders will be more exotic.

  • Swamp: This one looks good! If possible, try to have rivers draining off into this area to create estuaries and deltas. Be aware that swamps tend to be fairly limited in size, however.

  • Mountains & Taiga: Also looks good!

  • Cold Plains: I'm not sure how consistently cold this would be. It looks like it's about the same latitude as Australia and that place can be brutally hot. See the ocean currents section below for some other ideas

  • Steppe: Again, winds are important but this one looks good. Expect some other biomes near the ocean edges, and it'll probably be more tundra than steppe.

  • Partly Sunken Landbridge: Not really sure what to do with this one, it doesn't seem to be a biome so I can't comment on it here.

  • South Pole Continent: Yes, yes it is. Please name it something better than "not-north-pole-land"

Map 2 comments

Tectonic plates are tricky, but as a whole it looks like you've got the hang of it. Again, vaguely from north to south:

  • Blue mass to the north: Not much to say here. It may be tricky to justify the passage between the unknown landmass and the mainland without tectonic activity though. They look to me like separate continents, not different areas of the same continent. If it were me, I'd place a mid-ocean ridge in the middle there and say they're moving apart.

  • Reddish-brown: It's interesting to see a continent that's nearly 50-50 continental and oceanic plate, but there's no problems with that that I can think of. If possible, make the area under the "Stormy Region" continental shelf- if it's proper oceanic plate, you'll have subduction which would push your mountains away from the edge.

  • Teal-green: This is well placed! It explains the deep inland sea nicely. If I had to change anything, I'd have it move directly to the right instead- see below.

  • Yellow: The placement is fine, but I strongly recommend changing it's direction of motion towards the bottom left instead. That'll justify the absence of mountains along the teal-green/yellow border, which would have to be Himalaya-level huge (continent on continent collision).

  • Light blue: Mostly fine, except for the dry highlands. Those are going to be very hard to justify with this setup, as rift valleys are rarely flat, elevated areas. The inland sea looks good, but I'd expect it to be matched on the other side of the continent where the plates are doing the same thing.

  • Bottom right, arrow without color: I'm not sure what the plate looks like here but it should be a different one from the plate that has the easternmost portion of the continent. It's hard to have both continental and oceanic on the same plate.

  • Large ocean If possible, this area should have more mountains around it in general. It looks like the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is actively tectonic. However, the reddish-brown plate looks like it's actually opening up, which means that it should have large, thick continental shelves.

Map 3 comments:

The ocean currents are kinda... yikes. Ocean currents actually follow rather well-defined rules, mainly determined by surface winds- which actually depends on the direction of your planet's rotation. In either case, the Large Ocean will likely have a single encircling current, with a thin & powerful warm current moving from the equator to the pole on one side and a wide, slow current moving from the poles to the equator on the other. Those currents would follow the topography fairly well, then would spiral away from the coast at about 60 degrees south as the Algulhas, Gulf Stream, and Canary currents to on our world.

The current between the unknown landmass and the mainland won't actually share the channel nicely- consider making this a seasonal reversion or a deep water/shallow water division

Your inclusion of inland seas was wise- doing that will allow the formation of cold and salty water that will power an overturning circulation for your planet as a whole and keep its temperature well regulated.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This looks extremely helpful, thanks a ton! $\endgroup$
    – Random
    Feb 4, 2018 at 4:44

Map Out Your Wind Currents

Wind currents will determine which parts of your world get regular rain and which become deserts. I can't tell you how wind currents work, but it's important to map them out to determine the average humidity in an area.

  • $\begingroup$ Fair, maybe I got overwhelmed too early. I'll keep the question open in case there are flaws with the landmass and oceans, but get to work on the wind currents in the meantime. $\endgroup$
    – Random
    Feb 2, 2018 at 22:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .