so I'm in the process of creating the map of my fantasy world, which has a medieval fantasy theme. I saw a few posts and videos, such as this one, that talk about using Natural Borders to define my borders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZJJpy3huLg&t=618s

Right now I'm adding my mountains before I start adding my rivers. However, I do not want to have mountains that go all the way to the coastlines, like it's on this video, and block regions in strict ways to create my nations. Throughout history, I do want my nations to have wars and have road connections for trade, and be able to travel from one another. And I'm presenting them as kingdoms, not nations.

If I have a situation like this image here:

enter image description here

where the mountains separate two areas, but still allows a comfortable area on one side for people and armies to pass, does it still make sense to have these two regions as two separate kingdoms, with two different cultures? Or does it have to be one big kingdom, simply because the mountains do not completely separate the two and over history, it will make more sense to be unified?

I understand that rivers, resources, and history/politics will also determine what makes a kingdom, but I just want to get your advice from this stage before I make much progress and avoid the need to go back and re-edit the map.

  • $\begingroup$ What sort of historical time period is this? $\endgroup$
    – mwarren
    Apr 29, 2021 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ Andorra's a good case study, as per the anomaly at the bottom border on L.Dutch's map. $\endgroup$ Apr 29, 2021 at 15:55
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think that you are confused about what a medieval state is. A medieval state is simply a collection of almost autonomous grand vassals who all happen to be vassals of the same king at a specific time. Medieval states did not have natural borders; most of the time, they didn't even have contiguous territories. Excepting islands, no state had natural borders until well into the modern age; for example. see France in the 12-13th century -- France proper is blue, lands under French suzerainty are green. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 29, 2021 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks everyone for answering! Well is a fantasy setting of my own but feels a bit like the 15th century I will say. Although I'm not an expert on time periods. So if medieval states had no natural borders, how territories were divided amongst them? $\endgroup$
    – Ar3ion
    Apr 29, 2021 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ please see this meta post about saying thanks and thansk in advanced in your posts. $\endgroup$ Apr 30, 2021 at 14:02

3 Answers 3


That flatish region just to the south of your Mountain range has a lot of potential. It would likely be an area of contention between the two countries over the course of their histories.

So the Mountain range is the natural border for the bulk of it. That last stub of land is going to create an almost, but not quite autonomous third zone. It is where your neighboring countries are going to mix and mingle together. The accents and language are probably going to be distinct from the main bodies of the two nations because of that intermingling.

Here is how I imagine the history of that region to go. Every hundred or maybe few hundred years, the ownership of the land will wobble back and forth. That area looks like the coast may be good as a harbor, valuable to both nations. It's a natural point of contention.

So one nation attacks along that area to take the Harbor, but probably won't push much farther unless the Lords of that place are particularly aggressive. That is going to push the border back and forth like a pendulum anchored at the southern tip of the mountain range. It might even become a third nation over time. The boundary itself is more likely to be "anchored" to fortified castles or other man made stuff on the eastern side, on and the west, will likely follow that curve of hills.

  • $\begingroup$ This was helpful! Helps me imagine the possibility and implications of such settings. $\endgroup$
    – Ar3ion
    Apr 29, 2021 at 18:10

It can be whatever you want.

Just look at the map of French mountains and you will see that both instances are possible:

enter image description here

the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Jura separate France from Italy, Spain and Switzerland, respectively, while the Vosges and the Massif Central are internal mountains.

Actually the map you posted look very similar to this latter case.

For an historical perspective, this gif shows how the borders of France have evolved over about 1000 years: you will notice that not always the mountains and rivers have been the borders.

enter image description here

Mountains and rivers are convenient borders when needed, but not necessarily.

  • $\begingroup$ Also note that there's really nothing in the way of a natural border between France and Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium. Hence WWII, WWI, the Franco-Prussian War, &c. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 29, 2021 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ The modern borders of France are very very modern. Medieval France had nothing like natural borders. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 29, 2021 at 17:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ that animation is awesome. Well done $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 29, 2021 at 18:54

Scale would seem to be your main issue. During the reign of the holy roman empire it was split into little principalities who's princes' were perfectly capable of going to war with each other and did on some occasions. These were almost separate kingdoms with almost the same culture in all of them. (One of these principalities lasted into the modern age for various reasons, Lichtenstein.)

On the other hand, ancient india and ancient persian had extensive trade and some migration, but due to the vast distances involved, and a terrain rather similar to the one you described, they clashed very little both culturally and militarily. Each kingdom developed outwards from some center where the main body of their culture came from, and so they met in trade as two fully developed cultures.

TL;DR: the larger the scale of the kingdom the more sense it makes.


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