So I'm currently attempting to lay out a large city and the geography surrounding it, but it's proving much more challenging than I thought. Whenever I try to lay it out, it's messy and unrealistic. Concerning the topography around it, I'm having trouble conceptualizing mountains and how long it would take to cross them, how they are laid out, etc. I know in Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship crossed Carahdras in a matter of +/- a day, which seems very unrealistic to me. Has anyone else encountered this problem, and is there a site or certain strategies you recommend as an aide? Thank you!

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    $\begingroup$ Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ We've a list of worldbuilding resources including map-making (including 3D), weather patterns etc., quite a bit of software assistance to check-out. When you've done so, you can edit down to a more specific question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ "Mountains and their true height" is rather vague - mountains come in all shapes and sizes. There are some that you could cross in a day, and some you can't. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ Things portrayed on film can be deceptive. I agree about Carahdras, but they turned back. The total crossing may have taken much longer if they'd completed it. The Matterhorn, for example takes quite a bit longer than a day to scale. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ mountains vary quite widely in height and cross-ability, you need to be more specific. crossing the Himalayan is going to be very different than cross the Appalachians. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jun 18, 2023 at 3:13

2 Answers 2


It might be worthwhile to read about some mountain expeditions on earth, such as the Donner Pass, or trips into the Himalayas-- depending on the size and scale you want for your mountains.

Lord of the Rings is kind of ... English and I don't think people from there have a real concept of MOUNTAINS-- you are very right even with modern equipment... heck, even with a car it's not a day or two long affair.

So how big are these mountains? Are they perpetually snow-capped? Do you need a guide to show you the way?

  • $\begingroup$ It should also be possible to find typical crossing times for the Alps at various historic times. $\endgroup$
    – quarague
    Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 9:50

Not sure if you're asking about city layout or about crossing mountains, or what time period your world is in (huge diff in equipment and modes of transport). But if you want a big city just under (sort of in between) big mountains, have a look at Santiago (de Chile). There are few passes across to Argentina, and you'd spend a few days walking just to get below the nearest one.

About layouts

  • if you want something modern, just study ~5 villages/towns/cities of the right size and region and you'll start seeing patterns.
  • If you want something old-ish (say late renaissance to Victorian), just remove the post-WW2 housing estates and replace high-risers with what's everywhere around.
  • But there should be a lot of old maps out there, and that probably includes even older times (Roman, medieval, ancient Chinese,...).
  • I reckon KCD has a good representation of small medieval villages (which nobody would bother mapping), so look at some maps/vids
  • and there's of course the good old https://www.maproomblog.com/2018/10/itchy-feets-map-of-every-european-city/ and friends!

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