I need some help with the placement of the cities on a map of one of my continents. I'm not looking for opinions, but more for a reality check on how realistic it is in terms of where things are and should be. Below I'm going to list a few things about the map, and include a link to the map itself:

Distad is supposed to be a capital, but is blue like a port because I used the wrong color on accident.

  • Link to map here

  • The continent is located in a world with roughly medieval technology

  • The continent is located in the southern hemisphere

  • Magic exists in the world, but it isn't powerful enough to move mountains or anything.

  • Blue circles are ports

  • Purple circles are capitals

  • Gray circles are regular cities

  • Brown circles (or, circle, in this case) are towns

So, taking in the above information and the map into account, I am asking you the following questions:

  • How realistic are my borders?

  • How realistic are my city placements?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Alsakubraa seems centred on the river in the desert, while its neighbour to the north isn't. If that's the case it seems slightly unusual that Alsakubraa doesn't extend on the other side of the river. Presumably the river creates fertile land on the north bank too? Big rivers in deserts tend to be centres of civilisations rather than borders (Niger, Nile, Transoxonia, Mesopotamia). How and why does Alsakubraa's northern neighbour exert its influence right to the river? I might be tempted to redraw that one. I also wonder why on the eastern landmass neither power exerts control over the hills? $\endgroup$
    – Kolbítr
    Jul 21, 2017 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ It's a big range of hills. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2017 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ The reason Alsakubraa doesn't extend northwards is because they recently lost territory to the Morizari. The Morizari Desert is also a separate desert from the Alsakubraan Desert, as the Morizari Desert is flat and the Alsakubraan Desert is filled with dunes. The Morizari are kind of an expy of the Mongolians, in that they are mostly nomadic except for those few cities. Also, there isn't really any other barriers to put the southern border. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2017 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ Related: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/q/23820/627 $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 21, 2017 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ Also, as for the range of hills, that hasn't been claimed because it is considered a sort of neutral zone for religious reasons. People live there, it just isn't considered a part of either kingdom. As for the capitals in the mountains, which ones are you referring to? Edit: also, forgot to mention, but there are two cities in the hill range, they're just hard to see because they're gray. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2017 at 19:07

3 Answers 3


When placing and naming civilization markers on a map, we can follow some basic rules.

Where rivers reach the coast, there will typically be at least some amount of tidal estuary and delta, so the coast should angle in a little there; unlike most bays, these will be sharp rather than rounded. Urbintor is a good example.

Humans live on the water, and on trade routes, so the first (and probably oldest) cities should go anywhere a river joins the sea, like Markal, Porlat, Kesidi, Mestas, and Urbintor again - great trade and fishing.

River forks are also good places for trade and water, too, as well as being nicely defensible, protected on two sides by a natural "moat": in this map, this seems to be one of the main reasons for placing cities.

There's a great sheltered bay with two rivers leading from it, leading to Bloodhill and Latale. This bay would normally become a huge city pretty fast, unless there's a good reason for it not to. Probably the biggest in that continent.

Bays are caused by erosion from the sea, so will typically be rounded (no examples on this map), rather than pointy (Distad, Dalere, Vantia City, Turrum, Minra, Dongan, Montibem, Pordeut, Todora, Estreor, Porlaba, Eastport...), unless they are fjords between two mountain ranges. Fjords will typically end in at least a short river.

Names mean things, and those things get used in multiple other names: in Pordeut, Porlaba, Porlat - I'd suspect that the "por" is a degradation of "port", and "lat" has some meaning, as it's also seen in Latale.

Eastport shows the word non-degraded, showing regional differences, which is nice. The same region (Kingsland) has BloodHill - that region seems defined by readable Englishy names. My suspicion is that this will be where the heroes will start out, and venture into more foreign-sounding places. A bit tropey, if so, but not a terrible thing.

Outside of that southern continent, though, names seem like just 2-3 random-syllable things, with no clear sign of meaning. Having several river-fork cities have a similar prefix or suffix (-ford, -bridge), and so on, will add verisimilitude: see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_generic_forms_in_place_names_in_the_United_Kingdom_and_Ireland but obviously, like your "por-", make them regionalized to the tongues of your world, rather than using them directly.

As a counterpoint to that, for a fiction writer, having names which are easily confused by the reader (bannockburn, bannockbridge) is usually a bad thing. I'd go with having the first syllable unique in each case, and shared suffixes, unless the point is to show the two places are very close together (bannockburn being just upriver from bannockbridge, perhaps).

As well as rivers, other trade routes matter - places where major roads join, mountain passes, etc. Also significant sources of resources, like mining town, fishing villages (the whole coast would normally be populated with these before inland areas got many towns), etc.

I like the placement of Erten & Estreor, placed to take advantage of the trade that flows down that channel from Gahotere and the Vanlian empire, to Kingsland and southern Aumedeszel.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It seems like a bit of a fuss, but there is now a question which limits itself to asking for advice on the geology and climate. You know; if you wanted to split your answer and emigrate some of it over — earn double points — all that … $\endgroup$ Jul 22, 2017 at 2:48

The placement of your settlements are not bad considering the location of features, but your features have major issues (see below), and the number of settlements is fine considering the size of the map, although Ash Island should probably have some cities on it, volcanic ash makes for incredibly rich soil. The country density is comparable to europe, so unsettled land should be fairly rare.

Well first you have a large desert with no mountainous border at the same latitude as several gigantic marshlands, that makes no sense. Deserts are generated by latitude or terrain, this one appears to be made by neither. It also seems to have a lake in the center of it with no source for the lake.

Second you need more forest, early civilizations and cities that do not have a steady source of timber don't survive for long. Deforestation is probably the second leading cause of city collapse after warfare.

third many of your rivers appear to start near the coast and flow inland, without the coast being mountainous this makes no sense. The Jiazhi area appear a particular offender.

  • $\begingroup$ There is now a question which limits itself to asking for advice on the geology and climate. You know; if you wanted to split your answer and emigrate some of it over — earn double points — all that … Also, you accidentally doubled your introductory paragraph at the end. $\endgroup$ Jul 22, 2017 at 2:50

National borders tend to follow obstacles. In most cases, the borders make sense. As was mentioned by Kolbítr, rivers are not usually borders unless the river itself is large enough to be an obstacle. Another way a river can be a border is if the two nations are on relatively good terms. Those cases could happen in your world but I see too many instances of it. The excuses would get rather thin.

Any conquering force that travels across a kingdom to seize the fertile land along a river is very likely to put in the extra effort to grab the extra set right across the water. Note that if the river is wide, violent, or has drastically different shore elevations (like a river that runs along the base of a cliff), the different kingdoms might be reduced to shouting insults at each other. The border is more likely to run through the desert than along a river.

The only city placement issue that I see is Gothelar (sp? it's hard to read some of the letters) in Morizar. It is unlikely that a city would be placed at the start of a river. For one thing, rivers generally start in mountains and the terrain tends to be too steep for growing food. If it doesn't start in a mountain, it generally starts at a lake or marsh that then drains out the river (I don't see that on the map). There could be a reason to place a city there (religious, resources, political) but that doesn't show up on the map.


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