I was told to post this question separately, so here it is. I need help with the geography and climate of my map.

  • Blue circles are ports

  • Gray circles are cities

  • That one brown circle is a town

  • The continent is located in the southern hemisphere

  • The world has roughly medieval technology

  • Magic exists, but isn't powerful enough to move mountains or anything

So, with the above things considered, I ask the following questions:

  • How realistic is this map's geography and climate?

  • How can I make the map look less empty, geography-wise?

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    $\begingroup$ Most of your mountain ranges are straight lines, of similar length, that tend to run either North - South, or East - West. Real world mountain ranges wouldn't be so regular. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 22, 2017 at 1:41
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    $\begingroup$ You might want to check out The Cartographers' Guild $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Jul 22, 2017 at 11:32
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    $\begingroup$ I know you said the continent was in the southern hemisphere. Please can you provide some latitude ranges...will help with determinig the climate zones. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2017 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ Hiya, a note - mountain ranges absolutely could be so regular through hotspots and tectonics - if you ask about that in a separate question, I will answer that! Another gentle note you might consider a scalebar with regular increments (100 or 200 instead of 125), a north arrow, and give us an estimation as @EveryBitHelps of where this lies on your globe, and generally what else is on your globe. I love climate questions, but I need more information. $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Jul 26, 2017 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ I'll probably dissect this map later, but for right now I'll just refer you to this answer for advice on generating a realistic climate. I will note, though, that the landmass shapes are very suspect; mountain ranges are almost always at plate boundaries, and the overall whole doesn't look like it could form via natural plate movement. I'd strongly recommend drawing a sensible tectonic plate map and moving continents/mountains as necessary. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Feb 1, 2018 at 17:52

4 Answers 4


First off the bat, I see three obvious problems.

You've got a desert, or at least a very arid zone, which occupies the entire width, from shore to shore, of a long continent with ocean on either side. What are the coastlines like?
Why is it so arid? We'd usually have lack of water for a combination of two reasons: no rain or no soil. Mountains or altitude can prevent rain from reaching an arid zone, but we have no mountains here. Let's look at the rivers.
You have one that seems to come from an upwelling and flow west for a short distance. It apparently doesn't irrigate much of the surrounding land, so I'd suppose that it sits in the middle of a basin. You have another river that flows east for a longer distance. Rivers can often be quite limited in the fertile area that they feed — e.g. the Nile in Egypt, — so that works well enough in that regard. This one seems to have a subterranean source, too, since it is in the middle of a land that sees no precipitation to feed it.

What you have there is a large arid region apparently sitting at a high altitude on a plateau of land which can't hold water above the bedrock, and which is sitting atop a large aquifer (i.e. lots of water between the granules of rocks underground). But, it doesn't really look like that when you examine the coasts. Besides, what would keep the aquifer held together so far above sea level?

You have a isolated range of mountains, the “Desmonles” or something like, which does not seem to follow the contours of the surrounding landmass. Is there a reason for it to be so straight?

Your two big marshes look a little ill-situated. Like they don't actually come from the rivers, but were simply stamped down at their mouths.
Maybe the rivers meet huge basins that get flooded — but 120 miles away from the river seems rather far.

Those were the things which I noticed first. Other answers have mentioned some of the other problems, especially with the rivers — like that one apparently inland sea or something in the northeast, — so I will not rehash them here.

I will say that you need to give some indication of both latitude and compass directions. Never mind the terrain itself, but if you expect people to see this map as a small part of a larger globe much like the Earth, they need some points of reference. Otherwise, you'll end up with people either presuming that it is equatorial, at their own native latitude, or in some flat fantasy world with a single, and probably temperate, climate over the entire thing.

Okay, enough about that. All in all, don't take my comments too harshly or too seriously. I was going for frankness in my assessments.

As for the large bland patches, remember that there are probably lots of hills, forests, springs, farms, and waterways in those places — they simply weren't large or dense enough to register on your map.
The large land of Morizar and Alsakubraa, for example, is comparable in size to places like the Arab peninsula or Ontario. The entire map would fit nicely inside Australia, and the habitable land surface area could almost snuggle together in the Outback.

The sparseness, the mountain contours, and the incompatible climates.
How would one address those concerns with their world?

I begin by drawing lines of longitude across my map. That will give you some idea of the seasonal climates in the areas. Then I can draw tectonic plates. Continental shelves go atop those. Coastlines and shallow seas and mountains come next.
Mountains usually go on the edges between the plates. In the middle of a plate, they are often caused by volcanism.
Drawing isoclinic contour lines, beginning at the coastlines and working inland, is the next step. Indeed, you already began at coastlines and mountains. Now, you need to fill in the lands between.

Another thing that helps is to work with smaller strokes. You have two large marshes, one giant aridland, and a one large jungle or something. Try to have a few smaller areas rather than those big clumps.

On the whole, a lot of fantasy maps are really just straight–up garbage — even published and selling, — so you are doing well enough. Why are some maps so bad? Because their designers didn't take them seriously. The problem is never one of how realistic your maps are, but how much you are willing to make them real.

  • $\begingroup$ Check you scale the entire map is the roughly the same size as australia. The regions are not as gigantic as they look at first glance. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 22, 2017 at 4:28
  • $\begingroup$ @John Yes, I noticed that when examining the desert, but it is a helpful point to make. I'll include it when i need to make an edit. $\endgroup$ Jul 22, 2017 at 4:31
  • $\begingroup$ The Sahara is a desert " which occupies the entire width, from shore to shore, of a long continent with ocean on either side". The coasts are as arid as the rest of the desert. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 22, 2017 at 4:32
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Not comparable, methinks. This one is nearer the Arab peninsula than the Sahara, but with enough differences to justify at least some of my remarks. There's also the problem with latitude, but I didn't really get into that. $\endgroup$ Jul 22, 2017 at 4:36
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    $\begingroup$ Somebody call the troll hunters … :-) $\endgroup$ Jul 22, 2017 at 17:10

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(what portion of the hadley, ferrel, polar cell you are in) 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. on the right you have a mountain range running from coast to coast with marshes on both sides, which is basically impossible at the same latitude as a desert. The only way to get both a marsh and a desert at the same latitude would be the rain shadow effect which you don't have. Look at South America for inspiration gigantic jungle on one side of the mountains, on the side of the prevailing wind (east to west) and on the other side of the mountains one of the driest deserts in existence because all the moisture was dumped going over the mountains. You really should think about what your prevailing wind direction is, your continent is not large enough to have more than two. They occur in pretty straightforward bands ue to the planets rotation, them plus your latitude will control your climate. Also consider smoothing a few random parts of your coastline an entirely jagged coastline says post-glacial or extreme tectonics, so either you are close to the antarctic circle and thus should have no deserts without rain-shadow effect(see end) or you should have a lot of volcanics.

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. It is needed for building and for fuel, and cities need a lot of both.

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.River maps are one of the harder thing to get right, I suggest looking at real drainage maps for inspiration. But generally if the river does not start in the mountains you have made it too long so it's end origin looks unrealistic. Rivers rarely cross so much of a land mass, especially small landmasses unless starting from mountainous terrain and simply can't flow towards the closer coast. One or two is fine but your map has a lot of them.

Extension of

  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer, so +1, but deserts are not formed based on lattitude. We have deserts at the south pole, and we have sandy deserts (with oases) as far north as Canada and everywhere in between. Now, a classical desert, true. $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Jul 26, 2017 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Mikey By latitude I mean which air cell (hadley, ferrel, polar) you fall into which determines whether you are getting rising wet air or falling dry air. This is why deserts run in latitudinal belts across the planet. land masses in the same latitude will be in the same portion of the same cell. I'll add an edit to make it clearer. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 26, 2017 at 23:02

The only way you get that shape is if you had a massive volcano that blew and then sunk the continent in the past.

Horizontal Mountains generally don't happen, at least on Earth, because most of the movement of our plats horizontal and that generally would be the case for most planets. You do get a few horizontal mountains (such as the himilayas) but there aren't that many really. But beyond that the mountains seem random and like you have a island in the center that a bunch lands masses collided into from every angle rather than the result on natural formation.

You don't seem to quite have a grasp of river either. They starts from the high points (mountains) and flow down to the low point. This creates a lake or ends in the ocean or sea. Rivers don't split nor do they go to two different river mouths. Riers tell you the shape of the area around them, because each start of a river is the highest point and the joining spots are the basin/sub-basins low spot, meaning you can do a topological map just from looking at them and get fairly accurate. Right now you have 8 basins, which most continents do not have. The have like 2 or 3 usually.

Your marshs, forests, and deserts are probably messed up, but I can't say for certain because that takes working out wind and water patterns. I can tell you that you should probably have a lot more deserts, however small, due to all the mountains, and you should probably have a very lush forest covering most of one side of the continent due to the unlrealist volcano blown bowl shape you've made. The water from that area blow onto the mainland and case it to be wet...

That bowl shape is horrific btw if you're going to try to figure this our for real, because having water like that causes weather to go a bit wonky, because it creates a donut in air pressure which means you have lots of atmospheric and water current activity in that area, which causes the overall area to be a mess of incredibly stormy weather. I would not want to live there, just based off this. Though another guess as to what it might be like says it might not be that bad cuz it might have mediteranean weather modified to be hotter or colder as it goes further north or south.

But anyways, over all I'd give it a C, but most of the grade comes down due to the initial shape being so unrealistic. Ignore that, and it becomes a B, B+ largely due to the art quality being relatively good. But you get points taken off for mountaints being bad, ignoring that you'd get and A- to A. The art is good but not as good as I've seen and rivers themselfs, while there is problems with them, they are not that bad.

Considering each bit individually Continent Shape = F... Mountains = D ... Rivers = C... Climates = B-... Art = B+

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Haha! No shit, “horizontal” mountains don't happen. Ahem, sorry. The words you're looking for, AFAIK, would probably be ‘longitudinal mountain ranges’. $\endgroup$ Jul 22, 2017 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ @can-ned_food :P I can never remember which is longitude and which is latitude... I would have in fact gotten it wrong here so I made the right choice lol. I just use the direction of the map as that is just easier. $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Jul 22, 2017 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ Longitudinal mountains are completely fine there are several on earth, the himalayas, the alps, anatolia, the brooks, ect. plate movement is largely longitudinal NOW that but that is by no means consistent through history. The layout of the landmass is also fine look at northern canada, or the mediterranean, glacial carving or nascent spreading center could generate a sea like that. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 22, 2017 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ @John No it actually couldn't. Plate spreading like that would never happen. You're thinking of Pangea which is a combination of several plates that pulled apart vs 1 being pulled apart... and not enough of a time frame for those mountains to exist. Also the mountain "ranges" you mentioned are all a distinction without a difference. They're all formed from the same event and part of the same range naturally, we just call them different names because our perspectives were limited in the past so areas got different names. $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Jul 22, 2017 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Those mountains range are by no means the same event, the brooks are in Alaska and the himalaya are very recent and in southern asia for example, I have no idea how you could believe they are the same event, no one believes this. Plate spreading like that does happen, as I said look at the mediterranean a complex of smaller weaker spreading centers creates a complex sea way, and just like the mediterranean region the various mountain ranges do not need to be from the same events. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 23, 2017 at 1:09

Another thing to consider, on top of everything everyone else is saying here, is your symbology. The names of the mountain ranges are largely illegible, so they should have a more contrasting color, or be haloed with another color (white or black work well) to make them legible. Your difference between cities, ports, and towns would be a lot easier to see if you had different shapes for them. You could make cities squares and ports circles. Make the town a diamond. Whatever you do, for [your deity of choice]'s sake, include a key.

Alternatively, symbol wise, there are intuitive glyphs you can use to represent things. A 🏠 or ⌂ for a village, ⚓ for a port, 🏰 for a fortified city (and with medieval technology, what city doesn't have some sort of fortification?)

Combine all this with the other advice you're getting here regarding things like latitude/longitude lines, proper placement of mountains, etc. and you'll have a better—and much easier to understand—map.


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