Historical TV Series Through Time

This is a list of tv series set throughout history, starting with the most recent first. You can use it to get a feeling for and as inspiration on settings in those periods, or if your like me and love a good historical series, just have a look and see which appeal to you and do some easy going “research”. I’ve watched all these on the list over the years and have loved most, if not all of them. I believe all of them are good (if a bit dramatised) representations of life and events at those times.

I will keep it updated as we go, so keep checking back, and if you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments. I will also do the same for films, games and documentaries at some point.

1920s – 1930s America

Boardwalk Empire

Atlantic City at the dawn of Prohibition is a place where the rules don’t apply. And the man who runs things — legally and otherwise — is the town’s treasurer, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, who is equal parts politician and gangster. Side by side with his brother Elias, Atlantic City’s sheriff, and a crew of ward bosses and local tough guys, Nucky gains a reputation as the man to see for illegal alcohol.

8.6/10 IMDb 88% Metacritic 8.5/10 TV.com

1919 – 1924 England

Peaky Blinders

A gangster saga set in Birmingham during the aftermath of World War I.

8.8/10 IMDb 93% Rotten Tomatoes 9.5/10 TV.com

1916 Ireland, United Kingdom


A mini-series depicts fictional characters in Dublin during the 1916 Rising. The commemorative drama begins with the outbreak of World War I. As expectations of a short and glorious campaign are dashed, social stability is eroded, and Irish nationalism comes to the fore. The tumultuous events that follow are seen through the eyes of a group of friends from Dublin, Belfast, and London as they play vital and conflicting roles in the narrative of Ireland’s independence.

7.1/10 IMDb 40% Rotten Tomatoes

1837 England


The first series depicts the first few years of the reign of Queen Victoria, from her accession to the throne at the age of eighteen, to her intense friendship and infatuation with Lord Melbourne, to her courtship and early marriage to Prince Albert  and finally to the birth of their first child, Victoria. The second series follows Victoria’s struggles on managing her role as Queen with that of her duties to her husband and children.

8.2/10IMDb87%Rotten Tomatoes8.9/10TV.com

1812 Russia

War and Peace

Tells the story of events surrounding the the Napoleonic invasion of Russia and the impact of the era on pre-reform (Tsarist) Russia.

8.2/10IMDb 88%Rotten Tomatoes

1715 Bahamas / England

Black Sails

Tells the story of Captain Flint and his pirate escapades as he tries to rally the pirate world against the rest of humanity.

8/10 IMDb 8.5/10 TV.com 58% Metacritic

1700s Canada


There’s money to be made in the fur trade in the 1700s, which is why Declan Harp is trying to get a piece of it. The outlaw trapper is leading a campaign to breach the Hudson’s Bay Company’s monopoly on fur in Canada. Lord Benton, on the other hand, is bent on restoring the company’s stranglehold on fur and is on a mission to stamp out Harp, who turns to an old ally when bounty hunters close in on him. Harp eventually devises an elaborate scheme to plunder Hudson’s Bay and set a trap for Benton.

7.2/10 IMDb 7.9/10 TV.com

1667 – 1670 France


It’s 1667 and 28-year-old King Louis XIV has finally taken over sole command of France. When he commissions Versailles, Europe’s most beautiful palace, the nobles seek entry into the lavish residence, which they do not realize is meant to imprison and control them. Among the ruler’s prime targets is his younger brother, Monsieur. There’s also romance in King Louis’ life, as his queen, Marie Theresa, tries to tame his wandering eyes and win his heart back from his mistress, the English king’s sister. Love, power, betrayal and war are all part of daily life in Versailles.

7.9/10 IMDb 88% Rotten Tomatoes 9.4/10 TV.com

1589 – 1651 Ottoman Empire (Turkey)

Muhtesem Yuzyil

Kosem (The Magnificant Century: Kosem): it recounts the life of Mahpeyker Kösem Sultan, a slave girl who became one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history after she was captured and sent to the harem of Sultan Ahmed I.

6.5/10 IMDb

1557 France, England, Scotland


Queen of Scotland Mary Stuart travels to France with four ladies-in-waiting to secure her politically strategic engagement to the king’s son, Prince Francis. Mary and Francis share a mutual attraction, even though he has reservations about the wisdom of an alliance with Scotland. Complicating issues is Bash, Francis’ illegitimate half-brother whom Mary finds herself drawn to in spite of herself. The French Court is also full of less romantic challenges for Mary, who finds her engagement — and life — threatened until she finds an ally in a mysterious shrouded guide. With all that she faces, Mary rallies, readying herself to rule and trying to find a balance between the demands of her country and those of her heart.

7.6/10 IMDb 8.4/10 TV.com

1520 – 1566 Ottoman Empire (Turkey)

Muhtesem Yuzyil (The Magnificant Century)

A Turkish historical fiction television series. It is based on the life of Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and his wife Hürrem Sultan, a slave girl who became a Sultan.

6.6/10 IMDb

1520s Spain

Carlos, Rey Emperador

The series tells the story of Charles I or Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, one of the most powerful men Europe has met, the ruler of an empire as great in size as in diversity. As the life of Charles of Habsburg is told since his arrival to Spain, it can be seen how the heir to the crowns of Germany, Burgundy, the Netherlands, the Free County, Artois, Nevers and Rethel, of the territories of the Crown of Aragon and its related Italian territories, and of the territories of the Catholic Monarchs in Castile, North Africa and the Americas, matures as a statesman and gets stronger in face of menaces around him and good and bad advice from his counselors.

7.6/10 IMDb

1500s England

The Tudors

This Showtime drama focuses on the early years of King Henry VIII’s nearly 40-year reign (1509-1547) of England. The series looks at Henry’s famous female companions like Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn and delves into his relationships with important figures like Sir Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey (head of the Catholic Church of England during its break with Rome) and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, who was Henry’s best friend and unofficial adviser.

8.1/10 IMDb 8.7/10 TV.com

1492 Italy

The Borgias

Follows the rise of the Borgias family to the top of the Catholic Church and their efforts to maintain it against threats from within the church and without.

7.9/10 IMDb 8.4/10 TV.com 71% Rotten Tomatoes

1464 England

The White Queen

Set in the bloody War of the Roses, the long war between the rival houses of Plantagenet, York and Lancaster, it follows the stories of three powerful women who manipulate events from behind the scenes, Elizabeth Woodville, Margret Beaufort and Anne Neville. Full of court intrigue, backstabbing and the cold hearted quest for power. You can easily see why the War of the Roses was cited as inspiration for Games of Thrones.

7.8/10 IMDb 8.6/10 TV.com 78% Rotten Tomatoes

1461 Castille (Spain)


The life of Isabel, a sweet child who, through the exercise of power and personal suffering, will become one of the greates rulers in the history of Spain.

8.3/10 IMDb

1429 Italy


The wealthy Medici family rise to power during great social upheavals throughout medieval Italy. Their contributions to the artistic life of the country is in contrast to their quest for control and the envy of those who wish to depose them.

7.9/10 IMDB 50% Rotten Tomatos 4.8/5 Google Audience Rating

1200s Ottoman Empire (Turkey)

Diriliş: Ertuğrul (The Revival: Ertuğrul)

A Turkish historical drama based on the history of the Muslim Oghuz Turks and takes place in the 13th century. It centers around the life of Ertuğrul, the father of Osman I, who was the founder of the Ottoman Empire.

7.1/10 IMDb

1194 England

Robin Hood

Robin returns from fighting in the crusades to find that his home is suffering under the high taxation and corruption of the Sheriff of Nottingham and along with his band of Merry Men fights for the freedom of the people.

7.6/10 IMDb 8.6/10 TV.com 92% Rotten Tomatoes

801 – 900 England

The Last Kingdom

(A personal favourite) The kingdoms of England are attacked and in places occupied by Vikings. The southern Kingdom of Wessex is the bastion of defense against the Danes. The protagonist Uhtred, son of Uhtred, is a the son of a Saxon noble who is captured, adopted and raised by Danes, and his loyalties are tested as he must decide between his people and his homeland, and those who raised him.

8.4/10IMDb 91%Rotten Tomatoes 8.8/10TV.com

793 Denmark, England, France


Viking Ragnar Lothbrok is a young farmer and family man who is frustrated by the policies of Earl Haraldson, his local chieftain who sends his Viking raiders east to the Baltic states and Russia, whose residents are as poor as the Norsemen. Ragnar wants to head west, across the ocean, to discover new civilizations. With assistance from his friend Floki, Ragnar builds a faster, sleeker fleet of boats to help him make it to the Western world. Through the years Ragnar, who claims to be a direct descendant of the god Odin, continues to struggle with Earl until the two face each other in a final battle for supremacy. Following that, Ragnar goes on a search for new lands to conquer.

8.6/10 IMDb 9.2/10 TV.com 91% Rotten Tomatoes

169 China

Three Kingdoms

Three Kingdoms is a 2010 Chinese television series based on the events in the late Eastern Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period.

8.2/10 IMDb 8.7/10 MyDramaList

0 – 100 AD (Generally set in the 1st century) Roman Empire


Follows the lives and actions of historical (Julius Caeser, Marc Anthony, Octavious etc) and wealthy Roman families as well as two common soldiers who get wrapped up in the action. This one is a personal favourite.

8.9/10 IMDb 8.8/10 TV.com 71% Metacritic

43 AD Britain


“Britannia” is set in A.D. 43, when the Romans invaded Britain led by General Aulus Plautius, who is determined to succeed where Julius Caesar failed and conquer this mythical land on the very end of the Roman Empire. Kerra, daughter of the King of the Cantii, is forced to put her differences with archrival Queen Antedia aside in order to unite the tribes and supposedly magical Druids and face their invaders. But General Aulus carries a secret that threatens to undermine the entire mission.

73 – 71 BC  Roman Republic


The Spartacus series tells the famous story of Spartacus’s escape from the Gladiatorial grounds and his major slave uprising across Roman Italy which threatens the very core of the Republic.

8.6/10 IMDb 8.5/10 TV.com 65% Rotten Tomatoes

13th Century BC Troy (Greece, Turkey)


A miniseries based on the Trojan War and the love affair between Paris and Helen. The show tells the story of the 10 year siege of Troy, which occurred in the 13th century BC.

3.5/10 IMDb 67% Rotten Tomatoes

Honourable Mention

Game of Thrones

I’m sure you’ve all seen this, but its good inspiration for the level of backstabbing and court intrigue that went on in Feudal/ Medieval societies.

9.5/10 IMDb 94% Rotten Tomatoes 9/10 TV.com


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Economy & Barter Systems


It can be easy to think that money and a free market exchange system is the main method of how an economy runs, but for most of history, this was not the case. And so it doesn’t have to be in your world either. In  this post I will talk about different methods of barter system.

Primitive Communism

(Pre-Marxist) Communism is probably the original system, which would have worked well in small communities where everyone knows each other, such as in nomadic tribes. Everyone would pitch in with the hunting and making of tools and the food and water would be split among the group. It wouldn’t make sense for food to be allocated by whoever gathered the most, as people would have to switch jobs to fill in different rolls.

For example, one of the women (who is probably a less skilled hunter then the men) may look after the young children, which frees up the other adults to gather food, but they wouldn’t be bringing in any themselves. Others might be teaching the young people the skills they need to be a contributing member of society, which is very important for the future survival of the tribe.

It is only when they began to produce a surplus that private property comes in and the tribe may move onto another system. Usually, but not always the surplus will come with permanently settling. This economy is usually focused on agriculture.

You might like to apply this to a settled country and see if you can make it work. In practice there would usually be an elite class who pretend to be equally distributing the goods, whilst skimming wealth off the top.

Informal Exchange

Perhaps the most rudimentary of exchange systems, the informal exchange system would have worked in small communities where everyone knows each other. If one person wanted something, they would either exchange goods of a mutually agreed value, or leave with the promise of payment further down the line. This relies on everyone relying on each others honesty and as people are likely to know one another, if someone doesn’t make a payment, they’ll find the community will turn on them. This becomes more difficult as the population grows.

Honour Exchange

If you want to use a system such as Informal Exchange on a larger scale you could add a cultural trait which would allow this to work.

I’ve done this with one of my cultures, Mesit. Mesit people have an honour bound culture and to not repay debts is big sin, as it represents going against ones word. As everyone strives to maintain and build their honour, they try keep to their agreements. Of course, as the society grows, this is going to become harder and harder until they have to move to something else.

Command Economy (Usually a Marxist Communist Economy)

This is communist economy in a more modern setting. It is one which is controlled by a powerful centralised government which handles the production and distribution of goods and services. It may still have a low level of trade however. Tends to focus more on industrial goods.

A command economy, such as the Inca’s is one where the establishment controls all aspects of the the economy and allocates goods as and where they see fit. I’ll be honest, I’m not 100% sure how the Incan economy worked, but this is my understanding of it. People owed labour and in return received food and shelter. A command economy often goes hand in hand with a communist economy.

Interestingly the Incas did discover the wheel, but it was only used as a child’s toy, not in all the ways that other societies used it. This is an example of how you can turn things on its head.

Free Market

The free market, or capitalism, means money talks. All goods and services have a price determined by demand and supply, the invisible hand of the market and if you can’t afford something, you can’t have it. Tends to focus on consumer goods with no government intervention.

Mixed Economy

Most of us experience a mixed economy to varying degrees. There is the private sector, which functions as a free market, and a public sector, which will be under a command economy. Generally this involves public spending on things which are deemed to be in the public interest of everyone, such as the army, sanitation, street lights, lighthouses.

Even economies we would think of as being more free market, such as the USA economy are not, as there is a degree of command economy in there such as education and military spending, but also corporate bailouts and a subsidies. In a true free market, any company that fails would be allowed to fail, no bank would be too big to fail. You could make the argument that this culture of corporate bailouts, tax reliefs and bailouts is actually corporate socialism, which is ironic considering how much of dirty word socialism is in the US.


In feudal economies, manours were largely self sufficient and so little trade occurred from manour to manour. Peasants were tied to the land and were given a plot of land to farm in return for taxes in the form of crops and their services for things such as construction or war. They also had to pay to use manour services such as the mill. This below shows the feudal structure (its from this page (its been a good resource for this post)). This system is a bit unusual and it doesn’t really fit neatly in any other system.

Give large land grants to Upper Lords called fiefs
Give Protection
Receives money, military service, and advice

Upper Lords
Give land grants to Lesser Lords
Give Protection
Receives money, military service

Lesser Lords
Give land grants to knights
Receives money, military service

Give land to peasants/serfs
Receives crops, labor

Peasants/ Serfs
Receives land to farm
Pays with labor, crops

Make Your Own

The first six that I talked about are pretty straight forward and feudal almost looks like something that someone made up in the way that it differs from the other systems, even thoughts it was real and widely used.

All economies deal with “an infinite amount of human needs and wants from a finite set of resources” This is the quote I was taught day 1 of economics A Level. Of course, you put a man down in the forest, his wants and needs aren’t limitless, he’ll want shelter, food, water and heat. You can consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Then consider supply and demand.


One approach might be to think about the resources available (maybe using a resource map) and the industries present in the area, and then what policies, or economic set up might benefit them.

Think About What Culture You Have

I have a nation called Tukit which neighbours the honour bound Mesit. In Tukit it is said that “no man starves unless they all do”. So they have a controlled communist economy, where the priests who run the granaries store and distribute the food. Its a point of conflict with Mesit as when famine strikes, they take a loan out with Mesit which they fail to pay back the next year. Mesit considers this a big dishonourable act given the size of the loan, and there fore a diplomatic insult. Tukit thinks that Mesit should share anyway and that they should be forgiving that they didn’t manage to pay back the loan on time. The honour bound warrior nation of Mesit invade.

So you can see how the different cultures might have economies. Throw natural disasters at them, think about how they would react and let the situation play out.


I hope you’ve found this useful and sorry its a tad late. I’ll add to it as more information becomes available; I’m sure people have plenty of knowledge on this to share. I’ll be following this up with a part two on different types of currency.


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Thanks very much, Happy New Year and see you next week.

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Using Art to Drive Worldbuilding


Often it can useful to visiualise your characters and your world. Representing these with 3rd party art can be very inspiring and a great way to do so without spending ages writing descriptions and so you can spend more time developing your world.

I’ve interspersed this post with art from my Pinterest boards so you can sample the quality of the art available there.

Where to Find it? Pinterest vs DeviantArt

I recommend building up a resource of art that you like, which you can always refer back to when you are looking for something in particular or would like some inspiration. I originally started doing this on DeviantArt, but I find Pinterest is better, and here’s why.

DeviantArt hold loads of different kinds of art, with varying levels of quality and use for the worldbuilder. It can be difficult to even find decent art like you see in this post through the site’s navigation system. I found the best way to do this was to google search “fantasy characters deviantart” and then look at the links that come up and add images I liked to my collections.

Pinterest, however, is geared up for just sharing and finding art, without all the social media side that gives DeviantArt both an advantage and a disadvantage depending on how you want to use it. On Pinterest, you can follow boards which host art you like and your feed will display art from these, plus art from similar boards. Within a week or two of using it, I have followed loads more boards than I started with and I’m now follwing 89 boards, all of them posting art and content I want to see. I have my pins divided into 8 boards, which keeps it nicely organised and makes it easy to find the kind of art I want. Though I will say Pinterest forces you to be logged in to really use the site, which is both very annoying and put me off using it for ages.

That said, I haven’t looked back since I did join and I’ve been steadily going through my DeviantArt collections and pinning them on my Pinterest boards. Its easy to add to your boards. You can download a Chrome extension (I’m sure it exists on other browsers too) which lets you pin any image on the internet to your boards. The pins link back to their original location so its beneficial for creators and encourages wider range on content on the site.

Using Art for Characters

I divide character art into 4 categories, human males, human females, non human races and mythical people/ deities. When creating a character, I have a look through the relevant board to see if there’s any similar to what I had in mind. Once you’ve got a nice range of characters, which shouldn’t take any time at all to do, you can easily find one you want and add it into your World document.

One of the great things about doing this is the character in the art will prompt you to consider different things and develop the character more. I’ve often been looking at a piece of art I’ve chosen to represent a character and noticed the look in their eye, a scar or a trinket they may have and written a backstory to explain this. This really helps your characters come to life and develop into a multidimensional individual in ways you might not have thought of.

Character Art for Cultures

The flip side of this is to take a piece of character art and fit them into your world, developing your world so it can accommodate the character. Often I’ve come across a great piece of art with a character dressed in a way that none of my current characters are. Even if I don’t want to write the character themselves into the world at this point, you can build a culture based on them. Take different aspects of their appearance, their hair, their tattoos, their jewelry, their weapons, their clothes, their tools, their technology and think about the kind of culture that might accommodate this. I have done this a number of times with some interesting results. Your interpretation of these features is likely to be different to the next persons so you can come up with some unique cultures in this way, especially as opposed to basing your cultures off historical ones, which is what  most people do.

Locations & Scenes

This doesn’t just work for characters, it can work for anything, clothes, weapons, technology, you name it. But another element I particularly think it works well for is locations and scenes. On this board I put any shots of environments, settlements, action scenes, character scenes where you cant really see who they are.

You might find yourself thinking of a backstory for what is going on in the image and you can write it to fit into your world, developing characters, races and cultures as you go. If you have a place in mind, you can use the image to illustrate it, or you can take the image and place it in your world, developing the surrounding environment based on that.


The art can be as inspiring, if not more so than music, particularly Epic Music. If you’re feeling a bit short on ideas or want to refill your creative well, so to speak, just have a look through your boards and take a look at all the art that’s relevant to your world. When your using your worldbuilding depot and reading over your content, coming across the art is a great way to break up the text, keep your imagination flowing and all round enhances the enjoyment of the hobby.


Using art in this way can really help you build up your world quickly, help you visualise it and keep yourself inspired while at the same time appreciating some beautiful works of art.


We have a poll open on setting up a forum to build a community here. Let us know your thoughts.

If you have enjoyed this blog or found it useful and would like to support us, consider pledging using Patreon. This will be most appreciated and will help us expand what we can offer.

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Thanks very much, Merry Christmas and see you next week.

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Community & Forum


Reddit is the core community of this blog, and the community it was born out of. Check it out and subscribe if you’re not already a member.

Forum (Poll further down)

I would like to build a community here and one of things I’d like to do is set up a forum. I want to recognise the advantages it might have over reddit though, and whether it would be used before launching it. Here are some advantages I’ve thought off.  I would like this to exist alongside the reddit, rather than in competition.

  • While reddit is great for discussions and posting great links, I don’t feel like a community really develops. You don’t really get to know other members. On forums you quickly get to know each other.
  • Discussions on reddit tend to have a short life span, forum discussions can go on for much longer. I’ve noticed discussions on reddit only last about two days.
  • Content wont get lost and buried like it does on reddit and minority opinions, or late comments aren’t hidden down the bottom. Active discussions stay active until no longer active rather than sinking down after a day or two.
  • Wider range of available discussions as you can jump in and give your thoughts on older discussions.
  • Discourages groupthink, encourages diversity.
  • Can have specialised sections, eg conlanging, maps, technology etc and varied discussions.
  • Can have non wordbuilding, but related, sections such as writing, art, graphics, cartography, character building etc.
  • Can have coherent, single thread discussions rather than branching, rising and falling comments chains.
  • You can rejoin a discussion where you left off, rather than having to search through all the branches.
  • Roleplay section. For those of you who don’t know, forum roleplay has been a massive part of forums in my experience. Its great for practicing writing (plus fun too!)
  • Easier to submit content to this blog
  • Off-Topic & Non related sections.

I would like to encourage a good level of discussion on many different surrounding areas of the hobby on the forum and invite people to write guest articles if something good arises that would benefit people. This would help make it easier to find good guides and resources rather than having to trawl through threads and subredddits.

I would also like to encourage visual art on the forum and showcase this on the site as well as whatever good content is produced.

The vision is to have the site drive traffic to the forum and for the forum to drive content to the site, to the benefit of all.

Would love to hear your thoughts, and please cast your vote in the poll. Make sure to follow the blog (in the right hand side column) so you are notified when/if we launch the forum.

If you have some features in mind that you’d like to see, let me know in the comments.

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10k Hits Milestone!

Thanks so much to everyone whos made use of this blog! Overnight we broke 10,000 views (we’re actually up to 12,776 at the time of writing this), with 5500 coming in the last 20 hours!

I was originally thinkign of trying to do something special, but its come around so quick I haven’t planned anything and kind of missed it as were already more than a 1/5 of the way to 20k!

If theres anything you want to see content wise, let me know in the comments, I’m keen to grow this as much as possible.

Thanks and see you next week!

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Placement of Settlements


So you’ve got your map, your environment. Now its time to place those villages and breathe some life into your world. Settlements can include anything from hamlets all the way up to massive cities, and there’s usually a couple of factors in common. They can be temporary or permanent and the temporary ones can eventually become permanent.


Early Settlement Placement

These might be the first permanent settlements in the area, by your very first villagers.

Most settlements are founded to serve a function, or in response to something.

Some of the sites where settlements may be founded might include.

  • wet point site – these are sites close to a supply of water
  • dry point site – these are sites that avoided the risk of flooding
  • defensive site – these were sites that were on high ground and allowed the inhabitants to see enemies from a distance
  • aspect – many settlements in the northern hemisphere are located on south facing sides of valleys where it is sunny
  • shelter – away from rain and prevailing winds
  • trading point – often settlements developed where natural training points meet such as along rivers or natural route ways
  • resources – many settlements developed close to where natural resources could be found.

The first of the two main things for founding your settlement is water access. This will provide the village with fresh water, a food source, a means for disposing of waste (elevation was useful for this as the waste is washed quickly down the hill), trade access (its easier, quicker, often safer and cheaper to transport goods along river rather than lugging it across land) and defensive positioning as its hard to attack across a river, plus villagers can get away easily on boats if raiders come knocking. If the village is ill suited to defend itself , or lacks other essential resources, then it is likely to suffer and people may move out over time, perhaps abandoning it eventually. Of course, the people might be more attached to the location and take steps to improve their defenses. This might happen if the village is producing a valuable resource that they are profiting from.

So, people need a good supply of the following resources;

  • Water
  • Food
  • Shelter from the elements
  • Fuel (such as wood for keeping warm)


Lots of villages pop up in locations where there is a natural resource that people want. A village might be set up in an area of fertile land to support the local farmers, it might pop up where a metal ore has been discovered. If you followed the previous Resource Map tutorial, you’ll have a good idea of where some of these might be. The town may not still produce the resource. The town might have once been a mining village that grew over the years. Eventually the mining reserves ran out, but the village was a town by this point and had become a major trade hub for the area.

New Settlements in the Area

This section covers settlements in areas where there might already be a number of villages, or towns.

Its a good idea to think of the following when placing a village, why was this village founded here, what does it produce and what is its purpose?

Villages grow over time and some end up developing into towns and then cities. Trade routes are likely to form, linking these places, as well as roads on the routes people take to get from place to place. Villages on such routes might see an increase in demand for their services. An inn might be built to house travelers for the night, the tavern might grow busier as travelers unwind from a hard days work, the more people might visit the blacksmith to repair their damages. As these people profit, they will spend more in their local area, people might move in as the industry grows and before you know it your little village has made a name for itself and has become a town. Where two trade routes meet is a good place to found a settlement as there will be a lot of traffic passing through here. Settlements that don’t have access to a certain good will need to acquire it through trade.

The distance that people can travel in a day plays a role too, as travelers would not stop in the middle of the day, but when night is drawing in. Consider the modes of travel that people use, do they walk, ride a horse or in a carriage, fly, drive etc as well as the terrain they are passing over as this will impact the distance they can go.


Elevation also plays a part in the placement of a village. Areas on higher areas of land are easier to defend and act as a natural lookout point, but they are also less likely to flood and so more important buildings might find themselves higher up the hill where they are less likely to be damaged. It also emphasises their importance as they are “elevated” above the rest. In this way, military, religious and political figures and would strengthen the position as above the masses.

There are many cities that follow this model such as Thebes, Persepolis, Athens, Rome, Kiev, Madrid, New York, San Francisco, but there are some that don’t and they find themselves well know for being indefensible and regularly captured such as Londan and Paris.

Some locations might be hard to find and settlements like monastries, that were self-sustaining and solitary might be built in hidden valleys to avoid being spotted.


Here’s a good little image I found showing some placements that might occur.


River-meander site – Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK. Really good example of it too, because the fortifications are still there – the castle at the neck, and the town in the middle.

Portage site – Corinth, Greece. In fact it was a land and sea portage site, as it controlled movement between mainland Greece and the Peloponnese by means of being situated on the isthmus, and it had two ports between which there was a smoothed road over which baots could be hauled from the Corinthian Gulf to the Saronic Gulf. Now there’s a canal there.

Head of navigation site – Bridgnorth, Shropshire, UK. It’s even where the town’s name came from – the stone bridge blocked ship passage further north up the River Severn. It’s also consequently a bridge point site.

Confluence site – Kuala Lumpur is situated at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers.

Sheltered harbour site – Vannes, Brittany, France. It’s actually a double example. There’s the Gulf Du Morbihan, which has a narrow access from the sea then spreads out, but then there’s a second narrower entrance into the inner part of the gulf around which Vannes is located. Lovely town too.

As always, its your world, so feel free to place your settlements where every makes sense for your purpose.


If you have enjoyed this blog or found it useful and would like to support us, consider pledging using Patreon. This will be most appreciated and will help us expand what we can offer.

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Epic Music Inspiration


Something of a shorter entry this week as if you’ve been watching the news (in UK) you will have seen the damage of Hurricane Desmond. My house wasn’t flooded luckily, but we’ve been without power.

It will be a chance to start the inspiration series and see how you guys like it.

The Importance of Inspiration

Feeling inspired is very important to worldbuilding and art creation in general. It helps you come up with ideas, concepts, characters and narratives. It can also give you the drive to keep creating. Without it you might find yourself at the bottom of the “creative well” where you want to create, but can’t think of anything, or lack the drive.

Epic Music

I’ve chosen to start this series with a piece on epic music as I credit it with getting me into worldbuilding and writing in general (as well as being an awesome genre of music in general). Of course other music may also do the same trick, especially classical music, but I feel epic music really captures this best.

Music can really help you get in the mood for the scene you’re writing, get your head in the zone and add an extra level of feeling while you enhance the mood. It can really tug at your heartstrings and fill  you with emotions, which you can capture and put down on page. I personally feel that music can really help you unlock your potential.

I just so happened to stumble across this video and ended up sitting and watching it start finish (I even have it playing now side by side with this blog).

It really gets the creative juices flowing in a number of ways. The music plays with your emotions, the characters spark your interest and the scenes encourage you to think of your own backstory for it. I found myself really appreciating the level of creativity and effort gone into these pieces of art.

Following that video, I clicked on another and a comment said to put the music on, close your eyes, lie back and let your imagination go. This is what I did and what I encourage you to do. Just let your mind wander and see what you come up with.

I personally recommend checking out Epic Music Vn’s youtube channel.



Epic fantasy is probably best used for general worldbuilding, for working on maps, scenes, cultures etc. It includes sub genres of adventure, celtic and nordic. Check out traditional music of cultures you are basing yours off to help give you the feel, such as Egyptian, Arabian or Japanese music. Though I find that if there’s an epic music variant its more conducive to writing.


Great for writing that real tear-jerker of a scene. Includes sad and beautiful music. Pretty guaranteed to get you all worked up.


This great for writing action, combat and conflict.


So I hope you find you enjoy epic music as much as I do and found the music and videos as inspiring and. Now go forthe and write!


If you have enjoyed this blog or found it useful and would like to support us, consider pledging using Patreon. This will be most appreciated and will help us expand what we can offer.

If single donations are more your thing, consider using Paypal Donate.

Our current target is $3 a month, to cover domain name costs, we are currently on $1.

Thanks very much, and see you next week.

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Resource Maps, Trade Goods and Trade Routes


This is something I’ve been developing myself, so I hope you enjoy it. Let me know how you find it and I’d love to see some cases in action.

Knowing what resources your countries have access to can have vast implications for the way they develop, in culture, prosperity, trade routes, even targets for war as countries fight over important trade routes. Locations in the real world such as the Silk Road and Constantinople were fought over for the control of trade.

The Map

In some places it will be clear what resources are available. If you are following the tutorial series, you will have a map showing climates. This will determine some resources. Fish will be available along coasts and rivers. Temperate lands will support farming and maybe hunting. Slaves may be available from anywhere, but you may decide that a country without much in the way of natural resources turns to slavery to make its wealth and compete with its neighbours. But other resources wont be so readily available and if you draw a Resource Map you will find out where they are.

Divide your map up into small squares, and colour squares in where a resource is present. Obviously you don’t need to mark down every single resource, just those you want. Or if you just want to signify a major deposit. I tend to imagine, for example, that any of the metals can be found all over the world, but where marked simply indicates a major deposit.

Alternately you don’t have to divide into squares and colour, you could just colour in freehand where your resources are. Draw each on a different layer and lower the opacity, this would allow you to indicate two resources in one area.


Your resource map might end up looking something like this (though hopefully with a better key). I opted not to have more than one resource per block, though you can if you want.


This is a list of resources which might be present, and whether you should mark them on the map, or if they are widely available (or appear across a climate). Some of these I was unable to find out how readily available, or what regions they are more commonly found in. Just place them at your own discretion. If you have more information about any of these, I’d love to know and add them to this resource. Send me a message or leave a comment on this post, thanks.

Don’t Mark on the Map

Ideas!: This is an important and often overlooked concept. Ideas would travel along trade routes, spreading religions, concepts such as money, knowledge, spiritual and cultural movements etc. Think about how the spread of culture along the trade routes would impact the countries involved.

Leather: This can come from anywhere really, but would usually come from cattle and hunted animals. This would widely available from countries with access to temperate farmland.

Furs: These would be largely found in cold climates, ice caps, taiga and tundra from furry animals, eg bears, seals, wolves, etc, but can also be found elsewhere.

Clothes: This can be from anywhere, but it is a manufactured good so would need the industry to support it, skilled artists to make them and a source of materials to make them from and therefore might be produced in larger settlements.

Ornaments: These include trinkets, accessories, decorations etc. These can come from anywhere, but would generally be made in larger settlements where people have the ability to diversify their trade. A small outback village may be too preoccupied with defending and feeding itself than making ornaments.

Grain: General came from temperate regions, or areas with fertile soil (like the banks of the Nile).

Fish: This can be found along the edge of water bodies. You don’t need to mark this, just remember settlements with access to water will have access to this.

Naval Supplies: Larger settlements on the coast, or along the edge of rivers may have an industry to support the production of naval supplies. These would generally be along the coast, rather than upstream, but if the river is still quite big then you may find them being produced there.

Slaves: These can come from anywhere. Generally more commonly “produced” from areas involved in war, if countries sell their prisoners of war as slaves. Otherwise they would come from areas where slavers are present.

Ivory: Generally used in ornaments as an expression of wealth. Comes from animals with tusks, horns or even teeth were used, elephants, walruses, hippopotamus etc and therefore could be found anywhere.

Tea: Discovered in china, tea is a very popular and much traded drink.

Chinaware/Pottery: Used to make jars, vases, bottles, decorations, cups etc.

Electrum: An alloy of gold and silver, used as jewellry and as currency. It is more suited than gold mostly as it is harder and more durable, but also because methods for refining gold were not widespread at the time.

Mercury: Liquid metal aka quicksilver, it was intriguing due to its silver hue and liquid state at room temperature. Often used in magic and alchemy. Different cultures had different legends about mercury and it was used as everything from a medicine to a talisman. Its extraction was dangerous and it was a neurological poison, causing tremors, extreme mood changes, and eventually loss of hearing and restricted vision.The Romans used their mercury mines as penal institutions for criminals, slaves, and other undesirables. The warders were among the first to recognize that there was a high likelihood that the prisoners would become poisoned and spare the keepers the need for formal executions.

Mark on the Map

Papyrus: Used to make paper. This was a big trade good from areas such as Egypt and Syria.

Dyes: This is a luxury good which can be found anywhere really, depending on what colour dye as they often come from insects, shellfish and plants. Purple dye was hard to come by and this is one of the reasons why it was seen as a mark of royalty as it was so expensive to acquire. Purple dye was made from sea snails and it could take a couple thousand snails to make only a couple grams of dye. You can use made up animals and plants as sources for your dye.

Spices: These generally come from hot humid climates such as India and Indonesia. They would be expensive in the cold North, but commonplace in the hot South. (Consider a trade route of spices passing north and furs passing south.)

Silk: This is a luxury item which would be found in colder and temperate climates as it requires silkworms. It also requires a considerable industry to support it.

Oil: (Olive Oil) Used in religious rituals and as an external ointment. Other (animal fat and vegetable) oils were often used in cooking. Produced in areas like the Mediterranean.

Salt: Salt was a valuable and very useful resource. It could be used to preserve food, in religious rituals, in making pottery and was even used as currency in some places.

Copper: Used for weapons, tools, amulets and jewelry and sometimes as currency (in the Roman Empire). Was very common and occurs naturally in its native form so you can just dig it up and start smithing straight away.

Tin: A less common metal which requires smelting before use, which therefore makes it harder to produce. It can be combined with copper to make bronze and pewter. This makes tin valuable.

Bronze: Made from smelting copper and tin together. If they are found in different countries, will require international trade between them.

Iron: Used to make weapons, amour and tools. While is very common in its natural form, it was not widely in use until techniques for its refinement were developed. One these were developed, good quality iron production was cheep. Some cultures revered it as a blessed metal. Being magnetic, this contributed to the opinion that it was magical.

Aluminium: Used as an agent to set dye onto fabrics and as an astringent for cleaning wounds. It was difficult to extract and very expensive.

Gold: Used for jewelry, currency and ornaments. Rather rare.

Sugar: Comes from sugarcane. Generally a luxury good. Grows in hot sunny areas and grows best in areas with long hot summers and a good supply of water (coast/ rainfall). Also comes from beets (especially sugarbeets) which can be grown in temperate climates, so are a good alternative.

Honey: (Also honey sugar (cracked and concentrated honey)) Sweetener and can be used as a sealant to preserve other foods (ham and other shanks of meat that aren’t likely to be dried). Initially domesticated by areas which get cold in winter, cold enough to kill off most grains and flowers, though was domesticated in tropical lowlands as well.

Wax – preserve other foods and make watertight barriers (jams and jarlids) and in making wax molds.

Tobacco: Smokes, let’s go. Used in rituals, it was seen by some as a way of conveying ones thoughts to the heavens. Also used recreationally. Cultures which used it religiously frowned up recreational use. Grows in warm climates with rich, well drained soil.

Cocoa: Used to make (hot) chocolate. Used as a luxury food, but also in religious and marital rituals. Found in areas such as South America and Africa.

Flint: Used in weapons and tools in the Stone Age. Used with steel to make a spark for fire.

Obsidian: Hard, brittle and sharp, sometimes used as a cutting and piercing tool. Also used to create early mirrors.

Lead: Used in moments, statues and buildings. It was a widely used metal and, used in paints, watertight containers, preservatives and sling bullets as it’s too heavy and soft for tools. The Romans made their plumbing with lead. It was most commonly produced as a by-product of silver. Alchemist tried to turn it into gold also. Comes from regions such as those in Europe. People also liked the taste of lead, which contributed to its popularity.

Silver: Used as currency and in decorations such as ornaments and pendants. Can be found all over the world.

Zinc was also a very early metal and has been used since the ancient times in the form of brass, an alloy of copper and zinc. Brass has very low friction and never makes sparks. It was mostly used in ornaments and coinage. Nowadays also locks and instruments.

If you have more information on how available these resources are, their uses, or environments they can be found, please let me know in the comments.

Trade Routes

Trade routes will form along the easiest, cheapest path between two trade hubs (villages, cities etc). Generally this is the shortest route, along rivers and along the coast/ across the sea. Traders will avoid dangerous routes which are home to bandits, outlaws, dangerous animals and anything that would threaten their cargo, unless they can hire the muscle to protect themselves.

This is a method of writing down trade routes which I came up with.

Akante Trade Route (260YC+)
Nodes: Rivermeet (Tukit), Messa, Longubassa (Mesit)
Goods: Grain, Fish, Lumber, Game Meat, Cattle Meat,
Flow: Rivermeet (Grain+, Fish-, Lumber-, Game Meat-, Cattle Meat+) Messa (Grain+, Fish-, Cattle Meat+) Longubassa

Each trade route will have a name (if only for your benefit) and a year it was established and perhaps a year it was no longer in use. Using the above example, there are three nodes (trade hubs) on this route, Rivermeet, Messa and Longubassa.

In brackets indicate the country this node belongs to. Then list goods traded on this route (makes it easier to understand when you look back at it later.)

Then write the flow. Goods in the brackets between these nodes indicates the goods traveling between the two nodes. + Indicates a flow from left to right, – indicates from right to left. A good in italics indicates that this node produces the good. Rivermeet (Grain+) Messa would mean Rivermeet produces grain and exports it to Messa.

As the route changes over time, either add, in brackets the year that good began being traded, or  add to a timeline like the example below.


Goods: Grain, Fish, Lumber, Game Meat, Cattle Meat, Naval Supplies

Flow: Rivermeet (Grain+, Fish-, Lumber-, Game Meat-, Cattle Meat+) Messa (Grain+, Fish-, Cattle Meat+, Naval Supplies-) Longubassa,


On my map, I have indicated trade routes using a yellow dotted line like you can see above. See  how some of the settlements act as major trade hubs where several routes intersect. These will be prosperous cities.

Cities on Trade Routes

Settlements on trade routes will prosper and grow. Those that produce or consume goods will grow as a direct result of the trade, but other industries such as inns and entertainment will grow as services and goods are provided to those visiting the settlement.

Villages that lie on a trade route, but don’t trade much may grow as well as traders stopping for the night and restocking their food and water would bring wealth to the village.

Villages near where trade routes intersect will prosper also and may turn into a central trade hub in its own rights over time.

Using Trade and Resources to Drive Your World

In addition to growing cities, wars might also be caused. A nation that does not have access to an iron source might invade to secure such a supply. An inland country might invade a coastal one to acquire access to fish stocks. Countries might fight over control of certain trade routes, as they did the Silk Road in real life. Prosperous villages, towns and cities, will become targets for raiders, bandits and outlaws and who knows, the noise of the city might attract some nasty critters.

Beliefs Regarding Resources

“It was once believed, erroneously, of course, that celestial bodies were responsible for certain precious metals found on Earth. The sun’s rays created gold by passing through the Earth, Mercury created Mercury, the Moon created silver, etc. For this reason, the orbits of those celestial bodies would dictate where to look for those metals. Since the direct rays of the sun created gold, then looking for gold any further north than the Tropic of Cancer or further south than the Tropic of Capricorn, would be foolish, because north and south of those lines never got direct rays of the sun, only angled rays. The same was believed to be true of the other celestial bodies.

Now, obviously, science marches on and alchemy like this wasn’t around forever. But including a belief system into where you can find, and mine precious metals in the world you build, denying the people of that world access to metals that are there, but not where they expect them to be can have great story impact.”

This is an excellent point from a redditor named Galaxy_Ranger_Bob. Using beliefs such as these can add some real colour to your world. If it is believed that a certain resource has desirable qualities, this would drive up demand and the price of this good. You could have a plotline where a war is started to control production of said resource and by the time they realise that the good doesn’t do what they thought it does, they have wasted loads of resources and weakened themselves.


Taking the time to add resources and develop trade routes can really breath life into your world and give it new and interesting directions that you hadn’t even thought of. Someone on the Worldbuilding Subreddit (the community this blog is born from) once said (and I wish I knew who),

“The mark of good worldbuilding is when the world starts to build itself.” ~Unknown Redditor

Try using this in your worlds and see what they mean, its very satisfying.

Next week I’ll be discussing inspiration and a good place you might find it.


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Posted in Guide, Society, Trade | 6 Comments

Working Out Climates Using the Climate Cookbook

In this guide we will be attempting to apply realistic climates to a map of our world, ending up with something like this, here each colour denotes a different climate. It won’t be 100% scientifically accurate but for the purposes of worldbuilding its close enough.

mapBiomesFinished.pngThe primary resources involved in writing this are Geoff’s Climate Cookbook and Emma Lindhagen’s Ocean Currents Tutorial. This guide is a walk-through of both of these tutorials combined. I encourage you to check out these great resources for more information.

Use a program such as Photoshop or GIMP and do every step on a different layer as you will want to toggle visibility regularly throughout this process.

In The Beginning

We will need a map depicting our landmasses and mountains as our starting point.


Great Ocean Conveyor Belt

The first thing we need to work out is the location of our Great Ocean Conveyor Belt. This is the constantly moving circuit of system of water which flows around the planet. The exact reasons for the belt’s path are complex and so as long as you follow the basic rules you can place it where you want in your world and it can still be geologically correct within your world.

  • The GOCB carries cold water from the poles towards the equator, and warm water from the equator towards the pole
  • Geoff’s Climate Cookbook (depicted below) states that in the northern hemisphere that warm currents flow on the west of continents and cold, on the east


Our map is only for a section of the world so only part of the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt is depicted. When applied to our world, we get the following.


Surface Currents

The belt determines where our surface ocean currents flow from.

  • Currents north of the equator will turn clockwise.
  • Currents south of the equator will turn counterclockwise
  • Currents will change course when they run into land
  • Cold currents may overlap the cold GOCB (because it is deep-sea), but not the warm GOCB (as it flows nearer the surface)
  • Currents may change temperature as they near the equator/poles

Applied to our map we get this. You might notice we have some currents flowing anti-clockwise as a result of being deflected off landmasses.


High and Low Pressure

Next you want to work out your areas of high and low pressure.

  • In summer (left), the cooling of the ocean causes high pressure, with low pressure areas over the land.
  • In winter (right), the cooling of the ground causes high pressure, with low pressure areas over the ocean.


Prevailing winds flow clockwise out of high pressure zones and anti-clockwise into low pressure zones.






This is where things begin to take shape. Remember here precipitation includes snow, so don’t get stumped if you have high precipitation in the regions you were expecting to be snowy wastelands.

  • Paint on two colours, representing high (darker colour) and low precipitation (high colour). These are relative terms and will be made more specific to the climate later on.


First look to your mountains and the surrounding winds.

  • Mark high precipitation where the winds blow onto the mountains
  • Mark low precipitation in the rain shadow of the mountains

In summer, our map will look like this.


Ocean Currents

  • Warm currents will result in high precipitation
  • Cold currents will result in low precipitation

Our summer map now looks like this



  • Onshore winds cause high precipitation
  • Offshore and parallel winds cause low precipitation

You might already have your coastlines accounted for from previous steps, so when applying this effect, you might be marking zones more inland than your currents. Don’t overlap your precipitation markings, apply next to them. After this step we will only have the interiors of our biggest landmasses still to define.

Our map now looks like this.



There may not be loads of land left to cover, but interiors on our larger landmasses might still need looking at.

  • Mark extreme interiors as low precipitation
  • Near the equator mark low precipitation
  • Away from the equator, mark high precipitation
  • Western interiors are more likely to have high precipitation

Our Precipitation Maps

Once we have done this for both summer and winter, we have the following.


Latitude Guide

In order to work out what our climates are, we need to divide the map into equal sized horizontal strips based on degrees of latitude . For the northern hemisphere, make 10 strips, with each line up from the equator denoting 10 degrees. I decided to finish my map at 70 degrees north, to leave the arctic region an unknown area.

To do in GIMP,

  • Go Image -> Configure Grid
  • Set Width to something wider than your image, so its not cluttered
  • Divide the height of your image in pixels by how many strips you want
  • Set Height to the result
  • View -> Show Grid

You should also have a general idea of how a height map of your world would look. I am generally assuming there are hills around the mountains and flattens out towards the coast. You can make this up as you go along.

Discovering Your Climates

  • Toggle between your winter and summer precipitation layers to see the precipitation for each area.
  • Compare the latitude
  • Find the corresponding climate
  • Use a colour code to denote the climate

For example, once you know a strip of land is wet in summer and dry in winter, compare the latitude to the table and find the corresponding wet summer and dry winter climate.

Use the following table to figure out your climates. There is a simplified table further down. Check out this post for more information on the biomes and their features.

  Temperature Precipitation Location
Name Summer Winter Summer Winter latitude in degrees
Tropical rainforest Hot Hot Wet Wet 0-10
Tropical monsoon Hot Warm Very wet Short and dry 5-15; east and south-east coasts only
Savannah Hot Warm Wet Long and dry 5-15
Hot desert Very hot Warm Dry Dry 10-30, especially on west coasts with cold currents
Hot steppe Hot Warm Low to dry Low to dry 10-35; typically next to deserts
Cold desert Hot Cold Dry Dry Interiors, rain shadow
Cold steppe Warm Cold Low to dry Low to dry Interiors, rain shadow
Maritime east coast Hot Warm to mild Wet Moderate 20-40; east coasts only
Maritime west coast Warm to mild Cool to cold Wet Wet 40-60; west coasts only
Mediterranean Hot Mild Dry Moderate 30-45, west coasts only
Temperate monsoon Hot Mild to cold Wet Dry 20-40; east coasts only
Laurentian Warm to mild Cold Moderate Low 40-60; not on west coasts
Subarctic Mild to cold Very cold Moderate Very low 60-80; not on west coasts
Manchurian Warm to mild Cold Moderate Dry 40-50; east coasts only
Subarctic east Mild to cold Very cold Moderate Dry 45-70; east coasts only
Tundra Cold Very cold Low Dry 60-80
Icecap Very cold Very cold Low Dry 75+

Simplified Table

If you are like me and find this table is a bit much. Consider using this simplified table below.

Temperature Precipitation Location
Name Summer Winter Summer Winter
Desert Hot Hot Dry (Low) Dry (Low) 0 – 30
Semi- Arid Desert Hot Hot Wet (High) Dry (Low) 0 – 15

Surrounds Desert

Tropical Hot Hot Wet (High) Wet (High) 0-20
Savannah Hot Warm Wet (High) Long and Dry (Low) 15 – 30

Between Tropical and semi-Desert

Steppe Warm Cold Low Dry (Low) 30 – 60
Temperate Grassland Warm to Mild Cold Moderate (High) Low (Low) 20 – 65
Temperate Forest Warm to Mild Cold Moderate (High) Low (Low) 20 – 65
Taiga Cold Very Cold Moderate (High) Dry (Low) 50 – 70
Tundra Cold Very Cold Low Dry (Low) 60 – 80
Icecap Very Cold Very Cold Low Dry (Low) 75+

So far

Applying this to a work-in-progress map we get the following.


These colours represent the following:

  • Grey: Tundra
  • Teal: Taiga
  • Dull Green: Steppe
  • Light Green: Temperate Grassland
  • Dark Green: Temperate Forest
  • Off-Green: Tropical Rainforest
  • Yellow: Savannah
  • Orange: Semi-Arid Desert
  • Red: Desert

Elevation and Tidy Up

As the environment rises in elevation it cools. For elevated areas look again at the table and see what climates the corresponding amounts of precipitation would result in if you looked at the cold row rather than warm.

For example, if we elevate a template grassland we get tundra. If we elevate savanna, we get steppe.

  • Apply this around your mountains and anywhere else you want to show elevation.
  • Thin strips would show steep gradient whereas larger blobs of colour would show a more gradual change, or even a plateau.

It wouldn’t make sense to have desert next to water, so if you have this in your map, go along the coast to replace it with semi-arid desert.

Apply this to our map and we get this!


Artistic Direction

The nice thing about worldbuilding like this is your result feels accurate and therefore real. But you don’t have to follow the rules, its your world remember! If you want to change things around, by all means go ahead, but you’ve got a realistic starting point here to add your own creativity if you wish.


So hopefully you enjoyed this and found it useful. Next time, I’ll be explaining a new type of map, Resource Maps! This will help determine how our nations grow and how trade will develop, which will greatly impact the fortunes of your nations.



Posted in Guide, Terrain | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Using Tectonic Plates to Draw Terrain


If you wanted to build your world right from the very start, from the earliest point and evolve it forward in a realistic manner, it is good to start with tectonic plates. These will help shape your continents and geographical features. It can also be fun to start building your world without knowing exactly what it will end up like.

You might prefer to simply draw your map by hand, use a random or semi random generator or not use a map at all, but if you want to start with tectonic plates then read on.

(An alternate use for this guide is draw your continent outlines, and then use the techniques described to produce mountain ranges, island chains and other features, or if you already have part of the map in mind, draw the involved plates and use that to determine the rest of your map. For example if you had an island with a mountain range, you might draw that as two plates converging which could lead to divergence on the other side of the plate occurring.)

Step 1: Creating Your Platesplates

Looking at the above diagram, you can see that your plates will roughly determine the shapes of your continents. Begin by dividing the map into a number of different sections with different irregular shapes and sizes, perhaps between 8 and 10. Use the above diagram for inspiration of how they might look.

Then for the each plate, decide the direction it is travelling. This will result in one of three options for each contact point between plates. The options are plates moving towards each other, moving apart or moving side by side.

Step 1b: Continental or Oceanic

Label each of your plates as either continental (land) or oceanic (sea). This will result in the basic shape of your continents. Your borders wont need to follow the plate boundaries, but it does indicate that this area will be mainly land and this area will be mainly sea. I wouldn’t recommend having more than a third the number of oceanic plates as continental, though this can depend on how many major sea areas you want.

Convergence: Plates Moving Towards Each Other

This will cause earthquakes and if underwater, tsunamis. The result depends on the type of plates.

Both Continental: Both plates are pushing up into each other causing big mountain ranges, think of the Himalayas,  and earthquakes. If they are in the sea, it can cause island arcs.

One Oceanic and One Continental: The oceanic plate is being forced under the continental one resulting in mountains and volcanoes. If they are underwater it will cause deep underwater ravines.

Both Oceanic: This causes deep underwater ravines,  island chains as well as volcanic islands.

Divergence: Plates Moving Apart

On land this gradually causes mountains, but causes earthquakes, volcanoes, canyons and rift valleys such as the one below.


Transform: Both Plates Are Sliding Past Each Other

This causes lots of earthquakes, but rarely tsunamis. The impact on terrain is minimal, but remember the earthquakes as they will have an impact on the cultures developing there.


So at this point, we might have something like this. A number of plates with some movement. Don’t worry about whether your movements are exact, they are just to guide you.

Step 2: Drawing Coasts

When drawing your landmasses, it is important to remember this is a creative exercise, so if you want to draw something a particular way do so. This process just provides you with guidance to do it in a realistic way.

Start with continental divergence edges. Once these plates would have fitted together so draw coasts that look they could have once slotted in to each other. Think South America and Africa. You might also want to draw a ravine/rift valley here if you want t.


After drawing a couple of coastlines, I decided to turn my map upside down. I then added some mountains in the appropriate spots and a few island chains.

Looking at the coasts on the map, see if you can picture the outlines of any continents, taking into account which plates are continental and which are oceanic. Then look at your convergence edges. If these fall in your idea of where the continent is, draw mountains, if not, consider drawing an arc shaped island chain, think Indonesia. Some of these islands might be volcanic, perhaps make a note of which you choose.

Where a mountain range meets the sea. The mountain ranges don’t stop straight away, they decrease in elevation and eventually flatten out, with the peaks becoming a peninsula and then perhaps an island chain.

From there, draw the rest of your continents how you like using the coasts produced from your divergence coasts, the locations of mountain ranges, island chains and sea areas to guide you. Let the coast line flow out of you and don’t be tempted to make straight lines. Coasts are wavy and have peninsulas and bays and such features.


After filling out the rest of the map, I ended up with this. Notice how, despite the top right plate being labeled as oceanic, I ended up with a land on this area. Feel free to add and take away where you see fit. Don’t feel bound by your earlier decisions.

Step 3: Go Back and Edit

This is your world to make how you see fit, so if there’s something you don’t particularly like, or would rather see, then by all means add that to your map, even if its something as simple as a couple of island in the middle of your oceanic plate.


I hope you have enjoy this tutorial and found it useful. Next we will be looking biomes determined from ocean and wind currents.


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