Using Art to Drive Worldbuilding

Intro

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.

Inspiration

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.

Conclusion

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.

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

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

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Community & Forum

Reddit

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

Intro

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.

palatine_hill_settlement

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

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.

139880532434

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.

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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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Epic Music Inspiration

Prelude

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.

 

Fantasy

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.

Emotional 

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

Action

This great for writing action, combat and conflict.

Conclusion

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!

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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

Intro

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.

Resources.png

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.

Resources

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.

300YC

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,

cropped-blogbanner1.png

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.

Conclusion

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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Working Out Climates Using the Climate Cookbook

Intro

There’s a bit of a disclaimer on this weeks post which as promises is on working out climates. I appologise, but my knowledge on this subject is pretty limited and after researching it became apparent that there was one main resource for this which is Geoff’s Climate Cookbook. Instead of parroting this back to you, I encourage you to give it a read and apply it to your world. All credit for this technique goes to him.

So what I will be doing this week, is applying it to my world and talking through this process and the results. I hope this will be useful, as I found the Cookbook rather confusing to apply so this should make it clearer for those attempting to have a go. We will return to normal guides next week, with a guide on something I have developed myself.

This post will therefore function as a simplified tutorial and a walk through of working out climates. This is a complex subject, but if like me, you want to create a world with a basis in reality, enjoy the wildcard of following methods like these to create a world where even you don’t know exactly where you’ll end up, and don’t mind about it 100% factually correct, then this guide will be for you.

When following this, use a program such as Photoshop or GIMP (or tracing paper) and keep each different thing on a separate layer or it might become a bit of a mess.

The Start

Map.png

This is the map I will be apply the climate to. It is a rework of the map I was currently using to build my world (not the one from last week). For this process, you will need your map showing landmasses and you need to have your mountain ranges shown on the map.

Default Winds

winter1Winds.png

The first step is split your map into thirds (or 6 parts if you are making the southern hemisphere too), adding the winds as shown. These winds are what would occur if there was no landmasses on the planet. The three annotations are the pressure zones, Polar Front, Sub Tropical High Pressure Zone and Inter Tropical Convergence Zone.

High and Low Pressure

WinterPressureZones.png

Next you want to work out your areas of high and low pressure. In winter, the cooling of the ground causes high pressure, leaving low pressure areas over the ocean. In summer, this is reversed. In winter, the high pressure zones stretch out across the STHZ, in summer the low pressure stretches out across the ITCZ and PF. You may choose to accent this more than I have. My areas are largely water across these lines so I chose not to.

Winds

winter1WindDeflection.png

This is where it starts to get a bit tricky. You need to work out your wind deflections across your map. In the northern hemisphere, in winter, winds are deflected clockwise around high pressure zones, and anti-clockwise around low pressure zones. In the southern hemisphere this is reversed. In summer, this is all reversed (so in the north, winds are deflected anti-clockwise around high pressure and clockwise around low pressure). Remember you are deflecting from your default winds (the white arrows).

Ocean Currents

winter1oceanCurrents.png

The next step is to work out your ocean currents. These can also be a bit tricky. The high pressure of the STHZ causes a different result to the south and north of it. Above it, warm currents flow to the west side of landmasses, south to north and cold currents flow to the east side, north to south. Blow the STHZ line, cold currents flow on the west and warm on the east. This is all reversed for the southern hemisphere. These currents tend to make circular patterns as you can see above as water heats and cools. Also try to follow your wind currents from the previous step.

Rain

This is where things begin to take shape (and can be a tad confusing). 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 and low precipitation. These are relative and will be made more specific later on.

First look to your mountains and the surrounding winds. Mark high precipitation on the windward side, and low on the opposite side. Next to ocean currents. Warm currents will result in high precipitation and cold currents, low precipitation. Onshore winds cause high precipitation and offshore or parallel cause low precipitation. You might already have much of coast accounted for from applying the effects of the currents, so when doing the winds, these lines might be more inland than the effects of the currents.

After applying these you should have two rings around the coasts of your landmasses, on the outside, for ocean current effects and on the inside, winds. These may both high or both be low pressure. You will also have have precipitation levels around your mountains. For small  islands, I applied their levels based on the ocean currents, or if didn’t have any near them, the wind levels.

There may not be loads of land left to cover, but interiors on our larger landmasses that are not near mountains should still need looking at. Along the STHZ these are low precipitation areas, and high precipitation along the ITCZ. Then for remaining interior areas, mark extreme interiors as low precipitation and high for western coasts subject to the PF and someway inland.

winter1rainLevels.png

The result may be something like you see above, where darker brown indicates high precipitation and lighter indicates low precipitation.

Summer

Now you get to do it all over again, but for summer! Remember to flip the instructions. This will result in a different set of wind patterns, which lead to different ocean currents and ultimately, different rain patterns.

summer1.png

So after running through it for summer, I ended up with this. Don’t worry about what you’ve ended up with, whether there’s too much or not enough rain. You can always adjust it as you see fit later.

Preparation

Next divide your map up into 9 equally spaced sections. These are to help you work out your latitude. My landmass goes off the edge of the map in the north and I wish for this to be an unknown icey region, so I have divided my map into 8 regions as anything above 80 degrees in latitude will be an icesheet. Working from the bottom up, my equator upwards, each line represents 10 degrees. To work out your southern hemisphere, do the same, working from the equator down.

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 gradually flattens out towards the coast.

Discovering Your Climates

Use the following table to figure out your climates. I found it easiest to look at the location first, then the level of precipitation and this would tell me the climate and therefore the temperature.

  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+

If you, like me, find this table is a bit overkill. Consider using this simplified table below.

Temperature Percipitation Location
Name Summer Winter Summer Winter
Tropical Hot Hot Wet Wet 0-23
Savannah Hot Warm Wet Long and Dry 15 – 30
Desert Hot Hot Dry Dry 0 – 30
Steppe Warm Cold Moderate Dry 50 – 60
Temperate Warm to Mild Cold Moderate Dry 23 – 65
Taiga Cold Very Cold Moderate Dry 50 – 70
Tundra Cold Very Cold Low Dry 60 – 80
Icecap Very Cold Very Cold Low Dry 75+

So using my slimmed down table, the results was as follows.

biomes.png

These colours represent the following:

  • White: Icecaps
  • Grey: Tundra
  • Blueish: Taiga
  • Light Green: Temperate
  • Dull Green: Steppe
  • Dark Green: Rainforest
  • Red: Desert
  • Yellow: Savannah

If you want to make your world 100% accurately, feel free to stop there, otherwise you may want to change the world to suite your own plans.

Artistic Direction

My preferred method of worldbuilding is to use methods like this and like using tectonic plates to figure out how things would look if they were developed naturally, and then change the results to suit how I want them. On this map, I want the south border of the map to be a desert that extends off the map, a hot barren place where people don’t go and people aren’t sure what lies on the other side, if anything. I want the big centre temperate forest to be an exotic jungle called the Deep Woods. I also feel there is a bit too much steppe environment on the map. My island chain in the south ended up as all desert, which I thought was rather boring, so I changed them up too. Make your changes as you see fit. The joys of worldbuilding is that you are in control, you can do it how you like! But I like using methods like this to provide a realistic guide. So I ended up with this.

biomesEdited

Conclusion

So hopefully you enjoyed this and found it useful and I appologise it wasn’t an original tutorial. Next time, I’ll be explaining something I’ve developed myself, Resource Maps. This will help determine how our nations grow and how trade will develop, which will greatly impact the fortunes of your nations.

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Using Tectonic Plates to Draw Terrain

Intro

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.

africa_3

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.

img013

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.

img014

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.

img016

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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