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Article - 'Mapmaking Geography I' by AutumnDragon

An item about Game Design posted on Jul 19, 2004

Blurb

A good article from a rising star - AutumnDragon. He branches off from characters to bring us a short but sweet look at RPG map making geography. It IS short, but a good read nonetheless.

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The Basic Geography of Map Making I
By AutumnDragon

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Ah, another article. This one will explain the different types of geography that are used when creating world maps. There are two types of geography - physical and human.

Physical geography includes natural disasters, landscapes, rivers, coasts etc.

Human geography includes population, natural resources, migration and human causes.

When creating a map, you need to think on both these for a second.

This article will explain basic physical geography and how it applies to your game.

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PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY -

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Rivers
Remember that rivers start in mountains or highlands. They don't flow from the sea inwards. A river will start from the mountain as a stream. If you plan to travel over a mountain which is the source of the river, don't add waterfalls or great waterways (unless its magical for some reason or other). Waterfalls are usually found in the middle course or the river where the river is wider and bends a lot more. Lastly, a river will sometimes split up into tributaries as it reaches the coast. If you want to add realism to your game and maps, try to include some of these river elements to your maps.

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Volcanoes
Okay, decide this when making a volcano. Is it active, sleeping or inactive?
An active volcano can be expected to erupt any second. So the land around it would probably somewhat barren with low populations of humans and animals.
A sleeping volcano is still active but has not erupted for quite some time. This means that the land around it will be fertile so make sure there are plenty of plants. And this fertile land will most likely attract farmers so include some villages.
Inactive volcanoes are no longer active and won't erupt. The land should be fertile and the volcano is safe to go near. This is basically similar to a sleeping volcano except there is no threat.
Lastly, volcanoes are mostly found in tropical, hot areas or freezing cold areas. Don't place them in really stupid areas.

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Coasts
Coasts are either two types of landscapes really. Beach or cliff. Remember that beaches are mostly found in areas where the sea is depositing materials because the area is shallow or in cove areas where rough seas cannot drag material away. In case you don't know- by material, I mean sand and rocks.
Cliffs do erode, don't make a straight area of land next to a wide ocean. Only make straight cliffs where waves will find it hard to make an impact.

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Mountains
Mountains can be anywhere, just remember that the higher they are, the colder they will be. That's just common sense really. Also, no mountains have a direct path, make any footpaths winding, jagged and usually difficult to cross.

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This covers basic physical geography, I will also make another article on human geography and natural disasters. And as usual, I apologise for any spelling mistakes!

-AutumnDragon