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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    shamgar001's Avatar

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    Default Topography Resources

    As someone who is very detail oriented, I want to make my maps geologically realistic. I know that mountains tend to have deserts downwind of them, but otherwise I haven't a clue how to make reasonably realistic topography. Short of taking classes in the subject, does anybody know of resources that can give me the basic ideas?
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: Topography Resources

    I've not fully gone through it, but The Climate Cookbook seems to hit a nice balance between technical and readable. Designed for writers, but should work for anyone else.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: Topography Resources

    Large mountain ranges and volcanoes tend to fall on the edges of continets.

    You do get wind shadow deserts but they also the fall in the center of large continents.

    Rivers are defined by the watersheds. Springs bubble up out of the ground where a layer of permeable rock meets a layer of impermeable rock at the surface. Water catchment areas are defined by the topography and the largest of rivers are feed by the largest of catchments. Rivers tend to follow lines of weakness; such as fault lines.

    Surface topography and to an extent biology is defined by the underlining lithology. Ridges of hill are often old upthrust fault lines, brakes of slopes are often correspondent to different erosion rates on the bedrock.

    You do not get coal, oil or gas in area of current or recent volcanic activity but you do find an abundance of mineral wealth.

    Shallow, restricted seas are often anoxic (low oxygen) and higher in salt concentration so you do not find as much abundance or diversity of life in them.

    Big continental plates are only a small part of the story. You get ancient continental slabs called shields and micro-continental fragments, these often correspond too large peninsulas such as Italy.
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    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: Topography Resources

    No specific source now, but you should look into the mechanisms of how tectonic plates shape the landscape. There are several ways how plates interact with each other and creating mountains and valleys.
    Understanding the different types of volcanos is also very usefull.
    Not as common, but still highly fascinating, is the mechanics of glaciers.

    I think I saw a BBC documentary on youtube recently, that adresses these things.
    Last edited by Yora; 2012-11-10 at 10:28 AM.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: Topography Resources

    Sea levels are higher when you have more continents than if you have a Pangaea.

    This is because the oceanic crust is younger ...therefore hotter ...Therefore less dense ...Therefore sitting higher on the mantle ...Reducing the depth of the ocean basins ...causing raised sea levels.

    Ocean currents (and air currents) are driven by a thermocline and the rotation of the world. They swirl round the world and are deflected by the positions of the continents.
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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Topography Resources

    I think that if you're trying to get information about topography google maps would be a good place to go especially if you wan't coastlines.

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Topography Resources

    The best way of getting "realistic" topography is by using real topography. In a world I recently began creating I was sure that the adventurers were going to scrap the quest at some point and build a castle in the mountains. Since I needed a highly detailed realistic map that would be usable I simply found a map of an island of roughly the same latitude. Since that map had plenty of information about the land I was able to give very good descriptions with very little work, unfortunatly it was not a creation of my own and that came with some shame () but I think that strategy works on a small scale. I hope you find this useful!
    (other information)
    -If you haven't already, it's a good idea to draw out a rough description of the techtonic plates of your world, by doing this you might even be able to figure out where major deserts are going to be.
    -Coastlines look drastically different at different lattitudes
    -A coastline riddled with fjords can be drawn by making a river system and then expanding the width of the rivers until they look like fjords
    -Coastlines along large deaserts are usually pretty smooth
    -when drawing rivers, tributaries usually enter at right angles to the actual main stem of the river
    -Older rivers and ones that run allong flat topography tend to wind a lot, there are some in Africa which almost double back on themselves.
    Good luck!
    (if you figure out a good way to determine ocean currents please share)

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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Topography Resources

    Quote Originally Posted by wonderfulspam View Post
    The best way of getting "realistic" topography is by using real topography.
    Seconded. I'm working on a setting now and I'm basically just staring at maps of Scotland to figure out what looks realistic. But I would (and often do) throw realism out of the window in favour of awesome. If you've got a copy of LOTR, go look at those maps: they're my general guideline for how much detail I should be throwing in, and what I can get away with in terms of unusual topography.

    As for ocean currents, (without going into my very primitive physics knowledge), I'd say they go counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere, with the circles going from the equator up to the northern poles and then back down. Hence why NFLD and NY are cold in the winter, whereas Ireland has palm trees, and why the west coast is temperate (asia is where this rule of thumb goes awry).

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Melayl's Avatar

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    Default Re: Topography Resources

    Check out The Cartographer's Guild. Mapmaking is their specialty.

    Also look for "A Magical Society: Guide to Mapping." It is a Free PDF excerpt of a book focused on worldbuilding. It covers all of world creation information. You can find it at any of the online rpg stores.
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