HSK Worldbuilding – The Map, Part 2

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Last week I quickly covered the basics of drawing up a continent and when we left off we had a rugged landmass, with mountain ranges and varied terrain types. This weeks entry will go over how I go about adding rivers, lakes, and forests.

First up are the rivers. One of the golden rules with these is that the coast bends inwards where a river meets the sea. So the first thing I did was find suitable inlets to start my rivers. Anywhere that the land ducks in suddenly is perfect, and bays are especially good.

From these points I’ll draw my river as it winds uphill, usually towards a nearby mountain range. Every river needs a point of origin, a spring or mountain-top lake that feeds it, and these need to be high up. Most rivers also have several streams or tributaries that come meet up and add their power together. So at some point most of my rivers split in two.


In the canyon example below I needed a reason for the canyon to have formed there, and the meeting point of two powerful rivers does the trick.


One exception to the rule I mentioned before is the river delta. You can find real world examples of these in Egypt, or Vietnam. Essentially, sediment in the water is washed downstream and when the river is particularly full of this sediment it drops it off at the coast. This eventually builds up into a landmass, splitting the river in two. This continues over time until the large river has fanned out to create a web of land and smaller rivers, that all run to the sea.


Taking advantage of the rice-mapping I did earlier, my continents came with a few ready-made lakes. Lakes can be found almost anywhere on your map, although I would steer clear of putting them too close to the sea unless you have a good reason why those bodies of water haven’t joined forces yet.

The main thing to remember with lakes is that they also need rivers. One or more inlets, and usually a single outlet. Using the same rules for rivers as before we can give our lakes a little life-cycle.


At this stage I went through and shaded the mountains, giving them a quick highlight and shadow, with the sun shining on their Eastern side. I also added a canal in the South, this river is man-made to allow ships to pass across land and is unlike regular rivers because it is made of straight sections.


With that taken care of, it’s time to draw some forests.

Forests need a couple of things to thrive, namely water and sunlight, and as long as those two things are present they can go almost anywhere on the map. I tend to place my forests to accentuate other terrain features by tucking them into hillsides, or wrapping them around a river or coast. The one thing I steered clear of here, was placing any forests in the desert region (with the small exception of some tropical trees in the South-east).


I’ve also varied the styles of forests in different areas. In the jungle area, surrounding the river delta, the trees are more chaotic and richer in colour. In the temperate midlands the forest outlines become fluffy and round, and the green carries a yellow tint to it. The trees in the North have been drawn with a vertically jagged outline to suggest tall pines and the colour has turned a pale grey-green to convey the cold.

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With the natural portion of this continent shaping up I’ve had some ideas spring to mind for its inhabitants. So it’s a good thing that in next Monday’s post I’ll be starting to place cities, and really get into populating this place. For now, suffice to say that the history of this land starts with Ancient-Egyptian Elves and Norse Dwarves.

And no halflings.

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