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zompist bboard • View topic - Creating a continent

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 Post subject: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 8:25 pm 
Sanci
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So, I've been reading about Westeros, from George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. It's made me interested in creating a continent myself, for "fantasy" cultures. Or at least preindustrial ones. I'll post updates as I go if there's interest, comment if you'd like to read more or if you have any advice.

First, some basic rules:
1) The only difference between this planet and contemporary Earth is the arrangement of the continents, and maybe the proportion of land vs sea.
2) The continent is big enough for lots of variation in climate. The model here is Westeros, which goes from Siberia to France to Libya.
3) I'll only create one continent, but it's close enough to others to be settled by waves of migrants. I'm thinking more isolated than Westeros, no daily ships to Pentos. But more interaction than the Almean continents.

So, the first step is the coastline and topography. I've already mentioned how hopeless I am at doing this, so I have a few different options:
1) Choose a real-world island and expand it to continental size, maybe flipping or rotating it so that the resemblance isn't so egregious. The issue is how self-similar geography really is. For example, look at this picture: . This island is about half the size of Rhode Island, is there anything implausible about a continent the size of North America looking like that?
2) Use a fractal map generator: https://donjon.bin.sh/world/ You can get a reasonable looking isolated continent if you play around a bit. The only problem is the grid-like artifacts you get from the algorithm. Any opinons how how realistic these continents look?
3) Try drawing the thing freehand, maybe with some computer trickery to make it look better. Any suggestions welcome.

So, which option should I choose?


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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 11:47 am 
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If its only for your own personal reference, drawing it freehand can work pretty well - just sketch some random shapes until you find one you like, and scale it up with jagged coastlines.

If you're trying to keep it digital, I would go with option #1; there's nothing wrong with scaling something up like that, and if you pick a remote enough island no one will even be able to tell its a real place :P

The only real part of world-building that is subject to realism over creativity is climate, and even then its so hard to accurately predict that you still have a huge range of options - the actual shape of the continent is basically up to you. As for the climate, first steps are to designate the tropics and the poles, then draw in mountains, and a few major ocean currents, as well as general global wind direction. Wind blows in moisture from the ocean, and drops a lot of it on the side of mountains
For example, look at The side of the mountain facing into the wind is green and lush, and the other side is a desert, and basically continues until theres a way for moisture to get into the air again. For example, lets say said mountain range was in the center of the continent, and the winds blew from east to west; the east side of the continent would be lush and fertile, while the west side would be a huge desert, all the way up to a few miles around the coastline, which would be wet again from evaporating ocean water.

Another thing to keep in mind is temperature - tropics are always warm, poles are always cold. Between those two ranges, temperature are more stable around large bodies of water, and get progressively more extreme (both colder and hotter) as you go inwards in the continent. Temperature always decreases with elevation. Tropics can actually be somewhat chilly (see peru) if there's a cold ocean current along the coastline, and likewise poles can be somewhat warm if theres a tropical ocean current along the coast line (see Aleutian islands) - though both these effects are only within a few miles of the coastline.

Other than that, everything is basically up to your imagination, so have fun making your continent =)


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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 1:00 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:54 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 4:47 pm 
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It's a different planet, but identical to Earth other than the different arrangement and amount of continents. That map of the winds is very useful. What's the latitude of the line that cuts through Scandinavia?


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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 5:17 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 5:51 pm 
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Yeah, wikipedia says it's the polar front at about 60 degrees. Thanks for your help with this, once I get image hosting I'll put up some maps.


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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 6:59 pm 
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A'ight, looking forward to seeing them!


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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 7:58 pm 
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OK, I start with an unlabelled map of Stewart Island and flip it left-to-right:


The continent will stretch between 60 degrees North (St Petersburg) and the Equator, so it's 96 times bigger in one dimension. If there's anything on the map that's inconsistent with that scale, leave a comment. The highest point on the island was 979 meters, and I'm making the highest point on the continent 6,190 meters. That's the same height as Denali, the highest mountain in North America. To get other elevations I'll just multiply the island elevations by 6.3.


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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Fri Dec 09, 2016 6:37 pm 
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For the scale, pretty much anything is reasonable/justifiable. Pretty much the only features that get changed by scaling a landmass that much are the climate, so

*Note everything beyond this point is PURELY creative and NOT something you *must* do; I've included it to help give you some ideas and general guidelines, take it with a grain of salt.

Now that that's out of the way, let me start explaining; the equator and 60 degree line are marked at the top and the bottom; the central black line represents roughly ~25-30 degrees, and the green line that's (mostly) below it represents tropical regions. The blue arrows represent water flow (chosen arbitrarily); the left one carries warm tropical water northwards, which is why the green line extends over a few small nearby islands - the warm water basically negates any chill from their northward position. The same thing happens on the right side, though a thing I didn't mark is that the cold area would still be relatively warm (similar to Peru's climate), simply because the water (and air) warms up pretty rapidly that close to the tropics.

The black arrows are wind direction (roughly taken from my previous post), with currents on the left side blowing warm air from over the ocean into the valley marked by the orange circle; similarly the mountain(black line) traps cold air (blue circle) out of the valley, keeping it nice and cozy during the winter (relative to its position).

The deserts are circled in yellow; the northern one is somewhat arbitrarily sized, and could probably be scaled up slightly, though it would still be bounded by the sea on the left and the valley on the right. One important note is that this is still a really cold area - its just a desert because it has very little rain fall, since its 1)cold (air holds less moisture) 2) moist air is blocked by the mountain range. As for the southern one, its due to the rain shadow effect detailed in one of my above posts.

I think thats it; feel free to ask questions for clarification regarding my drawing or the climatic determination process in general, though note I am NOT an expert on this, so I only know really general stuff :P
Beyond a few things that are generally going to be true (ex; tropics are near the equator, cold areas are north/south of it), the actual process is basically up to you to do as you see fit with, especially with something as complex as climate


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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Fri Dec 09, 2016 10:55 pm 
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You might be interested in worlds.

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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:54 am 
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Thanks for going into detail on this, it's really helped me. What's the actual climate of that desert in the North? I understand it's drier, but what does that mean up around 60 degrees North?
Here's my attempt at the climates:

The latitudes are circular arcs - I'm assuming it's some kind of conic projection. These could still use some tweaking. I think I'll have the ocean currents going the other way, as a better match to North America. I haven't taken the currents into account when doing the map. I still need to decide exactly how fine-grained to do the climate categories, and I don't know an appropriate climate for some of the coasts.


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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:07 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 10:08 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 2:54 pm 
Sanci
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Thanks for your comments. I'm assuming that any other continents are far enough away to not influence the climate patterns on this one. Or may just a simple influence - there could be a continent over the North pole, just to keep the pole as cold as ours even though it's not an enclosed ocean. I'm working on an updated climate map, but figuring out how to divide up the climates and represent them on a map is just as intricate as the climatography itself. If I'm using the climates as a basis for ecology and cultures, what's the minimum number of climates I need to represent? My guess is:
Desert: too dry for anything but hunter-gatherers.
Steppe: Pastoralists.
Mediterranean: The Fertile Crescent equivalent.
"Continental": Everything from Seattle to Chicago to Carolina, but warm and wet enough for agriculture.
Subarctic/Alpine: Too cold for agriculture.
Tropical: Both rainforest and savanna, hot enough for tropical agriculture.


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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:25 pm 
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Here's my latest climate map:

Red is desert.
Orange is Steppe.
Yellow is Mediterranean.
Teal is "Oceanic", Seattle or temperate islands.
Green is "Continental", more extreme temperatures than Oceanic.
Blue is Subarctic or Alpine, too cold for agriculture.
Purple is Tropical, both savannah and rainforest.
There's a cold current going down the West coast and a warm current going up the East, cooling down or warming up the islands on each side.


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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:47 pm 
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Pastoralism could succeed in a desert, while hunter-gathering could be hard in a steppe. The source of food depends not only on climate classification but also on more the details of the climate and non-climatological concepts (such as mineral distribution, types of soils, etc.). Environments with just the right details could even support a stable sedentary hunter-gatherer culture (such as that of the pre-Columbian Pacific Northwest).
zompist made a key for mapping Köppen climate classifications, with some category mergers: http://www.zompist.com/pckclimate.html

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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:48 pm 
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Cool, looks like you got it! I did a wind/current of your map, including in GProjector, if you want to see them just say and I'll post them or PM them to you. Not posting right now cuz you are well on your way, and I don't want to hijack your thread. Some differences in detail, but I'll go over those if I present the maps. I think knowing the other continents is important in order to understand the big picture of oceanic circulation, and land masses typically create a lot of weather. Even Siberia's weather systems impact North America; East Asia in general impacts the whole North Pacific basin. Keeping in mind that the equator restricts mixing of air masses between hemispheres. 7 major climate zones is just about right, at least on Earth. Other continents would have a large impact, potentially, on the development of tropical cyclones, which, while isolated and relatively infrequent, have major impacts on cultures.

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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 10:56 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 10:58 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 11:32 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 2:41 am 
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Here's an update of the climates, using zompist's breakdown.


Here's the colour key with the Koppen climates:
Dark blue Taiga Dc
Teal Marine Cfb
Yellow Mediterranean Cs
Orange Steppe Bs
Red Desert Bwh
Bright blue Mountains Cwb?
Pink Savanna Aw
Purple Rainforest Af
Light green Subtropical Cfa
Dark green Humid continental Da/b


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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 3:51 am 
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Edit to add comment about map projections.

So I took the time to add the other three continents, per your spec. I just made them as ellipses, as I had no other shape info.

I'm going to put these on imgur because this is a s.l. of data to dump on ZBB's servers. The url is . I took nmnmv123's equator location as a guide, so my maps show the southern tip of stewarta as south of the equator. My lat&long on the original map don't quite match up to gprojector's I imagine because of some rounding issue.

I didn't extend the oceanic currents because I'm pooped.

Added note:
G.projector requires that the input for its magic morphing of maps countless ways, be in an equirectangular projection. This means all lines of latitude and longitude are evenly spaced even at the poles. This leads to distortion especailly above 80°... Stewarta doesn't seem to suffer from much distortion. My advice is to maintain your master maps as equirectangular, as you will want to use G.projector at some point.

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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 4:16 am 
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Thanks for working on this. Am I right in thinking there would be two desert areas, using that diagram? One in the rain-shadow of the Southern mountains, and one in the middle of the continent where the winds diverge at about 40 degrees North?


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 Post subject: Re: Creating a continent
PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 10:40 am 
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I think that the other continents should be finished before you actually find the wind, water and climate patterns, because continent shape and size are really important (think of the Gulf Stream Current and how it neatly fits with the shape of North America.) Island chains between and far away from large landmasses will also affect the patterns.

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