May 082018

5 World Building Tips (Vol 2, #12): Planets

Here are today’s world building tips! The theme is planets. You can read more in Chapter 2, “Creating a Planet”, from Creating Places, (The Art of World Building, #2).

Tip #1: “Understand the Ocean’s Impact”

Ocean currents move in certain patterns that mean one side of a continent has warmer water than the other. This is usually the same across a world. Why does it matter? It affects what sea life might be there and what the climate is like. We don’t need to leverage this, but the knowledge helps makes one location on our world feel different from another, rather than all getting no comment on the climate or its impact on vegetation, livestock, and culture.

Tip #2: “Use Prevailing Winds to Shape the Land”

If your planet spins, it has prevailing winds, which are either east or west. Which direction depends on which was the planet rotates, but it also depends on how far from the equator we’re talking. It changes direction depending on latitude and it’s important to know where this happens on your continent because it affects vegetation.

Tip #3: “Understand Rain Shadows”

If there’s a north-to-south mountain range, moisture-carrying, prevailing winds must go over them. This causes the rain to fall on one side of those mountains, but then there’s no water left for the other side. The result? A desert.

Tip #4: “Know Your Desert Types”

Hot deserts have clear, sunny skies (hence the heat) but get cold at night due to those same skies. Cold deserts are also hot during the day but brutally cold, far below freezing, in winter. Mild deserts are, well, milder than both. Each is found in certain climates or locations (inland, coastal, or at high elevations). Knowing which is found where is more accurate but also lets us create differences instead of every place being the same.

Tip #5: “Use Analogues for Climate”

It can be easier to base a whole continent’s climates based on a familiar country. If you know the climate in Europe, assume your continent is there and is surrounded by similar other continents. The shapes you draw on a map can be different, but this is a quick way to get it “right” without the research!

Summary of Chapter 2—Creating a Planet

This chapter focuses on creating an Earth-like planet. World builders should understand the role of the moon and its effects on tides, seasons, and more if we intend to have a moon different from our own or multiple moons. Mention of other planets, constellations, and comets can make our world seem like it’s not an island. The equator, climate zones, prevailing winds, and rain shadows all affect how much precipitation falls in an area, which in turn affects all life there, including vegetation or the lack thereof. Understanding these basics will help us create believable landscapes.

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