Finally here is the second part in my overland mapping tutorial. If you want to read the first part before continuing you can find it here. As usual this is my view of mapping and you might agree to it all or just parts of it. The important thing to remember is that this is one view of mapping, and not the only one.
Ok back to the map. We have some landmass, islands and seas so what’s next. At this stage I always try to place mountains and hills. If you desire you can try to work out where you would have tectonic plates and from that information decide where to put the mountains. I never do that, I’m more going for the “if it looks good it looks correct” path here.
First of all I often try to use my mountains to divide the landmass into different areas. It is an easy way of making natural borders in the map that you later can use when it is time to decide where to put the borders between different countries.
Secondly I try to make my mountain chains curved. If you make them straight the map will, in my opinion, look a bit stiff, which will give you a less good looking end result. When I say curved I don’t mean that they should look like circles. Curved mountain chains will give more life to the map, it will get more fun to look at.
Also try to break up the mountain chains at some points. It will give you some interesting valleys and passes that can trigger the beholders imagination in a good way. Is there really a more interesting place for a campaign then a mountain valley full of orcs or strange creatures, maybe a deserted watch tower or an old haunted burial ground.
Around the mountains I place some hills to make the transition from mountain to field look more natural. A good idea might also be to put some hills between two mountain areas that are quite close to each other. It will connect them in a nice way.
When you’re done with your mountains it is time to start on the rivers. The basics when it comes to rivers are that they flow from high ground downwards, they don’t split downwards, but they can have more than one starting point. Usually they also try to get to the sea the shortest downhill way. If you try to follow those two rules the rivers will look more naturally.
Another thing to think of is that the straighter the river is the faster the flow of the river will be. Most rivers tend to be straighter and faster in the beginning and closer to the sea they usually will slow down, which means more curves. When I put rivers in my maps I tend to do them quite curvy. It will usually look better, straight rivers just don’t get the right feeling, at least that’s my opinion.