“North america 1765globe” by Minnesota Historical Society — Minnesota Historical Society. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Creating Realistic Worlds

Back when Worldbuilding Stack Exchange was new and fresh I was one of the early beta members. At the time we were trying both to establish the boundaries for this new site and to seed the content that would cause the site to grow.

I realized that there was an obvious problem facing anyone who is trying to create a new world for their project, whatever that project may be. The problem was quite simply how to create and map a world in a realistic and believable way.

With this problem in mind I started a series of three questions, each building on the one before it and placed a bounty on those questions to try and attract as high quality answers as possible. The results did not disappoint.

Landmass Formation

When building a world it made sense to start with the start: What are the processes that causes land-masses to form, and continents and islands to rise up from the sea and sink back into it?

This received excellent answers, enough to show that our new site could live up to what we all hoped it could be. The answers provide a quick but not too technical introduction to everything you need to know about plate tectonics and the other processes that go into creating land for your new world!


With the land mass in place the time came to set weather and climate to work, creating rivers and grinding down the land lifted up by the formation process. Again the answers provide a simple and rapid introduction to anyone needing to know how their land should be changed by the work of time.

Currents, Precipitation and Climate

With the land taking shape I moved on to climate, and again the answers provide an excellent introduction to just how weather takes shape and how it would be changed by the land. The answers give you all that is needed to work out what the climate would be like anywhere on your world.

And so much more…

So that was it, work complete I thought…but people had other ideas.

First HDE 226868 contacted me and asked if I minded him adding more questions to the series. I said of course that he was welcome to, and the results amazed me.

We had questions about Coastlines, Waterways, and Underwater Geography from HDE 226868. Then Vincent joined in asking about Vegetation and Biomes and then a few days later Mineralogy and Fuel.

Now more people were asking questions, some were reaching out to the stars while others were staying down to earth and asking about the spread of languages, the placing of borders between countries and the different forms of governments.

Into the future…

As the number of questions exploded the linking between them became harder to keep track of, and even the original people who created the series had no idea of what was being asked now. So bilbo_pingouin stepped in and created a meta post to wrap up the series.

You can find the meta post on the Worldbuilding Stack Exchange site.

When I asked three simple questions a year ago I had no idea that one year later we would have 16 excellent questions, all covering important parts of creating a world. That those questions would have so many insightful and knowledgeable answers. Information that has already helped so many world builders and which is going to go on to help thousands more. Combined together at the time of writing this article the questions have received over 19,000 views and hundreds of up-votes!

What’s next? I’ve no idea, but I’m really looking forwards to finding out.

Tim Boura