all the tips I found for drawing a fantasy map are like :) “here’s a strategy to draw the land masses! here’s how to plot islands!” :) and that’s wonderful and I love them all but ??? how? do y’all decide where to put cities/mountains/forests/towns I have my map and my land but I’m throwing darts to decide where the Main Citadel where the Action Takes Place is
okay so i know i said most of this in the replies but it might be easier to actually reblog and say stuff instead lmao
Cities – go near water! freshwater lakes and rivers (rivers especially) are the best places for cities because A) source of water and B) travel and trade is much easier cus you can put your boats like right there. Basically ever relevant city ever was built on a lake or a river.
for rivers in general – because gravity, rivers run from mountains (forming from melting snow and ice (this is why they get fat in spring–more stuff melting)) to lakes/ocean where they can empty out (and even lakes will have rivers leading out that eventually get to the ocean), which can help when mapping out where those start and end. rivers are also much thinner and faster in steeper elevations and very slow and wide when the land is flat
mountains – i like to think of what the tectonic plates look like because that’s what makes mountains! mountains are also never standalone they’re always in mountain ranges (archipelagos are really just underwater mountain ranges babey). a cool trick I like to do is occasionally separate mountain ranges across continents, because over time the tectonic plates shifted and literally split the range in half. These mountains are really old tho so they’ve eroded and therefore it makes them smaller and rounder (like the appalachians) as opposed to relatively young mountain ranges like the rocky mountains which have taller and sharper peaks
Another mountain trick: if your mountains run along the ocean, the ocean side of the mountains will get a LOT of rain while the other side will be very dry–almost desert-like, in fact. think of temperate rainforests in British Columbia vs the drier conditions in the canadian prairies
forests – depends on how warm the area might be. coniferous forests are found further north (before you hit the tree line, and then it’s only tundra onwards) but as you head south you get leafier trees, and the leaves tend to get larger too
If you think about general elevation too, you’ll have places that might be swampy (wet + lower). if your world has an ice age like we did, then glaciers may have carved the land, leaving piles of soil in the south that was left when the ice receded and places where the bedrock has been bared north of that (like the Canadian Shield in Canada–the reason we see that is because of the glaciers)
You might also have a land that’s dotted in a shitton of freshwater lakes as well because the meltwater filled the holes that the glaciers scraped out (this is why canada has so many goddamn lakes)
and if the ice age was more recent than it was in our world, then you might not even have the forest re-growth and it could be a lot of open plains
tl;dr i like to think of major climate events that might have also shaped the land on top of some basic rules
The Artifexian has an entire series on building your world from literally the stars down and then the ground up.
Though, for fantasy, you can make the world operate on entirely different principles:
With that done, the actual topic of city placement can be covered by videos like this:
Once you have your places, if you want help naming them in realistic ways, this video can help:
This one is on architecture, which is definitely a subset of cities:
But for a more relevant practical guide on making settlements realistic:
Here’s a quick guide for making demographics:
Weheyy! I made the list!
Also look at WASD20 – it’s basically THE youtube channel for learning to design and draw maps.
And this from Questing Beast is my favourite guide for drawing city or town maps:
This, this, and all of this.
This is called Human Geography; it is an entire study and sub-field of geography for reality, and I’m a big fan of the “if you use ‘because magic’ as an excuse, have a reason why they decided to end up magicking out a solution instead of going with what makes sense” school of design.