Practicing the art and skill of building worlds.

Worldbuilding Day 4: Cataclysms

30 Days of Worldbuilding: Day 4

The exercise today is to come up with the “Really Big Land Features” I want to put on my map and think about how they came to be.

At first, I was completely vexed! I had a fair idea of what I wanted to do with this setting and for the most part, “Really Big Land Features” just didn’t really feature in.

Mt.Pinatubo, Philippines

A caldera is basically what's left of a volcano after its squishy bits collapse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I thought about it a little. I said I wanted a large body of water nearby, right? Maybe a lake or a bay. Is there any way that something like that could be created by a natural disaster? What if it’s the crater from a massive asteroid strike? Or the caldera left by the eruption of a huge volcano?

But why does that matter? I can hear you asking. Who cares where a big hole in the ground came from? If it’s a plot device, the players are going to smell it a mile away, and I can hear the groans already. So. Obvious.

Okay, but what if it’s not going to become a plot device? What if it’s just a distinct geographical feature? Distinct geographical features are what often give places their names! If something neat like a caldera or an asteroid crater is nearby, I get instant name fodder! Always nice. I suck at names.

I’m leaning toward a caldera, if only because caldera is really fun to say. Caldera.

Do any of your settings contain Really Big Land Features that were caused by cataclysms? Are they part of the (back)story, or just distinct geological features? If they’re more than just neat-looking, how do they play a part in your story?

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One response

  1. I always liked the idea of a huge, long, high cliff wall. Like Wall of China long, but way higher, splitting the land into high mesa and lowlands. It’s an obstacle, a protection, a home for a unique culture of cliff-dwellers, the entrance to the Underdark, a place of amazing waterfalls, whatever trips your trigger.

    May 3, 2012 at 9:43 am

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