Welcome back. I was finishing up the end of the last one, and realized how broad this topic is. Here I hope to complete the various climates found in a diverse, livable world. You’ve probably seen these somewhere before, but here you’ll apply them to characters, events, and civilizations. Refer to the Basic Fantasy Ecology and Making Animals article for specifics on animal behaviors.

Grassland / Prairie

A simple area for your city. Rivers might pass through here, with some hills. Cities, especially in a fantasy setting, would be built upon hills as a natural defense. Rivers provide water and occasionally food, so cities are built near or along them for proximity purposes. Climates here are generally hot and dry, and whatever is built here should compensate. Tornadoes are a frequent natural disaster, and droughts as well.


Cities in mountains become more complicated. While a town built in valley makes sense using mountains as barriers, built on a mountain is different. Your city gains the huge uphill advantage, acquiring food and water becomes more difficult. How do your citizens get their basic needs? A simple way is to have a river running near or through a city. Also, terrace farming is a concept used widely by the Incas in the Andes mountains. Depending on how high up you are, the colder you will become. Mountains are generally windy as well, and rock slides can be devastating, along with avalanches.


A mix of sea and mountainous climates, and aptly named after the Mediterranean area. Port towns might be common, and a front for trade. Fog is also a dominant aspect, which makes everything a dull tone, and very wet. Humidity also becomes a factor as well. Although summers are hot, and winters are cold, this might be about as normal as you can get. Floods, and tidal waves should be yearly horrors for your citizens. Tsunamis are also good sources for terror.


A desert is a place that has little to no rainfall per year, so everything is dry. During the day it can become blistering hot, but at night temperature can drop below freezing. Your people should be able to react to this kind of sudden change each day. Scarce supplies of food and water generates a competitive society, and has a potential for interesting cultures. The desert nomad is also a widely used idea, the peoples who travel around endlessly. Sandstorms are common, and animals dealing with this environment can be fiercer than normal. Cities should be near oases, springs of fresh water and plants in deserts.

Forest / Jungle

Cities are rarely built in jungles, simply because of the amount of work involved cutting down trees and removing underbrush and various other stuff. Trees, when regrowing, are also quite intrusive with their roots. Cities built on the coast with forests around them make more sense, because the treeline doesn’t usually extend into the water. Lots of rainfall and humidity associated in this area, along with more wildlife than usual. Food can be acquired easily, and the large amounts of rainfall cause rivers to be common. River flooding can be a serious problem, especially if your city lies on or near a river.

Snow / Tundra / Ice

Living in constant cold changes people, and your citizens should be abnormal accordingly. Buildings here are usually short and compact, with thick walls for insulation. Snow falls are high, and depending on how much affects other things. Places have good winters and bad winters every year, but otherwise everything is straightforward. Food is scarcer, but water is plentiful. Blizzards are a frequent occurrence, and katabatic winds are caused by cold, heavy air moving down hill. These winds are extremely strong, reaching up to hurricane speeds. The worst are most common in cold climates.


Tropical climates are ones with wet seasons and dry seasons, and mild temperatures year round. Imagine places like Hawaii, the Caribbean, or Brazil. These places are generally closer to the ocean, nearer to the Equator. Cities here have the good fortune of plentiful food and water. Floods, especially near rivers, can occur, along with tidal waves.


The easiest way to plan this out is to look at a climate map of the world, and you can easily spot where the climates are located. While no place is perfect, and a few oddities add realism.


  1. SlyShy on 11 October 2008, 21:39 said:

    I would say water isn’t super plentiful in tundra environments. It depends on how readily you can melt snow/ice, I think. But I guess keeping it inside would be enough to do the trick, so maybe you are right. Anyways, an idea to consider.

  2. Virgil on 11 October 2008, 23:12 said:

    I suppose, but this is in a medieval status, so you can build a fire and melt it… I guess.

  3. Virgil on 11 October 2008, 23:38 said:

    Also, can anyone post a list of good sci-fi or fantasy stories or series, really good ones. I’m going to the bookstore tomorrow probably and I’m going to stock up. Assume I haven’t read anything. Post them in the comments here. Also rank them from best to worst in your opinion, please.

  4. SlyShy on 12 October 2008, 00:07 said:


    George R.R. Martin

    He deconstructs fantasy and puts together a very real, gritty, epic story. There are no black and white characters, just a sea of gray, and it is great.

    A Song of Ice and Fire

    A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast of Crows

    Dreamsongs Volume 1, Vol. 2 is good too, but Volume 1 has my favorite stories—including A Song for Lya which made me melancholy for five straight days. Actually, a lot that book is depressing.

    Catherine Asaro

    This is kind of a romance/sci-fi hybrid, and it’s definitely very cool. Ms. Asaro was actually a physicist and chemist with a degree from Harvard, so the science aspect of her writing is very interesting, and the writing is great, of course.

    A Quantum Rose, which managed to beat out GRRM for a Nebula, haha.

    Ursula Le Guin

    It’s said Christopher lifted aspects of his magic system from Le Guin. I think True Names are in fact her invention, and she does a much better treatment of them. Anyways, she was a leader in both Sci-fi and Fantasy, and was one the first people to make fantasy mainstream and acceptable. Back in the 70s fantasy was very much snubbed.


    A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind.

    The Compass Rose is a pretty good sci-fi anthology, as well.

    Jules Verne

    Ah, the master of speculative fiction. I have a soft spot in my heart for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

  5. CWB on 12 October 2008, 12:06 said:

    Other than LoTR and Harry Potter and George RR Martin, as already mentioned, try Michael Moorcock’s Elric series. Elric is the classic anti-hero. The books were originally written as novelettes but have been collected into three or four Elric sagas. All of them are good.

    Also, Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series wasn’t bad. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and CS Lewis as well.

    If you feel like giving your brain a workout, try Paradise Lost by John Milton or The Worm Ouroboros by ER Eddison. Milton’s work isn’t necessarily “fantasy” but the character of Satan is incredible… on par with any character Shakespeare ever wrote. Both books make for rigorous reading, however, and both require a decent level of scholarship to fully appreciate.

  6. Snow White Queen on 12 October 2008, 17:25 said:

    garth nix’s old kingdom trilogy should also be added to the list.

    i’ve yet to finish the final book, but the other two were very original and enjoyable indeed.

  7. Zahano on 13 October 2008, 00:04 said:

    Decent article overall. Note that the plural of “oasis” is OASES.
    “Incas” does need an apostrophe. There are no plurals that require apostrophes unless they are already in the word. In this case, “Inca” also functions as a collective term, e.g. “The Inca were destroyed by Francisco Pizarro.”

    Winter does NOT exist in the tropics. There is a dry season and a wet season. Depending on what hemisphere they are in, they can be during what in temperate areas are called Winter or Summer. If you have never been in the tropics for an extended period of time, which I assume you have not, come to DEM and PM me or someone else for details.

  8. Virgil on 13 October 2008, 08:15 said:

    Thank you for your corrections, Zahano. I’ll admit I have not been to the tropics for longer than a few months, so I would not know volumes of information about it. I am on DEM, if you’d like to PM me with your information, I’d be glad to put them in, and credit them to you, send them to Dante.

  9. Zahano on 19 November 2008, 00:55 said:

    Define “mild”, Virgil. Depending on where you are, it can be incredibly hot that you just want to die. Also recall that dry heat is generally easier to tolerate than wet heat. Humidity therefore makes a huge difference in lifestyle. Thus do people in tropical mountains have relatively crisp days and really, really cold nights, while in the lowlands you will be sweating like a pig all day and it can also be icy cold at night. Highland people can also work/travel longer because the hours in which it is unpleasant to be outside(i.e. “siesta” times) will be fewer.

    Remember that even though the temperature rarely hits freezing point, not all things(i.e. plants that produce food) will be growing simultaneously all year long. It’s your job to look up when all the seasons for fruit are, not mine. Some fruit, e.g. mangoes, can also be eaten green.

    If your world is anything like Earth, tropical countries(i.e. those in the “Third World”) are generally dirt poor with little to no infrastructure and government stability. This means that most roads are made from dirt and will get muddy/flooded/otherwise nasty. This does not generally help the noble Hero in his journey, nor help people get to where they need to go, e.g. hospitals. Five hours in the back of a truck/pack animal/cart is a long time to get emergency care. People die a lot faster if their place of residence lacks such services.
    Large tracts of land will be undeveloped due to lack of funds, environmental difficulties, or both. What applies to the jungle applies here in terms of settlement difficulties.

  10. Puppy on 28 November 2008, 16:13 said:

    “If your world is anything like Earth, tropical countries(i.e. those in the “Third World”) are generally dirt poor with little to no infrastructure and government stability.”
    — Zahano

    WHAT? Third World doesn’t mean tropical, it means developing.

    Just because most Third-World countries right now are tropical doesn’t mean that tropical countries are always rustic and chaotic. What about the Mesoamerican cultures— the Inca, Aztec, and Maya? All of them had more than two hundred years of rule.

    Now, give me a far northern civilization (or any that came from a cold environment) that had extensive infrastructure. And not one from the last… two hundred years or so. I know it can be done using modern technology— I want one that did it using using more basic stuff. :)

    (Sweeping generalizations, bad.)

  11. Zahano on 20 December 2008, 00:52 said:

    Yes, I know. Sweeping generalisation. Just pointing out that shitty infrastructure and unpleasant tropical climate work hand in hand to carry the handbasket, okay?

    Everything that I mentioned is a pain in the ass when you are wealthy too, but floods and are even worse when the roads are made of dirt. Besides, if you are wealthy, you probably live closer to medical care even in the Arctic Circle.

    The poor always get the short end of the stick, particularly when it is stuff outside human control. The poorer place always has it worse. Even if they get less flooding than rich areas, they will still suffer far more.

  12. War Wizards are the best on 5 November 2011, 00:46 said:

    Has anyone here rad the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind?

  13. War Wizards are the best on 5 November 2011, 00:47 said: