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The 34 Steps 
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Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2009 4:16 pm
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Post The 34 Steps
So over at Mr. Conley's wonderful Bat in the Attic blog, he has a phenomenal 34 step process to build a fantasy sandbox. Now, I have this adventure I'm building (bit by bit when time allows) and I wanted to place this and build a kind of sandbox around it because IMHO players always do the unexpected. Where better to start than the 34 steps?

But I'm horrible at sketching things. So I've always used software - even there I'm not very good. So I let Fractal Terrains generate a world (for Infidelus) that I kind of like. Then I took the first few sub-steps of step 1, wherein you create a template of wind direction and currents to get a feel for weather and climate when you get to the actual land mass drawing.

So here's the template:
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sandbox_01.gif
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...which I made using Visio because...well..I'm a software/management geek and it is easy for me.

Then I took an export from FT of the world as a jpg and put it under the template in Visio, changing the transparency of some of the components, to look like this:
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infidelus_20101003.jpg
infidelus_20101003.jpg [ 135.34 KiB | Viewed 2259 times ]

But I think I'm working on too grand of a scale - it looks like Rob's example is only dealing with 800 miles square and I'm looking at 25,000 across (though I'm seriously considering cutting that in half...).

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Mon Oct 04, 2010 7:47 pm
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Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:20 pm
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Post Re: The 34 Steps
Not so far - the wind circulation pattern is meant to be applied to an entire globe, as you've done here. It's driven by differential heating of the the planet by the sun and directed by the Coriolis effect. Basically, the equator gets the most energy from the sun. Air there heats up and rises. As it rises, it cools and drops rain (which is why equatorial regions have jungle). But all this air can't constantly rise - it 'bunches up' at the top and has to go somewhere, so it spreads north and south. By the time it reaches 30 degrees it has cooled off and begins to descend. This descending air warms up as it descends, and this has the effect of making the surface air very dry. This is why deserts appear in the 30 degree latitude. The descending air hits the ground and again must go somewhere, so it spreads out also going north or south. The spin of the earth forces any air moving north or south moving air to gradually turn clockwise. This forces the prevailing winds. In Chicago the prevailing wind is from the west. In Barbados it blows from the east. These winds are what drive the ocean circulation patterns.

Air is hottest at the equator and coldest at the poles.
Air is wettest at the equator and (to a lesser extent) at 60 degrees, and driest at 30 degrees and (to a lesser extend) at the poles.
The direction of wind is important because it will determine where your rain-shadows are. It also determines sailing/airborne trade routes.
Ocean currents also determine ocean-bound trade routes and tell you where the best fishing is.

Here's another image that might help explain it: http://soer.justice.tas.gov.au/2009/image/157/index.php

My personal 'step one' is to start with plate tectonics in order to figure out my landmasses, mountain ranges, and volcanic areas. But perhaps this is unnecessary detail for some. Once you've applied tectonics and air/ocean circulation to the entire globe, you can then focus in on the regions for a close-up. So far, though, what you've done looks really good.

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Tue Oct 05, 2010 10:27 pm
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