Reproducing an existing pen-and-paper map with Fractal Terrains is not an easy task, especially for a new user. But it is the first task most new users want to do. Naturally, this doesn’t go well first time through, so many users get discouraged and give up. That’s why I’ve created this series of tutorials. Hopefully, the articles up to this point will have helped you with the basics and prepared you to approach the task of recreating your world.

Settings

We will start where we left off in the last tutorial. Here are the settings we will be using:

  • Fractal Terrains v3.0.12
  • RMF with Perlin’s Improved Noise (World Settings > Fractal Function)
  • Highest Peak: 30,000 ft.; Lowest Depth: -30,000 ft.; Circumference: 25,000 miles; Roughness: 0.90; Percent Sea: 60%; Land Size: 1.74, World Seed: -319047328 (World Settings > Primary)
  • Longitude: -60 degrees; Continental Shelves enabled and set to -1,000 ft. (World Settings > Secondary)
  • Editing Size set to 8190 with Prescale Offset Editing enabled. (World Settings > Editing)

Something New

I’ve already talked quite a bit about raising and lowering terrain, and the need to use the Prescale Offset commands instead of the normal offset commands. That’s all you really need to sculpt your continents. So, instead of trying to explain how to reform your land masses, I will focus on what can go wrong, and how to avoid/fix these problems.

It really is possible to turn any world into any other. But the bigger the changes, the more work it will take. Therefore, the process will be far simpler if you can find a random world similar to the one you want to re-create. You will never find exactly what you want, but the closer it is, the better.

For consistency, I’ll use the same world that I’ve been using for the past couple of tutorials.

A) Here is where we left off last time:

B) And here is the modified world:

C) And here is the finished world:

What Went Wrong

There are a number of changes between maps “A” and “B” above.

1) In the upper right portion, I ate away the terrain to form an archipelago.

However, I stopped once the unwanted terrain was below sea level. This left a very unrealistic continental shelf. I don’t claim to be an expert on geologic formations, but it just doesn’t look natural to me. Also, if the continental shelf were so uniform over such a large area, I would expect more islands throughout that area.

2) Below the archipelago, I extended the landmass eastward.

Again, I only dealt with the terrain above sea level. I pushed the land out but did not build up the sea floor. At its deepest, the ocean is -30,000 feet. It then rises gradually upwards, with a shelf at -1000 feet. What I’ve done here is essentially remove the rise. Even the continental shelf area is so steep that it is merely a narrow strip with little variation. All this looks very unnatural.

Instead, it is necessary to build the ocean floor up gradually around the new land area. In the finished map (“C” above), I have done this with the Raise/Lower Prescale Offset commands. This may also be achieved with the use of feathered selections and global commands, but I want to save that discussion for a later post.

3) The rest of the landmass was spilt into multiple smaller landmasses.

Once again, the continental shelf looks awful. The sea floor should fall away from all land masses more or less uniformly. Here we have three land masses. In the final map, you can see a much more realistic sea floor.

Last Words

None of this is particularly earth-shattering. Basically, there are two points: 1) you can accomplish all of this type of sculpting exclusively with the Raise/Lower Prescale Offset commands, 2) always be sure to sculpt the sea floor as well as the land.

As always, randomness is extremely important for a natural look. Zoom in to sections and take your time. My final map was done very quickly and primarily while zoomed to extents (and it shows). Lastly, save frequently and to different files as you go (myworld-23, myworld-24, myworld-25, etc). You’ll kick yourself if you don’t.