Worldbuilding rivers: why are they so vital?

Worldbuilding rivers typically looks as if an afterthought – just a few squiggly strains on a map. However rivers are worldbuilding GOLD – from assets to protection to journey and trade, rivers present a number of the most vital issues your fictional cultures and fantasy races want. They usually can present fascinating conflicts to your tales too!

Why is worldbuilding rivers so vital?

To create rivers that really feel related to the world, we first want to have a look at our world! So, listed below are 5 causes rivers are so vital for any civilization (with a number of battle concepts too!).

1. Rivers are a supply of water

Nicely, duh, proper? I do know, it’s apparent! However that doesn’t imply it’s not vital—we (in addition to vegetation and animals) want water to outlive. Because it seems, rain is normally not common sufficient to maintain a whole civilization operating. As a result of we don’t simply want water for consuming, we additionally must care for our crops and animals. And whereas rain is perhaps sufficient for some sorts of crop, there’s some extent the place a lot meals is required that rainwater won’t be sufficient! I imply, simply have a look at the primary civilizations: Egypt appeared across the river Nile, and Mesopotamia between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.

Truly, rivers had been so vital to those cultures that there are water and river deities of their religions, in addition to spiritual festivals surrounding them! There are some fascinating potential conflicts right here, too. What occurs if somebody up river, overseas possibly, dams the water?

2. They’re a fast solution to journey

Earlier than planes and quick vehicles had been invented, a river was the quickest solution to journey—supplied {that a} navigable river related along with your vacation spot, in fact. And since more often than not they join with the ocean, they’re a gateway to worldwide journey for cities not positioned on the coast. For instance, Rome wasn’t a coastal metropolis in the course of the Roman Empire. As an alternative, it was related to the Mediterranean sea by the Tiber river, however being positioned inland defended it from sea raiders whereas nonetheless offering them with entry to worldwide journey.

Rivers are additionally a really sensible approach of transporting heavy objects or massive portions of commerce items. In Egypt, for example, they used the Nile to move the big blocks of stone wanted to construct the pyramids. Different widespread makes use of are lumber, ore and transporting industrial items and assets. This ties in with the monetary worth rivers have!

And if a river is navigable, you possibly can embody two fascinating conflicts. One is taxes. The Tower of London, for instance, is located so near the river Thames for precisely that motive – it taxed river journey out and in of the town because it was constructed by the Normans within the eleventh century. In case your nation controls a river that occurs for use as a journey route, it’s going to most likely wish to tax any travellers that sail by its waters.

The opposite fascinating travel-related battle is RIVER PIRATES! They’ll add an fascinating dimension to river journey in RPGs and novels, and it’s a good way to combine issues up a bit!

Ancient Egyptians used rivers to transport stone blocks for the pyramids

You positively can’t construct a type of with out a simple solution to transport stone blocks!

3. Rivers act as pure borders

When two nations have to agree on a border, it’s a lot simpler to take a pure border as a reference as an alternative of manually increase a wall. In order that’s what many nations have finished all through historical past—and rivers are examples of a pure border! For instance, the Roman Empire used the Danube and the Rhine rivers as a part of their borders. Fashionable nations do that on a regular basis too, no want to have a look at historical instances! Should you have a look at a map and see a squiggly line as a border, it’s most likely a pure one. To see an instance, have a look at the border between German and France: a part of it’s based mostly on the Rhine river (which the Romans used too!).

An fascinating battle to contemplate right here is: what occurs when the river migrates? I do know it sounds loopy, however this may occur over an extended interval, or in a short time! The Choluteca Bridge (in Honduras, pictured under) clearly illustrates an fascinating actual world instance of fast river migration. Following Hurricane Mitch in 1998, the river shifted path a lot that the bridge now sits BESIDE the river, quite than throughout it!

worldbuilding rivers example the choluteca bridge

4. Rivers are defensive, and river crossings are tactical

Should you’re constructing a defensive location, contemplate constructing by a river, notably surrounded by one! A fantastic actual world instance of that is the medieval metropolis of Durham within the UK. It’s surrounded on three sides by a loop within the river, which makes it extremely defensible. In any case, it’s onerous to assault somebody throughout a river!

You can too flip this on its head, although. Since a river crossing is a spot of maximum tactical significance (you recognize, for those who’re transferring a military and such), then having a fort that defends that river crossing could make or break a navy marketing campaign.

Stirling Fortress in Scotland is a good instance. It guarded the one viable crossing of the River Firth within the medieval interval and into the 18th century. Actually, it was mentioned that “he who holds Stirling, holds the North”. (Now you recognize what impressed G.R.R. Martin’s Winterfell Fortress from Sport of Thrones!)

5. Rivers present assets, energy and trade

And in spite of everything that, don’t overlook that rivers present assets too! In fact, there’s consuming water, fish, water fowl, reeds and different natural compounds. These are all essential for those who wish to eat and drink, and water your crops and make baskets and thatching.

However rivers are additionally sources of clay, sand and gravel, that are vital for constructing and trade. And plenty of rivers additionally present simply accessible sources of tin, gold and platinum deposits, as wash down from deposits up stream.

And naturally, from water wheels producing energy to water-intensive  actions like dying and tanneries, rivers are a wonderful place to develop the commercial enterprises of your cultures and cities too. All these assets and vitality are going to assist your settlements and cultures not simply survive, however thrive.

How one can get began worldbuilding rivers

1. Geography is vital!

It may appear apparent, however rivers at all times circulate downhill! Certain, they meander round if the terrain is flat, however they’ll at all times select the trail of least resistance. Which means rivers nearly by no means cut up into two with out human intervention—why cut up if it will probably simply take the shortest possibility of the 2? In fact, for those who’re worldbuilding fantasy, magic can mess all the things up. You’ll be able to even have uphill rivers, if that’s one thing your magic system can do!

When it’s time to place them on a map, don’t draw each single creek and steam, as you’d find yourself filling the complete map with water! As an alternative, draw the most important rivers solely, those that may outline the place nations and cities are positioned. Small rivers don’t have to go to the world map: when you’re writing or enjoying, you can probably add one in a plot-relevant location with out points (except you’re in the course of the desert)!

2. Take into consideration civilizations when worldbuilding rivers

As defined above, there’s a number of causes to place your settlements close to a river. That’s why main rivers are prime spots for the primary civilizations of your world! In fact, civilizations rise and fall, so this doesn’t imply there’ll nonetheless be a strong nation in that place. However there will certainly be remnants of previous civilizations! Take into consideration metropolis ruins, monuments, tombs, inscriptions, relics… This can instantly add extra depth to your world’s historical historical past, simply by wanting on the rivers!

If the civilization remains to be going sturdy, it’s going to most likely be a really highly effective nation—so take into consideration their river management! In the event that they don’t management the river supply, they’ll most likely wish to both management it immediately or have a strong alliance with whoever does. And don’t overlook about taxes: a giant river means a number of site visitors, which implies some huge cash flowing!

3. Use rivers to attract borders

Not all of them, clearly. However some borders ought to partially comply with a river if you wish to make them a bit extra pure! A straight line implies that the border was agreed upon on a treaty, whereas squiggly river borders are sometimes the product of a rustic’s “pure” enlargement (though it could possibly be a treaty too). Take into consideration how the river interacts with the nations—and the way the nations work together with one another. Are they pleasant? Are they sharing the river? The border might run by the center of the river, or one nation might management the complete river mattress. What in the event that they don’t agree? This has been some extent of competition for a lot of nations in the actual world, so together with these particulars in your world will make it really feel extra actual!

The Rhine was used by the Romans as part of their borders

The Rhine was utilized by the Romans as a part of their borders!

4. Join your rivers to the tradition!

If the river has been vital all through the nation’s historical past, individuals may need connected cultural significance to it! For instance, they might see it as a god, or because the byproduct of 1 (a god’s tears, possibly?). If the complete civilization relies on that river, it’d even be the top of the pantheon (in case you have one) or if it’s within the border, it could possibly be some form of defender god. Take into consideration how faith and festivals would develop round it and the way they’ve influenced the day by day life. If floods are widespread, possibly bowing once you cross the river is a part of anybody’s day by day life!

No matter you determine to do, rivers have at all times been a particularly vital a part of our society. So they need to really feel vital in your world as effectively.

Prepared to begin river-building? Create a World Anvil account now to get began!

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