By Rich Feitelberg
Obviously if you need to create a world for a story or series of stories, you need to have specific locations in mind so you can give the reader a sense of place. Each location can only exist in the context of a larger world and if the world is like ours that means there's vegetation growing about.
Vegetation grows only where conditions are favorable. If your world is a frozen ice planet, you needn't read any further. But for the rest of us, knowing where there are forests, grasslands, farmlands, and the like will help you give your world a sense of realism. Equally important is knowing the type of vegetation that's growing. This is where climate comes in.
Rain forests exists in the tropics, not in temperate zones. Northern forest are all coniferous, Temperature forests can have deciduous trees. Note the amount of water available in each area. Dense forests need more water (more rainfall) than sparingly forested areas. And actually it is the other way around, the more precipitation an area receive, the more densely forested it can be.
Where there's less water available, grasslands are likely. And these can range from tundra to scrublands, to wide plains of grass.
Once you figure out what your settings or world is like, create a map showing the forests and grasslands.
Likely where lands is irrigated, you'll have farms. In a medieval fantasy world like mine, large areas of lands must be set aside for farming to support the cities towns in the region. Otherwise everyone starves.
Note all this on your vegetation map or combine it with the elevation map to create a composite.
With all this done, you're ready to consider other types of terrain like deserts and swamps. We'll look at those next time.