Thursday, July 29, 2010

[RANT]Yes, rivers flow north.

In my last game session one of my players was surprised to discover the major river on the map flowed north. I'm baffled as to why he thought it was unique and why it's a popular misconception that river flow southerly...because they don't rivers flow downhill.

There are plenty of examples to smack the geographically and geophysically illiterate in the head with like THE NILE, it's over 4,000 mile long and flows from the south to the north and I'm sure people have heard about the Nile river before. How about the Amazon? It's pretty darned big and it flows from the west to the east. I'll say it again: rivers flow downhill.

Yup a pet peeve of mine. I just had to rant. Don't even get me started on the "rivers flow towards the equator" meme.

So how to use this in an RPG game? Make sure your rivers flow downhill unless they have a darned good reason to do otherwise.


  1. Downhill and away from mountains!

    Another one I run into is that there has to be a lake at the source of the river because the water has to come from somewhere.


  2. I'm going to guess that your player is from the Mississippi river basin.

  3. Yeah, I am pretty sure all the rivers over here on the West coast hit the ocean facing west-ish.

  4. I'm sure the surprise was in character also. :)

  5. That would be an interesting planet. People would stand tall at the north pole, lean north at ever sharper degrees through the middle latitudes, live in perpendicular burrows at the equator, and plumb fall off the southern hemisphere.

  6. I was astonished a month ago to come across someone who didn't know that rivers flowed downhill - he assumed they both started and ended at the sea. This was someone with a good university degree (in Marketing, Finance and Business IIRC).

    I wonder how common this is? I suppose it is possible to live your life without ever giving much thought to rivers.

  7. Why not have a river flow uphill?

    See if your players notice.

    Then let them decide if they want to find out why.

  8. "This was someone with a good university degree (in Marketing, Finance and Business IIRC)."

    You answered your own question, bub. ;P

    IRL, when a river flows uphill, its usually the result of strong counter-flow. This usually happens when a hurricane hits a river delta, but this is temporary.

    In a fantasy world, there might be gravitational anomalies that move water uphill in places - it might be a subtle feature overlooked play most players, or it might make for a highly unique and memorable occurrence.