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If I look at a map of Golarion next to a map of Earth, it seems Varisia has the same latitudes as Canada/Russia.

How is it then that the Shoanti are similar to Native Americans and live in a desert?

Am I looking at the map wrong? Is there something about Golarion's climate I'm missing? I don't intend to delve deep into geography or world building, just wondering if there's something obvious I've missed.

If you are curious, I've pointed out Varisia with more precision on the map, a little more south than I thought (and yes, Golarion is built on a model of the Earth).

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a question which you would ask a meteorologist, not an RPG enthusiast. It might be more of a question for worldbuilding.se or earthscience.se. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Aug 28 '17 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think his re-clarification of the question makes it OK to reopen - we don't need deep meteorology, just "what does the setting say about this". \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Aug 28 '17 at 18:36
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Well, there's a couple things you may be missing that make this perfectly realistic.

First of all, the analogies between Golarion and Earth are intended to be rough. The Shoanti are kinda Native American-ey - but they're also Celtic-ey, etc. The Linnorm Kings (Vikings) are located immediately north of Varisia, so you can draw as much Gaul/Celt analogy with the Shoanti as you can Native American, and it also provides a hint that it's probably not all that hot out.

Secondly - we have Native Americans that far north in the real world, you know. In fact, the Blackfoot, Cree, Crow, and Sioux are from right around that latitude.

Native American tribal map

Thirdly - "Deserts" can be found at any latitude. A lack of water isn't correlated with "hot." The Storval Plateau is more like the Russian steppes - not hot, but dry. The Cinderlands are hot because of volcanic activity (and the resulting brushfires), not climate. There's more on the Plateau in Rise of the Runelords and the Kaer Maga sourcebook which can provide you with better local color. For real-world analogues, try out the Ryn Desert in Russia/Kazakhstan - in fact, the Kazakhs had native steppe horsemen you might well tap for inspiration. Just reading that Wikipedia article you start to see some direct analogues to the Shoanti (oh look, eagle hunters...)

Fourth - yeah, game writers aren't always super precise. The continents are a little bit more north than you'd think; the "equatorial heat" of the Mwangi Expanse doesn't come anywhere near the Equator. And art direction is always a challenge, so you get some depictions of Shoanti wearing a bit less clothing than they probably should be for their locale. Not a new problem - compare this photo of actual Crow to this painting of a Crow by some white guy. From the time of the Greeks, everyone knows art's better when the subjects are nakeder. C'est la vie.

I love using gaming to drive me to read some real history... Instead of sticking with the Hollywood "Indian/desert" image, check out Caesar's Gallic Wars, the Kazakhs, some tales of Dakotas-area Native Americans, etc. and mash it on up.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, I'm checking this as The Answer. Yes I'm from Europe that's why the indian theme didn't "clicked" in my immagination, knowing just the hollywood ones. Also being Italian I know pretty well East European and Gypsies and they just live in a totally different environment. I think the blend between Russian steppes and celts is the way to go to make the campaign world acceptable to my players. ( playing Curse of the Crimson Throne, first place you meet out of Korvosa is described like a ranch, after playing in a east-european city with gothic horror that can't just work for them :) ) \$\endgroup\$ – simone cittadini Aug 28 '17 at 19:07
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Earth's landscape and climates are determined by a complex (or at least beyond my knowledge) interaction of orbit distance, travel speed, and rotation axis angle (the earth's poles are not perpendicular to our orbit) relative to our Sun, plus the actual heat/color of the Sun and perhaps other factors.

Golarion's various climates could vary vastly if even one (and probably all) of these factors change. Additionally, Golarion is a pan-theistic world where where deities are verified to exist and have direct potential for shaping wide swaths of land to their suiting; I don't think this is the reason for the Cinderlands, but it could be a hand-wave explanation of any geographically questionable decisions the Paizo made about their world.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ocean and wind currents have a huge effect as well. The layout and size of continents and mountain ranges would far matter more than something like orbit distance. (For instance, we in the northern hemisphere are farther from the sun by over a million miles in our summer, yet it is warmer due to axial tilt) \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Aug 28 '17 at 14:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a common myth that orbital distance affects weather; it's by far the least significant factor. Climate here is caused generally by the tilt + year length (= seasons), then by trade winds and sea currents (stirred up by the day rotation + temperature gradients caused by being a sphere and the tilt). Which is to say: yes, it's quite complex and hard to fully understand, and we still don't quite understand it! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 28 '17 at 14:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Essentially my point, thank you for the new information though! \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Aug 28 '17 at 15:21
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Relative only to climate, not culture, it's worth mentioning that the Earth's climate has varied, within the geologically short span of human existence, from deep ice age (glaciers as far south as Spain) to much warmer than today (what we think of as tropical vegetation and fauna as far north as England and Denmark). All that's required for Golarion to use the same map as Earth, but have a warmer climate, is for it to be in a different part of the normal warm-cold cycle.

Just in the past thousand years, we've had the "Little Ice Age" of the 16th to 18th centuries, which resulted in widespread starvation in Europe as crops that had been staples failed to produce in the shortened growing season. Prior to that temperature dip, Greenland had (at least as seen from the sea) lived up to its name.

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The Gobi Desert runs from under the 40th up to nearly the 50th degree latitude north. That appears to be roughly where your point was placed. So I don't see anything outlandish about there being a desert there.

As long as its in a temperate latitude, the desert biome is more about rainfall than temperature (in arid arctic and subarctic latitudes you instead get tundra).

enter image description here

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