I read a lot about people who cringe whenever looking at a fantasy map because they saw something they thought was “wrong” because something on it didn't fit their understanding of the world around us. However, when I started working on my cartography class, I delved back into research in order to give real-world examples of unusual topography…and was reminded yet again that there’s a lot going on with our planet and not all of it fits perfect into what we're commonly taught in high school about Earth Sciences.
We have real world examples of rivers that don’t end in the ocean; lakes that feed rivers instead of vice versa; lakes that are fed by underwater sources, so on and so forth.
When I first started studying Earth Sciences as a teenager, I started reading about how much our planet has changed since the Industrial Revolution and the impact that’s had on not only our atmosphere but wildlife, plant life and sea life. I learned about how it’s changed the shape of our planet in so many ways.
And then I had this really interesting thought…what if magic was a real thing on this planet. And what if it, like so many things in our world, affected and changed the way the planet worked? What if it could change it? What if slinging all those fireballs, manipulating energy fields, or… well damn…I guess we already have an idea of how that would affect our planet because it might not be “magic” but we have bombs, dynamite, and radio waves affecting and changing our world every day. Now imagine a large portion of the population could do that? We have no idea what it would do.
And we certainly have no idea how that would work on other planets or what the environmental cost might be for magic.
So though I don’t encourage the river magically starting in the middle of a low lying field, I do know there are places that are so close to their water tables that it’s possible. And I generally suggest rivers starting in the hills/mountains and ending in the ocean but I know that it doesn’t *have* to. And just as I accept that there are magic users in that world, or orcs, or dryads, or gigantic flying lizards, so must I accept that things aren’t going to work as they do on Earth and that’s ok because all that matters, is that people are playing a game and having an awesome time doing it.