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80+ Mountain Features For Fantasy Worldbuilding37 Min Read

80+ Mountain Features For Fantasy Worldbuilding37 min read

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Hills and volcanoes, peaks and passes! Welcome back, Outlander, to the 8th entry in Mythic Ecology, my series on how learning real-world landscape features can enrich our fantasy worldbuilding and storytelling. In this post I return to my minimalist framework for Dungeon Masters, Game Masters, fiction writers, and similar worldbuilders to merge the realms of general myth and geomorphology. Last entry we looked at tundra. As I resume my journey sketching a framework for designing Yridia, my unique D&D 5e fantasy world, let’s learn some mountain and hill terms, with a visual guide!

All the images herein I use for educational and entertainment purposes, I claim no rights to any of them. For corrections or content removal requests, hit my contact page.

Part 0: Mythic Ecology For Fantasy Worldbuilding & Storytelling
-Settlements
-Omens
-Overlooks
-Passageways
-Abyss
-Battlegrounds

Part 1: Five Types of Mountains
-Mountain
-Block Mountain
-Dome
-Fold Mountain
-Plateau Mountains / Erosional Mountains
-Volcano

Part 2: Special Mountain Terrain
-Badlands
-Bajada
-Cirque Glaciers
-Mountain Range
-Shield Volcano
-Sky Islands
-Stratovolcano
-Somma Volcano
-Tuya

Part 3: Ridges & Terraces
-Ridges
-Terraces
-Anticline
-Arete
-Bratschen
-Cirque Steps / Cirque Stairway
-Cuesta
-Fault Scarp
-Flatiron
-Homoclinal Ridge / Strike Ridge
-Hogback
-Monocline
-Nunatak / Glacial Island
-Paha Ridges / Loess Ridges
-Syncline
-Terracette
-Truncated Spur

Part 4: Peaks & Passes
-Batholith
-Cliff
-Col / Gap / Notch
-Lava Spine
-Mountain Pass
-Pinnacle / Tower / Spire / Needle / Natural Tower
-Pyramidal Peak / Glacial Horn
-Saddle
-Summit / Acme / Apex / Mountain Peak / Zenith
–Double Summit / Double Peak / Twin Summit / Twin Peak

Part 5: Hills
-Hills
-Brae / Hillside
-Breast-Shaped Hill
-Butte
-Cinder Cone
-Conical Hill
-Crag / Crag & Tail
-Cryptodome
-Dome
-Lava Dome
-Drumlin
-Foothills / Piedmonts
-Hillock / Knoll / Knowe
-Hornito
-Inselberg / Monadnock / Flyggberg
–Bornhardt
-Kuppe
-Mogote
-Nubbin
-Pingo
-Puy
-Rolling Hills
-Spatter Cone
-Thrustfold Belts
-Tor / Castle Koppie / Kopje
-Tuff Cone / Ash Cone
-Volcanic Plug

Part 6: Flatlands
-Dissected Plateau
-Fell / Fjall
-Mesa / Table Hill
-Moorland / Moor
-Plateau
-Potrero
-Tepui

Part 7: Deposits
-Blockfield / Felsenmeer / Boulder Field / Stone Field
-Colluvium
-Fellfield
-Kame
-Scree

PART 0: MYTHIC ECOLOGY FOR FANTASY WORLDBUILDING & STORYTELLING

On the topic of Mountain worldbuilding, I recommend Famous Hippo’s Guide to the Mountains for D&D 5e.

Moving on, in The Anatomy of Story (2007), John Truby identifies the Mountain as a narrative symbol for greatness and strength, seclusion and meditation, discomfort and challenge. The realm of philosophy and revelation, tough highlands folk, and potentially lords and tyrants as well.

Let’s revisit my minimalist framework for my worldbuilding. The six archetype tags with which I will flag all the various real-world land features in my Mythic Ecology Series:

1. Settlements: habitable regions of either Work or Play, Familiar or Exotic, offering diverse narrative functions: a Day in the Life, Home Base, Personal Reasons, Gathering Supplies. Can subvert tropes with Ruins or Escape.
2. Omens: sensational, temporal, or particularly pointed features that offer narrative functions of forshadowing, and good or evil portents. Can subvert tropes with a Wild Goose Chase.
3. Overlooks: sites of magnitude and grandeur, living monuments which can function narratively for finding resolve, invoking spirits, or as a Call to Adventure. Can subvert tropes with Dread or Betrayal.
4. Passageways: transitional journeylands, including magical portals, functioning narratively for initiation and return, thresholds and tests, shortcuts and setbacks.
5. Abyss: a void or confined space presenting scarcity or temptation, desperation and danger. Can subvert tropes with a Timely Rescue or Secret Refuge.
6. Battlegrounds: sites fit for epic, sprawling encounters and climax conflicts. Can subvert tropes with Alternative Solutions.

Feel free to submit your own ideas, or draw outside the lines. Alright, let’s see how mountains and hills fit in.

PART 1: FIVE TYPES OF MOUNTAINS

Mountaina large landform that rises fairly steeply above the surrounding land over a limited area, and bigger than a hill.
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Block Mountain
Block Mountain – mountains formed by crust faults, where rocks have moved past each other from lifting or tilting, forming block mountains or horsts.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Dome
Dome mountains formed by uplift from magma and related igneous structures, or salt, or complex strata folding, developing a rounded mound shape.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Fold Mountain
Fold Mountain – mountains formed by tectonic plate collision, resulting in various types of folds.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Plateau Mountains

Plateau Mountains / Erosional Mountains mountains formed by erosion, with elevated flatlands, usually found near fold mountains.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Volcano

Volcano – mountains formed by a plate pushing below another, or at mid-ocean ridges or hotspots, as magma accumulates.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]

PART 2: SPECIAL MOUNTAIN TERRAIN

Otherworldly Incantations Desert Worldbuilding Badlands

Badlands – dry terrain with softer, highly-eroded sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils, lacking loose rock and vegetation, and marked by steep slopes as well as color displays alternating from dark black or blue coal stria, to bright clays, to red scoria.
[
Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Desert Worldbuilding Bajada

Bajada – a series of coalescing alluvial fans along a mountain front, formed as fan-shaped deposits of sediment, such as from flash floods in dry basins and playa lakes.
[Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Tundra Worldbuilding Cirque Glaciers

Cirque Glaciers – bowl-shaped valleys which contain glacial ice on mountainsides.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks, Abyss]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Mountain Range

Mountain Rangea geographic area containing several geologically related mountains.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Shield Volcano

Shield Volcano low profile volcano usually formed almost entirely of fluid lava flows.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Sky Island

Sky Islands isolated mountains surrounded by radically different lowland environments.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks, Abyss]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Stratovolcano

Stratovolcanotall, conical volcano built up by many layers of hardened lava and other ejecta.
[Omens, Overlooks, Passageways]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Somma Volcano

Somma Volcanoa volcanic caldera partially filled by a new central cone.
[Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Tuya

Tuyaa flat-topped, steep-sided volcano formed when lava erupts through a thick glacier or ice sheet.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Battlegrounds]

PART 3: RIDGES & TERRACES

Ridge – a chain of mountains or hills that form a continuous elevated crest.

Terrace a step-like landform consisting of a flat or gently-sloping surface bounded by a steeper slope, typically in a series.

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Anticline

Anticline an arch-like fold, typically convex, with its oldest beds at its core.
[Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Tundra Worldbuilding Arete
Arete – a narrow ridge of rock which separates two valleys, formed when two glaciers erode parallel U-shaped valleys, or two glacial cirques erode toward each other.
[Overlooks, Abyss]
Otherworldly Incantations Tundra Worldbuilding Bratschen
Bratschen – weathered ridges resulting from frost and wind wear, characterized by steep, rocky, rough, and bare slopes.
[Overlooks, Abyss]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Cirque Step

Cirque Steps / Cirque Stairway – a sequence of cirques.
[Overlooks, Passageways]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Cuesta

Cuesta – hill or ridge with a gentle slope on one side and a step slope on the other.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Passageways, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Fault Scarp

Fault Scarp a small step or offset on the ground surface where one side of a fault has moved vertically compared to another.
[Overlooks, Passageways]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Flatirons

Flatiron – a steeply sloping triangular landform created by the differential erosion of a steeply dipping, erosion-resistant layer of rock overlying softer strata.
[Overlooks, Passageways]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Homoclinal Ridge

Homoclinal Ridge / Strike Ridge – a ridge with a moderate sloping backslope and steeper frontslope.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Passageways, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Hogback Ridge

Hogbacka long, narrow ridge or a series of hills with a narrow crest and steep slopes of nearly equal inclination on both flanks.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Passageways, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Monocline

Monocline – a step-like fold in rock strata consisting of a zone of steeper dip within an otherwise horizontal or gently-dipping sequence.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Tundra Worldbuilding Nunatak

Nunatak / Glacial Island – exposed, often rocky element of a ridge, mountain, or peak not covered with ice or snow within an ice field or glacier. “Rognon” refers to a smaller one rounded by glacial action.
[Omens, Overlooks]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Paha

Paha Ridges / Loess Ridges – prominent hills oriented from northwest to southeast, usually with large loess deposits. Erosional remnants, often at interstream divides.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Syncline

Synclinea fold, usually concave, with younger layers closer to the center of the structure, typically but not always downward.
[Overlooks, Abyss]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Terracettes

Terracette a hillside ridge formed as saturated soil expands then contracts as it dries, causing downhill movement.
[Settlements, Omens, Passageways]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Truncated Spur

Truncated Spur – a ridge descending toward a valley floor or coastline, cut short.
[Omens, Overlooks, Passageways]

PART 4: PEAKS & PASSES

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Batholith

Batholith – a large mass of intrusive igneous rock, forming from cooled magma.
[Omens, Overlooks]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Cliff

Cliff – a vertical or near vertical rockface of substantial height.
[Omens, Overlooks, Abyss, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Col

Col / Gap / Notch the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks, usually difficult terrain. “Notch” refer to an especially rugged one. Contrasts with mountain pass.
[Omens, Overlooks, Passageways]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Lava Spine

Lava Spinea vertically growing monolith of viscous lava that is slowly forced from a volcanic vent, such as those growing on a lava dome.
[Omens, Overlooks]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Mountain Pass

Mountain Pass – a navigable route through a mountain range or over a ridge.
[Passageways, Abyss]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Spire

Pinnacle / Tower / Spire / Needle / Natural Tower an individual rock column isolated from others, shaped like a vertical shaft.
[Omens, Overlooks]

Otherworldly Incantations Tundra Worldbuilding Pyramidal Peak
Pyramidal Peak / Glacial Horn – angular, sharply-pointed mountain peak resulting from cirque erosion as three or more glaciers diverged from a central point. Often nunataks.
[Omens, Overlooks]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Saddle
Saddlethe region surrounding the highest point of the lowest point on the line tracing the drainage divide (col) connecting the peaks.
[Passageways, Battlegrounds]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Peak
Summit / Acme / Apex / Mountain Peak / Zenitha point on a surface higher in elevation than all points immediately adjacent.
[Omens, Overlooks]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Twin Peaks

Double Summit / Double Peak / Twin Summit / Twin Peaktwo points on a surface higher in elevation than all points immediately adjacent, separated by a col or saddle.
[Omens, Overlooks]

PART 5: HILLS

Hilla landform that extends above the surrounding terrain, but smaller than a mountain.

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Brae

Brae / Hillside – the side or brow of a hill.
[Overlooks, Passageways]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Breast Hills

Breast-Shaped Hill – a hill in the shape of a nippled breast, often with cultural associations of a Mother Goddess figure.
[Omens, Overlooks]

Otherworldly Incantations Desert Worldbuilding Butte

Butte – an isolated hill taller than its width, with steep, often vertical sides and a small, relatively flat top. Smaller than a Mesa or Plateau.
[Omens, Overlooks, Abyss, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Cinder Cone

Cinder Conea steep conical hill of loose pyroclastic fragments around a volcanic vent.
[Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Conical Hill

Conical Hill a landform with a distinctly conical shape, usually of volcanic, karst, or erosion origin.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Crag and Tail

Crag / Crag & Tail – a rocky hill or mountain isolated from other high ground. Formed as glaciers or ice sheets pass over resistant rock like granite. Frequently leaves a tail, a gradual fan or ridge with a tapered ramp.
[Overlooks]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Cryptodome

Cryptodomea roughly circular protrusion from slowly extruded viscous volcanic lava.
[Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Dome

Domea deformational landform of symmetrical anticlines intersecting each other at their peaks.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Passageways]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Lava Dome

Lava Domea roughly circular protrusion from slowly extruded viscous volcanic lava.
[Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss]

Otherworldly Incantations Tundra Worldbuilding Drumlin

Drumlin an elongated hill formed by glacial ice acting on underlying unconsolidated till or ground moraine.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Passageways, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Foothills

Foothills / Piedmonts – gradual increases in elevation at a mountain range’s base, higher hill range, or an upland area. Transition zones between lowlands and highlands, associated with alluvial fans and dissected plateaus.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Passageways]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Hillock

Hillock / Knoll / Knowe – a small hill.
[Omens]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Hornito

Hornitoconical structures built up by lava ejected through an opening in the crust of a lava flow.
[Omens, Passageway]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Inselberg

Inselberg / Monadnock / Flyggberg isolated rock hill or small mountain rising abruptly from relatively flat surrounding plain.
[Omens, Overlooks]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Bornhardt

Bornhardt a dome-shaped, steep-sided, bald rock outcropping. Subset of inselberg.
[Omens, Overlooks]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Kuppe

Kuppea rounded hill or low mountain, typically without a rock formation like a tor on top.
[Overlooks, Passageways]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Mogote

Mogotea steep-sided residual hill of limestone, marble, or dolomite on a flat plain.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Nubbin

Nubbin – a small and gentle hill with a bedrock core dotted by rounded residual blocks.
[Omens, Passageways]

Otherworldly Incantations Tundra Worldbuilding Pingo

Pingo – a mound of earth-covered ice, usually single. Related to palsa.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Abyss]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Puy

Puy – a conical volcanic hill, often overgrown.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks, Passageways]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Rolling Hills

Rolling Hills a series of low hills.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Spatter Cone

Spatter Conelandform of ejecta from a volcanic vent piled up in a conical shape after lava fountaining.
[Omens]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Thrustfold Belt

Thrustfold Belts mountainous foothills adjacent to deformations and differentiations arising from plate tectonics.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Passageways, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Tor

Tor / Castle Koppie / Kopje – a large, freestanding rock outcrop rising abruptly from the surrounding smooth and gentle slopes of a rounded hill summit or ridge crest. Sometimes refers to the hill itself.
[Omens, Overlooks]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Tuff Cone

Tuff Cone / Ash Cone landform of ejecta from a volcanic vent piled up in a conical shape, arising as magma interacts with water.
[Omens, Overlooks]

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Volcanic Plug

Volcanic Plug a volcanic object created when magma hardens within a vent on an active volcano.
[Settlements, Omens, Overlooks]

PART 6: FLATLANDS

Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Dissected Plateau
Dissected Plateauplateau severely eroded to the point of having a sharp relief, without folding, faulting, or metamorphosis.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Passageways, Battlegrounds]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Fell
Fell / Fjalla high and barren landscape, such as a mountain range or moor-covered hills.
[Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]
Otherworldly Incantations Desert Worldbuilding Mesa

Mesa / Table Hill – an elevated area with a flat top and steep cliff sides. Much larger than a Butte, but smaller than a Plateau. Forms from surviving erosion of surrounding area, with top layer resisting denudation of underlying rocks; often in arid areas.
[
Settlements, Overlooks, Passageways, Abyss, Battlegrounds]

Otherworldly Incantations Wetlands Worldbuilding Moor
Moorland / Moor – upland areas in temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands, montane grasslands and shrublands biomes with low-growing vegetation on acidic soils, uncultivated hills and low-lying wetlands. Appears where tundra retreat.
[Overlooks, Passageways, Battlegrounds]
Plateau – elevated upland with at least one steep side spread over a large area; bigger than a mesa or butte; formed from tectonic, volcanic, or erosive activity.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Passageways, Battlegrounds]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Potrero
Potreroa long mesa with one end sloping upward to higher terrain, usually at the flanks of a mountain, as part of a dissected plateau.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Passageways, Battlegrounds]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Tepui
Tepui an isolated, tabletop, highlands mountain or mesa from remnant sandstone, formed from monadnocks.
[Settlements, Overlooks, Battlegrounds]

PART 7: DEPOSITS

Otherworldly Incantations Tundra Worldbuilding Blockfield
Blockfield / Felsenmeer / Boulder Field / Stone Field – a surface covered by boulder- or block-sized angular rocks associated with subsurface frost weathering, created as larger rock breaks down into smaller.
[Passageways, Abyss]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Colluvium
Colluvium – loose, unconsolidated sediments deposited at the base of hillslopes by washes and gravity, composed of silt and rock fragments.
[Passageways]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Fellfield
Fellfield a slope, alpine or tundra, where freeze and thaw cycles and wind action support unique vegetation in rockfall deposits. Related to scree.
[Passageways]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Kame
Kame – an irregularly shaped hill or mound composed of sand, gravel, and till which accumulates in a depression on a retreating glacier, deposited as the glacier melts.
[Passageways]
Otherworldly Incantations Mountain Worldbuilding Scree

Scree – broken rock fragments at the base of steep rockfaces, pebble to plate sized, accumulated through periodic rockfall.
[Abyss]

FINAL THOUGHTS

I hope you enjoyed this eighth entry in my Mythic Ecology series! I look forward to continuing with it, I have some greater ambitions for developing this series into worldbuilding web tools. Give this a share if you liked it, and let me know in the comments if you have any feedback. I publish new posts on Tuesdays. In the meantime, I post original D&D memes and writing updates daily over on my site’s Facebook Page. Also, if you want to keep up-to-date on all my posts, check out my Newsletter Sign-Up to receive email notifications when I release new posts. A big thanks as always to my Patrons on Patreon, helping keep this project going: Anthony, Bewby, Chris, Eric & Jones, Geoff, Jason, Rudy, and Tom. Thanks for your support!

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Tril

D&D 5e blogger.

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