What kind of natural or artificial weathering would have to go on to produce fantasy-like formations, what kind of geography and geology would have to be going on? I'm talking about formations like a terraced mountain that eventually forms a peak, small plateaus on thin rock legs, slanted ridges that point upwards, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ See (sea) stacks, with nice flower pots. This should convince you that there's not a single type of geology conducive to what you want, but slim chances to have plenty of such formations in any area (without magic) $\endgroup$ Nov 15, 2021 at 4:06
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    $\begingroup$ I think you should take some time to research what strange formations already exist in our world and how they are formed. And, each of those formations you did describe would probably need it's own separate set of circumstances and thus each it's own answer. Also I'll add that 'fantasy-like formations' is incredibly vague, even with the few that you described. Maybe first ask yourself what formations you Want to have, in detailed description, and then start to question how those specific ones would be formed, taking from that research on what formations Do exist and how they were formed. $\endgroup$
    – WordyBirdy
    Nov 15, 2021 at 5:49
  • $\begingroup$ @WordyBirdy what, not even an attempt to help Jacob orient himself into the... ummm... fantasy landscape, maybe offer him some leads what to look for? Not very WorldBuildy to my view. $\endgroup$ Nov 15, 2021 at 9:14
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Jacob! I'm not quite sure what you're asking here. What do you mean by "fantasy-like formation". Also, what is the worldbuilding related problem or issue you're looking to solve with your question? Check out our tour and help center and learn what WB is all about! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Nov 15, 2021 at 14:51

1 Answer 1


To get such "suspended and uplifting" rock formations you need:

  1. large inhomogeneity in resistance to erosion
  2. shaping factors to create the hard to erode forms in the first place
  3. time to let those factors act
  4. a huge amount of handwaving (careful with those, you may trigger a storm or something)

I can see a few ways to create this kind of forms (repeated warning: did I mention the huge amount of handwaving required?).

A special kind of volcano, which sometimes ejects easy to erode materials (ashes/tuff) and other times hard rock lava on top of them. It's rare on Earth and it doesn't look as good as you'd like for a fantasy-style setup, here's the Strawberry Volcanics as an example (sourced from "The Strawberry Volcanics: Generation of 'orogenic' andesites from tholeiite...[etc]" Arron Steiner & Martin J Streck - doi:10.1144/SP385.12)

Strawberry Volcanics - Section of 1000 m in thickness of lava flows of the Strawberry Volcanics exposed in the glaciated wall of Strawberry Mountain

And here's a closer image sourced from the same

8 m thick rhyolitic ash-flow tuffs intercalated with lava flows of the Strawberry Volcanics

Now that formation has thin tuff strata (and you'll need them thick) and sorta flat (and you need them varied, with columns, feet and slanted platforms leaning upward).

So you'll need to handwave:

  • thicker ashes
  • some torrential rains, to carve deep creeks and sinkholes connected by tubular discharge channels in the tuff layers, before the next hard lava flow gets in to fill them. Don't exaggerate with those rains, you don't want the entire tuff stratum to be carried away
    Alternatively (or additionally), you may use some well placed and sized earthquakes to create crevices in tuff that will be filled by the next lava flow.

Repeat the cycle a number of times with care and you may end with what you want.

A geology and biology shaping the underground that gets exposed from erosion later. I offer you "the fossil forest" near the Portland, Victoria, Australia.

Which is *absolutely not an actual fossil forest. The tubes were created by the root of the plant penetrating a strongly mineralized layer, which created channels in which the minerals on top slowly percolated into the soft sediments below and created those hollow cylinders (the so called solution pipes - PDF warning - have a look on the figure 11 at PDF page 8 for something that shows columns).

There are quite a number of competing explanations for the formation of those specific structures.

Read more about different methods of differential mineralisation and handwave some dynamic processes that can get what you want.
E.g. you may postulate some intermittent mud volcanoes to provide additional minerals in layers and/or around different trees or other shapes that were created in between eruptions.

Petrified forest, Portland, Australia

speaking of spectacular formations in limestone

(I have a weakness for islands, does it show?)

Strictly biogenic formation

There are a number of problems with those, as they are created mainly under water by marine organisms that can afford to "go high" because floating in water is so much easier than in air. As such, handwave as you see fit because:

  • you'll need to invent a way to dry the water around -maybe they were in a mountain lake that, incidentally, got drained? I wouldn't go with a slow raise of the seabed, because...
  • ... the "biogened" formations aren't usually made of very hard rock, so they'll get weathered away pretty fast on geological scale.
  • they usually aren't very high/large, so you'll maybe need to inject some steroids

Nevertheless, a special mention goes here to stromatolits, with some showing quite towering silhouettes in a... what do you know?... a mountain lake that can be drained with vigorous enough handwaving.

enter image description here


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