A monadnock, inselberg or kopje is a short but steep mountain rising out of lower or flatter terrain. Geologically, they are formed when a harder, erosion-resistant rock is surrounded by softer more readily eroded rock. After many years of weathering, the hard rock remains tall and unaffected, while the softer materials have worn far away. The resulting terrain is a steep cliff-face a little like a plateau, often adorned with vegetation on the top.
In arid or over-farmed environments, it's quite common for a monadnock to be a refuge for wildlife. The high rock retains topsoil and thick vegetation, where the lower more heavily traveled and eroded lands are barren in comparison. Steep cliffs at the edges of the monadnock serve to isolate the local lifeforms.
Named Real World Monadnocks
- House on the Rock is located on a monadnock in south central Wisconsin
- Mt. Monadnock, New Hampshire
- Pilot Mountain, North Carolina
- Rocca di Cavour, Piedmont
- Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro
- Suilven, Scotland
- "Weathertop" in Lord Of The Rings (especially that shown in the movies. IIRC, the novel doesn't specifically described it as such.)
- Maple White Land from Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World.
Game and Story Use
- A tall promontory of stone sharply jutting out above the plains or savanna below makes for a very defensible position. A castle, watchpost, or artillery position atop a monadnock would be quite secure. This could be a good place for the PCs to call home, or a significant challenge for their armies to assault.
- Fortified kopjes were regular nuisances to the British Army during the Boer war … some parts of the South African veldt have quite a few of them and a Boer kommando could easily fortify them and create small forts, often mutually supporting, with a good view over miles of terrain with little in the way of cover. Given a table topped kopje onto which they could haul light cannon things got a lot worse…
- Given the powerful rock and isolated nest of vegetation, a monadnock could easily be home or sanctuary to druids, elementalists, dryads, nature spirits, birdmen, etc. It may even be a sacred refuge of the Gods.
- The relative isolation of the monadnock is a perfect place for a Lost World, or at least a rare species not seen elsewhere.