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Cave Fauna

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So, I am just musing about some things, and I was starting to wonder: were there cave wolves and bears in Exile? I know wolves were introduced in Avernum 3, but were they there previously in the original series?


I did consult Encyclopedia Ermarina's bestiary, but I'm not getting conclusive results. I also see that other critters have been added to the re-remakes, and likewise, some have also been removed. Are there any points of interest in this topic besides wolves? This might be a fun opportunity to muse about the potential science-fiction aspects of Jeff's creatures below ground.

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Rats and bats were in Exile 1 and 2, but the only other mammals were brought in with the Exiles, through the portal. I suspect the bats and rats came in with the Nephilim, but that's only a hunch on my part. Wolves and bears were introduced to the games in Exile 3, on the surface and in Upper Exile, not Exile proper. A wolf is being studied by Eva in Fort Emergence as an unfamiliar surface creature.

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Nice. There we go, at least I can confirm that part of Av3 was consistent with Ex3, then.


...Concerning animals in Exile is generally quite interesting. Cave ecosystems - and the animals therein -  in reality are dependent on light, and Jeff gets that light there through use of glowing fungus and toasty magma. The magma produces some noxious gasses which the cave fungus might gel with just fine, but from a brief bit of research, it seems real-life fungi do not in fact produce oxygen. Oxygen in Exile might in fact be most ascribable to bacteria, which might be cheerily doing its thing in the vast subterranean seas down there:




...Indeed, consider that a LOT of Earth's O2 comes from bodies of water and the organisms which live in them. However, given the fantasy / science fiction setting in Exile, it's possible that some flavor of fungus is in fact pushing out air to breathe. That is more than likely the case with "natural cavewood" throughout the underworld of Ermarian as well as the "GMO" stuff spread throughout Exile. There must also be enough nutrients in place for any fungus to grow at all (and its deposition must be regular and consistent), and that suggests a relatively stable and robust lifecycle down there for general survival of all the underworlds inhabitants, well before the First Expedition or the First Avernites...


COUGH, that was a strange rant, where was I? By the way, I have another relevant rant on this matter over here: http://spiderwebforums.ipbhost.com/topic/24695-an-artificial-sun-in-avernum/?tab=comments#comment-308037


Back to concerning animals. I asked about wolves as one of my theories of the underworld is that, one of the reasons the Empire does the things it does is to increase the suffering of the living, all the while keeping them alive. Wolves are potentially one of those creatures that could help with life as a resource, yet they would also be one of those creatures that would serve to make life more difficult. However, that's clearly only an Avernum 3 concern, unless you consider the addition of things like hellhounds to the re-remakes (which I've only learned about just now). Concerning wolves - did they become a pest in Upper Avernum at any point? I cannot recall...


To wrap up on the "Empire prolongs suffering by prolonging life" idea, I think this notion is exemplified by the cave cow. Why else would you send livestock down to the people you consider undesirable, and generally wish to see dead... if not to extend their period of suffering?


However, to the question / concept offered above, I would then ask this (perhaps a bit strangely): in the re-remakes, was Avernum re-imagined to be a penal colony, where the Exiles would be intended to work the caves, and the Empire would later be able to annex the lands below? I get this impression from some entries on Encyclopedia Ermarina, though as I've not toyed with the most recent games, I just don't know. If this is not the case, it's really just about as chilling as the concept before, and would be a great plot point regardless. /Subrant over.

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...I hadn't even thought to consider goblins. I wonder what the precise source of inspiration for Jeff's goblins were? Although EE repeats what you probably already think of them, Jeff always takes the time to concoct a story which counters your sentiments. For instance, breeding, taming, and training is no mean feat, yet the goblins are "dim." Anatomically, I suppose you have a humanoid which surpasses any "monkey" at an intellectual level, yet aside from knives and magic, would definitely lose to a chimp in a fight. Then again, a normal person would certainly lose to a chimp in a fight, so perhaps that's a moot point. Maybe there's a tinge of Skaven in there, given the vermin-like qualities?

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Hmm. Well, perhaps the entire idea of the goblin is that it is part-way between a man and a rat (hence my Skaven reference). They are much like vermin, and they get everywhere. I cannot recall, are goblins also down in the Vahnatai lands as well? Exile originally could be accessed from the surface to an extent, so if Exile always had an ecosystem (which it would have to for anything at all to live down there in the first place - and it certainly did /does, as the Slith were there before the "First" Expedition), there is no reason to not think that goblins could have subsisted down there if they ever ventured down there for any reason at all. Going back to animals, that concept also would work for bats and rats, as well as other critters (including the various lizards and dragons), so the idea that they are not native to the caves starts to seem a bit ridiculous, really. At least if this vein of thought is starting to sound reasonable, that is.


As per the goblins in upper Avernum / Exile, you could roll with the "vermin" concept, that they just get into places without really knowing how, or alternately (and more interestingly), perhaps they were always there? Perhaps that particular upper cavern is not as secure as the "more evolved" humanoids believe. After all, the Cult of the Sacred Item set up a major operation up there without really drawing attention to their whereabouts until they absolutely had to be dealt with - this included producing quite a substantial, and likely self-sufficient, settlement and fortification. There are probably cracks and openings to the surface in that part of Exile which aren't known to people, but goblins are well, goblins. Just like rats are rats.


I will ascribe some of these positions from the standpoint that I feel keeping magic in check is very important for a story. If magic is allowed to be excessively powerful, or without limits, then what stopped Garzahd from simply destroying Avernum on a whim, or Erika from snapping her fingers to kill the Emperor? Likewise, I am opposed to the idea that magic alone, from the wielders of that magic, is the sole thing which makes the caves livable. It certainly makes life better, but that life was always there. Even Rentar-Ihrno does not "create" life from scratch - she mutates and adapts it from what already exists. I always liked... at least the concept of magic in Avernum / Exile. The game and story are seemingly equal parts fantasy and science fiction. You have the various equivalents of scientific professionals in their respective duties, and they take those duties very seriously. They run laboratories and perform experiments, etc. In fact, part of the reason those elements of the story stick with me so much is that I ended up pursuing and obtaining a scientific degree (engineering), and the blend of fantasy and function becomes very apparent - I love it! That aspect of Avernum / Exile's storytelling certainly has to be based on Jeff's own experience, which is Applied Mathematics, I believe. The attention to detail around centers of learning and research in the games most definitely did not arise out of a vacuum.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Another item of interest to consider: insect life. The giant spiders - not technically insects - are noted to consume very LARGE insects in the caves. What these insects are is not always defined. So on that note, I would ask this: when were giant roaches introduced? I know these only first appeared in Avernum 3, but did they appear earlier in the Exile series? Just filling in a knowledge gap here on that one...


Otherwise, there are chitrachs from the lower caves. Encyclopedia Ermariana gives some notes on their lifecycle, though I am not sure from memory how much of that might be "canon." I only bring up the mention of "canon" as I don't recall the bits about their breeding cycle, though their nests can be fairly well distributed in the "hive cluster" areas - I want to say the best example of that was in the Resting Cell... whateveritscalled... in Exile / Avernum 2. Regardless, the entry there is still great for developing a setting or scenario.


That said, are there any ideas on what the "giant bugs" might actually be in the upper caves? Are we dealing with dipterans (giant, nasty flies), beetles, or even ants or wasps? If these organisms are prevalent enough to feed very large spiders - or maybe even goblins - it seems strange that they are not of more note in normal gameplay. I figure this can be attributed to either oversight or a conscientious decision to avoid some rather serious "nightmare fuel" in the games.

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  • 1 month later...

I see there was not much of an interest in investigating insects, but no matter - I saw this some time ago, and I'm going to make a case for it now:


Avernum has a lot of swamps near its great underground lakes. Avernum also has its occasional amphibians - mostly the magical fiery salamanders. But what if there was also something more akin to rats in the underground, but of the amphibian variety? I therefore propose that Avernum should in fact have giant killer murdertoads:




...That is a Giant African Bullfrog. THESE THINGS HAVE TEETH. And they also eat rodents if they can...


(For more fun, watch that while listening to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM5DOSC0jUo)


Look, if there can be giant killer mushrooms, dog-sized rats, and pony-sized slugs, you really should have horrifying bullfrogs in your underground swamps. Just sayin'.



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  • 7 months later...

Another random thought for the writer, daydreamer, and anyone else who contemplates Avernum:




...I'm curious about thoughts on this. Mammals (rats and bats, and also cats!), bugs, and lizards seem to do well enough in the underworld of Ermarian. The former were either always there or managed to make the trek into the lands below - I like my thoughts on this manner from a different post I made some time ago:



The note on the Nephils in the caves at the time of the first expedition is interesting, and it ties into some of my other musings in the Cave Fauna thread (Original Avernum Series Board). I get the impression that the caves were always hard to get into, but they were never cut off from the surface until there was an active push to do so. So, various groups (like people, even) could go down there if they were so inclined. I like to imagine that the uppermost caves on Ermarian are not unlike caves on Earth, and follow the same general "zone" patterns and life cycle patterns as we are familiar with. Crossing an extended "dark zone" would be dangerous and quite challenging, but it would certainly be possible. Eventually crossing into what could be considered Exile would probably be quite a surprise - suddenly, there's somehow some semblance of light (I don't buy into the "Exile used to be dark before people" bit), and there seems to be this transition from no light and life to just the opposite. Think of it like reversing the cave zones - kinda - after a really long and treacherous walk:




...So, if there were Nephil down in Exile during the time of the First Expedition, they or their ancestors would have had a good reason to make that trek: the Empire was certainly busy killing them off at that time. That concept alone would make for a great story: the Nephil tribe that risked everything fleeing into an endless cavern or face extermination at the hands of the Empire.


Other creatures would have also been able to make that journey if you take to that idea: bats, rats, goblins, etc. However, there is also something to the idea of the Empire sending down pests... just to make the Avernites all the more miserable (with the sick twist of potentially also keeping them fed).


Source: https://spiderwebforums.ipbhost.com/topic/26054-a-few-lore-questions/?tab=comments#comment-313122


...In the case of birds, I imagine several species would do just fine. Unlike rats, bats, or perhaps goblins, birds would definitely have to be sent down to the caves intentionally, much in the same way cows would be sent into the caves. The only exceptions to this might be in Upper Avernum, where direct access to a cave system might be attainable. I imagine you'd potentially end up with "cave sparrows" or "cave swallows," especially the latter if you want to borrow from the likes of Dwarf Fortress. Otherwise, a deep cave just doesn't seem to be the habitat where a bird would venture in further... but then, I'm not an ornithologist.


Cave owls would be a natural choice to consider for cave fauna, but much like my questions about huge bugs... they are probably more in line with the written, literary part of the adventure rather than the part one interacts with. Unless the bugs are attacking the player, they tend to be something which could be there, but they have to be written about in dialogue for any acknowledgement of them to be made. I presume the same thing of birds.

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