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Visualizing the World Below

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So, I've had some posts on the topic name above in other boards - not sure I've ever brought them over here yet. So, why not begin?!?


It can be an interesting mental exercise to go back and forth between the Avernum and Exile games' artwork to try and establish one's preferred visual representation for the setting. It can be equally interesting to source things from the real world when doing this as well. Bringing some "science" into the fiction is what makes it stick, and I feel Jeff did this a lot, and I really appreciated it when I saw it in the games.


That said, I want to start out with the following video - I found it after looking for some cutlery stuff (people who like adventure games are into sharp things? Who knew!). It's a ruin in the American Southwest, and it just seems that similar architecture and stonework would be found in Avernum. Really cool stuff:




...Just might be worth contemplating next time you go on an imaginary adventure to the world below!

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Other boards??!!! Burn the heretic...  (which one/s?  Steam?  I'm always interested in any & all Spiderweb talk)


Visualizing Avernum has always been difficult for me.  Over the years I've done some spelunking here & there & living in KY I've been to Mammoth Caves a few times & have seen some incredible sights.  Even so, while I know that it's set deep below the surface, I just can't wrap my head around the scale of Jeff's world.  Caverns & caverns dozens of miles across, underground seas (essentially), etc.  It's just 'so' big.  I love it & it's one of my favorite game settings I've ever come across ... but ... I often forget that I'm supposed to be miles below the surface of the world it exists in.


Anyway, yes I've often incorporated Pueblo architecture into my mental imaging of some of the cities.  With the building materials they & the Avernites had to work with, some crossover is easily imagined.

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Nope, don't do Steam. My Discord dialogues are supposed to be conversation pieces and not in-depth discussions, although they very easily turn into just that. That said, I am really happy that these boards still are in the old-school forum format, as it makes having technical conversations easy and very doable from the best typewriter of all, the personal computer!


The principal other board(s) I'm referring to are the Codex Integrum / Martialis boards, which are centered around traditional RPGs using Jean Chandler's dice pool rules. I've not done anything directly related to Avernum on the new Codex boards, but I did have a thread about this very subject on the old board:




...I have no idea how much longer that board might exist easily on the net, so someone finding this thread several years later might be at a disappointment. Furthermore, some of the links I posted over there are no longer easily accessible (probably would need the Wayback Machine for some of them). The referenced article from "The Boresight," which is an aviation blog, can be found below. Unfortunately, all of the referenced video footage (ANNA News) has been purged by YouTube. It seems the Empire is doing well with its censorship campaign, unfortunately:




...If you read the description of the man-made caves on the old Codex board, you'll get the gist of what I was seeing in the videos, however. Furthermore, if you consider a lot of the dungeons Jeff made in Avernum, complete with the transition from rough-hewn tunnels to finished tunnels, right-angle passages (which isometric games excel at), etc, a lot of those details were seen in the real world in the Syrian tunnels. Complete with heaps of garbage! So, it's confirmed that ISIS are/were in fact goblins. Who knew?!?


The other details I was really interested in were rock strata and biology. Regarding the latter - finding some of my old posts might be more convenient in that case (and fortunately there aren't thousands of them) - I think conventional biology is absolutely viable in Jeff's worlds (science fiction angle FTW!). However, it takes some additional factors to make it work. The post I'm focusing on in this case is the following:





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.


In short, your near-surface caves will follow the pattern of lit/entrance zones, twilight zones, and then dark zones. Here, conventional cave biology is valid. Then take the idea of the extended dark zone, and then due to different forms of life in Jeff's settings, you might eventually find that new twilight zone deep down where Exile begins. There's always a space for magic in all of this, but it becomes so much more intriguing when you pump up the science fiction!


...In any sense, that was the "other board" of note in this matter... though I also fell back to this one as well, I suppose.


I am interested to hear that Pueblo architecture also piqued your interest... might need to go back and determine if Andrew Hunter used any of that in his narrative illustrations for Av1 or Av2, though angular buildings are, not surprisingly, fairly universal in human architecture! Huh...


...I think the bigger challenge is making the ultra-stylized fortifications and walls in the original Avernum artwork make sense. Stylized stonework is nothing new, but would you in fact only see stuff like that at The Castle, or maybe a "ritzy town" like Formello? And then, for the places in-between, would you tend to see more conventional architecture, such as in the style suggested in the original Exile games or the remake Avernum games? I think that's my main point of focus architecture-wise. For instance, I recall making a doodle back when I was in college than was of Fort Duvno - it had rather simple "conventional walls," and then the "main tower" was built out into the lake, and some of the architecture there started to look a bit more stylized. If I can find that doodle someday, perhaps I will have to revisit it!

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  • 2 weeks later...

So, I watched this with the family the other day and was really pleased with it. It is the documentary, "The Real Lost World," which is about the Roraima plateau in Venezuela. The whole thing is a great watch, but the caves are the items of interest when it comes to an Avernum / Exile conversation. You can check out the link below to see said caves (barring any YouTube shenanigans), or you can scroll to the start of the video to watch the whole thing:




Some thoughts:


1. Most natural caves seem to be the result of erosion. Thinking about the kind of erosion that could keep forming caves deep underground in Exile is a bit creepy - what might incur something like a flash flood deep below the ground? An aquifer fissure, or something else? Might make for a very tense scenario for the writers out there.

2. I've tried to discuss animal life - insects in this case - in caves in some of my other threads - this documentary has just that! Scary crickets are scary...

3. Microbial life must be the primary contributor to the ecology of Exile. Actually, it is one of the primary contributors to life on Earth - much of the oxygen production comes from ocean algae, though according to NOAA, marine life uses the bulk of it:




...Perhaps one of the most important things to consider is that some forms of life might be a bit different in Exile as opposed to the world we know. Consider the "fungus plants," which in my view always existed in the underworld (see the Vahnatai, etc.) - they were simply adapted to better suit the humans that came in with the formation of the Kingdom of Avernum. Most fungi as we know them consume oxygen rather than producing it. However, perhaps a more plant-like fungus inhabits that region after the conceptualized extended dark zone mentioned once more in the previous post. OR, perhaps that fungus just tends work very closely with the bacteria that interact in creating a complex environment in which a variety of creatures can survive, if not thrive. Considering fungus, this was a good short and sweet educational article:



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  • 4 months later...

Watched this, and thought it might be a good addendum to the previous question-to-self on the matter of caves forming via flooding and erosion:




...If you might be curious about a description of a flooding cave, you have to look no further and just listen to what can happen. Furthermore, it is also a good recounting of what can happen to someone not prepared for the environment they're in. Rough stuff, for sure!

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