Everyday Life In Araea

Listen, we can't all be farmers or fancy poets.  
— Saddar, Dung-Shoveller
  Life in Araea is a constant struggle for survival in an inhospitable world. Civilization balances on the edge of extinction, monsters roam the dark, and nobles scheme or war against one another. In the background, ordinary folk try their best to get through another day and put food on the table. There is never an end to all the work that needs to be done for a society to function.   From Saen-Kaw athletes to noble-princes and destitute paupers, these are some of the day-to-day lives that can be found in the caverns.  


The stench of damp mushrooms penetrated the cloth wrapped around Petra's face and filled her nostrils. She grunted as she hefted the heavy barrel along, the bottom scraping against the moss-covered stone. In front of her lay another endless day of tending the shroom, chasing bugs, and cutting mold from the crops. The ways in which trouble found the little farm never ceased to amaze her, with the scars to remind her of every one of them. She stooped low as the tunnel's ceiling shrunk down and struggled through the last ten yards before reaching the first orchard.   At least here, there was light. Fireflies danced among the rotting heaps of fungi and dead bugs. Some of the shrooms gave off a soft, blueish light, but it was as much by habit as sight that Petra navigated the cramped cavern. Once the compost had been spread among the growing crops, the empty barrel had to be filled again with mushrooms that showed signs of disease, rot, or parasites. Already, her back ached and her mask had turned a sickly greenish-black from spores.   Petra cut and pulled mushrooms from the soil spread on the cavern flow before dumping it into the barrel but paused as she came to the second patch. The scattered crop of fungi was pulled together tightly and bloated into a fleshy grey hue. Beside it was another pod like it, but splayed open with ichor trailed away from it.   When the pod recoiled from the cut of her blade and hissed at her, Petra stumbled back and ran.
  With no seasons to bring rain or cold, agriculture in Araea instead relies on rare caverns where life can reliably be grown. Mushroom and fungi form the most common crop and the staple of most diets in Araea, supplemented with a wide variety of lichens, mold, and stranger things. Farm-caves range in scale from a single grotto that helps feed a village to massive operations that sprawl across multiple caverns. There are almost no farms on the Surface, with the Blighted soil incapable of growing anything fit for human consumption. When the rare pockets of life are found, they are treasured more than any weight of gold.   The life of a farmer is hard. They tend foul-smelling crops in cramped tunnels and damp caverns, feeding them fertilizing slurry made from bugs, bones, shells, and even corpses. Parasites and disease are constant hazards for both crops and farmers alike. Mold and insects are capable of devastating entire harvests, damning countless to famine. When farms need to be expanded, it is often the farmers who swing the pick. Without seasons, there is no pause to the labor and no end to the work that needs to be done. Neglect or over-exploitation leads to starvation.   Farmers often double as ranchers, herding a smattering of beasts for consumption or use. The most common are insects - maggots, larvae, centipedes, and spiders. Other, larger ranches keep animals and monsters like cave lizards, Duǎn-Kah Fungi-Eel, or Khtam, among others. These ranches supplement the cave-dwellers diet of mushroom and mold with meat, blood, or bone. Chitin and shells are fundamental ingredients in the corpse-crafting art of Cadaverurgy, providing Araeans with tools, weapons, armor, and clothes, and a thousand other things. Everything finds a use, from cooking to crafting - very little goes to waste.  
by Jason Thompson
  Almost as important as food, many crops or creatures provide light, fuel, or other tools essential for civilization to continue. The Cave-Capped Hatter in particular is used to make everything from furniture to rope, making it a vital and profitable crop. Other types are used for medicine, dyes, or recreation, while fungi like Horoi save humanity from drowning in their own filth.   Farms are supplemented by hunting, fishing, or foraging the wild caves. A single successful expedition can spare or doom a community, and explorers who brave the dark in search of resources are treated as heroes. Despite this, there is never enough for everyone. It is rare even for the wealthy to live a life free from hunger.    


The trek continued to be one of the worst that Yeseult had ever seen. Not only had her usual route been cut off by a cave-in, but the path that they had taken instead was proving dangerous and expensive. Already, one of the Khtam had been crippled when climbing the steep tunnel slope, and they had set camp to butcher the creature.   Three remained, with the cargo of dried mushroom, metals, and trinkets loaded into the bins and barrels strapped to their sides or loaded into the sleds. Still, if they made it- when they made it, Yeseult corrected herself- they stood to make a fortune.   It was no secret that the town of Gherret had seen several harvests lost to rot and parasites. Once the Khtam had been taken apart and the carcass loaded onto the remaining animals, the journey could continue. Hunger was always good for business.   One of the other Khtam was looking sick, with some sort of fungi or mold growing out from underneath its shell, but it was no matter. It just needed to carry its cargo a little further.
  Trade binds civilization together - it brings goods to where they are needed and spread information that would otherwise remain isolated. Though travel through the winding tunnels and labyrinthine caves is difficult, there are always some who will risk life and limb for fortune. Some routes are carved through the caverns, reinforced with bridges and tolls, but such Deep Roads are rare, each taking centuries to complete. These relatively safe roads are precious and vital lines of commerce and communication. Without them, humanity would be little more than isolated hamlets.   How much can be carried is often limited by the geography of the underworld. What few boats cross the Abyss are crude, capable of only limited cargo, so merchants make up for it with vast caravans or fleets. Some merchant-trains stretch for miles to accommodate all the goods they wish to sell, while others settle for smaller, more valuable merchandise. Every member of such expeditions knows that not everything, or everyone, will make it to the destination. But that's the cost of doing business.  

by Leroy Steinmann

  Successful merchants become influential figures in their societies, capable of turning feast to famine, or the opposite. As such, many have a complicated view on the merchants, with some despising them as leeches and parasites while still requiring the goods and services they provide. In many settlements, it is the merchants who rule, not king or clergy.   Merchants face many dangers, from bandits to wild beasts to hazardous quirks of the underworld, but city-states rely on them to survive. Others stay closer to home, operating stalls and bazaars, drug dens, and butcher shops, providing countless wares across the world. There's not a day that goes by without coin changing hands.      


The Atha crawled forward, groping their way through the dark. Shann was first in the line and tested the descending incline of the ground with her hands, stopping every now and then as the path became unsafe. First the farm, now the merchants that would have brought food... Shann ducked and kept her head low.   In the gloom, nothing warned them of the cavern ceiling above or the stalactite jutting down like great fangs, and something banged against her metal cap. Shann's muscles ached when they finally reached the bottom, but the carapace-shell armor had kept her from too many scrapes.   There was a sickly-sweet stench in the air, and the light of the torch fell on a cocoon of pulsating fungi. Shann found the missing merchants. The blood splattered against the stone underneath it was still wet.   Whatever had caused this was still near.
  Araea is a dangerous world, filled with lurking terrors and desperate people. Every step and every inch of human rule has been contested and bloody. To survive in deep, mankind has always had to fight. From conquering armies to levy guards, the warriors of Araea fight across gloomy caverns and labyrinthine cities for every reason there is.   Fighting in the underworld of Araea is never easy, with oppressive darkness and dizzying twists of terrain. Even the cities shrouded in gloom, and rarely are combatants afforded the luxury of an even footing. A lit torch guides the way just as surely as it brings unwanted attention back to the one who holds it. Caverns force warriors to climb or crawl and navigate around chasms and shifting tunnels to even reach their foes. Cave-ins, poisonous miasma, or exploding fungi can fell a warrior just as surely as any spear. Just making it to the battlefield is an ordeal not everyone survives.   The surface is no better, with arctic temperatures and Blight more dangerous than the battle itself. Worse still, the predators of Araea are often able to navigate these troubles with impunity and strike without warning - some, like the Mahu'ca, are a match for an army all by themselves.   Though a thousand unknown horrors threaten from the darkness, other people remain one of the most frequent predator of man. Bandits, raiders, cannibal-cults all cause trouble equal to any monster.  

by Hideki Miyashita

Most warriors in Araea are not professional soldiers but drafted levy troops or enthusiastic amateurs who play at being warriors, engaging in seasonal raids or skirmishes. Standing armies are almost unheard of, and bands of disciplined, hardened warriors capable of battling in formation are worth the weight of all their slain foes in gold. Many cultures instead value individual prowess as the most important aspect of a warrior, treasuring virtues such as skill at arms, loyalty, and personal bravery.   Only the most massive caverns allow armies to march on one another, and even then, the scarcity of supplies makes such warfare impractical and rare. War is predominantly fought by small bands of warriors, ranging from about a dozen to a hundred. Such conflicts see many different warbands often act independently of one another across the countless miles of tunnel and cave, each attempting to get a drop on the other. Warfare in Araea is just as much about bluster, shows of force, and maneuvering as it is about fighting and killing.    


The rope creaked as Thera climbed down from the cliffside and past the opening that divided the Inner Shell from the Far Deep. She paused when her boots hit the ground, then continued an inch into the soft, sponge-like film that covered the stone.   She tugged the rope once, then moved out of the way for the next in her party to descend. Shadows flickered wildly across the cave as she struck flint against steel and set her torch ablaze. She raised it and shone the very first light ever cast in this cave. Flickering lights glinted off something bone-like and purple, growing like jagged scars across the fungi floor.   Thera smiled; every step from here would take them into places unknown.
  Adventurers and explorers look into the darkness and see not terror but opportunity; a chance to leave the thankless life of a farmer, or for glory and wealth. Others see a world filled with unknowns and wonder what secrets they hide. That many who tread the adventurer's path disappear without trace do little to discourage those who follow, confident that they will not meet the same fate.   Daring Kaia plunge into regions unknown while the Blight-Trackers explore the irradiated surface. Araea holds many treasures still undiscovered, and where there is fortune, there are those who will seek it. Adventurers occupy an odd place in most societies in Araea, usually skirting the expected social structure while at the time supporting it through their daring. It is the explorer who finds new sources of food, maps new routes across the darkness, or treks the surface to claim riches found nowhere else. Without them, humanity would stagnate in the dark.   Experienced adventurers are some of the most knowledgeable people in Araea, having seen things others can only dream of and escape relatively unscathed. Many settle down when slowed by injury and age, becoming scholars and experts that help humanity adapt and advance. Through them, a new generation learn what it takes to survive in a world where everything seems out to get them, and so they push a little further out into the unknown.   From the alien lands of the Far Deep to lost cities and brave new vistas, there is always something to find for those who dare. In most places, to be an adventurer is an accepted and even honored path: but most agree, you have to be crazy to walk it.        

by Finnian MacManus

Welcome to Araea
Generic article | Jan 30, 2021

Welcome to Araea; a weird-fantasy world set mostly deep underground amidst darkness and desperation, horror and heroism.

Farming & Food

Agriculture in Araea
Technology / Science | Feb 23, 2019

From farming fungi to ranching spiders, agriculture in Araea is as unpleasant as it is crucial. A well-kept farm is all that stand between feast and famine.

Cuisine in the Caves: Overview
Generic article | Sep 5, 2020

You'd be surprised what can be edible.

Chnagahn - Bug Pot Party
Item | Sep 1, 2020

A favorite in the caves, Chnagahn is not simply a meal but an event.

Species | Feb 23, 2019

Docile, crab-like beasts of burden and scavengers. Khtam are common both in captivity and in the wild.

by Ralph McQuarrie
Sometimes the lines between farming and ranching mushroom get blurry.

Coin & Courage

Trade in Araea
Generic article | Feb 23, 2019

Despite the difficulties of travel and transportation, commerce cross the span of Araea in search of profit.

Coin and Currency
Tradition / Ritual | Feb 23, 2019

From coin to carapace, as long as its easy to carry and valuable enough to bother with, it can be currency.

Travel in Araea
Generic article | Aug 7, 2021

Between dangerous beast and labyrinthine caverns, travel through Araea is often difficult and dangerous, and almost always unpleasant.

Tradition / Ritual | Feb 23, 2019

Although growing in importance in facilitating commerce between city-states, banking is still in its infancy in Araea.


Arms & Armor

Atha - Hand of War
Military Formation | Jun 8, 2019

Atha is the smallest formation commonly used in Araea. A squad of warriors between 8 to 12, they fight most of the wars and do most of the dying.

Warfare in Araea
Tradition / Ritual | Dec 22, 2018

Warfare in Araea is a complicated affair, but humanity have always been able to figure out a way in which they can kill each other.

Melee Weapons in Araea
Technology / Science | Mar 11, 2019

For up close and personal. In the darkness, you might not see your foe until he is already upon you.

Ranged Weapons in Araea
Technology / Science | Mar 11, 2019

The best way to fight is often out of range of retaliation is the philosophy of any archer.

Khatib - the Host of War
Military Formation | Dec 30, 2018

The Khatib or the Host of War is a military formation of medium size, consisting of around 90 to 130 men, separated into individual Atha squads.


Fame & Fortune

Kaia - The Explorers of the Deep
Profession | Apr 29, 2019

Explorers and adventurers, the title of Kaia goes to those that seeks the path and find things in the darkness.

Profession | Aug 30, 2020

Experts in navigating the shifting maze of radiation on the Surface, Blight-Trackers are some of the best explorers of the Surface world.

The Seekers
Organization | Mar 11, 2019

The Seekers are one of the largest Kaia guilds today, with headquarters in many different city-states.

Profession | Dec 17, 2018

The Hākari-Kaia are a specialized group of the Kaia that focus their attention the procurement of delicious food and rare ingredients.


Don't think of it as shoveling shit; think of it as saving the city from a tide of horror. Doesn't help the smell, but maybe it'll help your mind.  
— Saddar, Dung-Shoveller
  A thousand things need doing for civilization to survive, let alone thrive, in the dangerous depths of Araea. There is always something lacking - food, space, light, or security. Ceaseless labor keeps city-states and villages from slipping towards extinction. In the rare times of plenty, such energy is instead channeled into great projects of art, construction, or wonders of artifice. Only when the last human falls in the dark will the sound of toil cease.  


We were made without fangs or claws, without scale or hide to shield us. We made our own.
  To survive, mankind needs tools. From stone or metal, or the corpses of the dead, artisans craft whatever is necessary to get the next task done. In Araea, very little goes to waste - a dead beast is a treasure trove of raw material, and the cadaver-crafters have long learned to use every scrap.   Chitin can be turned into clothing, bones into needles or buttons, claws to daggers, or even swords. Everything finds use, in some form.  
Technology / Science | Jun 6, 2020

The art of turning flesh, bone, blood and ichor into thing useful, beautiful or brutal.


Pain is fleeting. Glory is eternal. Now, sing with me.
  Though life is hard, it is not without joy. Artists turn stone and crystal into breath-taking sculptures, while Saen-Kaw athletes delight crowds with displays of athleticism and cunning violence. Nowhere will the promise of entertainment find a closed door.   Song, dance, and music resound through the caverns with every celebration, and Rakes turn insults into entertainment for spectators.    
Tradition / Ritual | Aug 30, 2020

A game of counting coup, played in teams. From a beginning in war as a test of courage and skill, it is now one of the most widely practiced sports in the deep.


It's gone. Grab as many eggs as you can, then run.
  Farming can only do so much - most in Araea rely on foraging to get what they need. Few have never had to quietly skulk out into the dark, picking through the tunnels for something edible or useful.   Hunters bring home not only meat, but raw material for Cadaverurgy artisans to turn into all manner of things.          
Travel in Araea
Generic article | Aug 7, 2021

Between dangerous beast and labyrinthine caverns, travel through Araea is often difficult and dangerous, and almost always unpleasant.



Honor the dead.
  The funeral rites of the Shikei ensure the deceased a place of honor or disgrace, as befits their lives. Always practical and with little room to store a corpse, Shikei uses only the skull of the dead - the rest is meat, left to fertilize fields.   Artisans and priests, the Shikei practitioner adorn the skulls with elaborate carvings and decorate them with everything from the horns and tusks of wild beasts to plates of gold or gemstones hammered into bone.  
Tradition / Ritual | Nov 4, 2019

The tradition of treating the dead in Araea, both friend and foe.


There's really something special about that feeling you get when that last torch goes out.
  In a world shrouded in darkness, creating light is an honored, ancient craft. From bioluminescence fungi or the glowing Ahi Bugs, illumination has been just as important as food or water.   Light-makers are a varied lot; dealing with dangerous alchemy, unstable mineral, or angry beasts to expand humanity's pool of light, inch by inch and coin by coin.        
Darkness and Light
Generic article | Feb 2, 2019


Everyone has a vice, everyone has a price, and everyone has a pound of flesh to give.
  Honest labor in Araea is difficult, backbreaking, and often dangerous. It is no wonder that some prefer to take what someone has already struggled so much for instead.   Besides bandits and thieves, there are smugglers, gamblers, fraudsters, and more, turning a talent for deceit or violence into a way of living.      
The Corpse-Walkers
Organization | Dec 1, 2019

Cannibals, corpse-riders and criminals with a hidden agenda.


Fetch the branding iron and the leeches, and make it quick.
Injury or illness are certainties in this life and come in startling, imaginative variety. The caves and their inhabitants seem able to maim a tresspasser in countless ways, and labor in polluted tunnels and filth-stewn farms all but ensures misery. Parasites and infestations plague both beast and human endlessly, some warping their victim to new beings entirely.   In this mess, doctors do the best they can, with a combination of blind faith, superstition, and folk-remedies. Surgery is still in its infancy, attempted only as a last resort due to its high mortality rate. Only the desperate submit to the surgeon's knife.
The adversity faced by mankind has bred a particularly inventive, experimental kind. No matter what horrors they encounter, there's always someone who'll wonder what it tastes like.

Hey!   Your support means the world to me! If you liked the article, why not consider leaving a like, and a comment to let me know what you thought? It keeps me going!   Thanks for reading!


Please Login in order to comment!
17 Jun, 2020 13:50

Really excellent read and a very fleshed out setting! A quick grammar correction is needed for the first sentence of the merchant section though. "Trade bind civilization together" (traders or binds)

17 Jun, 2020 14:55

Thank you very much! :D I am very glad to hear you think so and enjoyed to read!   (Fixed it too! <3 )

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
15 Jul, 2020 11:14

I really enjoyed this one! Amazing way to get a clear and comprehensive window into Araea while still leaving tons of material to read through.

15 Jul, 2020 11:31

Thank you! :D I'm glad to hear that!   One of the fun things about writing for Araea is figuring out just what day to day life looks like in such an environment. I'm glad it worked! :D   Thank you so much for reading and commenting <3

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
14 Dec, 2020 01:45

I really enjoyed reading this! I especially liked the glimpses into the minds of each of the professions. You have a talent for painting with words.

Choose your poison:   Phasmatum: An Afro-Solar-Fantasy world created for my epic novels.
Adazuri: A shonen-inspired magitech fantasy world home-brewed for 5e.
14 Dec, 2020 13:18

Aw, thank you very much :)   Araea is a bit of a strange world, so it has always been important to me to show people just how their daily lives are in such alien circumstances

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
7 Aug, 2021 22:35

This was a very in-depth article. Pun intended :D Seriously, I loved all the details about every profession and how they fight to survive!

Am I writing or procrastinating? Take a guess and visit Hanzelot
8 Aug, 2021 08:52

Hahaha, thank you very much :D

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
8 Aug, 2021 10:12

So many details, amazing! I cannot think of any proper feedback other than...   Keep up the good work! :D

The cold winter days are rolling in. A fire crackles in the fire place. World Ember is Here!
10 Aug, 2021 10:30

Thank you :D

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
10 Aug, 2021 10:17

Leeches! XD Also love the "No matter what horrors they encounter, there's always someone who'll wonder what it tastes like." Exactly! They gotta keep their priorities straight XD   This is a great article to get more of an idea of how people live in that setting when they're not getting eaten by giant insects :p It's also great to use as a base to explore the cultural aspects by clicking on all those links. I'll have to come back to do that later, they all seem so fascinating :D

Feel free to check my WE overview and bard challenge article.
12 Aug, 2021 17:38

Exactly! You gotta try some random stuff to arrive at conclusions, sometimes. :P I feel that's how our ancestors came up with a lot of stuff...   Thank you <3 :D I hope they live up to the expectations!

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.