Welcome to Araea
The light of the torch only kept the darkness at arms length, revealing more of the twisting tunnel as the party pushed forward. Water dripped from the ceiling and the damp carpet of fungi under their feet threatened to swallow their boots. When the path finally widened and the explorers stepped out on the arching cliff, they caught their first glance of the cave they had been seeking. Lights danced in the sweeping vista, luminescent mushroom and fire flies dotting the darkness like a thousand stars. Weary exhaustion gave way to elation: they were finally home.
What is Araea?
Life in the Depths
A sample of how life looks for a range of people in Araea
Saen-Kaw, a popular sport in the caves
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.
Chnagahn, a particularly important and notable dish
An introduction to the geography of Araea
From the Heavens, to the Far Deep
Life hides from malignant stars and irradiated wastes, deep in the dark. While cosmic evils haunt the surface and the endless deeps, life clings to existence where-ever it can take hold.
Tone and Theme
Despair and HopeLife in Araea is hard. Famine is a fact of life, dangerous beasts prowl the darkness and people fight each other for every reason from petty to desperate. Strange cults worship alien things and acts both cruel and terrible happen around the world. What Araea is not is hopeless or bleak; it is 'grimbright'. Despite all the terrors and tribulations, despite violence and starvation, humanity still cling to life in the caverns. Beauty and wonder are found side by side to danger and death. It is a hard world, but it is the only one they have and so the people of Araea make the most of it.
Mystery and DiscoveryAraea is a world shrouded in darkness, both figuratively and literally. Most of the world is simply unknown, a blank part on the map with "here be dragons, maybe?" scrawled on it. Entire continents on the Surface are shrouded in impenetrable radiation, leaving explorers with little more then legends and guesswork to determine what may lie beyond. There is always something to see. Something unknown to discover. Fame and fortune await those who return alive.
No Gods, No MastersWhile the faithful gather in temples and cults make sacrifices to their dark gods, the truth is simple: in Araea, there are no gods. No masters, neither infernal nor divine, can command mankind or provide them salvation from danger. No miracles have ever been made to manifest and no celestial servants has ever answered to pleading cries of the desperate. Whatever humanity wants, they have to get for themselves. This hasn't stopped faith and superstition, of course. A thousand different cults have sprung up around the caves and churches rule over entire city-states.
Weird and WondrousUnknowable things creep in ancient grottoes. Parasites turn humans into fungal abominations. Mushrooms that tower above buildings in vast caverns and sentient deserts made from quartz-shard. Araea is a strange world, filled with things both terrible and beautiful - often at the same time. It is strange world that has bred bizarre forms of life. Araea is a world based on the stranger things of human imagination, from the Lovecraft mythos to cryptozoology and science-fiction. There are no dwarves or elves here, only things with too many limbs and too many eyes that prowl the dark.
World of VerticalityFew paths in Araea are as simple as a straight line. Tunnels twist and arch, dip and climb. Caves that stretch for mile can see slopes and hills, places where the ceiling collapse to a few yards or expand beyond the light of an explorer's torch. To reach the Far Deep, explorers must brave a lightless descent of miles and to reach the Surface they must climb countless steps.
Author's Notes For me, Araea is particularly special as it was the world I made when I joined WorldAnvil. It, as my canvas in the 2018 Summer Camp, has been the only reason I have been able to break a years long writer's block. It started with a thought about how a world could work underground. Some parameters had to be tweaked, but I put them under the same leaps of faith we do to allow dragons to fly or similar fantastical things. But it is still a world grounded in humanity: life under the surface is hard. There are no wizards to conjure food from nothing, no gods to offer guaranteed salvation. I thought it worth mentioning that I know that people really ought to be troglodytes, with pale skin and big black eyes. It is my opinion on this that diversity is more important than absolute realism. Thanks for reading and thanks for going on this weird writing journey with me!