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?

  Araea is a weird-fantasy setting in a world where humanity has been forced to survive deep underground since time immemorial. The surface of the planet is a barren wasteland plagued by radiation, vicious storms and terrible beasts. In the dark, mankind have built cities and civilizations. They farm fungi and mushroom, raise insects as livestock and fight wars all far from the sun. Against all odds, mankind survives.    

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Bio-Caves by Josh Eiten

    It is a world of mystery and many unknowns. Most of the surface remains unexplored and even after millennia of habitation, humanity's presence in the depths are a flickering candle in a sea of darkness. The brave and greedy plunge into the unknown in search for glory, while others struggle to to survive in a hostile world. City-states fight over resources and food, bandits harry and steal. Of all the dangers in the darkness, other people are the most common. It is a world plagued by scarcity- of food, of water and of space free from danger. A world where mankind has to fight to survive.   Life isn't always easy in Araea but for the people there, it makes the moments of joy and beauty all the more precious.    

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Life in the Depths

  Mankind alone has carved cities from the stone. No goblins or gnomes share their cities or threaten them with doom. For most, it is a hard life spent scraping survival from an unyielding and hostile world. Humanity must strike a careful balance, or the caves they rely on for food and water can be stripped barren by their hunger. Araea challenges their ingenuity at every turn and mankind has so far clung to the world with a desperate grip on life. Nothing goes to waste and nothing is squandered - even the dead.    

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    Humanity in Araea operate on what is broadly a Medieval level of technology, but warped to fit their environment. Swords and spears never go out of style when there is killing to be done, but bows are poorly developed. Instead of dogs, cows, cats and chickens, humanity raises swarms of spiders, large slugs or maggots for consumption and company. It is with stone and metal that the people of Araea have the most experience, with steel or iron being the most common choice for tools or weapons.   Even so, it is not uncommon to see soldiers clad in the carapace of slain monsters or wielding their fangs as swords. Often by necessity, but sometimes by choice when these prove far superior to metallurgy.   Villages, towns and finally city-states form the common concentrations of human masses. There are no nations, with extensive rule at distance made impossible by twisting geography and scarcity of resources. The greatest of these are worlds in their own right and many live their entire lives without ever venturing beyond its comforts and into the dark.    
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Creepy Crawlies

  From sentient and mobile fungi to radiation-devouring sky-beasts, life in Araea is alien compared to our world. Extreme circumstance give birth to strange things and mammals are a minority in the world of Araea. Cats, dogs and birds are distinctly missing from Araea, replaced instead by things that thrive in the dark caverns or blighted surface. The deeper into the unknown humanity travels, the more bizarre life there becomes while fishers pull pale, blind creatures from black waters to feed their families.    

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by Maxim Verehin

    Above, titanic beasts feed on blight and poison and visitors from the stars descend upon the surface with unfathomable goals. In a world like this, it is no wonder that people often go a little mad.      

Further Reading

  If you want to read more about Araea and get a better feel for the world, here are some good places to start:  

A sample of how life looks for a range of people in Araea

Everyday Life In Araea
Generic article | Mar 11, 2019
 

Saen-Kaw, a popular sport in the caves

Saen-Kaw
Tradition / Ritual | Jan 21, 2019

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

Chnagahn - Bug Pot Party
Item | Feb 23, 2019

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

Quick Primer   Araea is roughly divided into four geographic regions, based on depth:   The Surface A blasted, radioactive wasteland of dangerous beast and desperate people.   The Outer Shell The caverns closest to the Surface.   The Inner Shell Deep under the earth, the Inner Shell is where much of humanity live, work and die.   The Far Deep Beyond even the Inner Shell lies the Far Deep, a strange and dangerous land of which only a fraction has been explored.    

An introduction to the geography of Araea

From the Heavens, to the Far Deep
Geographic Location | Mar 5, 2019

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 Hope

  Life 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 Discovery

  Araea 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.    
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No Gods, No Masters

  While 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 Wondrous

  Unknowable 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 Verticality

  Few 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.  
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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!  
— Q

Comments

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4 Dec, 2018 00:57

A nice brief overview of the world, I can dig it. I'd like to see a little more overall info in maybe the sidebars or at the bottom as you had it.   Just general things like the cultures and maybe some important people. Just to help fill out the picture of the world in my mind!   Either way, great stuff as always. I was surprised at the lack of gore in this one, though with an intro page that's a bit hard for even you I assume. :D

4 Dec, 2018 10:07

Thanks Tikal! <3   I'll probably continue to fill it in as those cultures and people get their own articles. I don't want to link anyone to Mhajari right now since it's a *massive* article. XD   But I'll definitely keep that in mind! What kind of overall info would you say would be good to have? And where?   As for the gore: challenge accepted. :D

10 Feb, 2019 10:53

I added a bit about people.

4 Dec, 2018 09:27

I feel like the article blocks kind of dominate the page, making it hard to get to the actual content. Especially near the end. I really enjoyed the side panel, however. All in all, a pretty decent summary. More links would be cool!

4 Dec, 2018 09:27

Maybe lowering the size of the aritcles blocks would help.

4 Dec, 2018 09:37

Well, I'm definitely aiming for better then decent :) I'll have to do a second pass! :D   Though, there are no block links besides the one at the end: did you mean the images?

4 Dec, 2018 11:51

Oh, yes. The images then block links. Both are massive and dominate over the text.

4 Dec, 2018 11:04

Everything about this is interesting at a glance, so thats good. I liked the sidebar with overview, but are you going to mention tecnological level of humanity there? I thought that would be nice to have. Just a general phrase.

4 Dec, 2018 11:13

I wanted to put it in there somewhere, but I couldn't figure out *where*. It is definitely something I want to talk about, though! It's going to be generally on a medieval level, plus/minus some stuff due to the way the world works. Astronomy and observatories, for example, is going to be pretty underdeveloped.. :D

10 Feb, 2019 10:53

I added a bit about the tech level:  

Humanity in Araea operate on what is broadly a Medieval level of technology, but warped to fit their environment. Swords and spears never go out of style when there is killing to be done, but bows are poorly developed.

31 Jan, 2019 21:42

I love subterranean worlds, so I'm a fan of the atmosphere here . I also like the "tone and themes" sidebar which gives a nice indication for the direction you're going for. I'm curious to know whether this is a world in which humans naturally evolved into, or if it's a world that humans ended up in due to some circumstances forcing them underground?

31 Jan, 2019 21:48

It is the former: there's no post-apocalyptic world here, the surface has just always kind of sucked, so people survived in the darkness. They're better at seeing in the dark than us and they're *slightly* more resistant to radiation, but not enough to really survive on most of the surface. :)   I'm glad you liked it! Did it give you a good overview of what the world's like, at a skim?

8 Apr, 2019 03:17

Heya sorry for the radio silence. Yes, it's a good overview in the sense it's a good primer that sets the tone well, I think :)

31 Jan, 2019 21:59

So I'll critique this as prose which I'm more critical on. these are just opinions and by no means would I ever tell someone how to write, especially the great Q. I figured since this is likely the first page someone will see of the world, I should be extra attentinve     "Araea is a weird-fantasy world set in a world very different from our own. "   This sentence reads a little clunky andd the presence of very is a bit iffy. I'd suggest adding more punch and activity and condensed it . Maybe like this     "Araea is a world of weird fantasy, a stark contrast when compaired to our own. " i hope I make sense there XD   "There, they build cities and civilizations, farm fungi and mushroom, raise insects and cave newts, all far from the sun."   Technically mushrooms and fungi are the same things. Why specify if they use algae or mold too? If they don't why say fungi?   "...threats face humanity from every quarter, but against all odds, mankind survives." Corner? And of what?     "Most of the surface remain unexplored" Remains.   "...and daring plunge into the unknown to find the truth about the world, while others struggle to support life in a hostile world." Another repetition of the word world. maybe revise it to include both concepts and the say world.     " Nothing goes to waste and nothing is squandered - even the dead" id suggest not even instead of even or better yet rewrite the last half. "In this world, nothing is wasted, the dead are no exception. Saying squadered after waste kind of repeats what you already said in a way.     "... Instead of dogs, cows, cats and chickens, humanity raise swarms of spiders, large slugs or stalk-like wandering things for consumption and company." while I love the name stalk like wandering things, its a bit rushed. Do they have an actual name? Stalk of what? Beans? Lol probably fungal but still id rework it in my opinion.     "to radioactivity-devouring sky-beasts," radiation. this implies the radioactivity ke what they devour. I got kind of confuzzled by this lol   "In a strange world, life is strange to match it." Clunky and a bit passive. give it pizazzzzz.   Maybe " This is a strange place, and its inhabitants are made strange in kind."     "Life 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" id suggest revising the last part of the sentence. It's a bit clunky in my opinion.     "grimbright" my new favorite word...       "While the faith gather in temples and cults make sacrifices to their dark gods" Faithful?   "that has breed bizarre forms of life." Bred :)     So I love this world and have since I read about the rangers. I do believe that was the first time I was exposed to this world. I love weird anything. Branching away from the norm is always a plus. I think your prose is great and the quotes are spectacular as well. I ought to pick your brain sometime about how you styled your headers too! This is a great introduction as it deplayes the depth (pun intended) of the world you've built. I love that cover all bases including faith and cities. Grimbright though...love that word

11 Feb, 2019 12:01

I'm going through the article now and the feedback! Thank you! :D

11 Feb, 2019 15:03

Woooot good good. Sorry if it was over critical lol figurednu wanted the most you could get.

11 Feb, 2019 15:10

It wasn't - I want feedback so I can improve stuff. :D

11 Feb, 2019 15:39

I'm the same way. no reason. Getting g upset about something that can help :)

15 Feb, 2019 14:17

I like your world, from the "Welcome to araea article" but one crit/pref of mine, it would be nice if it was written from within the world without metta knowledge. Unless the peoples have knowledge of what was before on the surface.   A few comments, steel and iron forging consumes a lot of charcoal, where do they get the wood or carbon substitute? How do they manage the consumption of air? is there an abundance or do they have special rooms to control the consumption? Forging metal and steel releases toxic chemicals into the air how do they nutrilize or manage these toxins?   Additionally how do people not freeze to death, or cook to death? Fire consumes air and creates toxic fumes. How would people cool down when it gets hot?   How do they support large dwellings? Digging underground is a very dangers and unpredictable buisness. Do they "scout" around the area they are going to dig out with independent micro tunnles to make sure they don't run into anything unexpected?   What happens to "lost settlements" that are displaced by tectonic movement or some other barrier? Cavins, floods, fires, volcanic activity, infestations, disease, plague?   Do earthquakes or fissure sever expose settlements or vital resources locations to radiation or surface creatures? Do Surface creatures ever venture down into the depths? Do Natural caves leak radiation into the deep create an ever widening area of danger?   Do star visitors ever burrow into the deep?   Are fantasy creatures a thing? Goblins gnomes?   Do humans go to the surface to scavenge rare supplies? How is their radiation treated? or are the sacrificial gatherers? Perhaps undesirables cast out or given a redemption quest?   Fighting real wars underground in an environment of extreme scarcity is very unlikely. In those conditions conflict would play out very differently. I imagine battles would be more like ambush skirmishes to capture enemies or control travel routs with a lot of tactical bluff and bluster without a lot of real bloodshed. As transporting, supplying wars is Very expensive and resource intensive. Not to mention treating the wounded and cleaning up the dead before they became disease hazards thought could spread via air or simply block passage down a tunnel. Taking care of the wounded would be a very serious consideration in peace or war. Not to mention having a large group of people would be dangers in an underground environment. I doubt settlements would be willing to risk large swaths of their population to cave-ins (were large numbers would rapidly consume air) toxic out gassing (coal; carbon monoxide, petrol fields, radioactive materials), floods from underground rivers or seas, hostile fungi and virus spores, predatory or parasitic creatures.   Perhaps the propel of the deep practice counting koo like the native Americans? If you could touch your foe in a manner that would kill them, the are considered dead and can be captured. This would limit injury but also display a rule of law or code of conduct that is understood.

24 Feb, 2019 10:51

Hey Val! Thanks for the really indepth comment!  

Unless the peoples have knowledge of what was before on the surface.
  In this case, there hasn't really been any "before" but this particular part is written like the introduction in an RPG book. All other articles are written from what the people in the world would know (or not know!)  
A few comments, steel and iron forging consumes a lot of charcoal, where do they get the wood or carbon substitute?
  They're underground, so they mine stuff like Bituminous coal, lignite and anthracite. They'll need to cook it though, but they've gotten a lot of practice with that.  
How do they manage the consumption of air? is there an abundance or do they have special rooms to control the consumption? Forging metal and steel releases toxic chemicals into the air how do they nutrilize or manage these toxins?
  I don't go into detail on these things, but forges and such are probably going to be in areas where they don't asphyxiate themselves. That could be an interesting idea. As for how they handle the toxins: "dump it where the poor people live or some cave no one is in" about sums it up. A lot of the cities are pretty terrible places.  
Additionally how do people not freeze to death, or cook to death? Fire consumes air and creates toxic fumes. How would people cool down when it gets hot?
  In the Inner Shell, the caves where such industry happens can become pretty massive. Ice-chopping is a big business as an example, but some narrative handwaving is required to make things function at this depth: but to me, it's the same kind of handwaving we allow for when dragons fly or dimensional rifts open up.   But it is worth noticing that very few place in Araea has a climate you would consider pleasant. It's frequently too hot, or too cold. Dress up, light fires, buy blocks of ice, have servents fan you.. All options :)  
How do they support large dwellings? Digging underground is a very dangers and unpredictable buisness. Do they "scout" around the area they are going to dig out with independent micro tunnles to make sure they don't run into anything unexpected?
  Probably? :D   I'm not a geologist by any stretch of the imagination. I figure if they've lived for millenia there, they've figured it out. Still, every now and then, some places collapses that shouldn't have.  
What happens to "lost settlements" that are displaced by tectonic movement or some other barrier? Cavins, floods, fires, volcanic activity, infestations, disease, plague?
  Out of curiosity, what do you imagine?  
Do earthquakes or fissure sever expose settlements or vital resources locations to radiation or surface creatures? Do Surface creatures ever venture down into the depths? Do Natural caves leak radiation into the deep create an ever widening area of danger?
  A lot of these questions and more are answered as an example in: https://www.worldanvil.com/w/araea-qurilion/a/khl-region-article   In short - yes, and it ain't great for the people who live there. Anything from the surface is limited to interacting with the Outer Shell, though, as the Inner Shell is typically just too deep down.  
Do star visitors ever burrow into the deep?
  Not yet, as there is something keeping them out.  
Are fantasy creatures a thing? Goblins gnomes?
  While there are an assortment of strange and terrible monsters around, there are no "playable races" as such: no elves, dwarves, devils or demons, no gnomes or orcs, no other civilization (yet found) other than humanity. The Q'x (the star-visitors) are essentially alien and too strange to really easily communicate with.  
Fighting real wars underground in an environment of extreme scarcity is very unlikely. In those conditions conflict would play out very differently. I imagine battles would be more like ambush skirmishes to capture enemies or control travel routs with a lot of tactical bluff and bluster without a lot of real bloodshed.
  Indeed! Most wars are limited in scale and many are about control and logistics as much as hitting someone with a stick. I have a war in Araea article half under construction, but meanwhile a lot of that is hinted at in this article: https://www.worldanvil.com/w/araea-qurilion/a/atha---hand-of-war-article  
I doubt settlements would be willing to risk large
  If people were indeed logical. War happens, but it is much smaller scale than what we ordinarily see in fantasy setting. Some exceptionally wealthy or well-supplied city-states might be able to wage war on a larger scale, but most of the time it isn't worth the effort. So the more traditional route is to beat up or bluster the other guy into giving up and then demanding tribute. Conquering a city-state has only happened once in recorded history, and that wasn't exactly a winning thing either.  
Perhaps the propel of the deep practice counting koo like the native Americans? If you could touch your foe in a manner that would kill them, the are considered dead and can be captured. This would limit injury but also display a rule of law or code of conduct that is understood.
  Funny you should say that! :D I made a team sport about that very thing!   https://www.worldanvil.com/w/araea-qurilion/a/saen-kaw-article     Thanks again for the in-depth comment! I hope you enjoy reading more about this world of mine :D

12 Apr, 2019 10:52

Wow, this is highly interesting! I'm really curious about this world and I can't wait to read more.