Created By: Desertopa on December 29, 2012 Last Edited By: Desertopa on January 16, 2013

Connecting Cave Complex

A cave which acts as a chokepoint to get from one location to another.

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Trope
There are many different types of caves on earth. They can be formed by several different geological processes, and their length can range from several feet to hundreds of miles. Some caves are safe and spacious enough to easily accommodate guided tours, while others require special equipment to traverse and explorers face significant risk of becoming stuck and stranded inside them.

Even at their most accommodating, traveling through cave complexes is almost never a convenient way to get from one above-ground location to another.

In fiction, however, cave complexes are frequently treated as effective routes between overland destinations. Particularly in video games, which benefit from geographic chokepoints to keep players on track, cave systems will be used as necessary detours when the usual route between locations is unavailable, or even as the sole established passage between locations. Even when they are permanent, necessary passages, they will generally receive little or no maintenance to make them convenient for travelers.


Examples

AdventureGames

  • In Another World the player has to navigate through a system of caves to return to the surface after falling from the straight route when a bridge is destroyed.
  • In Alundra, the Despair Desert is only accessible by traveling through a cave.

EasternRPGs

  • Used to excess in Lufia & The Fortress of Doom, which contains more than a dozen caves, most of which must be traveled through to get from one place to the next. Caves form chokepoints between countries, and it's even necessary to pass through a cave to reach the house of Guy, one of the heroes who defeated the Sinistrals in their first appearance, who has probably spent so much of his adventuring life in caves that he felt compelled to live near one.
  • Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals uses this less frequently than its predecessor; the heroes still have to travel through many caves in the course of their journey, but only a few of them are passages between locations rather than necessary stops on the way.
  • Final Fantasy IV has the Cave of Mist, which must be passed through to reach Mist Village. Considering that the king of Baron has it in for them, the Mistians may have good reason for living somewhere hard to get to.
  • Final Fantasy VI has Figaro Cave, which separates North and South Figaro. The alternate route also happens to be underground, via the sand-burrowing Figaro Castle.
  • Final Fantasy VII has the Mythril Mine, which is presumably not a natural cave complex, but neither does it seem designed to accommodate traffic, as you might imagine the sole land route between Midgar and Junon, two of the world's most populous cities, would be.
  • In Final Fantasy IX, in order to travel from Lindblum to Burmecia, the party must pass through Gizmaluke's Grotto. Presumably before Burmecia was attacked by Alexandria, the standard means of transportation between the countries would have been by airship.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, the only way to reach the capital city of Archades from the Tchita Uplands is through the Sochen Cave Palace, a palace apparently built inside a natural cave system (possibly for the purpose of housing the gigantic dragon living inside.) The Zertinan Caverns also connect many land destinations, but it's only strictly necessary to pass through them for the purposes of various sidequests.
  • In Tales of Destiny, the party has to pass through a tidal cave to get from the city of Sheeden to the city of Moreau.
  • In Tales of Eternia, the only way to walk from the city of Mintche to the town of Morle is through the Nostos Cave. Mintche and Morle are on different continents, so it's unsurprising that there's no easy land route from one to the other- except that ordinary citizens aren't allowed to travel on the ships between them.
  • In Paladin's Quest, it's necessary to pass through the mining town of Hagudo to reach the city of Jurayn. Hagudo is inside of a cave system. Possibly the nonhuman inhabitants prefer it that way, although it's even more unsafe than you would imagine, since while the protagonists are trying to pass through, the town is being flooded with magma.
  • Multiple instances in the Pokémon games. Some of the most notable from Pokémon Red and Blue include Diglett's Cave, Victory Road, and the caves beneath Mount Moon.
  • Shining Force II had you go through at least two caves in the game, one to get to Peter the Phoenix's hometown and the other to get from South Paramecia to North Paramecia. Of course, you also had to fight monsters stationed in those caves.
  • In Wild ARMs, two caves form the nexuses between major landmasses, the Mountain Pass (which mainly goes under, rather than over, the mountains,) and the Sand River, which is filled with crisscrossing currents of flowing sand which impede the passage of any traveler.
  • The only way to access Fort Dragonia, where the In Medias Res beginning of Chrono Cross takes place, is by passing through the caves under Mt. Pyre. Apparently passing through tunnels filled with molten rock is more practical than going over the mountains.
  • In Breath of Fire II, the Ryu's hometown of Gate can only be reached by passing through a cave which is itself blocked off from the rest of the world by a dense, pathless forest. How Ryu made it out along with his friend Bow before the Time Skip when the two were still small children without getting lost and starving to death is left for the player to puzzle out.
  • Breath of Fire III features this as a method of last resort. The land route to the protagonists' destination is blocked by a recent volcanic eruption, protagonists go to the trouble of fixing a broken lighthouse in hopes that the only available ship will return, but the ship still fails to arrive. The only remaining alternative is to go right through the volcano.
  • Present in the very first Eastern RPG, Dragon Quest I features the swamp cave leading to the town of Rimuldar.
  • Dragon Quest V features a couple of instances. In one case, your party travels through a cave to get under a mountain range, and in another, they take a Mountain Pass which largely goes through, rather than over, the mountains.
  • In Legend of Legaia, the party is must travel through a cave early in the game to reach Mt Rikuroa.
  • In Star Ocean, the Sylvalant Ruins are only accessible by passing through a cave.
  • In Inindo, the only way to reach the location of Nobunaga's castle is through an underground passage. Notably, the entrance itself cannot be accessed without engaging in the Turn-Based Strategy portion of the game to place a sympathetic lord in charge of the province in which it's located. If Nobunaga controls the province, his soldiers will stop you from entering at all.

Literature

  • In The Fellowship of the Ring, the fellowship travels through the long-abandoned dwarven city of Moria to get to Lothlorien. Notably this is not a matter of convenience; they only resort to Moria after the other two routes they try (an overland route to the Gap of Rohan and the mountain trail over Caradhras) prove to have been blocked by Saruman.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender provides a musical example, from the episode "The Cave of Two Lovers":
    Two lovers, forbidden from one another
    A war divides their people,
    and a mountain divides them apart.
    Built a path to be together.
    (...Yeah I forget the next couple of lines but, uh, then it goes)
    SECRET TUNNEL!
    THROUGH THE MOUNTAIN!
    SECRET, SECRET, SECRET, SECRET TUNNEL! Yeah!

WesternRPGs

  • Dungeon Siege has these in abundance, too. To get from one part of the overworld to another (say, from the woods to the desert region), you typically have to go through a long underground dungeon.
  • Fallout 3 has the Washington Metro, whose many partially collapsed subway tunnels connect various locations in the ruins of Washington, D.C.
  • Might and Magic VII has Thunderfist Mountain, which, rather than being a mountain as the name would suggest, is a series of tunnels between three separate mountains scattered around the Mt. Nighon map. The Thunderfist Mountain map leads to two separate "tunnels" maps, the Nighon Tunnels, which lead to the dwarven Stone City underneath the Barrow Downs (several days' walk overland from Mt. Nighon,) and the Tunnels to Eofol, the Land of the Giants. For some reason, a system of tunnels which opens up at the tops of multiple mountains and executes a winding path through the earth, and happens to be filled with some of the most dangerous monsters known to man, is the only feasible method of getting to Eofol. To be fair, anyone who isn't capable of killing some of the most dangerous monsters known to man probably has no business going to the Land of Giants.
Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • December 29, 2012
    Specialist290
    Video Games
    • Multiple instances in the Pokemon games. Some of the most notable from Pokemon Red And Blue include Diglett's Cave, Victory Road, and the caves beneath Mount Moon.
  • December 30, 2012
    Desertopa
    As far as I know, this is specifically an RPG trope. If anyone has examples from other genres, I can split the examples up into folders, but as-is I'm not sure this is necessary.

    I know there are at least a few examples from Western RP Gs (I'm thinking of the Might And Magic games in particular, although there are likely to be others.) Is it worth separating into two folders just for the different RPG genres?
  • December 30, 2012
    Koveras
    • In the Russian conspiracy novel series Look into the Eyes of Monsters, the Earth is covered by a network of "Rums" (pronounced like "rooms"), underground caves that enable instantaneous travel from one to another, provided you know the exact coordinates. The main characters use them to quickly get across the planet.
  • December 30, 2012
    MaxWest
    Shining Force II had you go through at least two caves in the game, one to get to Peter the Phoenix's hometown and the other to get from South Paramecia to North Paramecia. Of course, you also had to fight monsters stationed in those caves.
  • December 30, 2012
    Desertopa
    ^^ That doesn't really fit the trope as I've described it, unless I'm misunderstanding the example, since the cave system isn't an instance of Chokepoint Geography.
  • December 31, 2012
    StarSword
    RPG:

    • Fallout 3 has the Washington Metro, whose many partially collapsed subway tunnels connect various locations in the ruins of Washington, D.C.
  • December 31, 2012
    Chernoskill
    • Dungeon Siege has these in abundance, too. To get from one part of the overworld to another (say, from the woods to the desert region), you typically have to go through a long underground dungeon.
  • December 31, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    I would recommend a better name. It doesn't come off Video Game-specific at all.
  • December 31, 2012
    StarSword
    The name's fine, but there are definitely non-video game examples.

    Literature:
    • In The Fellowship of the Ring, the fellowship travels through the long-abandoned dwarven city of Moria to get to Lothlorien. Notably this is not a matter of convenience; they only resort to Moria after the other two routes they try (an overland route to the Gap of Rohan and the mountain trail over Caradhras) prove to have been blocked by Saruman.
  • December 31, 2012
    Desertopa
    It wouldn't be hard for me to revise the description to be open non-video game examples, but I'm not sure how many are likely to be forthcoming. Chokepoint Geography is a matter of convenience in video games (since it makes it easier to railroad the player along the intended plot when they may have other intentions) for which there is much less call in other, less interactive genres. The example from The Fellowship Of The Ring counts according to all the important criteria, but I don't know if there will be many others like it.

    Maybe we could put all non-video game examples in a single "other" category?
  • December 31, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    If the trope covers both videogames and not videogames, it doesn't need to be written about videogames. The examples really don't change the math - we know from experience that paucity of examples doesn't mean much.
  • December 31, 2012
    Desertopa
    I've revised the description to be more inclusive of non-video game examples, while still acknowledging that those are where most of the examples occur. Any input on whether it's worth separating non-video game examples into multiple categories, or just lumping them as "other?"
  • December 31, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    I would go for standard media categories, but it's partially my disapproval of medium-specific tropes talking.
  • January 1, 2013
    StarSword
    I think this is primarily a video game trope. I'd rig it akin to the pages for Character Class System and Boss In Mook Clothing: put the video game examples and non-video game examples in separate sections.
  • January 1, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    That makes it look like a video game specific trope. We have had problems in the past with pages looking medium specific when they weren't and it's usually resulted in problems.
  • January 1, 2013
    TrollBrutal
    In Another World the player has to navigate through a system of caves to return to the surface after falling from the straight route when a bridge is destroyed.
  • January 1, 2013
    Desertopa
    Added examples from Alundra, Wild Arms, Breath of Fire II and III, and Chrono Cross.

    I'm leaning towards Star Sword's suggestion. This is mainly a subtrope of Chokepoint Geography, which is already indexed as a video game trope.

    As an aside, that page really isn't thriving. Once I add the examples on that page which are also examples of Connecting Cave Complex which I haven't added yet, there will be more video game examples on this page than on that one.
  • January 1, 2013
    octopedingenue
    Avatar The Last Airbender provides a musical example, from the episode "The Cave of Two Lovers":
    Two lovers, forbidden from one another
    A war divides their people,
    and a mountain divides them apart.
    Built a path to be together.
    (...Yeah I forget the next couple of lines but, uh, then it goes)
    SECRET TUNNEL!
    THROUGH THE MOUNTAIN!
    SECRET, SECRET, SECRET, SECRET TUNNEL! Yeah!
  • January 1, 2013
    Desertopa
    Added Dragon Quest, Legend of Legaia and Final Fantasy IX examples. Provisionally giving ATLA example its own section.
  • January 3, 2013
    Desertopa
    Now up to 25 video game examples and two non-video game examples. I'd like it if some more people would weigh in on whether the examples should be split into video game and non-video game.
  • January 11, 2013
    KZN02
    BIONICLE: Onu-Matoran on the island of Mata Nui were responsible in creating tunnels to and from Onu-Koro, their underground village.
  • January 11, 2013
    Desertopa
    Using tunnels to get to an underground location isn't really an example of this trope (it's only natural that you'd have to take an underground route to get to an underground location.)

    I do think Underground Village may itself be tropable though. There are certainly plenty of examples in fiction, and we don't seem to have a page for it yet.

  • January 11, 2013
    henke37
  • January 11, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Zero Context Example. Provide details on at least one.
  • January 16, 2013
    Desertopa
    Bumping for input: What does this need to be hatworthy?
  • January 16, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    1) Start the description with the fictional perspective.

    2) Someone throwing the first stone.
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