"Oh, swell. She only summoned a demon lord into the tower once. She's only mildly insane. What a wonderful idea! Let's proceed at once!"
Describe Exi— I-I mean Avernum here.Avernum is a series of computer Role Playing Games by Spiderweb Software. There are currently six parts in the series, as well as Blades of Avernum, which doesn't directly influence the plot. The first three games, and Blades of Avernum, are actually remakes of the popular Exile series of games—and are rightly awesome. The fourth, fifth and sixth, however, are completely new games, with a completely new engine.The games follow the adventures of several groups of, well, adventurers. In the first, they are just a bunch of misfits cast down into the depths of Avernum, which is the name for a humongous series of caverns... and the only place the Empire does not rule, instead casting down its undesirables into it via a one-way magical portal. In the second game, the heroes are a band of soldiers in the Avernum army, accidentally getting a big role in the war against the Empire and diplomacy with an alien people. In Avernum 3, the protagonists are the "secondary" team sent to the surface, after the first group disappeared without a trace. Avernum 4 features another band trying to discover the source of numerous problems (mostly of the monstrous variety) which have sprung up after a period of peace. Avernum 5 puts you in the shoes of soldiers from the Empire, now at peace with Avernum, trying to hunt down a particularly nasty rebel who wishes to end that peace. The final game in the series, Avernum 6, casts you as Avernite soldiers desperately trying to stem the chaos of an Avernum overcome by both a Slithzerikai invasion and the Blight, a disease destroying Avernum's food supply.Blades of Avernum happens after Avernum 3 and doesn't follow the exploits of Avernites per se. In fact, it does not have any cohesive, overarching plot at all. Instead, it lets you create your own scenarios and play the ones other people have made. Unfortunately, it has been all but abandoned by Spiderweb Software. However, there is still a community of designers for it and several dozen scenarios have been produced, some of which are very good.Avernum is being rewritten again, starting with Avernum: Escape From The Pit. The main reason behind this is that the first series (Avernum 1, 2, 3) doesn't run well or at all on modern OSes (especially Mac OS X 10.6 or above), and the programmer wants to use a better looking engine. As well as porting the game to the iPad.See Also: Encyclopedia Ermarian
These games provide examples of:
All Crimes Are Equal: Not fitting in is a crime, and, depending on the mood of the judge, can get you executed or thrown into Avernum.
Also, towns will try to kill you on sight if you get caught committing any crime from mass murder to petty theft. Sometimes even simple tresspassing will suffice.
In turn, the latest rerelease of the first game adds more to the original game yet again (especially an extended tutorial intro), much like how the first Avernum polished and refined the gameplay from the first Exile game.
Androcles Lion: If you're lucky, freeing a trapped animal will get it to help you. If you're unlucky, it'll just try to eat you.
An Economy Is You: Averted. Shops either have junk mixed in or only show you what you want to see. Plus, they probably sell their best stuff to Avernum's army instead of you.
Animal Wrongs Group: In Avernum 5 there is the Circle of Life cult which breed various nasty critters and release them back into their (newly settled) natural habitat, much to the displeasure of others. However when the group is confronted it is shown that they are quite pacifistic.
Anti-Grinding: Fairly well-implemented. You get very little XP from killing monsters far below you in level.
Anvil On Head: In the first game, 'X' is trying to research a spell that literally does this. By the last game, he perfects it.
Authority Equals Asskicking: Generally played straight, as various leaders of both the good and evil persuasions (Hawthorne, Garzahd, the Triad, Erika, Rentar-Ihrno) are quite powerful, almost always magically. General Baziron in the third game is a something of a Gameplay and Story Segregation subversion. His description notes that he's clad as a Dervish, one of the Empire's elite soldiers, but that he's only entitled to because he's a great general and it's a sign of honors bestowed upon him, not because he's a mighty warrior. The game, however, has him as a Dervish, so if you pick a fight it turns out he really is a reasonably good ass-kicker.
Bag of Sharing: Averted. Everyone has their own inventory, and you have to be adjacent to pass stuff along in combat.
Bare-Fisted Monk: Kinda. In Avernum 3, in the endgame, characters are so powerful that they easily reach the weapon damage cap of 200 points. However, there is one weapon which doesn't have a cap—fists.
Block Puzzle: A few times in the first three games, usually done with crates. Unusually, rather than getting them out of your way, you have to move them onto specific floor tiles without accidentally pushing them into the water (particularly difficult in the second game's aptly named "Test of Patience.")
Book Ends: In Avernum 4, one of the first side caves you enter near the beginning of the game is dead-ended by three squares of cave-in. Much later, you find that the other side of that cave-in was a hideout of endgame-level mountain giants.
Normal Sliths are pretty fair mid-level mooks. Slith warriors and shamans, however, are in a league all their own. The warriors have way more health than anything at their level should have, are ridiculously hard to hit, and possess powerul attacks. Oh, and they can knock back and ensnare. Shamans, meanwhile, have even more health than the warriors despite being mages, spam summoning spells that will always summon a top tier monster (such as Revenants), and are almost always encountered with a small army of normal Sliths and Warriors. Oh, and they're both highly resistant to fire spells, which, at the point in the game you start encountering them, are pretty much a mage's only offensive spell.
Bottomless Bladder: Eating is only necessary to rest to regain HP, which is a change from the Exile games. If you want to just walk around to regain HP at a slower rate, that's fine too. Not to mention healing magic... This is Averted in Avernum 6, though. Due to the Blight, food is at a premium and malnourishment commonplace. To drive the point home, your characters will automatically eat food in their inventory at regular intervals. If there is no food in the inventory, they will be affected with a hunger debuff that reduces their abilities until they next eat. Thankfully, food is easy to come by.
Brainwashed and Crazy: In 1/Escape From the Pit, the enemy Slith turn out to be this, having been corrupted by dark magic following Sss-Thsss's pact with Grah-Hoth.
Breast Plate: One of the player character avatars looks like Red Sonja, complete with chainmail bikini. One of the male avatars is also scantily-clad, and the Sliths and Nephils wear nothing but loincloths. Of course, the pictures don't necessarily reflect the gameplay.
Early in Escape From the Pit, Legram is something of a warmup boss helping your party get accustomed to combat. You can face Legram again much later in the game; you find that in the meantime he's suffered a Humiliation Conga where he's been rejected not only by Avernum, but also the freehold of Kyass and even the cities of the Abyss. He tried to set up his bandit nation in the no-man's-land between Fort Saffron and Fort Spire, only for his base to get destroyed by eyebeasts. You're basically there to put him out of his misery.
Bucket Booby-Trap: The illustration for the "Tool Use" skill in the first three games. Naturally, the bucket is labeled "acid."
Call Forward: In Escape from the Pit, completing a quest for for the talking spider tribe rewards with an unusually thin cloak and strange, shuriken-like blades. Veterans of the series will recognize these as Vahnati equipment.
Came Back Wrong: Crystal Souls are rocks that can't so much as move on their own. Most of them aren't bonkers, but the ones that are tend to be impressively nuts. In the games you only deal with a handful that Came Back Wrong, a few with post-traumatic stress disorder, and some that just don't like you. There are also the ones who are happy to chat, but they're less exciting.
Cat Folk: The Nephilim are a furry, feline race renowned for their sharp senses and ability to see in the dark.
And the Nepharim, their stronger, infertile, cousins.
Cerebus Syndrome: A relatively mild case since the humor was always somewhat black. Installments after Avernum 3 became darker and more serious, much like the tone of Video Game/Geneforge. Note this is also when Phil Foglio stopped illustrating the menus.
Chaos Architecture: Mostly justified. Avernum sees a lot of seismic activity — not to mention that the first exiles didn't have much to work with when they built everything in the first place — and the Tower of Magi gets destroyed by demons.
Climax Boss: Sss-Thsss in the first game, as well as Rentar-Ihrno's first fight in the 4th game. Though the fact that you still have a third of the map to explore might spoil this one.
Convection Schmonvection: In the original trilogy and Blades of Avernum, stepping in lava deals a large amount of damage, but standing next to it is fine. Later games, counting the remake of the first game, simply make it impossible to walk over.
Cult: In Avernum 3, you can even join your choice of either anti-magic nutjobs or Ayn Rand-inspired libertarian fundies. Then there is the Cult of the Sacred Item, which more or less makes non-heroic kleptomania a sacrament; the Monastery of Madness, which has all the best of bad kung fu, and various minor demon-worshipping cults as well as more benign temples to this or that god or principle. The Church of the Divine Lucre worships money and their prices for services show it.
Dug Too Deep: Considered the inevitable result of any mining operation. The usual discovery is a crypt full of undead, but ancient ruins aren't unheard of. (Then again, it's said in the fourth game that all crypts are de-trapped, de-monstered, and looted within months of being occupied, so it's not clear how these ones were missed in the first place.)
Dungeon Bypass: Intentionally in the case of the priest spell Move Mountains, which destroys cracked walls. For the unintentional version, see Good Bad Bugs below.
Elemental Crafting: Beginning with stone and working up to steel, then magical. This is pretty well justified in the first two games, where the resources to forge proper steel weapons (rather less magical ones) are scarce and it makes sense for you and a lot of the lower-level mooks to be wielding stone weaponry and "poor" leather armor, and for bronze, iron and steel equipment to be increasingly expensive. Considerably less so once you stop spending the entire game underground and cut off from the surface world.
The Empire: Quite literally, because The Empire is its exact name—tough to be an emperor of something when you rule the entire world. It also has The Emperor—Hawthorne is either type 1 or 3, Prazac is 4 (albeit technically an Empress.)
Everybody Hates Mathematics: In Avernum 2, you and your party visit a sleepy little bed & breakfast owned by a farmer. While poking around, you discover books owned by the farmer's wife, full of horrifyingly alien texts and eldritch symbols detailing a strange magic none of you can comprehend. If you ask her about it, she tells you what they're about with a sigh: Algebra.
Exact Words: When Erika was first exiled to Avernum, she was cursed so that she would immediately die if she ever returned to the surface. As her fight with Rentar-Ihrno in 3 shows, it turns out "being on the surface" means having a single ray of natural sunlight shone on her.
Fantastic Drug: Skribbane in Avernum 3, 5 and 6. It gets name-dropped in Escape From the Pit in the Freehold of Kyass (as the reason for one of Kyass's men going crazy), but you never actually see any in-game.
Fantastic Racism: The Empire hunts down damn near everything that isn't human, and has succeeded in wiping out at least one race of sentient humanoids.
Hopeless Boss Fight: Rentar-Ihrno in Avernum 3. note It is actually possible to win, provided you are very, very persistent, but according to the small handful of people who have actually done it, the hours it takes to accomplish aren't worth the payout.
I'm a Humanitarian: Well, the bloody bodies in Garzahd's pantry are of indeterminate species, but they look humanoid, and the meat from them is classified as "weird." Creepy meat shows up many times in giants' and ogres' homes as well.
Insufferable Genius: The Vain Sorceress Erika considers over-lengthy titles beneath her. Not everything good in Avernum is her doing, but it's probably fair to say that without her help, the Avernites would not be surviving nearly as well as they have been.
Invisible Monsters: Guardians and black shades in the first three games. The only way to attack them is to walk into the seemingly empty spaces they occupy.
Karma Meter: The original trilogy has a reputation stat. Completing quests and performing other good deeds raises it. Getting caught stealing and other bad deeds lowers it. A high reputation will make certain NPCs help you. However, you start off with a low reputation and will almost certainly end up with a high one.
Kick the Dog: Some of Gladwell's quests may be solidly to flimsily justified on a search for knowledge and power (which for the player it naturally is,) but every one of them smacks of For the Evulz motivation on his part. Combines with You Bastard, as the player receives passive-aggressive guilt trips from characters who couldn't possibly know their involvement.
Kindhearted Cat Lover: Motrax the Dragon. Unlike his siblings, he's not reclusive, power-mad, or spiteful towards humans, preferring to actually trade knowledge with visitors. He also considers cats "remarkable".
Kleptomaniac Hero: You. But NPCs only care about some items. What's more, you never need worry about which ones, because the game tells you outright. Imagine walking into a store with candy bars labeled "Don't steal this one, it's Not Yours" and the sure knowledge that no one will mind if you hork all the rest of them.
Knights and Knaves: Referenced but averted by a sign in Erika's tower in Escape From the Pit:
Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Priests and mages tend to become demigods in the second half in the games, vastly overshadowing the warriors' usefulness. Averted, however, in Avernum 6, with the introduction of dual-wielding. A properly built fighter is the best source of single-target damage in the game.
In most games, magic users and soldiers are generally best against their polar opposites. Mages and priests tend to have very high resistance to elemental spells, but die when a warrior sneezes in their general direction. When engaging magic users, your own mages are always better off buffing your warriors than trying to engage the enemy directly.
Locked Door: Typically, any door you aren't supposed to get through has an absurd value required to pick/bash it, like 200, where a good thief has a skill of maybe 15. However, in the earlier games, having the Unlock Doors spell learned at the highest level possible meant you could unlock those as well.
In Escape From the Pit, the game outright tells you when a door isn't meant to be picked.
Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: To balance out the greater attack power of spears in the later games, they're all made two-handed, swords are all made one-handed, and shields become very effective at reducing damage.
Mage Tower: The Tower of Magi. Erika, Patrick, and Solberg also have their own towers in the first two games (Erika has a new one in game 3).
The Man Behind the Man: When you assaassinate the Slith King Sss-thsss in the first game, King Micah then dispatches you to look into the destruction of Fort Remote. Grah-Hoth reveals himself, and expresses anger that you killed his "pet".
Mildly Military: For some reason Avernum's military is fond of sending its ill-prepared new grunts (not even special forces or shock troops) out on scouting missions in groups of four (in plainclothes, no less, though somehow other Avernites will recognize you as a team of soldiers), while the better-trained and stronger troops remain to guard the fort. In most of the cases the loose justification is that you're actually Private Military Contractors (and therefore disposable).
Mirror Match: In the fourth game, you'll encounter a few instances where you'll have to fight a party that mimics the game's cookie cutter party layout: Human warrior, Nephil Archer/Slith rogue, Human Priest, Human mage.
Money for Nothing: Things worth buying are rare by the end of the game in the original trilogy. You either max out on gold or spend it on frivolous things. By the third game, however, spending money on training can keep your cash valuable all the way through.
Money Spider: Averted. Enemies usually have relevant loot, and frequently make use of any consumables they get spawned with. Some enemies do drop money, but only those that would believably carry some.
Mook Maker: The essence of the plot of the third game. There are also some monsters that behave this way.
Multiple Endings: Escape From the Pit has a Safety ending where you save Avernum from the demon Grah-Hoth and transform it into a secure nation, a Freedom ending where you lead the people of Avernum back to the surface, and a Revenge ending where you topple The Empire. Interestingly, its possible to complete all three at once.
This needs a bit of clarification. First, only escaping Avernum actually ends the game. The other two let you continue playing, and if you choose not to leave once you find the exit, you can keep playing. Second, killing the Emperor does not topple the empire at all. In fact, the empire invades Avernum in the next game as revenge for the assassination. Third, while killing Grah-Hoth does make Avernum a safer place, it is still quite dangerous, just no longer at risk of imminent demonic invasion. It is hardly a "secure nation."
My Species Doth Protest Too Much: The Sliths and Nephils are your foes in the first game and playable species in the second — the Sliths even state a distinction between "Darklings" and those who don't kill everything that moves. Also, Motrax the friendly dragon (and Melanchion in 5 and 6) and a few non-hostile ogres.
Mystery Meat: "Weird meat" comes from a variety of sources, of which the least disturbing is giant lizards used as livestock. At least one example (Garzahd's "pantry") is apparently humanoid in origin, maybe even human. However, all of it can be eaten without harm.
Inverted in the second trilogy, as even if you kill Gladwell in the current game, he still shows up alive in the next game.
Played straight in 5: You can choose to ally with either the Empire or the Darkside Loyalists, and your allegiance determines whether General Redmark or Dorikas becomes Emperor. VI reveals that the Emperor is Redmark, and that the Darkside Loyalists were (mostly) eliminated.
Not Me This Time: In Avernum 3, your party is trying to figure out who created the plagues of monsters that are attacking The Empire. You can question the dragons, the Vahnatai, and the sorceress Erika, all of whom have grudges against the Empire and the means to create the monsters, but they all insist that while they hate the Empire with a passion, they have nothing to do with this. It's up to your party to figure out which—if any—of these are responsible.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: In Escape from the Pit, the bandit Legram serves little purpose other than to serve as your intro to combat at the start of the game. Late in the game, he reappears not only much stronger than before (complete with an upgraded sprite), but he has an entire team of high level bandits and monsters at his command.
Oh Crap: In Escape from the Pit, Legram's thugs have this reaction if you choose to immediately attack rather than plead for mercy as they expected.
In 4, you're marching up to the front gate of the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, when suddenly the nearby defense pylons turn on. Note that the same pylons are implied to have massacred a force of thousands of Avernite soldiers earlier in the game.
The Greys: Vahnatai look the part, and generally fit the role as an ancient, mysterious species with uncertain motivations regarding humanity. This being Heroic Fantasy, they rely on Power Crystals rather than technology proper, but they do seem to be telepathic. They're also pretty high up the Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness—even a basic "waveblade" (flamberge) significantly outdamages an iron sword, and their "razordisks" (Fuuma Shuriken) are pretty much the sole reason Throwing Weapons is a viable skill.
Hellhound: Added in the fourth game, and resemble the roamers from Geneforge (which is from the same developer and uses the same engine). They don't seem to be genuinely demonic, but they do breathe fire at you.
Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Subverted; in the first game, they're introduced as an enemy, but they're only fighting you because of the warlike leader Sss-Thsss commanding them. Then you find out that he and many of the others were influenced by demons, so now you have to rid the sliths of their taint. By the second game, most sliths are peaceful, though you still have to deal with some slith brigands from time to time.
Several cases of outrunning quickfire in the original trilogy, including across the roof of an enemy fortress in the second game.
The Test of Speed in the second game drops you in a room, and when you touch the door, the opposite wall opens up, releasing quickfire. You have to make it through a maze to the door before dying. Since the quickfire moves three steps to your one, it seems hopeless... until you realize that, compared to the world around you, you actually move faster while in combat mode (four or five steps per turn). Now if it weren't for those damned goblins...
Outrunning an exploding Empire portal, in one case. Jeff Vogel must like this trope.
Purely Aesthetic Gender: It's not registered in the game system anywhere; you can choose a male- or female-looking character portrait (and in case of non-human races it's not really clear which are which) and that's about it.
"Rashomon"-Style: Different NPCs who have been in Avernum since early on in its history tell you different stories about those early years. Notably, Erika claims to have invented the light-giving fungus on the cave walls, whereas actually it was just there when they arrived.
Revenge Before Reason: Erika is obsessed with toppling the Empire, and doesn't give a damn if innocent lives are lost in the process.
Rewarding Vandalism: Breaking into people's houses, even if you don't take anything, can earn you XP, as long as you're careful and don't get caught. Some valuable items you can even take in plain sight, as long as they're not marked "Not Yours".
Shareware: The earlier games make a joke out of having your path blocked by the "Shareware Demon", who demands that you perform the "Rite of Registration". You can play a very substantial portion unrestricted before that point, though.
To South Park in one of the Blades of Avernum scenarios. There is a statue guard with a muffled voice who gets smashed by an explosion.
In the third game, there's a Burma Shave ad.
Before they send us
to a grave
Alien Beasts use
Small Name, Big Ego: Legram of Escape From the Pit is this, thinking he's to become the great leader of a bandits' paradise. To the point where his last words are that he knows your weakness, and that he will defeat you next time... cue him falling dead.
Sssssnaketalk: The Slithzerikai, a race of lizardmen native to Avernum, speak like this. Some learn English well enough to avoid it, though.
Solo-Character Run: Many players opt to use just one character (a "singleton"). The only two major problems are skill selection and loot hauling.
Space Compression: Averted in the earlier games, where there were two scales—Outdoor Mode and Town/Combat Mode, which made the world actually seem gigantic. After the engine change, it just seems like the cities are placed next door to each other.
Stock Scream: In some games in the series the Wilhelm scream can be heard upon dying.
Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Wizards are basically scientists (often mad ones) and the Tower of the Magi is basically a research university. Some wizards will ask for your help with experiments, to test whether some spell or creation is safe (no).
Super Drowning Skills: Normally the game doesn't allow you to enter water, but when it does happen, it's an instant death.
Take Your Time: Most of the games, though in the third towns will be destroyed if you wait too long. And don't expect much Tower of Magi usage after day 160 comes around, though at least you'll still be able to get training from 'X' and Solberg.
Talking Animal: Giant Intelligent Friendly Talking Spiders. As Blades of Avernum puts it, "Some creatures are more dangerous, but few are more irritating."
Talking the Monster to Death: Once or twice a game. The fourth had a particularly unusual approach—every enemy who talks to you before fighting you gives you a dialogue option that seems like it would lead to this, but in all but one case you fight no matter what option is chosen. That one case is unmarked, apparently a bonus for roleplayers.
Technology Marches On: All of the games will run in any incarnation on Windows OSes (all the way back to the Exile games) with maybe only a few minor compatibility tweaks at best on 32 and 64 bit OSes. Macintosh (for which the games were originally made) has problems running the older games on their newer OS versions, hence the Updated Rereleases.
Ultimate Blacksmith: There's only one fellow in the original game who can reforge Demonslayer. Played with in that he lives in a major town and isn't hard to find—but he doesn't live in the metalworking "capital" of Avernum (Dharmon); instead, he's in the mining town of Fort Draco. The third game has only one smith who can forge swords out of mithril, and he lives in an otherwise inconsequential town in a boring corner of a frontier province. He is of very questionable sanity, at best.
Vain Sorceress: Erika considers any magician who tries to look important via lengthy, impressive titles a blowhard — probably because being the acknowledged best, titles are beneath her. She certainly demonstrates the arrogance and haughtiness of the trope, especially when venting her bitterness toward old topside rivals. Rather proud of her beauty, too.
In Avernum 1, you can smash the eggs of a hostile Slith tribe, if you don't mind fighting the angry lizardmen who attack in response. In Avernum 2, you can kill the hatched children of another hostile Slith tribe and leave their tiny bodies floating around in a pool of water, with the same result of the tribe attacking you. Good thing the game only describes what is done to their young.
Villain Episode: In the fifth game you play as Empire soldiers sent to Avernum on a mission.