Avernum

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"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!"
Conrac

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 III, the protagonists are the "secondary" team sent to the surface, after the first group disappeared without a trace. Avernum IV 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 V 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 VI, casts you as Avernite soldiers desperately trying to stem the chaos of an Avernum overcome by both a Slithzerakai invasion and The Blight, a disease destroying Avernum's food supply.

Blades of Avernum happens after Avernum III 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 doesn't run well on modern OSes (especially Macintosh), and the programmer wants to use a better looking engine. As well as porting the game to the iPad.


Tropes used in Avernum include:
  • 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.
  • All in a Row
  • Exclusively Evil: Used straight and subverted. Demons in particular with very few exceptions (read: not violently hostile) are this.
  • Adaptation Expansion: What Avernum is to the Exile series.
    • 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 want 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 shown they are quite pacifistic.
  • Animated Armor: Doomguards.
  • Anti-Grinding: Fairly well-implemented. You get very little XP from killing monsters far below you in level.
  • 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 says he's wearing the army of a Dervish, one of the Empire's elite soldiers, but he's wearing them 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.
  • Automaton Horses: Avernum 3.
  • 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 III, 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.
  • Barrier Change Boss: A few minor bosses in the second trilogy.
  • Beneath the Earth: The setting, except for A3 and Blades, most of which take place on the surface.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Emperor Hawthorne III, Sss-thss, and Grah-Hoth in 1/Escape From the Pit.
  • Blade on a Stick: Preferred weapon of sliths.
  • 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.")
  • Bookcase Passage
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Constantly in Avernum 5.
    • Normal Slith 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 Slith 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 malnurishment 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.
  • 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.
  • Bucket Booby Trap: The illustration for the "Tool Use" skill in the first three games. Naturally, the bucket is labeled "acid."
  • 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.
  • Catfolk: The Nephilim are a furry, feline race renowned for their sharp senses and ability to see in the dark.
  • 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 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.
  • City Guards: They have a special statistic which makes them triple-effective when fighting against Player Characters.
  • Climax Boss: Sss-Thsss in the first game.
  • Convection, Schmonvection
  • Cult: In Avernum III, 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 sacrement; 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.
  • Death Is Cheap: Only 375 GP at your local healer. Games 4, 5, and 6 replace it with Non-Lethal KO.
  • Dialogue Tree: It's a lot like Fallout's.
  • 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.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: Twice in the fifth game (with lifts, no less!)
  • 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.)
  • End of an Age: Avernum 6.
  • Enemy Summoner: in a literal sense.
  • Eternal Equinox
  • 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.
  • Everything Fades
  • Face Heel Turn: Rentar-Ihrno in 3.
  • Fantastic Drug: Skribbane in Avernum 3, 5 and 6.
  • 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.
  • Fantastic Slurs: Nephilim and Slithzeraki are called kitties and lizards respectively. Avernites are called worms and voles. Here's a list.
  • Fight Woosh: Only for outdoor battles in the original trilogy.
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning: And poison, acid, and "disruption."
  • Flower From the Mountaintop: In the third installment, there is a quest like this. Said flower is also guarded by hordes of gremlins who charm you constantly.
  • Forced Tutorial: In the fourth and fifth games.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Most spells use this. However, Wall of Blades will damage anyone nearby.
  • Functional Magic: All the "flavors" are used except Wild Magic and Magic Music. "Styles" are "Mage" (Black Magic with Dark Is Not Evil employed) and "Priest" (White Magic.) Both Mage and Priest spells include Elemental Powers and Summon Magic, though priests can only summon spirits. Necromancy in the standard sense is mage-only, always evil, and restricted to your enemies.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Look very closely at Phil Foglio's drawings.
  • Ghostly Chill: A good sign that you're entering a crypt or other haunted place is the sudden chill in the air.
  • Global Currency: Explained as barter goods. And in the third game, the currency really is global, as the Empire controls the entire surface world.
  • God Mode: Arcane shield renders you almost invulnerable. As it wears off, however, more and more attacks slip through.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Erika is the closest thing the series has to a Big Good, but she's haughty, arrogant, and violently opposed to long term peace between Avernum and the Empire.
  • Gotta Catch Em All: The second game has a clear example, the Crystal Souls. The first has you gather and reforge the shards of the sword Demonslayer to fight Grah-Hoth, but a few well-aimed Arrows of Light can also deal with him. Some of the games give a soul crystal (not a Crystal Soul) in which you can store copies of monsters to summon later, turning them into Mons.
  • Harder Than Hard: Torment. It lives up to its name, particularly in the fifth game.
  • Harmful Healing: Never use the "First Aid" action when you haven't trained in the skill. You have a high chance of doing damage to your unfortunate ally.
  • Hellfire: Quickfire.
  • Hide Your Children: Generally they only appear in areas with no monsters. If they're human, anyways--nothing stops you killing a "baby hydra." And often very little stops you from killing a child if you don't mind the town attacking you on sight.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Emperor Hawthorne cultivated a climate of cutthroat competition, instituting Klingon Promotions and underworld exile for losers of political clashes in order to keep them from threatening his power. This concentrated a lot of determined resentment among people capable of thriving on being Reassigned to Antarctica, at least one of whom never stopped conspiring revenge, and many others willing to support it.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Rentar-Ihrno in Avernum 3. [1]
  • 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.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: The Merry brothers in the third game.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Plenty of them.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • La Résistance: The Scimitar.
  • Last Chance Hit Point: Standard mechanic in the first three games. This is exploitable if you pick a fight with an enemy that's significantly above your level, but can only attack once per turn.
  • Lemony Narrator: Particularly in regard to being a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Light and Mirrors Puzzle: Several in the Golem Factory in Avernum 3. The goal is generally to point the lasers in such a direction that they won't block your path. (Which is odd, because you ought to be able to crawl under them...)
  • Limited Sound Effects
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Luck Stat
  • 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. Also contributed the page picture.
  • Mage Tower: The Tower of Magi.
  • Magic Antidote: Apparently literal.
  • Minmaxer's Delight: Divinely Touched.
  • 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).
  • Missing Secret: Missing minor secrets are favored by Spiderweb.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: "Those blinking, farging porgers don't have the blanks..."
  • No Canon for the Wicked:
    • 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 V: 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 III, your party is trying to figure out who created the plagues of monster 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.
  • NPC Amnesia
  • Numerical Hard
  • Oh Crap: In Escape from the Pit, Legram's thugs have this reaction if you choose to immediately attack rather than plead for mercy. (which is what they expected you to do)
  • One Size Fits All
  • Opening the Sandbox: The final chapter in Avernum 2.
  • Organ Drops: Fortunately, they're usually quest items rather than food.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: In quite a lot of ways.
  • Outrun the Fireball:
    • 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.
  • Pamphlet Shelf
  • Planet of Steves: The Giant Intelligent Friendly Talking Spiders are all named Spider.
  • Portal Network: In the second trilogy.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender
  • The Rashomon: 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.
  • Really Seven Hundred Years Old: The vahnatai.
  • Religion of Evil: Tons and tons of them.
  • 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.
  • Shareware: The earlier games make a joke out of having your path blocked by the "Shareware Demon", which demands that you perform the "Rite of Registration". You can play a very substantial portion unrestricted before that point, though.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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
Burma Shave

  • Sssssnaketalk: The Slithzerikai, a race of lizardmen native to Avernum, speak like this. Some learn English well enough to avoid this, though.
  • Solo Character Run: Many players opt to use just one character. 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.
  • Starter Villain: Legram in Escape from the Pit.
  • Stock Scream: In some games in the series the Wilhelm scream can be heard upon dying.
  • 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.
  • 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 based O Ses (all the way back to the Exile games) with maybe only a few minor compatibility tweaks at best on 32 and 64 bit O Ses. Macintosh (where the games were originally made for) has problems running the older games on their newer OS versions, hence the Updated Rerelease versions.
  • Tuckerization: See this thread for a list.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: There's only one fellow in the original game who can reforge Demonslayer. Somewhat subverted in that he lives in a major town and isn't hard to find. 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.
  • Universal Poison
  • Vain Sorceress: Erika considers any magician who tries to look important via impressive, and long 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.
  • Vendor Trash
  • Video Game Remake: Of the Exile series.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: With a few plot-based exceptions, you can kill off every inhabitant of most towns and still win the game. The exceptions generally get you an automatic Nonstandard Game Over when you try.
    • 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.
  • We Buy Anything
  • With This Herring: always present, always justified--for instance, in the fifth a double agent stole all the equipment you were supposed to get.
  • You All Look Familiar: Lampshaded three times in the third game.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: The first game starts off with the party getting thrown into Avernum.
    • The first game takes place pretty close to entirely in that prison; escaping is a major plot goal. Your party doesn't meet itself in prison, it meets pretty much every character in prison!
    • The second game also takes place entirely in that prison. And the fourth, fifth, and sixth games? It's no longer a prison, but you spend the entire game in Avernum. Only the third game in the series spends a substantial amount of time elsewhere.

See Also: Encyclopedia Ermarian

  1. It is actually possible to defeat Rentar-Ihrno, provided you are very, very persistent.