I just figured out one thing about the world of the World of Warcraft that’s been bugging the heck out of me. In a normal ecology you have a massive pyramid of critters that eat other critters; at the bottom you’ve got eensie weensie buggers barely making a living at turning photons or maybe ionic energy sources (e.g., oxidation of iron) into forms of stored energy (ATP, carbohydrates, etc.); there’s nothing lower than these fellas, and they have to work like hell to make a buck. Then you have somewhat larger critters that munch on the first guys, and so forth, until you finally have the beasts who are specialist carnivores. It takes a lot lower-pyramid fodder to keep a single meat eater happy. Typical numbers for the earth are acres or maybe square miles per large predator.
In WoW the beasts are packed far tighter than this. How is this remotely possible? In fact, most of WoW is populated by carnivores. What are these guys eating? There are nowhere near the number of cattle-like beasts required to prop up that many meat eaters, even if you give the thorny-pig guys and some other humanoids the benefit of the doubt as omnivores.
Fortunately the answer is right in front of us: To heck with photosynthesis or funky chemical energy sources, the biological engine behind WoW is pretty clear. They’re eating adventurers.
Think about it. Your average player dies like a thousand times (well, I have) making it to level 60. Figure that a hefty Paladin weighs in at 250 pounds of edible tissue, average that with gnomes and you get maybe 180 pounds per death.
Between deaths (~180 pounds of food provided to the system) a player might kill several hundred beasts, which at first doesn’t seem anywhere near enough for break-even. But players don’t eat beasts, they just leave them behind, so it’s reasonable to assume that the corpses are being consumed by other carnivores, and that we’re really looking at a system that has an embarrasment of energy, a surplus to get rid of. My guess is that Mana is ultimately the product of decay.
And no, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know where all the poop goes.