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I used to play World of Warcraft and a few other MMOs for their crafting systems and always wondered what a fantasy RPG with a crafting system would look like with a more realistic distribution of resources. I'm tinkering with an RPG framework to make a sandbox to test out my ideas for my dream crafting system and figured this would be a good chance to experiment with realistic resource distribution on the map as well.

I'm not going to tackle all of this in a single question and just going to take it on pieces at a time, starting with caves. I remember caves being a good place to go for ore nodes in WoW, after all.

So, I wanted to ask a pretty simple question. How realistic is it to find ore veins inside of natural caves? Would only certain minerals be found in caves? And which types would appear? Would it be more common to find caves with ore or without?

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    $\begingroup$ Ore and all kinds of stuff in caves is regular thing in real live. Not that each and every cave has it, but as ores - whatever you can find in mountains you have a chance to find in caves. Gold iron(oxides) copper Pb U silver, gem stones. If one sees a cave it makes sense to check it out because it is mountain rock which is not covered by soil and dirts like outside surfaces can be. In enough cases it natural mineshaft which is then expanded. Finding coal would be strange, diamonds also ultra low chances, so there are things which make sense to look for and which are not. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Aug 24 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg: Examples, please? Examples would make a great and appreciated answer. In my mind most caves are formed by water dissolving some kind of water-soluble sedimentary rock, such as limestone, salt, or gypsum; I don't see why you would find gemstones, valuable ores, etc. in limestone. Natural voids in rocks which may be susceptible to carry valuable ores do exist, but they are quite rare, aren't they? (Unless you mean natural caves in iron ore; those are more common, but they are caves-in-ore, not ore-in-caves.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 24 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP caves in ore give you ore in caves, I think the key element MolbOrg is bringing up here is that caves have the tendency to not be covered in soil which ensures the exposure of certain valuable minerals. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Aug 24 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki: How would it ensure the exposure of valuable minerals? Again, AFAIK most caves are made by water dissolving lime, gypsum, salt and other such sedimentary rocks. What valuable minerals are found in gypsum? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 24 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP: Gold & other non-reactive metals could be found in limestone or other sedimentary rock. They erode from the original igneous rock, are deposited in river beds which are eventually covered over and become sedimentary rock. A lot of California Gold Rush gold was obtained from the gravels of fossil riverbeds, before hydraulic mining was banned. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Aug 25 at 0:46
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https://startcaving.com/caving-guides/how-are-caves-formed has a list of how caves can be formed

There are several types of "caves". The most common and largest caves are those cut in limestone by (slightly acidic) water. The only stones that might be of interest to take out are cherts and flints. Some people might find the limestone formations to be of interest. In ancient times, people went into these caves for safety, religious rituals, and to paint their hands and animals on the walls, not to collect ores.

However, there are other "caves" that are more "openings caused by rock falls". These are not very big, but may expose many other kinds of minerals. There are also wind and sea eroded caves (also small) that might expose ore veins.

Typical ore discoveries are made by finding an outcrop on the surface containing a vein of ore. Then, that ore is followed into the rock creating a mine. Mine shafts and halls rarely follow the vein exactly for safety reasons. Often, a shaft will be dropped through some solid rock and a hall cut to where they think the vein is at that depth. The reason games put ores in caves is to simulate how a mine can be cut for some distance and not find where the vein is going.

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