Adventures set under a city’s streets invariable feature networks of dank, noisome sewers. There are other locations, however, a GM could consider as the setting for his adventure.
A city’s underworld should be a dynamic, complex place. Such locations can be immense and comprise a vast range of different types of locale. Much more lies beneath the streets than mere sewers. The following places could be found below a city:
- Rivers & Canals: Sometimes rivers and canals get diverted underground to make way for buildings and thoroughfares. Such underground waterways often interlink with the settlement’s sewers.
- Crypts: The city must bury its dead and with space above ground at a premium often the dead get interred underground. Crypts can be found below practically every church, chapel and shrine in the city. Some wealthy families might maintain private crypts beneath their urban estates. Space in crypts are normally reserved for the great and the good. For everyone else, the anonymity of the catacombs awaits…
- Catacombs: In these vast burial complexes are laid to rest the great unwashed of the city. Some such places may be organised. Families and neighbourhoods might have their own portions of the catacombs in the same way as they would have a cemetery above ground. In others, the dead are simply placed wherever is expedient.
- Reservoirs: Towns and cities have a terrible thirst. The populace and industry of the place require water – and lots of it. Reservoirs or cisterns are built to provide a place to store water against times of need. Such locations are particularly common in settlements without ready access to a nearby source of fresh water.
- Vaults: Every town has a wealthy upper class and every upper class family has treasure they wish to keep safe. Some vaults will be private while others are communal affairs or are run as businesses. Such locations are always heavily guarded, but are attractive targets for thieves due to the concentration of wealth in one place.
- Quarries: Building a town or city often requires stone (at least for the major buildings). It is costly and time consuming to transport such stone long distances. Sometimes, the settlement expands to surround or grow over a quarry. This can be dangerous. If the ground below buildings is unstable sink-holes or collapses can occur.
- Mines: In the same way as quarries, mines can tunnel under a town for great distances.
- Homes: In some settlements, a significant portion of the populace may live underground. Some races such as dwarves love living underground while other individuals – the very poor, the desperate and the hunted – might be forced underground. Whole communities and neighbours might exist under the city streets.
Remember underground locales can be adapted and changed to suit the user’s needs. A played out underground mine or quarry could be transformed into a mushroom farm, for example. While an underground reservoir could also be used to farm fish.
Help Fellow GMs!
Have you used other underground spaces in urban adventures? Let us know what they are in the comments below and help fellow GMs build better urban adventures today!
This post is part of Urban Week. Urban Week celebrates the release of GM’s Miscellany: Urban Dressing from Raging Swan Press which is available from Thursday 26 June. I hope you find it useful and that it enhances your urban campaigns!
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