Friday, December 23, 2016

Sewers and Fantasy Cities

This month’s blog carnival is on sewers and garbage.  I have to admit that the concept of fantasy sewers is one I take to heart.  I remember decades ago, nearly every fantasy computer game started with an exploration of the sewer tunnels and fights with giant rats.  There are many times that I think about trying to recreate - or maybe just create - one of those massive dungeons, but I don’t know if I have the stamina for the project.

I love the historic concepts too.  The Fleet River (and a couple of others) flowed through London, but became so polluted, that they basically paved over them and these three rivers became the London sewer system.  OK, I am dramatically over simplifying things, but that is basically what happened.  So Fleet Street is atop an old river that is now a sewer.  Man the puns and jokes just keep popping into my head, but they really aren’t funny enough to include here.

So what do I do in Fletnern?  Well, I have figured this out for the cities that I have run major campaigns out of, but not necessarily all of my cities.  Rhum is relatively easy.  The streets are supposed to have gutters that funnel the rain water (and garbage) into collection pits, which are “frequently” cleaned out by the city employees (the street sweepers).  This is how it works in the wealthy neighborhoods, but not in the poorer ones.  In the poorer neighborhoods, the pits overflow with rainwater and garbage and may flood the streets.

When Rhum was built in its current spot, there was a tiny river / large stream that would have run through the city diagonally.  Rather than bridge this stream throughout the city and expecting that it would become polluted (as would the drinking water), they decided to “bury” it.  Rhum is renowned for their ceramics, and they devised ceramic pipes.  With the tech they had, they made 8”d ceramic pipes, and laid “clutches” of them (9).  (They could not craft bigger pipes that would hold up.)  The plan worked - to a degree.  The stream flows through or around the pipes about 12’-15’ under the surface of Rhum.  An army training region is left as “wilderness” southeast of the city (where the stream runs underground).  This is now a marshy area because the water does not flow into the pipes as smoothly as most would have hoped, but since no one is allowed in the area, no one stops to think about the stream.  The public plan was that the stream would be diverted, and if asked, any who recalled the stream’s existence would say that is what happened. 

A clutch of nine 8” pipes is not a sewer that anyone could explore, but I did once shrink a party down to 6” and send them in to recover a wizard’s cat / familiar.  She was the captive of some unreasonably intelligent rats who were serious foes to people shrunk to 1/12th their normal size.

Brinston is built right up next to a cliff face.  The cliff is riddled with caves.  Some of these caves connect, but many of them do not, at least not in a way that could be traversed by anyone but the rats.  Some ingenious people have knocked down walls and connected them, but this is illegal.  The city has deemed certain caves and tunnels as sewer tunnels, meaning that they will run all the way to the cliff face and then down the cliff.  These tunnels are then linked to storm grates which wash the rain water (and anything else in the street) out of the city and down the cliff west of the city, so effectively into the ocean.

One of these sewer tunnels runs directly south out of the city, and thus right through the river front fishermen’s community.  While few want to live next to the open sewer, there is enough beach front that they can avoid the river of waste.  Several makeshift bridges cross the “channel” though the stench is pretty bad.  The streets in the southeast corner of the city have gutters that wash the water right up to and out through the walls.  There are various spots by the Drovers’ Gate Bridge where openings in the bottom of the wall are grated to prevent anything bigger than a house cat from getting through, but allow the waste water to flow out of the city and down the 6-12’ to the river below.  As this section of the city is the warehouse district, this is mostly rain water and therefore does not completely pollute the river water flowing past the fishermen’s hovels.

But only some of the caves and tunnels are designated as sewers.  Beneath the city all manner of industry is taking place.  This is where most of the chemists making calcium nitrate or saltpeter do their work.  They are working with dung piles and stale urine, but don’t want to lose their product from rain water getting in, so they are only using tunnels that do not run with water.  However, this means that they are typically in caves that do not have a lot of air flow, making the fumes more than noxious. 

There are all manner of other rumors about what inhabits the sewers tunnels and the other tunnels accessible from these sewer tunnels.  Chief among those rumors are the demon cults that hide beneath the city, possibly within catacombs stacked with bones.  The catacombs do exist, as some cultures who have used this spot have buried their dead in the caves, but the demon cult stories are at least exaggerated.  The other urban legend is of the horrible creatures that live beneath the city.  They are supposed to be “shark people” with reptilian features and rows of shark teeth in their mouths that open like a snake’s.  We’ll leave it to you to find out if the shark people really exist.

OK, so oops - I went on a bit long here!  I do know a bit about some of the others, but before I publish a ten page book in one blog post, I should stop.  I’ve avoided it up to now, but I can’t help myself:  So I hope you enjoyed this crappy little blog post and it inspired you to go take out the garbage.  Please keep coming back or you’ll miss all this great $#!+.

1 comment:

  1. Certainly an interesting spot for an atypical campaign setting, like a post-apoc world. Or human who live like rats in a city of giants' sewers! That could work.
    I know a guy who writes a comic called "The Adventurers" on DA that has a druid who worships a nature deity and a sewers deity. She gets sewer creatures as familiars, has noxious abilities, and I think can produce oxygen from water, filter, etc. Sewers are pretty interesting. There's a crazy scary movie recently released to Netflix that takes place in Paris' sewers, can't recall the name, that plays out like a campaign itself! It is a quest for a philosophers stone deep in the sewers, tying in a as above so below motif that really makes for a cool film.