October 22, 2013

The Real World Dungeon Delves

The underground dungeon complex has been a staple of D&D and fantasy games for years. It is a wonderful way to allow for player choice ("do we go left or right?") while still restraining the options the players have ("we can only go left or right"). However, the dungeon complex has always felt artificial and contrived to me. I mean, who really lives in underground lairs? In the past, I have always hand-waved it, usually saying that monsters, the normal dungeon inhabitants, simply prefer such locations and its okay since they are not bound by human predilections.

However, I could not have been more wrong. Underground cities have existed within our real world. And I'm not talking about a few caves carved into the side of a mountain either, I mean real cities that go deep beneath the earth.


This underground city was built sometime in the 7th century BC within modern day Turkey. It has at least 8 levels, was 280 feet deep and could house up to 20,000 people and their livestock. It contained food stores, kitchens, stalls, churches, wine and oil presses, ventilation shafts, wells, and a religious school. Access to the city was closed off with large round doors, that also could close off each level. Of further interest is the fact that Derinkuyu was linked to another underground city 4 miles away, Kaymakli, through an underground passage.

This underground city has 4 levels and nearly 100 tunnels with various rooms off of them. This one was also meant to be lived in and included stables (on the first level), a church, storage, dwellings, a wine press, and a copper smelting area.

The region where these two underground cities can be found has over 200 underground cities each with a minimum of 2 levels; 40 of these have a minimum of at least 3 levels. Many of these are open to the public, though not all of the cities have been fully explored. To know that there really do exist underground cities is fascinating.
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