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Sewer systems exist underneath a few modern cities in Midgard. They carry waste and storm water into the nearby waterways so cities don’t drown in their own filth.
Even better, these largely subterranean tunnels and chambers provide opportunities for adventure, from rat fighting, to infiltrating a thieves’ guild, to preventing an invasion by an army of ghouls.
Located in the sprawling Magdar Kingdom, Sveretska is the region’s largest and arguably most important city. Known for its bustling markets and smithies, which constantly churn out weapons for local wars and goods for other parts of the world, it is not surprising that Sveretska’s sewer system is equally busy.
Known locally as the Bilgeworks, the city’s sewer system is named for the massive pumps housed within its deep recesses. They funnel wastewater, excrement, and forge residue through large, copper pipes and out into the Argent River just below the city’s many piers.
A veritable army of kobolds and dwarves known as the Bilgeworkers regulates the sewer system, patrolling at least once a month to ensure the pumps work properly and the sewer is free of undesirables.
The Bilgeworks is a marvel of dwarven engineering dating back almost two hundred years, well before the unification of the current Magdar Kingdom. Unfortunately, it has seen little innovation or expansion since. With the increase in the city’s populace, it has begun to creak under the strain.
Furthermore, the raw waste piling into the Argent River has led to increasing problems with the river’s water quality.
Into the Tunnels
Despite the best efforts of the local workers, the Bilgeworks are almost impossible to keep completely problem-free. Swarms of esteron, sporous crabs (see Tome of Beasts 2 for both), and gray oozes inhabit the smaller pipes and junctions. Thankfully, the sewer system is free of larger threats and intelligent intruders, such as wererats, due to the efforts of the Bilgeworkers.
A typical Bilgeworker patrol numbers between 3 and 6 cleaners (treat them as dwarf commoners or kobolds) plus a kobold sapper (see Tome of Beasts 3) or dwarven veteran for special support. Aside from a dagger or club, each cleaner also carries a tool bag containing wrenches, sponges, and 1d4 sanitation bombs for exceptionally hard-to-clear patches of mold or slime.
Sanitation Bomb. This engraved glass sphere holds a volatile cleaning agent. You can throw the bomb up to 20 feet as an action, shattering it on impact. On a hit, the bomb explodes into a cloud of fine golden mist in a 20-foot radius, instantly destroying ordinary molds, slimes, and fungi in the area. The mist also deals 7 (2d6) necrotic damage to all monstrous fungi and oozes in the radius, though affected creatures can make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw to take half damage. Against other targets, the mist stings a little but is otherwise harmless.
Sanitation bombs are typically only available to Bilgeworkers but are sometimes sold in Sveretska’s markets, where they can field prices of up to 120 gp each.
Since the pumps constantly flush waste into the Argent River, the Bilgeworks is relatively free of detritus and gaseous buildups. The main danger comes from the pumps themselves. Unfortunate adventurers might get caught in a flush.
The Flush. You can hear this tumultuous surge of wastewater (and other materials) before you see it. A creature in the Bilgeworks can detect an oncoming flush 1d6 rounds before it hits with a successful DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check, giving them a chance to avoid or prepare for it.
A creature struck by the surge of water must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be swept off its feet and carried 60 feet along by the moving water, taking 7 (2d6) bludgeoning damage in the process. The creature must also succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned until it takes an action to clear the sewage flooding its mouth and nostrils.
If a creature begins its turn in the wastewater, it must repeat the Strength saving throw until it succeeds, the flush ends, or it is deposited into the waters of the Argent River. A flush lasts for 2d4 rounds before stopping.
Adventures in the Bilgeworks
The Bilgeworks can be incorporated in a variety of ways into a campaign. Here are some possible adventure ideas that feature the sewer system in some capacity.
A Fee Kill Matter. Kibbix is a soot-stained kobold sapper recently fired from his position with the Bilgeworkers for attacking a manager who withheld his pay. He then disappeared, swearing vengeance on the city. His sister, Nava, hires the PCs to locate her missing brother, who plans to blow up one of the sewer pumps in retribution.
Point of Ordure. A druid named Velinus Ristlewick has been warning Sveretska’s elite that damage done to the Argent River by the Bilgeworks could become disastrous. Frustrated by their inability to see the truth, he takes control of the sewer’s flying salamander population, known as esterons (see Tome of Beasts 2), and makes them attack the Bilgeworkers, blaming the attacks on the pollution problems.
Case of the Runs. Some villains the PCs are chasing flee into the Bilgeworks. During the chase, the PCs must navigate a colony of gray oozes and survive one of the Bilgeworks flushes before confronting their enemies atop a series of walkways overlooking a pumping station.
Upset Discharge. The Bilgeworkers stop patrolling at the end of the discharge pipes, so they’ve missed a growing problem. The sewerage dumped into the Argent River over the decades has polluted sections of the river near the outlets, particularly with cast-off pieces of metal. In the last few months, this pollution has created several shambling oozes known as gearmasses (see Tome of Beasts 3) in the river. They’ve begun to eat at the Bilgeworks’s copper pipes and mechanisms.
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1 thought on “Sewers Under Sveretska”
I have always wanted to run a session in a sewer under a major city, but I never knew how to make it a compelling area. These hazards and adventure hooks are just what I need. Thanks for another great article, Phillip!