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Thread: Tunnel Sizes

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    Default Tunnel Sizes

    A thread ment to "catch" the derailment of another thread.


    For those just arriving now, this conversation started when someone mentioned that a standard D&D tunnel is 5'x8'. I responded that carving this would be a rediculous waste of effort for most tunnels, and that a more reasonable size would be 3'x6' or 4'x6'.

    I argued that this would be comfortable for most underground races and livable for humans. But then there were counterarguments about making it comfortable for humans and even large races like ogres...

    And so the debate rages on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gravitron5000 View Post
    3'x6' is much more reasonable.
    You might be fine with that, but I'd be grinding my skull on the ceiling and having to take care not to rub against the walls.
    Ceiling, maybe, but only if you're 5'8" or taller. (Taller than the tallest dwarf or elf.) As for width, a human is only 2' wide, so you wouldn't have to be careful unless someone was coming the other way.


    Quote Originally Posted by Gravitron5000 View Post
    Depending on the original usage of the space, I could see smaller tunnels, but most living space is generally sized for the beings using it and taking into account the use to which the space is intended. If it's a tunnel for siege work, a 3'x3' tunnel could be appropriate. Space that was intended for living is generally spaced larger than the beings inhabiting it, for usage/comfort/aesthetic reasons.
    3'x6' is all you need for comfort; that's about the size of a hallway in a real-life house.
    (And 3'x3' is oddly shaped, even for a siege tunnel; 2'x4' makes more sense.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Gravitron5000 View Post
    With many fantasy races coexisting, if you are talking about a trade settlement, you are probably talking about the largest race that you are concerned with trading with. A Kobold den, not so much. In the end, it really depends on the reason that your dungeon is there, and what it's original purpose was/is.
    Right, and 5'x8' is only needed for Large or bigger creatures. Humans are comfortable with 4'x7', Elves with 3'x6', Dwarves with 4'x5', Gnomes and Halflings with 3'x4'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    It would be more like how buildings are made handicap-accessible today, or how ceilings are much higher than necessary.
    You'll notice there are still more stairs in buildings than there are ramps and elevators. Also, the ceilings are higher because they're above-ground structures. Building upwards is trivial when there's nothing above you but air.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    Public places, commercial establishments, and any place expecting or servicing other races would be built with both large and small races in mind (even larger ranges too, depending on to what extent Tiny and Huge creatures interact with civilization).
    Only if they expect to be visited often enough for said space to be worth the effort. It hardly makes sense to spend three months preparing for the half-ogre that might be seen once a year.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    For example, if you build a house with furnishings and accommodations only useful to Small sized creatures, you just cut that building off from ~60-70% of the market, and made sure the people living there alienate any medium-size visitors they might have. In a region which is even remotely cosmopolitan (or even where larger races visit with any regularity), such accommodations would be all but necessary.
    True, but 3'x6' is not too small for Medium creatures. It is in fact exactly the right size for them. It's too small for Large creatures, like trolls and ogres, in in the majority of cases they would be less than 1% of the market.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    Suppose a halfling made friends with a human, and wanted to invite him to his place for tea. Would he rather force the human to hunch over, or allow him to stand comfortably?
    Suppose a halfling builder is building a house for halflings. Does he spend twice as much gold to make everything human-sized, or does he size it for halflings?

    5'x8' is much bigger than you all think.
    Last edited by Geordnet; 2013-05-04 at 03:53 PM.

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    I'll jump on this guy's arguments too!
    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    [SPOILER]It would be more like how buildings are made handicap-accessible today, or how ceilings are much higher than necessary. Public places, commercial establishments, and any place expecting or servicing other races would be built with both large and small races in mind (even larger ranges too, depending on to what extent Tiny and Huge creatures interact with civilization).
    There are no common/civilized races in most settings larger than Medium Sized. Goliaths are rare mountainfolk.

    For example, if you build a house with furnishings and accommodations only useful to Small sized creatures, you just cut that building off from ~60-70% of the market, and made sure the people living there alienate any medium-size visitors they might have. In a region which is even remotely cosmopolitan (or even where larger races visit with any regularity), such accommodations would be all but necessary.
    While if you build one only useful to medium-sized creatures, you alienate the Halfling/Gnome population, because people don't like having to get out ladders just to reach the top shelf.

    Suppose a halfling made friends with a human, and wanted to invite him to his place for tea. Would he rather force the human to hunch over, or allow him to stand comfortably?
    Gandalf says yes, you'd make him hunch-over. It's easy enough to crouch down.

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    Yeah, how these things get built is ultimately a question of local culture and demographics. The Shire, being pretty much exclusively hobbits, is for the most part built for creatures of that size. However, a more diverse area would (barring fantasy racism) try to accommodate more species if there was a market for it.

    I make the argument that many dnd games exist within the latter (diverse regions), because of the frequency and ease with which interracial relationships, gatherings, and organizations form there. Adventuring parties are just one of these.
    Last edited by Slipperychicken; 2013-05-04 at 02:32 PM.

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    Default Re: Tunnel Sizes

    Hmm...i didn't catch the start of this argument, so apologies if I cover any ground that has been already.

    A 3'x6' corridor is a fairly odd sort of dimension. Fairly squat. A Dwarf might feel comfortable with it, but most humans (even a shrimpy 5'4" guy like me!) would feel claustrophobic with the ceiling less than a foot above your head. You might not be scraping your head, but the impression of the low ceiling upon your psyche is far bigger than would be "comfortable" for most. Most ceilings, at least in modern buildings, are 8-9' and some people still complain about having "low ceilings". A 6' ceiling is very low by human standards.

    As for race-specific buildings. Why would a halfling or gnome build a double-sized building if he's aiming at the halfling/gnome market? Even in a multicultural society, you're not going to buy a house that's too big. At most, you'd want a recieving room and maybe one spare room to accomodate any "giant" guests and that only if you're being that considerate. I don't think many would be.
    I apologise if I come across daft. I'm a bit like that. I also like a good argument, so please don't take offence if I'm somewhat...forthright.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JellyPooga View Post
    At most, you'd want a recieving room and maybe one spare room to accomodate any "giant" guests and that only if you're being that considerate. I don't think many would be.
    With all the halfbreeds of large-size races, and size-increasing templated creatures running around, you might want higher ceilings, even in your bedroom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    Yeah, how these things get built is ultimately a question of local culture and demographics. The Shire, being pretty much exclusively hobbits, is for the most part built for creatures of that size. However, a more diverse area would (barring fantasy racism) try to accommodate more species if there was a market for it.
    I never said they wouldn't! Only that making all tunnels oversized so that the tall folk don't feel cramped is a wate of money.

    6' is tall enough for all civilized races (in most D&D settings) to not have to bend over while walking. Why need the ceilings be any higher?


    Quote Originally Posted by JellyPooga View Post
    A 3'x6' corridor is a fairly odd sort of dimension. Fairly squat. A Dwarf might feel comfortable with it, but most humans (even a shrimpy 5'4" guy like me!) would feel claustrophobic with the ceiling less than a foot above your head. You might not be scraping your head, but the impression of the low ceiling upon your psyche is far bigger than would be "comfortable" for most. Most ceilings, at least in modern buildings, are 8-9' and some people still complain about having "low ceilings". A 6' ceiling is very low by human standards.
    Well, there are a few things here. First off, I'm assuming that Dwarves would be more concerned with subterranean comfort than Humans, because Humans usually don't live underground.

    Second, the problem with drawing comparisons with real-life buildings is that most real-life buildings are above ground. On the surface building higher is much easier than it is below ground. Most people would be willing to put up with the shorter ceilings rather than pay through the nose to highten them.



    Also, I just thought of a good way to demonstrate the difference: Minecraft.

    A 3'x6' tunnel would be analogous to 1x2 in Minecraft, while a 5'x8' is more like a 2x3. Now, try mining out two 40 long tunnels of each (use a stone pick). Then tell me which you'd rather have to dig 400 of?
    Last edited by Geordnet; 2013-05-04 at 04:07 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JellyPooga View Post
    As for race-specific buildings. Why would a halfling or gnome build a double-sized building if he's aiming at the halfling/gnome market? Even in a multicultural society, you're not going to buy a house that's too big. At most, you'd want a recieving room and maybe one spare room to accomodate any "giant" guests and that only if you're being that considerate. I don't think many would be.
    But underground races, even if small, do need large tunnels for supplies wagons.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Killer Angel View Post
    But underground races, even if small, do need large tunnels for supplies wagons.
    Only as far as those supply wagons need to go, though. You're not going to build wagon-sized tunnels to your living quarters! Most tunnels in an underground civilisation of small-folk (of whatever creed) will (or should) be too small for a human to comfortably traverse. Maybe not "scraping your head" small (though it wouldn't be out of the question in some cases; Kobolds and Gnomes perhaps), but certainly small enough that you wouldn't want to spend too much time down there.
    I apologise if I come across daft. I'm a bit like that. I also like a good argument, so please don't take offence if I'm somewhat...forthright.

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    As I learned in Dwarf Fortress, sometimes it is more efficient to have a wider tunnel. Otherwise everyone has to move through each other all the time, which is a hassle. Of course, this depends on how heavily traffic'd the area is, but tunnels go both ways.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Glimbur View Post
    As I learned in Dwarf Fortress, sometimes it is more efficient to have a wider tunnel. Otherwise everyone has to move through each other all the time, which is a hassle. Of course, this depends on how heavily traffic'd the area is, but tunnels go both ways.
    If you need any real amount of traffic to quickly go through without hassle, you want your hallway to fit at least two creatures comfortably marching abreast while carrying loads. For heavily-trafficked places, you usually want it to be like 20ft wide.

    If you want people to be able to escape quickly and efficiently in case of a fire, you want wide hallways and doors which don't swing into the hallway.
    Last edited by Slipperychicken; 2013-05-05 at 11:29 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JellyPooga View Post
    Only as far as those supply wagons need to go, though. You're not going to build wagon-sized tunnels to your living quarters! Most tunnels in an underground civilisation of small-folk (of whatever creed) will (or should) be too small for a human to comfortably traverse. Maybe not "scraping your head" small (though it wouldn't be out of the question in some cases; Kobolds and Gnomes perhaps), but certainly small enough that you wouldn't want to spend too much time down there.
    Absolutely yes. You'll be fine on the "roads" between towns, and on the main streets, but outside 'em, it should be a bottleneck feast.
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    On height: I'm actually inclined towards assuming smaller tunnels, just because digging is a pain. However, the real house analogy doesn't work here - 6 feet floor to ceiling is extremely short for a house. I live in an old house, made for small people and it still manages 8 feet in most places (although there's a beam that is referred to as the six foot person knockout bar), more modern ones tend to be even higher than that.
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    For what it's worth, from what I've been able to dig up on the various European catacombs, the height averages around 7 to 8 ft

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    If you need any real amount of traffic to quickly go through without hassle, you want your hallway to fit at least two creatures comfortably marching abreast while carrying loads.
    That would be 4'-5', then. Even 4' enough to drive a chariot or wagon down. As for two-way cart traffic, it would be easier and safer to make two one-way tunnels than one two-way tunnel.

    However, you need to think about every individual tunnel to decide how wide they need to be. Corridors from the living quarters to the main hall usually won't have a ton of stuff moving through them (in both directions at the same time, at least) while corridors connecting the main hall to the workshops will.

    And always remember: it takes a lot of effort to widen or heighten a tunnel. And few people want to spend more effort than they need to on something.


    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    For heavily-trafficked places, you usually want it to be like 20ft wide.
    You do know that's almost twice as wide as most above-ground roads, right?

    Not that it matters, since tunnels that wide would almost always cave in. Maybe the Dwarves could make underground superhighways that wide, but even that would require generational effort.


    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    If you want people to be able to escape quickly and efficiently in case of a fire, you want wide hallways and doors which don't swing into the hallway.
    Hm, the fire's actually a good point. Unfortunately there usually isn't a fire code in D&D.


    Quote Originally Posted by 1337 b4k4 View Post
    For what it's worth, from what I've been able to dig up on the various European catacombs, the height averages around 7 to 8 ft
    That's a good man-sized tunnel, then. However, most underground creatures are at least 1 foot shorter than men, and I'd imagine they're more comfortable with low ceilings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geordnet View Post
    [snip]
    You do know that's almost twice as wide as most above-ground roads, right?
    [snip]
    You live in an area with very narrow roads then. My neck of the woods, most driveways are 10' wide at minimum, with actual roads around 20' minimum width. of course, alleyways (fairly low traffic) are often just wide enough to get a car through them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geordnet View Post
    You do know that's almost twice as wide as most above-ground roads, right?
    That's why I said heavily trafficked. As in "you're expecting countless people and golf-cart sized vehicles rushing through this hall at all hours of day and night", which you could expect in an undergound civilization.

    I know that the major train stations I use, and the (admittedly huge) school I attend both have corridors about that wide. Most regular two-lane roads are around 13 feet wide, though.
    Last edited by Slipperychicken; 2013-05-05 at 11:22 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Astral Avenger View Post
    You live in an area with very narrow roads then. My neck of the woods, most driveways are 10' wide at minimum, with actual roads around 20' minimum width. of course, alleyways (fairly low traffic) are often just wide enough to get a car through them.
    I may have been underestimating, but I was counting third-world and old-timey roads.


    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    That's why I said heavily trafficked. As in "you're expecting countless people and golf-cart sized vehicles rushing through this hall at all hours of day and night", which you could expect in an undergound civilization.

    I know that the major train stations I use, and the (admittedly huge) school I attend both have corridors about that wide. Most regular two-lane roads are around 13 feet wide, though.
    Ok, but this is not what we're talking about. Dungeons which were once the heart of a bustling civilization are the exception, not the norm.

    And even then, these sort of pathways wouldn't be called "tunnels" so much as "great halls".
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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lane#La...h_and_capacity

    US road lanes are legally mandated at 12 feet wide for interstates. Across Europe, the narrowest standard lane is 8.2 feet. Double that for two-way traffic, add another 5 feet each side for "foot traffic", and you're looking at a typical width of 26 feet.

    So, the 20 foot width mentioned upthread is not unreasonable at all. It would probably have a row of widely spaced columns down the middle to act as a traffic barrier.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ashtagon View Post
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lane#La...h_and_capacity

    US road lanes are legally mandated at 12 feet wide for interstates. Across Europe, the narrowest standard lane is 8.2 feet. Double that for two-way traffic, add another 5 feet each side for "foot traffic", and you're looking at a typical width of 26 feet.

    So, the 20 foot width mentioned upthread is not unreasonable at all. It would probably have a row of widely spaced columns down the middle to act as a traffic barrier.
    Again, you're looking at modern, above-ground roads. Here's something better to compare:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_roads

    It says the standard width was about 8 feet, and this is for the very best roads at a standard D&D tech level. That's enough to handle two-way cart traffic, especially if the carts are made narrower than usual.

    And it'd still be a lot easier to keep from caving in than 20' wide tunnels, even with columns running down the middle. I'd expect such a major 'lowway' to take the form of two 5'x8' tunnels with arched ceilings running parallel to each other about 4' apart, with 3'x6' side tunnels connecting them every 20' or more.

    That would certainly be a LOT easier to carve over long distances.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geordnet View Post
    Again, you're looking at modern, above-ground roads. Here's something better to compare:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_roads

    It says the standard width was about 8 feet, and this is for the very best roads at a standard D&D tech level. That's enough to handle two-way cart traffic, especially if the carts are made narrower than usual.
    Last time I checked, standard D&D tech included wall of stone, move earth, shape stone, and a bunch of other spells useful in an engineering context. Romans had nothing comparable to that.

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    The Hobbit/LOTR gives a pretty good example covering the 'homes/rooms sized for different creatures' question. Bilbo's home in the Shire is sized for hobbits, because only hobbits live there. Gandalf just has to be careful and sit down a lot.

    But when the hobbits go to Bree, the innkeeper tells them they have some nice, hobbit sized rooms for them. This is because the Prancing Pony is an inn between hobbit and human lands, so they see mixed traffic and want their money.

    Finally, when Bilbo/Frodo visits Rivendell, everything is bigger than he needs (huge beds!) because Rivendell is built just for the (taller) elves that live there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ashtagon View Post
    Last time I checked, standard D&D tech included wall of stone, move earth, shape stone, and a bunch of other spells useful in an engineering context. Romans had nothing comparable to that.
    Show me a setting where a very small subset of a group of extremely highly trained and specialized and often egomaniacal people, who are in turn a very small subset of the population at large has nothing better to do with their then building roads, and I show you a setting I have absolutely no interest in playing in.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zombimode View Post
    Show me a setting where a very small subset of a group of extremely highly trained and specialized and often egomaniacal people, who are in turn a very small subset of the population at large has nothing better to do with their then building roads, and I show you a setting I have absolutely no interest in playing in.
    Them being egomaniacal is itself a setting element, and without that it could work. D&D probably isn't the best vehicle for it, but I have seen cases where this sort of thing makes perfect sense, in settings that do work well. Specifically, there's a setting involving alchemists who can do within-phase matter transformations at constant shape and volume, who can and will transform tons and tons of stone into different, more easily removed solids that are then cleared out by someone else. Between civic duty and the sort of pay that comes attached to these things, it makes perfect sense - particularly for those who aren't really cut out for research and avoid combat.

    My point is, you're writing a large concept off a little easily, entirely based on the less than ideal D&D implementation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zombimode View Post
    Show me a setting where a very small subset of a group of extremely highly trained and specialized and often egomaniacal people, who are in turn a very small subset of the population at large has nothing better to do with their then building roads, and I show you a setting I have absolutely no interest in playing in.
    A smart D&D ruler would totally pay some well trained wizards to build roads in his realm for him. Even if they charged a hefty sum for their services, the ruler's gains in ease of trade and movement of troops far exceeds the cost.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zombimode View Post
    Show me a setting where a very small subset of a group of extremely highly trained and specialized and often egomaniacal people, who are in turn a very small subset of the population at large has nothing better to do with their then building roads, and I show you a setting I have absolutely no interest in playing in.
    Actually, this is one of the more mundane jobs that the Gold College has in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay setting. That setting always struck me as a fun one to play in.

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    Default Re: Tunnel Sizes

    Quote Originally Posted by Geordnet View Post
    A thread ment to "catch" the derailment of another thread.


    For those just arriving now, this conversation started when someone mentioned that a standard D&D tunnel is 5'x8'. I responded that carving this would be a rediculous waste of effort for most tunnels, and that a more reasonable size would be 3'x6' or 4'x6'.

    I argued that this would be comfortable for most underground races and livable for humans. But then there were counterarguments about making it comfortable for humans and even large races like ogres...

    And so the debate rages on.

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    Ceiling, maybe, but only if you're 5'8" or taller. (Taller than the tallest dwarf or elf.) As for width, a human is only 2' wide, so you wouldn't have to be careful unless someone was coming the other way.



    3'x6' is all you need for comfort; that's about the size of a hallway in a real-life house.
    (And 3'x3' is oddly shaped, even for a siege tunnel; 2'x4' makes more sense.)


    Right, and 5'x8' is only needed for Large or bigger creatures. Humans are comfortable with 4'x7', Elves with 3'x6', Dwarves with 4'x5', Gnomes and Halflings with 3'x4'.


    You'll notice there are still more stairs in buildings than there are ramps and elevators. Also, the ceilings are higher because they're above-ground structures. Building upwards is trivial when there's nothing above you but air.


    Only if they expect to be visited often enough for said space to be worth the effort. It hardly makes sense to spend three months preparing for the half-ogre that might be seen once a year.


    True, but 3'x6' is not too small for Medium creatures. It is in fact exactly the right size for them. It's too small for Large creatures, like trolls and ogres, in in the majority of cases they would be less than 1% of the market.


    Suppose a halfling builder is building a house for halflings. Does he spend twice as much gold to make everything human-sized, or does he size it for halflings?

    5'x8' is much bigger than you all think.

    A standard tunnel what?
    There is no iso in the d&d world... well at least not in the games I played (maybe in one of those totalitarian lawful good realms though :D)

    Overall there is no such thing, tunnels will be build as conditions (the races that live there etc) requires and time permits.

    Why would rat people build huge tunnels? So that "big folks" can come in and kill them more easily?!?!
    Last edited by Emmerask; 2013-05-06 at 12:46 PM.

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    Default Re: Tunnel Sizes

    Quote Originally Posted by Emmerask View Post
    A standard tunnel what?
    Like, what you'd find in a dungeon linking rooms, when there's no particular reason for it to be a certain size (like wider or narrower than usual).


    Quote Originally Posted by Alejandro View Post
    A smart D&D ruler would totally pay some well trained wizards to build roads in his realm for him. Even if they charged a hefty sum for their services, the ruler's gains in ease of trade and movement of troops far exceeds the cost.
    Ah, but there is still a significant cost either way. The question in this case is "why would the dungeon builders pay more to build tunnels bigger than they need to be?"
    Last edited by Geordnet; 2013-05-07 at 01:00 AM.

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    Default Re: Tunnel Sizes

    Quote Originally Posted by Zombimode View Post
    Show me a setting where a very small subset of a group of extremely highly trained and specialized and often egomaniacal people, who are in turn a very small subset of the population at large has nothing better to do with their then building roads, and I show you a setting I have absolutely no interest in playing in.
    A setting where that small subset of people realised that they can do more work than an entire construction crew, and so they can charge through the nose for their services and still undercut the competition.
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    Default Re: Tunnel Sizes

    Quote Originally Posted by Geordnet View Post
    Like, what you'd find in a dungeon linking rooms, when there's no particular reason for it to be a certain size (like wider or narrower than usual).
    It was more a question about why anyone would think that there is such a thing like normed tunnel sizes

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    Default Re: Tunnel Sizes

    Remember that the tunnels have two purposes - to allow access to where you live, and to provide defenses. I don't expect dwarves to dig tunnels taller than they need for the benefit of an invading army.

    When I designed a dwarf kingdom in a mountain, there was a thirty foot wide, twenty-foot tall corridor leading slowly upward from the footy of the mountain to their market (they were a major producer of metalwork and jewelry). But they also had a giant cylinder (almost exactly thirty foot long, with a nearly twenty-foot diameter) ready to roll down it, as a defense. The door to their market area was known, public, and a horrible way to attack their kingdom.

    The only tunnels I've actually been in have been a couple of 19th century gold mines in New Mexico. The tunnels are wide enough for the carts to go through (pushed by hand, on rails) but not much wider. There's room for a person to slip by a cart, but only barely. It wasn't much taller than 6 feet, and yes, it's kind of claustrophobic.

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