Small Team Tactics in Tunnel SystemsThe upper sewer system of Waterdeep
This chapter will focus upon the lessons learned after witnessing and partaking in several different expeditions into the city sewers with dozens of different teams using varying levels of team work and various tactics. We will begin with some broad strokes describing the Sewers and it's various denizens as well as common reasons adventurers brave these dark and dangerous tunnels. Afterwards we will take a closer look at the threats that have been encountered, and the different teams and tactics that have proven successful and unsuccessful in surviving the unique challenges of Waterdeep's sewers.
The sewerage system of Waterdeep is as large and complex as the city streets they serve and almost as well populated. The Slimey Goblin Tribe and various other vermin make up the dangerous population of the upper most levels of the sewers.Slimey Goblin Tribe
One threat of the Sewers are the very tribal and territorial Goblins who work together to lay ambush to the unwary be within the larger sections of tunnel following the sewers main drainage canals or in the smaller narrower side tunnels that spiderweb beneath the city streets. The Slimey Goblin Tribe have not managed to populate and dominate the City Sewers by chance, they have done so because they have been able to adapt very well to using the environment to their advantage to not only survive but to thrive. They have easy access to the city streets above to raid the population above in an effort to gather food and resources, and anyone who dares to give chase or confront them below the streets is forced to content with their superior numbers and low murderous cunning. All of this has allowed the Slimey Goblin Tribe to grow numerous, fortify their hold upon the Sewers, and raise generations of well feed and durable warriors who have been born and raised to work together to defend their home against all intrusions with merciless murderously effective team work and tactics.Giant Insects, Vermin, Snakes, and Rust MonstersFire Beetles
Theese beetles come in variable sizes from that of a small dog to that of a small pony. All of them appear to be immune to fire, and some have proven themselves capable of breathing such. Their Bellies though are a potent alchemical ingredient that alchemists can use to create a variety of potions.Sewerum
These large and dangerous snakes are capable of spitting a venomous contact poison that can soak through armor and flesh to infiltrate the blood streams of the victim. If slain the poison of Sewerums is a spell component valued by the City's Watchful Order of Mages as spell components and research materials.Sewer Wasps
Monstrous version of the common wasp. They attacked when hungry or threatened, usually taking the dead bodies of their victims to the hive where it could be consumed by young wasps. Their stingers are collected by members of the City's Watchful Order of Mages as spell components and research materialsGiant Ants
Giant ants look much like a normal ant with six legs, a waspish segmented body, and large antenna. Their hides are covered in thick chitin, and they have large, serrated mandibles flanking their mouths and stingers on their tails. They are not exceptionally dangerous though they are far from harmless and more then willing to make a meal out of adventurers.Gelatinous Cubes
Gelatinius Cubes are completely transparent, with only the glint of its surface in the light to give away its position. The occasional random object floating in a well fed gelatinous cube's body could also serve as a warning of its presence to dungeon delvers. They are slow moving and it is possible to out pace them but they are large and capable of making the narrow tunnels of the sewers impossible to navigate.Ochre Jelly
Ochre jellies resembled giant amoebas, consisting of a thick, golden sludge. The ooze's body was made up of yellow-orange colored acid capable of dissolving any organic material. These are exceptionally deadly threats because any physical harm delivered to them by swords, axes, arrows, bolts, club, or sling stones will cause the jelly to divide into smaller jellies. One can quickly find one Ochre Jelly has been divided into sixty smaller jellies each as dangerous as the original mass. It is very easy for one to become surrounded and slain by such and I advise that one avoid contact with such when possible, and to make effective use of alchemical breath weapons to combat them when one must.Otyugh
Otyughs are primarily omnivorous scavengers. They could consume almost all kinds of refuse and waste, such as carrion, offal, and many other things others would view as garbage. Nevertheless, they would take fresh meat when they had the chance. They are exceptionally strong and dangerous beasts of filth as capable of rending a man in two and spreading disease.Rust Monsters
Rust monsters are the size of a small pony, with four insect like legs and a squat, humped body.Their hides are thick, lumpy and are yellowish tan on the belly and rust-red on the back. Their tail ends in what looked like a double ended paddle. Two long antennae come out of its head, one under each eye.
More then any other being I have seen encountered on any other battlefield from here to Chessenta, Rust Monsters shatter ranks.
The fear caused in Adventurer's regarding their precious items being destroyed causes them to flee in every possible direction possible as quickly as they can in an effort to see their personal effects spared the ravages of the Rust Monster.
The most effective means I have found for combating and defeating such beasts without the loss of costly arms, armor, and other items is to have a scout successfully locate them before they become a threat, and then select a champion to strip down and proceed to combat them armed only with disposable weapons such as the clubs and daggers gathered from previously slain goblins. Should you manage to slay a Rust Monster, remember to harvest the valuable antennae which can be used by alchemists or exchanged at the Watchful Order of Mages for a gold reward.
An alternative is to use disposable items such as metal tipped arrow heads and collected goblin daggers to leave a metallic breadcrumb trail for the Rust Monster to follow. This can be done successfully so long as the Rust Monster is not distracted from the meals you are laying out for it to follow. Using this method you may either direct the Rust Monster away from your decided path of travel, or lure it to where it may become easy prey to numerous ranged attacks before ever getting close enough to destroy a party's valuable equipment.For Coin or Cause
Often the City's Adventurers explore these sewers in an effort to collect the bounty the Plumber's Guild offers on Goblin Ears and the prizes the Snookery rewards for the heads of Elite Goblin Warriors. Others seek to gather rare spell components and potion ingredients or the promise of riches raised from hoarded goblin treasure dens. Last but not least the opportunity to reclaim stolen babies and see them brought safely back to the surface world inspires others to enter the sewers.Basic Formations
Here is an example of a basic formation of three heavily armored shield bearers creating a defensive line while crossing a bridge over a sewer canal with a pair of archers behind them, followed by a battle cleric in the rear prepared to heal any injured party members or slow down an attack from the rear ranks.
What makes the Sewers a unique fighting environment is how quickly the terrain alternates between narrow tunnels and the wide and open passages of the central sewage canal. Both create unique challenges that the Slimey Goblin Tribe are well prepared to take swift advantage of should they be allowed to control the battlefield. It is of utmost importance that adventurers navigating the sewers keep ever vigilant of their surroundings and strive to use every advantage they can to protect themselves from the superior numbers and low murderous cunning of the goblins.
When navigating the sometimes long and often narrow tunnels; the Goblins with their numbers can quickly fill the tunnel and use their slings and short bows to great effect to overwhelm most they encounter with not only accurate attacks but with their surprising rate of attack. This coupled with their dark magics being used to stun or paralyze individuals, they goblins can quickly turn a capable and prepared party of adventurers into a group of victims. I have found that it can be best to use the tight turns and intersections of the tunnels to help mitigate the number of goblins that can effectively sling their stones and loose their arrows upon the party. Doing this requires team work and discipline, for often there is a desire in the thrill of the fighting for people to charge ahead into the enemy lines of attack or pride motivates them to stand where the fighting is fiercest to prove they can weather the storm. It is my advice that teams train and practice using existing terrain features so that they keep themselves out of harms way as best they can while allowing their own numbers to overwhelm any goblins that dare to advance on the team's position.
When navigating the larger and wider open canals it is of great importance that a scout be used to note the enemy's numbers and find a suitable place to mitigate risks. Open fighting against the Goblins will allow them to use their magics to disable one or more members of the adventuring party and quickly surround them and lay them low with murderously places strikes. I highly recommend any group navigating the sewers to find side tunnels in which to make their stand or using the staggered corners of the canal tunnels walls to provide some measure of cover and protection from overwhelming goblin numbers.Common and Costly Mistakes
I have witnessed groups make some often repeated and costly mistakes that have resulted in death while navigating the sewers, and I will try and provide some examples of what to be mindful of should you and yours dare the Sewers of Waterdeep or similar environments.Inability to Maintain Formation
It takes discipline and team work to maintain a formation, and often I have seen adventuring parties lacking both. Often the scout is crowded by the shield wall or worse yet, archers will grow impatient with the organizing and mobilization of the shield wall and make an effort to advance pass them in an eagerness to find an opportunity to let their arrow fly. This can be disastrous. When a group fails to move in a formation and stealthy Goblins are capable of attacking in large numbers with little to no warning it creates dangerous chaos in the ranks that sends archers running instead of loosening their arrows, and forces shields to scramble instead of standing ready. During these moments of disorganized chaos the Goblins have every advantage they need.Inability to Hold Positions
Often I have seen a well defensible position selected to provide a sincere combat advantage, only to see the advantage squandered by the inability of people to hold and use said position. I have witnessed heavily armored warriors break ranks to advance around protective corners and place themselves needlessly in harm's way turning a preciously advantageous situation into an extremely disadvantageous situation. I have seen these same warriors hold their ground in the open while engage the goblin horde in such a way they are vulnerable to numerous Goblins at once while also keeping the goblins from advancing to where the warrior's allies can provide support. This forces the allies to either remain safely behind cover were they are effectively out of the battle unable to lend ranged support, or to advance into the lines of overwhelming Goblin attacks where they are afforded no protection at all.
Another example of this is the over eager archer who will push through ally ranks to try and get an arrow or two off before retreating back through the shield wall, effectively leaving a gap in the ranks for goblins to follow through. Such actions can lead to disaster if the archer is held in the open by goblin magics forcing the entire party to either expose themselves to defend their helpless companion or leave them to their fate. Such can easily be avoided by an archer maintaining their position behind the shield wall and waiting for their target to step into view, instead of advancing.Summoned Creatures
The ability to conjure allies to the battlefield can a wondrous boon or a dire mistake if the terrain and position of one's allies are not taken into careful consideration. I have seen large blocks of gelatinous acid used to stop enemy advance to amazing effect, and I have seen the same summoning placed in positions where they trapped allies on the wrong side of the summons where they were exposed to overwhelming enemy attacks with no place to retreat. Be mindful of what you may summon to the battlefield and where you summon such.Waiting For The Perfect Shot
Some archers pride themselves on their marksmanship and the ability to place an arrow reliably inside the vitals of the enemy at closer ranges. While such skill and talent should be celebrated and used at every available opportunity, do not waste precious time creeping slowly closer to the target while allies are fighting for their lives locked in mortal melee combat. Once the fighting begins, it is time to fight. Use every available opportunity to let arrows fly into enemy ranks, and maneuver while reaching for the next arrow or bolt. Every second can be vital, do not squander the opportunity to let attacks fly in an effort to position yourself for the perfect shot, unless of course your quiver is near depleted and you can not afford to waste a single arrow. In which case you must ask yourself why you are unprepared.The Weight Of Greed
The Goblins in addition to wielding foul and dangerous elemental magics capable of burning a combatant with acid or lighting, are also capable of sapping the strength from a person with potent ray's of enfeeblement. The same can be said for some of the poisonous vermin of the sewers. More then once I have witnessed a strong and able bodied combatant rendered incapable of advance or retreat as suddenly when the combined weight of their arms, armor, and what plunder they had acquired left them suddenly encumbered after a poison took its hold or goblin magics sapped their strength. One needs to be mindful of not only what they can safely carry and remain mobile but how to quickly shed weight should they need to.Preparation is the Key to Success
Doctor Von Mufflebop of the Adventurer's Guild
There are several things any party moving through the sewers can do to prepare themselves for success and stave off failure and death.1) Take inventory of the party's members and decide upon roles and responsibilities prior to even entering the sewers.
A Party made up of several heavily armored individuals without a scout will need to agree upon battle plans and tactics to fit their capabilities, as will a party primarily made up of light fighters lacking anything resembling a proper shield wall.2) Take inventory of the party's equipment before entering the sewers.
Does everyone have a full quiver, emergency curative potions, potions of lesser restoration to quickly recover from strength draining effects, potions of elemental warding, or even a potion of invisablity if things turn truly dire?3) Decide where to enter the sewers carefully.
There are dozens of entrances to the sewers and some are relatively safe points of entry while others can drop you directly into a storm of goblins. Take care to choose your point of entry.4) Consider the Hour.
Goblins are nocturnal creatures and they are not only most active during the night cycle, but their fiercest and and most capable warriors tend to fill the ranks of their night time patrols. Unless you are intentionally looking to head hunt these elite goblins, it maybe in your best interest to stay out of the sewers until after morning has broken. Also keep track of your hours underground, more then once a successful day time venture within the sewers lingered until after dark to find themselves ill prepared for the swelling ranks of the goblin patrols.5) Use Your Combined Strengths
Carefully crafted synergies on the battlefield can make turn the tide towards victory where previously only defeat was possible. Consider carefully the various strengths available to each individual and determine how to best enhance them upon the field of prowess. A carefully placed supernatural darkness can cause confusion amoungst a horde of goblins while one or two warriors with ultra vision granted to them by spell or potion can tear through their ranks with near impunity and surprising savagery. There are a myriad different variations of adventuring party compositions and ways to use overlapping skill sets and abilities for surprising effect. It is important you give what your combined strength is capable of careful consideration.6) Ladders
The city sewers have dozens of access points scattered throughout the city streets and it pays to always be aware of the location of the nearest ladders to your location. At any moment you maybe forced to flee for your life and the difference between knowing how to quickly access a ladder verses running blind through the sewers in hopes of finding an escape can be the difference between life and death. As you traverse the tunnels and canals pay attention to the ladders you find and keep mindful of how to best reach them if you need to.