I love www.snopes.com. It’s been my go-to site for checking out urban legends since the 1990’s and I’ve referred to it more than once here in the belfry. It’s full of interesting ideas that provide gaming inspirations and while for gamers it doesn’t matter if the legend is true or not, it’s neat to look into a story you’re sure is false and find out that it is actually true.
Case in point, the idea of a large underground complex beneath Kansas City, Missouri called “Subtropolis”.
With the prominent FedEx truck and the primary colors on the signs, I thought this was a Photoshop job. Imagine my surprise to find out that SubTropolis is a real and long-established center of business, the world’s largest underground industrial park built into an old mine and founded in the 1960’s.
It turns out that there are a number of real-world benefits for businesses in SubTropolis; energy costs are low as the temperature is consistently comfortable and the humidity is low. Low enough that the US Postal Service uses it for storing postage stamps. With no weather to contend with office space can be build without a roof or walls. On top of all that, or perhaps “under” is the better word, space is readily available. According to a profile in The Atlantic, SubTropolis consists of 25 million square feet of space with another 45 million available for future development.
It’s enough to make me imagine Thorin and Company in business suits. Maybe have Bilbo driving the FedEx truck in the picture.
Underground complexes are a staple in gaming genres including fantasy, secret agents, superheroes, post apocalyptic, and science fiction. In the modern, real world we’re used to seeing it in military complexes like NORAD, or ancient times like the underground cities of Cappadocia, but with the exception of the mining industry we’re not used to seeing such complexes used for mundane business purposes. That basic nature of its business makes SubTropolis all the more interesting as a kind of practical, modern dwarven city.