If you can't reach it through the Sprawl, is it really worth going there?
The Sprawl is a vast region of the Outer Shell, with tunnels that spread like roots to a great number of different parts of the depths, making it a well-traveled hub. But despite centuries of travel and habitation, much of the sprawl is uninhabited beyond waystation and small towns. Many of the tunnels are still unexplored and lead to places yet unknown.
Living up to its name, the Sprawl stretches across several levels of caverns with tunnels and roads that connect several city-states with one another. The flat, open caverns are ideal for carving roads from the stone while the daring brave shorter, more dangerous routes to beat the competition. One of the largest regions of the Outer Shell, it has no defining trait beyond its vast size and reach. Everything from frozen, ice-coated caverns to steaming springs can be found within the Sprawl.
The Tamed Tunnels
Sometimes referred to as the Roads or the Civilized Tunnels, the tamed tunnels are just that: the part of the Sprawl where humanity has staked its claim and so far refused to give it up to the encroaching wilderness. These tunnels are reasonably safe from wild beasts and malicious fungi, with the greatest threat coming from other people. Most waystations are stationed along these roads, near any source of water or food that make habitation and resupply possible.
In the deep, roads are carved and hacked from the cavern floor to create a relatively level path for wagons and Khtam to travel. Gaps and depressions are filled with the debris and the way is lit with nests of Ahi bugs or bioluminscent mushroom. Creating such a path is a time-consuming and dangerous endeavor, and they are not very common.
For the most part, the civilized tunnel is consist of the tunnels and caves that were easiest to subdue. While not always pleasant and sometimes dangerous, the civilized tunnels make for easy travel with no abrupt changes in environment or dizzying drops into some abyss. The civilized, tamed tunnels have been thoroughly explored and its hazards are well known. Even so, every so often there is some fool who takes a shortcut they shouldn't have or the wild tunnels encroach on the lit roads and people go missing.
Beyond the light of the roads and the domain of civilization lie the Wild. Sometimes called the Wild Tunnels or the Dark Sprawl, these caverns encircle much of the sprawl. Most are unexplored and some are simply too dangerous to settle, either flooded , irradiated or infested with dangerous beasts. Despite the ages that humanity have spent in the sprawl, the unknown tunnels still outnumber the civilized roads. The Wild see no lack of Kaia
eager to explore them for new glories and fresh riches.
Besides the dangers posed by lurking monsters and other hazards, the Wild is dangerous for another reason: it is a popular place for the bandits to hide. Brigands plague the Sprawl at irregular intervals and often use the least dangerous parts of the Wild to hide and hide their plunder. But every now and then, only their bones are found in the dark.
Like the Sprawl, the wild tunnels vary greatly along the stretch of the region. From gas-choked tunnels to caverns overgrown with hostile, dangerous flora, the Wild holds any number of exciting ways to die.
The Kēnib Lake
Right in the center of the Sprawl lies the frozen Kēnib lake. It is a shallow, freezing lake that is the basin from which many waystations and minor settlements draw their water and cut their ice. The cold has made it almost entirely desolate of life save for a few strange creatures that thrive in the frozen, light-less waters. Passing the lake can be a considerable shortcut, but a dangerous ones. More then one traveller has ended their journey in the lake.
With water sometimes no more than knee-deep, the people who work the lake, there's a term they use for those who get lost and perish out on the ice: "drowning in the Kēnib" is spoken as a biting insult for those careless enough to head out in the frozen lake without the means to make the journey.
The lake has several work camps on its shores at any given time, hauling ice and water. Work on the lake is dangerous and unpleasant, with risk of both frost bite and bandits ambush. But where there is profit, there is people.
The Salt Flats
The largest single landmark of the Sprawl are the salt flats, a lifeless region. Even more than the frozen lake, shortcuts across the flats are ill-advised, with no water nor food to be found anywhere in the flat. It is a quiet, lifeless place. Travelers here face no great battles or dangerous beasts, but only slow starvation and thirst.
The flats are not entirely uninhabited. Large, long-legged creatures make an seasonal journey to the flats to lick the salt for sustenance and mate. The beasts visits are so punctual that the salt-miners use them a a way to track time.
Vast quantities of salt are hewn from the flats, refined and set on the road. Once quarried, it is shipped up and down the Sprawl, going as far as the great city of Mharaji
The Far End
At the very end of the Sprawl and at the very edge of the unknown lies the town of Far End. A frontier town in every sense of the world, this rough and tumble settlement is about as far away from the known world as you can get without plunging into the Far Deep.
Read more about the Far Deep
Traveling the Sprawl
The Sprawl is important for many city-states, a invaluable hub for merchants, traveler and on occasions armies to make their way. Fortunes are made and lost on the roads of the Sprawl, and it is one of the most traveled region in the entire Outer Shell. While the entirety of the Sprawl is too vast for any one power to control, the importance of the region means that conflict inevitably arises over particularly lucrative paths or sections. Between guilds and city-states both, battle visits the Sprawl every now and then before once more returning to the steady, regular rhythm.
In the end, as long as the roads remain open and coin continues to change hand, everyone is happy.