A Tunnel Network is any collection of buildings that link to a large underground catacomb of tunnels that allow for stealthy travel around a locale. Sometimes these might have been built by dedicated criminal networks for the sake of transporting things covertly from place to place. Sometimes they're built during times of war to allow a way to sneak past, or sneak up on, enemies. Less common uses of Tunnel Networks include avoiding a dangerous climate aboveground, or to serve as the equivalent of roads for those who live Beneath the Earth. Yet another use would be that shifty government laboratory that is not only underground but randomly dusty. In the competitive gaming world, this means cheap near instant transport between any two points. A shrewd gamer will be able to take advantage of this and employ what is called tunnel popping, quickly transferring units in and out of tunnels, and all around the map to a devastating effect. In other media, while not allowing for something as cheap as delivering a Zerg Rush to your doorstep, can allow for secretive travel between locations hiding both literal and logistical foot prints. For its high tech equivalent, see Portal Network. Occasionally related to Absurdly Spacious Sewer and Pipe Maze. A Secret Underground Passage sometimes leads to this, but is technically a different trope. This refers specifically to a massive underground network of tunnels, not a single tunnel used for a singular purpose.
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- The Geonosians in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
- The Groundhog in Caddy Shack has something like this.
- In Real Genius, steam tunnels are how Lazlo gets around Pacific Tech unseen — they are modeled on the very real tunnels beneath Caltech.
- Bane and his mooks employ the Gotham sewer network in The Dark Knight Rises as a lair and a means of transportation. The same tunnels are used to trap the police force later.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers features bug colonies had vast underground tunnel networks that allowed them to pop up and attack the MI on the surface of the planet.
- In Good Omens, there's a sequence where various New Age beliefs start coming true, one of which is the conspiracy theory that the Secret Masters of the World live in a cave beneath Tibet and travel around the world through an extensive tunnel system. This results in things like gardening programs offering tips on what to do if a nosy Tibetan monk pops up in the middle of your flower bed.
- In Pyrates, there's a large network of tunnels and caves underneath New York City, used both by homeless people simply to survive, and by smugglers and thieves.
- The Ice Tunnels below the Castle in Septimus Heap.
- In Warrior Cats, the interconnected rabbit warrens underneath WindClan's forest territory, and the natural cave system underneath ThunderClan and WindClan's territories by the lake.
- The Dresden Files depicts a semi-fictional Chicago "Undertown".
- Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel features a very extensive road network underneath New York. It's restricted to police and emergency vehicles and is used by these to rapidly travel through the city. It's also considered fairly spooky even by the agoraphobic New Yorkers. An in-universe ghost story has a criminal fleeing from the police into the labyrinthine tunnels to escape capture. He does... and then finds himself completely lost and unable to find somebody, anybody, to help him out. The story goes that his ghost haunts the tunnels still trying to find safety.
- In Thud!, the dwarfs have created a tunnel network under Ankh-Morpork, partly so they can look for the McGuffin without anyone noticing, and partly because it wouldn't occur to them not to dig underground to where they want to go. By the end of the book, the network has been seized by the Patrician, who seems to have plans for it, possibly involving propelled carriages of some kind. (It's mentioned that the basic dwarfish mine sign, indicating a mine entrance, is a circle with a horizontal line through it.)
- Boneshaker. Seattle has a network of sealed tunnels because above-ground is infested by zombies and the Deadly Gas that creates them.
Live Action TV
- On Hogan's Heroes they had a network of tunnels under the camp, and leading out of camp.
- To the point that it was a miracle the entire camp didn't turn into a sudden sinkhole. At one point while trying to move a snowman so the Gestapo won't find their tunnel entrance, Hogan paces out to a spot, looks at his men, and says "I think this is about the only spot in camp we don't have a tunnel underneath."
- 2000's Secret Agent Man (no, not the one with Patrick McGoohan) had an underground highway system that allowed the agents to drive great distances at high speed out of sight of anyone on the surface.
- The Get Smart Headquarters has this.
- Beauty and the Beast had an extensive underground network in association with the NY subway system, with a whole Secret Society down there.
- The Silence have a whole network spanning the entire surface of the Earth in Doctor Who, allowing them to control the human race without humanity knowing.
- The Torchwood Three team were based in one that included a disused secret underground railway connecting them (Cardiff) to London and Scotland.
- The sewers, catacombs, and assorted tunnel networks in Los Angeles, Washington, and New York provided escape and ambush routes for every terrorist's 24-hour plan to destroy the USA.
- On The 100, the Reapers live in and travel through various abandoned tunnels left from before the apocalypse.
- Call of Cthulhu. Several adventures with ghouls and chthonians give them underground tunnel networks. The ghouls' tunnels often connect to graveyards.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, the Drow can move along underground passageways and emerge at various points on the surface.
- Traveller Classic Double Adventure Death Station. The drugged humans on a space station have cut through the deck and cut holes in the fuel tanks to create underdeck passages throughout the ship.
- The Dwarfs have the Undgrim, or Underway, underground highways that connected their mountain holds in their empire's heyday that were big enough for steam-powered vehicles to help pull shipments of ores or other goods. But after the earthquakes that came with the Time of Troubles broke the back of their civilization, parts of this network have collapsed or been infested with Goblins, Skaven, or worse creatures. Dwarf miners still know their way around the mountains' tunnels, though, and when fielded as part of an army can use them to appear on the enemy's flank or rear.
- The Skaven have a veritable Under-Empire that's even more expansive than the Dwarf Underway, spanning the Old World with tunnels leading as far as distant Araby and Cathay.
- In Warhammer 40,000, Necron tomb-worlds have catacombs you could lose a cathedral in, housing thousands upon thousands of dormant Necron warriors. Regularly an Adeptus Mechanicus expedition drops in on one, squees out at the Machine God's gift, and are promptly slaughtered when they start prodding around. The galaxy now has another Necron world to deal with.
- Advanced Strategic Command allows to pool resources in buildings via either pipelines constructed by bulldozers or inconvenient direct contact of buildings. Not only this saves bothering with transport, but producing some units require more materials than the factory or dock can hold. Buried pipelines are more expensive than open ones, but preferrable: they doesn't hinder unit movement and to break one the enemy must bring a construction unit to it instead of simply bombing. Construction ships can build underwater pipelines to connect islands.
- Age of Mythology had a god power that created a tunnel that you could put in two different spots to transport units via the two tunnels.
- Tunnels under Rome serve as fast travel systems in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.
- In The Battle for Middle-Earth 2, both the Dwarven faction and the Goblin faction had resource-mining structures that doubled as entrances to their respective Tunnel Networks.
- In Battlezone II: Combat Commander, the ISDF's Cerberus Base on Pluto has a network of tunnels large enough for their Hover Tanks to fit four abreast through. The tunnels are largely used for storage, with recessed cargo rooms and surface access into to warehouses. Similar tunnels are used in several of the deathmatch maps, where they can contain alternate weapons or health and ammo pickups.
- The GLA of Command & Conquer: Generals have, well (hey, guess what?), Tunnel Networks, which serve as both base defense and a way of instantly transporting ground units. One of their general abilities lets them have a tunnel exit burrow up anywhere on the map, potentially in the middle of an enemy base. And finally, all GLA buildings leave behind a underground bunker when destroyed, which if left alone will eventually rebuild the structure free of cost.
- Dawn of War's Imperial Guard buildings have this capacity, as well as certain catacombs in the Necron stronghold mission. While transport is instantaneous, there's a cooldown before a unit can be moved to another location regardless of the distance.
- Dragon Age: Origins has the Deep Roads, formerly a highway system for the dwarven kingdoms but now almost entirely held by the darkspawn.
- Since fortresses in Dwarf Fortress tend to be mainly underground anyway, they usually incorporate some degree of this. Dwarven and goblin civilisations also create large tunnels linking settlements created during worldgen, and beneath those there are three levels of naturally-formed cavern system that blur the line somewhat between this trope and Beneath the Earth.
- In Fallout 3, Washington D.C. is such a ruin that the best way to get around is by going through its subway stations - which isn't to say that the going is easy, considering the raiders, mutants and ghouls that haunt the partially-collapsed passages. The Taft Tunnels appear to be purpose-built to be these, leading out from the Pentagon.
- The sewers in Fallout: New Vegas. The real Las Vegas also has a drain tunnel labyrinth inhabited by 1,000 people.
- In Foxhole, players can build tunnel networks and while the tunnels don't allow soldiers to warp across the battlefield, they do permit defensive structures to operate while unmanned.
- The sewers of New York in Freedom Fighters are utilized by the American Resistance to move about underneath the eyes of the occupying Soviets. In game, manhole covers mark points where you can quicksave and/or return to base if you find you don't have the right tools for the job at the moment. The subway tunnels are used similarly later on in the game.
- Inevitable in Minecraft, what with the mining and all. Tunnels are also a handy way to get around at night without having to deal with the zombies and other monsters that spawn on the surface, assuming you remembered to put torches down, of course.
- The Zerg in StarCraft have Nydus Canals.
- In Vietcong, Hawkins infiltrates some of these.
- Annyseed features a large underground tunnel network that connects many of the residents of Skull Valley. In the webcomic we see Anny and Winston use one of the tunnels to get from Professor Tripadiculous' secret lab to Hamish the Swamp Dragon's cave.
- The eponymous institution in Tales Of Gnosis College has an extensive network of steam tunnels running underneath its campus, which it happens to share with an adjacent Catholic women's college. Eventually some enterprising students put them to the obvious use.
- Similarly, the steam tunnels at the eponymous institution Smithson, used by the campus superhero.
- On Archer, Tunt Manor is the center of one of these that spans much of Manhattan. Apparently one of Cheryl's deranged ancestors thought that the Underground Railroad was literal, rather than figurative, and wanted to catch escaped slaves to sell back to their owners. Just to prove how out of touch with reality he was, he had them built in 1890!
- In Pound Puppies (2010), the dogs base their operations in a central underground hub and use a series of tunnels beneath the shelter grounds to get themselves and puppies into and out of the pound.
- The bumptious Mayor on Pecola has a series of secret tunnels beneath the town which he uses to get himself out of tight spots (such as answering his constituents' probing questions).
- Spider Holes in Vietnam.
- Along the U.S./Mexican border alien smugglers sometimes dig tunnels to allow their customers to pass under the border fence.
- Other types of smugglers (e.g. for drugs) do this also; some of the tunnels are fairly impressive in their length and come out in basements quite some distance from the actual border. It's probably the lack of plausible deniability (you can't realistically argue you didn't know that tunnel in your basement led to Mexico) that keeps it from being more widespread.
- North Korea has dug incursion tunnels under the DMZ for use during an invasion of South Korea.
- Japan and Germany both had tunnel networks during WWII. Especially Japan.
- Palestinians have tunnels in Gaza and the West Bank that are used to, among other things, facilitate trade
- Iron Mountain in western Pennsylvania, where the U.S. government is prepared to hide in case of enemy attack.
- Prairie dogs dig vast networks of tunnels.
- Portland, Oregon, has a nifty system of tunnels, popularly known as the Shanghai tunnels, which according to possibly dubious 19th century historical record, were used to kidnap men (known as "shanghaiing") as free labor on the ships that sailed in and out of the city's port.
- More mundanely, many cities have tunnel networks with trains running though them.
- Fortresses of the Maginot Line were connected by tunnels, and presented a formidable defensive obstacle. Unfortunately, very few French military or political leaders gave much thought to what they were supposed to do if the Germans managed to get around them, and building the Line left very little money in the defence budget for modern aircraft or armoured vehicles. When the Third Reich pulled a spectacular Dungeon Bypass after The Battle of Fort Eben-Emael, the end result was all but a Foregone Conclusion.
- The city of Tabor in Hussite War-era Bohemia had a full tunnel system dug beneath it (this was the early 15th century!). The system was designed so that the militia could rush through the tunnels to the heart of town if an enemy attacked, while the enemy was forced to negotiate a series of narrow streets so that no matter where they emerged, they'd walk into a massed barrage. The tunnels were full of food and beer to sustain the militia in case of siege as well.
- Walt Disney World has such a network to hide certain aspects of park operations from the customers (trash collection being primary).
- To wit, Magic Kingdom's ground level is considered the second story. The first story is long corridors and filled land.
- Disneyland's is much less extensive, but most of the restaurants in the New Orleans Square area share an underground central kitchen.
- Laval University in Quebec has all of its buildings linked by tunnels, so people can avoid being outdoors during the winter. Wright State University in Ohio has a similar system, with only two or three buildings left out of the loop. So does the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota. (Many of these are steam and maintenance tunnels that officially are not for public access, but generations of students have learned about them.)
- Large hospitals or museums, like academic institutions, tend to have a Tunnel Network for storage, physical plant, and secure transfer of material and personnel between buildings.
- Some Ice Age-era tunnels in South America, large enough for humans to walk upright within, are now believed to have been excavated by giant ground sloths. Generations of these immense mammals are thought to have occupied the largest, extending their burrows over the years or adding new side-branches, and leaving their distinctive claw-marks on the walls and ceilings.