Paldor was once an important city during The first time of the Dark Night, before The Golden Sun and the Many Flags defeat it and its horde. Centrally located and upon a quad node, supplies, manpower, and magic flowed to and from Paldor.
Paldor had once been a beautiful, “city of the sun”, built on an island in the shallow Lake Paldor surrounded by the like named mountain valley. White plaster, red tiles, tall spires, twisted wrought iron gates, bridges over every street as well the few planned canals. The city had many ingenious “little marvels”, tricky sun lighting through mirrors, levers moving walls to open up spaces, moving stairs, hidden passages to facilitate servants moving, and even lifts of various kinds. The “Marvellers”, the craftsmen who made these non magical marvels possible were the centered here. Even the serious mages would use illusions and light shows to entertain children at festivals. It was a lively place, full of fun and laughter.
The workings of things were hidden in the background. Servants ran in hidden passages. Trapdoors hid tables tht would rise from the floor. Ferries and tunnels were built to move things to and from the city (heavy things were moved at night, as not to disturb the beauty of the city during the day). It was not a paradise, it was a real place with its own guild troubles and issues. Before the comming of The Dark Night, the water had begun to rise. The people of Paldor adapted; the city took on a Venice-esk air. Lower levels were made basements, or at least sealed so rising water would not enter, pools and fountains pumped water out of places. A pully system helped move flat boats along the city for those who did not hire taxis. It was still a place of marvels.
The beauty of the city was tarnished however, during the decades of the Dark Night. Gardens were used to billet troopers and horse. Artistic spires were built up and defenses added. Traps and choke points were added to the tunnels to prevent assault from those way. Marvellers made tools of conflict instead of toys of enjoyment. Some quipped the additional weight of all these people and things would make the island sink. The slightly increasing water level over the decades seemed to bear that out.
One night, the Army of Many Flags, the Forces of The Lands and Golden Sun, were almost lost. The tremors and storms that had occured since the comming of The Dark Night had taken their toll upon the land. Hunger and displacement had followed them. So far, Paldor, Bastion of The Light, had been spared. That fateful night it changed.
There was no one cause. Several weeks of rain, the breaking of several natural lakes in the mountains added to the torrent, underground rivers were rerouted to the lake due to the other land waves in the region, and “the great waves” the land wave that hit Paldor valley itself, all caused the city’s doom.
It was sunk by a flood of water, the lake floor giving way, and was buried as the valley hills and mountains had rock slide after rock slide. Fortunately for all of us of The Lands today, The Many Flags managed to save much of itself, much of its supplies, and much of the population from the conflagration of storm, water surge, and land wave. It was a heroic effort almost equal to their defeat of The Dark Night.
In terms of magic, the Paldor Valley’s nodes have been disrupted. Magic does not work as one expects there. This hampered the various attempts to reclaim the deeply buried city to date. In addition some of the creatures in the valley are now “odd” thanks to the presence of such uncontrolled magic.
Centuries has passed since the defeat of the Dark Night, not to mention the loss of Paldor. Land waves have struck The Lands once again. There was flooding as the natural dam that helped make Paldor Lake broke. Those of a scholarly and greedy bent have realized, The wonders of Paldor might be accessible again.
Those wonders will includes the normally expected gold, silver, jewels, and art. However there are documents from that time that could be important. Spell books having “lost techniques” might be there. Artifacts of power from the previous age could be there. Motivate your players however you need to.
There are a couple of ways into Paldor. Tunnels between the valley side and city could be opened by a rockslide. Diving (with a primitive diving bell) could get you to an opening, now that the water level has fallen.
There are three zones of explore.
Zone 1: In and around the lake (accessed doing deep diving). You can explore the outside of the city and possibly find egress into the second zone. The threats in this zone are mostly magically mutated creatures in the lake and the valley.
-Giant Rats and Bats
-Insert aquatic horror of
You could have aquatic humanoids living in and around part of the city. Hopefully they are against the PCs for some reasons
The second zone is the half wet areas. These are various buildings that are partially flooded, with pockets of air inside. This will be a zone reminicent of a tomb raider game. There will be climbing, jumping, swimming, lever puzzles, searching for secret passages, and the occasional semi-aquatic creature (and mutated rats). There will be some vertical dungeoning in and out of buildings. Of course since this is the most dangerous zone, the rewards here must be greater.
-Pumps… get a fountain working to dry out a room.
-Opening the wrong door can flood your area.
-Things that were once easy to access are now difficult because of blocking rubble and the presence of water.
It may be possible to get into zone 3 from here.
The third zone is the hardest to reach from the lake, but possibly accessible from one of the tunnels. These are the sealed (or mostly sealed) towers and buildings. Thus there will be climbing, jumping, lever puzzles, secret passags, and the occasional odd marvel that now becomes a challange now.
-The Dramatic parts of zone 2, minus water, will also be in zone 3.
-Puzzling paths to get to and from places because of rubble and these people penchant for secret passages.
-A trapped minion of The Dark Night. It has not had a soul for centuries… and it is still here. All of sudden a simple dungeon has turned into a horror run, as this “thing with powers beyond the expected” now begins to hunt the characters.
This environment should be full of secret passages, hidden closets, trap doors that lead to pulleys that raise tables or lower pedestals, keys to cause things to happen, and lots of water features.
For those that play Tekumel, this is the kind of “dungeon” that is found there. Cities lost to calamity OR buried by their devotees.
Remember the basics of most dungeon construction:
Build it as it was originally
The original purpose is usually different than a dungeon. It once was a temple or fort or in this case, a complex of related buildings.
Something caused it to be abandoned or “cut off” from regular contact. (Natural disasters, disease, war, etc) In addition to the probably disaster, the effects of time, lack of maintance, weather, and such will cause other changes.
A new ecology occurs. Things move into the space, or expand from their existing space. Now that they are unchecked or conditions have chagned, how do they expand. Also remember that they need to find all the neccessities of life see Ecological Dungeon
If you need inspiration for traps and environments, check out Tomb Raider I, II (especially), and possibly 4. While playing the game is “good research”, simple walk through guides might give you what you need. Prince of Persia has some elements that might be useful, as well as Myst series.