This evening I needed to relax a bit so I got into some doodling and a one page dungeon idea starter. This one is probably inspired a little by what I've been reading and immensely enjoying at the moment--DUNE by Frank Herbert.
I envisioned something like the Fremen or like the real life Essene, a monastic community once living in little carved stone huts on a strange volcanic desert where they guard the rites of a Dual Solar/Lunar cult in their weird temple. I called them the Quo-Tol.
They are presumed a vanished people, and the location of their bizarre City-Temple was deemed a secret that disappeared with them. But a strange visitant offers not only a map with Vashru-Mal's location but the offering of wealth, power and magic if the party will guide him/her with them to that forgotten place. And magic items are given for the journey...
The wilderness trek getting there is full of survival scenarios as well as encounters with the desert monsters, the most of fearsome being a strange tunneling beast who emerges to devour hapless prey.
The dungeon rooms are circular and look something like Tatooine architecture but with a more spherical design, all being carved from ancient volcanic pinnacles. Curved, smoothly carved stairs swoop gracefully into lower chambers, with a long rising spiral stair climbing up a natural column of rock that rises from the center of the Court of the Sun Lord. The stair leads to an astronomical observation point that was central to the community life along with their cryptic faith.
I have provided a simplistic side view of the City-Temple so that a DM can sketch out a reasonable map of all the levels on some graph paper, playing with the scale as he or she desires to some extent.
Below the complex lies a network of caverns and a strange underground lake that was the water survival of the Quo-Tol and the reason the temple was built upon that place. The lake the Quo-Tol associated with their Moon Goddess, whom they held to be the sister of the Sun. The Quo-Tol had a prophecy that they would find her face within the bosom of the desert and there they were to build a temple to her and her brother.
The prophecy was, of course, fulfilled when the pilgrims beheld the reflection of the moon upon the underground lake through a natural shaft that they named the Well of the Moon.
They carved their temple from the monolithic pinnacles that stood sentinel like around the Well, the only laid stonework being an antechamber to the Court of the Sun Lord which closed the Well from the skies except during the summer solstice when the sun would shine through a special admittance that cast the its rays on the face of the waters below.
The Quo-tol were celibate except for an annual quota of a small number of men and women who were paired for the express purpose of maintaining their own numbers and ensuring young adults who could help with the hunting and labor. Obviously this led to a strange society where the youth were a small minority among so many old.
In brief the dungeon's levels or areas are:
1. The Ascent of the Acolytes where they climbed a long, low sloping stair inside a tall arching tunnel that symbolized an astral bridge.
2. The Chamber of Prayers, where the entire community could gather to pray, receive water and commune with one another in hushed pairs or small groups.
3. A stair from 2. leads to the Court of the Sun Lord where Acolytes who graduated to a higher degree served a symbolic role as they both waited upon the Temple priests and priestesses and the comers for water from the Chamber of Prayers. Also there is a stair up to the Sanctuary of the Sun in the dome furthest from the Astral Bridge, and a spiral stair to the Chamber of the Heavens.
4. Crypts of the Seers. Here are entombed the remains of the leaders of the Quo-Tol, the High Priests and Priestesses who administered a simple theocratic rule. These wore gold wrought work in their holy vestments that they might gleam with the light of the Sun as they held council and rites within the Court. Now they are moldering bones, albeit rich ones.
5. The Chamber of the Heavens. This is a domed room accessible only by the Watchers, who viewed the heavenly courses through vast arched viewers, charting the celestial paths on an intricately carved relief covering every square inch of the inner dome and its floor.
6.Holiest; Sanctuary of the Sun Lord. Here was where the Adepts, all priestly, held council in the presence of the Sun coming down through a vast sky portal. Unknown rituals occurred here. Here too is hidden the secret and most forbidden portal that leads down into the lower caves.
7. The Lower Caves. These are a series of interlocking caverns that were formed by vast pockets of water back in the past eruptions that led to the weird land of uprising rocks and sand. Herein lies the bottom of the Well of the Moon, the cool and seemingly eternal lake whose shaft once opened to the sky but is now capped by the dome of the Sun Lord's Court. Any Quotol who lived in the community could have as much water from the Well as they could carry, even to fill basins for bathing, but only Adepts of the Moon might enter the lake itself.
So, there you have it! I offer this as a quick start for a journey for a DM's players.
Obviously, there is much left to your imagination. What was the fate of the Quo-Tol? What monsters and game inhabited their domain? What treasures did they leave, and what now rests within the sleeping City-Temple? Is there magic to to the Well of the Moon? Perhaps even in the strange Hall? And who and what is the visitant who has sought the party to escort them to this weird and desolate place?
These are things for you to decide as you decide what levels of characters should face the Lost City-Temple of Vashru-Mal. You will also have to determine how the party comes by the information that uncovers the nature of the City-Temple, whether from their visitor, from lore, or during the exploration phase. However you might do it,I hope this can serve as an adventure!