For me, this has always been a ruined city. I like the reveal moment, when a party steps out of the forest or over the last hill and sees that big sprawl of broken buildings. I enjoy the freedom of encounter types a ruined city gives you as well, since It is effectively a wilderness setting and a subterranean setting all in one.
There is practically nothing you can’t do with a good ruined city. There is no better venue for a good dragon fight, with the PC’s scrambling for cover as great gouts of fire/acid/ice/etc. are unleashed from overhead. This is also a great place to maybe dust off some old, obscure, classic creatures like the goldbug (ok, so that one is basically just a trap) or quicklings (now we’re talking!).
You can also let your imagination run wild when it comes to descriptions: great trees erupting through buildings, a cracked anvil hinting at the ruins of a blacksmith’s shop, a child’s toy buried in the rubble of a hearth. You have a great opportunity to convey a sense of history and past purpose that is often lost in sprawling dungeon complexes.
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