It’s a bit disorienting realizing that I haven’t really done that many ruins—or at least, that I haven’t done that many ruins that I haven’t already written about, one way or the other. And that, while I did get the idea for the posts from giving a friend suggestions for ruins (mostly in the form of “Oh, and do they have [thingie, thingie, thingie]?”
So, things I’ve enjoyed doing with ruins:
The ancients had a higher SFX budget than we do now. I have far too much fun with ancient technology and the bizarre forms it takes; one of my projects involved the transmission of energy through silver automaton ants carrying receptacles back and forth between the source and one of the items that needed it. (This wasn’t a primary conduit, and I’m not entirely sure why it was there, since this was several years ago, but… automaton ants!)
Destruction? What destruction? I think one of my better one-off characters was from the incident with the massacred city and the gods that had lost their minds: the little boy with the music box who carefully steps over the fallen bodies while reiterating that everyone’s all here, he can hear them singing. These things just don’t work as well in a city that hasn’t been depopulated—though it’s also not near as effective the longer it’s been since the place was depopulated, unless the character who hasn’t gotten the memo is immortal as well as in beyond-severe denial and/or oblivious.
No magic required. Not every ancient society has magic out the ears and a license to sidestep the laws of physics; sometimes, you just want to go with something improbable but still technically doable without magic. Large mosaics of precious or semi-precious stones? Oh my yes. Channels and hollows in the roof and ceiling so every time the wind blows it sounds like something’s moaning, or maybe singing (it’s all about the mood, after all)? Absolutely. I’m the kind of person who remembers Sarnath not because of that doom thing that came there but because of the floors of precious stones in the shapes of rare flowers. (Squee.)
The destruction editorializes. Some of the most fun I’ve had with ruins that were actively destroyed, rather than simply abandoned, was the one-off lines and jokes that I could get out of what parts sustained the most damage.