I am pondering a scenario for a D&D one-shot that can serve as a standalone adventure or a surprise side-quest. I would like some input from other players and game masters regarding additional plot points, challenges, and monsters the players might face.
The player characters (PCs) wake up in a strange room they have never seem before. It looks like a large jail cell with walls of stone. They find themselves wearing only tattered clothes. They have no weapons, armor, or equipment. Spellcasters feel a loss of access to the source of their spells.
There is no light source, yet everything seems to glow dimly enough to provide slight illumination in a cold light. Upon investigation, they discover that the cell door is unlocked.
As they journey through a maze of corridors that seem to defy the laws of geometry, they see dark spectral forms that scream at them and attack, only to pass through them without causing harm. I am thinking about adding some psychological effects to the encounters to encourage them to flee.
After what feels like an eternal trek through darkness, they find themselves stumbling into a room that looks completely different from the ghostly dungeon maze. It seems to be a feasting hall, but all the furniture is broken. A shadow in the ceiling coalesces into a monster that attacks the party.
They can try to fight it using improvised weapons, but it is resistant to damage. It also hits hard. They can see an escape through the doors at the far end of the room. If they do not flee, they are knocked unconscious and reawaken in the original cell.
When they flee outside, all is a void except the courtyard. The monster does not follow. An elderly being wearing faded and stained robes greets the party. "You walk among the dead, yet your souls and bodies have not separated. You have an opportunity to return to the land of the living if you can regain your humanity."
As appropriate, he may look at characters from other races in the party and ads, "Or whatever else you were. Or are. Or may be."
At this point, the party actually receives starting-level equipment and basic spells and begins adventuring through a chaotic hellscape.
I don't want a complete Dark Souls ripoff, but what scenarios can I add between here and an end encounter with some kind of Grim Reaper monster? Some of the inspiration is also from the bizarreness of several storylines from The Stanley Parable. I could also borrow some ideas from the Warp of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy Role Playing Game, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, & Warhammer 40,000 to explain the bizarre world they find themselves exploring for an adventure.
Once the COVID-19 lockdown is over, I want an adventure where the players can feel some kind of triumph over death to reboot the library D&D campaign. I want the players to have opportunities to show mercy, or otherwise exhibit virtue, as they recover legendary items that allow them to defeat death and return to the realm of the living, or aid a deity of life captured in the realm of death who can aid their escape, but I am not sure exactly how to make it happen. The cloaked figure may be the hero, saint, or god they aid, or some other messenger of fate. I have a fairly clear idea for how I want the adventure to start, but the rest is all a bit vague.