Go for the initiative with these essential Dungeons & Dragons adventures


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Of all the tabletop RPGs I’ve played, the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons has been a constant in my life as a gamer since its launch in 2014. I see it as the gold standard of what I personally want and enjoy in role-playing games. Especially after the slog that was the 4th edition.

I was constantly surprised at how good to great the adventures in the book have always been. If you are looking to start playing or just fancy a new mod to run, pay your attention to these D&D campaigns. Just open one of these books and almost everything you need to run it is there.

If you played D&D online, all these adventures are also available digitally via Roll20.

The only additional things I would recommend picking up are a Player’s Manual, as it contains pretty much everything you need to know to actually play the game, and a Monster Manual, because these adventures do not list the statistics of every monster you will encounter in their pages.

This article has been updated since its original publication.

Image: Wizards of the Coast

If you are looking to start playing D&D, both the Starter set and Essentials Kit are great options to help players and dungeon masters familiarize themselves with the game. You learn by doing, and there is a lot to do in these kits.

Depending on what you collect, you will experience a different adventure: The Phandelver Lost Mine (Starter) and The Peak Icespire Dragon (Essentials). The booklets for these adventures might seem slim, but you’d be surprised how much there is to do in both. I ran Phandelver several times, both as a player and DM, and enjoyed every part. If you are a big fan of The adventure zone, the gang ran Phandelver for the first arc of the podcast,

Not only do you get a solid starting adventure, but you also get pre-rolled dice and character sheets. If you don’t know which one to choose I would say go with the Essentials kit. The campaign is longer and includes a mini-DM screen and additional dice. These are always handy to have.

You can retrieve the D&D Starter set here and the D&D Essentials Kit here.

Image: Wizards of the Coast

Located in the frozen tundra of Icewind Dale, Frost Maiden of Frost released a little over a year ago, and I would easily consider it a must-see Dungeons & Dragons adventure. The Adventurer Party is tasked with preventing the mysterious Frostmaiden from discovering an ancient Forbidden Power, while traversing the frozen region and facing off against many exciting monsters unique to the setting, such as polar bears and ceremorph gnomes.

If you’re someone who enjoys horror as a genre, this adventure exudes atmospheric terror. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as it draws heavily on sources like John Carpenter’s. The thing, Ridley Scott’s Extraterrestrial and HP Lovecraft To the Mountains of Madness.

The first half of the adventure is a bit more open, encouraging players to explore Ten Towns and build a reputation for their party, with the second half being more linear in its progression. The adventure is quite heavy, so don’t expect a short game – it will take characters from level 1 up to level 12.

You can buy Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden here.

Strahd's Curse of Dungeons and Dragons
Image: Wizards of the Coast

The campaign setting for Ravenloft and the vampire lord, Count Strahd von Zarovich, has been a constant since the very first edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Released in 2016, Strahd’s Curse is an adaptation of the original Ravenloft adventure. It all begins when the party is subconsciously trapped in Barovia, a cursed land surrounded by a wall of impenetrable fog where everyone lives in a constant state of despair.

If the campaign name and setting didn’t make it obvious, Strahd’s Curse is a gothic horror adventure, so the focus is on supernatural and undead opponents. At first, players are given vague clues regarding the location of two magical weapons, a staunch ally, and the location of Strahd’s coffin. (All of these are chosen at random by the DM.) From there, the party is allowed to travel through Barovia, looking for these items, encountering a fun mix of NPCs, and then off to confront Strahd at Ravenloft Castle.

I love Strahd as a villain, as the DM is actively encouraged to make him a constant threat that constantly stalks the party. Did they just finish fighting werewolves? Then it’s time for Strahd. Did they just escape from a grave that almost killed the whole group? Time for Strahd. Did they just wake up? Oh, you better believe it’s time for Strahd.

Strahd’s Curse is available here.

Tomb of Annihilation Dungeons & Dragons
Image: Wizards of the Coast

If I had to pick an absolute favorite 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons the adventure would be Tomb of annihilation.

A curse of death afflicts the Chult, whose source is located somewhere in the vast rainforest of Chultan. The sprawling sandbox jungle setting that you absolutely will never be able to completely cover, with a good degree of gameplay variance that will appeal to any party’s individual preferences.

There are also a lot of wonderfully weird things to come across in the jungles of Chult. A tribe of yuan-ti trying to unleash a terrible serpent god over the world; goblins who build their village on a giant catapult, so that they can escape quickly in the event of a problem; a teleporting dinosaur that can shoot bees from its mouth.

The chances of your character dying permanently are high (I personally went through three during my game) and Tomb can sometimes be a bit punitive. However, this is never the type of punishment that makes you wish you were playing a different game. You will start out as a lump of coal and emerge as a hardened diamond.

Enter the Tomb of annihilation here.

Dragon Heist Dungeons Dragons
Image: Wizards of the Coast

Deep Water Dragon HeistThe name of is a bit misleading as there is no real heist per se. Sorry to anyone hoping for a fantastic version of Ocean 11. There is a hidden safe containing a great treasure, but you don’t make meticulous plans to steal it – you are just trying to beat everyone there.

If you’re someone who prefers more open-ended gameplay than dungeon crawl or storyline, this is the Dungeons & Dragons campaign for you. Waterdeep is a gigantic city that is divided into different districts, each with its own unique vibe. There is a staggering amount of NPCs the party can interact with, resulting in plenty of choices. whether you like it or not. Dragon heistthe approach to gameplay reminds me a lot Grand Theft Auto. There is one main quest you can complete, but sometimes you just want to scramble and complete missions for the Xanathar Thieves Guild or try to steal a guard’s griffin mount.

You can enter Deepwater dragon’s heist here.

Dungeons & Dragons Baldur's Gate Descent into Avernus
Image: Wizards of the Coast

what if Mad Max: Fury Road was put in hell?

This campaign is huge, you can easily dive into it for a few months. The main plot is that the city of Elturel has been ripped off on the material plane and now hangs over the River Styx in Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells. It’s a race against time to keep the city from collapsing in this hellish realm. It is also literally hell, so everything sucks. There is even a bloody war between demons and devils. Didn’t I mention that this whole campaign is as metal as a Slayer album cover?

The biggest circulation of War machines, twisted vehicles that are powered by the souls of the damned. At one point, the group of players will mark the keys to their own war machine, which they can use for a relaxed ride through the hellish landscape.

Take the .

Image: Wizards of the Coast

Whatever book you pick up, The mysteries of the candle and Tales of the gaping portal are perfect if your players want a small adventure between big campaigns or unique fun moments with new characters.

Tales of the gaping portalThe attraction is that it is not an adventure, it is new. Gaping gate is sort of a hit album that brings together absolute classic adventures of Dungeons & Dragonslong story, remastering them to work with the mechanics of the 5th edition.

The biggest circulation of Gaping gate is the inclusion of Tomb of horrors, one of D&D‘s most iconic adventures. Designed by Gary Gygax, the co-creator of D&D, Tomb of Horrors is an absolute dungeon nightmare. A constant barrage of insta-kill traps. The challenge is not how long it takes you to die, but how many times can you die. Even when you reach the final boss, he can just teleport you out of the dungeon. Now I know it doesn’t sound so appealing but trust me Tomb of Horrors is something that every D&D player must experience it at least once.

Similar to Gaping gate, The mysteries of the candle includes 17 adventures, ranging from level 1 to level 16. These adventures are all themed in some form of intelligent mystery and are short enough that you can easily complete them in one or two sessions. If you are a creative DM, you easily build on these short quests to make it into something bigger.

These adventures also allow you to introduce players to monsters they’ve never faced before, instead of the usual goblins, dragons, and slime suspects. When was the last time you fought a Mummy Lord or Medusa?

You can pick up Tales of the gaping portal here and The mysteries of the candle here.

Update 09/22/21: We’ve added the Candlekeep mysteries and removed Out of the Abyss.


About Johanna Gooding

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