Of all of the tabletop RPGs that I’ve played, the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons has been a constant in my gaming life since it launched in 2014. I consider it a gold standard of what I personally want and enjoy in role-playing games. Especially after the slog that was the 4th edition.
I’ve been constantly surprised by how consistently good to great the book adventures have been. If you’re looking to start playing or are just hungry for a new module to run, turn your attention to these D&D campaigns. Just crack open one of these books, and almost everything you need to run it is in there.
If you’ve been playing D&D online, all of these adventures are also available digitally via Roll20.
The only additional things I’d recommend picking up are a Player’s Handbook, as it contains pretty much everything you need to know to actually play the game, and a Monster Manual, as these adventures don’t list the stats for every monster you will encounter within their pages.
This article has been updated since its original publication.
If you’re looking to start playing D&D, both the Starter Set and Essentials Kit are great options to help both players and Dungeon Masters acquaint themselves with the game. You learn by doing, and there’s plenty to do in these kits.
Depending on which you pick up, you’ll get a different adventure: The Lost Mine of Phandelver (Starter) and The Dragon of Icespire Peak (Essentials). The booklets these adventures come in may seem thin, but you’d be surprised by how much there is to do in both of them. I’ve run Phandelver a few times, both as player and DM, and I’ve enjoyed it every playthrough. If you’re a big fan of The Adventure Zone, the gang ran Phandelver for the podcast’s first arc, Here There Be Gerblins.
Not only do you get a solid starter adventure, but you also get some dice and pre-rolled character sheets. If you’re stuck on which one to choose, I’d say go with the Essentials Kit. The campaign is longer, and it comes with a mini-DM screen and extra dice. Those are always handy to have.
Set in the icy tundra of Icewind Dale, Rime of the Frostmaiden was released just over a year ago, and I’d easily consider it an absolute must-play Dungeons & Dragons adventure. The adventuring party is tasked with stopping the mysterious Frostmaiden from discovering a forbidden ancient power, while traversing the frigid region and facing a lot of exciting monsters that are unique to the setting, like were-polar bears and gnome ceremorphs.
If you’re someone who loves horror as a genre, this adventure oozes with atmospheric dread. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as it draws huge inspiration from sources like John Carpenter’s The Thing, Ridley Scott’s Alien and H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness.
The first half of the adventure is a bit more open-world, encouraging the players to explore Ten Towns and build a reputation for their party, with the back half being more linear in its progression. There’s a fair heft to the adventure, so don’t expect a short play-through – it’ll take characters from level one all the way to level 12.
The campaign setting of Ravenloft and the vampire lord, Count Strahd von Zarovich, have been a constant since the very first edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Released in 2016, Curse of Strahd is an adaptation of the original Ravenloft adventure. Everything kicks off when the party is unknowingly trapped in Barovia, a cursed land surrounded by an impenetrable wall of fog where everyone lives in a constant state of despair.
If the campaign name and setting haven’t made it obvious, Curse of Strahd is a Gothic horror adventure so there’s a big emphasis on supernatural and undead opponents. Early on the players are given vague clues regarding the location of two magic weapons, a faithful ally and where Strahd’s coffin lays. (All of these are randomly chosen by the DM.) From there, the party is allowed to travel across Barovia, searching for these items, meeting a fun mix of NPCs and then finally confronting Strahd at Castle Ravenloft.
I like Strahd as a villain, as the DM is actively encouraged to make him a constant threat that is constantly stalking party. Did they just finish fighting some werewolves? Then it’s time for Strahd. They just escaped a tomb that almost killed the entire group? Time for Strahd. They just woke up? Oh, you better believe it’s time for Strahd.
If I had to pick an absolute favourite 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure, it would be Tomb of Annihilation.
A death curse is plaguing the Chult, the source of which is located somewhere in the vast Chultan rainforest. The sprawling, sandbox jungle setting that you will absolutely never be able to completely cover, with a good degree of gameplay variance that will appeal to the individual preferences of any party.
There’s also just a lot of wonderfully weird things to encounter within the jungles of Chult. A tribe of yuan-ti trying to unleash a terrible snake god on the world; goblins that build their village on a giant catapult, so they can quickly escape if there’s any trouble; a teleporting dinosaur that can shoot bees out of its mouth.
The chances of your character permanently dying are high (I personally went through three during my playthrough) and Tomb can feel a bit punishing at times. However, it’s never the type of punishing that makes you wish you were playing a different game. You’ll start as a chunk of coal and emerge a hardened diamond.
Waterdeep Dragon Heist‘s name is a bit misleading as there isn’t an actual heist, per se. Sorry to anyone hoping for a fantasy version of Ocean’s 11. There is a hidden vault holding a great treasure, but you aren’t making meticulous plans to steal it — you’re just trying to beat everyone else there.
If you’re someone who favours more open-world gameplay than a straight dungeon crawl or set-story, this is the Dungeons & Dragons campaign for you. Waterdeep is a gigantic city that is split into different wards, which each have its own vibe. There’s a staggering amount of NPCs that the party can interact with, which leads to a lot of consequential choices being made. whether you intended it or not. Dragon Heist‘s approach to gameplay reminds me a lot of Grand Theft Auto. There is a main quest that you can complete, but sometimes you just want to muck around and run missions for the Xanathar’s Thieves’ Guild or try to steal a guard’s griffon mount.
Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus is a D&D adventure that asks an important question: What if Mad Max: Fury Road was set in Hell?
This campaign is huge, you can easily sink a couple of months into it. The main plot hook is that the city of Elturel has been torn from the Material Plane and is now suspending above River Styx in Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells. It’s a race against the clock to stop the city from collapsing into this infernal realm. It’s also literally hell, so everything sucks. There’s even a Blood War being waged between demons and devils. Did I not mention that this entire campaign is as metal as a Slayer album cover?
The biggest draw of Descent Into Avernus is the inclusion of Infernal War Machines, twisted vehicles that are fuelled by the souls of the damned. At some point, the player party will score the keys to their very own War Machine, which they can take for a casual spin around the hellscape.
Regardless of which book you pick up, Candlekeep Mysteries and Tales from the Yawning Portal are great if your players want to run a smaller adventure in between big campaigns or some fun one-offs with new characters.
Tales from the Yawning Portal‘s appeal is that it isn’t one adventure, it’s nine. Yawning Portal is somewhat of a greatest hits album that collects some absolute classic adventures from Dungeons & Dragons‘ long history, remastering them to run with the mechanics of the 5th edition.
The biggest draw of Yawning Portal is the inclusion of Tomb of Horrors, one of D&D‘s most iconic adventures. Conceived by Gary Gygax, the co-creator of D&D, Tomb of Horrors is an absolute nightmare of a dungeon. A constant barrage of insta-kill traps. The challenge isn’t to see how long it takes you to die, but how few times can you die. Even when you reach the final boss, he can just teleport you out of the dungeon. Now I know this doesn’t sound all that appealing, but trust me, Tomb of Horrors is something every D&D player needs to experience at least once.
Similar to Yawning Portal, Candlekeep Mysteries includes 17 adventures, spanning from level 1 one up to level 16. These adventures are all themed around some form of clever mystery and are short enough that you can easily finish them in one or two sessions. If you’re a creative DM, you easily build on these short quests to make them something bigger.
These adventures also let you introduce players to monsters that they’ve never faced before, instead of the usual suspects of goblins, dragons and oozes. When was the last time you fought a Mummy lord or a Medusa?
Update 22/09/21: We’ve added in Candlekeep Mysteries and taken out Out of the Abyss.