One of the major advantages of playing Dungeons & Dragons, versus other roleplaying games, is the number of really well-made official adventures and community modules out there on the market. Whether it’s new and original 5e material, or classic storylines from D&D’s past that have been updated for the 5th edition rules, there’s more content to play than your lifetime allows.
After eight year of DMing and playing 5th edition, let me help find you the gold that glitters the brightest… whether you’re looking for one shots, epic campaigns, urban intrigue, murder mysteries, or a touch of horror, you’ll find something on this curated list by Hipsters & Dragons!
The 20 Best D&D Adventures
I’ve divided this list into official adventures published by Wizards of the Coast, my own published adventures and other community titles on the DMs Guild (that use D&D intellectual property), and other 5e compatible titles, made using the OGL.
Each sublist is presented in rough order of favouritism, but if a module made this list then, no matter what it’s placement, in my opinion it’s worth playing!
Part I: Official 5e Adventures
It confuses me when people say that WOTC don’t publish great adventures, because that’s patently untrue. Moreover, the level of art, maps, editing and writing is always top notch and for me the owners of the D&D brand remain the gold standard of adventure publishing. So let’s get going by looking at some of their best efforts…
1. Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
My favourite official storyline so far, Dragon Heist sees the players get involved in a hunt for a cool half a million ‘dragons’ (gold pieces!) embezzled by the former Open Lord of the city, Dagult Neverember. There’s gang warfare, creepy monsters lurking in the shadows, double-dealing factions, fireballs, investigations and wild geese chases aplenty… and the ‘choose your own villain’ device is really cool. Hint: choose all of them!
Waterdeep: Dragon Heist is not without its flaws… many of which I discuss in my full length review of the adventure, but if you’ll willing to put a little work into smoothing those out (I do propose some solutions in my article, and there’s also the now famous Alexandrian Remix to aid DMs), then I think you’ve got a real zinger on your hands.
Certainly WDH captured the imagination of many creators, and it’s probably got the greatest range of enriching supplements and DM aids of any D&D adventure so far.
Authors: Chris Perkins (lead), James J. Haeck, James Introcaso, Adam Lee, Matt Sernett
My Rating: ★★★★★. I originally rated this as a 4/5 product, but given that I’m still recycling the villains, Waterdeep locations and the Dyson Logo maps to this day, Dragon Heist has been by far my best 5e adventure purchase, and the most influential on how I play D&D.
Note: My adventure, DRAGONBOWL, can be played as a sequel to Dragon Heist!
2. Curse of Strahd
During this 5th edition remake of the legendary Ravenloft adventure, players are transported to the fog-filled Barovia – think Count Dracula’s Transylvania, covered in a perma-mist – where they run into the mysterious Madam Eva, a fortune teller who offers to read their futures using her deck of cards. This adventure is all about atmosphere, as the masterful Strahd toys with the PCs, allowing them to explore his dominion before expecting them at the dread Castle Ravenloft.
As an East Europhile (and former resident of the area), I love the locations and evocative details inspired by 18th century Romania and Hungary, while the sandbox nature of the storyline that later funnels in towards a final denouement is my type of adventure design. It gives players the freedom to determine their destiny, while building anticipation of the inevitable final showdown.
Authors: Christopher Perkins (lead), Adam Lee, Richard Witters, Jeremy Crawford. Based on Ravenloft, written by Tracy and Laura Hickman.
My Rating: ★★★★★. Deservedly one of D&D’s favourite storylines.
RELATED READING: Curse of Strahd made my list of best 5e horror adventures! Check out what other spine-tinglers made the list…
3. Keys from the Golden Vault
I’ve enjoyed all the adventure anthologies that Wizards have published in the 5th edition era, but sneaking into top spot is Keys from the Golden Vault.
In terms of the quality of adventure design and playability, these modules score higher for me than either Radiant Citadel or Candlekeep Mysteries, and the entries tend to feature better locations with better maps, making me more excited to run them. Thematically, they just feel easier to drop into an existing campaign. I thought that maybe by the 13th adventure, I’d be bored by the anthology’s heist theme, but the authors have come up with plenty of fresh scenarios and ideas, and overall there’s just a great mix of inspiration, fun and utility here.
Here are three of my favourites from Keys from the Golden Vault:
The Stygian Gambit channels that Oceans 11 vibe with a casino caper par excellence. The casino is really well mapped out and features baths, spa, circus, restaurant and bars and is just fun place for players to hang out… let alone stake out. This worked brilliantly on my table.
Prisoner 13 is a jailbreak that takes place in none other than Revel’s End, the forbidding panopticon prison that features in the film Honour Amongst Thieves. Who knows, maybe the characters will even opt for a similar ‘Councillor Jarnathan‘ escape plan…
The Concordant Express sees players catch an interplanar train bound for Mechanus in order to get some vital intel from an outlaw called The Stranger. What’s great about this adventure is the modular carriages design mechanic, that allows to DMs to pick and choose different encounters (such as mini-murder mystery!) or add their own.
Authors: Various, including Sarah Madsen and Justin Arman.
Length: Anthology, or campaign.
My Rating: ★★★★★. High quality heists that will live long in the memory of your players.
4. Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel
Radiant Citadel really rips up the playbook when it comes to our pre-conceived notions of fantasy and fantasy settings. Each of these 13 adventures borrows heavily from their author’s real world cultures, and the results are some truly original D&D adventures that take us way beyond the generic medieval European-style locations.
Not every inclusion is a banger, with several of these short stories feeling a bit too linear, but even the weakest entries contain plenty of original ideas for DMs to copy and paste into their own worlds and campaigns. However, I wouldn’t have put Journeys so high up this list if it didn’t include some superb entries within the anthology, such as:
Shadow of the Sun is a rollercoaster ride of an adventure that kicks off with a purple worm attack and climaxes in an aerial prison break, all in a city state run by an autocratic angel.
In the Mists of Manivarsha starts with a tidal wave attack that should hook the players into exploring the forest swamplands of Manivarsha and treating with their river gods. I loved the thematic travel encounters.
Trail of Destruction maximises the inherent drama of living in a land of active volcanoes, with deadly eruptions, toppling towers and dangerous elemental adversaries.
Authors: Various, including Justice Arman, Mimi Mondal and Alastor Guzman.
Length: Anthology, or campaign.
My Rating: ★★★★1/2.
5. The Wild Beyond the Witchlight
Given that I prefer my fantasy gritty and epic to fanciful and freaky, I wasn’t too excited when Wizards announced they were dropping a Fey-flavoured story into their 5th edition inventory. While the fact that it was designed to be possible to ‘complete’ the campaign using non-violent resolutions alone aroused my suspicion, more than my excitement.
Still, when my friend invited me to join his campaign as a player I signed up, and boy was I glad I did. Witchlight is an adventure of pure invention and sorcery, which starts with a very eventful trip to the eponymous carnival. Here you can enter a dragonfly or giant snail-riding races, sign up for a cupcake-eating competition (prepare to take some custard damage!), or step gingerly into the Hall of Illusions, with many of the rides and attractions hiding mysterious secrets. If all goes well players will be drawn into the Feywild, in search of something they lost last time the fiesta was in town, like their sense of direction, ability to lie, or perhaps even their very identity (a simply brilliant hook that is built into players’ backstories!).
Once in the uncanny realm of the Feywild things quickly get curiouser and curiouser, as adventurers come face to face with an Alice-in-Wonderland-esque cast of characters, and are obliged to deal with nasties like Lorna the Hag, and the unforgettable Agdon Longscarf (who our DM used as a brilliantly annoying repeat antagonist).
This adventure definitely turned me onto the potential of the Feywild and the twisted fun you can have there.
Author: Chris Perkins (lead), Stacey Allan, Will Doyle and Ari Levitch.
My Rating: ★★★★1/2.
6. Candlekeep Mysteries
The first of Wizards’ anthologies of original 5th edition adventures (Tales from the Yawning Portal and Ghosts of Saltmarsh being anthologies of classic D&D yarns updated for 5e), Candlekeep Mysteries is an inspiring collection of stories, by mostly new writers (i.e. not contracted to WOTC), that manages to go beyond fantasy’s tired tropes to deliver something that feels really fresh. Each adventure revolves around one of the many extraordinary tomes at the legendary library, which should set the wheels of the mystery in motion.
My favourite of the 13 short adventures are:
Price of Beauty. Containing a heady mix of satire and subterfuge, this fun-lovin’ adventure sees the PCs visit a fey-infused spa to find a missing Candlekeep sage. I ran this as very successful one-shot, and you can check my running notes and revisions here.
Candlekeep Dekonstruktion. As adventure premises go, the idea of a cult of scholars turning one of Candlekeep’s many towers into a rocket and blasting off into space is hard to beat – esp. if you’re just looking for a casual night of gaming. Another story with great comedy potential.
The Curious Tale of Wisteria Vale Westworld meets D&D in this adventure, where artificial automatons populate a demi-plane prison of a dangerous former spy. A great mix of intrigue, mystery and mindf*ckery.
Author: Various, including Mark Hulmes, Amy Vorpahl and Kienna Shaw.
My Rating: ★★★★. Lots of fresh ideas, a couple of really fun scenarios and – while it’s not an adventure in itself – I loved the Candlekeep lore and map!
7. Lost Mine of Phandelver
This introductory adventure comes with the 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set, and whilst I was sceptical it was going to be a no frills dungeon crawl, it turns out to be a layered and interesting story, with plenty of optional side quests. The action starts in Neverwinter before moving to the rough and tumble mining town of Phandalin. After accepting what seems like a simple mission to escort a wagonload of provisions into town, complications quickly add up. Overall a perfect way to introduce new players to classic D&D tropes, the adventure contains loads of fun and unique details so that experienced players should still enjoy it. If I have a gripe, it’s that Lost Mine doesn’t quite hit the high notes for excitement, intrigue and drama, for my tastes at least.
Author: Rich Baker and Chris Perkins
My Rating: ★★★★. A great sandbox for new players to dip their feet into the world of D&D.
8. Storm King’s Thunder
I played several encounters of this storyline as a player, and I really enjoyed it. The campaign sadly got discontinued, but it plays like a huge sandbox, that stretches over the entire Sword Coast, and it felt like we could point to anywhere on the map and court adventure there. As a result, we sometimes missed a bit of immediate, driving motivation, but I certainly enjoyed defending various towns against unprecedented waves of giant attacks, using a mix of tactics and brute force. I definitely liked the epic feel to proceedings, and the classic heroic fantasy flavour, and I plan to pick this up and run it at some point.
Author: Chris Perkins
My Rating: Unrated for now, as I need to experience / read more of it, but signs were good!
Part II: Adventures by Hipsters & Dragons
Before I introduce my published adventures, let me talk a little bit about the design goals that went into them. Like most designers I like to present the players with a range of challenges – not just combat, but problem solving, NPC interaction and fun details – in order to engage the different personalities that often sit at any one table. In particular, I love to build in NPCs with conflicting motives, decision making dilemmas (large and small) with real consequences, along with memorable encounters.
But perhaps my main design goal, and one I think that gets overlooked a little, is that I want the adventure to be fun for the Dungeon Master to run too! As a DM, I relish the opportunity to play sarcastic, antagonist NPCs, to bait my players a little bit, and to throw really tough challenges at them. Fifth edition D&D can be rather too easy for players at time, so I definitely like to mix it up a bit and throw in challenges the players aren’t expecting. In essence, I strive that during every encounter there’s tension and drama… with perhaps a little side helping of comedy.
In particular, I feel like I achieved my design goals with my second release, DRAGONBOWL, which has plenty of high thrills and spills (such as airship heists, dino stampedes and epic arena battles), lots of memorable run-ins with shady, double-dealing NPCs, and which had the players dicing with death throughout when I ran it.
I’ll introduce it now, along with my other two published adventures.
Note: For this section, I’ll replace ‘My Rating’ with the DMs Guild Rating.
DRAGONBOWL is a pulp fiction adventure that invites the players to sign up for a deadly gladiatorial content being run by the nefarious Games Master, in the bowels of Mount Waterdeep. The main event are the midnight fights in Dragonbowl Arena, but in fact there’s a whole festival grounds to explore… from Dragonbowl Casino and the Festival Hall to the ArcTech Expo trade fair and the Dread Dinos Hatchery & Vivarium. Indeed, Dragonbowl is a drinkers and shoppers paradise!
Key to the adventure are its “Intriguers”, the shady spectators (such as Jarlaxle, Davil Starsong and Xanathar itself) who have gathered to watch the Blood Games tournament, but who are all pushing their own agendas behind the scenes. The result is no shortage of “Entanglements” (side quests) that the players can get involved in.
The adventure climaxes twice… once with a deadly aerial assault on the Dragonbowl Airship, and the second time when the heroes face off against the dastardly Game Master in his extraplanar mansion for the Breakfast of Champions, where the deranged wizard-turned-sports-tycoon has a couple of surprises for the adventurers.
Find out more using the link below (you can also see screenshots and preview the first chapter of the adventure).
Author: Duncan Rhodes
Length: Mini-campaign (10-15 sessions)
DM’s Guild Rating: ★★★★★.
10. Candlekeep Murders: Deadwinter Prophecy
I loved Candlekeep Mysteries, but nowhere in the anthology was a really cerebral mystery story… one that would have players poring over clues and racking their brains for revelations. Nor are there many in the collection that actually take advantage of the amazing adventure potential contained in this fabulous library-fortress, with its scores of spires, secret passages, catacombs and much more. Just check out that map by Mike Schley!
Candlekeep Murders: The Deadwinter Prophecy delivers what I feel many people might have wanted more of from the anthology, by setting up a challenging murder mystery scenario in the library. When the characters arrive on Deadwinter’s Day (i.e. Christmas) they discover that the Keeper of Tomes has been killed and his body mutilated. And, given that they are the only ones beyond suspicious, it falls to them to investigate his death.
The murder mystery, replete with dozens of clues, witnesses and suspects, actually segues into a kind of clue-solving treasure hunt that takes the PCs around the entire library, in search of the Vault of Secrets (they have to reach it before the bad guys!). After some more puzzles and a couple of epic scraps the party will need to restore order to the beleaguered Avowed community.
I won’t write my own reviews, but my players loved this, and Ed Greenwood even took the time to read it and deliver a kind word!
Author: Duncan Rhodes
Length: Multi-session Adventure (8-10 sessions)
DM’s Guild Rating: ★★★★★.
Buy Candlekeep Murders: The Deadwinter Prophecy on the DMs Guild.
11. The Gleaming Cloud Citadel
In 2018, I published my first ever 5e adventure: a classic romp through a wizard’s tower and a love letter to my early days playing D&D.
Eszteban, the Archmage of the Gossamer Robe Order, hides atop his tower in the Gleaming Cloud Citadel, denying his fellow wizards access to the knowledge of the Upper Library with a series of deadly traps and obstacles. Who will be brave enough to disarm this labyrinth, unravel the Order’s secrets, and confront the potentially deranged archmage?
In this adventure your PCs must treat with the scheming mages of a now broken academic order, and then rise through a series of trapped and guarded chambers, room and halls to discover what has happened to its leader Eszteban… on the way they will have to solve riddles, battle blizzards in corridors, fend off gorgons, sphinxes and genies and even come face to face with shadowy versions of themselves.
Whatever the PCs’ own motivations those of the mages that inhabit the Gleaming Cloud Citadel are sure to complicate matters.
Author: Duncan Rhodes
Levels: 10-11 (all combat encounters recalculated for 5-6, 7-9 levels).
Length: Multi-session Adventure (3-5 sessions)
DM’s Guild Rating: ★★★★★. Well 4.9 to be precise…
12. The Incredible Balloon Bamboozle
This is a new heist adventure I’m working on to complement the recent release of Keys from the Golden Vault. More details soon!
Part III: DMs Guild Adventures
The DM’s Guild is an immensely popular marketplace for community content. The quality of many products is surprisingly good. Most authors tend to be experienced and creative DMs who invest the time to playtest and proofread their material before going to press. Works featuring top quality original artwork and maps however are more the exception than the rule, given the expense of creating these for one person publishers or small indie games companies – however that’s not to say they such works don’t exist. When you purchase from the DM’s Guild, 50% of the total price of each publication goes to WoTC and 50% to the author. (When you buy via a link on this blog 5% goes to me… taken from the WoTC pool. That money is what keeps this blog going, so any purchases made via Hipsters & Dragons links are much appreciated!).
Here I present a few titles you might like…
13. Smashing Pumpkins
Nailing the creepy menace of an idyllic rural community gone bad – think Wicker Man or Hot Fuzz – Smashing Pumpkins is a brilliant autumnal ‘folk horror’ romp that takes place in the village of Brindlebury.
The hamlet contains dark and sordid secrets aplenty, which the players will need to investigate in between swigs of cider and mouthfuls of homemade pumpkin pie (I’m sure they’re safe to eat!).
The adventure is smartly designed as a sandbox that pulls together in the end towards a terrifying finale, with more than a touch of Cthulu to it. Definitely one to wheel out when Halloween comes around!
Author: SP Cole
Length: 3-4 sessions
My Rating: ★★★★★. The folk horror theme is beautifully done. Is it possible to feel cosy and terrified at the same time?
Buy Smashing Pumpkins on the DMs Guild.
14. Weekend at Strahd’s
From folk horror to comedy horror, Weekend at Strahd’s beats out even my own Dragonbowl adventure for the number of pop culture references in D&D adventure, with a romp around Castle Ravenloft refurbished with 80s themed encounters.
The basic premise is that the PCs have just killed Strahd when they are informed by one of the vampire’s minions that they have 2 hours to dispose of the body before an apocalypse called ‘the Final Credits’ rolls over Barovia. Cue a fetch quest to find five segments of the Pentaforce in a random selection of 10 Castle Ravenloft locations. Encounters in each location are riffs off iconic movies like Breakfast Club, Heathers, Beetle Juice and St. Elmo’s Fire, and the adventure comes replete with Spotify links to corresponding theme tunes and assorted 80s anthems to ensure everyone fully embraces the retro vibe.
Probably not one for D&D purists, if however you (and your players!) love the 80s then you will get a lot of mileage out of this goofball one-shot.
Author: Anthony Joyce & Oliver Clegg
Length: One shot
My Rating: ★★★★★. It was acceptable in the 80s!
Buy Weekend at Strahd’s on the DMs Guild.
15. Dragon Heist: Forgotten Tales
Not quite its own adventure, so much as a remix of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, Forgotten Tales offers up an entirely new beginning and ending to the official product, so that the entire adventure can be replayed without having to rehash the same material.
Forgotten Tales sees the players having to root out the Hand of Nessus (a subsect of the Asmodeus Cult, led by the Cassalanters), who operate out of the memorable location of the right hand of the colossal Godcatcher statue, before investigating the fireball assault, which is now perpetrated by a different felon.
FT also puts the heist back in Dragon Heist by reimagining the vault as an above-ground bank with security measures and guards, and a new map by Dyson Logos (the Hand of Nessus HQ is also mapped by DL!).
Overall, FT is full of rich details and cool design touches, and serves a truly useful purpose (allowing DMs to truly replay W:DH without getting bored!). My only gripe is that not every NPC motivation or action is totally convincing, and I feel like a few nuts and bolts need tightening before running.
Author: Will Doyle, James Haeck, James Introcaso
My Rating: ★★★★1/2. Lots of cool new material for my favourite official storyline.
Buy Dragon Heist: Forgotten Tales on the DMs Guild.
Bonus Recommendations: The Unseen is a similar product available on the DMs Guild, which gives DMs a 5th villain to play with and a new ‘Dragon Season’ chase. Check out more Dragon Heist supplements here.
16. Rats of Waterdeep
Familiarity with the authors’ work, gave me the confidence to invest in this one shot mystery adventure with the intention of inserting it into my own Waterdeep campaign. It’s a really smart little mystery.
The set up revolves around two secret patrons of Dock Ward, the Rat King (Catrina Brisby) and the Lady of Plagues (Maladie Song), who became lovers when Catrina persuaded Maladie to put aside her experiments in pestilence. Everyone favourite scheming beholder, however, has unleashed Maladie’s Rat Pox into the city, leaving the City Watch bemused as to what’s going on and putting the two lovers at odds with one another once more.
The adventure boasts a great mix of regular investigation and puzzle solving (courtesy of some coded messages held at a bank), and the quarantine zone works well as a device to contain the story within a few blocks of the otherwise sprawling city of Waterdeep. There are some great hand outs, and the pulp noir boxed texts and trenchcoat wearing, hard-boiled detective NPC sidekick are a nice touch that should bring plenty of fun to the table.
I think it would be hard to do the whole rats, sewers and plagues theme better justice.
Author: Will Doyle, Lysa Penrose
Levels: 1 (adjusted up to 4)
Length: One shot
My Rating: ★★★★1/2. Thematic mystery story that can be easily inserted into any city campaign.
Buy Rats of Waterdeep on the DMs Guild.
17. Shore of Dreams
One of the best-selling adventures for sale on the DMs Guild, it’s easy to see why this adventure was a massive hit. The artwork, maps and layout are all gorgeous, and to see something of this quality in 2018 (when it was published) was a rare treat. The light Japanese flavouring is a nice touch too, reflected in both text and art, and helps gives the locations a stronger identity than your typical D&D setting.
The storyline itself revolves a manipulative triton who spread a fake rumour of Captain Jadescale’s buried treasure in order to lure adventurers to her island and repurpose them as slaves to excavate a half buried (and half submerged) temple where she believes an item called the Crown of Black Pearls is hidden.
Once the party bite on one of the solid hooks provided, they will have to conduct a mini-investigation around the village of Yokotoro, and its tavern, the Shore of Dreams, which will either result in them finding out the truth of the matter, or getting captured. The adventure is cleverly designed to account for either possibility, before it all reaches a head in the Temple of the Storm. This mini-dungeon is brilliantly and thematically elaborated with tempest beasts, undead cultists and thundering squall traps.
Overall Shore of Dreams is a smart offering that would be easy to insert into any number of other campaigns. My only gripes were just a few plot strands weren’t too convincing, a prime example being the poisoning of the players food in plain view of them (why not just do it in the kitchen?).
Author: Florian Emmerich & JVC Parry
Length: 1-2 sessions
My Rating: ★★★★1/2. A beautifully produced one-shot with a well-designed, thematic mini-dungeon.
Buy Shore of Dreams on the DMs Guild.
18. Lady of Loss
A corrupt paladin holds sway over the village of Truntan, exploiting the local population and enforcing monotheism upon them. Supernatural events call the PCs attention, and in doing so they begin to reveal dark secrets the paladin would rather keep quiet, secrets that revolve around the suppressed hidden sect of Shar, the Goddess of Loss.
This is is a smart little adventure with a good balance of combat, NPC interaction, detective work and exploration. The back story is believable and I love the fact that there’s a player hand out for what to do if you’re possessed by the ghost of Alana.
The production values on Lady of Loss are not the best, but if you’re prepared to put substance before style this is a worthy offering.
Author: Simon Collins
Length: 2 sessions
My Rating: ★★★★. Ghosts, vengeance and religious intolerance are the themes of this poignant short story.
Buy Lady of Loss on the DMs Guild ($1.95).
Part IV: 5e Compatible Adventures
With the DMs Guild taking 50% of the revenue of each title sold on their marketplace, no wonder many independent publishers choose to take advantage of the OGL to retain control of their titles and profits. The Open Gaming License allows third parties to use much, but not all, of the WOTC-owned Dungeons & Dragons Intellectual Property, including the basic mechanics, classes, races/species and spells (but excluding any settings lore and certain iconic monsters like beholders etc.). The upshot is that Dungeon Masters should be able to plug in virtually any adventure with a 5e badge on it into their games, knowing that it’s been written to be played with the 5th edition ruleset. Just don’t expect any Forgotten Realms locations etc..
I need to expand my reading in this area (suggestions welcome! Hit up the comments!), but here are a couple of third party titles I’ve got my hands on that impressed me.
19. Isle of the Dreaded Accursed
I love modules that kick off with an explosive beginning (see my Dragon Heist rehash!), and Isle of the Dreaded Accursed gets off to the perfect start when a titanic sea spider rises from the foam and starts spearing innocent sailors. Cue a great fight on the wharfs of Mountainfoot village, with some potential environmental hazards of dock fires and spider-induced tidal waves.
This scene should trigger the players into investigating the spate of monster attacks in the waters around Mountainfoot and receiving a quest: to bring an offering to appease the anger of the Sea Goddess Elvirath, who is behind the wracking storms and monstrous creatures (many of whom are undead) afflicting local ships and coastal settlements. That offering should be no less than a kraken’s skull.
The next segment of the adventure is also really cool, presenting a multi-layered cinematic skills challenge, in place of a straight combat. The players are given a fast ship, amongst a larger fleet, and tasked with supporting the Mountainfoot navy, which involves them attempting tasks like extinguishing fires, rescuing overboard sailors, manoeuvring through a squall and taking out the monster’s spawn. The battle is decided by the players’ success in these challenges.
Hopefully armed with a kraken’s skull, the players must now travel to the eponymous Isle of the Dreaded Accursed to make their offering. This journey is another nice piece of adventure design, with six potential encounters presented for DMs to choose from, or select randomly, all of which foreshadow the final showdown, and can be used to dial up the module’s nautical horror aspect.
The cult that once worshipped at Elvirath’s temple have all been killed and raised as undead by the vengeful goddess as punishment for their leader’s sins, with the leader himself turned into a skeletal dragon. Players must not only find a way to land on the storm-wracked island, but also enter the dungeon below the temple (that has been nicely Jaquays-ed… the Alexandrian would surely approve!), and battle against all kinds of thematic nasties such as zombie cultists, sea hags, spectral jellyfish and flooding library traps, before being able to complete their quest.
There are some major similarities between Isle of the Dreaded Accursed and the aforementioned Shore of Dreams (perhaps no surprise given JVC Parry co-authored both), with both ticking plenty of ‘good adventure design’ boxes in terms of how they handle encounters and locations. IOTDA has a bit more of an epic vibe about it, and – aside from great maps, artwork and layout – also comes with some new players options and a tonne of stat blocks from Nord Game’s Dreaded Accursed bestiary, as well as an optional sidequest.
Pretty much the only thing I didn’t like about IOTDA is the plot twist, which I found a bit forced and unconvincing as written. I’m a bit sceptical of the old ‘the quest giver was the main villain all along’ reveal, and it doesn’t feel necessary in this scenario, although perhaps it could be reworked to be a fun extension to the campaign.
Otherwise this adventure hits all the high notes, and is a great way to kick off the new “5e Compatible Adventures” section of this post!
Author: Mr. Tarrasque, JVC Parry and WallyDM.
My Rating: ★★★★★. An epic tale themed with nautical horror, featuring some great design set pieces and final location.
Buy Isle of the Dreaded Accursed on DrivethruRPG ($12.50).
20. Fantastic Lairs
Review coming soon!
What’s Your Favourite D&D Adventure?
There’s only so many adventures you can play and read as a single person. So do please comment below with your own experiences, either running any of the above recommendations, or your own favourite 5e modules.
I’ll leave you with a few of my adventure design posts, in case you’re planning on adapting any of the above material, or writing your own adventure.