One of the major advantages of playing Dungeons & Dragons vs. other roleplaying games, is the number of really well-made official adventures and community modules out there on the market. Some have been especially designed for 5e, others are classic storylines from D&D’s past that have been updated for playing with the 5th edition rules.
The purpose of this page is to introduce you to as many as possible, and hopefully help you find one that is perfect for your group. As the list expands, I will maybe sort these by level and price, but for now I have just sorted into:
a) Adventures that I have published myself
b) Official Wizards of the Coast campaigns
c) Modules by the gaming community published on the Dungeon Master’s Guilds marketplace.
As a hobby gamer I haven’t had time to play/read these all cover to cover, but my aim is to present adventures that I have enough experience of to recommend them (or not!). In each case I have noted from what perspective I’m writing, either that of a DM who’s led PCs through this storyline (DM’ed), as a PC who has taken part (played), or as someone who owns the adventure but hasn’t had a chance to play it yet (read).
Adventures by Hipsters & Dragons
My first goal when creating an adventure is to provide PCs 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. I love to build in NPCs with conflicting motives, decision making dilemmas (large and small) with real consequences, along with memorable encounters.
My second goal is that the adventure is 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 maybe a little side helping of comedy.
And I think I achieved that 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 NPCs, and had the players dicing with death throughout.
Author: Duncan Rhodes
Length: Mini-campaign (10-15 sessions)
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).
Going back further in time, to 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. If you’re searching for some old school flavour, with 5th edition sensibilities, you might have just found what you’re looking for… it’s now an Electrum Best Seller and the reviews so far have been very favourable!
2. The Gleaming Cloud Citadel
Author: Duncan Rhodes
Levels: 10-11 (all combat encounters recalculated for 5-6, 7-9 levels).
Length: 3 sessions
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.
Official 5th Edition D&D Storylines
The very same people who publish the 5th edition core rulebooks, Wizards of the Coast (usually abbreviated to WoTC), have also published a number of memorable storylines for D&D fans to engage with, most of which are set in the fantasy world of The Forgotten Realms. Here are the ones I’ve got to grips with so far…
3. Lost Mine of Phandelver
Author: Rich Baker and Chris Perkins
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. (DM’ed).
4. Curse of Strahd
Author: Christopher Perkins (lead), Adam Lee, Richard Witters, Jeremy Crawford. Based on Ravenloft, written by Tracy and Laura Hickman.
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. Full of great locations, characters and evocative details inspired 18th century Romania and Hungary. The best bits of this adventure are best tackled by PCs of at least 8-10th level, and I would recommend starting with another adventure first before heading to Barovia, especially for new players who should probably taste a traditional D&D setting before getting the horror treatment. (Played + read).
RELATED READING: Curse of Strahd made my list of best 5e horror adventures! Check out what other spine-tinglers made the list…
5. Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
Author: Chris Perkins (lead), James J. Haeck, James Introcaso, Adam Lee, Matt Sernett
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!
NOTE: My adventure, Dragonbowl, can be played as a sequel to Dragon Heist!
6. Storm King’s Thunder
Author: Chris Perkins
While I haven’t read this story, I played several encounters of this storyline as a player, and I really enjoyed it. The campaign sadly got discontinued for but it plays like a huge sandbox 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 overarching motivation, but I certainly enjoyed defending various towns against unprecedented waves of giant attacks, using a mix of tactics and brute force. I like the epic feel to proceedings, and the fact that the action plays out on the Sword Coast, and not the Underdark or some weird plane of existence, which is not my favourite flavour of fantasy. Virtually all the reviews and comments I’ve seen online have been positive and this seems to be one of WoTC’s most critically acclaimed stories. (Partially played).
7. Tyranny of Dragons (Hoard of the Dragon Queen + Rise of Tiamat)
Author: Wolfgang Baur and Steve Winter
Levels: 1-7 + 8-15
I haven’t read or played this campaign, but my friend and fellow DM told me not to bother as they are very railroaded and somewhat repetitive. So I thought I’d share his feedback here, as I trust his opinion. The story concept – a Dragon Cult intent on bringing back the legendary Tiamat – does however sound quite exciting to me, and I’ll no doubt check them out at some stage but they are low on my list of modules to acquire for now, especially as it would require buying not one but two premium-priced books…
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…
8. Lady of Loss
Author: Simon Collins
Length: 8 hours
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. (Read).
Buy Lady of Loss on the DMs Guild ($1.95).
9. Into The Witchwood
Author: Simon Collins
Levels: 1 (or maybe better at 2nd)
Length: 8 hours
A classic chase scenario, this adventure presupposes the PCs are Northlanders from the Moonshae Isles on the run after a peace moot turned into a deadly betrayal (think the Blackfish on the run after the Red Wedding if that helps!). After, hopefully, outpacing their horse-mounted pursuers into a forest known as the Witchwood, the PCs stumble from encounter to encounter (original ones at that – such as a flock of zombie pseudodragons), before a Dryad helps them escape into the Feywild. However if they want to get back to the material plane they will now need to defeat the demon that guards the only other portal back. Given the backstory is already established, my opinion is that this would work best as a one-shot adventure (over two sessions) – and I would say better start the PCs at 2nd level. Some of the encounters look pretty deadly for a 1st level party and there ain’t much time for resting! (Read).
Buy Into The Witchwood on the DMs Guild ($0.95)
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.