If you love running Dungeons and Dragons campaigns but never quite have the time to make your own, Wizards of the Coast have come up with an elegant solution. There are pre-written adventure modules that allow you to run a D&D game with the minimum of effort, while including no limit on creativity and excitement along the way.
Still, with some being better crafted than others, we’ve amassed the best Dungeons and Dragons 5e adventure modules all in one place, and how they can appeal to different kinds of players. If you’re not sure what trials and tribulations to put your friends through, these books offer some good options. Adventures range from kooky crime capers to terrifying horror, allowing players to experience any number of fantastical and frightening scenarios.
Best campaigns for beginners
If your players are new to D&D, still trying to get their footing, or just want something a little less lethal than average, there are actually several campaigns built exactly for that. You can plump for the Starter Set, the Essentials Kit, and the Stranger Things Starter Set (which is basically a protracted reference to the Netflix show).
These are all much shorter campaigns, cheaper than a regular module, with pre-made characters and a few basic amenities, though the Essentials is probably the sturdiest of the three. These are also good introductions if you’re Dungeon Mastering for the first time, with easy-to-run encounters and an agreeably simple story.
But, if you want a proper campaign book that lasts more than a few sessions, we recommend Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. It’s a bouncy, fun D&D adventure for players of level 1-5. In it, the heroes discover rumours of a lost treasure under the city of Waterdeep while contending with crime lords and the city’s elite in order to steal it. Though there’s no shortage of combat scenarios, it’s made clear that this adventure is a little more about cunning and experimental thinking, allowing players to flex their imaginations and come up with creative solutions to problems rather than just powering through them (though that’s still an option).
There’s a little bit of everything here – fighting, planning, dialogue, danger, weirdness, role-playing and even just the option to run your own tavern, if that’s what the players want to do! From there you can work out which of these things is most important to your heroes, and that’ll help you pick the next adventure.
Best campaigns for experienced players
Experienced may be the wrong word, but if you have Dungeons and Dragons players of any level who want to go against true danger, there’s only one choice: the Tomb of Annihilation campaign. When a necromantic curse causes many people to rot to death, the heroes trace it to the vast jungle peninsula of Chult, and have free reign to explore and uncover the mystery in hope of saving the world. Dinosaurs, the living dead, trap-filled temples, snake cultists, mythical creatures and all manner of other threats lurk in the jungle, and the game makes no attempt to moderate challenge. A lot of it is randomly-generated with encounter tables, meaning your players could walk into the wilderness and be instantly attacked by a zombie tyrannosaurus.
It adds a certain terrifying spice to events, encouraging players to think cautiously and making every expedition into the jungle feel like a true adventure. Not only that, but the whole peninsula is charted out in a giant A2 map, allowing them to properly explore wherever they want and taking them from level 1 to level 10 across their journey. If they survive to the end, it’ll be a true victory.
Best campaigns for classic players
If your players are old-school and like their D&D adventures as they were back in the 80s, the likely option would be Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage. This adventure is actually the direct sequel to Dragon Heist, but there’s no obligation to play that first, as the two adventures are largely separate. The concept is very simple: the world’s largest dungeon is beneath Waterdeep, practically a city in its own right, and at the very bottom is a legendary wizard with all kinds of legendary treasure. Each floor is entirely different from the others, and players are liable to spend months exploring along the way, charting out their adventures as they go.
Alternatively, you can go genuinely nostalgic with the Tales from the Yawning Portal module. This doesn’t just evoke old adventures, but recreates them, comprising seven classic adventures redesigned for Dungeons and Dragons 5e. These last five or six sessions at the very most, so if you’re more into shorter adventures this could also be what you’re looking for in a campaign book.
Best campaign books for all players
If you’re in the middle of all these and just want to know what 5e and, to a larger degree, Dungeons and Dragons itself is about, you should pick a module that embodies all the best tropes and challenges of the series.
With that in mind, there are two options, the first of which is Curse of Strahd. This one was released early in 5e’s lifespan and focuses on classic, gothic horror: vampires, ghosts, spooky castles, ancient curses and creeping tendrils of fog in every scene. It’s a little challenging at times, but nonetheless has a wonderful gimmick: early on in the game you play with a tarot deck that determines your future and thus the direction of the game as a whole.
If vampires aren’t your thing, then the other great option is Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus. D&D was often associated unfairly with Satanism when it first appeared in the 70s, and Avernus is the great rebuttal: a vast campaign that has your heroes journey into Hell itself and fight to save innocent people from the machinations of the damned. It’s a glorious, proudly chaotic adventure that feels like a heavy metal album cover come to life, as your heroes race across fiery wastelands on spiky motorbikes with devils biting at your heels.
If you’re excited about getting ready to play but aren’t sure if you have all the essentials and best additions to the game ready to go, check out our guide on everything you need to play D&D over here!