Starting a Dungeons & Dragons campaign can be a daunting task for anyone, but for those new to the hobby, it can be tough to even know where to start. Luckily, there are already some great adventures out there just waiting to be brought to the next game night. These are published modules with most of the work already done including maps, monsters and even a basic story. Here are some of the best modules available for new groups and Dungeon Masters starting their first campaign.
For beginners, it’s best to keep it simple. This doesn’t mean that the module should be too easy or boring, just that it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Look for a module that’s a bit shorter and features lower-level play. For beginners, pre-made adventures that sit between levels one and five and that don’t feature overabundance of moving parts are perfect.
This adventure is actually composed of five mini-adventures, each of them nice and short at about an hour long and written to teach new players the basics of D&D as they go. The combats are quick, NPC interactions are simple and the objectives are crystal-clear, ending just as the players hit level two. If the entire group is new to the game or if time investment ability is low, then Defiance In Phlan is a great way to start.
In Defiance, The Cult of the Dragon has come to the lawless refuge of Phlan. With this new common enemy, the power groups in the area must unite to stop the cult from fulfilling its dark purpose or perish in the attempt with the heroes representing those power groups and working to thwart the cultists. The plot is simple from there, and Defiance avoids complex narratives in favor of focusing on the misadventures of the low level players. Defiance is light on story, but it’s one of the most straightforward and easy ways to jump into the hobby.
The very first adventure that came out for 5e is not only massively popular but it’s a truly great way to start playing D&D. This is the quintessential D&D 5e adventure, delivering a classic feel along with the creatively open encounters that people love about the game. Fight goblins and bandits, explore a lost dwarven cave and match wits with an actual dragon — Lost Mine of Phandelver hits on all the beloved tropes. Lost Mine solidly covers levels one through five, is about thirty pages long and has all the monster stat blocks needed in the book, so there’s no need for a Monster Manual on-hand.
Initially hired as a group of mercenaries protecting a caravan, the heroes in Lost Mine soon learn that their employer has been kidnapped by a sinister figure. This eventually embroils the party in a greater plot to locate the titular secret mine which houses ancient and powerful magic. The setup is clean and the adventure has great pacing throughout, always keeping things exciting while it slowly amps up the stakes.
Tales from the Yawning Portal is a collection of the most famous classic dungeon crawls from throughout D&D’s history updated for 5e. This book is great value, as running through every dungeon back to back will take a party of adventurers right from level one to 15. The first dungeon, The Sunless Citadel, is a great starting point for new players that want to jump straight into the deep end. The adventure is straightforward, but is best recommended for groups with a mix of new players and a couple veterans or for new groups that want a challenge. The module is open-ended in how the players wish to pace themselves, but there are portions of the dungeon that can be quite deadly if the heroes are too hasty or too unlucky.
In The Sunless Citadel, a once proud fortress sank beneath the earth in ages past and has become a local legend. What is not yet common knowledge is that the citadel’s darkness has become home to a most evil plant and its unholy shepherd. Another party of adventurers has already vanished after seeking out the citadel, and it now falls to the players to wade through goblins, kobolds and the nightmarish Gulthias Tree in order to uncover the citadel’s sinister secrets before time runs out.
There are a couple things that make Curse of Strahd stand out from other adventures, and one is the pervasive theme of gothic horror. The other is that Curse is more of a sandbox style of game than almost any other published adventure. It’s a different feel from standard sword and sorcery, and groups that will embrace the freedom and creepiness of this module will love it. A well polished update to the I-6 Ravenloft module from the early ‘80s, Curse of Strahd is more than a remake. Tt’s a masterpiece.
Curse is a 254-page extended adventure book that will take players up to level 10 as they seek to defeat the vile Count Strahd Von Zarovich and escape from his demi-plane prison of Barovia. The plot itself is quite simple — the players are drawn to Barovia and must gather power until they can defeat Strahd and escape. How the heroes choose to accomplish their goals (and in what order) is what the campaign is all about.
These two well-structured books from Kobold Press are filled with short and simple one-off adventures that will easily keep players engaged for at least one session. Unlike some other entries above, Prepared! books don’t feature a single long-form story, but instead contain twelve unique scenarios that could be woven together or used independently as the DM sees fit. This means that each adventure is easy to cut and paste into a homebrew campaign or can be used as a backup side-quest if players go off the rails. Prepared! is useful for quickly running a short adventure without a ton of prep work, or for splicing some good modular content into a homebrew campaign.
These adventures all make for fun, accessible and relatively easy beginnings. There are entry points to D&D at all skill levels, and, when selecting a module, it’s important to keep in mind the group that will be playing it. Adventures are diverse, and there is no perfect module that works for everyone, but each of these has something great to offer a new campaign.
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