Since its release in 2011, a number of ready-made adventures have been released for D&D 5th Edition. Though, they are officially called adventures, in most cases they are closer to full blown campaigns taking players from levels 1 to as high as 15, and providing many months of entertainment.
Though every book in this list might be worth owning, I decided to rank them from worst to best and provide a short review for each of them to help new Dungeon Masters decide what they want to invest their money and time on.
This list is my own opinion, but I would like to hear yours about the order you would place these modules in.
13. Hoard Of The Dragon Queen & The Rise Of Tiamat
These 2 books both take last place because Rise of Tiamat is essentially the continuation of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Being the first adventure modules released for 5th edition, and being published before the 3 main books were even finalized, their quality as adventures is below what we’ve come to expect from Wizards of the Coast.
The adventure suffers from ridiculously deadly encounters, and a railroady story, though an interesting one.
Having said that, I believe there is value in any book, and as I’ve explained in a previous article, there’s a way to use these books without running the adventures as they are.
You can buy these books using the following links (which supports The DM’s Journey):
12. Princes Of The Apocalypse
If you love classic dungeon crawling, then this adventure module might be for you. If you’ve come to expect more from D&D, as I have, then it will bore you whether you are the DM or a player.
The dungeons in and of themselves, however, are fun and there’s creativity in their design. I suggest picking what you like from this book, instead of running the story as is.
You can buy Princes Of The Apocalypse using this link (which supports The DM’s Journey).
11. Out Of The Abyss
This is the adventure module to get, if you are interested in delving in the Underdark. The story follows the players as they try to escape their Drow captors by reaching the surface. The part on the surface though is short-lived, as they will quickly go back into the Underdark to defeat some demon lords.
This module is a love letter to the Underdark setting and it contains a great amount of information about it, meaning you’ll be able to use it for the setting information long after you’ve finished running the adventure.
You can buy Out Of The Abyss using this link (which supports The DM’s Journey).
10. Dungeon Of The Mad Mage
Dungeon of the Mad Mage picks up right where Waterdeep: Dragon Heist left off, though the two stories aren’t as closely related as Rise of Tiamat is with Hoard of the Dragon Queen. What is is, however, is a very fun mega-dungeon; emphasis on the “mega”.
The Undermountain mega-dungeon consists of 23 (!) levels and is beautifully illustrated with simpler maps that I’d like to see more of going forward. To tell you the truth, I got this book solely because of how cool the maps looked.
You can get Dungeon Of The Mad Mage using this link (which supports The DM’s Journey).
9. Dragon Of Icespire Peak
This module is included in the second starter set WotC has produced, called the “Essentials Kit”. It features the familiar, now, to many town of Phandelver and the area around it.
Instead of the more overarching plot of Lost Mine of Phandelver, however, Dragon of Icespire Peak provides a plethora of one-session adventure through a cool job board system. I haven’t had the chance to run it yet, but it seems to me a better fit for new DMs than Lost Mine was.
You can get the D&D Essentials Kit using this link (which supports The DM’s Journey).
8. Storm King’s Thunder
I won’t lie, I got this book solely for the setting info and locations it had in it, in order to run my own custom campaign on the Sword Coast. It is a better Sword Coast Setting Guide than SCAG, though I feel like that says more about SCAG than about this book.
Having read through it, it seems to be a fun adventure that strikes a nice balance between the three pillars of D&D, those being Roleplay, Exploration and Combat.
This book doesn’t hold the DM’s hand though, leaving it up to them to connect the myriad of locations to the main plot in a coherent way. It’s a great opportunity to run your first Sandbox Campaign though.
You can get Storm King’s Thunder using this link (which supports The DM’s Journey).
7. Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus
Released just last year (2019), Descent into Avernus’ main appeal of the book for me was the setting information about the city of Baldur’s Gate. It also includes Infernal Machines and information about making deals with devils.
Purely as an adventure, however, it is essentially a long fetch quest that you’ll probably have fun with. I’d have liked the Baldur’s Gate part of the adventure to be a little bit more fleshed out though.
You can get Descent Into Avernus using this link (which supports The DM’s Journey).
6. Ghosts Of Saltmarsh
This is my favourite type of releases from WotC due to the versatility the allow. Like Tales from the Yawning Portal, this module isn’t one adventure, but rather a collection of 5 great adventures from D&D’s history, modified for 5e.
The common theme in this one seems to be nautical in nature, and true to form, there are rules provided for ships, sea travel and nautical combat.
The adventures themselves are fun, and it’s a nice book to have in your collection for when your players decide to go completely off the rails and you need an interesting side quest.
You can get Ghosts Of Saltmarsh using this link (which supports The DM’s Journey).
5. Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
Spanning from levels 1 to 5, Waterdeep Dragon Heist has more in common with Lost Mine of Phandelver than any other book in this list. It is an adventure that takes place completely within the bounds of the city of Waterdeep.
Furthermore, it is an investigation adventure, taking you completely out of what you might expect from D&D, with some very interesting and memorable NPCs and 4 villains to choose from.
The setting information provided on the city of Waterdeep is also magnificent.
You can get Waterdeep: Dragon Heist using this link (which supports The DM’s Journey).
4. Lost Mine Of Phandelver
Included in the D&D Starter Set, this adventure was my first contact with D&D, and it probably was for many of you as well. The strength of LMoP lies in its ability to be a great starting point for ANY adventure, as it takes your players from levels 1 to 5 and puts them against their first serious villain.
For players this might be the best adventure to get them into the spirit of things, and that might be the case for some DMs too. My opinion, however, is that completely new DMs that have had no previous contact with D&D shouldn’t start with this adventure. In this article about running your first D&D Session, I go into more detail as to why.
You can buy the D&D Starter Set using this link (which supports The DM’s Journey).
3. Tales From The Yawning Portal
As with Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Tales from the Yawning Portal isn’t an adventure but a series of adventures from D&D long history. The theme in this module is dungeons, and it contains seven of them, with one of them being the legendary Tomb of Horrors.
Seriously, Tomb of Horrors is so much fun with the right group, though I should warn you that it is strictly a DM vs Player kind of adventure. Reading through it had me in stitches.
The other dungeons in this book are also very very good and are very easy to stick into any campaign. Tales from the Yawning Portal should not be missing from any D&D library, in my opinion.
You can buy Tales From The Yawning Portal using this link (which supports The DM’s Journey).
2. Tomb Of Annihilation
A departure from the typical fantasy setting of D&D, Tomb of Annihilation takes you to the jungle peninsula of Chult. There your players will encounter anything from unicorns to T-Rexes. The jungle will be actively trying to kill anything in it.
The story is about a weird curse that causes the bodies of people that have been raised from the dead to slowly rot, and as you can guess, it’s fun for the whole family!
Fair warning though, Tomb of Annihilation is very much a hex crawl, and would advise against throwing it in front of new players. The final location of this module is also very deadly and very reminiscent of Tomb of Horrors.
You can buy Tomb Of Annihilation using this link (which supports The DM’s Journey).
1. Curse Of Strahd
What can be said about Curse of Strahd that hasn’t already been said? Charismatic and awesome villain? Check! Interesting location and setting? Check! Gothic aesthetic and melodrama? Check!
The adventure is a re-imagining of the 1983 adventure called “Ravenloft” and provides an excellent small sandbox-style game with a gothic horror twist.
I’d recommend this one to more experienced DMs though, as running the villain Count Strahd von Zarovich requires a solid understanding of him as a character.
You can buy Curse Of Strahd using this link (which support The DM’s Journey).
What about Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden?
I haven’t had a chance to look at the book yet, so I didn’t think it was right to include it in this list. Here’s where you come in. Where would you place Icewind Dale? Click the button below to leave your opinion.
If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you can buy Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden from this link (which supports The DM’s Journey).