Knowing the top 10 best D&D adventures is beneficial for any group. If you want to pick out a grand adventure to run, choosing the right adventure is essential.
The top 10 best D&D adventures in 5e are our picks for good reason. But none are perfect and can be improved upon. If you are not running an adventure module, these adventures can give DMs ideas on how to construct a campaign and world, and find out what works and what doesn’t to improve their game.
We will start from number 10 and work our way down to the very best adventures to run in D&D 5e.
And if you haven’t done so already, make sure to check out our top 10 must-have books for D&D 5e next.
#10 – Out of the Abyss
Do you want to start out as a prisoner and work your way through the fantastic, dangerous, and wondrous place that is the Underdark? If so, this adventure is right up your alley. There are a few issues with this adventure, but what this adventure does so well is creating a sense of wonder. Out of the Abyss gives great opportunities for exploration and player agency, and is a tough but enjoyable survival experience for the first half. The second half is completely different, but still quite enjoyable.
Getting to the second part is rare in Out of the Abyss, and that is largely due to the difficulty. Not the difficulty of the adventure per se, but difficulty for the DM. The players are constantly on edge thinking that death is around every corner while the DM is struggling to figure out how to manage this extremely open-world adventure.
Out of the Abyss requires an extremely experienced DM due to this difficulty during the second half. The second half is almost totally a different adventure due to the apparent differences in setting, tone, and gameplay. Out of the Abyss provides a wondrous world which we don’t get to often see, and is a survival adventure that is unique to other D&D adventures setting.
#9 – Ghosts of Saltmarsh
A mishmash of different adventures seems like it would be a disaster! How would you put different adventures together and make it even come close to the top 10 best D&D adventures in 5e?
And yet, it somehow works.
Ghosts of Saltmarsh is an adventure that is extremely friendly to new players and DMs. Even though the parts of the overall adventure are pieced together, they make a wonderful quilt instead of a Frankenstein monster.
The players are eased into the game, tempted by interesting bits of lore, and given enough reason to continue. The DM has a relatively easy time as everything is laid out for them, but the adventure still allows room for small experimentation.
Of course, this adventure isn’t perfect. The combining together of different adventures is disjointed and jarring at times. The adventures do go well together, but it isn’t the same as a cohesive campaign, fully thought out and dedicated to one cause. There are elements which will be skipped over as unnecessary by most DMs, while other DMs might love these elements.
Ghosts of Saltmarsh can be a great experience. It simply depends on what your group is looking for. But it can be a setting that is open and inviting to all.
#8 – Tales From the Yawning Portal
Tales From the Yawning Portal is another mishmash just like Ghosts of Saltmarsh, but with more impactful adventures. The first and only 3e adventure that I ran was ‘Sunless Citadel’ and it stands its own against almost any adventure. Introducing your players into the world with this particular adventure is an excellent choice, and it also includes the the ‘Tomb of Horrors’ for end-game content.
The adventures put into this book are amazing. You might think that this book has only a strong end and beginning, with subpar quality in between. But that is a sore mistake to make! You have ‘Forge of Fury’, ‘White Plume Mountain’, and ‘Against The Giants’ just to name a few, that are also excellent quality adventures.
These games were transcribed to 5e from 3e, which means there is a lot of nostalgia to them. However, this does mean there are some design issues. We don’t use THACO anymore as it has been replaced by better game design, and other 3e issues are also present in this adventure book. This keeps Tales From The Yawning Portal from becoming one of the very best, but it is still strong enough for a solid place in our top 10 best D&D adventures.
#7 – Dungeon of The Mad Mage
Do you want to go dungeon crawling? I hope the answer is yes, because this adventure has 15 character-levels worth of dungeon crawling!
At first glance, the prospect of a dungeon crawling for 15 levels feels like too much. Who would want to be in a dungeon for that long? Won’t the players get bored? These are the common questions that players and DMs have when looking at Dungeon of the Mad Mage. But this is likely because they are used to boring dungeons without much variation.
Dungeon of the Mad Mage has a different ecosystem at every level. It isn’t just stone and rocks, with a system of kill, loot, repeat. You will encounter different NPCs with their own ideals, motives, and plots. Every level is more like visiting a different land than exploring a dank, dingy dungeon level.
You will encounter situations that you have never even considered before. This includes wanna-be-vampire robbers, a goblin bazaar, other adventuring parties, and more. These new surprises keep things fresh and interesting. By far, this will be one of the most enjoyable long-running dungeon crawls that you will ever experience.
#6 – Tomb Of Annihilation
The name of this adventure sounds exciting, thrilling, and dangerous. However, the actual Tomb of Annihilation isn’t the main focus of the campaign. In the adventure, Out of The Abyss, the players had two completely different experiences. The first half and second half of the campaign had different tones and objectives. The same can be said with Tomb of Annihilation.
At level 5, my players had used a total of three maps that were included in the adventure. Imagine playing an adventure and in all the possible scenarios, only three were used by level 5. This is because the main aspect of Tomb of Annihilation isn’t the tomb itself, but rather a big jungle hex crawl. The main plot points that lead players on this adventure don’t really come up until later, and the tomb only appears at the end.
Even with some issues, Tomb of Annihilation is a great adventure if you have an experienced DM who knows what they are getting themselves into. The DM has to be aware of the components of the adventure and find a way to make the hex crawl fun, possibly changing the reason why the group is going into the jungle, and making the tomb a greater threat. Also, cutting out certain portions of the campaign is almost essential to fix many problems.
Once these changes are taken into consideration, this adventure turns into one of the best. But due to some issues and necessary changes, Tomb of Annihilation takes number 6 on our top 10 best adventures in D&D 5e.
#5 – Icewind Dale: Rime Of The Frostmaiden
Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frost Maiden is an adventure where the players can become heroes, fight off a demigod, and potentially change history. It all sounds too amazing to be true, but this adventure does it all.
In this adventure, the players can travel almost anywhere in the wide expanse of the Icewind Dale to have some of the best side-quests out there. They learn that they must fight to save civilization and become heroes. But to do that, they must fell a demi-god. By the end, the players can go just about anywhere and do anything. All components work well together, are well designed, and are something amazing to behold.
Unfortunately, the very beginning of this adventure is not as strong. In the beginning, you are given a lackluster quest that forces the group to go from town to town, making fast-travel a thing that the players beg for. After this, they have to go from town to town and complete a series of side-quests. There isn’t a real drive for the players. It feels tedious, and the adventures themselves are so varied in difficulty that the players might easily complete one quest, only to face certain death in another.
The beginning of this adventure is definitely a big downside that you will need to modify as the DM. However, once the adventure picks up around level 5, it is an amazing ride from there on out. For its strong points, we highly recommend Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frost Maiden.
#4 – Candlekeep Mysteries
This is kind of cheating, since Candlekeep Mysteries is not a singular adventure. The book consists of various quests, with no overarching narrative tying the quests together. We go over everything you need to know in our Candlekeep Mysteries review, but the overall adventure is still one of the best for what it does.
Can you run this adventure alone without a more full campaign setting? Possibly, but this series of adventures works best in a preexisting game. The great thing about Candlekeep Mysteries is that you are able to bring its short adventures into almost any setting. If used in this manner, you have an endless stream of content that will affect multiple campaigns. These adventures will add to your world and give you enough ideas to fill any void that is there.
The quality of these small adventures is varied, but almost all of them are solid. They have a clear start, goal, midpoint, and endpoint. With all that this book presents, it is an even better adventure supplement than many other full adventures out there.
While Candlekeep Mysteries has the weakness of not containing an overarching narrative, its weakness can also be viewed as a strength. It offers more versatility and flexibility than other types of adventures, which is why it ranks highly in our top 10 D&D adventures.
#3 – The Lost Mine of Phandelver
This might be a more controversial listing. Lost Mine of Phandelver came out extremely early in D&D 5e’s lifespan. It was one of the first adventures published, and there are some obvious signs that it was made before balance was even considered.
Lost Mine of Phandelver has extremely difficult encounters. It is hard not to kill your players in this adventure, but it is possible for cunning or highly powered adventurers to get through this adventure with ease. The problem is that this adventure is designed for new players, and therefore such a difficult conflict can be troublesome.
Luckily, things have changed. Now players are more powerful than ever. They aren’t going into almost assured death, and the adventure itself is solid. There are many different ways to approach problems, and it gives the DM a very concise set of adventure options for the players to pursue. The linear nature of this adventure is new-DM-friendly, and the content of the adventure is also very new-player-friendly.
Lost Mine of Phandelver is without a doubt one of the best introductions that you can give players who are just coming into D&D. It is a bit simple, but that is the point. This is a training adventure that presents interesting situations, forced player agency, and makes the DM’s planning rather easy.
#2 – Dragon Heist
Dragon Heist is a lot like Lost Mine of Phandelver, but better. While this adventure is meant to bring in new players, it presents a city with more to do. The players are given more agency than in Lost Mine of Phandelver, and they can accomplish their tasks in a variety of ways. In addition to this, the players are given a place to live! That alone makes this adventure one of the greatest.
Lost Mine of Phandelver is easy for all to learn and understand. This includes the DM. Dragon Heist is easy to learn, understand, and great for the players, but it more challenging for the DM. The random-aspect is interesting at first, when the seasons and villains are chosen. But the pacing isn’t as desirable by the end.
The benefits of this adventure far outweigh the negatives. While level 4-5 is a bit long and confusing for the DM, the players have enough allies and connections by this point to make the adventure seem like it is an epic conclusion to a higher-level campaign. The choices the players have and the life that is brought to the city of Waterdeep is absolutely stunning and worth a play even if you are a veteran D&D player.
Make sure to check out our full review of Dragon Heist next.
#1 – Curse of Strahd
Of course, the #1 spot has to go to Curse of Strahd. This adventure has been the best in nearly every edition. With such a rich legacy, how could this adventure not be our number one pick?
Of course, there are always concerns with any adventure. We go over these concerns in more detail in our full Curse of Strahd review, but the biggest thing you should be aware of is that this adventure requires an experienced DM. There are many potential issues that can ruin a Curse of Strahd game. But if done well, it is fantastic!
The whole idea of gothic horror beating your players down time after time until they finally succeed is irreplaceable. In the end, if your players are lucky enough to succeed, any onlooker would ask ‘but at what cost?’ This adventure has a villain that is always there and always tantalizing your players to stop him (but they cannot). The world is connected so well, and everything is brought together in the most perfect manner that you simply can’t put this adventure any lower on the list.
Without a doubt, Curse of Strahd is amongst the very best D&D 5e adventures and earns our top spot.
I hope that you enjoyed our analysis on the top 10 best D&D adventures in 5e. Of course, not everyone will agree on which adventures are the best. But without a doubt, we think that these adventures are excellent choices for you and your table.
If you haven’t tried any of these adventures yet, I encourage you to pick some out for your group and give them a try!
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