Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is going strong, and it looks like it’ll be a long time before 6th Edition comes. So why not stay awhile and play one of the many campaign modules released for 5e? We happen to have a good number of them running at StartPlaying, from the classic battle against evil dragon Tiamat to the wacky roleplay-centric antics of Wild Beyond the Witchlight.
Almost every kind of theme and gameplay type is represented in 5e’s official modules, to the point that any player might feel overwhelmed by choice. The design priorities of the D&D team have also changed over the years, leading to very strong fan opinions over the direction of one module versus another. It’s a lot to take in, so let us help you pick the book that’s right for you. Here is a list of every official D&D hardcover adventure module, as well as a guide to what type of experience they offer.
Lost Mine Of Phandelver
If you get the D&D 5e Starter Set, you’ll find this adventure packed in with pre-generated character sheets, a scaled-down rulebook, dice, and other basics needed to start playing. As you’d probably guess, this adventure was created with beginners in mind. It takes characters from level 1 to 5 and starts them with a simple quest to escort a caravan. Soon they end up storming a goblin cave, taking on bandits, and racing a villain to find the actual lost mine.
Even today, Lost Mine Of Phandelver is still considered one of the best 5e modules of all time. The opening goblin ambush can be a little too brutal for inexperienced players, but the sense of progression and incorporation of classic D&D elements nicely sets the tone for a campaign. The pregenerated characters also come with ties to the Phandelver story, showing players how to insert themselves in the story and drive its direction with their choices.
This boxed set serves as an update to what Phandelver started, but is also more expansive. For one, it introduced rules for single-player campaigns aided by powered-up NPCs called sidekicks. It also takes the training wheels off a bit by presenting several adventures instead of one fairly linear one. Those who run through the entirety of the Essentials Kit offerings will find themselves go from level 1 to level 12. In that way, the kit provides amazing value and is a must-buy for newcomers that aren’t sure how committed they want to be to D&D.
Stranger Things Starter Set
Dungeons & Dragons shows up in Stranger Things, so of course the companies behind both wanted to put out a crossover. The novelty here is the packaging, as well as the exclusive Demogorgon mini-figures. One thing to clear up for fans: you’re not playing as the Stranger Things characters or even investigating the creepy town of Hawkins. The short, level 3-4 adventure is a classic sword and sorcery game written as though it comes from Mike Wheeler. Essentially, you’re meant to learn D&D by playing the same campaign the kids play in the show.
Dungeons & Dragons Vs Rick & Morty
The target audience here is clear, but you might be surprised to learn that this is actually a starter set. It comes with a set of dice, DM screen, pre-generated characters based on Morty’s family, the basic rules, and a dungeon crawl “written” by Rick himself. Players will go from levels 1-3 in this wacky trip, which of course takes D&D ideas like goblins, mimics, and magic and paints them with that signature brand of Rick & Morty weirdness.
Hoard Of The Dragon Queen
The very first 5e hardcover module is infamous for its questionable beginning. Players are thrust into a village under siege and soon find themselves facing a dragon. And that’s at level 1! Assuming they survive, the party is set on a crash course with a cult dedicated to reviving the evil 5-headed dragon goddess Tiamat. It’s a classic, action-packed quest that has the party traveling the continent in hopes of stopping evil. The whole adventure will take characters from levels 1 to 7.
The Rise Of Tiamat
Starting at level 8 and continuing at level 15, this adventure picks up with Hoard of the Dragon Queen left off. The battle against the forces of Tiamat shifts to a political fight here as the party seeks to create an alliance that can keep the ever-growing cult in check. The shift to a more social game might leave some players bored after Hoard of the Dragon Queen’s action, so DMs might want to insert more exciting side quests that tie into the player characters’ backstories. The ending is suitably epic, however, and might end in a battle against Tiamat herself if you’re lucky (or unlucky)!
It’s worth noting that Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat come packaged together in a newer collection called Tyranny of Dragons. This special book makes slight changes to the modules that ease some aspects of DMing, and includes pages of concept art.
Princes Of The Apocalypse
Cults are kind of a big deal in old school D&D, so they return as the villains again in Princes of the Apocalypse. The difference from the Tyranny of Dragons storyline is that this cult is fractured. There are four cults in this adventure that represent the four elements, each headed by a prophet wielding powerful magic items. The players enter a valley where each cult has a temple, and our heroes soon learn that they must topple all of these cults before they usher in the world’s end.
This adventure can be tailored to more experienced players by starting at level 3 and going to 15. It also offers somewhat of a sandbox playstyle as the players can discover and deal with the various cults whenever they like. That said, Princes of the Apocalypse can also be made easier for newer players. Mini-quests at the end of the book allow a party to start at level 1 and work their way up before taking on the cults. And though the valley does offer some free reign, there is a set level for each cult that makes for one recommended path through adventure.
Out Of The Abyss
With this adventure, the designers clearly wanted to offer something to experienced players. The opening chapter takes a much more dire turn than anything that came before by having the players start as captives of drow. The gameplay immediately turns into a prison escape and chase through the creepy tunnels of the Underdark. Players are not well-stocked heroes in this module, but instead must make use of the few items and allies they can muster. And when they finally escape, the real adventure begins…
Out of the Abyss does not attempt to be beginner-friendly like the previous modules. Players are in a desperate situation right from the start and the DM has a lot of recurring NPCs to keep track of. This adventure tests the skills of everyone at the table and goes from levels 1 to 15.
Curse Of Strahd
Here’s the crown jewel of 5e’s modules, the one every group should play. The vampire Strahd stars as one of the most compelling D&D villains of all time, and his gothic horror home of Barovia manages to act as both a chilling prison and thrilling sandbox. This is one of the few adventures that makes players feel like they really can lose it all if they don’t make smart choices. This feeling creeps up right away during the Death House minisode that takes players from levels 1 to 3, a trip that’s claimed many player characters’ lives. The spooks continue to haunt from levels 3 to 10, culminating in a tense final battle where Strahd himself is very likely to get a TPK.
Curse of Strahd isn’t just a meat grinder, though. The story is full of tragedy, darkness, and mystery in equal measure. Players who love to roleplay will find emotions aplenty as they see what Strahd’s rule does to the trapped people of Barovia. Yet there is that thread of hope that’s always present in good horror. The party can save Barovia and destroy Strahd, but only if they play some damn good D&D.
Storm King’s Thunder
Here’s another example of a great D&D sandbox, a module that lets players visit a vast variety of locations on their own time and advance the story according to their actions. The plot has rival tribes of giants clash in an attempt to dominate the Savage Frontier. It falls to the player party to put a stop to these battles and save the average-sized citizenry from the towering threat. Storm King’s Thunder can start at level 1 to be a beginner adventure, but it can also skip to 5th level if the players are more experienced or coming off of another campaign. Either way, the action will take them to level 11.
Tales From The Yawning Portal
This module branches off into a unique category of D&D book. Instead of one continuous quest, the content of Tales from the Yawning Portal is seven remakes of old-edition D&D adventures. The common theme is the Yawning Portal tavern, where players hear rumors about the seven quests. Each adventure spans one or two levels. These can be strung together into a level 1-11 adventure ending in the Tomb of Horrors, but each quest can also stand alone. This allows DMs to take parts of Yawning Portal and insert them into their own games without needing to run the whole thing.
Tomb Of Annihilation
Tomb of Annihilation is the meat grinder to end all meat grinders. The module immediately sets the stakes by starting with the end of all resurrection magic. Even those who were revived through spells before start turning to dust like Thanos just snapped. The players must travel to a deadly jungle land full of trapped tombs, dinosaurs, and a cult-like group of snake people to discover the origin of this curse. What they find is the Death Curse, perhaps the deadliest mechanic in all of D&D.
The Death Curse prevents player characters from coming back to life no matter what spell is cast on them, so those who play Tomb of Annihilation are encouraged to create more than one character. It’s the ultimate hard mode, and DMs are given lease to kill characters off with a vengeance. The story goes from level 1-11, and many party members are sure to be sacrificed to make it to the end.
Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
I should get the disclaimer out right away: there is no actual heist in this module. Instead, this level 1-5 romp takes players on a treasure hunt through the big city of Waterdeep. A huuuge hoard of gold has been discovered, and those who uncover its whereabouts will be set for life. This does lead to more intrigue than other modules, as players must navigate the social circles of Waterdeep and outfox shady crime lords as they search for clues. So careful play and solid roleplay are rewarded, but rogues will not get the chance to crack a big safe or make a cool getaway.
Waterdeep: Dungeon Of The Mad Mage
In a very odd turn, Mad Mage continues Dragon Heist’s treasure hunting plot with a deep dungeon crawl and a battle against an all-powerful archmage. Mad Mage sends adventurers into the Undermountain, a massive megadungeon that will keep players busy from levels 5-20. Yes, this is the first 5e hardcover module that allows player characters to hit max level. As one might imagine, battles are a constant in this campaign, and the final enemies are brutal.
Ghosts Of Saltmarsh
In the level 1-12 Ghosts of Saltmarsh, we get another book that takes old adventures and remasters them for 5e. This time around, however, the adventures are linked by something more resembling a plot. They can still be separate mini-arcs and fit into other campaigns, but the book also gives mechanics for making Saltmarsh a home. Characters can live in the fishing town, buy magic items, and take on normal jobs between quests. When they do decide to adventure, they’ll set out on the open sea to combat smugglers, sahaguin armines, and the supernatural.
Even without the adventures, Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a nice DM guide for running a nautical campaign. The guidance for living in a seaside town is a great way to handle downtime and help players explore what their characters do when they’re not fighting lizardfolk. The book also gives ship stats and customization options for the players who want their own personal boat.
Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus
Got any players in your group who like the video game DOOM? A trip into D&D’s first layer of Hell is in order then. Descent Into Avernus begins in the famous city of Baldur’s Gate, a true hive of scum and villainy. By the midpoint of this level 1-13 module, the party will dive down the Avernus, the first layer of Hell, and gather strength to take on its unholy ruler.
The best part of Avernus’ interpretation of Hell is its Mad Max-esque travel method. Adventurers can acquire a hell car made of twisted metal and spikes to drive around Avernus, and even do battle with other drivers as they speed over the scorched wastes. Also the hell car may or may not be powered by souls.
Icewind Dale: Rime Of The Frostmaiden
D&D goes from fire to ice with this next adventure, Rime of the Frostmaiden. Icewind Dale is the frozen north of D&D’s main continent, the setting of the beloved novel series featuring fan-favorite elf Drizzt. Drizzt isn’t around to save the day this time, however, and the task of stopping eternal winter falls to the players. To put an end to the now two years of constant icy nights, the players must confront the goddess of winter herself. But not before easing the tensions of the paranoid townsfolk, fighting a mechanized dragon, and discovering a lost city of ancient magic.
Rime of the Frostmaiden takes player characters from level 1-12. It offers a lot of freedom during the first half as players are given several quests to complete in any order they wish. But once the final quest reveals itself, it’s a rollercoaster ride to an epic final battle.
Candlekeep is a wonderous library that collects rare books from all over the realm. Candlekeep Mysteries presents 17 of these tomes for adventurers to consider, each with its own mysteries to solve in quest form. Like Yawning Portal and Saltmarsh before it, Candlekeep can be both a full-length campaign and series of self-contained quests that fit within other stories. The level range goes longer than most recent hardcovers by ending at level 17.
Candlekeep Mysteries earned a lot of praise upon release for being a true celebration of D&D diversity. This is both within the story itself, as the books pull from many different dimensions and themes, and the creators. Candlekeep featured a record amount of content from up-and-coming freelance designers from all sorts of backgrounds and life experiences.
The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
Come one, come all, to the Witchlight Carnival! Perhaps the most creative module in recent years, Witchlight takes players from a whimsical traveling faire to the ever-surprising Feywild. The suggested character motivation creates instant roleplay opportunities and forces players to rethink how they approach D&D. This is supported by a direction that emphasizes peaceful solutions to conflict over combat. Adventurers can often bargain or trick their way out of a fight, and even the encounters that do feature combat suggest alternate strategies than just hacking away with a big sword.
Wild Beyond the Witchlight runs from levels 1-8. It also introduces two exciting new playable races in the form of fairies and the rabbit-like harengon. It’s a great intro to D&D and a breath of fresh air for veteran players, although its light-combat approach might turn off some players.
Strixhaven: A Curriculum Of Chaos
The actual purpose of Strixhaven is to bring the magic college of Magic: The Gathering to D&D. New spells, feats, and magic items will be given to players to help them take on the role of students. They can also play as a race of bird people called Owlin. Yet despite being mostly a guide to playing in Strixhaven’s halls, the book will come with a level 1-10 campaign that spans four years of college life.
Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep
Coming in March 2022, this will be a full campaign set in the world of the hit show Critical Role. Players will go on a level 3-12 quest through the Wastes of Xhorhas, the continent of Marquet, and the titular Netherdeep.No doubt the story will appeal most to followers of Critical Role’s lore, but there will also be new monsters and magic items that all players can use.
Sourcebooks With Adventures
Guildmaster’s Guide To Ravnica
Many sourcebooks are dedicated to setting the scene for a new campaign world. This book gave DMs and players a blueprint for Ravnica, a city built by magic and the cooperation of colorful guilds. While a large amount of the book covers Ravnica’s culture, politics, new player character options, and mechanics, there is a short intro adventure at the end. It’s called Krenko’s Way and only goes from level 1-2. The goal is to give everyone a taste of what Ravnica adventures could look like.
This book takes on the humorous tone of the Penny Arcade show. Its pages lay out how to run a D&D party as a business, imitating the corporate satire of the Acquisitions Incorporated show. There’s also new spells and class options for players to create more modern-flavored adventurers. The included adventure, Orrery of the Wanderer, goes from level 1 to 6.
Eberron: Rising From The Last War
The sort-of steampunk setting of Eberron imagines a world where magic is technology and politics resemble the 20th-century world after WWI. The themes of its adventures sidestep medieval fantasy to feel more like Indiana Jones pulp or detective noir. Eberron debuts the 5e version of the artificer class and brings more tech-based character options like the warforged machine race. The included adventure Forgotten Relics only runs through level 1, so DMs will have to come up with a lot on their own. They could also check out the Oracle of War campaign, available as PDFs on DMs Guild.
Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
The first official D&D book for Critical Role fans guides DMs through Matt Mercer’s Wildemount. Players can journey through locations found in Campaign 2 of the show, as well as play with a powerful fighter subclass and the magics of time and luck. The intro adventurers are substantial here, taking players from level 1-3 and covering a variety of concepts from the setting.
Mythic Odysseys of Theros
This Magic: The Gathering crossover sends players to the distinctly Greek myth-based Theros. There, players can take on their very destiny as they challenge what the gods have in store for them. Or they can serve the gods using a new Piety system that tracks their deeds and rewards faithful followers. The player character options get wild, with satyrs, warrior lion folk, and a paladin subclass dedicated to how awesome they think they are. The included adventure is No Silent Secret, a level 1-2 mystery that sets up a deeper quest about omens and godly machinations.
That's a lot of D&D adventure, and there's plenty more to come! Keep an eye on this list every so often, as we plan to add each new module as it comes out!