I love being able to sit down and spend hours writing my own content for dungeons and dragons- Creating worlds, characters, adventures and monsters, however, many people don’t have hours a week to prepare for games. Thankfully, Wizards of the Coast, publishers of Dungeons and Dragons, have released a number of pre-made adventures, which massively reduce the time it takes to prepare for a game. Below, I’ll discuss all the 5th Edition adventures that have come out to date, and the merits of playing each one.
Starter Set- Lost Mines of Phandelver
The Lost mines of Phandelver is a great adventure for new players and DMs. Everything is laid out of a very easy to read, simple book. The story’s good, and it provides a few loose plot hooks for players to pick up on and follow should you choose to continue your game beyond finishing the main story line. LMoP was written for characters levels 1-5, beyond that, it’s up to the DM to write more, or find a way to integrate it into a longer campaign (It ties in very nicely with Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Storm King’s Thunder). Overall, it’s a great adventure, it’s my go-to when I have a group of new players, however I wouldn’t play it as a long term campaign with a group of experienced players.
Hoard of the Dragon Queen/Rise of Tiamat
Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat are the 2 parts of the Tyranny of Dragons adventure (HotDQ for levels 1-7, RoT 8-15). They are justifiably flawed- HotDQ came out at the launch of 5th edition, therefore it had to be completed before the rules were finalise. Rise of Tiamat is slightly better, they fixed many of the issues people had with HotDQ, though it was still very hard to run. Overall, the Tyranny of Dragons adventures were very railroaded- it was very much a matter of “go here, do this, then go over there, and do that” with very little room for player exploration, furthermore, there were a lot of loose ends that aren’t tied up in the book- It’s clear that these were left open for a DM to write themselves, however the book doesn’t explicitly say that, so it’s easy to play through the adventure, expecting everything to clear up, only for it to not. Additionally, there was a lot of unnecessary information in there- it lists in ridiculous detail what players can do or not to do gain or lose favour with certain organisations, most of which I totally ignore when I play, as it makes playing less a matter of a fun exploration, and more trying really hard not to piss everyone off.
Princes of the Apocalypse
Princes of the Apocalypse is a pretty fun adventure, it’s what I wanted out of a 5th Edition campaign- Players find themselves in a small valley as 4 elemental cults each attempt to summon their elemental prince to the prime material plane. Unlike Tyranny of Dragons, PotA is a sandbox adventure- It details the organisations involved (Cults and potential allies), all important NPCs, enemies, magical items, and locations. As a DM, I love having all these elements to craft my own story- That said, there is still a decent story in the book, so it’s not like your working from nothing, and if you don’t have time to craft your own adventure from this, you can run it as it is.
Out of the Abyss
This may be my favourite 5e Adventure to date. Out of the Abyss really takes the sandbox concept to a whole new level- Taking place almost exclusively in the Underdark, it features pretty much every major city and town within it, and details all the plot hooks and side quests available in every possible location. Players could spend multiple sessions exploring a single city within the Underdark, exploring the beautifully detailed world it lays out, whilst the main story line never disappears, thanks to the madness mechanics that play a large part in the story. Players quest to defeat The Demon Lords that are spreading insanity throughout the Underdark, and almost every side quest leads back to this idea of the growing madness, the insanity of the Underdark. Out of the Abyss has been described as Alice in Wonderland meets Diablo, and rightly so. It’s an intense story, it’s challenging for both players and DMs, and brings a certain sense of urgency, and at times, genuine horror, to the game. Out of the Abyss is really an adventure you have to read and be really familiar with beforehand, however the pay off is certainly worth it.
Curse of Strahd
I’m putting it out there early- I haven’t played Curse of Strahd. I’ve read through it, thoroughly, but I haven’t gotten around to playing it yet. Curse of Strahd is a Gothic Horror adventure, a retelling of Ravenloft, one of the most critically acclaimed Dungeons and Dragons Adventures of all times, published in 1983- Think Bram Stoker’s Dracula meets D&D. It’s not an adventure full of dragons, giants and other fantastical beasts, rather, players find themselves fighting witches, phantoms, vampires, ghouls and wolves. The Curse of Strahd is real horror in D&D, making Out of the Abyss look like a walk in the park. It’s dark fantasy at its finest, and I’d thoroughly recommend looking into it (I am, and when I’ve played it through, I’ll release a full review of it).
Storm King’s Thunder
The most recent 5th Edition Adventure, Storm King’s Thunder is sort of a sequel to Tyranny of Dragons, as in, the state of the world, the issues the players are confronting are there as result of the events occurring within Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat. Storm King’s Thunder is a Shakespearean tale centered around the disappearance of Hekaton, the King of the Storm Giants. Much like Out of the Abyss and Princes of the Apocalypse, Storm King’s Thunder is a massive Sandbox, detailing almost every location in the sword coast. SKT is a wonderful combination of fantasy politics, exploration, and of course combat. The Adventure starts at level 5, and continues through to 15, this makes it a wonderful followup to Lost Mines of Phandelver, it also contains instructions at the back to connecting it to any other 5th edition adventure released so far.
Tales from the Yawning Portal
Okay, so Tales form the Yawning Portal hasn’t actually come out yet, so I can only speak about what I know so far. Instead of following a single story line, it’s a collection of some of the most famous adventures form previous additions (As well as updated content from D&D Next, the trial version of 5th edition). Whilst I can’t speak for the actual content, I can tell you that I’m looking forward to it, and that it seems like something any DM can use to shake up their long term campaign, or run a one shot. I’ll write a full review of Tales from the Yawning Portal when it comes out.