One of the reasons why the Dungeons and Dragons 5e is so successful as a tabletop RPG is because of the number of officially published adventures by the Wizards of the Coast.
Many people will just stuff their bookshelf by buying all of the modules and try them as they like but that is not how everyone does things.
You don’t want to spend your money on the 5e module if you will not fully enjoy it.
In this article, I am going to guide you through the official DnD 5e campaigns and help you choose the best one for you and your team.
Choosing the best d&d 5e modules is not an easy task because it depends on the player and the DM. The preference for the storyline and gameplay is highly subjective. I will list the 5th edition modules in no particular order and leave it up to you to determine which one fulfills your DnD cravings.
In order to choose the best d&d 5e adventures you are going to have to understand them and that’s exactly what I am going to help you do below.
Spoiler alert. I will be talking about the parts of the storyline so keep that in mind. But it is not possible for me to breakdown the campaign book without touching on the story of it. I will do my best not to reveal too much.
Table of Contents
- Best Official D&D 5e Modules
Best Official D&D 5e Modules
Lost Mine of Phandelver
The Lost Mine of Phandelver is the first published dnd 5e adventure by the WotC and it is the best d&d 5e campaign for beginners. This is why this adventure is a part of the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set.
This is a perfect adventure for new players and dungeon masters. In the starter set, you will get everything you need in order to have a successful run at the Lost Mine of Phandelver. This includes a set of dice (you can read more about the best d&d dice here), a 64 pages adventure book which includes everything a Dungeon Master will need to get started, a 32 pages instruction manual for playing D&D and a few pre-generated characters.
Don’t be quick to discard the pre-generated characters because they are there to help new players get into the D&D and learn about the characters and the game as they go along. It can be tough for new players to create their own characters from the start.
Below is the quick and simple outline of the story without getting into too much detail. I don’t want to spoil the story for you but just to help you understand it.
The Adventure outline:
The story starts when the dwarf named Gundren hires the party to take a wagon of goods from Neverwinter to Phandalin. The party is supposed to meet him and his bodyguard Sildar there and offload the supplies.
- First part Goblin Arrows
On the way to Phandalin, the party finds that the Gundren and his bodyguard Sildar got jacked and that their horses have been killed. The party tracks down Sildar to the goblin hideout but they learn that the Gundren winded up somewhere else.
- Second part Phandalin
The party is now in the town of Phandalin where they discover that thugs have taken over the entire place.
The part two and three of the adventure expand the sandbox considerably because there are a lot of things that players can do in the town and outside of it.
Once you are done dealing with the thugs and other things in the town, the adventure will transition forward as the party will learn that there are bigger things at play.
- Third part The Spider’s Web
This part plays out in the wilderness where they are gathering information and completing side quests and at one point the party will discover that the Gundren had a map to an abandoned mine and that his captor, The Black Spider, is going to get it under its control.
- Last part Wave Echo Cave
In this part, the adventure shifts to a sandbox dungeon delve. It is important to let your players decide how they want the cave explored because it is not necessary to go through every part of it because the Wave Echo Cave is huge.
In the last chapter, the party enters the cave with the main objective in mind. Stopping the Black Spider and saving Gundren. But things are never that simple as they are soon going to realize.
This is really the best d&d 5e module for the beginners because it follows the “generic” RPG table top game storyline. It has everything you would expect of Dungeons and Dragons and this is why it is still an evergreen 5e adventure.
This 5th ed adventure has as little requirements for a Dungeon Master as possible and as such it is easiest to run for new DMs. But one thing new Dungeon Masters should keep in mind is that as their players start at the level 1 the world may be a dangerous place. Make sure that your party doesn’t experience a total party kill (TPK for short).
Tomb of Annihilation
Tomb of Annihilation is a book which has quite a lot of opposing views from players and dungeon masters. On one hand, people love it while on another they find it very difficult.
ToA has its story set in the mysterious land of Chult in the southern Forgotten Realms. Chult is a tropical island which has everything you would expect it to, from jungles and volcanoes to the mysterious natives but it offers way more than just that.
Your mission is to find a source of the “Death Curse” which is basically the main problem in the story. The Death Curse is preventing adventurers from being brought back from the dead. This gives the adventure its unique twist.
The main villain of the story is the Arch-Lich Acererak and if you know your DnD history you will know that he was the main villain in one of the best old school dnd games called Tomb of Horrors. I love the fact that they decided to use it as an inspiration for the Tomb of annihilation.
The first part begins with the player’s arrival at the city port of Port Nyanzaru and they are set to investigate the place. Unfortunately, the Tomb of Annihilation does not have a scenario which helps to start off the adventure. Instead, the players are set to explore the city. This can be daunting but also exciting depending on how you organize.
In this first part of the adventure, the characters have to uncover the mystery and prepare themselves for the jungle.
There are many interesting things to do and explore in the Port Nyanzaru but one of the most memorable ones is the Dinosaur race.
The second part dives players into the jungles of Chult where players have to explore the amazing but deadly environment. Jungles are filled with never before seen creatures, ruins, magic and treasures of course.
The adventurers will then be heading to the Forbidden city of Omu which is followed by two awesome dungeon runs which will culminate in the murderous Tomb of the Nine Gods.
The Death Curse makes the PCs death a final one. This is something that needs to be addressed carefully by the DM. This means that any resurrection spells will fail and this has to be kept in mind. If your player dies that’s it. While some players are not amused by this, others like it because it adds the tension to the plot and makes the adventure more dangerous and exciting.
This wouldn’t be a good adventure for a beginner Dungeon master. It requires a good understanding of how D&D modules work and how to fill in the gaps. This can be a fantastic adventure with the proper preparation where you would map out potential situations.
Another thing worth mentioning is the sheer amount of content this book will bring. It’s very difficult for characters to explore every location and meet every NPC in one playthrough. This tome is more like a campaign setting than a story. This adventure will also bring about 60 new monsters which are not found in the Monster manual which definitely makes it worthwhile.
Curse of Strahd
Curse of Strahd, or CoS for short, is an amazing adventure which brings a totally unique D&D experience. This 5e adventure is a world for itself and it is more of a dark themed adventure than a traditional DnD adventure.
Curse of Strahd is a 5e module which builds upon a rich history of 1983 DnD classic, i6 Ravenloft. The adventure uses the material from the original Ravenloft adventure but also adds a huge story content filled with interesting and scary places with tons of things to do and explore before the finishing plot.
It was written in consultation with original creators of i6 Ravenloft, Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman. Wizards of the Coast did the right thing by working with them because that helped implement the original story into the adventure and blend everything smoothly.
Unlike some 5e modules this one starts out with a solid introduction and I love how this module steps outside of the Forgotten Realms and have your characters taken into Barovia.
The plot is simple. The characters get drawn into Barovia where they learn about the Strahd who is the main villain that needs to be defeated. However, the process of this straightforward plot is nowhere near as easy as it sounds.
The players in Barovia have to find allies, treasures, gain experience and gather information until they are ready to face Strahd and free the Barovia from its curse which prevents anyone from leaving.
While the plot revolves around defeating the vampire Strahd von Zarovich and freeing the Village of Barovia there are countless other things to explore and plots to go through which are related or not with Strahd.
Curse of Strahd is a sandbox and an excellent one too. Usually, if there is no clear linear path to the story it can get complicated but this is not a problem with the CoS because there is a table that suggests appropriate level for each section which makes DM’s life easier.
Players will have to visit some locations and interact with NPC’s multiple times in order to get certain items or fulfill plot elements. This adventure has a very open freeform where players are free to travel and explore whatever they please.
Another thing that makes this d&d 5e campaign unique is the concept of Tarokka cards which is a 54-card deck used by the fortuneteller Madam Eva in the adventure. This will randomize a lot of aspects of the adventure which makes it worthwhile to play CoS time and time again because it will not be the same. The Tarokka deck is purchased separately from the Cuse Of Strahd Book but it is definitely worth it.
Storm King’s Thunder
Storm King’s Thunder is one of the biggest D&D 5e modules ever published. The adventure takes place across the entire northern Sword Coast and the Storm King’s Thunder is more like a campaign setting than a traditional D&D adventure.
This 5e adventure is generally considered more difficult to run than others because it has a very loose structure. The storyline is straightforward but everything is subject of choice by the DM and the DMs are likely to run it in their own unique way. I don’t think that it is a good choice for absolutely new Dungeon Masters because it takes a lot of planning and decision making.
The book itself is 256 pages and it is divided into introduction part and 12 chapters out of which the longest one is the infamous chapter 3 that holds the description of 164 individual locations spanning on the 46 pages.
Now the fact that the adventure offers a lot is a great thing but it does take planning and preparation since the book will not provide straightforward guidance for you. You are the one who gets to decide and do the work to build a cohesive story for your party.
The Storm King’s Thunder’s plot revolves around the giants and their emergence which threatens the civilization. There are Hill giants, Fire giants, Frost giants, Stone giants and even the Cloud giants. They have all started pillaging and doing all the nasty things the giants do.
The characters are set to face against the wild giant lords of the northern Sword Coast and this gives the adventure the classic heroic Nordic flavor.
You will explore the enormous wildlands of the North from the mountains to the frozen oceans and ancient ruins. Players will search for the ancient power of rune magic, go to the high seas, face the barbarians, confront and battle giants and all in the effort to stop the upheaval from destroying everything that the “small folk” have.
The small folk consisted of humans, dwarves, elves and others will have to work together and use the weapon that giants used against their ancient foes – the dragons. For that, you will need to investigate everything and harness the power of the rune magic.
One particular thing that the Dungeon masters will love is how the information is well organized in the book. This makes any dungeon master’s life easier. Information about every scenario is very easy to find in mere seconds.
This is a sandbox adventure and it is the best one of the official 5e adventures when it comes to the freedom of the players. Characters have never had more liberty to do as they please.
Above mentioned chapter 3 is largely the reason for this effect with its enormous number of locations.
What makes the world so natural is the fact that the locations on the map are mostly independent of the main storyline and there is no pre-determined order for the characters to visit them.
Now since there is so much content in the book one drawback is that the entire book will never be used in a single play. Still, this is not necessarily bad because you can run this adventure many times and you will always have a unique play.
Waterdeep Dragon Heist
Unlike the most d&d 5e modules, the Waterdeep dragon heist has tighter extents of the storyline and the entire adventure can be played out in like 20-30 hours of gameplay. Another interesting thing is the levels of the player as they only span from 1 to 5.
I would say that this is one of the best 5e modules for the beginners because of the short, concise and flexible storyline overall. But anyone can enjoy this adventure as long as they are okay with its uniqueness.
Now the title of this campaign is a little bit misleading as the characters will not be performing any heist themselves. The adventure is more of a treasure hunt than some kind of a Ocean’s 11 heist. The players will be going after a secret stash of 500.000 golden coins hidden in the city of Waterdeep.
But they are not the only ones who are after the stash. There are bad guys too and this is where it gets interesting.
The most unique thing about this book is its variant story. The Dungeon master will choose which of the four villains will be going after the coins as well and who the players will be racing with. Once the main villain has been chosen, the others can either become allies to the players or blend in in the background.
Each of the four villains is tied to the season of the year meaning that depending on the villain the entire atmosphere of the Waterdeep city will be unique. Every villain has its own complicated motivations for going after the gold and your players may even start sympathizing with them which adds another layer to the complexity of the storyline.
It also provides a lot of flexibility since it is possible to change the main villain mid game or to go forward to the following season if the players want to experience a different atmosphere.
Waterdeep is a city where the laws are not to be played with and where the justice is executed swiftly so any kind of fighting and carnage is not going to fly around there. The characters will have to use politics, investigation, communication, stealth, sabotage and similar skills in order to get their way.
And another important thing worth mentioning is that this adventure does not end with an epic battle and an antagonist’s death. If this is something that your players are after then maybe you should reconsider going with this adventure.
One thing that I don’t like is a little bit of a fragile structure of the storyline which the DM has to fix by improvisations from time to time. Sometimes the DM will also have to force improbable but predetermined situations. But if the Dungeon Master is well versed into the story they will find a way to get everything to fit together most of the times.
Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage
This is a huge campaign with an incredibly large dungeon which is where the entire game happens.
Dungeon of the Mad Mage is like a second part to the Waterdeep Dragon Heist. Even thou their storylines are not directly connected, the Dungeon of the Mad Mage is placed in the same city.
While the Dragon Heist is great as an introduction for novice D&D players and takes them from level 1-5, the Dungeon of the Mad Mage steps it up a notch and takes the players from lvl 5-20.
This is the only official WotC d&d 5e module where the characters can reach the level 20 and it is a must play for players who want to know what their PCs are capable of at the highest levels.
The entire plot revolves around the “Undermountain” which is a dungeon under the Yawning Portal – a tavern in the Waterdeep city. This labyrinthine dungeon is feared by the bravest heroes and it is not to be taken lightly.
This is basically an exploration campaign and it is important for you to decide if this is your thing because the entire plot revolves around the exploration of the 23 levels of the dungeon.
However, there is more to it than that as there is a lot of story hooks and NPCs to motivate the players and keep the story going. Each level in the dungeon has its own politics and factions to deal with and there are side quests in every level that explain the history of the dungeon and how everything pieced together. It is possible to satisfy various player needs because the dungeon offers both roleplay and combat.
The designers of this huge module went above and beyond to put this thing together as they went through many different books and adventures all the way back to 1991 and used multiple references and of course created something original.
There is so much to explore in this dungeon that it seems impossible to cover the entire thing in one play. This is a world within a world.
But nothing is perfect and the biggest drawback I see with this adventure is that it demands a lot from the DM. I would definitely not recommend it for a newbie Dungeon Masters. The Dungeon of the Mad Mage includes almost every additional rule from the Dungeon Master’s Guide and it adds a lot of content on its own. It takes a lot of work to piece the adventure together and on top of that there is a danger of getting lost in a sheer amount of content.
Since there is no firm storyline that rounds up everything in this book together this, in the end, becomes the job of the Dungeon Master.
An experienced DM will love this book and will be able to prepare a perfect campaign that can be played for a long time with some amazing memories. Real dungeon lovers will love this Dungeons & Dragons 5e module.
Out of the Abyss
Out of the Abyss is a campaign which takes characters from level 1 to 15 and its story is set in the Underdark.
Underdark is a place of horrors and fear. The worst of the worst monsters live there which have never seen the light of day. But it gets worse when the Archmage of Menzoberranzan casts a spell and opens the demonic Abyss and the horror he unleashes will threaten to destroy everything.
The story begins with the characters imprisoned by the Drow. There they have to find a way to escape and survive. This is not ideal for any D&D module in my opinion but that’s just me as I don’t like the whole prisoners and having to escape as a start of the storyline.
The first few levels of this 5e module will feel like a survival horror game because the characters will be hungry, without gear, run down, in danger and in sheer survival mode. I actually like this but you should ask yourself and your team if this is something you want.
Afterwards, the Out of the Abyss becomes very “sanboxy” because the game will take characters into different areas of the Underdark and there is a vast amount of places to go and horrors to see. The environments are very detailed and if you love horror and fear then you will like the attention to details.
I love the diversity of the NPCs and the sheer amount of encounters where some are really heavy combat while others are role-playing.
Now on the problematic part of this adventure.
This is in no way recommended for the inexperienced DMs. The mechanics of this 5e adventure are very complex and you as a dungeon master will have to keep tabs on multiple factors which are not usually present in D&D. Some of those are the levels of exhaustion, levels of insanity, a lot of important NPCs and the various paths they take and actions…
Out of the Abyss requires staggering amounts of pre-planning and I would recommend it only to experienced DMs who can pull this off.
Another thing to keep in mind is talking about the module with your players in advance. Briefly describe it to them. Not all players will like the underdark setting of the horror alien caves where they will have to spend months of RL time.
All in all if you love this type of atmosphere and the DM can handle the prep work then you will have a phenomenal time with this 5e module.
Princes of the Apocalypse
Princes of the Apocalypse (PotA) is 5e campaign with a story set in the Dessarin Valley. This is a single adventure that pays respects to the classic adventure The Temple of Elemental Evil from 1985 by Gary Gygax.
This adventure is a classic and players who love the good old good versus evil storyline will like this updated and in every way improved module. However, this is not just the old story told again because different times mean different audiences and the original needed to be remodeled to keep the key concept but to spin it into a completely new adventure.
Now the Princes of the Apocalypse’s story is based on the adventurers trying to prevent the four evil cults (Fire, Water, Air and Earth) from raising the elemental prince of destruction.
PotA is a sandbox adventure with a big map to explore and multiple ruins to visit. However, because of the lack of clear guidance and the availability of the higher level zones it is up to the DM to save the characters from getting killed by letting players know when they are in over their heads.
But I personally liked the difficulty of the adventure. It wasn’t too difficult but it was challenging and especially if characters take the direct routes throughout the game.
The PotA starts with the introduction which is meant to intrigue the players with the activities of the elemental cults and to get characters to a level 3 where the adventure starts heating up.
One particular thing I loved about it is the artwork. It is beautiful and especially the cartography done by Mike Schley.
It could get a bit difficult for the DM to get the adventure up and going because of the open nature of the introduction section.
Another thing that can be problematic is the fact that throughout the adventure the players may get tired from fighting the cultists over and over again. This overload of the cultists is balanced by the mega subterranean dungeon complex.
However, you have to be careful with these dungeons too because they are all interconnected and you don’t want the level 4 players to enter the dungeon meant for level 8 because they will get toasted.
Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat
Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat are two separate books but are both parts of the Tyranny of Dragons story.
The Hoard of the Dragon Queen is a prequel to the Rise of Tiamat and these are the first two officially published adventures for the 5th edition of the D&D. The first adventure takes characters from lvl 1 to 7 while the sequel from lvl 8 to 15.
These two provide a phenomenal campaign where the players will go against an evil sect called “Cult of the Dragon”. This sect has set their mind on bringing back the goddess Tiamat from the Nine Hells and into the Forgotten Realms.
Tiamat is the queen of evil dragons and she has been in the Nine Hells for a millennia.
The story begins with an attack on a small town of Greenest and then it turns into an investigation of the evil cult. The first book where the story begins is heavily linear and it limits the DM because many events have to follow the set chronology.
This is not necessarily a bad thing and I understand the wizard of the coast for going with a linear storyline since this is a first ever published adventure for the 5th edition. The linear storyline has its benefits for the newer DM’s too because it is easier to run.
In the first book, the adventurers will mainly focus on finding the information and investigating the cult while the second book deals with the taking down of the cult.
In the Rise of Tiamat, the real action happens. The party will fight the cultists in order to prevent them from raising the five headed goddess of evil dragon the Tiamat herself. The characters will also work with the council of notables in order to prepare for the battle against Tiamat and cultists.
The Tyranny of Dragons will take players throughout many different locations from the arctic cold where they will have to face the white dragon to the elven woods where they will have to slay the green dragon. Now there is ofcorse much more to it than that but just to tickle your imagination without revealing too much.
Both of these will have the characters travelling all along the Sword Coast and one chapter will take players on an almost a thousand miles trip.
The Rise of Tiamat is a very different adventure than the Hoard of the Dragon Queen. For starters it is a sandbox as opposed to linear storyline. It’s a lot more open ended and much less structured than the Hoard of the Dragon Queen which means that a DM can customize it much more.
The fight with the Tiamat has the potential to be phenomenal if everything is done right. It is very challenging facing her with a high probability of characters deaths. This gives the thrill and focus the players will need in the final confrontation.
Tales of the Yawning Portal
Tales of the Yawning Portal is not a book as any other on this list because it is not a single new adventure published for D&D 5e. It is actually a set of classic adventures from the previous editions updated for the 5e rules.
There are seven classical adventures included in the book:
- Dead in Thay
- The Forge of Fury
- Against the Giants
- The Sunless Citadel
- The Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan
- Tomb of Horrors
- White Plume Mountain
These are some of the most epic dungeons from the whole history of the Dungeons & Dragons.
These adventures can easily be added in any other bigger campaigns and do not have to be played on their own. Still, if you would like to go through them on their own that can easily be done and the fact that the levels of these 7 adventures are complementary makes the process quite simple.
However, keep in mind that there will not be any overarching storyline between these seven adventures.
Older D&D players and DMs will like the fact that the adventures feel a lot like their original versions and this can be a good way to introduce the 5th edition to the previous edition players.
Ghosts of Saltmarsh
Similarly to the Tales from the Yawning Portal the Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a book that contains seven older adventures within it.
However, all of the stories from this 5th edition adventure have a similar theme and that is the sea. These adventures will have you campaigning in the middle of the seas and will provide you with everything you need in order to make a fully sea based campaign.
Ghosts of Saltmarsh offers a combination of some of the most popular classic adventures from the first edition of the DnD. These adventures are:
- The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
- Danger at Dunwater
- The Final Enemy
- Salvage Operation
- Isle of the Abbey
- Tammeraut’s Fate
- The Styes
The adventures are all updated for the fifth edition ruleset and include the details on ship to ship fights, monsters, needed hooks to start the storylines…
This book can be played in multiple ways and for the beginners I would recommend a straightforward linear path which means playing all of the adventures in their order while leveling up characters.
The Ghosts of Saltmarsh does have 7 adventures but only the three of them are tied together. However, getting all of the adventures to tie together is not a difficult task for the DM.
Each adventure states what level it was designed for and the approximate party size.
Another way you can use this book is combining the adventures with other adventures that are a part of the Forgotten Realms. It can be very interesting to offer some sea adventure while playing some other FR campaign.
Within these adventures, the characters will run into smugglers, pirates, lizardfolk, aquatic elves, aquatic hobgoblins, merfolk, underwater zombies, skeletons and so much more. I would highly recommend this book for the people who love the whole idea of campaigning at the sea.
Regardless of how will you use the book it will bring a lot of new things which you probably never experienced in the D&D unless you have done these classic adventures.
There you have it. These are the d&d 5e official adventures published to date. This list was updated in June 2019 and as new adventures are published by the Wizard of the coast I will be updating the list.
When selecting from these d&d 5e campaign books keep in mind the difficulty for the DM and if you are new then I would suggest trying the easier ones first. Once you get the better understanding of the d&d mechanics then you should go with the more demanding titles.
However, if a specific story really attracts you and your players then I think that you can go even with the more difficult ones but keep in mind that you will need to do a lot of research and preparation for titles like Out of the Abyss or Storm King’s Thunder.
Happy Roleplaying! I really hope that I contributed to the future of your Dungeon and Dragons experience.