For my list of the 10 greatest adventures since 1985, nominations, reviews, and reputation led me to consider many more excellent adventures than fit a list of 10. Today’s post reveals the adventures that fell short of my 10 greatest, but merited consideration.
Treasure Hunt (1987) is a first-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Aaron Allston.
Raw characters with no class levels wash up on the lost island of the pirate Sea King. They advance to first level and beyond.
“As a first adventure for initiates, this can’t be beaten. For old hands who may be tiring of AD&D, it will be a welcome change.” – Carl Sargent in White Dwarf issue 93.
King’s Festival and Queen’s Harvest (1989) are basic Dungeons & Dragons adventures by Carl Sargent.
A pair of adventures that introduces new players to D&D with a variety of linked missions.
“Absolutely the best introductory adventures in print for D&D-game-style fantasy role-playing games (FRPGs). Presented simply and clearly enough for young folks, these adventures are also challenging and entertaining enough for experienced gamers.” – Ken Rolston in Dragon 171.
Ruins of Undermountain (1991) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Ed Greenwood.
The first three levels of the mega-dungeon under the city of Waterdeep presents its content with different levels of detail: Some rooms have complete descriptions, while others have terse notes. Most sections remain empty, a canvas for the dungeon master’s creation.
Rated 17th greatest adventure by Dungeon magazine.
“Ruins of Undermountain was as much stuff from Ed Greenwood’s original gaming sessions as he could fit into a box. I give Ruins of Undermountain an A+. It will make you a better DM regardless of your skill level. This is a glimpse behind Ed Greenwood’s screen, giving the reader a chance to study his methods, which are very sound.” – Advanced Gaming and Theory
Vecna Lives! (1991) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by David “Zeb” Cook set in Greyhawk for characters of level 12-15.
After the Circle of Eight, Greyhawk’s legendary adventurers, die trying to stop Vecna’s return, their successors hunt the villain in a chase the across the world of Greyhawk.
“Vecna Lives! is one of my favorite adventures from second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and I’m ecstatic that it’s been made available on dmsguild.com. Even if you never play the adventure, you should go out of your way to read/download/borrow it just to see what an incredible example of storytelling and adventure writing it is.” – Die Hard Game Fan
Night of the Walking Dead (1992) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft adventure by Bill Slavicsek for characters of level 1-3.
Characters investigate a series of murders an disappearances in a village plagued by walking dead.
“The actual adventure is one of the better blends of plotted adventures and old-school adventuring found in the ’90s. Though, there’s a deep, underlying story, it’s not a railroad. Instead, players must investigate and interact with NPCs to figure out what’s happening. Some events act as set encounters, but there’s also a big dungeon (cemetery) to crawl through at adventure’s end. The result maintains player agency while still telling a real story.” – The Fraternity of Shadows
Merchant House of Amketch (1993) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dark Sun adventure by Richard Baker for characters level 4-7.
In an event-driven adventure, characters work to end a trade in beetles with a bite that neutralizes psionic power. The quest pits the party against the most powerful merchant house in Tyr.
“This adventure has everything for me: intrigue and adventure coupled with the potential to save the world from a great threat that has just been exposed. So it’s 5 out of 5 stars.” – Warpstone Flux
City of Skulls (1993) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Carl Sargent for characters of level 9-12.
Players infiltrate the demi-god Iuz’s nightmare capital to free a military commander needed to defend the Shield Lands.
Rated 26th greatest adventure by Dungeon magazine.
“Periods of stealth and quiet punctuated by short bursts of terrifying combat.” – Retro Gaming Magazine
Night Below: An Underdark Campaign (1995) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Carl Sargent that takes characters from 1st level to as high as 14th level.
Billed as the “ultimate dungeon adventure,” this campaign goes from a ruins crawl, to a mine crawl, to a long journey through the Underdark.
“Night Below won’t be to some peoples’ taste, but the vast majority will absolutely adore it. Quite simply, it’s one hell of an adventure.” – Cliff Ramshaw in Arcane magazine.
Return to the Tomb of Horrors (1998) by Bruce Cordell.
Years after adventurers gutted the original Tomb of Horrors, a dark community has built a city of necromantic evil on the tomb’s site. Even the inhabitants of this fell city have no idea of the true evil that waits beneath them.
Rated 10th greatest adventure by Dungeon magazine.
“The new material is really excellent. Return is a whole mini-campaign, not some rehash of previous work … It offers more by far than the old Tomb of Horrors, and it is more deadly too.” – Gary Gygax
Dawn of the Overmind (1998) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Bruce Cordell for characters of level 8-10.
To stop a resurgent mind flayer empire, character visit a world of ancient ruins in search of an artifact of Illithid manufacture. This adventure brings a taste of Spelljammer and sword and planet adventure to conventional D&D.
“This is the third part of the Mind Flayer Trilogy, which was pretty much awesome from start to finish. One of the best D&D adventures of all time.” – Power Score
Die Vecna Die! (2000) is a second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Adventure for characters of level 10-13 by Bruce R. Cordell & Steve Miller.
Die Vecna Die! takes the heroes from the Greyhawk campaign to the demiplane of Ravenloft and then to the Planescape city of Sigil in a quest to claim the Hand and Eye of Vecna—the key to stopping the evil demigod Iuz.
“Die Vecna Die! pulls out all the stops, and the result is a massive but tightly constructed adventure with a truly apocalyptic feel. I’m surprised I’m recommending Die Vecna Die! as strongly as I am, but it’s just that good. It’s a great high-level adventure for any campaign.” – Fearful Impressions
Forge of Fury (2000) is a third-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure for levels 3-5 by Richard Baker.
In a dungeon that captures the flavor of some of D&D’s original, classic adventures, characters battle though five levels of a dwarven stronghold overrun by evil.
Rated 12th greatest adventure by Dungeon magazine.
“I’ve always been impressed with the adventure; for my money it’s one of Wizards of the Coast’s best 3rd Edition era modules. As a basic, flavoursome dungeon crawl I think Forge of Fury is particularly well executed.” – Creighton Broadhurst
Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (2001) is a third-edition Dungeons & Dragons by Monte Cook designed to take 4th-level characters as high as level 14.
Power rises again in the Temple of Elemental Evil. “Characters battle the power of darkness in Hommlet and beyond, forging their way through hundreds of encounters before reaching the fiery finale.”
Rated 8th greatest adventure by Dungeon magazine.
“Go out and buy the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. You will not regret it, and it will become a valuable part of your D&D library. It is one of the best adventure modules ever written.” – Talon on ENWorld
City of the Spider Queen (2002) is a 3.5 edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by James Wyatt designed to take 10th-level characters up to level 18.
“Daggerdale is reeling from a sudden series of murderous drow raids. As a grave threat to the entire surface world develops in the war-torn dark elf city of Maerimydra, intrepid heroes must discover its source and destroy it, if they can.”
Rated 24th greatest adventure by Dungeon magazine.
“City of the Spider Queen is an excellent addition to anyone’s Forgotten Realms campaign or with modifications, any Dungeons and Dragons third-edition game.” – Mania.com
Reavers of the Harkenwold (2010) is a fourth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure for characters of level 2-4 by Richard Baker.
In an adventure patterned after Red Hand of Doom, the characters join the resistance and take missions to thwart the army of evil that invaded the Duchy of Harkenwold.
“Definitely one of the best 4E adventures. – Will Doyle.
“I would love to see a 5E update of Reavers of Harkenwold.” – Chris Perkins
The Slaying Stone (2010) is a fourth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure for 1st-level characters by Logan Bonner.
Years after goblins overran and occupied a town once settled by humans, the characters enter seeking a lost Slaying Stone, the last of the magic stones created to protect the settlement.
“This is an adventure you won’t want to miss: Not only is it fun and non-linear, but it shows a DM how to better design her own adventures, and that’s something worth reading for any DM, no matter how experienced.” – Kevin Kulp
Dreams of the Red Wizards: Dead in Thay (2014) is a fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure for characters level 6-8 by Scott Fitzgerald Gray.
Teams of adventurers cooperate to explore a massive dungeon in search of the keys to a phylactery vault held by the evil Red Wizards of Thay.
“A ton of fun. Things get more and more hectic as the alert level of the Doomvault rises. It’s got good pacing, a narrative to it, and some fairly challenging encounters.” – Bell of Lost Souls
Cloud Giant’s Bargain (2016) is a fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure for level 6 characters by Teos Abadia.
Led by a talking skull, Acquisitions Incorporated interns enter a cloud castle floating over Neverwinter to determine what threats it holds. This superb adventure combines combat, exploration, and interaction with interesting choices into a single session of play. Plus it adds a touch of humor and an unforgettable guide.
Where can we (legally) get a copy of Cloud Giant’s Bargain?
It is unfortunately only available in paper form on E-Bay. I have discussed with Penny Arcade the possibility of making it available. I do hear a lot of interest, so I’m hopeful it will become available.
These are all superb adventures. I was wondering if a few would claim that mystery number one spot, so it just shows how strong these are that several were fan choices for the number one spot. Harkenworld and Vecna Lives are two that I feel are really underappreciated, though perhaps that can be said of most on this list.
Great stuff. Night of the Walking Dead is a gem.
Treasure Hunt definitely deserves the top spot. Hands down the best introductory adventure module ever written for bringing new players into the game.
I wish there was something like it for 5E.