This list of the 10 greatest Dungeons & Dragons adventures since 1985, draws from ratings, reviews, and appraisals from D&D fans, and then uses my completely unscientific aggregation of opinions to rank the 10 entries. The list only includes adventures printed as stand-alone titles under the D&D or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons brands. For more on why I chose to rank adventures published after 1985, see Why Did So Many Classic Adventures Come From 7 Years of D&D’s 45-Year History?
10. The Gates of Firestorm Peak
The Gates of Firestorm Peak (1996) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Bruce Cordell for levels 5-8. The adventure that introduced the Far Realm to D&D starts as a well-crafted dungeon crawl, and then builds into an unsettling confrontation with Lovecraftian monstrosities. See the full review.
9. Tomb of Annihilation
Tomb of Annihilation (2017) is a fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Chris Perkins. Will Doyle, and Steve Winter for levels 1-11. Tomb of Annihilation mixes the dinosaurs and lost world of Isle of Dread, with the overgrown jungle ruins of Dwellers of the Forbidden City, with a deathtrap dungeon inspired by Tomb of Horrors. Every one of those influences appears on the Dungeon magazine’s 2004 list of 30 greatest adventures, and the mix plays better than any of them. See the full review.
8. Sunless Citadel
The Sunless Citadel (2000) is a third-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Bruce Cordell for levels 1-3. As the introductory adventure to third edition, Sunless Citadel delivers the monsters, treasures, and even the dragon that new players expect from D&D, but the adventure serves much more than D&D comfort food. Start with a deeply evocative location: a castle dropped into a rift by some cataclysm. Add a lost dragon wyrmling, a tainted tree at the heart of the ruin, a fresh humanoid monster, and one of D&D’s most unforgettable characters, Meepo. See the full review.
7. Vault of the Dracolich
Vault of the Dracolich is a D&D Next adventure By Mike Shea, Scott Fitzgerald Gray, and Teos Abadia for level 4 characters. Vault of the Dracolich rates for its outstanding execution of a multi-table adventure. By design, a team of dungeon masters runs several tables of players who explore different parts of a dungeon at the same time. As the adventure runs, groups can interact, briefly gathering, exchanging resources and coordinating plans. The event ends with all the groups fighting a climactic battle. See the full review.
6. Madness at Gardmore Abbey
Madness at Gardmore Abbey (2011) is a fourth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by James Wyatt with Creighton Broadhurst and Steve Townshend for levels 6-8. Madness at Gardmore Abbey combines the best qualities of fourth edition’s encounter design with a sandbox of adventure locations, villains, and a single powerful thread that binds them all together. That thread comes from the scattered cards of a Deck of Many Things, perhaps the most irresistible artifact in D&D. See the full review.
5. Dead Gods
Dead Gods (1997) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Monte Cook for levels 6-9.
Dead Gods boasts more than the best title of any D&D adventure, it features the most audacious storytelling. For example, in one chapter, players create temporary characters to play out past events. The adventure spans the planes, ending in a climax that brings the party to the astral plane where they battle atop the 4-mile-long corpse of the demon lord to stop the creature’s resurrection. See the full review.
4. Curse of Strahd
Curse of Strahd (2016) is a fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure for levels 1-10 by Chris Perkins with Adam Lee, Richard Whitters, and Jeremy Crawford. Curse of Strahd captures everything great about I6 Ravenloft and expands it into a full campaign. While Ravenloft mainly stayed in a castle, Curse of Strahd gives players the freedom to roam the cursed land of Barovia. Although Curse of Strahd features a strong design, the vampire Strahd and the fearful gloom of his domain make the adventure’s best parts. See the full review.
3. Lost Mine of Phandelver
Lost Mine of Phandelver (2014) is fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Richard Baker and Chris Perkins for levels 1-5.
The adventure that introduced fifth edition serves D&D’s expected and favorite ingredients. To longtime fans, the elements may be familiar, but superb execution makes the adventure a winner. After the first encounter, players experience samples of dungeon crawls, quests, and mini-adventures. The adventure provides enough clues to keep even new players from feeling lost. See the full review.
2. Red Hand of Doom
Red Hand of Doom (2006) is a 3.5 edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Richard Baker and James Jacobs for levels 6-12.
Red Hand of Doom starts with the fantasy trope of an army of evil sweeping the land, and then casts the characters as heroes working to slow the march. Their missions span the landscape and vary from diplomatic meetings to dungeon delves. Along the way, the adventure accounts for the players choices, successes, and failures. See the full review.
1. Night’s Dark Terror
Night’s Dark Terror (1986) is Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Jim Bambra, Graeme Morris, and Phil Gallagher for levels 2-4. The adventure starts strong with a widely-imitated episode where the characters defend a freehold against a goblin attack. The events of the siege make the night of terror. After the first episode, the adventure’s scope expands. Players explore more than a wilderness, with eighteen locations, including a number of mini-dungeons, a ruined city, a riverside village, a frontier town, and a lost valley, while active villains oppose the characters. See the full review.
I always have to shake my head when I see Red Hand rated so high. It is an ambitious and well edited adventure, but I never felt it rose to the heights that people put it at. Which is true of many of the pre-’85 adventures that are well thought of also.
But Lost Mine? At best it is an average adventure and parts of it are decisively banal.
A few unexpected entries on the list, which is nice to see. I would be curious as to what you think overall of adventure writing since the advent of D&D 3.0.
Hadn’t played in 20+ years. DM’d a newbie group and use Lost Mines as the first since it’s the starter pack… Bored to years and the amount of work for a DM for a starter adventure was too much. We booted that and we’re running Temple of Elemental Evil… Pre 85 but makes Lost Mine seem like a joke adventure.
Cool review, thanks for the insight! I always ran homebrew settings, but playing through some of the classics has rekindled my excitement to DM.
Honestly, its my personal belief that D&D as a whole went right into the crapper with 3e and everything after it.
Nights Dark Terror is an amazing adventure though, and so is Dead Gods, but everything else on your list is trash
Ignore the hateful children commenting about some are trash. They clearly do not u sweat and different strokes for different folks. That’s fine you don’t like something, but calling it trash is a blanket statement attempting to imply it’s bad for everyone.
I bet you’re real fun at the table. You seem to be the kind of person that just loves to argue with the DM, and are most likely the rules lawyer type.
I stated that it was my personal belief that 3e onward is trash. You decided to start name calling by calling me “hateful children” ….. odd, seeing as how it was only my comment and children is plural.
Oh well, its my personal belief that your post is absolute trash.
Have a good day and try not to be mad all the time.
The fact that you made this comment without any sense of irony boggles the mind.
I know, right? OP is old man shakes fist at cloud incarnate.
Not a fan of post 2E either. Been running a hybrid 1st/2nd ed game for the last 10 years after a long hiatus from gaming. I just cannot help feeling that the game became homogenized with the later editions. Less role playing and more powers. Def better suited to video gamers than Old men like myself.
You are dead on buddy
You for got age of worms
Congratulations you’re wrong 3.5e was the best edition of D&D end of argument.
Agree . I started back up with 5e and it’s not bad but it can be pretty lack luster unless you are running homebrew classes or adventures
premade dungeons are good and all but when you take time to make your own adventures it is much more rewarding and more involved for the players.
What about the night below campaign. Now talk about legendary. Honestly just finished that campaign with some buddies over 4 years playing almost every Sunday. Took us all the way to 20. Our Dm is a legend himself though having written and documented over 600 pages of recaps and story. If you have never played it you should, also it should be on this list. Just saying. There is also a nice conversion table to play it on 3.5
One of the best adventures i ever played was journey to the barrier peaks. I am actually surprised it’s not on this list at all.
This list is exclusively post-1985 adventures.
I agree on a lot of these. Not familiar with the Basic Edition one but I am running ToA now and my players and I have been absolutely loving it. I ran the intro adventure to CoS and it was also a lot of spooky fun. LMoP is good, I have never ran the whole thing but I have run the first chapters like five times, it is a great slow roll introduction to the game for new players and returning players, carefully introducing concepts at a reasonable rate. Once they have their feet under them I’d rather do something more unusual but the rest of it is fine.
A key to the (good) 5e adventures is the internet communities and third party add-ons. By the book ToA is good but falls apart here and there, but thanks to FB groups, Reddit and the great companion pdfs sold you can customize it with great ideas and fix weak bits really easily. Doing that back in the 1e days was quite daunting. Even a great module like Barrier Peaks was nearly impossible for me to run as a kid without any help.
Personally I like shorter adventures, more like a serial/TV show campaign than an epic movie, so I always wonder what old Dungeon adventures would be worth updating to 5e.
I was also going to add Night Below (1995); epic adventure/campaign, underdark, box set, huge maps, player handouts…
One of the hardest and yet rewarding campaigns to date. Still can’t believe we didn’t party wipe
Throne of Bloodstone is on my top 5 list
Thank you, I’ve really enjoyed reading this top ten and the focus you put on post-’85 adventures. I love reading modules and have far more than I’ll ever get to the table and I’ve marked a few from your list to look into for my collection. The best part is that you focused on a period between when I stopped picking up adventures and when I started again.
Good stuff all around. Been fun to read.
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Great list, with several I’d not heard of. Thanks.
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