Want to play Dungeons & Dragons but don't know which adventure to start with? Here are some of the best Fifth Edition modules for the absolute beginner!
If you’re just starting out in D&D and want to play, but don’t have enough time to write an adventure yourself, then maybe consider using a module!
A module is an officially licensed pre-made adventure for the game. It has all the information on locations, NPCs, monsters, and even tips for new DMs! For newcomers, this is a great way to get started fast. But which adventure to choose?
Here are some of the best for the absolute beginner:
Princes of the Apocalypse
Mysterious cults have arisen, and are wreaking havoc across the land. Only a brave party of adventurers can infiltrate their midst and put an end to their reign of evil.
A redux of the AD&D classic, “Temple of Elemental Evil”, “Princes” is perhaps the most combat heavy on the list. There is a massive dungeon with four distinct sections, and a lot of fighting in each of them. There’s a great diversity of enemies, which is good for a group who wants something besides the usual orcs and goblins. However, while the amount of combat might be good for a group of power gamers, more role-play focused groups may tire from large amounts of fighting.
Also, at more than 250 pages, the module is a long one. Really, it’s more of a mini-campaign, as it will take the characters to about level 7, which is firmly intermediate. This might be great for a group who is ready to dive into a campaign right off the bat and for a DM who doesn’t want to write one themselves.
Still, that length can be intimidating for players with a more casual interest in the game.
One of the more unique starter modules, “Stormwreck” is a piratey-themed adventure in a tropical setting. The heroes journey to an island seeking to possibly bring peace between feuding dragon clans. The adventure entails haunted shipwrecks, dragon temples, and a cavern full of bioluminescent fungi. There are plenty of familiar baddies like zombies, but also some really fun and unpredictable ones, like a giant fungal octopus.
While the uniqueness of the setting sets this adventure apart, it also means that it the story is fairly atypical of most D&D games. Sometimes the island can have downright alien inhabitants, which can seem out of place in a Medieval fantasy world. Reactions to the material will vary depending on your group. Some may love the weirdness. Others might be confused by it. Either way, “Stormwreck” gets points for doing something different.
As for the story, it is pretty linear, lacking the freedom of choice that sandbox adventures offer. However, that might be an advantage for beginner groups, where following a set path provides more direction on what to do next. There is still a good amount of choice in the party’s approach, however, with options for combat or role-play available for most encounters.
Fun Fact: The characters from the 1980s “Dungeons & Dragons” cartoon make frequent appearances in the module’s artwork.
Combining the campaign style of “Princes” and the nautical aesthetic of “Stormwreck” into a perfect balance is “Ghosts of Saltmarsh”. Saltmarsh is the titular fishing village setting for a series of seven different adventures, each one of increasing difficulty. None of the stories are the same as the others, whether its dealing with a local bandit problem or sailing the high seas, but all take place in the iconic town of Saltmarsh.
This is a great option for new DMs. Again, there’s a built in campaign if that’s what your group wants, but you can also just use one or two of the adventures as standalones. The adventures also vary in scale from level 1 beginners to level 12 expert players, meaning that you could introduce a really nice power progression for a campaign or even revisit some of the adventures once your group is more experienced.
Between that, epic battles, memorable NPCs, and one of the most famous locations in the Forgotten Realms, “Saltmarsh” makes a strong case for being one of the best 5E modules available.
Ever since his first appearance in the AD&D module, “Castle Ravenloft”, Strahd von Zarovich has reigned as one of the most iconic D&D villains of all time and Ravenloft as one of the greatest locations. I mean, its hard to beat a charismatic vampire lord in a haunted castle, now isn’t it?
However, the module surrounding the dark prince is also pretty awesome. There’s a wealth of spooky encounters around his domain, which makes it a wonderful sandbox for players to explore. Castle Ravenloft is also huge, and an entire setting in its own right.
The final encounter there with Strahd makes for one epic boss fight, and is a nice change of pace from kaiju sized beasties like dragons. Between his charisma and complex motivations, Strahd presents a lot of role-play opportunities for any group to sink their teeth into. If your players aren’t intimidated by a larger adventure, and loves something horror-themed, you can’t do any better than “Strahd”.
It was the adventure in the first 5E Basic Set for a reason. “Lost Mines” is the classic, quintessential D&D sandbox adventure. It has all of the fantasy genre staples: taverns, mysteries, sidequests, boss fights dungeon crawls, and of course, a battle with a dragon. This makes it the perfect introduction to the game, as the players will be experiencing everything that D&D is all about.
It’s all done in a neat, easily digestible manner. The players will level, then move on from one section of the game to the next, and will have the story done in a handful of concise sessions. It’s the perfect balance of every aspect of what D&D will be: combat, role-play, exploration, and good old-fashioned fantasy high adventure.
For a first time group, you really can’t do any better. And when you're done with the Lost Mines of Phandelver, you can move on to Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk!