Best 2 hour adventures for newbies

My son’s high school is doing a “May Day” event with “alternative learning options.” One of those options is DnD. My son will be one of the DMs, but I’ve been recruited as a second, as enough students have signed up that he thinks a 2nd DM would be good. I’m looking for suggestions of adventures to run; I presume we will be starting at level 1.

I’m leaning toward one of the AL “intro” adventures that are split up into 1 hour adventures. The advantage there is that we can stick to just one of the mini adventures if explaining the game/figuring things out takes up a significant chunk of time, or we can do two if we have time.

I have Harried in Hillsfar (from the Rage of Demons season) and the SKT mini adventure intro. I could run either of those. (I’ve run part of Hillsfar and all of the SKT one, although it’s been a while. I’m not interested in the Strahd season.

It doesn’t have to be AL. Just a good, short (2 hour MAX) intro for new players. We will be using pregenerated characters, so we won’t need time for chargen, although we will need time to explain how it works to newbies. I’m hoping we will have at least a couple experienced players we can put at each table to help the new ones, but I can’t be certain of that.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
There must be a ton of options on DMsGuild for what you’re needing? AL sounds like a good plan, but with the short game time, something simple homebrewed (that interests you) would also work?
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
I just ran this adventure in about two hours for a group that included a ten-year-old girl playing her second session of D&D ever:

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/202371/The-Clockwork-Queen--Adventure

Points in its favor:

  • It's very flavorful, with all the clockwork.
  • It hits all three pillars of the game (exploration, combat, social interaction).
  • Simple story but with a twist at the end.
  • Pretty much everything you actually "kill" is constructs, so it's good for new players who might be interested but squeamish.
  • Similarly, there's not much in the way of horror or scary stuff, so it's suitable for all tolerance levels.
  • The module offers a variety of suggestions on how to handle the roleplaying encounters, as well as suggestions for tailoring the difficulty of fights.
  • Modularity: The DM can adjust the amount of time spent in the tower by controlling which rooms are available at the end of each room cleared. (My group covered five out of the nine rooms, for example.)

It starts at level 3, so PCs will get to use some of their subclass features, but that's not much more complicated than level 1, and the PCs will be considerably less fragile too.

Note: If you happen to run this, be sure to note that the maps are designed around 10-foot squares; the adventure text doesn't actually say so, but it's in the Q&A on the DMsGuild page.
 
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jgsugden

Adventurer
New players and 2 hours of time?

Run a first level adventure. Keep it super simple. 2 combats, with one being super easy, would be the max you can fit into the game.

The PCs are attending a festival in a small town. Goblins attack. The PCs have a chance to save some of the residents from goblins that are trying to drag them off. Whether they save those people or not, goblins that attacked elsewhere in the village drug off some people, including someone wealthy. A reward is offered for their safe return. The PCs should have three or four ways to discover the location of the goblin tribe (track, ask a few different folks, etc...) The goblins live in a single cave with a river running through it. The PCs can either fight them, or try to lure them away and free their prisoners. That is a lot to fit into 2 hours for new players in 2 hours, but if you keep it moving should work.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
I've had some success using the first part of the Lost Mines of Phandelver from the starter set. You might need to keep the pace moving to finish it in two hours with new players, but it's an option. My average is about 2 1/2 hours, but some of those were with experienced players (just not with 5E), who refused to do anything without fully understanding the mechanical consequences of any action.
 

aco175

Adventurer
What was the adventure in the 4e DMG with an old dwarf mine, some kobolds, and a baby white dragon in the end. You can make something with this. It has enough to be fun and a dragon to fight in the end. I think there is a prisoner as well. Make 2nd level PCs and give them a place to rest before the last encounter to get powers back.

You most likely need the first half hour to settle in and explain things. Start with a quick into and roleplay scene before getting to the old mine entrance. A couple quick encounters to get how fighting works, a rest, then the final battle. Two hours will be gone fast.
 
Thank you all for the suggestions. I think I’ll be using The Wealthy Merchant jayoungr suggested, expanding it a bit based on the suggestions from some of the comments on DMs guild.
 

Eltab

Visitor
For a church camp, I wrote up a "Beat Up Goliath" scenario using the Testament sourcebook and played it as 'an intro to D&D'. The players were 4th-5th graders.

Best wishes to you (and the students). Hope they have fun !
 
Today was the May Day event at the school; I thought I'd report back. I used the Wealthy Merchant as a starting point and expanded it a bit, adding combat encounters on both the high and the low road, and the potential for a stuck wagon on both roads. My son wanted us to use level 2 characters, both because they are less squishy and you get a little more flavor of the class that way. So encounters were adjusted for that.

It seemed to go really well. My son DM'd both sessions and I ran a table during the second session due to student numbers. He said folks at both of his tables had fun and were excited to hear that there was a weekly game at the library they could join (I run that table). My table seemed to have fun, too. The coordinator who approached my son about doing it was excited and is interested in starting a DnD club at the school. (She doesn't play yet, but I think she'd like to.)
 

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