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Best and Worst Editions- For Adventures.

Jacob Lewis

The One with the Force
This seems like an odd exercise. Rating entire editions based solely on the caliber of adventures produced as support material? I think every edition is going to have more than its share of highlights and embarrassing low points. And I suspect many GMs (like myself) rarely ran the materials as written, if they bothered using published materials at all.

That said, I agree mostly with the assessment by @Enrico Poli1, but...
(I skipped 4e...)
I didn't. Allow me to fill in the missing piece.

4th Edition didn't change anything about the way the game was played. Story was still an integral part of the game. Much of the fluff and lore created during that period was among the best we had seen explaining the entire cosmos of the D&D multiverses. But the system forced a lot of the player attention in the combat encounter, which the edition elevated into the centerpiece-showcase of the game experience. So while players were occupied in hours-long combats with lots of tactical options, interactive terrain, and stacking conditions, we often lost sight of the bigger narrative as we moved from one elaborate encounter to the next.

In a way, it hearkens back to the old Gygaxian-style dungeon crawls of 1st edition where the stories were overdrawn, and then summarily overlooked as the party raced to kick down the next door. So while 4e had probably the least memorable adventure or hooks published as a whole, I daresay it probably had the best singular encounters of any edition simply because the edition directed so much attention there.

Furthermore, the Neverwinter Campaign book, though technically not an adventure, was a ginormous toolbox in a sandbox of potential adventures. It is one of my favorite things from that edition. Alas, it came towards the end just before WotC dropped the whole thing and we barely saw anything more come out of it than a mediocre tie-in season of Encounters and a small handful of adventures in Dungeon.

Also, Halls of Undermountain needs an honorable mention. It doesn't have the laser-focus of the encounters like previous 4e adventures, and it leans closer towards what we see now in most 5e adventures: a linear path embedded in a sandbox setting that allowed DMs flexibility and freedom to move the pieces as needed to set their own pace and include their own personal additions.
 

R_J_K75

Explorer
This seems like an odd exercise. Rating entire editions based solely on the caliber of adventures produced as support material? I think every edition is going to have more than its share of highlights and embarrassing low points. And I suspect many GMs (like myself) rarely ran the materials as written, if they bothered using published materials at all.

That said, I agree mostly with the assessment by @Enrico Poli1, but...

I didn't. Allow me to fill in the missing piece.

4th Edition didn't change anything about the way the game was played. Story was still an integral part of the game. Much of the fluff and lore created during that period was among the best we had seen explaining the entire cosmos of the D&D multiverses. But the system forced a lot of the player attention in the combat encounter, which the edition elevated into the centerpiece-showcase of the game experience. So while players were occupied in hours-long combats with lots of tactical options, interactive terrain, and stacking conditions, we often lost sight of the bigger narrative as we moved from one elaborate encounter to the next.

In a way, it hearkens back to the old Gygaxian-style dungeon crawls of 1st edition where the stories were overdrawn, and then summarily overlooked as the party raced to kick down the next door. So while 4e had probably the least memorable adventure or hooks published as a whole, I daresay it probably had the best singular encounters of any edition simply because the edition directed so much attention there.

Furthermore, the Neverwinter Campaign book, though technically not an adventure, was a ginormous toolbox in a sandbox of potential adventures. It is one of my favorite things from that edition. Alas, it came towards the end just before WotC dropped the whole thing and we barely saw anything more come out of it than a mediocre tie-in season of Encounters and a small handful of adventures in Dungeon.

Also, Halls of Undermountain needs an honorable mention. It doesn't have the laser-focus of the encounters like previous 4e adventures, and it leans closer towards what we see now in most 5e adventures: a linear path embedded in a sandbox setting that allowed DMs flexibility and freedom to move the pieces as needed to set their own pace and include their own personal additions.
Never looked at 4E liked that but you make good points.
 

Yenrak

Explorer
There were a ton of great adventures put out in the 3E era but many of them weren't Wizards of the Coast adventures. Forge of Fury stands out as possibly the best of the WoTC adventures. But the stuff from Necromancer Games was some of the best adventures ever published. Rapan Athuk, Tomb of Abysthor, Vault of Larin Karr, Doom of Listonshire all come to mind but almost their entire catalog is stellar. I feel bad for people who never got to play the Necromancer "third edition rules, first edition feel" adventures.
 

JeffB

Adventurer
If we count Third Party, which I wasn't then

3E jumps up a.couple notches

2E stays

4E pulls ahead of 2e

5E goes up one notch.

O/AD&D and the Basic games go through the roof with the addition of Judges Guild, Wee Warriors, Dungeoneer, and all of the great products being produced for the OSR.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If we count Third Party, which I wasn't then

3E jumps up a.couple notches

2E stays

4E pulls ahead of 2e

5E goes up one notch.

O/AD&D and the Basic games go through the roof with the addition of Judges Guild, Wee Warriors, Dungeoneer, and all of the great products being produced for the OSR.
Hmmm.

To me it's the 3rd-party material that sinks 3e. Sure there were some true gems e.g. Rappan Athuk, but I'm sorry: I just can't get past all the complete garbage that came out in the 2001-2003 era that by 2004 FLGSs couldn't give away.

Agreed re 4e moving up, mostly due to the Goodman Games DCC series.

Judges Guild from the 0e-1e era, on the other hand, are as hit-and-miss as anything's ever been in this realm. Were I to take every adventure I've ever read/played/run and put together a top-10 and bottom-10 list, JG would be well represented in both lists. :)
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
I don’t count 3PP or dungeon. Only official adventures. My first place goes to 1e/basic. I combine the two because we interchanged the adventures all the time. Some great iconic one, and some stinkers (ahem, Forest Oracle)

Second place goes to 2e. I know when 2e came about they focused on settings rather than adventures, but three of the best adventures came from 2e: ruins of the undermountain, Night Below, and Gates of Firestorm Peak.
 
I've never much cared for published adventures. I generally prefer to make my own, or just run off the cuff.

That said, there was a goofiness to the Gygaxian TSR years that was as charming as it was appalling. While the 2e era seemed more, IDK, pretentious. As far as the WotC era, 3pps have generally produced the better adventures.
 

Zardnaar

Adventurer
I don’t count 3PP or dungeon. Only official adventures. My first place goes to 1e/basic. I combine the two because we interchanged the adventures all the time. Some great iconic one, and some stinkers (ahem, Forest Oracle)

Second place goes to 2e. I know when 2e came about they focused on settings rather than adventures, but three of the best adventures came from 2e: ruins of the undermountain, Night Below, and Gates of Firestorm Peak.
Dungeon is official.

I started this thread as I wasn't sure where to place a few editions.

I forgot a few adventures for various editions.

The criteria used to evaluate the following is the amount of gems one can find in the adventures.
 
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Zardnaar

Adventurer
I had a rough idea in my head how I would rank stuff and due to posts that has changed. I'm going to exclude OD&D as there just wasn't really enough adventures published for it to really rate it one way or another. I'm also going to do two lists, one includes dungeon and 3pp and one excludes dungeon and 3pp.

Best D&D Editions Adventure Wise

1st Place 1E
So many classic adventures, by modern standards a bit dungeon crawl but there is also a decent variety and experimentation.

2nd Place Pathfinder
For a while their Paizo was on fire and good adventure design was kind of their thing. Outside the APs they also had several stand alone adventures.

3rd place BECMI
Not a lot of adventures released for it relative to the other editions but there are a lot of hits in the B and X series in particular while several of the CM adventures are interesting but I suspect no one played them since a tiny % of players would hit level 15+.

4th Place 2E
2E adventures are notorious for being bad especially compared to say 1E. However the edition did have several great adventures but they were often either setting specific or came very late in the edition cycle (The Night Below, Return to the Tomb of Horrors, Rod of 7 Parts etc). It had a very bad gem to crap ratio but more gems relative to the editions ranked below it.

5th Place
5E has a great ruleset but to many of the adventures are derivative, LMoP is great and original but its only 1 adventure. Reaction is very mixed on to many of the 5E APs as well with only a relative handful in the good to great range.

6th Place 3E
Just not enough published adventures I would consider good/great.

7th Place 4E
When you can only find 2-3 maybe good adventures you have a problem
 

Zardnaar

Adventurer
Best Adventures Including Dungeon+ 3PP

1st Place 3E
This is a surprising placing for me, I thought 3E would tend towards the middle. Its also a huge jump from near the bottom. The reason is Dungeon really was that damn good in this era along with 3pp gems from publishers like Necromancer Games (now Frog God). Dungeon also went monthly in this era and this was also peak Paizo in terms of quality with 2 great APs. Each issue of Dungeon usually had a really good adventure and you could probably find half a dozen good to great adventures per year as not every issue was a hit. The remaining adventures were also often decent with very few if any meh ones published. There was also a lot of variety and originality to go along with the quality.

2nd Place Pathfinder
Early Pathfinder they were on fire from late Dungeon. Unfortunately quality did decline as the adventures went from genric D&D type adventures to support the latest Pathfinder splat book. However quality never really tanked the more average adventures are often on par with the more average adventures from 5E. Much like 3E they had a great amount of original and innovative adventures, And while individual APs were often mixed individual components were often very good and those components add up to a lot of good adventures. Throw in Frog God Games and Kobold Press which have converted a few adventures to 5E and yeah.

3rd Place 1E

A lot of 1E adventures tend to pop up in top 20 and top 30 lists. A lot are true gem but a few have not aged well and probably say more about the people voting in the polls and brand awareness than the actual quality. They also tend to be dungeon hacks. Innovative 1E adventures did turn up in early Dungeon magazine and there are a lot of great adventures there as well in early Dungeon.

4th Place 2E AD&D
Most of the great 2E adventures are in Dungeon Magazine and some have turned up in the modern era such as the Mud Sorcerers Tomb. Others such as the Mere of Dead Men are prototype modern AP linked adventures. At some points of 2Es run though Dungeon while not bad was trying to support to many settings especially from 1992-1996 hence why I put 3E and 1E above it. While The Shackled City is usually regarded as the 1st modern AP (level 1-20), adventures like The Night Below are more like late Pathfinder and 5E (level 1-10 to 14 or so). 2E adventures are not as well known and are overshadoweed by more than a few bad ones.

5th Place 5E
There is no Dungeon anymore but there is a lot of pp and the DMGuild for 5E. Official WoTC adventures are a bit all over the place with really only 4-5 adventures I would count as a real hit. Some people might like Dragon Heist or SKT or whatever and they're not bad but they are on par with adventures like City of the SPider Queen from 3E or some of the OK Pathfinder APs. Not bad but not great. The Kobolds, Frog God Games are often converting stuff as well. To many derivitive adventures of mixed quality and the best stuff both in house and 3pp is actually converted or derived from previous editions and Pathfinder (TFtYP, GoS, Quests of Doom, the APs).

6th place BECMI
BECMI has some good and great adventures, but there is just not that many of them. Dungeon makes this even worse as that magazine was more AD&D focused but several good adventures pop up in its pages for BECMI but its a relative handful. A fairly good ratio of hits to misses just not enough of them.

7th Place 4E
When you can only find 2-3 maybe good adventures you have a problem. Dungeon and 3pp doesn't make this much better if you're lucky you might find half a dozen. To put this in perspective though you can take a slice of 2E run any year. Dungeon would do 6 issues with 4-6 adventures. You're probably looking at around 30 adventures in a year and you oculd probably find half a dozen good adventures in any one year. During Paizos run they had 12 issues a year but often only 4 adventures or so. Once again though in any year you can probably find more good adventures than 4Es entire run. 4E also had Dungeon but they are really really bad which was very evident after peak Paizos efforts in Savage Tide and later Dungeons.

So one of my least favorite editions wins the number 1 spot based on a few posts here reminding me what that edition actually had.
 

JeffB

Adventurer
Hmmm.

To me it's the 3rd-party material that sinks 3e. Sure there were some true gems e.g. Rappan Athuk, but I'm sorry: I just can't get past all the complete garbage that came out in the 2001-2003 era that by 2004 FLGSs couldn't give away.

Agreed re 4e moving up, mostly due to the Goodman Games DCC series.

Judges Guild from the 0e-1e era, on the other hand, are as hit-and-miss as anything's ever been in this realm. Were I to take every adventure I've ever read/played/run and put together a top-10 and bottom-10 list, JG would be well represented in both lists. :)
Most of it was garbage (3E/D20)- But when you start talking S&S ,NECRO, FFG, Kalamar, some of the GG dungeons- I think the jump up is worth it.

As for Judges Guild- I will also agree on some stinkers- mostly in their Universal lineup. But the Wilderland series, the more focused Wilderlands products like Mines and Modron, the Jaquays adventures, Tegel, Frontier Forts of Kelnore, and some of the tournament adventures are enough to wash over junk like Under the Storm Giant's Castle and Operation Ogre. Goodman And Necro both spiffed them up and expanded them for 3.X and Goodman did a massive reprint for the journals and such. It's got legs. And lord knows how huge of an influence it's been in the OSR movement.
 

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