D&D General Dungeon Magazine's Top 30 Adventures: Do they hold up?

Well, they are still classics, but are they "good"? No, not really and certainly not the best 30 adventures published. I disagreed with the list in 2004 and certainly have not grown fonder towards them since.

These are all classics. And they have great ideas in them. But the quality of play, editings, and even writing in them is generally abysmal, plus many of them uphold the old school/classic approach of adversarial DMing that today I find... immature.

I can agree that they can be used as a basis, but were they published today with today's standards, the would rightly be ridiculed for their quality. Again, don't get me wrong, many have great ideas and are also foundational for our hobby, but no, they don't hold up to my current standards.
 

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I really think it depends on your criteria. I'd agree that most of these were influential and some were quite good for the time. But I think the list is more about nostalgia and adventures that got played a lot than being a measure of the quality of the adventures themselves. For example B10 Nights Dark Terror is hands down better than almost anything on the list, but it was a Basic adventure that got released long after Basic was past its heyday, so not many people played it.

This list also has a HUGE bias toward the early adventures. By my count 18 out of the 19 AD&D adventures published in 1982 or earlier are on the list* (some as compilations). These adventures represent 12 of the entries on this list. (GDQ, Slavelords, C1, C2, S1, S2, S3, S4, I1, U1, T1, N1). (Strangely the only pre 1982 adventure that missed the list was the L1 Secret of Bone Hill, yet the sequel L2 got included even though I don't know of anyone who thinks this one is a particularly good adventure). Conversely only one of the eight "core" adventures released for 3E made the list.

So if you buy that TSR legit hit it out of the park with 18 out of its first 19 AD&D modules, but then WotC only had one great adventure out of eight to start 3E then you can believe this is a solid and fair list. But I would suggest it is about nostalgia more than quality.

*I'm going by the marketing blurb on the back cover of N1 for this - it is possible my admittedly haphazard methodology missed something.
 
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TheSword

Legend
Way back in ye' old 2004 on the 30th Anniversary of D&D, Dungeon Magazine published its list of the top 30 published adventures of all time. The list was dominated by classic TSR adventures from the game's earliest editions. Notably, only one adventure (The Dark Tower) was not published by TSR, but considering how the list was published by the successor WotC it's not surprising.

My question is... does this list hold up under scrutiny? Do you agree with the choices? Many of these adventures have been criticized, such as Matt Colville calling the Temple of Elemental Evil "un-runnable," and the Tomb of Horrors is notorious for being... unpleasant for players. Is the list too heavily tilted to the earliest editions of D&D, or does this erase the good work of 3rd-party publishers? Or perhaps, are the critics just contrarians and these are indeed the best adventures of D&D?

I'm curious of people's thoughts. In my opinion, some of these are indeed very good, others more mixed. Tomb of Horrors being number 3 is probably my biggest gripe.

The list, from starting from the best:
GDQ1-7 Queen of the Spiders
I6 Ravenloft
S1 Tomb of Horrors
T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil
S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks SONY DSC
I3-5 Desert of Desolation
B2 The Keep on the Borderlands
Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil
S2 White Plume Mountain
Return to the Tomb of HorrorsSONY DSC
Gates of Firestorm Peak
The Forge of Fury
I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City
Dead Gods
X2 Castle Amber (Chateau d’Amberville)
X1 The Isle of Dread
The Ruins of UndermountainSONY DSC
C1 Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God
A1-4 Scourge of the Slavelords
Dark Tower
S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth
WG4 The Forgotten Temple of TharizdunSONY DSC
City of the Spider Queen
DL1 Dragons of Despair
WGR6 The City of Skulls
U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
B4 The Lost City
L2 The Assassin’s Knot
C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness
Interestingly I have only DM'd a few of these - Forge of Fury - which is an excellent adventure, and Return to the Temple of Elemental evil which was a fairly monotonous hackfest/slog through endless tunnels of mediocre foes.

I've read it but I wouldnt count Ruins of Undermountain as an adventure - more like a setting based on the complete lack of plot.

I've read city of the spiderqueen and was a bit disappointed to be honest. It was supposed to be a highlight of 3e but I thought the Cormyr/Shadowdale/Anauroch trilogy was much better.

I've played in I6 and it was indeed great (as is the Curse of Strahd remake... a beautiful campaign)

I'm also currently playing in the Saltmarsh reboot and loving it! Funnily enough @GuyBoy is also DMing keep on the borderlands for us at some point in the next couple of weeks. The rest of the adventures are well before my time to be honest. I'll let @GuyBoy bring them to life in the future
 

Riley

Legend
Supporter
I've read city of the spiderqueen and was a bit disappointed to be honest. It was supposed to be a highlight of 3e but I thought the Cormyr/Shadowdale/Anauroch trilogy was much better.
Agreed. I’ve always wanted to run a version of the 1st/Cormyr adventure, at least. So many good ideas in that one.
 

TheSword

Legend
Agreed. I’ve always wanted to run a version of the 1st/Cormyr adventure, at least. So many good ideas in that one.
Yes, the first was best, Shadowdale was very good (I particularly like throwback to the adventure in the AD&D FR campaign setting box) and Anauroch was the weakest I think but still enjoyable. These are probably the best 3e, non-dungeon magazine adventures in my opinion.

Ironically for this list in dungeon magazine I'm amazed no dungeon magazine adventures were in there. I consider Hall of Harsh Reflections, Champions Belt, and a few of the Shackled City adventures to be brilliant.
 





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