D&D 5E Nominate Today's Top Adventures for Use in 5E

Inspired by the discussion of Dungeon Magazine's Top 30 list from 2004, let's see if we can come up with the best adventures for today.

Criteria:
Best adventure as written that can still be used with today's expectations. This does not mean that some DM additions or modifications can't be done, but extensive preparation should not be required.
The adventure does not need to be written for 5E. DM updating of NPCs, magic, and loot is fine.

What to Avoid:
Fond memories, this is not about the best adventures from our youth, but what adventures if you had never seen before and picked up today you would be thrilled with.
Adventures that the DM turned into great adventures, let's look at the best adventures As Written (not as a great DM ran them for you!)

What to do:
List your top 5 adventures, and give a reason why others should consider them.

After we get a list of nominations, then we can put together a poll to generate the list.
 
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Stormonu

Legend
Curse of Strahd - takes what was a good adventure from the start and expands it out into a full-blown campaign that's easily as good.

Lost Mines of Phandelver - 5E's strongest and most original adventures. It hits all the right notes and is a great introduction to the game overall.

B4/OAR4 - Lost City (Original Adventures Reincarnated) - A mini-campaign that has an unusual mix of home base and adventuring location with a "dark secret" twist BBEG. It isn't a typical dungeon crawl adventure and requires a mix of diplomacy, exploration and adventuring. The OAR version fills in what was the latter barebones section of the original, giving a fully fleshed out campaign from start to finish.

Ghosts of Saltmarsh - While I admit my experience with the original U1-U3 adventure influences this choice, it is good overall campaign that starts right in from level 1 onward. Most of WotC's other supermodules kick in at level 3-5, this one can be used from the start of a campaign. It embraces the "zero to hero" mindset and a good mix of adventures with a nautical theme.

White Plume Mountain (TFtYP version) - Great for a one-shot or as part of an ongoing game. It has a good mix of combat and puzzles with the ability to tackle it in a non-linear fashion. The only downfall is Blackrazor, which is the only artifact of the three that's too good to be left in player's hands as is.
 

TheSword

Legend
1st: The Enemy Within Campaign - released by Cubicle 7. Without a doubt the best campaign I’ve ever played and DM’d. (I’m on the third run through!) Brilliant characters, setting and investigation. Locations are evocative. You could easily run it for 5e using the rules for gunpowder in DMG. The perfect mix of plot and sandbox. It also does a very good job of bridging the gap between local heroes and kingdom heroes. All you would need to do is convert treasure and NPC stats. You’d lose a bit of the old world flavor but the adventure is still at core amazing. Highlights include secret societies, carnivals, corrupt nobles, deadly meteors, mutants, lurking ratmen, imperial politics and small but vicious dogs. Run it, you won’t regret it. There is a reason this is on every top ten list of adventures of all time… the re-release is much better.

2nd: Age of Worms. The best of the 3e adventure paths. A really solid campaign of growing evil. Strong individual chapters and a nice overarching theme. Part One [Edit] The Whispering Cairn has probably the best dungeon I’ve seen in a game for tier 1 characters.

3rd: Odyssey of the Dragonlords. Epic, campaign with a capital E. Heroes at the heart of everything in a great setting. Very thematic. Beautiful to read and to DM. Best Greek campaign I’ve seen.

4th: Way of the Wicked. Written for Pathfinder but easily convertible. It has may favorite hook for adventuring and has one of the best story arcs I’ve seen in a campaign. A pleasure to DM. Of course it is for an Evil Party, and the methods the writer uses to keep things coherent is very clever. One of the chapters the party get to build their own dungeon and protect it against adventurers!

5th: Curse of Strahd. The best of the 5e WotC hardbacks. A great tight story which links everything back to the BBEG. Very atmospheric and fun to DM. The only reason it hasn’t placed higher is that I think after the awesome 80% of the book, the castle is a bit of an anticlimax.

Honourable mention: Tales of the Old Margrave. By Kobald Press. Designed for 5e. Again very thematic and atmospheric. A series of beautifully written adventures that capture a Hansel and Grettel theme.

Honourable mention: Kingmaker. It was amazing for pathfinder 1e but had its flaws. A new release should be out soon which improves these and also offers a 5e monster and NPC conversion. Worth waiting for that.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
1st Place: Lost Mines of Phandelver. Years from now, people will discuss this in the same way that grognards reverentially discuss B2, B4, U1 and T1. This is not just a very excellent starting module, it is the best single module yet for 5e.

2nd Place: OAR #2: The Isle of Dread. The OAR series is excellent, but this is remains the canonical example of the hexcrawl.

3rd Place: Curse of Strahd. Easily the best adventure path for 5e by WoTC.

4th Place: Tomb of Annihilation. Unlike the others I have listed, this one actually requires a fair amount of DM modifications, but the basic chassis is so good that it is totally worth it.

5th Place. OAR #4: The Lost City. Is this a total rip off of Red Nails, but this can be an amazing setting for a new players to 5e.

(I know that I am cheating a little with 2 OARs, but if I had to get rid of them I'd probably just put in Saltmarsh and Yawning Portal)
 


Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
1st: Curse of Strahd
It's the best 5E adventure, and everyone knows why. A mini-setting with numerous adventure hooks, the book gives an option for a fairly linear adventure if the DM/players want it, but also is playable as a sandbox if they don't. The PCs can play in this adventure for a long time without ever needing to approach Castle Ravenloft, and most of the encounters are both embracing the gothic horror tropes with their own twists. The Castle itself is a mighty beast of a dungeon, the demerit being it's poorly laid out map... but if you can decipher it, there is fun to be had there as well when you confront the main charismatic antagonist.

2nd: Lost Mine of Phandelver
Only second because it's a tad linear and catered to newer DMs. That said, that weakness is also a strength; anyone can run this including folks entirely new to the game. And that's great as it is a fantastic adventure overall, a series of dominoes that tilt gradually to a nice dungeon and confrontation.

3rd: Dragon Heist
Controversial, I know. The reason people dislike this is due to its overall layout, and elements of railroading that seem difficult to avoid. However, in the hands of a skilled DM this adventure is pure gold. The plot and mystery is well-written to intrigue PCs, and the hook (100,000 gold!) is guaranteed to raise their hackles. The key is to take all the disparate pieces and coalesce them into something truly awesome. Other folks like the Alexandrian have done a great job with this, but I hacked together a version not nearly as complex that worked fantastic. Pick a villain and use their lair as the actual end to the adventure (while giving the PCs help to balance against a possibly too powerful foe) and they'll talk about this adventure for years.

4th: Dragon of Icespire Peak
A series of encounters more than a true adventure on its own, but one can string these into it's own campaign or append them onto Lost Mine of Phandelver if needed. The encounters/locations are very good, and I'd argue this is one of the best modules for a "West Marches" style campaign to be written ever, from any edition.

5th: Tomb of Annihilation
This adventure has it's warts, but it's still pretty great. A huge setting filled with interesting locations, it's biggest flaw is of course the wilderness traversal and random encounters. They range wildly in difficulty and can lead to a TPK, or worse a complete slog. If you take the best random encounters and build them up into planned out encounters, you can take this adventure and make it truly great.

Honorable Mention: The Enemy Within
Honorable because it's not actually built for 5E. Part 1 is also very contrary to D&D design, more at home with a Call of Cthulhu game than 5E. However if it is overcome, Death on the Reik is an incredible adventure for use in 5E with a healthy mix of travel, social encounters, and combat. And Castle Wittgenstein is in my opinion a superior spooky castle to even Castle Ravenloft!
 

Lidgar

Legend
1. Lost Mine of Phandelver. Pretty much an instant classic. Has some warts, but what classic doesn't?

2. Saltmarsh. This was our pandemic safe haven for a year or so. Lots of seafaring shenanigans.

3. Tomb of Horrors (from TotYP). We had an absolute blast in this updated classic. Not for everyone, not for every time - but a fantastic play on VTT.

4. White Plume Mountain (from TotYP). Stormonu said it all.

5. OAR #6: Temple of Elemental Evil. We are currently playing through this, and again having a blast. Goodman Games really does a fantastic job on the OARs. I might one day include OAR #4 (Lost City) or OAR #2 (Isle of Dread) in this list, but have not played through/run them yet.
 

Stormonu

Legend
1st: Curse of Strahd
It's the best 5E adventure, and everyone knows why. A mini-setting with numerous adventure hooks, the book gives an option for a fairly linear adventure if the DM/players want it, but also is playable as a sandbox if they don't. The PCs can play in this adventure for a long time without ever needing to approach Castle Ravenloft, and most of the encounters are both embracing the gothic horror tropes with their own twists. The Castle itself is a mighty beast of a dungeon, the demerit being it's poorly laid out map... but if you can decipher it, there is fun to be had there as well when you confront the main charismatic antagonist.
The map for the castle isn't poorly laid out. It took a while for me to understand, but after building it in Minecraft a couple times (damn computer crashes), it's actually a multi-pathed maze with a castle dressing. There's two primary and a third secret route to get to the tomb.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
The map for the castle isn't poorly laid out. It took a while for me to understand, but after building it in Minecraft a couple times (damn computer crashes), it's actually a multi-pathed maze with a castle dressing. There's two primary and a third secret route to get to the tomb.

I think you're just reinforcing it's a bad map... if you need to build it a couple of times in Minecraft to understand it, I don't think it is intuitive to read.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
The map for the castle isn't poorly laid out. It took a while for me to understand, but after building it in Minecraft a couple times (damn computer crashes), it's actually a multi-pathed maze with a castle dressing. There's two primary and a third secret route to get to the tomb.

I think you're just reinforcing it's a bad map... if you need to build it a couple of times in Minecraft to understand it, I don't think it is intuitive to read.
 

Great replies so far everyone!
(I know that I am cheating a little with 2 OARs, but if I had to get rid of them I'd probably just put in Saltmarsh and Yawning Portal)
I don't think that's cheating. The Goodman Games' "Original Adventures Reincarnated" are totally fair game imo. They can be run in 5E so totally appropriate!
3rd: Dragon Heist
Controversial, I know. ...
I agree with you on all of that. I felt it requires too much remixing to qualify, but that's up for everyone to decide when we get to voting :)
Honorable because it's not actually built for 5E.
No need to be built for 5E. I bolded that part of the OP so we don't miss anything that should/would otherwise be included.
 

Koppe

Villager
The thread OP mentioned inspired me to make a Whatsapp poll to my group that has played D&D for over 30 yeras now. We made a full list of 30 best with some reasoning for the TOP 5. 4th edition adventures are not included because we play old school and they are diificult to convert.

30. X1 Isle of Dread

29. X4, Master of the Desert Nomads

28. The slumbering Tsar saga (OSR)

27. Tomb of Annihilation

26. A1-4 Scourge of the Slave Lords

25. B4 The Lost City

24. Night below

23. Dungeon #38 Horror's harvest

22. U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

21. Operation unfathomable

20. Dungeon #121 The Styes

19. Carrion hill (Pathfinder)

18. Dungeon #90 Tears for Twilight Hollow

17. Lost mine of Phandelver

16. House on the Hook street (Pathfinder)

15. Caverns of Thracia

14. J1 Entombed with the Pharaohs (Pathfinder)

13. Better than any man (Lotfp)

12. Freeport trilogy

11. Feast of Ravenmoor (Pathfinder)

10. Rise of the drow (Pathfinder)

9. I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City

8. I3 Pharaoh

7. The Red prophet rises (OSR)

6. Way of the wicked (Pathfinder)

5. X10 Night's Dark Terror
- Great story and content for closer to 10 sessions. Showed us that D&D can be much more than dungeon crawling.

4. Hot springs island (OSR, system agnostic)
- Awsome jubgle sandbox that just feels so alive. Gives you the feeling that no matter how much you explore there’s still a lot to be found.

3. Death frost doom (Lotfp)
The atmosphere in this one is 10+. When the first ice skull drops on the floor and we hear a door opening somewhere in the dark, its like playing Doom on tabletop.

2. Curse of Strahd
The atmosphere in this one is only 10, but god there is a lot to play in this one and unlike other 5E adventures, this has cohesive narrators voice.

1. Red hand of doom
A war sandbox like no other. Players are free to help the community the way they see fit and their choises really matter and add to the outcome. Best RPG experience I’ve had during my 30+ years of gaming.
 
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Retreater

Legend
I've only got three for the list. I can't think of anything else for this generation worthy of being on the list - and anything from previous editions would be too difficult to overhaul.

1 The Curse of Strahd
A thematic sandbox with great individual dungeons, randomized goals for replayability, a legendary villain, detailed towns and side quests - this update to the classic Ravenloft expands on every aspect of the original to make the best 5e adventure.

2 Lost Mines of Phandelver
Phandelver is 5e's Keep on the Borderlands. This is the adventure that modern players cut their teeth on. With the growth of the number of players in this edition, it's very possible that more people have played Phandelver than Keep on the Borderlands. While veteran players may find it cliche, it has all the familiar tropes and is an excellent teaching adventure for new DMs and players alike.

3 Tomb of Annihilation
Exotic locations, flavorful starting city, fantastic climactic killer dungeon, legendary villain, and probably the best hexcrawl put out by WotC, ToA deserves a spot on this list. If Phandelver is this edition's Keep on the Borderlands, ToA is its Isle of Dread.
 

GuyBoy

Hero
OK, 5 greatest adventures that still work today, regardless of system they are written for:
5 Lost Mine of Phandelver: a masterpiece of an introduction.
4 Curse of Strahd: I was genuinely terrified playing this
3 Rappan Athuk: puts the “dungeon” into D&D
2 The Enemy Within: multi-layered intrigue and looming menace
1 The Night Below: simply the greatest campaign

And I hate myself for leaving out Dwellers in the Forbidden City, Saltmarsh, Tsojcanth and Caverns of Thracia
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
I agree with you on all of that. I felt it requires too much remixing to qualify, but that's up for everyone to decide when we get to voting :)

The first time I've run it (I've run it three times now) I essentially did it as written and had a great time. I still feel it's gold when you don't just use the adventure but also the rest of the book, and other material (there is a Xmas adventure somewhere that uses the Cassalanters which is perfect for the level 2 gap). If you don't use the villain lairs for example, that's a travesty. For me it's less "run as written" and more "super excellent outline that a skilled DM can do wonders with." Not sure how that qualifies.

No need to be built for 5E. I bolded that part of the OP so we don't miss anything that should/would otherwise be included.

I probably should revise my answer to specifically Death on the Reik (not the Enemy Within) as Enemy in Shadows actually doesn't work well for 5E. Problem is folks need to convert the adventure, making 5E equivalents of the encounters, hence the Honorable Mention. if they do it though, great adventure.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
That's tough. My top five would be:

Curse of Strahd. I mean, come on. It's already a classic. Ravenloft, at least a small part of it, done mostly right. The adventure and writing are top notch. It's tougher than your standard "we just win" 5E adventure.

Dragon Heist. Despite the hate this one gets, it was the most fun I've had playing 5E. The factions, the NPCs, the city...it was a blast. The DM who ran it is not the best with factions, cities, intrigue, or non-combat stuff, so I can only assume he ran it as straight as possible...while reacting to the players' inevitable shenanigans.

Dark of Hot Springs Island. Absolutely brilliant hexcrawl adventure. Lots of secrets and mysteries to uncover. Lots of NPCs and creatures to interact with. Lots of points of interest to explore and investigate. Hexcrawls done right with a wonderful presentation and layout.

Enemy Within. What's left to say about Enemy Within? It's a spectacular intrigue campaign. I prefer the 4E version to the original. The end isn't spectacular but it's better than the original. The added grognard boxes help change things up for people who've run through it before or if the DM wants to fiddle with it but have specific advice on how and where to.

Skull & Shackles. A great pirate adventure path for Pathfinder. Easily adapted to 5E. Covers all the bases you'd think of in a pirate campaign and then some. Way more railroad that I'd like to run straight. But with even a little work it would make for a great sandbox.
 

pukunui

Legend
2nd: Age of Worms. The best of the 3e adventure paths. A really solid campaign of growing evil. Strong individual chapters and a nice overarching theme. Part One the Gathering of Winds has probably the best dungeon I’ve seen in a game for tier 1 characters.

3rd: Odyssey of the Dragonlords. Epic, campaign with a capital E. Heroes at the heart of everything in a great setting. Very thematic. Beautiful to read and to DM. Best Greek campaign I’ve seen.
Ugh, no. Both of those are as bad as Dragon Heist if not worse. Age of Worms has some fun moments, but none of them let you affect the outcome of the AP in any way. The PCs are just along for the ride. And Odyssey of the Dragonlords is a hideous mess written by people who don't understand that a TTRPG adventure shouldn't be written like it's a CRPG - and it needed at least one more playtesting/proofreading pass than it got.

3rd: Dragon Heist
Controversial, I know. The reason people dislike this is due to its overall layout, and elements of railroading that seem difficult to avoid. However, in the hands of a skilled DM this adventure is pure gold. The plot and mystery is well-written to intrigue PCs, and the hook (100,000 gold!) is guaranteed to raise their hackles. The key is to take all the disparate pieces and coalesce them into something truly awesome. Other folks like the Alexandrian have done a great job with this, but I hacked together a version not nearly as complex that worked fantastic. Pick a villain and use their lair as the actual end to the adventure (while giving the PCs help to balance against a possibly too powerful foe) and they'll talk about this adventure for years.
I thought the OP said not to include ones that require extensive prep to make them work. Dragon Heist is a hot mess as written and therefore doesn't really fit the OP's criteria.


As for me, here are my current top 5, in no particular order:
  • Curse of Strahd - A solid, self-contained sandboxy adventure with a compelling villain, a strong theme, and plenty of interesting encounter locations. It's by no means perfect, but I've both played and DMed it and enjoyed myself immensely both times.
  • Tomb of Annihilation - Another solid, self-contained sandboxy adventure. Yes, the hexcrawl can get a bit tiresome, but it's even more fun when you don't introduce the death curse right away. I've DMed it all the way through once and am a good chunk of the way through a second run-through.
  • Storm King's Thunder - This one is a fun open world with some great locations. The giant lairs are fantastic. The mid-section is wide open, allowing the PCs to stretch their legs and really get a feel for the setting. You can have a lot of fun with this one. (I recommend skipping the opening mini-adventure, though, as it's a bit rushed and naff.)
  • "Trouble in Red Larch" - This is the opening mini-adventure from Princes of the Apocalypse. It's become my 5e version of the Village of Hommlet. It's a great little location with fleshed out NPCs, some fun little mini quests, and a fun little mystery to solve.
  • Scourge of the Sword Coast - One of the D&D Next playtest era adventures. It's an unsung treasure. Does a great job building on the Daggerford area lore from previous editions. Plot is a wee on the thin side but the five main adventure locations are evocative and fun, with plenty of entry and exit points. They are all great examples of the Alexandrian's "Jaquaying the dungeon" concept. The only real letdown is that the real conclusion of the adventure was included as the opening segment of the follow-up, Dead in Thay - although it was left out of the updated version that appears in Tales from the Yawning Portal. The adventure locations and attention to detail easily add up to make this one of my most favorite D&D adventures to run ever. I've run it twice and would happily run it again.
 
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Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
I thought the OP said not to include ones that require extensive prep to make them work. Dragon Heist is a hot mess as written and therefore doesn't really fit the OP's criteria.

As an outline and toolkit to improve the adventure, it's a great book. It's horribly laid out, but if you read the thing back-to-front you'll have everything you need. First time I ran it almost as-is-written and it was great.
 

pukunui

Legend
As an outline and toolkit to improve the adventure, it's a great book. It's horribly laid out, but if you read the thing back-to-front you'll have everything you need. First time I ran it almost as-is-written and it was great.
I tried to run it as written and it was horrid. I think the part we all hated the most was the very railroady chase sequence. (It doesn't help that 5e's chase rules suck.) YMMV I guess.

I did use the Xanathar's lair to great effect in a different campaign, though. I also gave Trollskull Manor to my DotMM group, but they've been spending 99% of the campaign in the dungeon, so it hasn't really been used. So yes, as a toolkit, it's great. As an adventure, it is absolutely hands down the worst adventure WotC has published for 5e. So I maintain that it does not fit @LordEntrails' criteria for inclusion.
 

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