D&D 5E Rank the Official 5e Adventures (Updated)


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Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
There seem to be a lot of external pressures at that company. For example, they tend to hire a lot of freelancers to write bits of each adventure (instead of hiring full time writers). They also seem to face some corporate pressure to 'synergize' their products across media (e.g. the rumor that the balder's section of avernus was added to tie in to the video game (which is still not fully out)). And of course they've committed to nostalgia-based products. That would be the favorable way of saying it. The less favorable view is that they are not careful as editors or project managers (either for content or language), and they know they can rely on the community to fix or change their products (and even get paid by those fixes via dm's guild).

I think there is an element of truth to all this. Even Wild Beyond the Witchlight, while not based on a previous adventure, has the 80s cartoon stuff in there clearly as a marketing hook for Gen X. In general, the most successful the brand gets, the more you can see the "too many cooks" effect of corporate synergy in some of these adventures.

That said, Mysteries of Candlekeep isn't nostalgia-based at all and, as noted, seems to have garnered little interest here.

Also, I do think that in general the base level of 5E adventures is higher than previous editions (although I never played 4E). As a young player, I generally thought the officially published 1E through early 3E adventures were unplayably bad and pretty much universally worse than stuff me and my friends could just make up on our own. I don't feel that way about 5E.
 
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Zaukrie

New Publisher
I guess when they release a new starter set nearly 5 years after the basic game, a forum of (mostly) seasoned players aren't going to pay it much mind. (See also no reviews on here of Stranger Things, Rick & Morty.)
It is so much more than a starter set, though. IMO.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Isn’t Rime new, not based on previous adventures? I mean, yes it’s set in Icewind Dale, but I don’t think it’s a reimagining or reproduction like Tomb of Annilihation (which struck me as a reimagining of Isle of Dread/Forgotten City & Tomb of Horrors), Curse of Strahd or Ghosts of Saltmarsh. And what about Candlekeep? It’s all new.

And in my opinion, if you’re going to put “Dragon Heist” in a title, there damn well better be a dragon you’re stealing from…
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
One thing I would note, from looking at the lists-

The only "classic" yet completely new adventure is LMoP. Phandelver is, near as I can tell, the only generally acknowledged great adventure they've put out, and that was in 2014.

It's now 7 years later, and most of the upper echelon adventures (such as CoS) are from borrowed material. Most of the "new" adventures are either polarizing at best (Tomb of Annihilation) or generally considered trash, with some people enjoying it (Waterdeep, Avernus).

This does not seem to be a great hit rate on the APs.

I would say that the overall quality has been ... fine. But it does seem really really weird that we are now seven years in, and it's hard to think of a single brand-new AP that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

I will say, that this generally seems to be the opinion here. Looking at Amazon reviews, the books are overwhelmingly well-reviewed. Looking at Rime for example, 88% of the reviews are 5 stars. I know this is probably skewed somewhat by folks marking 5 stars meaning "Book is made of good quality," but me perusing the written reviews shows that even they skew way more positive than negative.

I don't think any 5E adventure has a review average of less than 4, although there are small differences to show which ones are less popular than others.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Isn’t Rime new, not based on previous adventures? I mean, yes it’s set in Icewind Dale, but I don’t think it’s a reimagining or reproduction like Tomb of Annilihation (which struck me as a reimagining of Isle of Dread/Forgotten City & Tomb of Horrors), Curse of Strahd or Ghosts of Saltmarsh. And what about Candlekeep? It’s all new.

And in my opinion, if you’re going to put “Dragon Heist” in a title, there damn well better be a dragon you’re stealing from…

Rime is new, but you know, also just happens to be the setting of terrible best-selling novels from your childhood and good best-selling CRPGs from 20 years ago.
 
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Zaukrie

New Publisher
I view Candlekeep as a hard cover version of Dungeon......with a very light theme tying them together.

The two box sets are sand boxes, and I'm at a loss to understand how having stuff that happens in one area, but is not tied to a BIG STORY is bad, but I read that a lot about those two. Not everything advances the plot.

For me, 5e adventures either fall flat for lack of new, cool, ideas. Most of them, frankly.....

OR have cool ideas, but the plot isn't coherent at all. Rime is the poster child. It has some really cool ideas, but man, those temps would lead to mass death and the goddess and her goals are pretty weak (esp her keep). And that big city? Ugh.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
The two box sets are sand boxes, and I'm at a loss to understand how having stuff that happens in one area, but is not tied to a BIG STORY is bad, but I read that a lot about those two. Not everything advances the plot.

Icespire Peak isn't bad because not everything is tied to the big story. It's bad because it's quest after quest of "go to location X and kill everything." I mean, not EVERY quest is that, but way too many are - or turn out to be, once the players arrive.

An introductory adventure should present a fuller picture of what the game is. There isn't enough exploration and very little role-playing at all. "Go get your next mission off the quest board" is shockingly bad, imo. Yes, a good DM can fix it, but as written that's just weak and uninteresting.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
I'm actually going to try to use the Amazon reviews for tiering the adventures by the top 3 categories;

Top Tier - 4.9+
1. Curse of Strahd
Mid Tier - 4.8
2. Rime of the Frost Maiden
3. Waterdeep Dragon Heist
4. Ghosts of Saltmarsh
5. Descent into Avernus
6. Dungeon of the Mad Mage
7. Tales from the Yawning Portal
8. Candlekeep Mysteries
9. Tomb of Annihilation
10. Rise of Tiamat
11. Out of the Abyss
12. Storm King’s Thunder
Lower Tier – 4.7
13. Hoard of the Dragon Queen
14. Princes of the Apocalypse
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
Icespire Peak isn't bad because not everything is tied to the big story. It's bad because it's quest after quest of "go to location X and kill everything." I mean, not EVERY quest is that, but way too many are - or turn out to be, once the players arrive.

An introductory adventure should present a fuller picture of what the game is. There isn't enough exploration and very little role-playing at all. "Go get your next mission off the quest board" is shockingly bad, imo. Yes, a good DM can fix it, but as written that's just weak and uninteresting.
YMMV, of course, but most adventures are go to location X and kill stuff. I'd guess the vast majority of every quest is that in DnD history.

The gnome area is great for role play. You have to convince a dude to leave an area, even after you clear it out in another quest. Falcon's lodge? Umbrage hill, where you need to talk to someone after possibly scaring something off? The ratio seems about right to me, plus I'd guess most DMs have some roleplay in town, but maybe that's just me and my friends?

Plus, and this is key, most of the areas are playable in a session or two, and easily stolen (and, frankly, easy to modify if you want).

I agree on exploration, but there are almost NO good examples of that pillar in any adventure from WotC. Huge weakness, imo.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
YMMV, of course, but most adventures are go to location X and kill stuff. I'd guess the vast majority of every quest is that in DnD history.

The gnome area is great for role play. You have to convince a dude to leave an area, even after you clear it out in another quest. Falcon's lodge? Umbrage hill, where you need to talk to someone after possibly scaring something off? The ratio seems about right to me, plus I'd guess most DMs have some roleplay in town, but maybe that's just me and my friends?

Plus, and this is key, most of the areas are playable in a session or two, and easily stolen (and, frankly, easy to modify if you want).

I agree on exploration, but there are almost NO good examples of that pillar in any adventure from WotC. Huge weakness, imo.

Gnomengard is very good, but it's an exception - there's nothing else like that in the book.

Umbrage Hill is an outrageously bad first encounter for new players, and it's absolutely the one they're likely to do first.

Falcon's lodge meh. They could have taken half a page and tied Falcon in to an old adventuring party that included the wizard that owned the Woodland Lodge and the lady buried in Dragon Mound and done some kind of cool redemption or tragic mystery story there, but instead it's just a generic Aragorn clone who lives in the woods and you can give him a bottle of wine.

I agree that the fact that the missions are bite-sized and can be completed in a session or two is a plus. But they could still be a lot more thoughtful and interesting and varied than they are.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
good best-selling CRPGs from 20 years ago.
Just as a side note: Icewind Dale: the CRPG makes an awesome campaign for tabletop. The general goal of the campaign is pretty basic, there's some mystery behind the BBEG but not to much and different locations are awesome. I did it 2 times, and though we never made it to the end, there's some gems in there.

I swear there's money to be made to make the classic CRPG into tabletop campaign.
Who wouldnt buy the 1-20 campaign based off Baldur's Gate/Shadow of Amn/Throne of Baal?!
I personally ran it as a campaign before COVID and my players had a good time exploring Candlekeep and the Friendly Arms Inn, meeting Jaheira and Khalid, and fighting the Ogre with the belt fetish and an infestation of spiders!
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Just as a side note: Icewind Dale: the CRPG makes an awesome campaign for tabletop. The general goal of the campaign is pretty basic, there's some mystery behind the BBEG but not to much and different locations are awesome. I did it 2 times, and though we never made it to the end, there's some gems in there.

I swear there's money to be made to make the classic CRPG into tabletop campaign.
Who wouldnt buy the 1-20 campaign based off Baldur's Gate/Shadow of Amn/Throne of Baal?!
I personally ran it as a campaign before COVID and my players had a good time exploring Candlekeep and the Friendly Arms Inn, meeting Jaheira and Khalid, and fighting the Ogre with the belt fetish and an infestation of spiders!

You might enjoy this product, in case you're not familiar with it:

Heroes of Baldur's Gate (5e) - Dungeon Masters Guild | Dungeon Masters Guild

5E adventure by James Ohlin, lead designer of BG 1 & 2, set in BG and featuring many characters and locations from the games.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North

TheSword

Legend
Yeah, the quality of the published adventures has been really poor overall this edition. Which is kind of wild to me given that the playtest modules were really great! Murder in Baldur’s Gate, Legacy of the Crystal Shard, Scorge of the Sword Coast, and Dead in Thay were all fantastic! I didn’t read Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, but I heard good things about it. The Blingdenstone adventure in the playtest packets (can’t remember the name) was really good too, and of course Keep on the Borderlands and Isle of Dread are classics. It seemed like they had really stepped up their adventure design coming off of 4e, so I was really thrilled for Horde of the Dragon Queen… and then was very disappointed to find it was like… the opposite of everything I liked about the playtest modules.
I’m amazed. The quality, detail and versatility of 5e adventures are particularly good. I’d set the best of them against any previous campaigns and the rest are still better than most of 3e and a great deal of 2e.

3e in particular has about half a dozen decent modules the rest are kak. The Eberron adventures for instance were atrocious. City of the Spider Queen was a linear dungeon crawl but ok, Red Hand of Doom was pretty good but a bit repetitive. Cormyr was okay but again very linear. Shadowdale was probably the best actual campaign book. Sunken citadel and Forge of Fury were essentially just small dungeon crawls.

Even fondness for a lot of the 2e stuff is just nostalgia and rose tinted spectacles.

They’re not perfect but taken as a set, are far beyond what came before.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I’m amazed. The quality, detail and versatility of 5e adventures are particularly good. I’d set the best of them against any previous campaigns and the rest are still better than most of 3e and a great deal of 2e.

3e in particular has about half a dozen decent modules the rest are kak. The Eberron adventures for instance were atrocious. City of the Spider Queen was a linear dungeon crawl but ok, Red Hand of Doom was pretty good but a bit repetitive. Cormyr was okay but again very linear. Shadowdale was probably the best actual campaign book. Sunken citadel and Forge of Fury were essentially just small dungeon crawls.

Even fondness for a lot of the 2e stuff is just nostalgia and rose tinted spectacles.

They’re not perfect but taken as a set, are far beyond what came before.
I haven’t really played any modules from before 4e, so 4e was my main point of comparison. And I do think 5e’s modules are generally better quality than 4e’s from what I remember. But both are far lower than the quality seen during the playtest, in my opinion.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Just as a side note: Icewind Dale: the CRPG makes an awesome campaign for tabletop. The general goal of the campaign is pretty basic, there's some mystery behind the BBEG but not to much and different locations are awesome. I did it 2 times, and though we never made it to the end, there's some gems in there.

I swear there's money to be made to make the classic CRPG into tabletop campaign.
Who wouldnt buy the 1-20 campaign based off Baldur's Gate/Shadow of Amn/Throne of Baal?!
I personally ran it as a campaign before COVID and my players had a good time exploring Candlekeep and the Friendly Arms Inn, meeting Jaheira and Khalid, and fighting the Ogre with the belt fetish and an infestation of spiders!
I mean, they did Curse of the Azure Bonds back in the day for the gold boxes…
 


TheSword

Legend
I haven’t really played any modules from before 4e, so 4e was my main point of comparison. And I do think 5e’s modules are generally better quality than 4e’s from what I remember. But both are far lower than the quality seen during the playtest, in my opinion.
It much easier to write something to cover a couple of levels than a full campaign book. I’m struggling to see what you see in them to be honest.
 


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