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

BigZebra

Explorer
Searching the forum, the sword made quite a big post about it:

Thanks for doing what I probably should have done 🤟
 

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TheSword

Legend
It’s been a lot of fun running. I think the Shattered Star stuff is very optional. Or if you wanted to do parts of it so could see the other shards in various Rise of the Runelords locations like the Thorassic Library, or Rune Forge. The PCs are level 9 and about half way through after playing weekly for a year. 👍
 

calling it "Lost Mines" seems to be a really common mistake.

"Lost Mines of Phandelver" is just the name now. It's evidently more common in google searches of it than the actual name that appears on the cover, it just sounds better to peoples ears. I personally have embraced the name change on the basis that although there is one published "Lost Mine of Phandelver" which is a solid little adventure that checks all the boxes of what people expect out of D&D and is a little more handholdy for a first time DM/group, but is otherwise not particularly special, I like to think of all the groups that have played it, and heavily tweaked and filled in the fairly barebones adventure to suit their tastes and the results of their actions, as creating their own plural "Lost Mines".
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
It’s been a lot of fun running. I think the Shattered Star stuff is very optional. Or if you wanted to do parts of it so could see the other shards in various Rise of the Runelords locations like the Thorassic Library, or Rune Forge. The PCs are level 9 and about half way through after playing weekly for a year. 👍

I'm a big proponent of using Paizo's high-level stuff to cap off the end of a campaign. 5E publishes very few high-level adventures, which is a little frustrating if you have a group that wants to keep playing beyond a 5E book.

But for example, one could run Storm King's Thunder, which runs to level 10, and then use the second half the Pathfinder's Giantslayer AP, to get your PCs all the way to level 17!
 

Of those I’ve played or run, LMoP and CoS are good as-is. All the others require remixing, and probably for the exact same reason: They’re written by a horde of freelancers, and a generally talented editorial team isn’t given the time or capacity to produce a proper, tested remix prior to publication.

All of them can be great, but a lot of it’s on the DM. I made SKT pretty great. It’s got a great concept- giants are invading - and then most of the campaign is written as if that’s not the case. I pulled in some locations (and Schley maps for the VTT) from the play test adventures - Harpshield Castle and Phylund Lodge in Ardeep, Firehammer Hold, etc. - and made the first part of the campaign all about dealing with forces allied with the various giant factions and figuring out what they’re up to. Everywhere they went, there were destroyed villages and refugees - and dead famous heroes who’d fallen to the giants. I foreshadowed the multiple “twists” (if you can really call them that) that are eventually revealed. I made the party recover three conches so they had to deal with three giant bases.

And on and on. It was all just riffing on material that was in the book, but it probably would have been 500 pages in publishable form.

Anyway, LMoP and CoS both benefited from a more limited scope and narrower focus. If you’ve got limited time and have to work with a team of freelancers, that’s just a better approach.
 

Raith5

Adventurer
Of the ones I have played (and my only criteria is fun) my rankings are:

Descent into Avernus
Rime of the Frost Maiden
Ghosts of Saltmarsh
Lost Mines of Phandelver
Princes of the Apocalypse

PotA was only one I really did not like and made no sense.
 

TheSword

Legend
I'm a big proponent of using Paizo's high-level stuff to cap off the end of a campaign. 5E publishes very few high-level adventures, which is a little frustrating if you have a group that wants to keep playing beyond a 5E book.

But for example, one could run Storm King's Thunder, which runs to level 10, and then use the second half the Pathfinder's Giantslayer AP, to get your PCs all the way to level 17!
To be honest I’ve never thought of mix and matching! It’s an awesome idea. There are several Paizo APs that could beef out a D&D 5e hardback.

Descent into Avernus : Hells Rebels
Tomb of Annihilation : Serpents Skull
Saltmarsh : Skull and Shackles
Storm Kings Thunder : Giant Slayer
Rime of the Frost Maiden : Reign of Winter
Curse of Strahd : Carrion Crown
Dragon Heist : Second Darkness

I always find the hardest thing to convert are treasures and rewards but once you get the hang these resources of full of amazing locations, ideas, NPCs and encounters.

If I’m honest 5e seems to play much better at high level than Pathfinder ever did. Those later modules are more fun in 5e to be honest.
 
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Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Of those I’ve played or run, LMoP and CoS are good as-is. All the others require remixing, and probably for the exact same reason: They’re written by a horde of freelancers, and a generally talented editorial team isn’t given the time or capacity to produce a proper, tested remix prior to publication.

Interestingly, LMoP and Strahd are two that were not written by committee. Several designers had input, but Lost Mine was essentially written by Richard Baker and Strahd almost entirely by Chris Perkins (not the Death House section, though).
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
To be honest I’ve never thought of mix and matching! It’s an awesome idea. There are several Paizo APs that could beef out a D&D 5e hardback.

Descent into Avernus : Hells Rebels
Tomb of Annihilation : Serpents Skull
Saltmarsh : Skull and Shackles
Storm Kings Thunder : Giant Slayer
Rime of the Frost Maiden : Reign of Winter
Curse of Strahd : Carrion Crown
Dragon Heist : Second Darkness

I always find the hardest thing to convert are treasures and rewards but once you get the hang these resources of full of amazing locations, ideas, NPCs and encounters.

If I’m honest 5e seems to play much better at high level than Pathfinder ever did. Those later modules are more fun in 5e to be honest.

Great ideas! I'd probably use Second Darkness with Out of the Abyss, and maybe Agents of Edgewatch for Dragon Heist.
 

TheSword

Legend
Great ideas! I'd probably use Second Darkness with Out of the Abyss, and maybe Agents of Edgewatch for Dragon Heist.
I’ve not seen the 2e pathfinder stuff to be honest. The reason I suggested Second Darkness was due to Riddleport… particularly the first book with the golden goblin. Though perhaps Council of Thieves would work as well. I don’t that that path though other than it being set in Riddleport too.
 
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MerricB

Eternal Optimist
The hook suffers from serious one-point failure. The PCs have absolutely no reason to trust this cloud giant who just showed up to a town that was recently ransacked by cloud giants, but if they don’t, the adventure just doesn’t happen. Also, there’s a huge chunk of the adventure that’s literally just “run some other adventures until the PCs are high enough level for the next part” with no other guidance. I’d be willing to bet the parts that seem “a bit lumpy” are the parts that are actually written in the adventure, and the good parts are entirely of your DM’s creation. Not because they’re going off-script but because there isn’t even a script to be on.
With Storm King's Thunder, the best advice I can give is to ignore "A Great Upheaval". It is designed to get the PCs up to level 5 really quickly, and, like the other "fast track" adventures (in Princes and Curse), actually manages to detract from the adventure.

SKT works a LOT better if you come into it from the Starter Set. The proper structure is:
  • You are adventurers wandering the Sword Coast doing quests
  • You discover a town being attacked by giants and help.
  • You return to wandering the Sword Coast doing quests, but - oh look - there are more giants about
  • Harshnag finds you and the plot proper begins.

That's what it's designed as. Problem is, when you play "A Great Upheaval" first, then you're thrown into the "Giants are attacking" storyline way before you're ready for it - and then you abandon the storyline for no good reason, because it assumes you're wandering adventurers. SKT is a brilliant adventure to introduce to the players when they don't know it's coming.

It's my third-favourite adventure of the releases.

Second favourite is Curse of Strahd. You probably know why.

My favourite is Tyranny of Dragons. And it's one I put in the top 5 of all D&D adventures of all time.

Tomb of Annihilation has two major problems:
  • The quest for the Soul Monger is handled really badly. It's an investigation with nothing to investigate. (There are about 2 or 3 NPCs who know where it is, and a huge jungle with no clues to its presence).
  • The final dungeon is a bit too big and one-note. (Big wouldn't be a problem if there were more NPCs to interact with, but it's long enough that the players may forget while they are there).

I do think Omu is amazing. And the jungle crawl is good - but it's not really integrated well into the adventure. (More clues about the Soul Monger there would make it a lot better).

Cheers!
 


MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Based on my own experiences, I definitely feel Tyranny of Dragons is underrated. Est ever is a fascinating claim to atake: I'm curious as to your reasoning?
Rise of Tiamat is one of the few adventures that has the world react to the PCs. You've got the factions taking a major stake in events, and they pay attention to the PCs more and more as their strategies pay off (or get annoyed at them due to their decisions).

Both adventures are also so varied of experience. Yes, there's a linear progression between episodes, but each chapter gives an entirely new situation. And there is wide variation of approach. Consider both Castle Naerytar and Skyreach Castle. Both sections have factions that can help the characters, but do the PCs realise that? When they do, the way the section plays out can be completely different from the "kick in the door and fight" style.

They are also rich with NPCs, and the Council of Waterdeep brings back a few important NPCs from Hoard of the Dragon Queen to maintain continuity. The Council, if run well, can offer an amazingly rich role-playing experience.

Are they flawless? No. It doesn't help that they'd work much better with the playtest monsters than the released monsters (both the vampire and assassin of the original are a lot weaker in their playtest forms). And the finale of Rise of Tiamat would greatly benefit from a better explanation of what each of the enemy forces do if opposed or unopposed. There are other issues as well, but those are the ones that annoy me the most.

I've run the whole series three times now (the same number of times I've run Curse of Strahd). They're adventures that reward you well with rich experiences - which is why, along with the Desert of Desolation series, I tend to put them at the very top tier of D&D adventures.

See also: My Favourite D&D Adventures - Merric's Musings

Cheers!
 

Well note that ToD has an asterisk, indicating that I haven’t played or DMed it, so its placement is just based on my secondhand impression. I have both played and DMed HotDQ though, so its position is based on experience, and I’m much more confident in that evaluation. But from what I’ve heard, it sounds to me like ToD plays much better than HotDQ does. Maybe it should be in lower tier rather than mid? I dunno, but I get the impression that it should at least escape the failure tier.
RoT is the second half, though. ToD is the entire thing, meaning that it includes HotDQ.
 


Bolares

Hero
Tomb of Annihilation has two major problems:
  • The quest for the Soul Monger is handled really badly. It's an investigation with nothing to investigate. (There are about 2 or 3 NPCs who know where it is, and a huge jungle with no clues to its presence).
This was not my experience running it at all. Reading the adventure it sure does seem that there are no clues. But the book is design in such a way that choices the players make that would seem to be random will always bring them closer to Omu. Your choice of guide helps with this, your first expedition probably will give clues, each of the most probable jungle locations give you directions to wither a clue or to Omu itself. My players never felt like they were not advancing in their investigation.
And the jungle crawl is good - but it's not really integrated well into the adventure.
What do you mean about there not being integration into the adventure? My biggest problem with it is that Chult is full of interesting places and my players really wanted to hexcrawl trough it, but the main plot was to urgent, so if given the choice between exploring some place new and following up on the death curse, they would chosse the main plot.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
This was not my experience running it at all. Reading the adventure it sure does seem that there are no clues. But the book is design in such a way that choices the players make that would seem to be random will always bring them closer to Omu. Your choice of guide helps with this, your first expedition probably will give clues, each of the most probable jungle locations give you directions to wither a clue or to Omu itself. My players never felt like they were not advancing in their investigation.
My experience suggests that Perkins has prioritized emergent play in a very effective manner, which isn't necessarily obvious from reading alone.
 

Retreater

Legend
This was not my experience running it at all. Reading the adventure it sure does seem that there are no clues. But the book is design in such a way that choices the players make that would seem to be random will always bring them closer to Omu. Your choice of guide helps with this, your first expedition probably will give clues, each of the most probable jungle locations give you directions to wither a clue or to Omu itself. My players never felt like they were not advancing in their investigation.

What do you mean about there not being integration into the adventure? My biggest problem with it is that Chult is full of interesting places and my players really wanted to hexcrawl trough it, but the main plot was to urgent, so if given the choice between exploring some place new and following up on the death curse, they would chosse the main plot.
The best way to run Tomb of Annihilation is to ignore the Death Curse until later in the adventure (like when the party gets in the vicinity of the Tomb.)
In hindsight, I would've ignored/downplayed the Frostmaiden's curse in Rime of the Frostmaiden until the party was closer to dealing with it.
Having a party adventure for levels 1-8 with an earth-shattering calamity in the background seems silly when the bulk of the adventure content is devoted to exploring side quests in a large open world.

So in ToA, I would probably add a mid-boss warlord in the jungle for the party to find, or ramp up the importance of Ras Nsi. In RotFM, pick a faction early and focus on them (maybe the duergar) and have the party seek out Sunblight - and then have the winter curse happen.

Breaking them up into 3 or 5 level "mini-arcs" is probably the way to do it.

I'm curious about how I'm going to salvage RotFM at this point. I likely will just have the party end the winter curse and then move on to another storyline.
 

Bolares

Hero
The best way to run Tomb of Annihilation is to ignore the Death Curse until later in the adventure (like when the party gets in the vicinity of the Tomb.)
yeah, I tough of doing that, but in the end my players liked having a clear objective, and had backstories completely invested in lifting the curse.
 

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