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The Defining Adventure Modules for each Edition


OD&D - none almost by definition, but Tegel Manor works IMO.

Basic - The Keep on the Borderlands hands down.

AD&D - The Temple of Elemental Evil by a mile (yeah yeah, spare me the faux shock).

AD&D 2e - If you’re not going to break it down by setting, you almost have to go with the big Hickman hits from the 1e era as the definitive 2e modules (Dragonlance Classics, Desert of Desolation, House of Strahd). People are saying Ruins of Undermountain I, but isn’t that perversely a bit of a throwback to 1e?

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First Post
I only ran a few of these, and of the ones I did I greatly modified them to make them appropriate to my world and milieu. But as a player I played these and greatly enjoyed them. For me they were:

Temple of the Frog
Temple of Elemental Evil
The Giant Modules
Expedition to the Barrier Peaks - superb

Tomb of Horrors - my all time favorite commercial adventure. Blackmoor would be second.
Keep on the Borderlands
The Ghost Tower of Inverness - I greatly modified this to be far more like the Jack Flanders Tower and it was great to me
Desert of Desolation series - we greatly modified these to turn it into a series of archaeological and organized crime adventures, and it was superbly good to me, plus it was the first modules I ever used written by women, and they were good. I still remember the Boat of a Million Years.

The Rod of Seven Parts - I greatly modified this to reflect the ruined Kingdom of Pesh
White Plume Mountain
Baba Yaga - also greatly modified
Ravenloft - not being much of a Vampire fan, sparkly or otherwise, I didn't think I'd like this but I did, it was tough.
Isle of Dread
Dwellers of the Forbidden City
The Forgotten Temple of Tharzidun
The Assassin's Knot
Reverse Dungeon - a ball and a superb idea

The Eldritch Wizard - not Eldritch Wizardry


  • Tomb of Horrors (1975; tourney version was at Origins I in July 1975)
  • Temple of the Frog (in Blackmoor Supplement II, late 1975; 2nd printing was July 1976)
  • Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1976; tourney version was at Origins II in July 1976)
  • Palace of the Vampire Queen (1976)
  • Lost Caverns of Tsojconth (1976; tourney version was at WinterCon V)

Any idea who published the tourney versions? I have the Judges Guild Gen Con IX Dungeons, which was OD&D, so I'm guessing JG published the others. The actual TSR modules we remember were, IIRC, published during the AD&D era.


The tourney versions of Tomb of Horrors and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks were TSR; Tsojconth was published by Metro Detroit Gamers; all three were written by Gary (with some assistance with each).


First Post
D&D - Keep on the Borderlands
AD&D 1e - I6: Ravenloft
AD&D 2e - Dragon Mountain
D&D 3e - The Forge of Fury, Red Hand of Doom (3.5)
D&D 4e - Keep on the Shadowfell (core), Reavers of Harkenwold (Essentials)


Gonna buck the trend a bit:

My first Basic module was KotB, but, for the best one? For me, hands down, would be The Lost City. X1 The Isle of Dread would be there too.

AD&D: Cult of the Reptile God is a pretty good one - I liked it better than Hommlet, although they aren't really all that different. And, of course, GDQ

2e D&D: Yeah, I'll go with the chorus here and say that most were pretty forgettable. The one that comes to mind was a series of short adventures called A Hero's Tale. I got a great deal of traction out of that one.

3e: Paizo offerings. Any of the three AP's fit the bill AFAIC.

4e: Chaos Scar. Sure, some of them aren't that great, but, by and large, there's a LOT of playability here.


FWIW, Tegel was first published in 1977 which puts it toward the very end of the OD&D era and the beginning of the Holmes or AD&D eras, depending on when exactly it appeared. It looks like some folks received it as soon as April 1977, per the Acaeum.
Well, we certainly could discuss and argue when the OD&D era ended and tje AD&D era began, as the full complement of books for AD&D didn't hit until 1979. You couldn't even play AD&D until 1978 when the PHB was released.

Regardless, it seems pretty clear that many more Judges Guild adventures were written for OD&D, regardless of when they were published. Several might qualify as "defining adventures" for OD&D. Of course, the "tournament" editions of some classic modules might count as well (I was never aware they were for OD&D), so that opens the field up a bit.


First Post
I would note that definitive and best are two very different things.

D&D (basic) --B2 Keep on the Borderlands

D&D (expert) -- X1 Isle of Dread

AD&D --T1-4; A1-4; G1-3; D1-3; Q1 This sequence is the first adventure path. And yes I realize that it was stitched together only retroactively, but still this sequence of adventures was and is hugely influential.

2ed -- No Definitive Adventure
2ed definitive setting -- Planescape
I considered answering "Dead Gods" or "Night Below", but then I realized the source of my dilemma at choosing one. This was not the time of adventures. This was the time of settings and fractured product lines.

3ed -- Sunless Citadel

3.5 -- Age of Worms AP Do you see that sequence of letter and numbers above beside my AD&D entry? This is Paizo trying their level best to remake that feel using 3.5. In the history of adventure writing has there ever been a firmer codification of the D&D save-the-world-from-evil story line than "Age of Worms"?

4ed -- Keep on the Shadowfell

Essentials -- Reavers of Harkenwold

Pathfinder -- Rise of the Runelords (so far...)

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games maker of "Way of the Wicked" an evil adventure path compatible with the Pathfinder RPG that we hope will one day appear on this list as the definitive villianous campaign.


These are "defining," not best... I'm listing the modules that sum up to me what these editions and sub-editions were about.

OD&D (1974-1979) -- City State of the Invincible Overlord, Caverns of Thracia

BD&D (Holmes ed., 1977-1980) -- B1 In Search of the Unknown, B2 Keep on the Borderlands

1e AD&D, 1st phase (1977-1983) -- G1-3/D1-3 Giants/Drow series, S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth/WG4 Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, T1 Village of Hommlet

B/X D&D (Moldvay/Cook & Marsh eds., 1981-1982) -- B4 The Lost City, X1 Isle of Dread, X2 Castle Amber

BECMI D&D, 1st phase (1983-1987) -- B7 Rahasia, B10 Night's Dark Terror, X4/5 Nomads series, CM1 Test of the Warlords, DA1-4 Blackmoor series

1e AD&D, 2nd phase (1984-1988) -- DL1-16 Dragonlance series, I6 Ravenloft

BECMI D&D, 2nd phase and Black box/RC D&D (1988-1993) -- GAZ series

2e AD&D (1989 until I stopped paying attention in about 1994) -- FRE1-3 Avatar series, Ruins of Undermountain boxed set

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