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D&D 5E What starting adventure provides a "best of D&D" experience?

Mercurius

Legend
I'm re-starting a group that has lain fallow for five years, including one new player who has never played before. I'm dabbling with the idea of running a campaign that is loosely organized around some of the Tales of the Yawning Portal adventures, within a larger sandbox context, with the idea that they can go any direction they want, at least after the first adventure. Right now I'm thinking of starting with "The Sunless Citadel" and then going from there, but I wanted to see what ENW had to say about it.

Basically I want the starting adventure to serve two goals: 1) Offer a relatively straight-forward play experience to get everyone (including myself) back in the groove with the 5E rules; 2) Run an adventure with a relatively varied play experience, that offers a good range of what D&D has to offer. I want to balance the two, so while a varied play experience is ideal, some degree of simplicity is key: I don't want them to get into complex urban play or political machinations, at least not yet.

Oh yeah, it will be in my homebrew world, which is has strong elements of post-apocalyptic, points-of-light, with flavors of Hyboria, Earthdawn, and a variety of influences.

So what would you recommend? Please explain why.

As a side note, I did run a couple sessions of "Dragon of Icespire Keep" from the Essentials box set about a year ago with my kids and it was OK, but I found it to be a bit too basic--good for introducing kids to the game, but not for more experienced adults who just need to shake the rust off and re-learn the rules (we really only played Next/5E a handful of times, after about five years of 4E).

Thanks!
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'd go with Sunless Citadel or Lost Mines of Phandelver. For Sunless Citadel, all you really need to add is some kind of fleshed out town element to have it offer a true town-to-dungeon experience. Lost Mines of Phandelver already has that built in. Sunless Citadel does feel more D&Dish to me though whereas Phandelver has a real Spaghetti Western vibe in my view.
 

aco175

Legend
If you are looking for a starting adventure, go with LMoPhandalin. It provides all the elements and allows for more exploration around a town. It is rather complete and you can add elements along the way to make it your own. I'm actually starting my 3rd campaign centered on Phandalin.

Sunless Citadel can work as a starting adventure. I find it a bit removed from a campaign location and mostly just a single location which is several weeks of play in a dungeon.

You mention that you are making a homebrew setting and can move the location and elements around to make Sunless Citadel work better. There are a few threads here that talk about starting towns and locations to make more a sandbox. I may just pick a town to start with and add a few elements for NPCs and secrets to uncover. Having a few locations to choose from with a published adventure makes your planning less to start off with being a snadbox.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
I would also recommend Lost Mine of Phandelver as the 5E adventure that “covers all the bases” and introduces a variety of encounters and styles.

Sunless Citadel is a good low-level dungeon crawl, but that’s pretty much all it is. Lost Mine will show your players more dimensions of what the game can be - plus it still has dungeon crawls (the level 2 dungeon, Redbrand Hideout, is probably the best one in the adventure). The advantage of Sunless Citadel is that it’s super easy to drop into a homebrew setting.

With Lost Mine, you’d need to de-Forgotten Realms it a bit. I would say feel free to ignore the factions content.
 

Mercurius

Legend
Thanks all. Sounds like I should take another look at Phandelver (never played in it), and adjust it for the homebrew.

Keep 'em coming, folks. What about third party/DM's Guild? Freebies?

I'm also considering eventually using elements of Kobold's Margreve book, at least as the basis of a sylvan region, and am going to sprinkle a few mega-dungeons around, but I think something simple and straightforward to start is best so we can become comfortable with playing again.
 

I have a campaign in the Neverwinter area that started with the best parts of Dragon of Icespire Peak, sprinkled in some Lost Mine of Phandelver, and now has grown to include other adventures I'm partial to. This seems to be a fairly common progression among 5E Dungeon Masters. It's good fun.

If you don't mind conversion, I think there's a lot that can be looted from Pathfinder adventure paths. In particular, Rise of the Runelords has some great bits that can be used for a sandbox-style campaign.
 
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jgsugden

Legend
Lost Mine of Phandelver is fine, as is Sunless Citadel. Sunless Citadel was part of a series of 3E adventures that continued in the Forge of Fury, the second adventure in Tale of the Yawning Portal. It continued in The Speaker in Dreams, The Standing Stone, Heart of Nightfang Spire, Deep Horizon, Lord of the Iron Fortress, and Bastion of Broken Souls. They can all be converted to 5E.

Speaking of conversions, I liked the module Keep on the Shadowfell from the start of 4E. Converting 4E to 5E takes a bit more work, but the basic structure of the adventure is worthwhile and fun if you have not played it. Matt Colville discusses it a bit in some of his videos and addresses how he runs it in 5E.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I'd go with a small scale sandbox based on LMoP:
  • Use Dragon of Icespire as a list of possible side treks once they are established in Phandalin.
  • Position TftYP's adventures somewhere on the map not to far from your Phandalin.
  • Do the same with Saltmarsh's adventures.

So with all that you have an incredible adventure (LMoP) with a boat load of possible adventures sites to create the ultimate High Adventure Zone.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Dragon of Icespire Peak is really a sidequest supplement to Lost Mines of Phandelver, though it can be run alone as well. With both, it creates a nice PoL sandbox area.

Ghosts of Saltmarsh is pretty good, too, or Rime of the Frostmaiden, providing modular sandbox Settings more than scripted plotlines.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I'd go with a small scale sandbox based on LMoP:
  • Use Dragon of Icespire as a list of possible side treks once they are established in Phandalin.
  • Position TftYP's adventures somewhere on the map not to far from your Phandalin.
  • Do the same with Saltmarsh's adventures.

So with all that you have an incredible adventure (LMoP) with a boat load of possible adventures sites to create the ultimate High Adventure Zone.
Honestly, I think Chris Perkins has designed the entire 5E Adventure line to facilitate a Lego-like build your own High Adventure Zone environment.
 

Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
Lost Mines of Phandelver was a great start, then I tied in with Hoard of the Dragon Queen. It's better to start HotDQ at higher than level 1. YMMV.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
I love Dragon Heist as a starter adventure. It is modular and has a couple of parts that are janky, so requires a skilled DM. But I find it very engaging, as the environment (a city) and the villains (any of them) are very proactive in their goals and keep the PCs on their toes.
I like it, but it really is almost more a Setting than an "Adventure" if you consider that to mean having a tight plot.
 


Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I like it, but it really is almost more a Setting than an "Adventure" if you consider that to mean having a tight plot.

I don't really think of adventures that way... if I did, I would consider both Avernus and Icewind Dale as more settings than adventure, as they are quite sandbox-y as well and introduce very detailed worlds.
 


aco175

Legend
I would like to take the 4e Netir Vale map and the 4e DMG Fallcrest to make a setting. I may update the Keep on the Shadowfell adventure as a starter and add some homebrew as well. Problem is that I would need to update everything to 5e.

You can also take some the DMsGuild adventures for Phandalin and Leilon to use. Several are pay what you want.
 

Mercurius

Legend
I'd go with a small scale sandbox based on LMoP:
  • Use Dragon of Icespire as a list of possible side treks once they are established in Phandalin.
  • Position TftYP's adventures somewhere on the map not to far from your Phandalin.
  • Do the same with Saltmarsh's adventures.

So with all that you have an incredible adventure (LMoP) with a boat load of possible adventures sites to create the ultimate High Adventure Zone.
This is good and pretty much what I have in mind, plus sprinkling in a megadungeon or three. I'd have to re-skin it for my world (plus, I hate the name "Phandalin").

I haven't purchased any of the last few books, but might have to bite the bullet with Saltmarsh.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
This is good and pretty much what I have in mind, plus sprinkling in a megadungeon or three. I'd have to re-skin it for my world (plus, I hate the name "Phandalin").

I haven't purchased any of the last few books, but might have to bite the bullet with Saltmarsh.
I think its the last one I bought. Its pretty good honestly.

If you own Princes of the Apocalypse, you can use the whole dungeon plus its 4 outposts as is.

I'd skip: Dead in Thay, The Final Enemy and Isle of the Abbey. They are, IMHO, a little bland when compared to the others.
 

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