D&D 5e Adventure Books: The 15 Best Modules, Ranked

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After the debacle that was the 4th edition, Wizards of the Coast stepped up once more giving us the 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons.

These changes are mostly mechanical, simplifying the more complex rules of its predecessor. Thus making the 5th edition much more friendly to newer players.

Yes, you’ll have fewer numbers to crunch. And even though this may seem like a detriment to some more optimization-focused groups, WotC managed to carry out their central idea: to make the game more accessible to newer players and to make it run smoothly.

With a lot of the resources invested in the 5th edition, it proved to be a great triumph for the renowned publisher. This includes a lot of the expansions and adventures released for 5e.

Let’s take a look at all the current releases(as of this writing) to rank all the best adventure modules you could snag for 5e.


15. Hoard of the Dragon Queen

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The Hoard of the Dragon Queen module was the first one to be released within the then-new 5th edition ruleset, before the final versions of the three core rulebooks.

This can make the encounters somewhat imbalanced, and might require some extra effort from the DM’s, for the story to run more smoothly.

The enemies in this module might seem a bit repetitive too, as you’ll be piling Kobold and cultist corpses like there’s no tomorrow!

If this sounds fun, then yeah you will probably have a blast here.

However I think repetitive enemies, a linear story, extra DM effort needed, and a generic setting is what ranks the Hoard of the Dragon Queen down here on the list.


14. Princes of the Apocalypse

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The first module to be released after the three core rulebooks, Princes of the Apocalypse has some issues with the structure.

Even with the gripping setting and a lot of additional goodies sold, Princes of the Apocalypse struggles with a lot of things, unfortunately.

Within the module are basically two parts. And they don’t seem to be playing well together.

The first part is practically a 100% sandbox – which might delight some players – but can also be logistically demanding for the DM.

The second part of the adventure is on some heavy rails, providing only an illusion of choice.

There is a big dungeon crawl part which can be quite enticing. But with its occasional randomness and timing problems, this module might prove to be difficult for newer players, and also for DM’s who are not that into sandbox-style adventures.

However, this is a classical setting. With the remarkable Temple of Elemental Evil found in chapter 4.


13. The Rise of Tiamat

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Together with the Hoard of the Dragon Queen, this module makes the Tyranny of Dragons storyline.

Since it was written shortly after the first part, this tends to share some of its issues.

Stopping the Dragon cultists in carrying out their sinister plot to revive the leader of the Chromatic Dragons, Tiamat, surely sounds epic.

Your group being directly responsible for stopping such a calamity must strike at the heart of any diehard D&D player.

Unfortunately, same as written earlier, this module is in great need of balancing by the DM. And it’s quite railroad-y, which might throw some groups off.


12. Out of the Abyss

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Set in the infamous Underdark, this module starts with a bang.

A slew of nasty, dangerous, and wicked creatures are working on the PC’s demise from the very start.

Beginning the adventure as slaves in a Drow prison, fighting for their survival, players should immediately feel the creeping tension throughout this adventure.

There are but a few opportunities for the PC’s to rest safely. And that, combined with the no-joke enemies in this module, might prove too taxing for your group. YMMV.

It’s also worth noting that this adventure requires a lot of DM tinkering for it to work properly, which altogether ranks it right here. Even with the epic Demon Lord encounter near the end of the book.


11. Waterdeep Dragon Heist

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Set in the exotic city of Waterdeep, the PC’s task is to discern the spot of the rumored hidden treasure.

With the meeting of some of the most famous Forgotten Realms characters of all time and a diverse roster of monsters – Gazers, Mindflayers, Drow, Rakshasa, this adventure has great potential for RP and some more in-depth insight into the lore.

For groups that prioritize RP, this adventure would be much higher on the list.

But with the chase for the MacGuffin item being the core of the story, it ranks below quite a few others for me.


10. Dragons of Icespire Peak

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Being included in the D&D Essential Kit, this module caters to newer players with its systemic approach to rules.

Most of the fundamentals – ability checks, combat, status effects etc. – are taught as the group goes through the story. This is really valuable to newer players, so definitely check it out if you’re just getting into the game.

The story itself is somewhat ‘disconnected’, as the quests PC’s are undertaking are only loosely connected even though they inevitably lead to the final encounter.

There is also a different approach in the XP, which is calculated by milestones.

All in all, this module has everything needed to play included in one box.

And is a great introduction for newer players, with a decent story to boot.


9. Dungeon of the Mad Mage

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Here, you’ll continue the story of the Dragon Heist… or where it left off.

This adventure offers an extremely complex dungeon structure with an amazing 23 levels to explore, accessed through the Yawning Portal tavern of Waterdeep.

At times it might seem as your group doesn’t have any real reason to be there. Something that might be an issue for some groups.

Nevertheless, this enormous dungeon (also a remake of the 2nd edition Ruins of Undermountain) spanning through levels 5-20 is already a hit or miss campaign for many.

Those who enjoy big challenges, endless dungeon crawls, and are well-versed in the mechanics will feel right at home with the Dungeon of the Mad Mage.


8. Descent into Avernus

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Quickly after starting their new adventuring career, PC’s are plunged into the Nine Hells of Avernus.

The usual foreboding and hellish stuff are aplenty. With the added possibility of building infernal war machines – Mad Max style – this module provides some fresh elements to your usual campaign.

Completely customizable, these vehicles that are also vital to the group’s survival, prove to be a fun inclusion.

Once you actually descend down there, though, good luck coming back!

The archdevil Zariel is also waiting on you, as a cherry on top of a very vicious cake.

Creatures in this module will make your knees weak, and your blood boil. But you also might come out of it as a true savior, a hero of legend.

With its in-depth rich story, scary and diverse minions, new mechanics (all of which is spanning through levels 1-13), Descent into Avernus will prove an enticing adventure for many groups.

However, the DM should be a bit more careful here. As their usual role is more underlined and they can easily make players feel all-powerful… or, in contrast, helpless, with the grim realization that they might stay in Hell for good.


7. Hunt for Thessalhydra

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This short adventure module with its mere 30 pages evokes some legendary monsters, as well as memories of old, with its beautiful red box made in the fashion of the long-gone and beloved Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

This one, even though it is shorter in scope and slightly linear, still packs a great punch with its complete package.

The story, which could be called a bit generic – Stranger Things fans might argue that, features great monsters – with clear cut goals, motives and ecology, a crazy amount of RP opportunities, and has quite balanced RP/exploration/combat encounters.

The other issue might be the chance for replayability since this module is indeed relatively short – it can be finished in 8 hours or so.

Also, the implication of Eleven from Stranger Things (fans rejoice!) might seem slightly out of place, and lend a feel of a deus ex-machina… which might not sit well with all the groups out there. That said, it’s really quite fun!


6. Lost Mines of Phandelver

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Nicely written, concisely packaged, and with some memorable NPC’s and locations and a crazy amount of player customization possibilities. This one’s awesome.

All while also being friendly to new players! That’s what makes this module rank pretty high among all the others.

This adventure (that should take no more than 10 sessions), neatly packs everything in one place.

With a ghost town that you can roam freely, and area bosses placed at their respective locations, there’s an inevitable feeling of accomplishment for your PC’s while being neatly tied into mechanics. This makes leveling quite consistent.

Oh, and there are also some cool mysteries for you to solve!


5. Storm King’s Thunder

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This massive-in-scope module that can be implemented by the DM without too much effort definitely deserves a ranking this close to the top.

And any slight issues that could arise from big stories like this, are all easily rectified by the DM.

This module also has it all: political intrigue, epic fights, new monster abilities, sandbox potential, etc.

Nightstone – a town where your PC’s start – provides the same option. Even if (allegedly) there exist three possibilities.

The boss fight at the end is unbalanced. And with the help your PC’s get (scripted) can make the fight a breeze. And therefore, rather anticlimactic.

DM’s – you should note this before starting up the campaign.


4. Tales from the Yawning Portal

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Even though this module may be a hit or a miss for some groups, it is a D&D classic.

Tales from the Yawning Portal embodies everything D&D stands for.

It’s easily modified, well-written, lethal, plus an enticing story and believable with well-crafted monsters.

This is what D&D is about. Even when the adventure gets too hack and slash, or linear, there is always another high-point. Or something else to pull in your disparately oriented players.

A fantastic module every D&D player should try.


3. Ghosts of Saltmarsh

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As one of the latest adventures in the 5th edition, Ghosts of Saltmarsh is exceptionally made and well structured.

A gripping story with a good balance and easy access, truly makes this adventure shine.

WotC really did a bang-up job here. The module – which spans levels 1–13 – is by itself a great read.

It also provides the incentive to both seasoned veterans and newbies alike.

The namesake town of Saltmarsh is incredibly crafted, with a deeply rooted and complex conflict between the main three factions (Traditionalists, Loyalists, Scarlet Brotherhood). It just drives the adventure altogether.

As a DM, you’ll have a well-justified feeling that every page you turn tells a story. Every piece of information is valuable, all while also being easily included in the creativity yourself.

The only issue might be that this adventure is slightly more skewed to the DM’s, rather than the players. Which is also the sole reason it ranks into the top 3, but no higher.


2. Curse of Strahd

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For many D&D fans out there, this adventure is the best there is. And rightly so.

Featuring possibly the best-written villain of all time, this adventure has that feeling that will make you beg, cry, and wet yourself, all while asking for more.

You’ll be wholly awed with the ingenious writing and structure here!

It can read similar to the Out of the Abyss in many ways. But still, contrary to the despair present throughout that adventure, there is a slimmer of hope here.

One that will completely boggle and confound your party.

And that’s due to the genius villain who so easily toys with the PC’s and NPC’s alike: the vampire Count Strahd.

This legendary rewrite is more than just a remake. It is a true masterpiece for 5e.


1. Tomb of Annihilation

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There’s not much that could be said about the Tomb of Annihilation, other than it is directly inspired by the legendary Gary Gygax’s Tomb of Horrors.

And it’s good.

Having an excellent plot, plus soul-eaters(who doesn’t dread these guys?) and other wicked monsters, and some of the most memorable moments built-in here, this nightmare adventure places first for so much excitement and lots of time spent in the game.

Even with the slight need for DM modifications, this adventure has everything that one D&D adventure should have, and more.

Absolutely worth a try if you have the time to get through it.

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