7 Easiest (& 7 Hardest) Premade D&D Campaigns for New DMs

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It can be intimidating for new Dungeon Masters to run their first Dungeons & Dragons game. Beyond remembering all of the rules, DMs need to tell an interesting story, roleplay multiple NPCs, and keep the players from completely derailing the entire adventure. Thankfully, Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition has a number of premade campaigns designed to be less work to run.



Few premade modules are truly unplayable, but each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses. In particular, some are well-suited to DMs with little experience, while others could very easily overwhelm them.

Updated on December 23rd, 2023 by Louis Kemner: 5th Edition has a lot of premade campaigns to choose from, so we’ve expanded this list to better cover the wide array of options available to budding Dungeon Masters.This list has also been updated to adhere to CBR’s current publication standards.


The Easiest D&D Campaigns For Beginners

The Lost Mine Of Phandelver Is Designed For New Players And DMs

Adventurers facing a dragon in Lost Mine of Phandelver beginner DnD campaign.

Publication Date:

July 15, 2014

Adventurer Levels:

1-5

The Lost Mine of Phandelver comes with the Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Starter Set. It includes pre-made character sheets, a well-written and accessible plot, and helpful breakdowns for any DM. Everything one needs to play is readily available at an affordable price and contained within a single box.

LMoP is fun without being too complicated. It has a great mix of roleplaying opportunities and action-packed battles against a number of classic fantasy enemies. Lost Mines of Phandelver is designed to carefully ease both the players and the DM into a surprisingly epic low-level story. DMs looking for a premade module for 5e may well find Lost Mines of Phandelver the easiest campaign to run. Players may also enjoy a recent release titled Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk.

The Wild Beyond The Witchlight Is Improv-Heavy, But Flows Easily

The major characters on the cover of the Wild Beyond the Witchlight premade DnD campaign.

Publication Date:

September 21, 2021

Adventurer Levels:

1-8

One of the more distinctive campaigns released for 5e is The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, a fairy-tale inspired adventure that takes players into the Feywild. This adventure can range from light and whimsical to dark and nightmarish within the same session. The campaign’s story is easy to follow, makes sense, and has plenty to appeal to almost any group of players, all while not loading a DM with too much to learn.

The only detriment to The Wild Beyond The Witchlight for a first-time DM is that it is very improv-heavy, with players being given far more variety in how they deal with encounters than in most campaigns. Almost the entire thing can be played without fighting. However, there is no reason a new DM cannot manage this – and it can even be a boon to those who are less fond of running combat.

Dragon Of Icespire Peak Is Pure Heroic Fantasy

An adventurer fighting the Dragon of Icespire Peak

Publication Date:

June 24, 2019

Adventurer Levels:

1-6

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In addition to the Starter Set, Fifth Edition also has the Essentials Kit, a pre-packaged collection of quickstart rules and a campaign designed to help new players and DMs alike. Dragon of Icespire Peak can act as an alternative to the Starter Set or be used as an intermediate step between it and playing the game with the core rulebooks.

Dragon of Icespire Peak is designed for 2-6 players, pitting them against a young white dragon that is terrorizing the lands around Phandelver. The adventure is carefully-geared to ease players into acts of heroism and is considered by some to be one of the easiest D&D campaigns to run, period.

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist Is A Fun, Open-Ended Romp

The cover of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist premade DnD campaign.

Publication Date:

September 18, 2018

Adventurer Levels:

1-5

As the name indicates, Waterdeep: Dragon Heist takes the players through the intrigue-filled city of Waterdeep in an adventure that involves a daring and epic robbery. It is notable amongst premade D&D campaigns for emphasizing cunning and creative problem-solving rather than direct combat.

Although Waterdeep: Dragon Heist‘s emphasis on creative methods and underhand dealings can catch new DMs off-guard, the book is written in an easy-to-understand fashion, with the consequences of most actions logically spelled out for the DM. While it will keep them on their toes, running it should be a manageable task.

Critical Role: Call Of The Netherdeep Tries Not To Overwhelm Newcomers

Publication Date:

March 15, 2022

Adventurer Levels:

3-12

Critical Role has been partially responsible for raising D&D‘s profile, attracting its own fanbase and tempting many of them to try out the game. As such, the show’s first official campaign book, Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep, attempts to be relatively accommodating to new DMs while still presenting an excellent adventure.

The most complex part of Call of the Netherdeep is that it tasks the DM with keeping track of another party of NPCs and their relationships with the players’ party. Past this, however, it serves as a gradual introduction to both Dungeons & Dragons and DMing that most players should be able to keep up with.

Curse Of Strahd Is Simply One Of The Best Adventure Modules

Strahd von Zarovich sitting with a glass on the cover of Curse of Strahd premade DnD campaign

Publication Date:

March 15, 2016

Adventurer Levels:

1-10

Curse of Strahd has become both famous and infamous among Dungeons & Dragons players for its quality and is considered one of the best premade campaigns written for 5e. It can be a task for a new DM to run because it is extremely deadly for the player characters. The DM has to balance a highly dangerous and dynamic adversary and a world that is actively hostile to the characters. However, this is all worth the effort.

Curse of Strahd takes place across a relatively small number of locations all tied together by the interplay between Strahd and the PCs. Once the initial prep work – including randomly determining elements of the plot – has been carried out, the DM should be able to keep track of things without a problem.

Hoard Of The Dragon Queen Is Designed With New DMs In Mind

Hoard of the Dragon Queen premade DnD campaign

Publication Date:

August 19, 2014

Adventurer Levels:

1-8

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Hoard of the Dragon Queen was the first campaign book to come out for Fifth Edition. As such, it was written with new DMs in mind, as this would be the first premade D&D campaign that anyone DMing for Fifth Edition got to use. The story involves stopping a group called the Cult of the Dragon who want to break the dragon god Tiamat out of Hell.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen has its contentious elements, in particular some very uneven combat balance due to parts it being written during 5e‘s development. But it also has its redeeming factors. In particular, its guided story can be more reassuring to a first time DM, though the PCs do need to be on the same page as the DM in order to follow it.

The Hardest D&D Campaigns For Beginners

Out Of The Abyss Takes A Lot Of Prep Work

Cover art for Out of the Abyss premade DnD campaign

Publication Date:

September 15, 2015

Adventurer Levels:

1-15

Out of the Abyss is set in the Underdark, drawing inspiration from some of the finest modules from older editions of D&D. Between its unique location and story, its high level of challenge, and its tense, dangerous atmosphere, it is a worthwhile experience for any party.

However, there are two major problems with the Out of the Abyss that will be tricky for new DMs. First, the book is very concisely formatted and requires a lot more time preparing for each session than is normal for a premade campaign. In addition to its dense, convoluted writing, the book also touches on topics of oppression and slavery. New DMs may not wish to put extra effort into running these sensitively while still getting to grips with the game itself.

Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos Adds A Lot Of New Systems

Publication Date:

December 7, 2021

Adventurer Levels:

1-10

A crossover with Magic: the Gathering, the campaign Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos takes a unique approach to a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Rather than controlling epic heroes, the players instead play a group of university students attending the titular magical university, blending adventures with more mundane activities.

Strixhaven is more holistic than many premade campaigns, focusing as much on the player characters, their growth as people, and their relationships with others as it does on the fate of the world. It adds a host of new features, including exams, classes, social activities, and time skips to facilitate a school year. This premade 5e campaign is well-liked, but its unique structure may be too much for new DMs to learn on top of the regular D&D rules.

Waterdeep: Dungeon Of The Mad Mage Is A Massive Mega-Dungeon With Confusing Maps

Cover art for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage premade DnD campaign

Publication Date:

November 20, 2018

Adventurer Levels:

5-20

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Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage is a sprawling adventure is a massive delve through the labyrinthine dungeons beneath Undermountain. It is designed for an adventuring party starting at level 5 and it will take them up to level 20. This subterranean adventure harkens back to older play styles of D&D, taking players through a huge mega-dungeon.

The problem with Dungeon of the Mad mage for new DMs is that much of the campaign consists of enormous dungeon maps. These all have different enemies, interactions, secrets, loot, and more. In addition, this premade campaign starts at fifth level, being designed as a potential sequel to Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. Level 5 is a lot more complicated than level 1, so it’s not the best place to start for a total beginner.

Icewind Dale: Rime Of The Frostmaiden Can Be Brutal

Publication Date:

September 15, 2020

Adventurer Levels:

1-12

Icewind Dale is the name given to the frozen tundra in the far north of the Forgotten Realms that is cut off from most of the rest of the world by steep mountains and storm-tossed seas. It is a fan-favorite location that has inspired novels, video games, and a number of great adventure modules. Rime of the Frostmaiden is a fantastic horror campaign, but it is brutal on both players and DMs alike.

Icewind Dale offers ten different possible starting adventure hooks, forcing the DM to choose when they might still be trying to grips with the basics. It is also a high-lethality campaign where the party may suffer numerous losses, taxing even more of a DM’s skills. These factors, coupled with its range of locations and quests, mean it may be best for DMs with a little more experience.

Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus Needs A Lot Of Work From The DM

Cover art for Baldur's Gate Descent Into Avernus premade DnD campaign

Publication Date:

September 17, 2019

Adventurer Levels:

1-13

Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus is one of the more contentious modules for Fifth Edition. While it has some redeeming features, it is famous for its disjointed mechanics, its uneven difficulty, and neither the storyline nor the mechanics being entirely consistent throughout the campaign.

It is recommended that a DM make a lot of changes to the book rather than running things as written. Experienced DMs may enjoy the chance to put their own spin on a pre-written campaign, but that prospect would likely be overwhelming for a newcomer to the role. As such, other campaigns may be better suited to first-time DMs.

Rrakkma Is Just Too Alien

The Gith race from DnD Fourth Edition

Publication Date:

May 29, 2018

Adventurer Levels:

9

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The gith are one of the cooler but more obscure races in D&D. In fact, they are split into two separate races, the githyanki and the githzerai. Their ancestors were enslaved by the mind flayers, and after overthrowing their masters, the gith formed these different factions. The adventure module Rrakkma is about gith from both groups working together against the mind flayers.

Rrakkma is designed as a companion to the book Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and is filled with obscure monsters. Much of Rrakkma takes place in the chaotic plane of Pandemonium or out in the Far Realm. Every part of this adventure deals with alien concepts and obscure lore, making it difficult for almost anyone to run.

Storm King’s Thunder Requires Lots Of Adjustments

A Storm Giant in Storm King's Thunder premade DnD campaign

Publication Date:

September 6, 2016

Adventurer Levels:

1-11

Storm King’s Thunder is one of the more epic premade D&D campaigns, pitting the players up against D&D’s many giants as the enormous beings begin to wreak havoc in the surrounding area. It is sprawling and challenging, and gives the DM a fair amount of freedom for vast swathes of it whilst other parts are carefully guided.

However, Storm King’s Thunder has its flaws. Common guidance involves skipping certain chapters of the book to make things smoother for the players, and other chapters require the DM to keep track of a lot of things at once. Though it is well worth running, it may work better as a second or third campaign.

A snapshot of the classic Dungeons and Dragons poster

Dungeons and Dragons

A fantasy roleplaying tabletop game designed for adventure-seekers, the original incarnation of Dungeons & Dragons was created by Gary Gygax in 1974.

Franchise
Dungeons & Dragons

Original Release Date
January 26, 1974

Publisher
Wizards of the Coast , TSR Inc.

Designer
E. Gary Gygax , Dave Arneson

Player Count
4-8 Players Recommended

Age Recommendation
12+

Length per Game
3 hours +

Expansions
Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition , Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition , Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition , Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

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