* …that you possibly haven’t heard of.
Back in 2004, Dungeon Magazine got together a bunch of famous D&D designers, like Ed ‘Forgotten Realms’ Greenwood, Bruce Cordell and Monte Cook, and asked them to come up with a definitive list of the ’30 Greatest Adventures of All Time’. Many of the blog posts you see online with similar titles are heavily based on this list.
There are undoubtedly plenty of good adventures on that list. However, I have a few problems with it:
- 29 of the 30 were published by TSR or WotC. (28 TSR, one WotC, one Judges’ Guild) Other companies have published adventures for D&D from the very early days.
- There’s a huge bias towards 1st Edition AD&D.
- There’s a huge bias towards traditional dungeon crawls. Other forms of adventure do exist.
- The list is now ten years old. More adventures have been published since then. Also, tastes in roleplaying change.
You can see Dungeon Magazine’s original ’30 Greatest Adventures of All Time’ list here. We have many of them in stock.
Anyway, I thought I would enhance the original article by coming up with a list of twenty somewhat less famous (but perhaps more varied) D&D adventures that I think you really should try to play before you die.
- N4 Treasure Hunt. A brilliant way to start a new campaign. In Treasure Hunt players start with 0th level characters who get shipwrecked. As they play through the adventure, their actions determine what class they become and what alignment they are. It’s also really helpful for DMs – the “What if they don’t do this?” section was a brilliant idea.
- DL1-12 DragonLance. OK, this is a bit of a cheat since a) it’s very famous, b) DL1 was number 25 in the original list and c) it has never been published as one module (the closest being the DragonLance Classics series which reprinted the series in three volumes). But DragonLance was only ever meant to be played as one grand campaign, and in that role, it was ground-breaking. D&D took most of its inspiration from pulp swords and sorcery, not epic high fantasy. DragonLance showed that the game was just as capable of delivering grand sweeps of awesome epicness.
- Irilian. Irilian was published in six parts in White Dwarf magazine, issues 42 to 47. It’s a very detailed large medieval town and a brilliantly-written plot-heavy adventure. Clever use of language and names makes the town seem more real while the adventure itself has a great feeling of impending doom. All six parts were included in The Best of White Dwarf Scenarios Volume III.
- RA1 Feast of Goblyns. Everyone knows about the original Ravenloft module. However, after TSR decided to turn Ravenloft into an entire campaign setting, they came out with this overlooked horror of an adventure. A great introduction for players and characters new to Ravenloft (and possibly a real shock for cocky players who think they’ve seen it all). Big on atmosphere (and with plenty of tips along the way to help DMs creep out their players). My favourite ‘scary’ D&D adventure.
- H1 Bloodstone Pass. Part roleplaying adventure, part miniatures battle (using the just-released Battlesystem miniatures rules), Bloodstone Pass was another example of taking D&D in a slightly different direction than simple dungeon-delving. Also a little unusual at the time in being an AD&D scenario for high level characters.
- OA5 Mad Monkey vs the Dragon Claw. The fifth Oriental Adventures scenario. This one is a romp involving oriental gods, secret societies and martial arts. The plot is all over the place in some ways, but the adventure is simply a lot of fun.
- Reverse Dungeon. Just like the PC game Dungeon Keeper. This time, instead of being the heroes raiding the dungeon, you’re the monsters. It’s actually three mini-campaigns in which the players play in turn a goblin tribe, guardian abominations and finally ancient undead. Different, fun, clever – a great one-off change of pace adventure.
- Die Vecna Die! The last AD&D product (before 3rd edition), the last product to be branded ‘TSR’ and the end of an era. Oh, and one which links Greyhawk, Ravenloft and Planescape and two of D&D’s most iconic bad guys (Vecna and Iuz). High-level multiverse-shattering, apocalyptic end-of-everything stuff. And sort of an explanation of why third edition rules are different from second edition.
- The Last Days of Constantinople. One of the best things about the Open Gaming Licence that came in with 3rd edition was the flexibility it gave third party publishers to do something different with the game. This was an almost straight historical adventure set in Constantinople just before its fall to the Turks. It’s only 46 pages, but packs a hell of a lot in – the last Roman Emperor, Vlad the Impaler, exotic courtesans, palace intrigue, arquebuses, greek fire and 100,000 Turks! Oh, and a big crocodile.
- In Search of New Gods. A short, but very well-written British adventure that rewards clever players as much as powerful characters.
- UK4 When A Star Falls. I think this is the best of the (generally excellent) ‘UK’ series of AD&D modules produced by the UK office of TSR. Interesting NPCs and makes plenty of use of lesser known monsters out of Monster Manual II and the Fiend Folio.
- FRC2 Curse of the Azure Bonds. The PCs wake up covered in blue tattoos – the ‘azure bonds’ of the title – and embark on a quest to find out what they are and how to remove them. One of those adventures where there’s a lot going on in the background, and where the PCs can make radically different choices regarding how they deal with the threats and who they ally with. As such, it’s not the easiest module to run, and needs a fair bit of preparation, but it’s ultimately very rewarding.
- When Black Roses Bloom. Takes one of DragonLance’s best villains, Lord Soth, and puts him in a Ravenloft realm created by his own nightmares. An adventure that rewards thoughtful play.
- Revenge of the Giants. A loving homage to the 1st edition G1-3 Against the Giants modules, this fourth edition hardback campaign added plenty of extra new material. A lot of people don’t like 4th edition, but if they don’t try this, they’re definitely missing out. Individual encounters are set out in detail, with plenty of advice for the DM on the tactics that the giants and other monsters use. One of the best modern dungeon crawl adventures.
- The Lair of Maldred the Mighty. A White Dwarf adventure (issue 24) for highish level characters. A dungeon crawl, but the equal of most of those famous 1st edition dungeon crawls published by TSR, and it was included in a magazine costing 75p. The only problem? Really small print! It’s also included in The Best of White Dwarf Scenarios Volume II.
- The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga’s odd hut-on-chicken-legs first appeared in D&D in the 1976 Original D&D supplement Eldritch Wizardry. It’s actually from slavic folklore, and you’ll also find it in the Call of Cthulhu campaign ‘Horror on the Orient Express‘. This is one of the weirdest of all official D&D modules. You thought the spaceship in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks was odd? How about alternate reality Tokyo?
- X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield. An army of desert nomads (the same desert nomads as in ‘Master of the Desert Nomads‘) invades the civilised world and it’s up to the PCs to lead the defence. It’s more of a strategic war game using the Companion Set’s War Machine battle rules (or Battlesystem) than a pure adventure, but there is plenty of shuttle diplomacy included too. It came with a map of the D&D world and plenty of counters
- B6 The Veiled Society. Most low level D&D adventures are dungeon crawls. For no apparent reason, it seems that writers think that political intrigue and diplomacy is for higher level characters. The Veiled Society is an exception. At a time when many AD&D players would look down on Basic D&D as simplistic, Basic D&D players were playing through this complex (if all too short) scenario.
- P1 King of the Trollhaunt Warrens. There aren’t as many 4th edition adventures as you’d hope for, but this is certainly a good one. It’s a ‘paragon’ level (i.e. highish) adventure with 4th edition’s typically high production values. The villain is a self-declared king of the trolls who has acquired a powerful magic cauldron (and who reminded me of the cavewight Drool Rockworm from Thomas Covenant).
- Marauders of the Dune Sea. 4th edition never had enough adventures. The Dark Sun setting has never had enough adventures. Good job that this 4th edition Dark Sun adventure is so good then! Serves as a good introduction to the setting and the sort of campaign that makes it easy for the DM to add extra mini-adventures in here and there.
We have some of these adventures in stock here at The Shop on the Borderlands, so if you’d like to add to your collection, follow the links.
What D&D adventures do you think deserve the status of forgotten classics?