One of the best ways of introducing players to Dungeons & Dragons is via a one-shot adventure. Unlike a Dungeons & Dragons campaign adventure, a one-shot is specifically designed to be completed in one session and usually takes only a few hours to complete.
There are a few reasons to run a one-shot adventure. Maybe you want to teach some new players how to run their new character. Or maybe you want to take a break between longer campaigns. Or maybe your players can't commit to a multi-part storyline but still really want to play Dungeons & Dragons.
If you're looking for some new one-shot adventures to run, you might want to check out the DMs Guild - a marketplace licensed by Wizards of the Coast. Unlike most adventures written by third parties, those found on the DMs Guild use official Dungeons & Dragons locations, monsters, and characters - so you can introduce players to the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, Ravenloft, or other famous D&D locales.
Keep scrolling down to check out some of the best one-shot adventures currently available today:
One of the best uses of a one-shot is to introduce players to what Dungeons & Dragons is all about. Sometimes that means pushing players to solve a mystery, or explore a dungeon, or solve a simple problem that becomes more complex as they start to dig into it.
"Hunted" by Tony Petrecca is an interesting adventure that involves players investigating a series of attacks on livestock in a small village. Players have to determine whether it was a nearby troop of orcs, a wild dire wolf pack, or something else entirely that is causing the chaos around the small village. I like "Hunted" because it features some subversions of expectations and reminds players that not all monsters are evil.
Another adventure that offers up a mix of mystery and combat is "Shore of Dreams" by Florian Emmerich and JVC Parry. This adventure puts a party in the path of an alluring triton who is harboring a dark secret and is attempting to obtain a powerful magic item.
"Moon Over Graymoor" is a classic murder mystery by S. T. Mannell. Players need to solve a series of murders in the small town of Graymoor, but they quickly learn that the murders aren't as straightforward as they originally appear. This adventure contains multiple suspects, a classic twist, and a good ol' fashioned showdown with the real murderer at its conclusion.
If you're looking for an adventure that involves a dragon, you should check out "Dragon on the Mount" by Jordan Peterson. Players are tasked by a village to stop a red dragon from destroying their town, but things (of course) are a little more complicated than it seems.
Sometimes, players just want to explore a dungeon and loot it for treasure. The dungeon crawl is a classic part of Dungeons & Dragons and are usually easy to run adventures perfect for the beginning DM.
"Temple of the Mad Dragon Priestess" is a dungeon crawl for first level adventurers by Jean A Headley. The adventure involves clearing out an old smuggler's den of kobolds and is the perfect way to introduce players to a core part of D&D's gameplay.
If you're looking for a dungeon crawl suited for more advanced players, "Temple of the Opal Goddess" by Micah Watt is designed for 5th to 7th level adventurers and sends players in search of a captured noble who was on an expedition to explore an ancient temple. This is a fun adventure with plenty of twists and turns and can easily be fleshed out into a mini-campaign if players get invested.
Looking for an easy introduction to a larger campaign? There are plenty of great one-shot adventures designed to give players an easy way to bring a party together and push them towards a common goal.
"Sorrow's Ruin" by Blaise Wigglesworth is an introductory adventure for 1st level players that involves the rescue of a small town cleric from the worshippers of an evil god. The players quickly discover they're caught up in something much bigger, which can lead into the start of either a homebrew campaign or further adventures written by Wigglesworth.
Another interesting one-shot is "The Boneyard" by Adam Hancock. Instead of collecting adventurers together for the first time, "The Boneyard" assumes that the players are members of an old adventuring party that re-unite once a year to remember a fallen friend. However, the graveyard that their friend is buried in was damaged in an earthquake, and now the dead are returning as zombies for an unknown reason. Players have to find the cause of the recent undead outbreak, and possibly confront their fallen friend in the first place.
Many Dungeons & Dragons players are exploring the famed city of Waterdeep thanks to the release of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, two full length adventures published by Wizards of the Coast. As such, DMs Guild has tons of complimentary adventures that can either be used to enhance one of those existing adventures or as an introduction to the City of Splendors.
Two adventures, written by Ben Eastman, directly tie into Dragon Heist. Both "One Hand Washes the Other" and "Waste Not, Want Not" involve the upkeep of a dilapidated mansion players come into possession of while adventuring in Waterdeep. When certain things go wrong in the mansion, players can offer up their unique skillsets (namely breaking and entering and stabbing bad guys) in exchange for skilled laborers to come and fix up the mansion.
"The Perilous Pact" by the Dungeon Rollers isn't a direct tie-in to Dragon Heist, but it does contain some thematic elements that tie into that adventure. "The Perilous Pact" involves players confronting a wealthy merchant who made a literal deal with the devil that puts the entire city at risk.
Finally, there's "The Bone Dancer" by Christian Eichhorn. This is a heist style adventure and is perfect for players that are disappointed by the lack of actual heists involved in the Dragon Heist campaign.
One of my favorite fantasy settings is the Feywild, a plane inhabited by the fey and faeries. While the fey are known for their whimsy, they can also be dangerous foes. "The Midnight Revelry," by Christopher Walz, is a fantastic introduction to the mercurial and vindictive ways of the fey. Players are tasked with rescuing the inhabitants of a small village that has drawn the ire of a fey noble. Players have to uncover why the village was targeted and fight the fey on their home turf.
Another strange realm is the Astral Plane, a place between worlds where the Githyanki live. "The Lich-Queen's Begotten" by MT Black introduces players to the Githyanki, their powerful lich-queen leader, and the strange rivalries between the githyanki, the githzerai, and mind flayers.
There's also the elemental planes, where creatures made of fire, water, or electricity make their home. "Merchant of Jade Waters" by Dave Coulson will send players to the City of Glass at the heart of the Plane of Water in search of some stolen goods.
Are you looking for something a bit different to throw at players? These one-shots offer up some unusual encounters that should surprise and delight players.
"The Wizard of Zo" by JVC Parry is, as its name suggests, a homage to The Wizard of Oz, complete with its own Toto, winged monkeys, and references to other classic characters from the Frank Baum books. This is a fun one-shot adventure that takes an unusual theme and really commits to it, giving players a dungeon filled with dangers that will both challenge them and make them laugh.
Another strange but hilarious adventure is "Shit Bird Shit Fight" by Luciella Elisabeth Scarlett. The adventure involves giant emus and a magic item wielding bird set on world domination. This adventure highlights some of the strange routes a Dungeons & Dragons campaign can take and should make players laugh a lot.
If you're looking for a darker horror themed adventure, try "The Madhouse of Tasha's Kiss" by Jeff C. Stevens and Remley Farr. This is a very creepy and unsettling adventure involved a demon-possessed jester and a pocket dimension that can drive people mad. This is a perfect adventure for those looking for something darker at their gaming table.
Recently, Dungeons & Dragons incorporated the Magic: The Gathering world of Ravnica into its multiverse. If you're looking to try out an adventure set within this classic Magic: The Gathering setting, you might want to give one of these adventures a try.
"The Heart of Svogthos" by Richard Malena-Webber gives players an introduction to the machinations of several Ravnica guilds and sends them into the depths of the city to stop a potentially destructive necromantic storm. This adventure involves multiple guilds and showcases some of the strange magic and nuances of Ravnica.
There's also "Off to a Weird Start" by Beatriz T. Dias and Travis Legge. This adventure involves the Izzet League, strange experiments, and sabotage. It also ties into a greater campaign written by the pair.