The best campaigns for D&D 5e

Learn about the best campaigns available in D&D 5e

Playing D&D can be a huge amount of fun but lives and dies on the quality of the campaign being played. From epic fantasy adventures, vast sprawling dungeons to solving mysterious in a haunted village, there’s a huge variety to the kinds of adventures you can embark on.

Your enjoyment may depend a lot on what you enjoy most too but home-brewing your own campaign is not only a huge amount of work, it may also be a struggle to create an experience as good as those published by the professionals. Thankfully we’ve compiled a list of the best premade campaigns around for D&D 5e.

While everyone’s tastes may differ, we’ve tried to include those campaigns we’ve had the most fun with. There’s a good mix here though and imagine there’s something for everyone in the list below.

Lost Mines of Phandelver

lost mines of phandelver dungeons and dragons
Campaign NameLost Mines of Phandelver
SettingForgotten Realms (Sword Coast)
Edition5th edition
Character levels1-5
Print length50 pages
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication Date15th July 2014

There’s no better way to kick things off than with the absolute best starter campaign. Lost Mines of Phandelver is a fantastic campaign for first time players. It’s not as deadly as many on this list, is for characters from levels 1-5, and while you are given options and opportunities to explore, it’s never overwhelming.

It’s an easy one for new DMs to run too with a mysterious plot that never gets overly complex and with a plot that mostly goes from A-B rather than meandering through points C-Z like some more complex campaigns.

If you’re new to D&D, we highly recommend this campaign which also happens to be completely free – you can access it from D&D Beyond here. Wizards of the Coast are also releasing an expanded version of the campaign this year which will hopefully give you even more fun from this campaign.

Curse of Strahd

Curse of Strahd
Campaign NameCurse of Strahd
SettingRavenloft (Barovia)
Edition5th edition
Character levelsAbout 1-10
Print length256 pages
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication Date15th March 2016

Curse of Strahd is where D&D gets a lot more dangerous and deadly. Players will find themselves in the forboding Domain of Dread known as Barovia where they’ll be hunted by the Darklord Strahd von Zarovich himself. He is a self-obsessed vampire that seeks to win the heart of the love of his life, and is cursed to never accomplish that goal.

Curse of Strahd is a very open campaign with interesting elements of randomisation created by the use of fortune telling making different playthroughs very different to one another. On top of that, there’s a huge amount of adventuring to work your way through with the campaign set out in such a way that you could have players doing many side-missions and them still not discovering many of the quests available making each playthrough unique.

The campaign peaks as the players hunt down Strahd himself in Castle Ravenloft, a huge dungeon in its own right. The wonderful thing about Curse of Strahd though, is it’s difficult to know whether the adventurers are the hunters or the hunted!

If you like dark, gothic adventures where death stalks your every moment and adventures where the villain is well-known with a deep and fleshed out backstory, then this is most certainly the adventure for you. Some claim it to be the best campaign ever created, and we certainly won’t refute that best on our experience!

Ghosts of Saltmarsh

Ghosts of Saltmarsh
Campaign NameGhosts of Saltmarsh
SettingGreyhawk, though it can be inserted into most other settings
Edition5th edition
Character levels1-12
Print length256 pages
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication Date21st May 2019

Ghosts of Saltmarsh is technically 7 different adventures that can be easily run together into a whole campaign or run separately as one shots. As you’d expect, these adventures tend towards the spookier side of things with ghosts and undead involved. If you enjoy a seafaring adventure, Ghosts of Saltmarsh also has a lot of that, in fact, it includes rules for seafaring adventures.

Ghosts of Saltmarsh will take players from levels 1-12 but each adventure played as a one shot has an ideal level for characters to play at too. Some long-term players may recognise some of the adventures in this book. Each adventure is an updated version of previously published adventures, updated for 5th edition and refined where necessary. Each adventure is excellent and when run together as a campaign, each story ties together in a satisfying way.

Storm King’s Thunder

Storm King's Thunder
Campaign NameStorm King’s Thunder
SettingForgotten Realms (Sword Coast)
Edition5th edition
Character levelsAbout 1-10
Print length256 pages
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication Date6th September 2016

With storm king missing and clans of giants running rampage across the land, competing for leadership, it is up to the players to solve the problems on the Sword Coast. You’ll be up against a lot of giants in this adventure that takes characters from 1st to 10th level.

Storm King’s Thunder is one of the most open and sandbox adventures available with choices that make a meaningful impact on later events. It also has many options to explore the world however players choose with very little hand holding involved.

If you like quests with big consequences, a big, sandbox world to explore and, of course, giants, then Storm King’s Thunder is for you.

Call of the Netherdeep

Call of the Netherdeep
Campaign NameCall of the Netherdeep
SettingTal’Dorei
Edition5th edition
Character levels3-12
Print length224 pages
PublisherCritical Role and Wizards of the Coast
Publication Date15th March 2022

Critical Role’s officially published adventure, Call of the Netherdeep, takes players to Exandria where they must either be led by fate, or compete with a group of rivals to become the fated ones.

Call of the Netherdeep has you competing with a group of rivals adventurers and is probably the best campaign we’ve seen for making this kind of rivalry work. It’s great if you can nail it and keep the competition between the groups meaningful (which the book does a great job of helping you do) but does require a bit of extra focus from the DM (this campaign may be challenging for newer DMs).

The campaign culminates in a mega dungeon, taking up about 40% of the campaign itself and is filled with psychological horrors and a smattering of underwater exploration.

If you’re a fan of Critical Role, Tal’Dorei, psychological horror, mega dungeons and adventurer rivalries, then this is a great campaign for you. We’d just suggest it’s better for slightly more experienced groups.

Out of the Abyss

Out of the Abyss
Campaign NameOut of the Abyss
SettingForgotten Realms (the Underdark)
Edition5th edition
Character levels1-15
Print length256 pages
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication Date15th September 2015

As you might have guessed from the title, Out of the Abyss is about demons, and more specifically, Demon Lords that have escaped their Abyssal home and begin carving out their own portions of the Underdark as their new bases of operations.

Players will start at level 1 attempting to escape the drow who have imprisoned them and want to take them as slaves. Once escaped (if they escape) players will need to survive the horrors of the Underdark which have been more horrific of late due to the demonic presence permeating the darkness.

If it wasn’t obvious, this is a hard campaign. The Underdark is unforgiving and you start there at level 1 with only your basic equipment to survive with. You’ll later go toe to toe with demon lords too!

Out of the Abyss is an excellent campaign but is definitely not for inexperienced DMs or players. It has many different things to keep track of like many NPCs with complicated motives, character madness, supplies plus all the usual things too. But if you love the Underdark, demons, survival adventures and tough combat that will take absolutely test players’ mettle, then Out of the Abyss is for you.

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist

Campaign NameWaterdeep: Dragon Heist
SettingForgotten Realms (Waterdeep)
Edition5th edition
Character levels1-5
Print length256 pages
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication Date18th September 2018

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist is a little different from the other campaigns on this list. It’s a city based campaign for starters, based in… You guessed it… Waterdeep! It’s shorter than others too, taking parties from 1st to 5th levels. It has 4 different options for how the campaign can be played with the DM picking one of 4 villains as the main antagonist which has a meaningful difference in what happens and how the campaign plays out in its latter portion.

This means that this campaign actually has a decent sense of replayability to it. The only disadvantage is that it also means it is a tad on the short side. However, it’s still an excellent adventure that’s lighter on the combat and dungeon crawling and heavier on the role playing and the subterfuge.

If that sounds appealing to you, then Dragon Heist is a great option and if you want to carry on the adventure, then there is a sequel; Dungeon of the Mad Mage. It’s excellent for completely different reasons, but more on that in a moment.

Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Dungeon of the Mad Mage
Campaign NameWaterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage
SettingForgotten Realms (Waterdeep)
Edition5th edition
Character levels5-20
Print length256 pages
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication Date20th November 2018

Thankfully, Dragon Heist’s sequel also makes the cut and it’s a much longer affair, taking characters from level 5 to 20.

Dungeon of the Mad Mage is completely different to Dragon Heist as you’ll find yourself delving into a 23 layer dungeon. It’s tough too. Where Dragon Heist is nice and accessible, Dungeon of the Mad Mage will really test your combat skills and wits. For some, this will be excellent, for others, it’s good to be aware that this campaign is a bit one note. Yes there are role playing elements, but through and through, this is a massive dungeon crawl. But if that’s what you like, then this is a great option.

Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden

Rime of the Frostmaiden
Campaign NameIcewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden
SettingForgotten Realms (Icewind Dale)
Edition5th edition
Character levels1-11
Print length319 pages
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication Date15th September 2020

Rime of the Frostmaiden is another sandbox style adventure taking players from levels 1-11. It has the party attempt exploring the 10 towns and the other parts of Icewind Dale in an attempt to end Auril’s permanent winter.

While it can start with a slight lack of direction towards the main quest, the side missions players begin engaging in are all top notch and give players the freedom to really explore what’s going on before tackling the main quest. It also has excellent, random player hooks made from cards randomly assigned to players and giving them reasons to really explore Icewind Dale to find a resolution to their personal problem.

If you enjoy sandbox adventures, great mysteries and aliens… Then you’ll love Rime of the Frostmaiden.

Tomb of Annihilation

Tomb of Annihilation
Campaign NameTomb of Annihilation
SettingForgotten Realms (Lost Land of Chult)
Edition5th edition
Character levelsAbout 1-12
Print length256 pages
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication Date19th September 2017

Taking inspiration from Gary Gygax’s super punishing adventure, Tomb of Horrors, Tomb of Annihilation is an excellent and very difficult dungeon crawl. Players will face off against cults and undead hordes in this campaign for levels 1-12.

While the first part of the campaign is only hard, the later section with all the dungeons is maniacal! There are traps everywhere, fiendish enemies and real potential for total party kills. If you like your adventures old school with plenty of dungeon crawling and something that’s really hard, then this campaigns for you.

Shadow of the Dragon Queen

Shadow of the Dragon Queen
Campaign NameDragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
SettingDragonlance
Edition5th edition
Character levels1-10
Print length224 pages
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication Date6th December 2022

The newest campaign on this list, Shadow of the Dragon Queen is also a long-awaited return to the Dragonlance setting. Set during the events of the Dragonlance Chronicles books but following a different part of the war of the lance, Shadow the Dragon Queen is much more of a war epic giving players a very different experience than most other campaigns with skirmishes aplenty.

Shadow of the Dragon Queen will take characters from levels 1 to 10 across the lands of Krynn. if you’re a fan of war epics and the Dragonlance books, then this campaign is for you. If you prefer your adventures less linear and more of a sandbox, you might want to look at other options.

Tales from the Yawning Portal

Tales from the Yawning Portal
Campaign NameTales from the Yawning Portal
SettingVaries
Edition5th edition
Character levels1-20
Print length248 pages
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication Date4th April 2017

Tales from the Yawning Portal is a compilation of 7 of the best dungeon crawling adventures from past editions updated and improved for 5th edition. These really are some of the best adventures available from past editions and are pretty faithfully remade.

Like Ghosts of Saltmarsh, these adventures can be played as self-contained adventures or as a series of adventures as part of a wider campaign.

Each adventure targets players of different levels from 1st all the way through to 20th if you dare brave Tomb of Horrors.

Published by DM Ben

Ben is an experienced dungeon master and player who's been immersed in the D&D universe since he was a teenager over 20 years ago. When he's not writing for Dungeon Mister, Ben loves creating fiendish puzzles and devious dungeons for his players. He's an especially big fan of the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings.

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