Coming up with an entire world from scratch is challenging, not to mention filling that world with stories, characters, and enemies for your players. There are tons of resources for D&D campaign ideas, and we’re here to help you get started on your adventures! This guide will look at books published by Wizards of the Coast and adventures from sites such as Dungeon Masters Guild and Kobold Press.
Different campaigns can suit a Dungeon Master (DM) and their party better than others. We will go over a spread of these types and see what adventures you can take your party on in each world! Epic campaigns are what you think of when you think of high fantasy; Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones are a couple examples – the world itself is at stake! Dark campaigns have a horror element to them, and the tone is eerie; dark campaigns can have catastrophic implications or focus on the terrors of a small group. For something lighter, comical campaign options and adventures lend themselves to the inherent chaos of Dungeons and Dragons more than others! Finally, we’ll look at beginner-friendly campaigns. These campaigns are more like a series of one-shots and don’t have as many moving parts to keep track of – perfect for those learning the rules and getting a taste of what D&D has to offer.
Tales of long forgotten gods, epics spanning time, and evil so fierce only the mightiest of warriors can overcome it – these are the hallmarks of epic campaigns and settings. Any of the adventures here are sure to have your table in awe at the scale of their journey.
Mythic Odysseys of Theros: This book from Wizards of the Coast tells of the world of Theros and the gods that preside over it. Theros first premiered as a setting for WotC’s other popular game: Magic: The Gathering. In the Dungeons and Dragons sourcebook, you’ll see ideas for campaigns centered around all of the gods in the Theros pantheon, including Heliod and Thassa. There are also new subclasses, races, and mechanics based around the world of Theros, making it a perfect campaign setting for those who want to try something new.
Storm King’s Thunder: Another adventure from Wizards of the Coast, Storm King’s Thunder, takes place within the well-known world of the Forgotten Realms. In this story, adventurers must band together to stop the giant hordes (that’s hordes of giants!) from wreaking destruction upon the land. Storm King’s Thunder contains a multitude of information on the different types of giants and the new mechanics to flesh them out. It also has tie-ins to other popular D&D sourcebooks, such as Volo’s Guide to Monsters.
The Rise of Tiamat: She’s one of the most iconic baddies ever to threaten the tabletops of adventurers. She’s one hundred percent immune to any spell under 7th level! Tiamat is a formidable opponent for even the most experienced parties. In The Rise of Tiamat, players must stop the Queen of Dragons from uniting the five chromatic dragons and taking over the world. This adventure can be played alone or in tandem with Horde of the Dragon Queen in the Tyranny of Dragons book, making it perfect for a lengthier campaign. Tyranny of Dragons will take players nearly to max level, which is unique for an adventure book. The only other one to do that is Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage.
Are you and your party fans of things that go bump in the night? Do you want to terrify your table? Look no further than these horror-inspired campaigns! They cover a variety of horror genres – classic gothic or more claustrophobic dread.
Curse of Strahd: This is the quintessential gothic horror adventure from Wizards of the Coast. Parties travel to the land of Barovia, where the vampire lord Strahd von Zarovich terrorizes anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in his domain. In this campaign, players must find a way to end the curse placed on Strahd, lifting the dark fog that envelops Barovia. Curse of Strahd contains new monsters and player options based on classic gothic horror tropes. This campaign also pairs nicely with the newer Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft to flesh out all the spooky corners of the horrific multiverse.
Ghosts of Saltmarsh: This is another adventure from Wizards of the Coast, this time taking place in the world of Greyhawk. In Ghosts of Saltmarsh, players take on the role of “scallywags” and must help defend the city of Saltmarsh from pirates, monsters, and other threats. This campaign focuses uniquely on nautical adventures and offers new naval combat and seafaring mechanics, so it’s ideal for those who want a little more seafaring action at their table!
Out of the Abyss: The Underdark is a frightening and unforgiving place, and that’s just where Out of the Abyss puts adventurers. The tight caves of the Underdark are pressing in on the players as they wander throughout, having started with nothing but the clothes on their backs. In this campaign, players must find a way to escape the clutches of the demon lord known as the Demogorgon (no, not THAT Demogorgon). The book contains new monsters and mechanics sure to make the Underdark feel like the foreboding place that it is.
Dungeons and Dragons is a great way to hang out with friends and share in fantastical storytelling, but it’s not all fun and games… Or is it? These campaigns have a bit of a twist to them, perfect to add to the goofy fun that Dungeons and Dragons can be with the right groups!
Cat and Mouse: In this campaign found on Kobold Press, players take on the role of artifact hunters in a desert city, “where cats are sacred, and rats are sly.” A valuable artifact has gone missing, and the whole town is in an uproar about it! Animal folks are the name of the game in this treasure hunt.
Rise of the Redscales: Dungeon Masters Guild presents an adventure where everyone’s a kobold! Whether your kobold fancies itself a regal dragon or they are 3 feet of condensed chaos, there’s a type of kobold for everyone. This adventure advertises its abundance of magic items sure to sow chaos in the hands of kobolds, making it a perfect choice for those who want to add a bit of craziness to their table.
Keeping track of a whole world in motion is difficult. We can’t all have binders of lore to reference, and these adventures won’t make you! Beginner-friendly campaigns will have a smaller cast of characters and be more self-contained.
Defiance in Phlan: This adventure comes from Wizards of the Coast as a part of the Tyranny of Dragons Adventurers’ League. It’s broken up into five mini-adventures for first-level characters that take about an hour each. In these adventures, players will work together to stop cultists from exerting their power. This format is ideal for testing the waters or for DMs who want to have a quick one-shot.
Tales from the Yawning Portal: Another book from Wizards of the Coast, Tales from The Yawning Portal, is an adventure anthology. It contains seven different adventure modules that the players can experience in any order. These adventures are all classics from previous editions of Dungeons and Dragons. Within this book are: The Sunless Citadel, The Forge of Fury, The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, White Plume Mountain, Dead in Thay, Against the Giants, and the infamous Tomb of Horrors. This book is ideal for those who want a little taste of everything D&D has to offer, or try a hint of higher-level play for a one shot.
The Secrets of Skyhorn Lighthouse: In this adventure from Dungeon Masters Guild, players must uncover the mysteries surrounding the Jade Lion and the lighthouse to save the harbor from the rumored sea monster. The campaign is estimated to be 7 hours total time for a party of 5th-level characters. It contains new eelfolk monster stats, parlay with pirates, printable content for your in-person party, and virtual tabletop utilities too!
Here we have some other campaigns that didn’t quite fit into any other categories but are still worth a look! There are many adventure books that we have not gone over here, but that does not mean they should be ignored. Be sure to keep an eye out for any inspiration you may find.
Hoard of the Dragon Queen: This is the sister campaign to Rise of Tiamat, both from Wizards of the Coast. In this campaign, spanning from levels one through five, players must stop the Cult of the Dragon from gathering a massive hoard in preparation for Tiamat’s return to the Material Plane. Hoard of the Dragon Queen would be a good starting point that has the potential to turn into a longer-form campaign when played as a part of the Tyranny of Dragons collection.
Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden: This campaign by Wizards of the Coast takes place in the frigid tundra of Icewind Dale, isolated far from any other civilization. Players must contend with ever-present darkness threatening to consume all in its path. Inspired by works such as The Thing and At the Mountains of Madness, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden is a bone-chilling adventure for any party. This one is another book that has been used by Wizards of the Coast’s Adventurers’ League, so it has been officially broken up into smaller, more digestible chunks.
Eberron: Rising from the Last War: In this sourcebook, players see a new world far removed from the Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk. Eberron is a steampunk society and is picking up the pieces from this massive conflict. Most notably, this book contains the Artificer class and its original three subclasses: Alchemist, Artillerist, and Battle Smith. All of these have a unique take on the tinkerer trope! If you want your campaign to have some tech flair, Eberron is a perfect setting.
Other Related Questions
D&D Campaign Generator
There are many resources online to create campaigns and generate what you need to create a world. One of my favorites of these is “donjon,” which has everything from encounter and dungeon generators to magic items and initiative trackers. A good world map generator would be “Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator.” This generator creates everything from cities to weather patterns! The closest to a “campaign generator” would be any of these books and adventures mentioned in this article, which give you cities, characters, and plot points.
Epic D&D Campaign Ideas
One of the best places to look for inspiration for your campaigns is in other media. Do you want to create a campaign that has a big journey to a destination? Look to JRR Tolkien’s (or Peter Jackson’s) Lord of the Rings books (or movies). Does your party want to go on a hunt for ancient treasure? Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones would be great inspirations for traps and conflict along the way! Maybe your party wants something where characters’ interactions play a significant role in how the story unfolds. Most of Game of Thrones would provide a good framework for political intrigue, but perhaps not all the themes of the show/books should make their way to your table.
D&D Campaigns for Beginners
Any books mentioned above would be a great jumping-off point for beginners. Creating the world itself is one of the most complex parts, and campaign settings and adventure books do that for DMs so they can focus on the experience of the game itself. Once a DM is more used to running the game, that would be the best time to jump in and build the world. Or dive in headfirst and make the world while running the game. The best way to learn is to do it! Another great place to start would be running one-shots in the same world, which would help flesh out parts of the world without needing too much continuity.
D&D Campaign Builder
There are a lot of good resources online to help build up a world and flesh it out. Map-making tools like Inkarnate or Dungeon Scrawl will help you visualize your campaign’s world to make it more immersive. As mentioned previously, “donjon” is an excellent resource for randomly generating dungeons, magic items, and mundane shops. There are also many online options for random city generators that will spit out a map for you, given certain parameters. Applying all of these generators together would create a unique fully fleshed-out world!
D&D Campaign Ideas from Reddit
Reddit is a great site to glean ideas. Many subreddits have communities that focus on specific aspects of campaigns – cartography ones, subreddits where you can show off your homebrew monster, and ones for DM advice. Searching around the D&D subreddits will definitely be a fruitful venture and give you some new ideas to kickstart your campaign! Fair warning: if your players also browse Reddit, you risk them picking up on where you get your campaign from. There are many posts that ask questions that start with “If you’re part of my campaign, please don’t read further!”
Wrapping Things Up
D&D campaign ideas are as unique as each Dungeon Master! While all of these books make a great jumping-off point, the real magic of Dungeons and Dragons is that DMs and players have the ability to make any story their own. If you like the story of Curse of Strahd and Barovia’s vampires but really want the steampunk aesthetic of Eberron, you can mash the two up to create your vision! Anything written down isn’t necessarily law but a tool for you to create the best experience for your party and yourself.