Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition is known for its widespread lore and large adventures that puts players in the middle of the story. While full campaigns are fun, they can also be daunting for both players and Dungeon Masters, and this is especially true for beginners of the game.
For those that fall into the beginner camp, one-shots are a great option to learn how to play Dungeons and Dragons or, similarly, learn how to run a game. In this article, we will look at some of the best beginner one-shots, all meant to be run at level 1 to offer a true first-time experience while still allowing one to keep their character and carry over to main campaigns if they enjoy it.
The Lost Mines of Phandelver
The Lost Mines of Phandelver is an iconic introductory adventure designed for level 1 characters of any class and build.
Set in the Forgotten Realms, this one-shot takes players on a thrilling quest to recover a lost treasure and confront the nefarious forces that seek to control it.
Balanced encounters, plenty of exploration opportunities, and an engaging storyline make for an excellent choice for beginner and veteran players alike to enjoy.
The encounters in the Lost Mines of Phandelver are carefully crafted to introduce new players to combat mechanics without overwhelming them. Players will face a variety of challenges, including goblins, spiders, and even a menacing dragon that may or may not be conquerable depending on how your party is built and how it handles encounters.
Exploration and Role-Playing Opportunities
This adventure encourages exploration and interaction with non-playable characters (NPCs) without the need for a Dungeon Master-controlled character (DMC) to guide the party. Players are able to immerse themselves in the rich lore of the Forgotten Realms and can make impactful choices that shape the story as a whole.
The game material even provides a fully-fledged city named Phandalin complete with various locations that players can be guided to or find on their own. There are also robust characters that the material outlines for players to talk with tied to each location, so beginner Dungeon Masters have to do less preemptive prep work before running the game.
The Lost Mines of Phandelver is more than just a chance to run through some combat and test out classes, as most one-shots tend to become. The story is compelling, twisting, mysterious, and memorable. From the enigmatic Rockseeker brothers to the villainous Black Spider, the story for this one shot will keep players engaged from beginning to end.
A Most Potent Brew
A Most Potent Brew is second on our list of recommended one-shots. This adventure is both lighthearted and humorous- perfect for introducing new players to the world of Dungeons and Dragons.
Aside from the fun and whimsical setting, this adventure also has plenty of social interactions and investigative problem-solving scenarios that go beyond simple combat and dice rolls.
Fun and Whimsical Setting
Set in a town known for its love of brewing potions, A Most Potent Brew presents a vibrant and colorful world where players can encounter eccentric characters and participate in comedic situations. Players that want to work on more extrovertive roleplaying will enjoy the opportunities that come about in this setting.
This adventure encourages role-playing and social interactions with various townsfolk, providing opportunities for players to flex their diplomacy or persuasion skills.
Again, players looking to be extrovertive- by nature or experimentation- will find many opportunities to do so within this adventure. Dungeon Masters should encourage but not push for role-play and allow players to find their comfort zone while maintaining character as much as possible.
Investigation and Problem-Solving
The story’s mystery revolves around unraveling the mystery of a magical potion gone wrong. Investigation and problem-solving are key for the intended solutions, but regardless of how players choose to approach puzzles, they must discover the source of the game’s chaos and set it right as soon as possible.
The Sunless Citadel
Next up on the list is The Sunless Citadel. One of the first one-shots to be officially made for 5th Edition, The Sunless Citadel takes players into the depths of a forgotten citadel overrun by goblins, kobolds, and other monstrous creatures.
This classic adventure will promote exploration and dungeon crawling, showcase dynamic factions, and give exciting rewards even by one-shot standards. Players looking for a more pure, almost stereotypical D&D experience will find success in this adventure.
Exploration and Dungeon Crawling
The Sunless Citadel presents a dungeon-crawling experience, allowing players to navigate a series of interconnected chambers filled with various traps and puzzles. Whether playing in person or online, the number of map resources available will make players feel the true dungeon-crawling experience that Dungeons and Dragons is capable of offering.
The adventure gives players two warring factions within the citadel itself. This creates opportunities for negotiation, alliances, and battles against different groups of creatures. If players know the adventure ahead of time, Dungeon Masters can present a challenge to spice the game up, such as a pacifist run, total elimination run, or some other creation that spices up gameplay.
Keep in mind that creating these challenges also calls for possible homebrewing, which then leads to the need for some play experience; therefore, beginner Dungeon Masters should stick to the play material until they are confident enough to branch out on their own.
The Sunless Citadel offers rewards throughout the adventure, allowing players to make use of them during the one-shot. Most one-shots like to offer large bounties of gold or extremely powerful weapons only to never be used again since the characters are all throw-aways.
However, this adventure remedies that by allowing the use of some treasure during the mission, and some rewards will vary based on decision-making throughout the story. Moreover, if the table decides to carry on with their characters into a full campaign, the rewards are just good enough to warrant use without breaking games within the first 5 levels.
Wolves of Welton
Wolves of Welton is among the more immersive and more challenging one-shots on this list. Still beginner-friendly, this adventure tasks players with investigating mysterious attacks happening to a small village. The setting creates an intriguing mystery, presents moral dilemmas, and uniquely allows for non-linear gameplay.
The truth behind the wolf attacks depends upon how players approach the situation and what outcomes they get out of their investigations. Is the situation as plain as it seems, or is there more to it than meets the eye? The adventure will keep players engaged with its suspenseful storyline and unexpected twists.
Wolves of Welton presents players with moral choices and ethical dilemmas, providing opportunities for role-playing and character development. Where A Most Potent Brew calls upon humorous and outgoing personalities, Wolves of Welton calls for philosophical and thought-provoking players to take control where they feel able. That’s not to say anyone is excluded from the one-shot, but different table personalities will resonate with this one-shot more than the others on this list.
The stand-out trait among Wolves of Welton, players are allowed to approach the investigation in their own way, offering multiple paths and possibilities based on their decisions. This may present a slightly more challenging experience for Dungeon Masters, but the overarching result will be a pleasant surprise for the whole table.
Conclusion on best one-shots for beginning players
One-shots provide players the chance to experience new parts of Dungeons and Dragons. Whether testing out a new class or being entirely new to the game as a whole, one-shots will create memorable experiences and positive gateways into the world of D&D.
In this article, we covered some of the more beginner-friendly adventures while maintaining the high-quality gameplay that players have come to expect from official adventures.
While homebrew one-shots are also quite fun, using official content supports new Dungeon Masters with navigating a different style of play and ensures balanced challenges for all. Pick your favorite adventure and go forth into the worlds of the Forgotten Realms.