Struggling to find ideas for your next D&D adventure? Well, here are our favorite D&D adventure ideas! Because sometimes the best way to get inspired is to read someone else’s ideas!
Our favorite D&D Adventure Ideas
These are 5 ideas you can try in your adventures! Short adventures and one-shots are great for experimenting with new ways of playing, so go wild. Don’t feel like you need to copy these ideas—use them as an outline or a base for your own game and it will be amazing!
1. A group of retired adventurers opens an inn—and it’s not as easy as they thought
The group of adventurers is, of course, the party! Managing an inn might seem easy for the average patron, but when the innkeepers are famous adventurers, problems keep piling in. This is a great framework for any adventure, as you can adapt it into virtually any kind of plot. From wererats in the basement to a full-on murder mystery, your imagination is the limit! Feel free to integrate this one with the next four D&D adventure ideas!
The best thing about this kind of adventure is that it provides a very easy thread to connect multiple one-shots together. And it can solve the schedule issues that show up in pretty much every D&D group out there. Since the player characters will always start and finish the session in the same place, having a character busy off-screen when the player can’t make it to the game is not a problem.
2. Some filthy adventurers are trying to destroy our master’s plan!
If that sounded like what an evil minion would say, it’s because it is! The idea here is that, for a one-shot or short adventure, your players take on the role of the evil boss’ minions. This will probably require lawful evil alignments and you’ll definitely need to talk with your players about it beforehand—not everyone enjoys evil adventures. But it’s a great opportunity to switch things around and have them see how an evil faction works in your setting. And since the players always win, the bad guys will get the opportunity to actually achieve their goals for once!
This can be applied to all kinds of adventures, but if you want to go the extra mile, you could set this adventure in a world you’ve already played in with your players! Make sure to pick a conflict that wasn’t central to the campaign’s plot. This way, your players will already know the world but will also have all the freedom to act without having to retcon the previous campaign.
3. A magical AI is waking up and wants to take over
Before you skip this—yes, this can work without issues in a D&D without homebrew! The idea is that the world is post-apocalyptic but it’s been so long that no one remembers it, other than distant legends. If you’ve played Numenera, or watched or read The Wheel of Time, it’s the same kind of post-apocalyptic middle ages fantasy. Some remnants of old technology remain, but they are seen as spells, curses, or magical items. One such item is actually a powerful AI that’s been in sleep mode for millennia… until now.
The great thing about this one is that, while you can really lean into the sci-fi elements, you don’t need to! Treat the AI as a demon from another plane and leave the sci-fi as little easter eggs that your players might see but will have no real effect on the game.
4. Someone killed a beloved NPC… it’s murder mystery time!
If you enjoy social encounters rather than combat, try running a murder mystery. This comes with its challenges—namely, you need to make sure your players will get to the right answer eventually without making it too obvious. It can be a difficult balance to strike, but seeing all the hints you’ve dropped come together for the resolution is very rewarding! And this doesn’t mean you can’t use combat, of course. Maybe they need to fight off some goblins to get to a clue!
To prepare a murder mystery adventure, start thinking about the mystery itself, without taking the players into consideration yet. What really happend? Then, use this information to fill the setting with clues—and include at least one reason for each NPC to be there that day. Don’t forget to plan for too-easy magical solutions (zone of truth is dangerous! Consider using an anti-magic field) and avoid having too many suspects or you’ll overwhelm your players.
5. The players play as sidekicks in an adventuring party
Plot twist—the adventurers are frauds and the sidekicks (the players) are doing all the work! Make sure you really lean into this dynamic: the adventurers are world-famous, everyone knows their names, and they’ve even written books about their adventures. Yes, they are the Gilderoy Lockharts of D&D! But your players know the truth: they are the real protagonists of the story. From here, it’s your choice to decide if you want the relationship between the adventurers and the sidekicks to be friendly or not. Maybe they keep them on their good side so they help them willingly. Or maybe the sidekicks are working with them because the adventurers bribed them or threatened their families.
If you want to run a D&D one-shot or a short adventure, make this the central conflict. The players will need to either accept it or realize that they don’t need the adventurers and confront them. If this is the first adventure of a longer campaign, it’s a great way to introduce the players to the world and give them a clear development.
What are your favorite D&D adventure ideas? Let us know in the comments! And make sure to create an account in World Anvil to create your own adventures and share them with the world!
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