D&D 5E: A Guide to the Published Campaigns

Lost Mine of Phandelver

Author: Rich Baker

Released: 15 July 2014

Levels: 1-5

Theme: Fighting goblinoids for the control of an ancient mine and its riches.

Plot summary: Centuries-old mine, previously held by dwarves and gnomes, and destroyed due to orc invasion, has been rediscovered. A trio of dwarves who stumbled across it is not the only party interested in re-opening the mine and seizing it’s riches. Players will be asked to escort some supplies but will quickly find themselves right in the middle of the power struggle. The winner will take the Wave Echo Cave and all the magic it has to offer.

What to expect: Goblins and orcs being used heavily by a mysterious villain known as the Black Spider. First fights are relatively easy but will help new players to understand how the combat mechanics work. Although, it’s worth remembering that first-level characters are squishy, and a well-placed critical hit from a goblin can take them straight to the death’s doors. Storyline is quite straightforward, and might be boring for experienced players. There is enough place for NPC interaction in the town of Phandalin, selling and procuring any mundane equipment should not be a problem. After removing some miscreants from the town, players will spend some time looking for clues and following rumours in search of the Black Spider, and then delve into the final dungeon.

Bosses: bugbear, drow wizard, green young dragon.

Common monsters: adventurer, bandit, bugbear, cultist, doppelganger, flameskull, ghoul, giant spider, goblin, grick, hobgoblin, nothic, ochre jelly, ogre, orc, owlbear, skeleton, spectator, stirge, thug, twig blight, wolf, wraith, zombie.

Notable magical items: Boots of Striding and Springing, Gauntlets of Ogre Power, Spider Staff, Staff of Defense, Hew (+1 battleaxe).

Extras in the book: Info on running the adventures for first-time DMs, adventure hooks, pre-generated characters (included in the starter set), introduction to Forgotten Realms setting, descriptions & stats of all monsters and magical items encountered (no need to buy Monster Manual or Dungeon Master’s Guide to run this module), new monster: Ash Zombie (p. 31).

Hoard of the Dragon Queen

Author: Wolfgang Baur & Steve Winter

Released: 19 August 2014

Levels: 1-7

Theme: Fighting the evil cult to stop them from releasing Tiamat back to the Material Plane.

Plot summary: The Cult of the Dragon seeks the ways to free Tiamat from her hellish prison. As the cultist plunder and collect the hoard of treasure for their queen, players are caught in the dragon fire. Following the trail, they’ll discover the nefarious plot and start the journey which should take them to the end of this campaign and straight into the next one.

What to expect: The plot is rather straightforward, and doesn’t allow much free-roaming. They players will encounter mostly cultists, kobolds, drakes, and other reptilians, while following the clues and tracks leading them ultimately to the castle in the sky.

Bosses: adult blue dragon, adult white dragon, cloud giant, half-dragon, red wizard.

Common monsters:  ambush drake, bullywug, cultist, guard drake, kobold, lizardfolk, mage, ogre, stone giant, stone golem.

Notable magical items: Black Dragon Mask, Hazirawn (+1 greatsword), Insignia of Claws, Wand of Winter.

Extras in the book: Map of the Sword Coast, table with bonds allowing to connect the characters to the story, 14 new monsters, 4 magic items. The appendix covering the rules and monster stats is available online, so the campaign (together with The Rise of Tiamat) is playable without DMG and Monster Manual.

The Rise of Tiamat

Author: Alexander Winter and Steve Winter

Released: 4 November 2014

Levels: 8-15

Theme: The race against time (and the Cult of the Dragon) continues.

Plot summary: In an uneasy and fragile alliance with Red Wizards of Thay, Cult of the Dragon prepares the sacrifices necessary to bring Tiamat back to the Material Plane. It’s up to the players to stop the bloodshed, preferably by mercilessly cutting down all of the opponents.

What to expect: Even more drakes and dragons, and a slightly more relaxed design of the story. Players will be encouraged to interact with large organisations (Harpers, Zhentarim), and there’s enough space for side-treks, politics, intrigue and following random rumours.

Bosses: red wizard, Tiamat

Common monsters: cultist, devil, dragon, guard drake, kobold, mage, troll.

Notable magical items: Draakhorn, Dragontooth Dagger, Mask of the Dragon Queen.

Extras in the book: 11 monsters (including stats for Tiamat CR 30), 3 magic items.

Princes of the Apocalypse

Author: Rich Baker, Mike Mearls

Released: 7 April 2015

Levels: 1-15

Theme: A homage to 1E Elemental Evil – a cosmic threat to the world as the four elemental princes grow restless in their realms.

Plot summary: Four elemental cults wreck havoc in the quiet valley, while bickering and fighting for power and more cultists. Players finds themselves opposing four different organisations and collecting some pretty amazing magical items.

What to expect: Dungeon crawls, mostly. There’s 13 of them, and though they’re linked, the story is rather sandbox-y, allowing players to wander around the Dessarin Valley and discover things as they please. Note: if they stray from the path too badly, they might die a painful death. It’s a campaign for levels 1-15, and some of the areas are deadly for low-level characters. Prepare for fighting with elementals and colour-coded cultists.

Bosses: druid, medusa, primordials, sorcerer, wizard.

Common monsters: aarakocra, ankheg, bandit, bugbear, bulette, crocodile, cultist, dragon, duergar, elemental myrmidon, elemental, giant octopus, giant vulture, griffon, hell hound, hippogriff, hobgoblin, hydra, kenku, kuo-toa, lich, lizardfolk, mage, manticore, mephit, monk, piercer, roper, rust monster, thug, umber hulk, water weird, zombie.

Notable magical items:  Ring of Swimming, Ring of Fire Resistance, Intelligent Weapon, Dwarven Thrower, Alchemy Jug, Immovable Rod, Tentacle Rod, Pearl of Power, Stone of Luck, Ring of Cold Resistance, Dragon Slayer, Driftglobe, Mariner’s Armor, Figurine of Wondrous Power (Silver Raven).

Extras in the book: extra side quests for different levels of characters, new playable race (the Genasi, in four elemental variants), 45 new elemental spells, new magical items, new monsters: elemental myrmidons and the four Princes of Elemental Evil. Also includes conversion guides for settings other than Forgotten Realms, and several pages with sketches and concept arts.

Out of the Abyss

Author: Christopher Perkins, Adam Lee, Richard Whitters

Released: 15 September 2015

Levels: 1-14

Theme: A bitter struggle to survive while jail-breaking from drows’ slave pens, with demon lords roaming around.

Plot summary: Escaping from the slave pens, the players will have to travel through Underdark, trying to survive or avoid both the random encounters and the drow pursuit. As the story unfolds, they get involved in the intrigue and power struggle between the denizens of Underdark, making and breaking alliances.

What to expect: Everything you could find in books about Drizzt Do’Urden, and then some. All of the demon lords, imagery inspired by Alice in Wonderland, and spiders. For a considerable amount of time, players have to take care of a plethora of NPCs – they’re not escaping alone. This also means that they have to run the NPCs, unless the DM is keen on adding ten NPCs to his/her/their workload. Equipping the players might be hard, as they start the campaign with next to nothing, and have to loot absolutely everything in hope to get some gear.

Bosses: Baphomet, Demogorgon, demon, demon lord, drow, Orcus.

Common monsters: deep gnome, demon lord, demon, derro, dragon, drow, duergar, dwarf, kuo-toa, myconid, ooze, stone giant.

Notable magical items: Boots of Speed, Cloak of Elvenkind, Ring of Protection, Bag of Holding, Ring of Free Action, Gauntlets of Ogre Power, Dawnbringer, Robe of Eyes, Sun Blade, Gem of Seeing, Tentacle Rod, Flame Tongue, Necklace of Adaptation, Necklace of Fireballs, Stonespeaker Crystal, Gem of Brightness, Heward’s Handy Haversack, Wand of Viscous Globs.

Extras in the book: Optional background features and bonds, 6 new magical items, 25 new monsters/important NPCs, maps (including the map of the Underdark), descriptions and stats for Demon Lords, pages with sketches and concept art.

Curse of Strahd

Author: Christopher Perkins

Released: 15 March 2016

Levels: 1-10

Theme: Gothic horror full of vampires, ghouls and zombies.

Plot summary: In the suspiciously quiet village of Barovia, the window shutters are indeed, shut tight. The towering Castle Ravenloft, with its main inhabitant, Count Strahd von Zarovich, is looking closely at everything and everyone in his domain. Players, a group of adventurers just crossing the border, are both awaited and appreciated – but they probably won’t be too happy about it.

What to expect: Stormy clouds, enemies with necrotic damage and crippling vulnerability to radiant damage. Sandbox-y story that allows players to roam free through the lands of Barovia; after all, nowhere is safe. There’s enough time to get to know the NPCs, and with the main villain being several levels of power above the adventurers at all time, the feeling of dread for the lives of PCs and NPCs alike should ever-present.

Bosses: lich, night hag, Strahd Von Zarovich (vampire), tree blight.

Common monsters: bandit, berserker, blight, cultist, druid, ghast, ghost, ghoul, mongrelfolk, phantom warrior, revenant, scarecrow, shadow, skeleton, specter, vampire, wereraven, werewolf, wight, wolf, wraith, zombie.

Notable magical items: Tome of Strahd, Blood Spear, Gulthias Staff, Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, Icon of Ravenloft, Saint Markovia’s Thighbone, Ring of Warmth, Sun Blade, Ring of Regeneration, Tome of Understanding, Staff of Power, Rod of the Pact Keeper, Daern’s Instant Fortress, Helm of Brilliance, Luck Blade, Rifle, Staff of Frost.

Extras in the book: Lots of maps, including a poster map. 18 new monsters, 7 magic items, new background (haunted one), table of gothic trinkets, mini-adventure to level up characters from 1st to 3rd level (Death House), rules for the Tarokka Deck, handouts.

Storm King’s Thunder

Author: Christopher Perkins

Released: 6 September 2016

Levels: 1-11

Theme: The war is brewing as giants brings destruction to the Northern Faerun.

Plot summary: For some reason, giants came down from the hills and mountains and terrorise the smaller folk, raiding the villages, stealing cattle and grain, killing without mercy, and plundering the coastal towns. The players must find a way to stop this war before it wipes out the whole humanoid population of the North.

What to expect: Sandbox-y story in pseudo-viking settings. If your players liked Skyrim, they will like this campaign: full of exploration, non-intrusive main plot (that is: it has to be done, eventually), and “Twelve Thousand Steps” staircases.

Bosses: ancient dragon, cloud giant, fire giant, frost giant, hill giant, stone giant, storm giant.

Common monsters: bandit, berserker, dragon, elemental, giant, goblin, hobgoblin, ogre, orc, yakfolk, yuan-ti.

Notable magical items: Iron Flask, Conch of Teleportation, Gurt’s Greataxe, Korolnor Scepter, Wyrmskull Throne, Dragon Slayer, Apparatus of Kwalish, Giant Slayer, Instrument of the Bards, Robe of Serpents, Staff of the Magi, Magic Runes.

Extras in the book: Handy list of all of the NPCs in alphabetical order, giant runic alphabet, useful adventure flowchart, options to start the campaign at level 1 or 5, lots of maps, detailed description of the regions in the North of Faerun, lots and lots of random encounters, instructions on linking this campaign other already published, 17 magical items, 9 new monsters + new options for giants.

Tales from the Yawning Portal

Author: varies, compiled by Kim Mohan & Mike Mearls

Released: 24 March 2017

Levels: varies

Theme: Dungeon crawl by definition.

Plot summary: In the Yawning Portal, an inn in Waterdeep, old adventurers tell the stories of the unique, incredible dungeons. The players can jump into any of them and start exploring. Death is not imminent, but is still a possibility.

What to expect: The book consists seven classic dungeons, taken from the most notable (and well known) adventures. They might be used as side quests, one-shots or even played one by one, as a dungeon-oriented campaign (in the world with magic abound, appearing magically at the entrance to and ancient temple should not crumble the suspension of disbelief). All of these classic adventures has been converted and adjusted to D&D 5E rules.


  1. The Sunless Citadel, by Bruce R. Cordell, published in 2000, character level 1. The players will enter the citadel full of kobolds, goblins and murderous plants in search of enchanted apples.
  2. The Forge of Fury, by Richard Baker, published in 2000, character level 3. A dwarven fortress fell into disrepair in the long years after the great battle. Various monsters (mostly orcs, lizardfolk and duergar) guard the passage to riches and magical gear crafted by the genius engineers and blacksmith. Only the players can hack their way through and loot it all.
  3. The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, by Harold Johnson and Jeff R. Leason, published in 1980, character level 5. And ancient temple hidden in the jungle is waiting to be rediscovered. Vampires and jaguars (and many, many more – it’s a very diverse environment) guard the massive piles of gold and magical items. Lots of traps, riddles and mini-games.
  4. White Plume Mountain, by Lawrence Schick, published in 1979, character level 8. An eccentric (read: evil) wizard Keraptis stole three sentient, powerful weapons and put them away in a dungeon underneath an active volcano, then sent a note inviting adventurers to come and get them. If the players are keen on hitting things without thinking, this dungeon might be the end of them (or your campaign, as the riddles might drive them mad).
  5. Dead in Thayby Scott Fitzgerald Gray, published in 2014, character level 9-11. Nefarious Red Wizards of Thay have built the Doomvault as their secret training ground turned phylactery depot. The players will try to deal as much damage to the organisation as possible, and destroy the phylacteries keeping the lich “alive” and well. In return, the villains will try to get the players killed, so fair play. It’s a homage to old killer dungeons, and it does its job.
  6. Against the Giants, by Gary Gygax, published in 1978, character level 11. Giants have been raiding an otherwise peaceful land. Players will be sent to infiltrate and deal with this danger, and without strategic thinking and caution, they will fail and be served as breakfast. This classic adventure, originally released in three parts, mixes stealth, combat and subterfuge.
  7. Tomb of Horrors, by Gary Gygax, published in 1978, character level unspecified (high). Easily the most recognizable of the adventures, Tomb of Horrors is the ultimate test of players’ resolve, skill, and luck. Should they succeed, they will brag about it for years.

Extras in the book: 15 new magical items, 39 monsters, and 35 maps. Kudos for adding the page references for the specific maps on the Contents page.


Tomb of Annihilation

Author: Christopher Perkins, Will Doyle, and Steve Winter, with additional design by Adam Lee

Released: 19 September 2017 

Levels: 1-11

Theme: Ancient tomb in uncharted areas of Chult – jungle, dinosaurs and serpents.

Plot summary: The souls are being stolen – a death curse has befallen everyone raised from dead. Only destruction of the crystal hidden deep within the Tomb of Annihilation will free the souls and bring the resurrections back to the table.

What to expect: Jungles, dinosaurs, yuan-ti and volcanoes. This dungeon has been created as a modern version of Tomb of Horrors. Not an 5E update (that was in Tales from the Yawning Portal), but a brand new story with ambitions of becoming the new ToH. So far, so deadly. An abundance of traps and riddles, and riddles with traps, and Acererak at the end of the story. Players will die. And there’s a zombie-spewing zombie tyrannosaurus.

Bosses: Acererak (archlich), Atropal (undead), yuan-ti.

Common monsters: albino dwarf, dinosaur, flying monkey, grung, lobsterfolk, vegepygmy, yuan-ti, zombie

Notable magical items: Amulet of the Black Skull, Bookmark (+3 dagger), Ghost Lantern, Mask of the Beast, Ring of Winter, Scorpion Armor, Staff of the Forgotten One.

Extras in the book: New character backgrounds (anthropologist and archeologist), lost of random encounter tables, descriptions of flora, fauna and gods of Chult, 59 new monsters/important NPCs, 7 magical items, and some large, beautiful maps.  Players’ handouts have been released in a handy PDF file.

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