When people are new to Dungeons & Dragons, one of the best places to start is playing a one-shot adventure rather than diving straight into a more extended campaign. The best DnD one-shots can give new players a taste of the game without any long-term commitment. It can also be a fun way to try new classes or styles of play within an established group who are still relatively new to DnD.
One-shot adventures are designed to be completed in just one session, which players can usually do within a few hours. Some new DnD players don’t know what they need to play or may be unable to commit to a long campaign; however, they still want to try playing DnD. One-shots are an excellent way for DMs to teach new players how to run their characters. As the adventures are self-contained, they are easy to get into and run within a short period of time. Here for some of the best DnD one-shots and mini-adventures for people new to 5e.
Death House: A Horror-Themed DnD One-Shot Adventure
Death House is an adventure for level-one players found in the appendices of Curse of Strahd. This mini-adventure can be run as either a one-shot or an introduction to the full DnD campaign of Curse of Strahd. The player’s character will progress to level three during this mini-adventure using milestone leveling, which means achieving specific goals rather than killing enemies.
Death House is one of the best DnD one shots for new players as it offers few distractions beyond the goals given to them. As the Creeping Fog of Barovia surrounds the house, players cannot leave and must remain on task, which can sometimes be a problem for one-shots trying to pack in too much. The Death House itself essentially funnels the players towards their final encounters without ever making the player feel railroaded.
Unfamiliar with the lore of Barovia and the Curse of Strahd campaign? Check out the video breakdown from the official Dungeons & Dragons YouTube channel below!
However, Death House can also be a steep learning curve for new DnD players, so it is better to have an experienced DM to avoid a TPK. There are many points where the low-level DnD party faces multiple enemies, and it is very easy for them to be overwhelmed. DMs should not be afraid to tweak encounters, simplify the many rooms and levels of the house, or even start the adventure at level two.
Frozen Sick: A Critical Role DnD One Shot For New Players
Frozen Sick is a free adventure available on D&D Beyond and Roll20 as part of an adventure preview for Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. Set in the Critical Role world of Exandria, Frozen Sick will take players from level one to three as they investigate an unknown threat to the inhabitants of Palebank Village. There is room for players to be creative with roleplaying solutions alongside combat encounters during the adventure.
Frozen Sick can be streamlined further for a one-shot, run as a mini-adventure, or as an introduction to a larger campaign. Although set in Wildemount, Frozen Sick could easily be converted into a Forgotten Realms DnD adventure and, with its icy setting, link in nicely with Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. Frozen Sick is one of the best DnD one shots for new players because it offers players a well-written, compelling mystery, along with some interesting dungeon elements.
The Gribbits Detective Agency One Shot: DnD Detectives
The Gribbits Detective Agency is a free one shot adventure for level one players set within a tight three-hour time frame. Players are tasked with investigating the disappearance of Janos Meer, a powerful underworld figure, while also going up against a rival adventuring party hired to find Meer, the Dragon Friends. DMs can decide if they want to keep the Dragon Friends as “off-screen” motivators to keep the players on task or have them occasionally bump into the party throughout the mission.
The Gribbits Detective Agency offers a fun mystery with a good mix of DnD roleplay and teamwork opportunities as well as combat. DMs could run the adventure in real-time; however, it might be better to “press pause” on the clock during combat encounters. The Gribbits Detective Agency is set in three acts making it easy to manage for both DMs wanting to keep track of the time and new DnD players in need of some structure.
Icewind Mail: DnD Encounters Ideal For New Players
D&D Beyond posts articles frequently and, as part of these posts, offer an encounter of the week, although no new encounters have been added since Halloween 2021. Back in 2020, the site ran a series of encounters named Icewind Mail, which was to act as an introductory mini-adventure for Icewind Dale. Icewind Mail is designed for both new and experienced DnD players, and the nine-part encounter series is a great introduction to the game.
Icewind Mail is primarily character-driven, with lots of room to customize the pre-built DnD NPCs and player roleplay. This can be one of the best DnD one-shots for new players because it allows them to learn how to play their class in a controlled way that makes them feel like they are driving the story. Icewind Mail can be slimmed down as needed to be played as a one-shot by limiting the number of deliveries the players have to make and utilizing “fast travel” rather than playing out each travel day.
Sheep-Based DnD One Shot For New Players Isn’t Half Baa’d
The Wild Sheep Chase is a weird and comical DnD one shot that can be played multiple times, with each one being a completely unique adventure. There are a few different endings to the adventure depending on the dice rolls of the party, choices made, and their campaign DnD character alignment, some of which are hysterical.
Although described as an adventure for fourth or fifth-level characters, The Wild Sheep Chase works great as a one-shot for new DnD players. The premise is simple, and using slightly higher-level characters can give newer players a taste of what it could feel like to level up characters through a full campaign.
The Wild Sheep Chase is a hilarious one-shot for new DnD players that really shows how much fun and versatile the game can be. This adventure is short and sweet but packed full of opportunities for players to find creative ways to solve problems. The Wild Sheep Chase can easily be run in a single night for a quick taster of what DnD can be.
Looking for even more of the best DnD one shot adventures to try out? Check out the YouTube playlist from D&D Beyond below, which shows five different one shot campaigns to take inspiration from!
When first starting to play, some people can find the sheer number of options available to them overwhelming, so choosing an adventure that focuses the players is best. DMs shouldn’t be afraid to impose limitations on players just starting so that the focus can be kept on the story and fun rather than getting bogged down in mechanics. When selecting a one-shot or mini-adventure for new Dungeons & Dragons players keeping it simple is best.
- Dungeons and Dragons
- Tabletop Game
- Wizards of the Coast, TSR Inc.
- Adventure, RPG, Fantasy