Free and Low Cost Campaigns for DnD 5e – Great Options to try

Being a Dungeon Master is a rewarding experience that can require a lot of work.

The first time I sat behind the screen I had spent weeks designing a world with a rich backstory and fleshed-out NPCs.

I created multiple plot hooks to try to plan for every situation possible and drove myself mad.

Rousing Read
© Wizards of the Coast by Campbell White

When we finally started to play most of that info went to the wayside and we enjoyed a small simple adventure that took the players on a castle siege and we began our first campaign. 

If you’re just starting out as a DM you might be filled with anxiety thinking about what kind of game you’ll run, how to run a game, and whether or not your players will have fun.

I’m here to tell you that while making your own content can be an awesome experience, it is far from essential, and can become a huge burden when you’re just starting off. 

There are hundreds of resources out there for you to utilize.

Making them your own is as simple as sitting down and starting to involve your players. Dungeons & Dragons is, after all, a game of collaborative storytelling.

Each time a group sits down with an adventure they make it their own.

All that being said, accessing that content can be an entirely new daunting task.

Making it past the pricewall of elaborate campaigns and adventures is difficult. I’ve personally spent hundreds of dollars to fill my bookshelf with all sorts of source books. 

The reality is that there are also so many adventures out there that if not free, will cost you less than a footlong sub.

You don’t have to empty your wallet to be a DM, you just have to be willing to give your players your time and attention.

The following is a list of adventures for various levels of characters that are either free or low-cost.

Official Wizard of the Coast Materials

Finding all the content that WotC puts out for free can be difficult, so we’ve put together a list of sources and adventures they’ve released that are accessible to anyone.

Basic Rules for D&D

This is essentially a light version of the player handbook. It contains character creations, game rules, some spells, and dungeon master tools. It doesn’t include all the classes or their subclasses but it’s enough to get a small group started.

System Reference Document

Here we have more rules in a very simple straightforward display. This doesn’t have any flavor text, chapters, or even a table of contents, so you’ll want to get comfortable searching through, or using Ctrl + F on a computer.

Free Adventures and Campaigns from Wizards of the Coast:

Death House

  • Party Size/Level: A 1st level Party
  • Campaign Length: Two or three sessions
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

Death House is a precursor to the Curse of Strahd campaign. It puts your characters in a haunted house set in Barovia, a town under the domain of Baron von Strahd.

While this doesn’t put you up against the sanguine lord himself, it does provide a great deal of information about him and cultists who worship him.

Naturally, this contains a great deal of potential combat and the ability to traverse the house discovering various clues to solve the greater mystery.


Dues for the Dead

  • Party Size/Level: Three to seven 1st-4th level characters
  • Campaign Length: One session
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

This adventure focuses on catacombs underneath a graveyard in the city of Phlan. This is a classic mission to clear out a group of undead, led by a deranged cultist, but it does so with effectiveness and is extremely clear.


Elfhunt

  • Party Size/Level: Four to six 5th level characters
  • Campaign Length: 14-28 hours worth of adventure
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

As the name suggests, Elfhunt has you hunting down an elf who has stolen military information through the jungles of Chult.

This is meant to be a standalone adventure, but can easily be incorporated into a larger tomb of annihilation campaign if desired.

This adventure excels at allowing the characters to explore a world and not be railroaded into immediately saving the day, which accounts for how lengthy of an adventure this can be. 


Frozen Sick

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 1st level characters
  • Campaign Length: Two or three sessions
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

For groups wishing to explore Wildemount, this resource provides a wonderful introduction to bring a party up to 3rd level.

The adventure pits you against a magical disease spreading through the Biting North region of wildemount.

An exciting beginning to a campaign, this allows players to experience a mystery and really feel like they’re affecting the world, while also being affected by the world around them and dealing with environmental factors such as extreme cold.


Granny’s Country Apple Pie

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 1st level characters
  • Campaign Length: One 2-4 hour session
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

This is a great adventure, especially if you’re DMing for younger groups. Adventurers are sent to a pie factory overrun by goblins by a wizard with a craving.

Unlike a lot of modules, every combat can be avoided, which makes a nice non violent option or an exciting role play challenge.


Hoard of the Dragon Queen

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 1st level characters
  • Campaign Length: Six or more 2 hour sessions
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

This is an introduction to the longer adventure of the same name, part of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign.

The goal of this is to bring new characters up to third level and introduce them to the dragon cultists they’ll be facing on the swordcoast.


Ice Road Trackers – Unsure Footing

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 1st level characters
  • Campaign Length: One session of about an hour
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

This is the first part to a longer adventure that is available for purchase. In this adventure you are tasked by Mother Tusk, an awakened walrus, to find one of her children gone missing, an awakened otter.

This is a quick fun adventure with a very cool ice-slide chase and potential for combat with wolves.


Nicholas the Gift-Giver’s Northern Palace

  • Party Size/Level: Any party
  • Campaign Length: One 2-4 hour session
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

This holiday supplement takes you to the Northern Palace in search of a mysterious gift-giver and his workers.

This is a fun little place to explore and give your characters a treat, or you can use the location to create an adventure and have the “gifts” be rewards for saving “insert generic Christmas knockoff name here.”

I’ve run a Festivus adventure or two and being able to include a monstrous Frosty the snowman or a fire elemental and ice elemental warring over control of the Northern Palace is such an exciting time that’s guaranteed for a laugh.


Outlaws of the Iron Route

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 1st-4th level characters
  • Campaign Length: One 3-5 hour session
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

Here we have an adventure that deals, in some manner, with the politics of a city.

After the city of Phlan in the moonsea erupts into chaos, you are tasked with discovering the motives of two criminal organizations, a dragon cult and a group of disgraced knights, and convincing them to stop.

There is plenty of combat, from owlbears to a full-on gang war that the players have the option to involve themselves in. Characters will be making plenty of choices about what kind of person they want to be.


Shadows over the Moonsea

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 1st level characters
  • Campaign Length: Five 2-4 hour sessions
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

Shadows over the Moonsea has it all; pirates, cultists, undead, tiamat’s influence, villagers that may or may not be evil in their own right.

This is an excellent beginning adventure that ties wonderfully into the Tyranny of Dragons campaign.


Six Faces of Death

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 11th-13th level characters
  • Campaign Length: One or more 2-4 hour sessions
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

Here we have a horror option for higher-level characters, something that when well executed can be a blast. And this is well-executed, the adventurers find themselves on a mysterious island that just seemed to appear from nowhere.

They find themselves in the midst of a horrible pixelating disease from another plane of existence that is wreaking havoc, and must find a way to stop it. This adventure can get graphic so be warned.


The Barber of Silverymoon

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 4th-6th level characters
  • Campaign Length: One 2-4 hour session
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

A more whimsical Sweeney Todd, or a slightly darker Barber of Seville, this adventure has you up against, you guessed it, an evil barber.

The setting can become any city or town you wish to place this barber in.

More than anything, this adventure serves as a fun and immersive way to introduce your characters to a series of monsters from Volo’s Guide to Monsters.


The Crypts of Kelemvor

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 3rd-5th level characters
  • Campaign Length: One 2-4 hour session
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

This is a wonderful example of art coming full circle. Just as D&D has inspired other games, and videogames of their own, this adventure is inspired by a quest in the videogame Neverwinter, which is a D&D product.

The adventures are called to protect the city of Neverwinter by thwarting a lich’s plans to raise an army of undead from the crypts. 


The Gribbits Detective Agency

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 1st level characters
  • Campaign Length: One 3 hour session
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

Very much an urban mystery adventure, the Gribbits Detective Agency has characters searching a city for clues and learning of the whereabouts of the Beggar King.

Take your players through cult conspiracies and follow the aftermath of the Dragon Friends, another group of adventurers who are thoroughly mucking things up.


The Scroll Thief

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 1st level characters
  • Campaign Length: Two or three 2-4 hour session
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

This is an awesome adventure for beginners. It includes a little bit of everything you could want and the story is just different enough from your average beginner plot hooks to make it really memorable.

Players are tracking down a scroll thief, and in so doing come up against the undead and eventually a black dragon.

Your players will love how much of a challenge the combat produces and will be so proud of how they handle complex situations.


Tyranny in Phlan

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 5th-10th level characters
  • Campaign Length: Five 2-4 hour session
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

This is an adventure following shortly after the events of The Scroll Thief. Here we have a nice example of an adventure where the character more than likely won’t win.

An ancient dragon is set on ruling the city of Phlan and the characters will likely be powerless to stop it.

The adventure is about being able to do what they can for the city, not necessarily thwarting the evil plans, although that can come in future adventures.


Wildemount: Dark Star

  • Party Size/Level: Four to five 7th level characters
  • Campaign Length: One 2-4 hour session
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

In this adventure, which takes place in Wildemount, players uncover the secrets of the Dark Star, thought by most to be a source of power and protective wards for the town of Galgarad.

They find themselves up against a demilich and his undead forces in a fight to protect the town.


Winter’s Splendor

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 1st level characters
  • Campaign Length: One 2 hour session
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

This is a free holiday adventure with much more of a grounded feel in the Forgotten Realms.

Festivities get interrupted by an agent of Asmodeus and it’s up to your party to stop them and save the holidays. 


Free and Low Cost Adventures from Various Sources:

Tier 1; Levels 1-4

A Chance Encounter

  • Party Size/Level: Four 1st level players
  • Campaign Length: One 2-3 hour adventure.
  • Price: Pay What You Want
  • View Here

This adventure is an excellent option for newcomers to D&D. The adventure takes players on a journey to recover a wizard’s assistant from a group of kobolds.

It gives a DM a very comprehensive adventure to run and gives players the opportunity to experience a mystery, a chase, a couple of exciting combats, and to accomplish all of it with relative ease.

Additionally, this adventure connects to three more adventures taking the characters up through third level, for a mini-series that can be the beginning of a great campaign.


The Haunting of Valentyne Manor

  • Party Size/Level: Three or four 1st level characters, can be scaled up.
  • Campaign Length: One 2-4 hour adventure.
  • Price: Free
  • View Here

This one-shot takes you to a haunted house with a rich history and many great plot hooks to involve yourself in.

Provides a great many options for customization and advice on how to do so.

The printable pdf includes cut-out paper miniatures which are an awesome inclusion for someone looking to run an adventure without cleaning out their pockets. 


Greger’s Grotto 

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six 1st level characters
  • Campaign Length: Four 3-5 hour sessions.
  • Price: Pay What You Want
  • View Here

Greger’s Grotto is a story in which the players are captured by slavers and brought to a place full of pirates and outlaws. Some might even call it a “hive of scum and villainy.”

The adventurers get to explore various cave systems, deal with the tension of various slave factions, involve themselves in exciting combat, and ultimately escape.

There are many ways to get to the final outcome and this beginners campaign includes everything you need to allow your players to make their own choices.


Rise of the Necromancer

  • Party Size/Level: Three to five characters of 1st through 5th level
  • Campaign Length: One or two 2-3 hour sessions.
  • Price: Pay What You Want
  • View Here

This adventure is built for early-level characters and has great hooks to be used as a starting adventure or a quick sideline while you plan out more to your campaign.

Characters find themselves caught up in a magical storm brought on by a nearby necromancer and are inspired to thwart their plans.

This adventure is followed by two other adventures which can be strung together to make a mini-campaign, or spread out for an exciting b-plot. The following adventures cost a total of about $5, making this a very cheap campaign.


Blue Alley

  • Party Size/Level:  Three to five characters of 1st through 4th level
  • Campaign Length: One 3-4 hour session
  • Price: $4.95 USD
  • View Here

For those of you familiar with Waterdeep, the great sprawling City of Splendors in the forgotten realms, this adventure should feel right at home.

This is a quick urban-dungeon crawl that can make a great introduction to any campaign in Waterdeep, or be converted to just about any city in a world of your choosing.

If you know that you’re planning on an official WOtC adventure in Waterdeep, but aren’t quite ready to drop the money on one of those books, this is an excellent way for your group to dip their toes.


Tier 2; Levels 5-10

HONK!

  • Party Size/Level: Four 5th level characters
  • Campaign Length: One 3-5 hour session
  • Price: Pay What You Want
  • View Here

Not every adventure needs to be brimming with deep lore and tragic histories. This adventure brings you to a swamp where a wizard is creating avian abominations.

Give your characters a fun one-off and let them fight fire-breathing chickens and a terrifying Goose Hydra, or scale it up with the Honkdra stat block.

As much as this is a silly-goose idea, the adventure is very well fleshed out and can provide meaningful entertainment on top of some good laughs.


Shore of Dreams

  • Party Size/Level: Three to five characters of levels 5-7
  • Campaign Length: Two or three 2-3 hour sessions
  • Price: PDF $2.95 USD; Softcover Book $8.95 USD
  • View Here

Here is an excellent adventure for pocket change.

A search for lost pirate treasure with a twist, this one-shot has enough depth and world-building put into it that your players can spend hours in town before the adventure even really takes off.

The creators of this content bring you new monsters, new magic items, and hours of puzzles and mysteries to really give your players something to talk about.


Into Wonderland: A Feywild Setting Book

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six characters of levels 8-14
  • Campaign Length: Can be used for multiple one-shots or to build a cohesive campaign.
  • Price: Pay What You Want
  • View Here

The Feywild is a beautiful place, referenced throughout WotC materials, and this guide does more than just offer you adventures within it.

This wonderful guide offers playable races, locations, subclasses, spells, and monsters. Content-wise this is as expansive as some of those $60 official guides, and just as good if not better than some of them.

 


Scarab of Death

  • Party Size/Level: Four characters of 10th level
  • Campaign Length: Two 2-4 hour sessions
  • Price: $3.95 USD
  • View Here

This mystery takes place in Waterdeep, but can be easily converted to other cities in whichever world your characters inhabit.

An adventure that truly captures the spirit of a mystery, your players will be intrigued from start to finish.

The creators even introduce new monsters and magic items for your characters to interact with, which can be so important to maintain immersion at higher levels.


Tier 3; Levels 11-16

Darkness Before Dawn

  • Party Size/Level: Three to six characters of 12th level or higher
  • Campaign Length: One three hour session
  • Price: Pay What You Want
  • View Here

No list of adventures would be complete without a plot involving dwarves. This encounter brings your adventurers to a dwarven city under siege by an army of demons.

Siege battles are fun for all levels, but higher-level players tend to manage battles where time is of the essence much better.

While this is intended to be a standalone it can tie in extremely well with any adventures that involve connection to the Deep Anvil, the dwarven city of Valhaspar, or the Silverfall Mountains themselves, such as Out of the Abyss.


The Surrounded

  • Party Size/Level: Four characters, premade
  • Campaign Length: One session, or 4-8 hours of gameplay
  • Price: Pay What You Want
  • View Here

This adventure provides you with four (mostly) premade characters for a one-shot. What makes this fairly unique is that the characters are each other’s enemies, although this fact does not become evident at first.

Such a tale of rising tensions can be an extremely rewarding challenge for experienced players, but a bit much for new players still understanding the spirit of the game.

This is an excellent option to take a break from a campaign you’re in the middle of and give your players the opportunity to play high-level characters with an engaging story.


The Lich-Queen’s Begotten

  • Party Size/Level: Three to five 11-16 level characters
  • Campaign Length: One session, or 4-6 hours of gameplay
  • Price: $5.95 USD
  • View Here

The Lich-Queen’s Begotten is an excellent high-level adventure. It takes the characters on a journey to the astral plane to stop the Lich-Queen’s evil plot, complete with all the combat and lore that such an epic battle entails.

This has mind flayers, dragons, planar travel, moral dilemmas, and so many roleplay hooks that will have your characters on the edge of your seats, maybe even in tears.

Totally worth the price of a foot-long sub.


Tier 4; 17+

To the End of Time

  • Party Size/Level: A party of level 20 character
  • Campaign Length: One session, or 4-6 hours of gameplay
  • Price: $2.50 USD
  • View Here

This is an opportunity for your players to experience level 20 characters in a one-shot, or for your level 20 characters to finish their stories in an incredibly satisfying way.

The adventurers are taken from their deaths to, well, the end of time, where they must face a litany of powerful monsters and foes to save the entire multiverse and all time.

Due to the nature of the adventure, you can use this to give players a glimpse of their futures without setting things in stone or choose entirely new characters with insane abilities.

Be warned that this will take a good deal of understanding to pull off since characters of such high levels are essentially gods.


Invasion from the Planet of Tarrasques

  • Party Size/Level: Four to six level 20 characters
  • Campaign Length: One session, or 4-6 hours of gameplay
  • Price: $3.99 USD
  • View Here

Most players that have either reached level 20 or want to play level 20 are doing so to be a part of an epic power struggle, and what better way than to have your group toe to toe with a swarm of kaiju.

This adventure will be a riot. While it takes place primarily in Waterdeep, there is nothing saying you can’t just adapt this to a coastal city of your needs.

It still manages to keep an intact storyline and create immersive roleplaying situations while dealing with a ridiculous situation, and for that it gets my applause.

This is split into three acts so clever DMs can even scale up roleplay or add in a few more hooks to make this a three-part finale to a campaign.


Making an Adventure your Own

One of the tenets of D&D is that the stories are brought to life by the people sitting around the table.

There are no hard rules and no one is going to arrest you for adapting an adventure to the needs of your group.

While many of the adventures here can stand alone, you have the ability to create a campaign out of whatever you want.

You can piece together the strangest assortment of storylines to make something truly awesome.

Even if you see a patchwork of others’ work, your players will see a rich expansive world that they belong to, that you introduced them to. 

Free material exists all around you, tell your players they’ve been recruited by an elderly wizard to take a ring to Mount Disaster so that it can be destroyed once and for all and they’ll lose their minds with excitement.

Lookup a few goblin stat blocks, some hellknights, an orc or two, and you’re on your way to a year-long retelling of the Lord of the Rings with your characters creating a new history for Middle Earth before your very eyes. 

If you’re scared of DMing for the first time, or are a veteran DM looking for inspiration, check some of these options out and tweak them as you see fit.

Scale encounters to your liking or change NPCs to better grab the attention of your players, hell, switch the entire location so it fits into the world where you want to tell a story. 

Being a DM has nothing to do with how much money you’re willing to throw at books. Being a DM is just about sitting around a table with some friends and telling a story.