Looking for some fantastic horror DnD one-shots to play this spooky season? The tabletop has always been a wonderful medium for storytelling, and it’s fun to have fear baked into those tales (even if it’s only for a single spooky game session). This guide profiles six of the very best scary DnD one shots for you to try this Halloween.
Of course, there are a great many dedicated horror RPG games out there that are well worth any tabletop fan’s time – especially for horror aficionados. Still, there’s no denying that Dungeons and Dragons has a charm to it that can make its horror adventures genuinely fun experiences for just about anybody – especially in the bite size form offered by well written DnD one shots.
The best part about many of these adventures, just like with most 5e modules, so common in DnD books and community PDFs, is their, well, modularity. It’s fairly easy to chop and change elements of the adventure to suit players’ choices of DnD classes and DnD races, and, if there are in-jokes the Dungeon Master wants to throw in – or some harmless phobias to exploit (asked beforehand, of course) -it’s easy to change most of these Halloween one-shots to the table’s liking.
The best horror DnD one shots in 2023 are:
- The House of Lament – the best haunted house DnD one-shot
- Shemshime’s Bedtime Rhyme – The best escape room DnD one-shot
- Horror at Havel’s Cross – the best action horror DnD one-shot
- Murder at Sable Mansion – the best murder mystery DnD one-shot
- Happy Jack’s Funhouse – the best circus freakshow DnD one-shot
- Once More, With Feeling – the best Lovecraftian DnD one-shot
The House of Lament
The best haunted house DnD one-shot
No Halloween is complete without a haunted house story. There’s a reason that the setting of a wraith-ridden abode remains so powerful in people’s imaginations. A home is meant to be a place of security and comfort. But what happens when the walls start to rot, and the denizens that used to roam its halls become pale echoes of themselves?
Ravenloft is home to many of these haunted halls, but none are more somber than The House of Lament. It’s a classic haunted house adventure, and while it’s typically reserved for a few sessions, it’s very easy to cut it down to an atmospheric one-shot for a rushing DM’s Halloween needs.
Shemshime’s Bedtime Rhyme
The best escape room horror DnD one-shot
This adventure is included in the Candlekeep Mysteries anthology and can be played as a one-shot. While the entire anthology is full of spooky stuff thanks to the inherent shadiness of Candlekeep, Shemshime’s Bedtime Rhyme stands out as the scariest of all. In this scenario, a group of adventurers must spend the night in the Firefly Cellar, below the House of Rest in Candlekeep.
However, the adventurers are suddenly afflicted by a strange curse that forces its victims to hum a mysterious tune. Thus, the adventurers are locked inside for the safety of everyone above ground. The campaign is all about solving this mystery, as the humming gets more frantic and reaches a fever pitch.
Horror at Havel’s Cross
The best action horror DnD one-shot
In Horror at Havel’s Cross, a group of archaeologists has hired adventurers to assist them with recovering and escorting a valuable artifact to safety. Unfortunately, safety is the last thing any adventurer should expect when they reach the fateful Havel’s Cross. A dark mystery inside an ancient temple threatens to curse the land with the undead, and it’s up to the adventurers to stop it.
While there’s plenty to love about slow-burn horror, there’s still something satisfying about a good ol’ splatterfest. Horror at Havel’s Cross promises good old-fashioned slaughtering of ghouls and goblins. This will be a challenging and action-packed one-shot for any horror aficionado. With a few tweaks, it could totally be an Evil Dead-themed one-shot.
Murder at Sable Mansion
The best murder mystery DnD one-shot
There’s been a Murder at Sable Mansion. After a group of adventurers are invited for dinner with the eponymous Mr. Sable, a nobleman of great renown and even greater coffers, they instead find themselves at the sight of a crime scene. The guests are more than happy to shift the blame to the newcomers, so it’s up to them to solve the mystery and avoid time behind bars.
This is a splendid, fun-packed murder mystery with a nice mix of action and character roleplay. While it’s not the typical spooky horror, there’s still quite a lot of that aesthetic for imaginative DMs. As for players who want to get their, er, ‘Knives Out’ for some murder mystery shenanigans, Murder at Sable Mansion is the perfect one-shot for satisfying the Benoit Blanc inside every Dungeons and Dragons player.
Happy Jack’s Funhouse
The best circus freakshow horror DnD one-shot
Happy Jack rode into town bringing joy and laughter to all he found. After two days of wonder and laughter, these happy days suddenly turned to wanton slaughter. As the adventurers entered the unfortunate town, who else but Happy Jack would welcome them, the friendliest clown.
If there’s one thing scarier than vengeful ghosts and curse-casting witches, it’s those goddamned creepy clowns. Happy Jack’s Funhouse is part of the Freak Show Trilogy, a collection that also includes The Madhouse of Tasha’s Kiss and Annalyse’s Revenge, adventures that are also worth a look for spooky circus aficionados. As a one-shot, however, Happy Jack is arguably the most fun and flashy of the trio, sacrificing a bit of mystique in exchange for sheer unhinged harlequin terror.
Once More, With Feeling
The best Lovecraftian horror DnD one-shot
For those who want to give DnD players a primer on the unique dread that Lovecraft inspires, Once More, With Feeling is the perfect, free to download, introductory one-shot. The adventure follows the Slayers of Anaris, a renowned group of veteran monster slayers who suddenly spot a mysterious door in their keep that they’ve never seen before.
Next to the door is a mysterious message from their leader, who vanished years before. As more and more evidence comes to light that something is stalking within the keep itself, the adventurers must fight for both their lives and memories. Dragons can be slain, wraiths can be exorcized, but what can an adventure do against something they can’t remember?
If you’re particularly partial to H.P. Lovecraft, you might like our picks for the best Cthulhu board games – but then again, you might want to widen your scope to all the best horror board games. Continuing the spooky vibe, we’ve got guides to the best horror comics and the best horror wargames, if they’re more your speed. We’ve even hand picked board games for you based on your favorite horror movie!