DnD one shots – the best one shot ideas and generators

D&D one shots are the ideal intro to roleplaying - here are the best DnD 5e one shots, one shot generators, and tips on cooking up DnD one shot ideas

DnD one shots guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork from Tomb of Annihilation showing a large stone head and a lich

One of the finest ways to introduce folks to the wild worlds of Dungeons & Dragons, DnD one shots are single adventures that can be completed in around one to three sessions. Like any good DnD adventure, a one shot includes a self-contained story arc, detailed locations, and NPCs for players to interact with. However, unlike an ongoing DnD campaign, a one shot requires no long-term commitment, so can also be a good choice for DnD groups that struggle to nail down regular sessions, or DnD Dungeon Masters looking for shorter setup and lighter running commitments.

Being smaller, DnD one shots require less input both behind and beyond the DM screen. These short adventures are a hands-on way for players to try out different DnD classes and adventure themes.

As one shots are low stakes (no repercussions will carry over into future sessions, such as character death), they’re also a fun way for DMs to toy around with new DnD settings – such the dread domains of Ravenloft or the cosmic plains of Spelljammer .

DnD one shots guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork from Candlekeep Mysteries showing a woman reading a huge book, and a male figure behind her reading over her shoulder

If you’re so inclined, they can be a neat way to test your players’ mettle against your latest favourite DnD monster (or even nastier threats) with fewer consequences to plan around. It’s part of the reason why menacing and particularly perilous dungeons like the legendary Tomb of Horrors work so well in the DnD one shot format.

DnD one shots guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything showing a female wizard in a hat

So if you’re looking for a way to introduce players new and old to Dungeons & Dragons, or just fancy a diversion from your ongoing campaign, running your own DnD 5e one shot is the way to go. Whether you’d like to work with a prewritten one shot DnD adventure, or generate your own one shots from scratch, there are options galore – so we’ve compiled this guide as your ideal starting point.

DnD one shots guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing an Illithid Nautiloid flying through space

DnD one shot ideas

There are so many ways to go about making a DnD one shot, depending on what level of detail you want help with. For beginners, using a one shot adventure from official D&D adventure collections is a great way to start. Test your players with a dungeon from the Tales From the Yawning Portal collection; a pirate adventure from Ghosts of Saltmarsh; or one of the ripping magical yarns in Candlekeep Mysteries.

DnD one shots guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a flying ship approaching a hi-tech city in Eberron

More experienced DMs might want to pick a setting – such as the eternal war of Eberron, the mythical plains of Magic: The Gathering-themed Mythic Odysseys of Theros, or the space-faring reaches of Spelljammer – and craft their own unique one shot adventure there. All these books feature an introductory adventure to get you started in the world, which should throw up plenty of DnD one shot ideas to work with.

Last, but absolutely not least, there are a range of free, purpose-written, official DnD one shots available online direct from DnD publisher Wizards of the Coast, such as horror dungeon Death House (perfect for a Halloween one shot) or ice-laden mystery Frozen Sick.

DnD one shots guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork from Curse of Strahd, showing Count Strahd von Zarovitch in Barovia, Ravenloft

DnD one shot generator

If you’re looking to build your own one shot adventure from scratch, there are plenty of DnD one shot generators online. One of the keys to building an engaging adventure yourself is keeping things as succinct as possible, and setting up conflicts and goals quickly. That might include tactics like:

  • Using a DnD character creator to roll up all your players’ character sheets well in advance
  • Starting your one shot directly outside a dungeon
  • Spending as little ‘downtime’ as possible in the game getting to know each other’s characters.

DnD one shots guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork from Ghosts of Saltmarsh showing a ship tossed in a storm, with adventurers fighting off a sea monster

This unofficial Random Adventure Generator randomly generates one shot DnD structures based around theme, plot, goals, story hooks, villains and every other part of the structure you’ll need to set up a D&D one shot. Just refresh for a whole new adventure.

If you’d prefer a more free-form structure, try the D&D one shot generator at Chaos Gen, which takes a looser approach. Finally, the Random Adventure Outline offers a more story-based approach, with less emphasis on hooks and plot points, and more on narrative inspiration.

Meanwhile, if you’re armed with a full arsenal of DnD dice, Rand Roll offers free ‘quick adventure’ tables for your DnD one shot ideas. These operate in a similar vein to the tables seen in official DnD 5E sourcebooks, in which numerous characters, events and goals are ascribed numbers, and you roll to randomly determine what you select.