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The best DnD one shots 5e

Looking for a bite-sized Dungeons and Dragons game? DnD one shots are both compact and compelling - here are the best 5e has to offer.

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 and Dragons, DnD one shots are single adventures that can be completed in around one to three sessions. They’re a good choice for DnD groups that struggle to nail down regular sessions, or Dungeon Masters looking for shorter setup and lighter running commitments. If you’re looking for 5e one shots and advice on running them, you’ve come to the right place.

Being smaller, Dungeons and Dragons 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, new DnD races, or fresh adventure themes. They’re also a fun way for DMs to toy around with new DnD settings – such as the dread domains of Ravenloft or the cosmic plains of Spelljammer.

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.

Affair on the Concordant Express

The best lighthearted DnD one shot.

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Affair on the Concordant Express specifications:
Found in Keys from the Golden Vault
Recommended character level 9
Reasons to buy
  • Surprising replay value for a DnD one shot
  • Quirky and entertaining mini adventure
Reasons to avoid
  • The book of one shots you’ll need to buy is hit and miss in terms of quality

If you’ve read our Keys from the Golden Vault review, you’ll know we didn’t love everything the 2023 anthology had to offer. But we adored Affair on the Concordant Express. As intriguing as it is hilarious, this is one of the more memorable one shots Wizards has published in recent memory.

The adventure takes place on the titular train, which is transporting a high-profile prisoner known as the Stranger. They have information that your party needs, so it’s time for a little breaking and entering.

The actual train itself is made up of a series of carriages that the DM can arrange and swap out as they please. This gives the adventure plenty of replayability. Plus, every option is a delight, offering comedic and wondrous encounters that’ll balance the tension of the main heist mission.

Shadow of the Sun

The best high-level DnD one shot.

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Shadow of the Sun specifications:
Found in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel
Recommended character level 11
Reasons to buy
  • A compelling story of political intrigue
  • The character’s actions significantly affect the story
Reasons to avoid
  • Everyone needs to be on board with a serious adventure
  • High level means it’s less beginner-friendly

We can’t recommend Journeys through the Radiant Citadel enough for fans of DnD one shots, and Shadow of the Sun might be the cream of the crop. It’s a dense, serious adventure filled with political intrigue, and each decision you make has vast consequences for the city you find yourself in.

Your party finds themselves in the city of Akharin Sangar, ruled by the angel Atash. A celebration is about to begin as you arrive, but all is not well. Anarchists butt heads with local law, while a peaceful resistance group struggles to stay out of trouble. Players can choose which groups they want to assist, with varied endings depending on their decisions.

Few one shots offer quite as much depth as Shadow of the Sun. This does mean it’s likely to become one of the infamous ‘one shots that’s actually a two or three shot’, but it’s well worth taking the time to explore this glorious city.

Death House

The best horror DnD one shot.

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Death House specifications:
Found in Curse of Strahd
Recommended character level 1 or 2
Reasons to buy
  • Atmospheric and creepy
  • A memorable one-off adventure
Reasons to avoid
  • Unbalanced and brutally difficult
  • Needs some homebrewing to feel fully fleshed out

Death House is infamous among the D&D players who’ve attempted it. It’s harsh, grim, and challenging almost to a fault. But with a bit of fine-tuning, it makes for an exciting slice of Gothic Horror that players won’t soon forget.

While it’s introduced as a beginner session for a Curse of Strahd campaign, Death House is easily detached from its wider context. All you need is a reason for players to rock up to this mysterious house and meet the two children standing outside. They claim a monster lives in their home, and they beg you to uncover the mysteries and cleanse the residence.

Of all our suggestions, Death House is the DnD one shot that needs the most work done to it. We highly recommend remodeling the house to fit your own purposes, adapting challenge ratings, adding more flavor to empty-looking rooms, or dropping more clues for your players. Alternatively, it comes with optional rules that make it even harder to survive. Do as you desire – you’re the master of the house.

Tomb of Horrors

The best classic DnD one shot, updated for fifth edition.

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Tomb of Horrors specifications:
Found in Tales from the Yawning Portal
Recommended character level 10+
Reasons to buy
  • A classic piece of D&D history
  • An engaging and challenging dungeon crawl
Reasons to avoid
  • Less interesting to players who love social roleplay
  • Not the most compelling story

The original Tomb of Horrors module was created by Gary Gygax in the 1970s, but Wizards of the Coast has released an updated version for fifth edition. It’s still a mega-strategic dungeon crawl that’s very capable of killing you, though. And it’s still definitely worth playing.

Story isn’t much of a priority in this one shot, but the basic gist is that you’re delving into the dungeon to try and score some epic loot. Along the way you’ll face a range of monsters from the banal to the brutal, as well as some super unforgiving traps. For many people, the goal of Tomb of Horrors isn’t to reach the ending – it’s to see how far you can actually get.

If you’re mainly playing D&D for combat and strategy, this is an ideal choice. There’s still plenty of opportunity for roleplay and storytelling, but maybe don’t send your comfort character into the Tomb – they might not come back out.

DnD one shot generators

Best for creating your own DnD one shots.

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DnD one shot generators specifications:
Found in No book – it’s all online!
Recommended character level Any
Reasons to buy
  • Free and easy to use
  • Allows you to get creative
Reasons to avoid
  • You have to do all the writing yourself
  • Your adventures might be less balanced than official ones

If you’re looking to build your own one shot adventure from scratch, there are plenty of DnD one shot generators online.

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. The same site has even more tools, including a great random dungeon map generator.

To create a funhouse dungeon of random nonsense, Ram Sivaranjan’s Random Dungeon With X Rooms can generate numbered room descriptions which will populate a keyed map with chaotic fun.

The pay-what-you-want Wallet Dungeons and Wallet Monsters toolkits by Awkward Turtle on Itch.Io uses just a few cards and some regular DnD dice to generate a miniature dungeon location and a uniquely motivated monster. Check out Ithaqas Bane’s video walkthrough to get a sense for how they work:

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If you’d prefer a more free-form structure, try the D&D one shot generator at Chaos Gen, which takes a looser approach. 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.

DnD one shots 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a dwarf fighting a monster

For something bigger, why not try these great DnD campaigns? We can also teach you how to run your games on virtual tabletops like Roll20.