Your Ultimate Guide to the Best DnD One-Shots

Published on March 23, 2024

In the vast sea of one-shots available for DnD 5e, which ones are worth your tables’ time? Check out Arcane Eye’s top picks for the best DnD one-shot adventures.

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What Are One-Shots in DnD?

Oh, the one-shot. It’s a time when Dungeon Masters can take a break from plotting overarching storylines, and players can try out fun character builds without the fear of being stuck with a dud character for 50 sessions.

These adventures, which can usually be completed in a single 3- to 6-hour session, are ideal for a casual night of gaming or can even be incorporated into an ongoing campaign when the DM is short on time to write their own session.

With the growth of platforms like DMsGuild, and individual creators exploding in popularity thanks to Patreon and Kickstarter, the market for DnD one-shots has become paralyzingly vast.

We’ve already written an article providing guidance on how to choose your next official D&D campaign, so we’re here today to help you pick the best short adventure for your next one-shot session!

The 5 Best Free One-Shots (According to Reddit)

With active communities like r/DnD and r/dndnext to help Dungeon Masters and players crowdsource the answers to their queries, the question “What’s the best one-shot for dnd 5e?” comes up a lot. Seeing as Reddit’s internal search engine sucks, and because we’ve played all of the oft-touted one-shots and agree, we’ve compiled the most common responses below:

1. A Wild Sheep Chase

A Wild Sheep Chase stands out for its unique blend of humor, whimsy, and engaging gameplay. The quest for 4th/5th-level characters quickly spirals into a magical romp involving polymorph spells gone awry and an antagonist with a grudge.

Perfect for a light-hearted session, it’s celebrated for its creativity, memorable characters, and the ability to seamlessly integrate into any campaign.

2. A Most Potent Brew

A Most Potent Brew offers a classic dungeon crawl experience for 1st-level adventurers. Tasked with ridding the cellar of a wizard’s brewery of a seemingly simple giant rat infestation, players quickly discover that the problem runs much deeper.

This adventure only requires the free Basic Rules to run, making it an excellent introduction to the mechanics of D&D 5e.

3. The Delian Tomb

Designed by Matt Colville, The Delian Tomb serves as an introductory adventure that encapsulates the essence of D&D: exploration, combat, and puzzle-solving.

Its straightforward design and classic premise make it an excellent starting point for new players and DMs. Plus, Matt goes through the process of creating and running the adventure in the first video of his famous Running the Game series.

4. The Secrets of Skyhorn Lighthouse

The Secrets of Skyhorn Lighthouse is a thrilling maritime adventure for 5th-level characters developed by Arcane Library.  This one-shot expertly balances combat, exploration, and social interaction within a nautical setting.

Like all Arcane Library 5e adventures, it’s written and formatted to be run effortlessly without having to read the entire adventure ahead of time.

5. The Wolves of Welton

This one-shot for 2nd-3rd level characters delves into moral complexities as players investigate a village beset by unusually intelligent wolves.

Encouraging diplomacy and investigation over combat, it explores themes like coexistence and the impact of civilization on nature.

Official One-Shots

Wizards of the Coast has come out with plenty of official one-shots, but most are contained within adventure anthologies. We’ve reviewed each of the anthologies below in our guide to D&D 5e adventures:

  • Keys from the Golden Vault (2023) — 13 heist-centric one-shots for parties levels 1 to 11.
  • Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel (2022) — 13 one-shots that explore different cultures from the D&D multiverse.
  • Candlekeep Mysteries (2021) — 17 one-shots focused around mysteries and using the famous library of Candlekeep as a hub for adventure.
  • Ghosts of Saltmarsh (2019) — A collection of naval one-shots adapted from earlier editions of D&D that can be linked into an ongoing adventure.
  • Tales of the Yawning Portal (2017) — Most of the dungeons in this anthology will have to be modified to fit into a one-shot, with the exception of White Plume Mountain, which is one of D&D’s best official one-shots.

Beyond these longer books, Wizards of the Coast has provided a number of (basically free) one-shot offerings:

Death House

Death House is a fun one-shot that comes included in Curse of Strahd and as a free downloadable PDF.

This adventure pits players against a haunted mansion that lives up to its name because it’s extremely deadly for the recommended 1st-level characters. Whether you want a spooky night of gaming or to roll into one of DnD 5e’s best adventures, Death House is among the best of the official one-shot offerings. 

Prisoner 13

Prisoner 13 is a heist-focused one-shot from Keys from the Golden Vault. Your party must infiltrate Revel’s End, the prison featured in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, to extract information from a prisoner.

It’s a fun time and needs planning and strategy more than combat skills. We also have a video of the one-shot available on our YouTube channel so you can see how it plays. Note that you’ll need a free D&D Beyond account to claim this adventure.

Giants of the Star Forge

Giants of the Star Forge is a 16th-level one-shot that pits your party against some nasty fire giants. It’s a solid high-level adventure and shows Dungeon Masters how to create adventures using Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants (the book isn’t required to run the one-shot, though).

Note that you’ll need a free D&D Beyond account to claim this adventure.

Don’t Say Vecna

Don’t Say Vecna is a 20th-level one-shot that uses the Vecna, the Arch Lich stat block released in the Vecna Dossier.

This isn’t necessarily an official one-shot, but it is featured on D&D Beyond, D&D’s official toolset for Dungeons & Dragons. I co-wrote this adventure with D&D Beyond’s Michael Galvis, so I may have a horse in this race, but I also think it’s a great adventure.

Most Popular DMsGuild One-Shots

If you’re still looking for more one-shots, here are my favorite one-shots from DMsGuild that have gone adamantine (over 5,000 copies sold):

To the End of Time

As an adventure for 20th-level characters, this one-shot promises a legendary experience without the need for 2 years of adventuring to become epic-level heroes.

To the End of Time offers a unique journey where players will encounter all manner of insanely powerful creatures and be tasked with seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Scarab of Death

Race against time to uncover clues and solve a mysterious murder in this one-shot for 10th-level characters! Set in Waterdeep, this adventure contains intrigue, vengeance, and a famously deadly magic item.

Perfect for a 4- to 6-hour session, it’s a great storyline to include in a Waterdeep-focused campaign, run as a one-off, or slot into your ongoing campaign.

Shore of Dreams

Uncover Captain Jadescale’s treasure in this one-shot for 5th- to 7th-level characters! With a balanced mix of social encounters, dungeon crawling, and puzzles, it contains a stellar mystery that kept my players guessing till the end.

Perfect for a 3-6 hour session, I found it was a refreshingly unique and well-written adventure.

Curtain Call: A Sharn Adventure

Curtain Call: A Sharn Adventure delivers an introductory one-shot that takes 1st- to 4th-level characters to the City of Tower’s intrigue-filled streets.

Crafted by Keith Baker and the other masterminds behind the Eberron setting, it seamlessly blends action, mystery, and lore and is the perfect start to an Eberron campaign. It also has a sequel, called Trust No One that is also a great Eberron one-shot.

Blue Alley

Blue Alley offers a delve into Waterdeep’s depths, complete with intricate traps and cunning puzzles that keep players on their toes throughout. Perfect for a quick 3-4 hour one-shot, it’s a fun structure for a meat-grinder dungeon.

Fit for 1st-4th-level characters, it can be used in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist campaigns, standalone, or worked into an ongoing campaign.

Happy Jack’s Funhouse

Happy Jack’s Funhouse invites players to step into a diabolically creepy carnival. This 4-8 hour one-shot is scalable for parties 3rd to 10th level and features an eerie atmosphere, macabre challenges, and, of course, a terrifying clown.

Murder on the Eberron Express

Murder on the Eberron Express is a 3-5 hour one-shot for 6th-level characters that takes place on a luxury train where betrayal and deception reign supreme.

As passengers on board, they’ll unravel a gripping murder mystery filled with twists, turns, and unexpected revelations. All aboard for a journey where every clue counts and no one is above suspicion!

The House of the Midnight Violet

The House of the Midnight Violet is perfect if you’re looking for a spine-tingling D&D one-shot. It’s set in a foreboding mansion, where the party will discover the fate of the mansion’s former occupants. 

Running at 3-4 hours, it’s suggested for 4th- to 5th-level characters but includes scaling suggestions to accommodate parties up to 12th level.

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. He is a Adamantine best-selling author of Strixhaven: A Syllabus of Sorcery on DMs Guild and is a contributing author at D&D Beyond. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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