Oneshots are a fantastic way to get new people into Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). They’re short, relatively easy to run, and don’t require the months to even years of commitment that you would need a party to have if you run a full campaign. It’s also a great way to test ideas for your main campaign and try out new characters that you don’t have the time to play in a campaign with.
The pros of running a D&D 5e oneshots are obvious, what’s less obvious is which one you should run over the weekend. There are tons of oneshots out there to choose from, but some of them are more beginner-friendly, while a few are designed for more experienced players. If you’re on a quest for the best oneshots to run for your friends, here are a few recommendations.
1. A Wild Sheep Chase
Recommending A Wild Sheep Chase to anyone looking for a 5e oneshot feels obligatory, given how good it is. The oneshot has straightforward story beats and a lot of opportunities for players to pull off whacky shenanigans. The entire oneshot can be run in as little as three hours, assuming that everyone understands the basic mechanics of combat. If players are completely new to D&D, expect to take twice as much time.
The story begins when your party is disturbed by a sheep carrying a Scroll of Speak to Animals. The sheep then tells the party that it’s actually a wizard that’s been transformed into a sheep by a really pissed-off apprentice. It’s now up to the party to turn the wizard back to their original form and stop the apprentice. Oh, and did we mention there’s a dragon involved?
It’s really easy to link A Wild Sheep Chase into an existing campaign or use it as the setup for a new campaign – assuming your friends now want to start one. You can just change the story a bit to have the party be a group of adventurers who just met each other or long-time partners who were hoping to have a relaxing weekend until they got roped into another adventure.
2. Frozen Sick
Let’s face it, a lot of D&D adventures feel like they’re simply set in the generic fantasy land that is the Sword Coast. Frozen Sick changes things up by taking us to the freezing northern reaches of the world. You can easily tack it onto a Faerun campaign and have your party travel north if you want to add another chapter to your adventures.
Frozen Sick puts your characters at the center of stopping a magical pandemic that infects citizens of Palebank Village with Frigid woe, a deadly disease that turns people into ice. The setting subjects the party to the difficulties of navigating and moving in a vast, frozen environment, so the gameplay is a breath of fresh (and frigid) air. The way your party is introduced to the village also has a heavy air of isolation that makes it feel a little more like a horror adventure than it’s meant to be.
3. Death House
Speaking of horror, you can also try running Death House. As you can likely guess from the name, the story plops your party into a haunted house mystery that would be right at home in Resident Evil. There are ghostly and monstrous dead children, family secrets waiting to be uncovered, and dark connections to a cult that your party can be nudged to investigate if they want to continue the adventure.
You can use Death House as a jump-off point to a homebrew horror campaign or as a start for Curse of Strahd, the D&D 5e campaign that Death House serves as a preface to. If you decide to run Curse of Strahd, players will be thrust into the world of Barovia, a gloomy plane ruled over by the cruel and powerful Strahd Von Zarovich.
4. The Gribbits Detective Agency
The Gribbits Detective Agency is a mystery campaign set in Waterdeep. If your party’s characters are already in town or are nearby, you won’t have to spend a lot of time setting this up. Part of what makes it so fun is that your party is expected to fumble their clues so the module has a lot of instructions on how you can let the party keep failing without slowly losing your mind as a Dungeon Master with an increasingly derailed oneshot.
The story starts with your party being hired to help the titular Gribbits find Janos Meer, the Beggar King of Waterdeep. Because it has so many ways for your party to get to know the political and criminal organizations of Waterdeep, it’s a fantastic way to start other campaigns like Waterdeep: Dragon Heist.
5. A Most Potent Brew
A Most Potent Brew is about as free as it gets when it comes to D&D. Not only is the campaign itself free, but it’s also designed to work with the SRD, the basic rule set that Wizards of the Coast provides for free. Of course, you can still run it with 5e rules, but if you’re still learning how to play (or if you’d even like the game at all), it’s a cheap way to get started.
Wizard’s Tower Brewing Co., a famous ale brewery, needs your part’s help to explore a passage that they found under their building. Glowkindle, the owner of the brewery, explains that they were trying to expand their beer cellar when they discovered a secret passage leading to ancient ruins. It’s now your party’s job to find out if it’s safe and to get rid of the rat infestation coming from inside the passage.
6. The Wolves of Welton
If you haven’t had your feel of sheep-filled adventures, you can follow up A Wild Sheep Case with The Wolves of Welton. The adventure centers on a village plagued by wolves that are stealing and eating the townspeople’s sheep. Now the locals are in a race against time as the loss of their sheep has tanked the village’s food supplies. To make things worse, the villagers don’t have their local sorcerer around to help, so it’s up to your party to save them from starving to death by killing the wolves.
If you haven’t guessed it already, the wolves are werewolves, and they’re going to give the party more than they initially bargained for.