Dungeons and Dragons is a time-consuming hobby. If you’re the dungeon master, you need to find the time to straighten out the plot before and after every session (because we all know players do things that aren’t written in the module). If you’re a player, you have to revisit notes about last week’s session. And no matter which side of the Dungeons and Dragons coin you’re on, you have to find time to actually play the game.
Unlike video games where a co-op play session can be 10 minutes tops, D&D‘s nature as a pen and paper, turn-based roleplaying game means you have to wait for all of the other players and the enemies you’re fighting to finish their turn before you can have yours. This setup means that your average play session can run from two to four hours or, if you’re a complete degenerate like my group of friends, an eight hour one.
The average session length and the fact that you need to wrangle at least three or four people to play together means that scheduling a D&D session for a group of working adults is a Herculean task. But with the holidays coming, you and your group of geeks might find enough time to run a short session that takes eight hours tops, even for the slowest players.
So, here are some D&D adventures that you can run over the holiday season with a group of nerdy friends who will likely end up drunk halfway through the session.
Warning: Spoilers ahead. If you have no plans of being the dungeon master, stop reading now and just send this to your designated forever DM. They’ll know what to do.
1. A Wild Sheep Chase
A friend of mine ran this adventure for his first foray into dungeon master-ing . It’s fun, short, and sweet. A Wild Sheep Chase has all the makings of a wholesome D&D session thanks to its punny story and simple premise.
The adventure starts with some baa-d news. The module says that your party could be anywhere as long as they’re able to hear the sound of a sheep running through the streets in a frenzy as it searches for a player character that can read the scroll it has in its mouth.
The sheep, which is actually a wizard named Finethir Shinebright, will hand a player its “Scroll of Speak With Animals (Modified)” that when read aloud allows the characters can hear the sheep speaking in Common.
Considering how flexible the start of this adventure is, you can easily have Shinebright interrupt your party’s D&D equivalent of a Christmas party. Adding snow to your setting could also add more tension to the story as the encounter with Guz could easily be turned into a chase scene.
With all the snow around, Shinebright will leave hoof tracks and your party won’t be able to make a quick escape. This opens up an opportunity to add your own twist to the story that forces players to come up with a clever solution.
2. Death House
Death House is my personal favorite on this list, but that might be my bias talking because it’s the first game I DM’d. If you want to add an eerie chill to the cold weather, this adventure is for you.
Death House is an introductory adventure to Curse of Strahd, a fantasy-horror adventure that has your party wandering through the misty lands of Barovia, a realm ruled by the “totally not D&D Dracula” Count Strahd von Zarovich.
Count Zarovich is bored of his immortal life, but instead of playing D&D like a normal person, he decides to lure people into Barovia so he can torment them. Death House is the first of those torments as it traps players in a haunted Victorian mansion.
I know, very original. But Death House‘s terrifying surprises that range from jumpscares to actual scares are part of what makes it so fun. Playing this is like being in your own episode of The Scooby-Doo Show but without the Mystery Machine.
The adventure starts when your party agrees to help the two mysterious children they meet on the road. Rose and Thorn are, as expected, ghost children. The two don’t understand that they’re dead and have been waiting for adventurers who can help them get rid of the monster in their house. From there, it’s a string of horror tropes played straight and yet, satisfyingly done.
The tropes seem tired sometimes, sure, but it really comes down to how you run the game. Towards the end of the session, I had one player screaming, out of character, that “I don’t want to look!” which is when we had to remind her that she wasn’t looking at anything.
The session took four hours in total with two players being completely new to the game so if you need something that’s spooky yet easy to pick up, this is your module.
3. Horde of the Dragon Queen
Putting the “dragons” in Dungeons & Dragons, next up we have Horde of the Dragon Queen.
Like Death House, the first adventure in Horde of the Dragon Queen can easily be used for a quick 3-4 hour session that’s divided into multiple mini-quests. The call to action in this adventure is fairly simple. Your party is passing through several towns and cities along the Sword Coast when they stumble across a town that’s under siege by a blue dragon and its cult of the Dragon cultists. The city is in chaos and possibly on fire while several playable events are underway.
Greenest is being looted by cultists during the siege. giving players a chance to help out the locals by stopping these unscrupulous robbers. Or, if they have an unscrupulous rogue, it’s a chance to take all of the town’s gold for themselves.
Other missions that your party can assist in include saving the mill from being razed so the villagers don’t starve this winter, rescuing trapped survivors who have been cornered by the cultists, and an escort mission through the town’s sewers.
If your players enjoy Greenest and fighting dragons, you can continue to the next chapter without much fuss thanks to its episodic structure. If they don’t like it as much, you can just send them to the next town where you can end the game or give them a plot hook for a new one-shot adventure.
4. The Silvyr Tower
Give a forever DM the gift of being a player for once this Christmas with this easy-to-use, ready-to-go, add new DM tears only adventure.
If Horde of the Dragon Queen put the “dragons” in Dungeons and Dragons, then The Silvyr Tower takes care of the “dungeons” part. A word of warning, though. Unlike earlier modules on this list, The Silvyr Tower doesn’t provide an easy way to turn a one-shot adventure into a full campaign. But it’s not particularly hard either since it plays out similarly to A Wild Sheep Chase in terms of structure.
The Silvyr Tower is a fetch quest where your party accepts a commission to retrieve an item owned by a Sylneas Silvertongue because, of course, it’s always the elves and their magical items. The quest is deceptively simple.
After all, how hard can it be to fetch someone’s ancient staff rumored to have the power to command dragons? Well, pretty hard, it turns out. The party quickly finds that they’re out of their depth.
The adventure happens mostly in the Silvyr Tower located in a magical clearing in the middle of the woods. While it isn’t a literal dungeon, the tower is a classic D&D dungeon crawl where players fight their way through the five rooms on the tower’s ground floor. The story ends with your players owning a less-than-legendary magical staff. The Watchful Order of Magisters and Protectors loses interest in it and lets the party keep the staff.
5. Frozen Sick
Frozen Sick is a starter adventure from Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. If that name sounds familiar to you, that’s because Wildemount is the setting of Critical Role‘s hit campaign webseries, The Mighty Nein.
The setting, which was designed by Matt Mercer himself, is a fully fleshed-out world that you can easily adapt to your party’s needs and interests. But before you get to the point where your party would be interested in additional Wildemount explorations, you need to start first.
Frozen Sick begins with a mystery. A mysterious illness has been killing townspeople in Palebank Village. I know, this adventure did not age well, but let’s keep going. Naturally, your characters need to help these villagers before they all get wiped out.
If they refuse the call to action, you could probably incentivize them with gold and a place to stay, lest they freeze to death in the arctic region, or pressure them by having superstitious villagers believe that these foreign adventurers brought the disease with them.
What’s actually killing the townspeople is a mixture of magic and pathology. Urgon Wenth, a local, brought home two blue glass vials which then got passed around after a series of trades, much like how money circulates in a society.
In the middle of all this bottle buying and bottle selling, no one realizes that the bottle has been releasing deadly spores that infect its handlers with Frigid Woe, a magically created disease that froze the infected person’s body from the inside, turning their blood into ice until their entire body becomes an ice statue.
If you’re not keen on horror, but don’t want to play a combat oriented D&D adventure, Frozen Sick might just be what you’re looking for. The adventure has a distinctly mystery and thriller vibe that leaves your players using their last brain cells to figure out what is killing the residents of Palebank Village.
6. The Barber of Silverymoon
If you enjoyed Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, you’re going to love this short D&D adventure.
Like Sweeney Todd, The Barber of Silverymoon is a murder mystery. Citizens of the city of Silverymoon begin disappearing at night. While most end up dead, a few of the victims come back with altered memories, slowed wits, and a killer haircut. Before you dive into this adventure, though, it might be a little too complicated for new players as the module is designed for characters between the 4th and 6th levels.
Instead of a Sweeney Todd, players have to face off with Jooge Nopsmoth, a renowned barber who lives in Silverymoon with his daughter, Mops. The two of them have been struggling to get by for years following the death of Giselle, Jooge’s wife.
It’s not that barbering doesn’t pay well in Silverymoon. Jooge’s skills make him a very popular barber among even the most scrutinizing clients. But his obsession with cutting hair has led him to mismanage the family’s finances as Jooge has no problems with going into debt to buy new gear.
Unfortunately for him, the comb he went into debt for is evil.
7. Six Faces of Death
Here’s a quick adventure for veteran dungeon masters with experienced players.
Six Faces of Death is a dark fantasy adventure designed for characters at the 11th to 13th levels.
This adventure introduces dark forces from beyond the Material Plane into the world of Faerun. As the evil-infested dimension of Acheron seeps into the Material Plane through the pixelating curse, another magical illness except it turns people into cube-shaped eldritch horrors, players find themselves in the midst of a race against time to protect Faerun from being overrun by the pixelating curse.
But even that synopsis doesn’t quite do it justice. As cheesy as it seems, Six Faces of Death has a pretty interesting premise and a lot of fresh ideas going for it, making it ideal for holiday D&D sessions with other veteran players.