Our Classic RPG Adventures series covers essential adventures from the past and present. They all have plenty to offer modern gaming groups regardless of their age. Some have been updated and revised for modern systems; others have not. Updating scenarios from older editions may be as simple as looking up a conversion guide online. In other cases, you may have to do some of the work yourself. However, in every case it’s worth the effort. Playing these classic adventures is like reading the ‘great books’ or watching classic cinema. It will expand your mind and broaden your appreciation of the art form.
[ Read: Classic RPG Adventures – Part 2: Sci-fi ]
Classic RPG Adventures – Part 1: Fantasy
Below, we look at some of the genre’s greatest hits for its biggest games. From D&D/AD&D to RuneQuest and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, these are some of the most incredible adventures we’ve seen!
1 Original Adventures Reincarnated
- Game: Dungeons & Dragons (Basic and Expert sets), Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition
- Publisher: TSR (originals)/Goodman Games
- Released: Originals 1979–1982
Produced in partnership with Wizards of the Coast, the Original Adventures Reincarnated books are hardback volumes not available as PDFs. Each brings a classic D&D module—or modules—to a modern audience. They include scans of the original material, commentary by original authors and contemporary designers, rules conversions and extra encounter materials.
The line of adapted adventures includes:
- Into the Borderlands (D&D Basic set): Based on B1: In Search of the Unknown and B2: The Keep on the Borderlands (1979) This is an undying classic, the quintessential party starter, partly due to its inclusion in the original Basic Set. For many, this box set and adventure was their first exposure to Dungeons & Dragons. Players in this campaign will experience a classic “dungeon crawl” styled adventure complete with lost treasures, vicious monsters, treacherous priests of chaos, tower keeps, and cavernous labyrinths
- The Temple of Elemental Evil (AD&D 1e): Based on T1: The Village of Hommlet (1979) and T1–T4: The Temple of Elemental Evil (1985) More classic dungeon crawling goodness in the Greyhawk setting! Reclaim a fort in the sleepy town of Hommlet, and use it as a base from which to explore the nearby Temple’s massive dungeons. This is as close to a Megadungeon as classic D&D got. With multiple entrances linking together, it’s an expansive dungeon crawl plus an actual plot, and is perhaps Gary Gygax’s magnum opus.
- The Isle of Dread (D&D Expert Set): Based on X1: The Isle of Dread (1981) Branching out from the subterranean dungeon crawl style, this pulp style adventure was meant to introduce players to a more wilderness exploration style setting. It has a pretty simple plotline featuring a map fragment, a mysterious island, and lost treasure. Think of it as a hex-grid RPG homage to King Kong and the Lost Lands. Anchors away to explore the island!
- Castle Amber (D&D Expert Set): Based on 1981’s X2: Castle Amber (1981) This module was based on a series of novels by Roger Zelanzy, “The Chronicles of Amber.” In this phenomenal and kooky adventure, players awaken in Castle Amber, the ancestral home of the Amber family. Now, the Ambers dwell beyond space and time, imprisoned with their monstrously transformed servants and suffering under the family’s dead patriarch’s curse. Navigate your way out of the manor’s insane twists and turns, and escape if you can! Warning, use of magic in this mist-circled castle may lead to dire consequences…
- The Lost City (D&D BasicSet): Based on 1982’s B4: The Lost City (1982) Heroes playing in this pulp-style dungeon crawl module find themselves lost in the desert, at the mercy of a sandstorm, taking shelter in a huge stepped pyramid. High adventure awaits in the underground chambers and tiers of this pyramid covered by the sands of time. But what of the mad masked cultists who rule the upper levels of the pyramid? And what of the dark master that rules these humans from the lower levels of the forsaken halls?
- Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (AD&D 1e): Based on S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1980) This classic campaign is considered one of the oddest, and most fun, of all time. Yes, it’s classic fantasy D&D. Yes, it also has crashed spaceships, robots, lasers, aliens, and some of the most bonkers fun you can have playing the game. It was a huge shocker when originally released, (sorry for the spoilers) and was the first taste of sci-fi in D&D fantasy. It’s chocolate in the peanut butter, two great tastes that are even better together. A whole host of the most wacky iconic D&D creatures spawned from this adventure. Meet them in their original first appearance with Expedition to the Barrier Peaks!
This is already a great selection, and potentially more adaptations in this series are yet to come. We especially love the included commentary by folks like Luke Gygax and Mike Mearls, and all the new extra materials that turn these 30-page originals into full tomes of 300+ pages. They might be ‘original adventures’, but they’re also as modern as can be!
[ Read: Adapting Older D&D to Modern Rules ]
2 Griffin Mountain
Griffin Mountain is ‘A Complete Wilderness Campaign for RuneQuest’. It’s one of the game’s essential adventure sourcebooks. Along with Borderlands (1982), it cemented the game’s setting, Glorantha, as one of the industry’s greatest creations.
The book includes more detailed information about the Balazar region, two minor gods, citadels, local leaders, caravans, information that PCs might come across, potential encounters, points of interest and more. Balazar is different enough to the game’s more familiar regions, such as Prax and Dragon Pass, to feel somewhat exotic, but still familiar enough to be accessible to visitors.
Republished several times, it brings its setting to life in a way few other RPG sourcebooks have. Glorantha’s—and RuneQuest’s—strength is that it’s a living setting: the world’s powers are in motion, and the player characters can play their part.
[ Read: A RuneQuest RPG Primer ]
To take full advantage of the riches on offer, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the material and decide how best to use it in your game. The book doesn’t include an overall plot or storyline. But its detailed characters and encounters combine to create endless story and adventure opportunities.
If you’ve ever wondered how to create an open-world setting – an idea that many games have since attempted – and if you want to see how the grown-ups do it, Griffin Mountain is the blueprint.
3 The Enemy Within
The Enemy Within is the classic campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. The first instalment—The Enemy Within—was released in 1986. The final book—Empire in Flames—was released in 1989. The full campaign consisted of six parts:
- The Enemy Within (1986)
- Shadows over Bogenhafen (1987)
- Death on the Reik (1987)
- Power Behind the Throne (1988)
- Something Rotten in Kislev (1989)
- Empire in Flames (1989)
Hogshead Games began republishing the series in the early nineties. It included revisions and improvements, but sadly the final volume was never published. Cubicle 7 has republished the entire series with further edits – including the all-new Horned Rat to replace Something Rotten in Kislev – and commentary from the original writers.
[ Read: Welcome to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay ]
The classic RPG adventures of The Enemy Within are collectively considered one of the great roleplaying campaigns. We’d love to see every gamer play or run it. It’s an epic story that starts small; a case of mistaken identity quickly pulls the players into a web of conspiracies that quickly escalate into a potentially Empire-shattering conclusion.
4 “GDQ” – Giants, Drow, & Queen
This run of seven modules was initially released as three different series: Against the Giants (G1–G3), Descent into the Depths (D1–D3) and Queen of the Demonweb Pits (Q1):
- G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief (1978): Raid a hill giant’s lair and uncover their alliance with other giants
- G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl (1978): Search for the force behind the giants’ alliance
- G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King (1978): Discover the force behind the giants’ alliance
- D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth (1978): Search for the Drow’s home
- D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa (1978): Find allies against the Drow
- D3 Vault of the Drow (1978): Discover the Drow’s underground city
- Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits (1980): Confront Llolth in her lair
The action—and the stakes—escalate as each module leads into the next. You begin with a seemingly innocuous raid on a giant’s lair and end with a confrontation against a demigod in her realm. The series is notable for many reasons. G1 was the first module published by TSR, the ‘D’ series introduced the Drow and the Underdark, while Q1 gave players a detailed look at an Abyssal realm.
These classic RPG adventures are frequently rated by D&D players as the greatest series of adventures written. It has been revised and repackaged several times, but any edition will reward you richly!
Written by Michael B.
Michael’s from Sydney, Australia. Over the years he’s organized game conventions, contributed to magazines, and written supplements for White Wolf and Dream Pod 9. He sometimes wonders if he should just quit his job and just run all these campaigns.