5 Fun Tabletop Adventure ideas for when you need some inspiration

Posted by Annabelle Collins on

As a Dungeon Master, I love the thrill of diving into a fresh and exciting game scenario! On some days, however, I go to write a one-shot and sit there with blank-paper-syndrome for hours.

Just in case you get hit with that problem as well, I’ve gone ahead and prepared five great scenarios to pique your imagination.

These are great to use as inspiration for one-shots or something new to add to your campaign. While not all of these ideas will fit seamlessly into your existing campaign, they’ll definitely spark some ideas for game night!



Fathoms Below: Underwater Adventure


A sea turtle looking slightly disgruntled at the D&D adventurers who have journeyed into his home to steal his treasure

Why keep things on land when you can plunge your game into a watery realm filled with sunken treasures, eerie shipwrecks, and hidden underwater experiment chambers?

Your players will have to juggle dwindling air supplies, curious sea critters, and treacherous underwater currents.

Watercolor image of a sunken shipwreck deep below the waves - D&D underwater encounter ideas

Make sure you have gone over the rules for underwater combat as it is vastly different to on land!

Arrows are more likely to drift away that hit your target and with a truly 3D battle field you need to be aware not only of who’s creeping up behind you, but from above and below!

Fun Twist:

Throw in a race against time to recover a powerful artifact hidden in the depths before the wreck it lies in slips down into a trench and becomes truly lost to this world.

To win, your players will have to crack underwater puzzles, make allies with aquatic beings, and navigate the dangers of the deep.

A mossy pebble with a glyph inscribed upon it to set of the underwater trap

Oh, and just a cheeky trap idea...

Have a glyph containing the spell “water walk” carved into an underwater tunnel with spikes on the ceiling - evil, I know >:D !

An underwater cavern with spikes hanging down from the ceiling ready to trap and unwary adventurers with low passive perception



The Haunted House of Horrors

An image of a room in a haunted house with a ghost peaking out from within a mirror - DnD Haunted House One-shot Ideas

I love having a bit of horror in my DnD games and a haunted house does make the perfect backdrop.

Set the mood with creaky doors, flickering lights, and mysterious whispers that echo through the halls, just on the edge of hearing.

Take care when describing horror in your games to focus on the details. A strangely life-like glass eye from the teddy bear or the flicker in the mirror in the corner of your eye...


Not-so-Unique Twist:

A side table inside a haunted house with a ghost reflected in the mirror - D&D horror one-shot ideas

Make the house itself a character with its own goals and motivations.

Ok, this has definitely been done before but it’s still a really fun twist to use.

The house can manipulate the environment around the players to achieve its dark objectives, adding an extra layer of intrigue and challenge.

Once the players realise that the house itself is their enemy you can throw in a skill challenge to escape.

Players will have to pit their creativity against broken floorboards, bricked in doors and that creepy doll collection that really didn’t need to be there. 

Six or seven creepy dolls staring at you as they block the exit - D&D horror one-shot ideas


If you're ok with dropping a dollar on a supplement, I recommend checking out this guide on running a skill challenge to escape a haunted house. It is based on the Death House from the DnD 5e Module Curse of Strahd, but could definitely be adapted for a homebrew haunted building of your own.



Heist: The Grand Swipe

A luckless D&D adventurer hanging from a windowsill as they try to stealthily break into a mansion for a heist based one-shot


I love heists, especially for one shots.

It lends itself to a game with clear objectives, high stakes and plenty of opportunity for puzzles and roleplay.

So why not have your players orchestrate a high-stakes heist that would make Danny Ocean proud?


For you as the DM, it’s time to design some security systems for them to outwit.

Alarm on the windows, security guard death golems, glyph of warding that casts Arcane Eye are all great bets!

One wrong move could mean a desperate bid to escape as a chase scene initiates … if they’re lucky!


Unique Twist:

Add some extra spice by having players compete against rival thieves. This extra layer of competition adds urgency and creativity to the heist.

A rival rogue with eyes rather intensely fixed on the prize the party is after - Ideas for D&D one-shots

Players will need to think on their feet, adapting to their rivals' actions to stay one step ahead.

If you run multiple games with different groups, try drawing inspiration for the rival thieves actions from the first group of players you ran the game for.

Borrow their creative ideas and use them to set challenges for the next lot! 



Wilderness Survival: Against All Odds


I really enjoy seeing how creative and resourceful players can be with limited resources and a wilderness survival game is a great way to showcase their hidden talents.

Players might be stranded on a desert island or banished to the frozen wastes - either way, they’ll have to rely on their resourcefulness and ingenuity to survive.

a Party of D&D adventurers braving the frozen north together - D&D one-shot ideas

 Let them choose between a limited pool of equipment when they begin and then see how they put it to use!

They’ll be battling the elements, wild animals, and possibly even hostile individuals whose own desperation has turned them from reason.

It’s time for you to have fun with some environmental hazards (also, random tangent, is it just me that spent their childhood terrified of quicksand?) and remind them just what a cruel woman Mother Nature can be.

Environmental hazards can be as dangerous as a trap Image of quicksand with warning sign for adventurers dnd 5e


Unique Twist:

A secret research laboratory hidden inside an isolated jungle cave waiting for your D&D party to discover - Modular Realms D&D ideas

Introduce clues to a hidden objective, such as a mysterious artifact or a long-lost civilization hidden within the wilderness.

As players struggle to stay alive, they must also uncover the land's secrets, leading to an earth-shattering revelation that could change everything when (if!) they return to civilisation.

It's a great way to turn arrest and subsequent banishment into a tool to drive the campaign forwards.


Tournament of Champions


Friendly competition, anyone?

Whilst personally not my favourite, I can't deny that a tournament scenario can really be crowd-pleaser! For some tables, chilling out and hitting each other with big pointy sticks is exactly what the doctor ordered!

Choose a game, sport, or fighting style, set the scene and let the players battle it out for the title of ultimate champion.

This doesn’t have to be typical combat by the way. It could be a battle of the bards, a high-stakes card game, or a race through a magical assault course to name just a few.

The choice is yours!

Unique Twist:

Include unexpected challenges and twists in each round, forcing players to think on their feet and adapt to new circumstances.

For a combat example, they might encounter moving floor pieces as the battle ground shifts around them or fire traps that go off at regular intervals.

Perhaps a sudden interloper will cause rivals to form a brief alliance whilst they join forces against the intruder. The true champion must not only excel in their chosen field but also demonstrate their ability to adapt to the unexpected.



So, if you came here because you're facing blank-page syndrome, I hope these ideas can serve as a springboard for you to let your imagination run wild!

Get creative, adapt these or come up with your own unique scenarios that cater to your group's interests and play style. Think about what your group likes, what themes or challenges excite them and then consider how you can add twists and turns they won’t be expecting.

Not even the sky's the limit when it comes to creating unique and engaging tabletop game scenarios!

A mountain with stars above it to indicate inspiration, adventure and that as the dungeon master of your own D&D campaign, the sky is the limit!
I make magnetic modular dnd dungeon tiles to make epic snap-together battlemaps for all your TTRPG needs!

Annabelle Collins, Chief Artificer of Modular Realms and inventor of the auto-snapping magnetic system. She loves playing DnD games with her friends and crafting DnD Scenery


Hi! I'm Annabelle! I'm the author of this blog and a huge nerd!

I also make magnetic, double-sided, modular dungeon tiles!

My DnD terrain contains secret spinning magnets so that each piece snaps instantly to every other. They even come in a box disguised as a spellbook to store away on your bookshelf!

They're really cool, you should totally check them out here!

Modular Realms magnetic dnd terrain, basically a banner with a dungeon tileset I do laid out as different battlemaps and shown with the book box packaging

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  • Eyyyyyy! Thanks Harobed! :D

    I love the choosing starting equipment too :) It can really bring out the resourceful side. One of my party still uses a wok as her main melee weapon and it’s honestly great! :D

    Annabelle on
  • I love the wilderness challenge one (well, all of them, actually!) I like the idea that the party needs to choose/roll for their starting equipment. Maybe they are shipwrecked (land or air) and only a handful items were recovered from the wreckage. Time to get resourceful!

    harobed96 on

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