“The Lost Mine of Phandelver” is absolutely one of the best D&D adventures for beginners. It’s included with the D&D Starter Set for a reason. It offers an interesting story, challenging (but not too hard) combat, and just enough hand-holding to be helpful. It’s forgiving, which is key when designing a great D&D campaign for beginners.
“The Lost Mine of Phandelver” (LMoP) takes players through the byroads and surrounding forests outside the city of Neverwinter. There’s enough Forgotten Realms lore to keep veterans interested, but the real goal here is accessibility to beginners (whether players or Dungeon Masters). In more ways than one, this campaign from the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set excels at that.
The LMoP campaign is divided up into five chapters. The first chapter takes players into a Cragmaw Cave, where players will face goblins, possibly wolves, and at least one bugbear (depending on where the story takes you). Follow-up chapters will take adventurers to neighboring cities, a castle, and the lair of the mysterious Black Spider. It’s all the staple elements of Dungeons & Dragons, streamlined into a campaign that’s accessible for everyone and great for beginners.
Long-time players may find “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” to be too restricting. However, the sort of hand-holding that happens is necessary for players just learning the game.
For example, if players attempt to go beyond a forest near Cragmaw Cave, the adventure instructs the DM to stop them because the growth is “too thick.” Veteran players may be frustrated if the DM keeps Why can’t I just burn it down? Why can’t I chop through the foliage? Why can’t my Barbarian use Rage and then bulldoze it all with their head?
All of these are valid questions veterans might ask, but not one of them may even cross a newcomer’s mind.
I should note, however, that there is enough exploring set out in the adventure for new players to be satisfied with finding their own way. They can certainly miss things, as it’s not fully linear. It’s just not a sandbox.
Difficulty & Challenge
While the campaign can be challenging at some points, and there is always a risk of character death (especially for anyone who’s just started playing Dungeons & Dragons and wants to poke the bear — literally), most of the campaign is forgiving.
For the most part, LMoP is filled with relatively weak enemies that players can deal with without much trouble. Even if a player messes up in these encounters, it’s going to be difficult for them to actually die. (Unless you’re trying to do that, you crazy person!)
In general, unless you’re looking for trouble, the challenge of the adventure comes in learning the rules, figuring out how to navigate the world, and how to interact with your party. The monsters can be a challenge, but for the most part, “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” is one of the most balanced of all WotC-published D&D adventures.
LMoP Story and Quests
The story of “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” is interesting, presenting a mystery that becomes more complex over time. What starts as a simple quest turns into a sprawling (for levels 1-5, at least) campaign.
It’s certainly enough to keep players interested and the momentum rolling between play sessions. However, because it is a beginner campaign, the story might actually be a bit too deep at times. You could argue there is too much there for complete beginners to D&D. Several major plot points are completely missable, especially if players aren’t used to asking the right questions or searching the places.
In these cases, it’s relatively easy for the DM to redirect the players. But some players think that gets into railroading territory, and that’s a sticky subject. Even if it’s not actual railroading, player choice over DM preference is still the best way to move through D&D adventures.
Additionally, side quests and other great content can be totally missed. As always, a DM doesn’t urge players to try some of it out, but it’s far more enjoyable for players to find this stuff on their own. Missing any of it is a real shame because some of the side quests in “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” are actually pretty good.
As good as the side content is, it’s still mostly optional. Anyone who just wants to rush through the main campaign is free to do so.
Phandelver, Phandalin, and Other Surrounding Settings
The settings in the adventure are varied, and they offer a quick tour of what Dungeons & Dragons and the Forgotten Realms have to offer. From spooky forests to maze-like caves, all the way to a large city and a sinister lair, it’s like getting a liberal arts degree in college: there’s a lot to see, but you don’t really focus on anything.
The great part is that these varied settings are all interesting. While there are a lot of them, and you do move through them relatively quickly, you get a feel for the small town of Phandalin as well as a fondness for places like Wave Echo Cave.
This kind of familiarity is really well deserved because the setting is very well developed. Enough so that if your party wants to continue after you finish “The Lost Mine of Phandelver,” you can move directly into “The Dragon of Icespire Peak” in the Essentials Kit which takes place in the same area and further introduces beginners to the Forgotten Realms and D&D in general.
Is “The Lost Mine Of Phandelver” the Best D&D for Beginners?
Yes. Probably. “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” is designed from the ground up for new players. And, honestly, it works great. My four-year-old daughter and wife have been playing this campaign with me. They’re both complete newbies, and they have enjoyed the adventure and are interested in playing more often.
If you’re a veteran and not a beginner, will you want to play “The Lost Mine of Phandelver”? The answer is both yes and no. In terms of mechanics and complexity, there are other adventures with a lot more depth and intrigue in them available. However, there are very few officially published 5e adventures that are this cohesive and well-crafted. Even long-time players will be able to appreciate that.
By the time LMoP is finished, players should have a solid understanding of the game rules, the world of Faerûn, and how to play a tabletop RPG campaign with a group. Plus, they’ll be Level 5 and ready to move on to other 5e adventures! For anyone looking to start tabletop gaming, this campaign (and the Starter Set it comes with) is just about the best D&D for beginners you can find.
If you need additional resources for ‘The Lost Mine of Phandelver’ outside of the Starter Kit, you can find plenty on DMs Guild to help you (whether player or DM) learn how to play D&D Fifth Edition.