Are you looking for a D&D one shot that can be run in a single session instead of over weeks or years?
Not every Dungeons & Dragons game has to be part of an epic saga. In fact, many these days are not. Whether it's a special event at a game shop, a convention, or even a holiday gathering, a standalone D&D one shot adventure might be the perfect fit. Basically, they're Dungeons & Dragons short stories you can run on their own in a session or two.
With that in mind, let's get to some of the best D&D one shots that money can't buy. Each one is totally and entirely free.
It might sound crazy, but Grammy's Country Apple Pie is my favorite one shot available for D&D 5e. Read that introduction and you'll see why! It's a wizard who wants you to recover an apple pie recipe! Why? Because he wants some pie! It's great.
I've run this module a few times, and each time with a different result. In one, it was wanton slaughter of goblins, in another a player hosted a race-relations summit between goblins and humans in a village nearby, and in yet another, the party took over the bakery, hired the goblins, and began working on an international apple pie empire. It's great.
The one-shot itself is free and put out by Wizards of the Coast, but if you want to support the creator, you can also buy it on DMs Guild for a buck and get a hand-drawn map to run the encounter with on a VTT as well as some pretty cool pre-generated characters. I also made my own map for the adventure using Dungeon Alchemist which you can see below. Just click the image to open the full-size map.
If you end up running this free D&D one shot, let me know. I need to know how your party handles things.
Okay, so this is me being shameless. But bear with me. In late 2020, things were awful in my life (and the rest of the world, admittedly) and part of what I did to cope with that was to write up a fun, silly, D&D one-shot for Christmas. I put it up for free on DMs Guild, and it turns out that people really enjoyed it, and the reviews and ratings seem to indicate that it really is a good, fun, one-shot.
So, yes, I am being both shameless and biased on this one, but I'm very proud to have a one-shot with over 17,000 downloads and a Mithral best-seller rank (less than 2% of content on the site has that!). The ratings and reviews that hold up to anything else on this list. So yeah, I'm proud of it.
I bet you'll really enjoy Claus for Concern, Have a great time trying to save Santa from Eldara the Christmas Witch!
And if you're really into holiday-themed adventures, I wrote a fantastic Halloween one shot called The Liching Hour that will definitely make your spooky season a little more fun. Enjoy! It's also great to slot in anytime you want some creepiness for your Phandalin/Phandelver adventures!
I would definitely be remiss if I don't mention The Secrets of Skyhorn Lighthouse. This is one of the best free D&D adventures you're going to find. Period. Everything about it is refined, from the player experience to the dungeon master running the game and getting the info they need on the fly.
Nearly everything in the adventure is presented in the easiest-to-digest way possible: bulleted lists. You don't get a ton of extraneous information, but you do get an incredibly fun and engaging one shot for 5th-level characters. Just look at this:
And just to wet your whistle even more, here's what the description says it includes:
- Three new monsters that prowl the ocean depths
- A goblin submarine, a darkmantle sea captain, and a marid with a pet starfish grove
- The Arcane Library's signature format to make running the adventure effortless
- Printable handouts/references for monsters, PCs, and special treasure
- Gorgeous maps designed for easy use with Roll20
And this one isn't even PWYW. It's just straight-up free. Don't miss The Secrets of Skyhorn Lighthouse and its follow-up for level 8 characters, The Corruption of Skyhorn Lighthouse, which is still only $4.99.
Another silly D&D one shot that you can nab for free is Wild Sheep Chase. If you're not a fan of silly D&D, you may want to skip this one, but if you are…there's no way this description won't have you hooked immediately.
Adventure, danger and a decent dose of downright weirdness erupt when the party’s attempt to grab a rare afternoon of downtime is interrupted by a frantic sheep equipped with a Scroll of Speak to Animals. Soon they are dragged into a magical grudge match that will test their strength, courage and willingness to endure extremely baa’d puns.
Will our heroes be able to overcome a band of transmuted assassins on the hunt for a mutton dinner and fend off an extremely bitter ex-apprentice packing a dangerously unstable magic item? There’s only one way to find out…
Wild Sheep Chase should be possible to run in a single session of 3-6 hours. The designers at Winghorn Press put this one together really well. Plus, the download includes all the maps you need to do it in person or on a VTT. Plus, it's one of the few adventures I've seen that is pretty much written to be used out of the box. You shouldn't have to spend a long time prepping to run Wild Sheep Chase. It's totally worth the price.
If you're new to D&D and TTRPGs in general, you might not have copies of the rulebooks lying around willy-nilly. Lucky for you, the Basic Rules for D&D 5e are free online, and A Most Potent Brew is built to be run on those alone. You don't need even the core rulebooks. Just the free PDF for the rules and the free PDF for this high-rated, bestselling adventure.
This adventure has everything you could want in a D&D one shot: a quest to kill giant rats, exploring a wizard's tower, disarming traps, and solving puzzles. All at level 1! It's really awesome, like pretty much everything else Winghorn Press does.
It's PWYW, so you can pay $0 if you want, and even the recommended price is only $1. Either way, A Most Potent Brew is a steal.
This one is a free 5e one shot, for sure. But you can choose to purchase this one on DMs Guild to support the site. (Which is very worth it, IMO, as it's a fantastic resource.) That said, you can nab the PDF for free directly from Wizards of the Coast.
A trek toward Icewind Dale turns deadly when an avalanche blocks the heroes’ passage through the Spine of the World. Rescued by a menagerie of strange creatures, the heroes are asked to return the favor in exchange for answers about what’s happening in the cold and frozen North.
There are three really cool things (heh, heh, puns) about Ice Road Trackers. The first is that it introduces players to Icewind Dale and can directly tie the party into the Rime of the Frostmaiden hardcover. You can run this one in the Adventurers League organized play if that's how your local game shop does things. And finally, you can do it in a single 4-hour session or across 4 one-hour sessions. That's pretty unique among any modules.
7. Frozen Sick (D&D Beyond, Roll20)
Frozen Sick is a little different because it's available for free on D&D Beyond and on Roll20. It's based in Exandria, the world of the hugely popular Critical Role, which means that you may either love this or hate this because of that alone.
But, even if you're not a fan of the show, I think you should absolutely give Frozen Sick a shot. You will find a fully fleshed-out setting, intriguing hooks, well-paced encounters, and a strong narrative.
As I said, you should also be able to access Frozen Sick for free on Roll20 just by making an account, which means you get full access to tokens, maps, and everything you need to run without having to prep it and set it up manually. You need to read it and prep a bit. But you won't have to set up the VTT for your party, and that's worth its weight in gold—or maybe even platinum.
I've used the Frozen Sick module in Roll20 a few times as a base for sessions without even touching the story. The tokens, maps, and different monster stats are great to pull into games as miscellaneous, pre-prepped content.
What Is Your Favorite Free D&D One Shot?
These are just a handful of the amazing free D&D one-shots you will find out there. So let me ask you…what are some of your favorite D&D one shots? Have you run something special that you want to share? Let me know in the comments or give me a shout on Twitter!
Are you looking for the best D&D for beginners that isn't a one-shot? We review “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” which might be just what you're looking for. And don't miss what we think are the most amazing D&D titles on DMs Guild overall.