These still take time to prepare, and it's always worth reading a whole adventure before running it, but it's still easier than designing an entire world and narrative. Of course, every campaign will have some type of roadblock that a Dungeon Master will have to overcome, but at the end of the day, it'll make them better for it.
Updated March 24, 2021 by John Higgs: Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition continues to grow, with three new adventures arriving in 2021, and the Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep campaign launching this month. While not all the new adventures are suited for first-time DMs, some feature significantly different experiences than the traditional starter campaigns, offering new routes to get into D&D.
If one thing is for certain, Defiance in Phlan will help the DM, and players, nail down the basics of D&D. The adventure is really five bite-size adventures put together in one package, making them incredibly easy to manage. That being said, Defiance In Phlan isn't long. It's primarily intended as a way to introduce players to the Adventurer's League, and most parties will be able to clear it in one or two sessions - each of the five missions taking roughly an hour to complete for those that remain on track. Still, it's an easy campaign to run, though it's intended for level 1 characters.
Tales From The Yawning Portal is an interesting beast. It's a collection of adventures from previous editions updated for Fifth Edition, some dating all the way back to the '70s. And while this means that there are decades worth of notes on the best way to run some of the adventures, it is worth noting that some of the adventures will be deadly, and it may be worth players having a backup character or two, just in case. Like Defiance in Phlan, the modularity is a good thing, though it will be quite a bit more intense for the most part.
A great choice for new DMs who are more excited by the roleplay side of Dungeons & Dragons than the combat, the Candlekeep Mysteries are a series of short adventures that launched in 2021. Each of the 17 adventures is standalone, but all are based around the College of Candlekeep in some way, making it easy for DMs to join them together. Most of the challenges in Candlekeep Mysteries can be solved through exploration, uncovering mysteries, or roleplaying with NPCs, and while combat is always an option it's never the only one. The adventures run all the way from level 1 to level 17, allowing DMs to run them in sequence or easily meld them into other campaigns.
The Dragon of Icespire Peak adventure launched with the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit, a box from 2019 that aimed at getting players started in D&D 5E. Because of this, it's one of the best D&D campaigns for new DMs and players alike, offering clear routes and classic challenges without feeling linear. The story itself is quite short compared to some others on this list, and will only take players as far as level 5, but the adventure also includes options for extending the campaign or blending it into the peerless Lost Mines of Phandelver.
There's a reason that Lost Mines of Phandelver comes with most of the basic D&D kits out there. Not only is it a great way to introduce new players to the game, but it's also a stellar option for first-time DMs looking to learn the ropes. By the end, most Dungeon Masters will be prepared to run meatier campaigns, having gained a better understanding of what it means to be a Dungeon Master in the first place. Those looking into D&D for the first time but unsure of where to start should absolutely consider Lost Mines of Phandelver as a go-to.
It's important to remember that these campaigns can be modified in any way the DM sees fit. If there's a particular aspect of a campaign that's causing frustration, it's perfectly fine to cut it. Also, remember that every player is different, and it's important to find the right balance combat, roleplaying, and exploration to please your entire table, which comes down to picking the right campaign. Even after a DM has chosen, or created, a campaign, there will still be a few things Dungeons and Dragons players need to get started, so be sure to take inventory of everything before kicking off an adventure.