Community Spotlight: 5 One-Shots to Play This Summer

Summer months can be tricky on the ongoing campaign; players tend to be off on more weekend excursions and holidays, making it difficult for your regular D&D group to keep meeting. That means it's an excellent time to take a break from your story and play through a one-shot—an adventure designed to be completed in a single session. These five one-shots, designed by community authors, provide the perfect opportunity to roll up some new characters, try on a new class, or experiment with a concept you've been tossing around in your head for months. 

  1. Two Hearts Apart: A Dramatic Feywild Adventure
  2. Out of Luck: A Heist with Heart
  3. The Wild Sheep Chase: Hijinks to Remember
  4. Filthy Peasants: Classic Commoner Funnel
  5. Grandmother Mercy: Build a Big Baddie

1. Two Hearts Apart: A Dramatic Feywild Adventure

Two Hearts Apart book cover showing two gold rings encircled by a circle of twigs.Two Hearts Apart, written by Shu Qing Tan, tells an emotional story that packs a punch: A friend of the player characters, the Betrothed, is kidnapped on their wedding day by an archfey with a grudge. Designed for The Wild Beyond The Witchlight season of Adventurers League and optimized for 8th-level characters, this adventure won a silver ENNIE in 2022 for Best Organized Play adventure.

Right off the bat, the players are drawn into the story as they are asked to create the Betrothed's personality and relationships with the party members with the help of provided prompts. Alternatively, a few options are provided for the Dungeon Master to utilize. When the Betrothed doesn't show up for the wedding, the groom dramatically decries the curse of an archfey and asks the characters to accompany him on a rescue mission to the domain of Lohringar—a dangerous domain teeming with forests and wildlife. The text provides some helpful guidelines for playing this NPC in a way that helps the player characters without overshadowing them. 

Getting to the domain of Lohringar is a trial in itself, and once the characters are there, things only get more interesting. The adventure includes fun and whimsical exploration opportunities, as well as puzzles, challenges, and dangerous traps. And there is a plethora of roleplay opportunities with various NPCs slowly revealing drama between the groom, the archfey, and (no spoilers!) another creature. The characters' choices while exploring the domain can dramatically impact what happens when they finally reunite the groom with his Betrothed.

As an adventure written for organized play, its structure makes it easy for the DM to run and offers everything you need to play it in a single four-hour session. The text includes suggestions for a shorter playthrough, and the rich, dramatic story and roleplaying opportunities give more than enough for a second session if you want to spend more time with the story. For players who like some crunch to balance out social encounters, it also has plenty of mechanical challenges and combat. The adventure itself contains a content warning for blood and drowning.

Covert art by JN Butler

2. Out of Luck: A Heist With Heart

Out of Luck book cover showing a collage of hand-drawn characters adventuring in a feudal setting.

Out of Luck, written by Lyla McBeath Fujiwara, is a brilliantly written heist adventure for 6th-level characters set in Umizu—a location outlined in the back of Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel. The adventure includes the option to utilize some NPCs from the book, but the book is not required to run the adventure.

A twist on the classic "steal something valuable" heist, the mission in Out of Luck is to deliver a cursed object to Yashima, the boss of a local crime syndicate. Yashima is throwing a party on his yacht to celebrate his daughter's birthday; the characters are to get him to accept a cursed statue as a gift, swapping it for the decoy already placed below deck. There are a number of adventure hooks provided, including one that uses Keys from the Golden Vault. Either way, the characters are instructed that they must not implicate the group of merchants who are hiring them.

Armed with masks of disguise, characters have a number of infiltration options available to them, and each one includes a unique challenge they must overcome. My personal favorite is the cooking challenge for characters impersonating staff.

The adventure utilizes several player tools to create the atmosphere of a heist, such as a schedule for different party events, coupled with real, out-of-game timers. Once the party starts, the players have two hours in real-time to complete the mission. Additionally, there is a suspicion tracker that the entire table can see. When characters take various actions, like attacking associates of the crime syndicate or failing a Stealth check, the suspicion level rises. The suspicion level dictates how various NPCs might react to the characters, and higher levels mean more challenging obstacles. 

Plenty of guidelines, support, and hints are provided throughout the text to aid the DM in running this story. The adventure also includes plenty of new magic items and creatures.

Cover art by Mehitabel Glenhaber

3. The Wild Sheep Chase: Hijinks to Remember

The Wild Sheep Chase, by Richard Jansen-Parkes, is a free, silly adventure for 4th- or 5th-level characters that is full of hijinks, laughter, and sheep puns.

This comedy begins when a sheep approaches one of the characters and drops a scroll of speak with animals from its mouth. When the characters use the spell to chat with the sheep, they find they are talking to an egotistical wizard named Finethir Shinebright—the victim of a true polymorph spell. The sheep-wizard implores the characters to help him retrieve the powerful magic item responsible for his transformation from a dangerous and paranoid wizard named Noke. Shinebright baa-rely (sorry, couldn't resist!) begins to tell his sad tale when the party is attacked by one of Noke's goons and a handful of beasts with an oddly humanoid glint to their eyes. It turns out the increasingly paranoid Noke has been very busy with his wand of polymorph, including a few ill-advised modifications to the item.

As the characters learn more about Shinebright and Noke's story, it becomes more clear that Noke isn't the rapscallion he appears to be—or at least he isn't the only one. The adventure ends with a fun confrontation at Noke's current hideout, and the text provides several options for resolving the final outcome.

The Wild Sheep Chase is a community favorite for a reason. The basic premise alone is funny, and the underlying conflict between the two wizards provides a little more serious drama to balance out the ridiculousness.

4. Filthy Peasants: Classic Commoner Funnel

Filthy Peasants, by Chris Bissette, is an entirely different kind of adventure. Designed for level 0 characters (yes, you read that correctly), this adventure type is known as a "funnel," a term and concept that comes from Dungeon Crawl Classics. Players control multiple commoner characters who come together as a mob to protect their home, and the few characters who survive are marked as heroes. This adventure type has extremely high lethality by design, and Filthy Peasants is no exception.

The adventure assumes there are around 14 characters (not players) and includes instructions, tables, and guidelines for creating the hometown mob. One thing I really love is the table of 25 occupations (because level 0 characters don't have a class) that comes complete with equipment. And because this adventure is so different from the usual fare, the text also includes tips to help both the players and the DM maximize their fun.

Steyside, the characters' hometown, is nestled near a slow-moving river complete with a cave. Folks have complained about a foul smell emanating from the cave, and recently an entire merchant band has disappeared. The mob of characters have grabbed their pitchforks and torches (and whatever else they have) and are ready to swarm the cave. From the get-go, the adventure's chaotic and lethal nature is clear—someone's definitely going to die in the opening challenge. As the mob gets farther into the cave (undoubtedly thinning in the process), they encounter more and more signs of a troll.

A group of peasants carrying torches and farming equipment approach a cave blocked off by a boulder. A monstrous hand reaches out from behind the boulder.Art by Faizal Fikri

There's a fantastic table of random encounters, excellent traps and hazards, and even a table of great mushrooms characters can find. The dungeon crawl also includes places for the DM to sow seeds for further stories and adventures. And, of course, the few characters that survive the troll and live to tell the tale advance to 1st level, returning to Steyside as heroes.

Filthy Peasants is an enjoyable and casual way to explore a more lethal gameplay that rewards creative approaches and ideas. The characters don't have deep backstories, and players don't have the opportunity to get overly attached to them, so you're not too disappointed when one of your commoners inevitably dies. Play through the adventure as a one-off, use it to start a new campaign, or utilize it to create a town's heroes in your own setting.

5. Grandmother Mercy: Build a Big Baddie

Grandmother Mercy book cover showing a formally dressed hag wearing a pink suit and top hat.

If you're a DM who likes to build their own lair for a well-designed big baddie, Grandmother Mercy is ready and waiting for you. This Big Bad Booklet, published by Hit Point Press and written by Jamila R. Nedjadi, contains more than an impressive stat block for the power-hungry hag Sweet Grandmother Mercy; it clearly outlines her goals, motivations, and tactics, offers guidelines for roleplaying her, and includes minions and magic items.

Sweet Grandmother Mercy is a candy-coated hag—the very same classic hag supposedly outsmarted by a few children in the witch's own gingerbread house. Fueled by spite, Grandmother Mercy used her ashes and cookie-house to fashion herself a new body and began stalking children who display magic potential. She uses all the classic strategies to lure innocent children to her lair, intent on teaching them to be as cruel and evil as her. Few escape her viciousness.

Three well-developed adventure hooks are provided to aid a DM in setting up a scenario. My personal favorite is entitled "Think of the Children," and is a rescue mission. The Children of Justice, a group of young vigilantes who previously survived Sweet Grandmother Mercy, stormed her lair but haven't returned.

Grandmother Mercy's lair is filled with whimsical creatures and effects, like a bread pudding ooze, a candy golem construct, and gumdrops raining from the ceiling. A map is not provided, leaving plenty of room for DIY DMs to haul out their fantastical terrain or build their own lair via theater of the mind, but there is a "Print 'N Play" PDF with pictures and stat blocks for various creatures and magic items. At CR 10, Grandmother Mercy is a fun villain to top off the 2nd tier of play.

Cover art by Alex Stone

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Alyssa (@alyssavisscher) frequently rambles on Twitter about D&D. She especially enjoys analyzing its overall structure from a newbie perspective, bringing larger concepts to small, bite-sized pieces. She’s a parent of four, neurodivergent, disabled, and is impressively terrible at small talk.


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