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Tabletop D&D Without the Hours of Prep

Tabletop D&D Without the Hours of Prep

RPGs are awesome. I’ve spent many a night delving into a dungeon and discovering the mysteries in long forgotten caverns. But the one down side is that D&D takes substantial prep time. The DM has to come up with a story, flesh it out enough to hook the characters, and then be prepared to throw it all out when the players do something unanticipated.

And there are some weeks when real life gets in the way and there just isn’t time to adequately prepare for the adventure. But if you’re still hankerin’ for some sword-swinging action, then all is not lost. The D&D Adventure series may be there to save the day. The simple idea is that it provides a cooperative sword and sorcery experience in a one-shot setting. Perfect for a DM trying to stall until the next game night.

WrathThere are four titles in the Adventure series. Each is a simplified version of D&D 4th Edition that focuses on combat and adventure. The players grab one of five heroes and select from among fifteen or so different adventures. They might have you trying to escape before time runs out, preparing for the final confrontation by securing needed items, or dashing in to destroy the game’s villain.

The best part is that the games are fully cooperative. Which means even the DM can get a fleeting feeling of what it’s like to be on the player side of things. Each round, the players will need to explore a new tile. If they don’t, a random event occurs which is usually (almost always) something bad. Once they explore, a monster arrives and does what all monsters do – attack the heroes. The bestiary contains a wide variety, so the choice is made by drawing a card from the monster deck. That card also says how the monster operates. It lists its stats, how it moves, and who it attacks. The simple AI eliminates the need for a DM and dramatically reduces prep time.

Each of the four games use the same system and can be combined easily, but each also has its own flavor. In Castle Ravenloft, the players explore the expansive manor of a powerful vampire. They’ll face zombies, ghouls, bone dragons, flesh golems, and even the Count himself. The mood is dark and sinister. By contrast, Wrath of Ashardalon has the players on a dragon hunt. They explore large caverns, fighting kobolds, duergar, and orcs. Make it far enough in, and you might even come across an otyugh or the eponymous dragon. The mood is one of suspenseful adventure as you hack and slash your way toward victory.


Legend of Drizz’t includes the characters from the popular series of novels. And, in my opinion, features the most powerful heroes. Here, you enter the Underdark filled with grell, spiders, and even a beholder. You’ll even have playable villains that can momentarily ally with you if the adventure requires it. Finally, the Temple of Elemental Evil, the latest title in the series, is the first to feature a full campaign setting. Between adventures, you can visit a local town to upgrade your heroes and get new and impressive advantages, which you’ll definitely need as you explore the temple, fighting against all of the elements.

Although each has its own particular feel, there’s nothing to stop you from combining it all. Most easily combined are the monsters and treasures, which integrate seamlessly.  There are even adventures you can grab that use the components from one or more of the games. It’s a great way to get every drop of adventure out of these titles.

The D&D Adventure series doesn’t replace the RPG. By necessity, it’s simplified and focuses on just one aspect of the game. But if you’re looking to get some D&D flavor into your board game night, or if you need a placeholder while you buy yourself time to prepare your campaign, this is the way to go.

Have you played any titles in this series? Tell us about your favorites in the comments.

All Image Credits: Wizards of the Coast

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