D&D 5E My Five Favorite Things From Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos

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I don’t play Magic: The Gathering but have enjoyed the sourcebooks that they’ve done for Dungeons & Dragons, from the initial Plane Shift PDFs to the current slate of physical books. They are “new to me” settings full of material that I can use in my own games how I see fit. The newest release, Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos is the first one that I’ve considered running more or less straight out of the book. I’ve been intrigued by Wizards of the Coast’s take on a magic school setting, so I tore into my review copies like I was cramming for a final at midnight. Here are my favorite things from the book due out in December.

Social Adventures​

Of the three pillars of D&D cited by the designers - combat, exploration and social interaction - the last one seems to have gotten the short end of the stick in the official adventures. Over half the book’s page count is devoted to a campaign structured around the four years of school the PCs will attend. Of those four adventures, three of them center around big social events: a music festival, a big game like homecoming, and a grand masquerade ball. There’s still battle maps, combats and a climactic battle against a Big Bad but the campaign takes a much different journey to get there.

Relationships​

This playstyle is supported by a big section on NPCs that can become friends, rivals and lovers to the PCs. If I were running the campaign, I’d show these pages to my players and ask them to choose their best friend, biggest rival and potential partner. Then I’d giggle with glee when players chose the same characters for different roles and use the soap opera drama to contrast the heroic deeds. How do you explain to your fighter that his rival just asked you out on a date? What happens when their ex offers to help you pass that exam you know you will flunk otherwise?

There’s also some mechanical heft to this idea as players earn relationship points by interacting with these NPCs. Positive relationship points give you perks like someone willing to have your back in a fight. Negative relationship points create some lingering issues, like a jealous ex who might stack things in front of your door to annoy you. It’s not something like Smallville or Masks as far as social mechanics go, but it’s a start.

Student Dice​

Players in a Strixhaven campaign can jump into the pillars of campus life, including things like jobs, exams and extracurricular activities. These choices not only provide relationship points that power social interactions, but they also provide Student Dice. These act like a bless effect based on the skills the character has been using during downtime by adding a d4 to an ability check once per long rest. Been studying for that Magical Physiologies test? Use a Student Die on your attack roll against the Otyugh because you know where they are vulnerable. A reporter for the Strixhaven Star? Spend a Student Die on your Insight check because you’ve been honing your nose for news all semester.

Mage Tower​

Every magical school needs a weird sport to play and Mage Tower is the choice for the five Strixhaven colleges to challenge each other on the field. It’s a modified version of capture the flag, except each team’s flag is a mascot with a mind of its own. The game is structured like a skill challenge where each successful roll is counted as a point, and casting spells can grant advantage on a skill check or points without rolls depending on the level of the spell. The game is central to one of the adventures, but I could also see it used as a backdrop for other moments in campus life as students play friendly games on the quad.

A Math Dragon​

Each of the colleges was founded by a dragon. I think my favorite founder is Tanazir Quandrix, whose college focuses on learning the laws of reality to break them through magic. Each of the dragons gets a writeup in the monster section and Tanazir has some fun powers, such as a breath attack that manifests as an equation that weakens the character or the ability to fold space and teleport.
 

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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland



el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I am interested enough to maybe pick this up to steal stuff from, but ideally I would have wanted it to be focused on playing 0 to 3rd level students and then 9th and up level professors (and you can stick any mini-campaign between 3rd and 9th before PCs have a chance to come back as faculty with some worldly experience).
 

Mage Tower​

Every magical school needs a weird sport to play and Mage Tower is the choice for the five Strixhaven colleges to challenge each other on the field. It’s a modified version of capture the flag, except each team’s flag is a mascot with a mind of its own. The game is structured like a skill challenge where each successful roll is counted as a point, and casting spells can grant advantage on a skill check or points without rolls depending on the level of the spell. The game is central to one of the adventures, but I could also see it used as a backdrop for other moments in campus life as students play friendly games on the quad.
Sounds like this is the official 5E take on Skill Challenges. Or at least a format to model/change/reverse engineer for Skill Challenges.
 



Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
Sounds interesting. From the Table of Contents, it appears you level up to 10th in college. That seems oddly high to me.

Isn't MtG a setting where Planeswalker are extremely rare? They might be to heroes (that can get to level 20 over their lifetime) what heroes are to Commoners. You only need one university worth of them for the wholr multiverse.

Plus, did you notice the flowery decorations on your enrollment form? It wasn't just a picture, it was the old draconic script for the consent form, where they spelled the fatality rate of Strixhaven midterms.
 

Mage Tower​

Every magical school needs a weird sport to play and Mage Tower is the choice for the five Strixhaven colleges to challenge each other on the field. It’s a modified version of capture the flag, except each team’s flag is a mascot with a mind of its own. The game is structured like a skill challenge where each successful roll is counted as a point, and casting spells can grant advantage on a skill check or points without rolls depending on the level of the spell. The game is central to one of the adventures, but I could also see it used as a backdrop for other moments in campus life as students play friendly games on the quad.
This will be integrated into my campaign almost immediately. I've been searching for a few team sports to put into the game, because sports and D&D are an appropriate mix.

Mage Tower among my fey creatures may just be a bonding exercise between them and the Kin who currently distrust magic.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Looks like an original book to me, that's refreshing. More focus on social interaction is good: most DMs don't do a good job at that, thinking combat is always more important.

I am however not so keen on the mechanical bonuses, once again they risk demoting social encounters to a way to... boost combat encounters :/

The ToC leaves me a bit undecided... the book seems more about adventures than a setting (which I'd be more interested in) but it remains to be seen, maybe there is a lot in those adventures that effectively delineates the setting well.

Sounds interesting. From the Table of Contents, it appears you level up to 10th in college. That seems oddly high to me.

Why not? If they take on more or less the same challenges than regular adventurers, they deserve their XP.

Also, that sounds like the maximum you can ever reach without leaving the college, but doesn't mean the majority of them get there. It's not like a US college where daddy pays and the diploma is guaranteed.
 

Rellott

Explorer
This will be integrated into my campaign almost immediately. I've been searching for a few team sports to put into the game, because sports and D&D are an appropriate mix.

Mage Tower among my fey creatures may just be a bonding exercise between them and the Kin who currently distrust magic.

Have you head about siegeball? It’s a fun in-game sport.

 

The Lorehold Dragon should have been a Cleric instead of a Wizard IMHO. And the Founder Dragons should have gotten their colleges signature spell.

Daegomoths are cool fiends but heavy mix of Pact granting Sadistic Psychic Vampire flavour.

Those are the most interesting creatures. I would he student/professor stats disappoint, especially professors.

It's default setting is Arcavios, but that just means it suffers from the weaknesses of Arcavios (lack of setting exploration outside of Strixhaven of Arcavios, should have been a two sets, not one like Kaldheim.).
 

It's default setting is Arcavios, but that just means it suffers from the weaknesses of Arcavios (lack of setting exploration outside of Strixhaven of Arcavios, should have been a two sets, not one like Kaldheim.).
It should have been dropped into an existing world, rather than one that is barely described, you mean?

Lack of description of Arcavios seems like a big issue to me too. Referring back to the discussion of railroading, if players aren't going to be railroaded through this campaign, then dropping out of college should be a very real option. If the DM isn't going to flash "GAME OVER" if that occurs - which sends a very unhelpful message - they need to be able to continue the campaign away from college. Which means homebrewing Arcavios almost from scratch.

Added to that, Arcavios cannot be a generic pseudo-medieval D&D world. In order for it to house something that closely resembles a modern American university (but with magic) it must exist in a society that somewhat resembles modern America (but with magic). In D&D, Eberron fits the bill, but Stryxhaven was introduced to MTG first, and Eberron isn't an MTG setting.
 

Bolares

Hero
It's default setting is Arcavios, but that just means it suffers from the weaknesses of Arcavios (lack of setting exploration outside of Strixhaven of Arcavios, should have been a two sets, not one like Kaldheim.).
I think "the weakness of Arcavios" is one of the strenghts of this book. It makes it pretty easy to port stryxhaven to any world in the DnD multiverse with minimal change.
 


Bolares

Hero
I don't think it's as easy as all that. There is a lot of implied culture that isn't a good fit for a typical pseudo-medieval/pseudo-renaissance setting.
I don't know about that. DnD is very anachronistic today. Having an american college inspired magic school in FR doesn't seem too jarring for me. And sure, somethings will have to be changed, but the more you develop arcavios, harder it will be to implant stryxhaven in other places. A really don't care about Arcavios, but if I can easilly put the school as a stand in for Arcanix or Morgrave in Eberron, I'll be really happy.
 

Eberron is fine, but things like the "extracurriculars", sport, and some of the jobs are a bad fit for FR, Greyhawk etc. To me, it looks like so much of the flavour would need to be changed that it would be easier to start from scratch.
 

Bolares

Hero
Eberron is fine, but things like the "extracurriculars", sport, and some of the jobs are a bad fit for FR, Greyhawk etc. To me, it looks like so much of the flavour would need to be changed that it would be easier to start from scratch.
Well, I probably don't know as much about FR as you, but I don't see stryxhaven being so far off from the seting delivered to us in dragon heist.
 

I don't know about that. DnD is very anachronistic today. Having an american college inspired magic school in FR doesn't seem too jarring for me. And sure, somethings will have to be changed, but the more you develop arcavios, harder it will be to implant stryxhaven in other places. A really don't care about Arcavios, but if I can easilly put the school as a stand in for Arcanix or Morgrave in Eberron, I'll be really happy.

Eberron, Spelljammer, and even FR can take Strixhaven easily enough (hell for FR could absorb Arcavios & its two continents itself pretty easily in host of ways). But Birthright, Darksun, Planescape (despite their suggestion of putting the university in Sigil), Greyhawk, and Dragonlance wouldn't be a good fit.
 


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