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

Bolares

Hero
@Henadic Theologian knows more about FR than me, but I do know something about university life in renaissance Europe, which FR was modelled on.
I bet you know a lot about that. I don't want to ignore that. But my point is, that, how FR is presented today, (I never really got invested in it before 5e) there is not so much left of pure renaissance Europe in it, or at least, it got so mixed up with other stuff that Stryxhaven doesn't look to me as the (only) odd one out. There is a church in waterdeep that builds robots and stuff like that.
 

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I bet you know a lot about that. I don't want to ignore that. But my point is, that, how FR is presented today, (I never really got invested in it before 5e) there is not so much left of pure renaissance Europe in it, or at least, it got so mixed up with other stuff that Stryxhaven doesn't look to me as the (only) odd one out. There is a church in waterdeep that builds robots and stuff like that.
There is enough that you wouldn't expect professional sport* or LARPing to suddenly be a thing in Waterdeep.

Sticking on a distant continent is an option of course, but you still have the problem of having to homebrew the details of the new continent.

*okay, jousting could be considered a professional spot in the renaissance. But it was definitely not something you could combine with studying at university.
 


Bolares

Hero
I'm sorry for being such a pain in the *ss with this. but I just have trouble seeing how far from waterdeeps crazy web of anachronistic references stryxhaven really is. If larping is to far for you, sure, change it for another kind of performative art. Mage tower is just an emulated and rules structured battle, it's litterally familiar capture the flag.
 

I'm sorry for being such a pain in the *ss with this. but I just have trouble seeing how far from waterdeeps crazy web of anachronistic references stryxhaven really is. If larping is to far for you, sure, change it for another kind of performative art. Mage tower is just an emulated and rules structured battle, it's litterally familiar capture the flag.
Sure, you can fix those things to make them fit. The trouble is those are just two examples out of hundreds of things needing fixing. Really, easier to start from scratch to design your college to fit the established culture.
 


Well there is a lot of implied culture in Hogwarts that isn't a good fit for modern UK, but heck of a lot of people where fine with the idea!
I went to a school much like Hogwarts (but with less magic) so no, Hogwarts is just fine for UK in the 90s (when it is set). Things like The Ministry of Magic are very much culturally British.
 

HammerMan

Legend
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.
I do love the idea of all three pillars being equal, and I hope this shows what going forward "anniversary" edition will focus on.

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.
sounds interesting, but I am leery of it.

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.

totally stolen for my next campaign

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.
skill challanges... yes please. you can have the game I just need the frame work
 



Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
There were. But I think he meant that sport as a university activity is something very US-specific and maybe Oxford-Cambridge rowing competition specific. Right now students do sports elsewhere but it is not emphasised at the same level. And it was all the less so in the past. There was no 16th century jock in the Karolinum even if sports existed and were practiced.
 


Bolares

Hero
There were. But I think he meant that sport as a university activity is something very US-specific and maybe Oxford-Cambridge rowing competition specific. Right now students do sports elsewhere but it is not emphasised at the same level. And it was all the less so in the past. There was no 16th century jock in the Karolinum even if sports existed and were practiced.
Sure, but also there were no wizards using uni to learn magic missile. The point wasn't that stryxhaven fits in history, but that stryxhaven fits in the Forgotten Realms.
 






dave2008

Legend
I went to a school much like Hogwarts (but with less magic) so no, Hogwarts is just fine for UK in the 90s (when it is set). Things like The Ministry of Magic are very much culturally British.
That is not what I am talking about. I'm talking about the clash between the magic and non-magic world. Not the culture of a boarding school. If you can have a hidden magical boarding school (heck - a whole society) right next to modern science-based culture, then you can fit a magical university into any D&D setting without much trouble. They seem to work just fine as complete separate cultures. I mean, everyone seems to except that the magical world of HP has no real influence on the muggle world around it (and vice versa).
 

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