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 AdventuresOf 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.
RelationshipsThis 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.