Strixhaven Review Round-Up – What the Critics Say

In my in-depth review for Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos I noted that while there was a lot to like in the D&D adaptation of the Magic the Gathering set focused on a magical school, it didn't quite measure up to the high standards set by Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft or The Wild Beyond the Witchlight. But what did other reviewers think? Let's take a look.

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Great Rules, Forgettable Dungeon Crawls​

Polygon found Strixhaven to be a mixed bag. On the negative side, Polygon considered the actual adventure “forgettable,” the dungeon crawl portions “a bit silly” and the attention given to exams inconsistent over the course of the school years. Polygon also had such complaints about the exam mechanics that a house rule was suggested to fix it. On the plus side, Polygon enjoyed the lighter, whimsical tone of the adventure, praising it for having “some really fun material” that could be used as is or added to a homebrew campaign. Polygon also likes some of the new mechanics and subsystems. Strixhaven's ability to capture the feel of making friends in college and all of the hijinks, romance, and teen drama that can accompany school life. Also praised is the setting's inclusivity from buildings that magically change for size and mobility accommodations as well as non-binary and trans NPCs.

Dicebreakers was similarly conflicted, saying that it succeeds at doing something other than “the usual wandering adventurer rigamarole” while also pointing out flaws in how it shifts a combat-focused game into one with student pranks and relationship dynamics. So Strixhaven is considered uneven, occasionally shallow, especially in regard to the arc with a former student, and yet ambitious considering everything it's trying to accomplish. Dicebreakers also considered the new background options necessary for anyone not playing a caster class but warned DMs against allowing them in other campaigns unless there's a very good reason because it can easily throw off game balance. Dicebreakers was very intrigued by the mysteries Strixhaven only touches on lightly, such as ancient dragons that founded the school's factions, the Blood Avatar summoning, etc., but felt those story hooks were a bit lost while trying to adapt classic D&D to a more narrative- and relationship-heavy scenario. Despite the limitations, Dicebreakers liked Strixhaven both as an offbeat setting and for those who want to push the standard D&D rules into new directions.

TechRaptor loved the new relationship rules and praises the conscious effort that was made to present diversity among the supporting NPCs and magical accessibility accommodations for students. Like the other reviews, TechRaptor also calls out the included adventures as a weak point, especially the first installment, calling it “more an extended tutorial than a coherent story with stakes and player agency.” Despite the criticism, TechRaptor did think that the Hunt for Mage Tower and Magister's Masquerade adventures worked much better with the school setting. The Strixhaven asset pack for Roll20 got a shout-out for making sessions easier to run. Overall, TechRaptor praised several aspects of Strixhaven for promoting roleplay and social encounters and presenting lots of interesting ideas for adventure. Ironically, it said that the weakest point is when the adventure feels more like a typical D&D adventure and less like a wizard school.

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An Awkward Fit​

Strange Assembly found a lot to like in Strixhaven while also warning that it needs the right DM, not just because they have to be interested in this fresh-to-D&D setting but that that DM needs to do a lot of prep work and keep track of more elements like player relationships with NPCs and exams as well as the provided adventure. For the right DM and matching players, if handled correctly, Strange Assembly predicts “fabulous” results.

Yahoo News even had a review of Strixhaven with an assessment that depended upon your background. For readers who were coming to Strixhaven as a MtG player, Strixhaven scored well, bringing the flavor of the card setting to TTRPG. The review was more critical for D&D players interested in a wizard school setting. For example, the MtG approach to magic felt shoehorned into D&D's magic system, and while the bestiary had plenty of high-level creatures, the lack of even adventure seeds for for the Founder Dragons seemed like a strange omission.

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"Monogamy is for Suckers"​

Bell of Lost Souls had a completely opposite opinion of the Strixhaven backgrounds than Dicebreakers did, saying that the new backgrounds as well as new spells and monsters could be dropped into any campaign. Being “more than just a dungeon crawl” also appealed. Despite pointing out some flaws, it's also praised as “glorious harmony” for when Strixhaven's blend of adventure, roleplaying, and setting works. However, Bell of Lost Soul's also emphasized the fact that the romance rules allow a PC to have Beloveds equal to their proficiency bonus so even 1st level characters able to have two Beloveds. That, in turn, led Bell of Lost Souls to declare that Strixhaven allows players to “weaponize love and relationships. And according to WotC's rules, monogamy is for suckers.” That's certainly a different review! BoLS also complained about how little new spells the book contained for a wizard school setting, and that some of the mini games and mechanics were awkward.

Gaming Trend was the harshest, liking the idea of a magic school setting and adventure but labeling Strixhaven “academically anemic” with skimpy character options and confused purpose. Interestingly, Gaming Trend focused primarily on the Roll20 version of Strixhaven, which it praises for how easy it makes dropping in maps, items, etc., but otherwise it dislikes the Roll20 version. Like other reviewers, it considered the adventure segments more disconnected than modular. It also doesn't like the villain or how late it appears. Gaming Trend also hated the relationship rules, feeling that it gamified something that standard roleplay already handles well. Overall, Gaming Trend thinks Strixhaven will only appeal to a narrow audience of players.

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Overall​

Readers of our prior review roundups have noted some consistency in how various publications assess D&D products. That continues again here, only with less glowing cheers. For the most part, the setting was praised while the adventure was considered weak. New mechanics received mixed reviews, though most critics liked the relationship rules.

Echoing my review, if your group likes roleplay and social dynamics or is really interested in a wizard school campaign, most critics agree that Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos could appeal. Otherwise, tastes may vary depending upon the group's priorities and the DM's willingness to adapt a purchased module.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels


Its just, they should have used the actual Strixhaven setting. The one in the MTG, through card text, is described as cutthroat, dangerous, experimental, faction-dominated, and ruled by teaches whose magical powers make going to class as scary as it is enlightening. Instead we get the watered down, almost no conflict, very skimpy version of Strixhaven that is a glorified slice of life campaign.

Which I'm not against, by the way. Make that for D&D! But why strip out all the things that actually made Strixhaven interesting just to portray it as something it wasn't meant to be? They would've done better making a completely original setting, or at least trying to make the adventure a little bit exciting.

Alas, for those who enjoyed it, I'm very happy you did. I hope this book did find some audience and give ppl some amount of good vibes.
 

Tallifer

Hero
Its just, they should have used the actual Strixhaven setting. The one in the MTG, through card text, is described as cutthroat, dangerous, experimental, faction-dominated, and ruled by teaches whose magical powers make going to class as scary as it is enlightening. Instead we get the watered down, almost no conflict, very skimpy version of Strixhaven that is a glorified slice of life campaign.

Which I'm not against, by the way. Make that for D&D! But why strip out all the things that actually made Strixhaven interesting just to portray it as something it wasn't meant to be? They would've done better making a completely original setting, or at least trying to make the adventure a little bit exciting.

Alas, for those who enjoyed it, I'm very happy you did. I hope this book did find some audience and give ppl some amount of good vibes.

Myself I bought the book hoping for the happy children's version of Harry Potter D&D, meaning the first movie (although having read some of Baldur's Gate and Rime of the Ice Maiden, I realize that WotC caters somewhat to the angsty and immoral). I will confess that because I bought a ton of WotC books recently, I have yet to read it.
 


DeviousQuail

Adventurer
I read through the book but have not had a chance to run it. I'm having a hard time figuring out how to say it but the adventures, exams, games, and relationship stuff all feel like an outline. Running them as presented feels like the bare minimum and the DM needs to do a lot of work to make it come to life. This isn't a bad thing exactly but it does feel like most of the new stuff could have been one chapter in something like Xanathar's or Tasha's.

My biggest gripe is with Mage Tower. It's meant to be Strixhaven's equivalent of Quidditch. Instead it's nothing more than a way to try and burn some spell slots before the players get jumped by bad guys. And it doesn't even do that well since the design of the game means only 3rd level spells (you are 5th level at this point) are actually worthwhile. Lower level spells let you trade your roll to give an ally advantage. This is the True Strike fallacy in action.
 


You can still have the Teachers, or THAT kind of teacher, cast Finger of Death on a student for being late to class.

"Don't worry kids, I'll revive em later in the day."

Cleric student wants to revive his friend but............

Teacher: TRY ME, SEBASTIAN!*

Cleric Student backs off with tears in his eyes.

-A year later-
Teacher: Hmm, I know I'm forgett-sees dead student on the couch OOOOOH right. Silly me. Well, Sebastian is going to be happy to see his friend back. raises dead student as a Zombie. Wait till the class sees my new assistant!!!
 

You can still have the Teachers, or THAT kind of teacher, cast Finger of Death on a student for being late to class.

"Don't worry kids, I'll revive em later in the day."

Cleric student wants to revive his friend but............

Teacher: TRY ME, SEBASTIAN!*

Cleric Student backs off with tears in his eyes.

-A year later-
Teacher: Hmm, I know I'm forgett-sees dead student on the couch OOOOOH right. Silly me. Well, Sebastian is going to be happy to see his friend back. raises dead student as a Zombie. Wait till the class sees my new assistant!!!
THAT I would buy.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
The mixed reviews feel like exactly what I predicted. Strixhaven is a MTG setting being forced into a D&D setting. However since Strixhaven lacked many strictly D&Dism and the design team didn't go very hard on variant rules, the Strixhaven book what neither D&Dish, MTGish, nor Harry Potterishh.

Something good but not what was expected
 

ChaosOS

Legend
Currently running a Strixhaven game and just finished year 3 this past session. I honestly don't see the complaints; the adventure flows nicely and has a good variety of events. The Fellow Students are all fairly well fleshed out and make it easy to give the appearance of a large, interconnected school. Maybe it helps that my entire group is grad students, so the university setting has a lot of inherent resonance?
 



Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
as I have said before my 40's and 50's something group doesn't want to rp school, I wonder if it is an age thing
I'm the exact opposite. When I was in my teens I often played older characters, because this was fantasy to be things I couldn't. Now that I'm north of 50 I so enjoy playing younger characters, and do a lot of coming of age stories - quite appropriate in a zero to hero system like D&D.

I play charactrers older and younger, of different races, and all sorts of combinations. Who cast spells, sing songs, and wield magic.
 

I'm the exact opposite. When I was in my teens I often played older characters, because this was fantasy to be things I couldn't. Now that I'm north of 50 I so enjoy playing younger characters, and do a lot of coming of age stories - quite appropriate in a zero to hero system like D&D.
where I can see this (and it is somewhat true that I would play older characters in my teens as well) I find there is a limit to how 'young' you want to play. I would have no problem playing a 16 year old in a GoT inspired game as a squire... but playing a 22 year old going to school seems less fun to me.
The idea that you've grown to old to want to play something different than you are is frankly a little boggling for a D&D player.
and not at all what I said, so you must have misunderstood. The idea of going back to school doesn't interest us, not the idea of being different.
Do you play other races -
yes, and genders (or lack there of) and other jobs and other lots of things that can only be done in fantasy... I still don't want to play fantasy highschool/college as the student (grad coming back, teacher, visiter all of those but not student)
and if you do, do you actually play them to be something different,
yes... again I could even see if the fantasy school was REALLY fantasy and not proms and tests like a modern HS... it is the setting that we are not intrested in.
or just for the mechanical bonuses on top of what are effectively human?
now that is down right insulting for no reason.
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
where I can see this (and it is somewhat true that I would play older characters in my teens as well) I find there is a limit to how 'young' you want to play. I would have no problem playing a 16 year old in a GoT inspired game as a squire... but playing a 22 year old going to school seems less fun to me.

and not at all what I said, so you must have misunderstood. The idea of going back to school doesn't interest us, not the idea of being different.

yes, and genders (or lack there of) and other jobs and other lots of things that can only be done in fantasy... I still don't want to play fantasy highschool/college as the student (grad coming back, teacher, visiter all of those but not student)

yes... again I could even see if the fantasy school was REALLY fantasy and not proms and tests like a modern HS... it is the setting that we are not intrested in.

now that is down right insulting for no reason.
I need to apologize. I put it up, and then realized I was in a poor mood from something else and took it out in that post when it wasn't deserved. I went back and edited my post so that hopefully I wouldn't offend, but I was too slow.

So again, my apologies. I was in the wrong.
 

I need to apologize. I put it up, and then realized I was in a poor mood from something else and took it out in that post when it wasn't deserved. I went back and edited my post so that hopefully I wouldn't offend, but I was too slow.

So again, my apologies. I was in the wrong.
it's okay (TRUST ME I GET IT... I post from work and sometimes that bad mojo pour over)
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I think it's less an age thing and more a D&D Thing. Strixhaven's setting premise starts as a MTG thing. But the book's focus is as a it's a young adult relationship thing. THEN it's a HS/college thing. THEN finally it's a D&D thing.

So your fun is equivalent to which of these is your priority. That's why reviews are mixed. If you bought Strixhaven for D&Disms, you would be disappointed. If you bought it for the MTG aspects and cast of school characters, you'd be pleased.

It's one of my issues with the idea of more MTG settings. If the setting doesn't line up with D&D well from the core, you have too many themes overpowering the D&Dness as you attempt to fit the square in the circle
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I think it's less an age thing and more a D&D Thing. Strixhaven's setting premise starts as a MTG thing. But the book's focus is as a it's a young adult relationship thing. THEN it's a HS/college thing. THEN finally it's a D&D thing.

So your fun is equivalent to which of these is your priority. That's why reviews are mixed. If you bought Strixhaven for D&Disms, you would be disappointed. If you bought it for the MTG aspects and cast of school characters, you'd be pleased.

It's one of my issues with the idea of more MTG settings. If the setting doesn't line up with D&D well from the core, you have too many themes overpowering the D&Dness as you attempt to fit the square in the circle. Unless you commit to big variants which the 5e team is against.
 

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