Strixhaven: Chaos Curriculum brings the framework of the magic school of Magic: The Gathering (MTG) in the tabletop role-playing game world (TTRPG) of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (D&D 5E). The School of Mages is, in MTG tradition, the most powerful magical university in the multiverse. The awesome part about this reference book is how it makes college school life feel like a roller coaster of an adventure.
In this book, there are four adventures that correspond to each year of college, and can take place as a full campaign or just as one-shots. The adventures will take player characters from level 1 to 10, and at the end of it all, they’ll even be able to boast of having completed their graduate studies in magic.
D&D 5E has a reputation for being too combat-oriented, with many mechanics designed to add depth to battles while focusing less on the role-playing aspect of TTRPGs. Strixhaven: A Chaos Program argues that D&D 5E allows social interactivity and slice-of-life mechanics, they are just a relatively under-explored design space.
Social adventures, in particular, make full use of the college setting to engage player characters in big social events – music festival, big game, and masquerade ball. Smaller and larger events fill the space between these large, allowing players to take on the role of campus life with a magical touch.
The source book also includes a huge section on NPCs that players can and will build relationships with. At various points in the adventures, player characters will encounter NPCs, and as the campaign progresses, these NPCs can become friends, rivals, and even lovers depending on how the story unfolds. The relationship points mechanism also adds weight to this aspect, where good friends can help out when needed, while adversarial relationships could lead to more trouble somewhere down the line. It is not a deep and dense social mechanism, but for D&D 5EThis is a good place to start.
Student Dice are a mechanic presented in this manual, which players can obtain by participating in extracurricular activities, jobs, and exams. These are dice that can be added to player ability checks when characters encounter situations where things they are learning become relevant. For example, the characters may use a student’s die on a hunch test because they worked as a reporter for the Strixhaven Star, developing a keen sense of current affairs.
For the most part, the campaign proves that adventures don’t have to be a high-stakes good-to-bad hero journey. Surviving, enjoying and growing through university life is already an adventure in itself. It’s a campaign that brings back one’s own college life while also showing how the slice of life as a genre can work well in TTRPGs.
Yet while the process of going to college should be enough to tie the campaign together, Strixhaven: A Chaos Program decided to include a thief trying to cause trouble behind the scenes. The Big Bad, a disgruntled ex-student from Strixhaven, doesn’t leave much of an impression as the steps taken to sabotage various events seem a bit forced. This is more a testament to the quality of the basic premise of campaign school life than a blow against the proven Big Bad formula.
Strixhaven: A Chaos Program introduces new mechanics and adventures full of fantasy. While there are parts that could be better tweaked, and the Dungeon Master has their work cut out for them in setting player expectations for something quirky like this, it’s an interesting adventure for anyone who enjoys the premise of the school of magic. Remember to keep your eyes open Wizards of the Coast Official Shopee Store for the essentials and new versions of D&D and MTG!
Brandon changes shape between being a nerd and a geek like Mystique, but with fewer options. He reads an unhealthy amount of comics and manga, while playing a fair amount of board games and video games.
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