The first day of magic school officially begins on December, 7th 2021, when Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos is released in hardcover format for US$49.95 (CA$65.95). Brandes plans to dive deeper into this book shortly but here is a review to help you decide if this book is a must-buy or a pass.
I’ve only got my hands on this book this week and I haven’t had a chance to try out anything in a game yet. This book does a solid job bringing a college life feel to a fantastical setting. So far, I really like this book, even if it is specific to running a “Harry Potter”-esque campaign aged up to college. Also, I’m not a player of Magic: The Gathering but that didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of this book and it can easily be dropped into any campaign (by design). The artwork is great and the book is broken down into a very easy-to-follow path starting with a setting introduction and player options, moving into four adventure chapters, and closing with a bestiary.
This review is relatively spoiler-free, but if you expect to be a Strixhaven player at some time, you might want to skip it just in case.
Let’s jump into it…
About the Setting
Strixhaven: School of Mages is the 87th Magic: The Gathering expansion released on April 23, 2021. The school, which is found on the plane of Arcavios, is known as the most elite university in the multiverse. Strixhaven is broken down into five colleges (Lorehold, Prismari, Quandrix, Silverquill, and Witherbloom). Each college was founded by an elder dragon and has its own unique take on academia and magic. The five colleges are opposed by Oriq, a secret society of mages who use forbidden magic.
What’s in the Book
Rollicking campus adventures for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.
The greatest minds in the multiverse meet at Strixhaven University. Professors convey fantastic secrets to eager students, and life on campus is frenetic. But danger lurks even here. Campus hijinks mix with mishaps and sinister plots, and it’s up to you to save the day.
Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos introduces the fantastical setting of Strixhaven University, drawn from the multiverse of Magic: The Gathering, and provides rules for creating characters who are students in one of its five colleges. Characters can explore the setting over the course of four adventures, which can be played together or on their own. Each adventure describes an academic year filled with scholarly pursuits, campus shenanigans, exciting friendships, hidden dangers, and perhaps even romance.
This book is full of player character options, adventures, and monsters to run adventures at Strixhaven or in any campaign world. Here is a quick breakdown of what you’ll find in the book:
- Setting information that details Strixhaven and each of its five colleges. Each of the colleges has its own feel ranging from ancient ruins, geothermal activity, elegant urbanism, lush woodlands, and a swampy bayou. The actual setting content clocks in at only twenty-three pages but you’ll find interesting locations such as a café, tavern, library, stadium, stage, and other places you’d expect to find on-campus in this section and the adventures.
- Owlin Race, providing players with an option to create an avian character with darkvision, flight, and proficiency in stealth (silent feathers).
- Backgrounds for each of the five colleges and a couple of feats (Strixhaven Initiate and Strixhaven Mascot) to support their choice. Each of the backgrounds include college-specific spell lists back lack bonds, ideals, or flaws.
- Five new spells that fit the setting but could be used elsewhere.
- Eight new magic items that fit the campaign such as bottle of boundless coffee or cuddly strixhaven mascot.
- Rules to support academic challenges, extracurricular activities, and jobs, which generally grant a d4 bonus to rolls. I like the exam bonuses that include pulling an all-nighter or studying together.
- A social system to track relationships for friends, rivals, and beloveds with 18 detailed NPC peers for your players to build relationships with in the book. You’ll also find details for elder dragons and professors.
- Four adventures that can be played stand-alone or as a level 1 to 10 campaign that takes players from first-year to graduation. Each adventure spans a year at school and include set-piece encounters such as a masquerade ball,
- Forty brand new monsters that include creatures and NPCs, all of them are brand new and designed for the setting. The majority of the “monsters” are college-specific mascots and mages of various challenges (from apprentice to professor).
- A tear-out poster map that shows Strixhaven’s campuses on one side and location maps on the other.
- Plus, you get Mage Tower! Now we have official 5e rules for playing a sport, in this case, a skill challenge style modified version of capture the flag. While this is part of one of the adventures, it could easily be lifted.
Should I Buy It?
Should you spend your hard-earned gold pieces on this book?
- If you and your players are always looking to dive deeper into the social pillar of D&D.
- If you always wanted to run a campaign set at a school for wizards that focused on school life.
- If you are looking for social rules or ideas on how to run a “sport” encounter.
- If you are looking for a cosmopolitan setting where any character from the multiverse can easily fit in and everyone is from somewhere else.
- If you are looking for a setting that does a good job blending a wizard school and college campus life.
- If you are looking for a set of shorter adventures that can each be completed in two to three sessions focused on lower level play (levels 1 to 10).
- If your players want to play morally ambiguous or even evil characters.
- If you are looking for a heavy setting book for Strixhaven.
- If you have no interest in running a campaign that spends all of its time focused on school life.
- If your table doesn’t enjoy focusing on heavy roleplaying, social encounters, and non-combat challenges.
- If you are looking for tons of new content to drop into non-school settings. Other than the owlin race and the spells, the player options are limited and only really useful to this campaign. Also, the “monsters” are solid and provide a ton of casters that can be dropped into any campaign but are pretty specific to this campaign.
- If you are looking for a longer campaign that will provide you with a ton of sessions or higher tier play.
This book has been released with two different covers. The main cover by Magali Villeneuve has three Strixhaven students finding distractions from their studies on the front with a harried Biblioplex assistant trying to tidy the mess on the back.
The alternative art cover features another design from Hydro74 available exclusively in game stores on December 7, 2021. The cover has a soft-touch finish and shows off the Strixhaven star, a symbol of unity and magical fellowship. The sigils of each of Strixhaven’s five colleges adorn the back cover.
Tribality received promotional review copies of this book.