Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos brings the magic school setting from Magic: The Gathering (MTG) into the tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) world of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (D&D 5E). The School of Mages is, in MTG lore, the most powerful magic university in the multiverse. The impressive part of this sourcebook is in how it makes a university school life feel like a rollercoaster of an adventure.
In this book, there are four adventures that correspond to each year of university, and can be run as a full campaign or simply as one-shots. The adventures will bring player characters from level 1 to 10, and at the end of it all, they can even boast about completing tertiary magical education.
D&D 5E has a reputation of being too combat-oriented, with a lot of mechanics designed to adding depth to battles while having less of a focus on the role-playing aspect of TTRPGs. Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos makes the case that D&D 5E does allow for social interactivity and slice-of-life mechanics, they are just a relatively underexplored design space.
The social adventures, especially, make full use of the university setting to land player characters in big social events – music festival, a big game, and a masquerade ball. Smaller events and fill up the space between these big ones, allowing players to role-play campus life with a magical twist.
The sourcebook also includes a huge section on NPCs that players can and will form relationships with. At various points in the adventures, player characters will encounter NPCs, and as the campaign goes on, those NPCs can become friends, rivals, and even lovers depending on how the story goes. The relationship points mechanic also adds weight to this aspect, where good friends can help out in times of need, while antagonistic relationships could lead to more trouble somewhere down the line. It’s not a deep and dense social mechanic, but for D&D 5E, this is a good place to start.
Student dice is a mechanic introduced in this sourcebook, which players can get by participating in extracurriculars, jobs, and exams. These are dice that can be added to players’ ability checks when characters encounter situations where the things they learn become relevant. For example, characters could use a student die on an insight check because they’ve been working as a reporter for the Strixhaven Star, thus developing a sharp news sense.
For the most part, the campaign proves that adventures don’t need to be a good versus evil high-stakes heroes’ journey. Surviving, enjoying, and growing through university life is already an adventure in and of itself. It is a campaign that makes one reminisce about one’s own university life while showing how slice-of-life as a genre can work well in TTRPGs.
Still, even though the process of going through university should be enough to tie the campaign together, Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos decided to include an evildoer trying to cause trouble behind the scene. The Big Bad, a disgruntled expelled ex-student of Strixhaven, doesn’t leave much of an impression, with the actions taken to sabotage various events coming off as a bit forced. This is more a testament to the quality of the campaign’s core school life premise than a knock against the tried and true Big Bad formula.
Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos introduces fresh mechanics and adventures full of whimsy. While parts of it could be better polished, and the work is cut out for the Dungeon Master to set the players’ expectations for something off-kilter like this, it is a worthwhile adventure for anyone who loves the magic school premise to get into. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled on Wizards of the Coast’s official Shopee store for both D&D and MTG essentials and new releases!