Note: We received a review copy of this book from Wizards of the Coast in exchange for our honest review.
While the archetype of students studying at an enchanted school has been blemished in recent years, Wizards latest Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook, Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos, provides a stellar stand-in for DM’s wishing to take their characters back to school!
Continuing the expansion of the Magic: The Gathering lore within the Dungeons & Dragons world, Strixhaven centers on a 4-year adventure that takes characters from level 1 to level 10, navigating exams, social demands, and consistent threats against the school from mysterious forces.
Chapter 1 outlines the history of Strixhaven university, its five colleges, and the various scholars that occupy its hallowed halls. You may study to be a Pastraiser from Lorehold college, binding spirits to monuments that bear their likeness in order to learn about their inspiring deeds. Or maybe a Flamesinger from Prismari college, combining powerful flames with music to entrance friend and foe alike. There are various sub-classes and paths of study for the five colleges, which provides a rich foundation for the narrative to come.
Chapter 2 offers some character options, including a new race of Owl-folk known as Owlin, and numerous new backgrounds, feats and spells. The majority of these additions are closely related to the five colleges, and essentially serves as offering more flair and depth to magically-based backgrounds and feats, such as Magic Initiate.
Chapters 3 through 6 detail a 4-year journey for our students, which takes them from level 1 to level 10. Starting out as eager first-years, your players will be taking on the heavy academic burden of “the premier institution of magical learning in the world”. They will have to take exams to continue progressing, of course, all while connecting with fellow students, earning the favor of Professors and Faculty, and doing their best to stay out of trouble, despite its insistence on seeking them out. Years 2 and 3 only elevate the academic demands, as well as the severity of the threats against the school. This all culminates in a bombastic finale in year 4, where the villain is revealed and they will be forced to derail their evil plot, or be forced to linger in the shadow of the world that remains.
Finally, chapter 7 features stat blocks for the various creatures and entities the players will encounter throughout their journey.
In reading it through, I find that Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos offers one of the best self-contained worlds so far. Each college is well defined, with vibrant maps and rich lore to help your players really develop and understanding for their characters motivations and involvement with the school. The faculty and professors, as well as fellow students, also provide endless opportunities for quality roleplay and rich interactions throughout the campaign.
The campaign itself is well structured, even though the echoes of another particular school of magic may begin to drown out the narrative Strixhaven is trying to tell. This was probably my main gripe with the module. I understand that it’s possible to tell a story set in a magical university and not be ripping pages straight out of Harry Potter, but some of the narrative alignment was almost too on-the-nose.
That being said, as I mentioned at the start, this is a fantastic module to take players through and explore a rich, academic world of magic. The exam structure is well thought out, with the addition of “Student dice”, tracking exam scores and relevant boons.
For parents interested in having their kids play Dungeons & Dragons, I would say this module is a perfect primer for 9-14 year olds. While The Wild Beyond the Witchlight could accommodate an even younger crowd due to its sort of Alice in Wonderland vibe, Strixhaven is a fantastic place for older kids to young teens to dive into adventure (and maybe have a fun twist on academics at the same time…which can be a challenge in that age group!)
Overall, I very much enjoyed my read-through of Strixhaven, and think that DM’s everywhere will delight in running this module for their tables, whether they choose to run a single year, or go through the whole adventure.
Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos arrives next Tuesday, 12/7! You can pre-order it from Amazon below for just $35, or find it locally wherever you get your D&D merch!