It’s time to go back to school with Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos, the new adventure setting for D&D 5e!
Many schools promise their students a magical college experience, but Strixhaven literally means it!
Mysteries and intriguing adventures abound in the hallowed halls of this magical university. Combined with campus hijinks, new friendships, and keeping your grades up, this is one of the most unique releases for 5e to date!
So today we’ll be reviewing Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos to see if this prestigious university is right for you!
Overview – What is Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos?
Attend the most highly respected school of magic in the world and embark on thrilling adventures with your classmates!
As a group of the newest students at the prestigious Strixhaven University, you’ll be doing more than just learning about the many wonders of arcane magic!
With Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos, you’ll get to explore every nook and cranny of the campus while taking on challenging quests. Make new friends (and enemies) as you navigate your way through classes, exams, and after-school activities.
Who knows what secrets await you at Strixhaven Academy?
Just make sure to keep up with your studies as you work towards graduation! Having Strixhaven University as your alma mater is one of the most prestigious accomplishments one can have!
What Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos Is Not
All of the hype before the release of Strixhaven seemed to indicate that this was a campaign setting book. I initially expected something similar to Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft or the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica.
The real “meat and potatoes” here are the four adventures.
There’s enough lore about Strixhaven University to establish a baseline for the adventure’s setting, but it’s about 20% of the total book. DMs are definitely encouraged to add their own elements to tailor the school setting to their group’s tastes.
If you’re looking for a book with a collection of new character options, magic items, and lore, this isn’t for you.
Psst! But you can also check out my review of Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons!
Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos thrives by being a contained environment. The majority of this book’s contents rely heavily on this setting and can’t be easily incorporated into most other non-Strixhaven campaigns.
In other words, this book is for Strixhaven students only.
Who is Strixhaven For?
If the idea of “Harry Potter meets D&D” gets you excited, Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos is for you!
College life introduces new mechanics that are unlikely to appear in other types of campaigns. This means things like exams, extracurricular activities, and student jobs in addition to adventuring!
Of course, you’ll also be expected to socialize with fellow students around Strixhaven University…
Who knows, you might even find yourself becoming more than friends with some! The relationship mechanics are one of the more interesting additions in this book.
All of this combines to create a truly unique experience that is perfectly suited to Strixhaven’s target audience. The magical school setting allows for a type of storytelling that’s different from most campaigns while still being unmistakably D&D 5e.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience life and adventure in a magical school setting, there’s plenty for your group to sink their teeth into at Strixhaven.
Just note that the mysteries are the big draw of the adventures within Strixhaven. Unless you’re planning on being the DM for a Strixhaven campaign, there’s nothing in this book for you but spoilers.
Full Review of Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
Now that we’ve got an overview of what Strixhaven is and isn’t, let’s get into the details!
The book itself is 224 pages with 7 chapters and an appendix with a map of the campus. Additionally, the book includes a full double-sided poster with campus maps to make navigating Strixhaven easier for your group.
The Setting of Strixhaven
Chapter 1 brings you up to speed on the setting of Strixhaven University.
Strixhaven University is made up of five colleges: Lorehold, Prismari, Quandrix, Silverquill, and Witherbloom. Each of these colleges was founded by five ancient dragons is dedicated to a specialization of study.
|Prismari||Elemental Arts||Magic Art using the Elements|
|Silverquill||Eloquence||Writing, Rhetoric, Poetry, Oration|
|Witherbloom||Essence Studies||Life and Death|
The central campus of Strixhaven connects the five colleges as a large common area. Here students will find the Biblioplex (library), Strixhaven Stadium, the school’s café, and more.
This chapter also includes information about student life at Strixhaven and the general “how things work” of the university.
It also makes for a great briefing about what is expected from the player characters.
Remember: you’re playing students and therefore need to also keep your instructors happy in addition to your adventures. Nobody wants to find themselves in detention or getting expelled!
Additionally, socializing around campus is expected just as much as getting good grades. First-year students will be spending a lot of time on the central campus mingling with other students and learning what Strixhaven has to offer.
As I mentioned, there are not many character options in Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos. A large chunk of what is included doesn’t work so well outside of an adventure taking place at Strixhaven University.
While some may complain about that, I think it’s actually not a bad thing.
It may make it seem incredibly niche, but I think some degree of specialization in the character options is necessary for a setting like this to function.
New Race Option: Owlkin
Owlkin are the newest race option to D&D 5e. As the name implies, they resemble humanoid owls with wide wings and other owl features on a humanoid body.
Players who choose to play an Owlkin can choose whether they would prefer to be a Small or Medium creature.
As expected, Owlkin have excellent darkvision and are able to fly as long as they aren’t wearing medium or heavy armor. Thanks to their silent feathers, Owlkin also start with proficiency in the Stealth skill.
Few things are as associated with arcane study as owls, so the Owlkin are right at home in Strixhaven! Unlike the other character options, they are more than capable of working in non-Strixhaven campaigns as well.
Colleges and Backgrounds
There are five new backgrounds available for you to choose from. Each of these backgrounds corresponds to one of the five colleges at Strixhaven.
While you aren’t officially in your chosen college until your second year at Strixhaven University, you still start with the background of that college.
The assumption is that you already have some affinity for that college’s area of expertise due to previous study before coming to Strixhaven or just a general knack for the subject.
Each background gives you appropriate starting skill and tool proficiencies in addition to equipment. It also gives you access to bonus spells appropriate to the theme of the college.
The college you choose is also important as it relates to the free Strixhaven Initiate feat you gain from these backgrounds. You’ll gain two cantrips and a first-level spell based on your college’s spell list.
You’ll also find extra guidance with suggestions for how to play a student from your chosen college if you need a starting off point.
Spells and Magic Items
Five new spells are included in Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos. They are decent and interesting options, but there’s not necessarily a standout “must-pick” option.
As spells created at Strixhaven, these are available to any character who has taken a Strixhaven background and meets the class/level requirements of the spell.
The magic items in Chapter 2 comprise the essentials for any student: textbooks, stuffed animal mascot, and caffeine.
I got a good chuckle out of the Bottle of Endless Coffee in this section.
As far as usefulness goes, though, the textbooks are fittingly the most important. You get a primer based on your college that gives you extra abilities and bonuses that make sense for the school.
Chapters 3 through 6 include the four adventures within Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos. Each of these adventures represents a year a Strixhaven University.
Because Chapter 3 is your first year, it also includes the rules/mechanics related to other essential aspects of student life. This includes your extracurricular activities (and the bonuses they provide), jobs, relationships, and how to run exams.
This is also the chapter in which you are introduced to several important NPC students that the players will encounter in their time at Strixhaven. There are 18 in total with included bios, activities, personalities, and general locations.
From there, these chapters are all about the adventures you can have at Strixhaven. If you run all four adventures as written, you’ll graduate at level 10!
|Adventure||Starting Level||School Year|
|Hunt for Mage Tower||4||2|
|The Magister’s Masquerade||6||3|
|A Reckoning in Ruins||8||4|
Each of these adventures offers plenty of mystery, adventure, and excitement. There’s a lot going on in them that captures the imagination in ways that are strongly reminiscent of a certain famous “boy who lived.”
Last but not least, Chapter 7 is the bestiary. Here you can find the stat blocks for the various friends and foes you’re likely to encounter that are unique to Strixhaven.
Statblocks include members of each college based on their position, each of the Draconic founders, and threats/enemies unique to this adventure.
All in all, it’s a decent chapter. Personally, I would have liked to see more unique enemies for this release, but it’s not like there aren’t tons of monsters already published for 5e.
The inclusions in this section do a lot to capture the magical wonder (and danger!) that one would expect from this kind of setting.
Is Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos Worth Buying?
Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos is fully aware of who it’s for, the type of stories it’s telling, and what it’s about.
This is a release that I largely see people falling into one of two camps with: “love it” or “forget it.”
For those who have always wanted to experience the magic of worlds like Harry Potter at their game table, Strixhaven is simply excellent. It’s a self-contained story with enough structure to keep it intact but without feeling like the campaign is just on rails.
A major focus with Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos is roleplaying, investigation, and problem-solving. Not only do you have to brave challenges on your adventures, but you need to also juggle your responsibilities as a student.
I will say that this isn’t an adventure for every type of character though. That’s something to bear in mind.
Look… there’s plenty of reminders that anyone can enroll at Strixhaven even if they aren’t typically a spellcaster class.
But it’s a magical university… With some shoehorning, you can probably make just about anything fit in this story. However, there’s a specific type of character (i.e. spellcasters) that this adventure just works best with.
Beyond that, there might be some useful resources here for DMs who are looking for more stat blocks to add to their arsenal in other campaigns. That said, I wouldn’t bother if that’s the only thing here of interest to you.
Conclusion – Review of Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
Between Strixhaven, Theros, and Ravnica, we’re seeing a trend of settings from Magic: The Gathering being incorporated into D&D 5e.
All in all, I think it’s actually pretty interesting. The settings are exciting and give even more options for what types of campaigns your group can have.
I think it’s safe to say that Wizards of the Coast is going to continue releasing books from MTG settings. In that case, I’ll be holding my breath for Mirrodin and/or Kamigawa 5e sourcebooks.
But I’m rambling, so I’ll get back to the point…
Reading through this book several times, Strixhaven scratched an itch that I didn’t realize I had.
I’ve always thought it would be fun to do a magical university adventure and Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos provides exactly that while also setting a blueprint for how homebrew adventures in such a setting can work.
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