Usually your foes at school are bullies, mean teachers, and homework deadlines. But when you’re a student in Dungeons & Dragons, and the school is a magical crossover with the world of Magic: The Gathering, dangerous encounters are going to get a bit tougher to face than a paper written an hour before it’s due.
io9's got your look inside the next sourcebook for D&D, Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos. The latest crossover between the tabletop’s fifth edition and Wizards of the Coast’s other smash hit fantasy game, Magic: The Gathering, Curriculum of Chaos whisks players away to the titular school for would-be mages from the Magic card set released earlier this year. Alongside asking players to balance the rigors of magically academic life, like choosing the right school of magic for you, or attending classes and social events, Curriculum of Chaos is still a D&D sourcebook, which means there’s going to be plenty of ways for you to put your studies into practical application by... throwing a cantrip or seven at them. Or, y’know, bludgeoning them a bit if you’re one of Strixhaven’s not-so-magically-inclined students.
“Strixhaven had several elements that we felt made for a perfect D&D setting. First of all, it’s a university, and we loved the idea of telling stories for characters who are coming into their abilities and their personalities as people in such a cosmopolitan and academic environment,” Amanda Hamon, Senior D&D Designer and one of the writers on Curriculum of Chaos, told io9 over email. “We loved the idea of the challenge of creating D&D adventures that take place in an environment where there are exams and extracurriculars, and where lifelong social bonds are being formed. Plus, the setting is a magical college, so characters don’t necessarily need to be mages, but they’re all interested in magic in some way, and that’s a fun twist to put on the stories. The campuses are full of magical creatures in the mascots, and typical student shenanigans are all cloaked in fun and whimsical magic—such as a skate-off contest using magical skates!—so we hope the experiences this book offers are unique.”
Curriculum is far from the first Magic-meets-D&D crossover in fifth edition, but according to James Wyatt—a writer and senior designer who also helped shape some of the first tentative official steps to bringing more Magic into D&D, and vice-versa when the card game did Adventures in the Forgotten Realms earlier this year—the teams primary focus on these kinds of crossovers remains making a good D&D experience first and foremost, rather than crossing over for crossover’s sake. “I worked on Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, Mythic Odysseys of Theros, Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos, and the Magic set Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, as well as the early Plane Shift articles that started this process of crossing the streams. My biggest takeaway is that, fundamentally, what we are doing is taking worlds created for one game and looking at them through the lens of the other game,” Wyatt told io9 over email. “We are not engaged in any sort of conversion or translating one game into another. Fundamentally, when D&D players sit down to play D&D, they want to play D&D—not some weird hybrid of D&D rules and Magic mechanics. And the reverse is equally true—and for all the fun we had playing with d20 rolls in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, that set is still all about expressing the world of the Forgotten Realms through Magic mechanics. So Strixhaven, like the other books before it, is first and foremost a D&D book.”
That means making the kinds of creatures you’d see as summons and spells in a Magic card set like Strixhaven: School of Mages into fully-fledged encounter options in a game of D&D. “The top priority was making sure we could give you a wide variety of fun and interesting stat blocks for the huge variety of students and faculty you’ll find at Strixhaven. Spellcaster NPCs are always tricky for DMs to run and especially to build on their own, so we’ve got casters from every college who really show off the variety of magic used at Strixhaven,” Wyatt added. “I’d say the next priority was the mascot creatures! These critters—inklings, art elementals, fractals, pests, and spirit statues—were an important element of the Magic card set and we had a feeling players would really enjoy interacting with them in the adventures. I’m particularly pleased that we were able to offer a way to use these creatures as familiars, and the adventures include a fun section where you have to interact with all five kinds of mascots. Beyond all that, we had a lot of fun bringing some of the weirder creatures found in the Magic set to life as D&D monsters, including things like groffs and trudges found in the bayou of the Witherbloom campus, the terrifying daemogoths, and powerful figures like the Oracle, the founder dragons, and the archaics.” Check out a few or the creatures you’’ll find in Curriculum of Chaos below, making their debut here on io9!
One particularly intriguing foe here isn’t a creature, but a more insidious threat to Strixhaven students—the Oriq recruiter, an agent of a secret organization of dark mages who can lure your heroes into working to their sinister aims. “I think every good monster design starts with the creature’s story—what role it plays in the world, what you expect it to be able to accomplish in the context of an adventure, and what kind of adventures you might build around it. The beauty of working from an established setting like Strixhaven is that our starting point is outlined in the Magic team’s world guide and elaborated in the actual cards of the set,” Wyatt said of designing the Oriq members for D&D. “So the Oriq are established as this secret society of mages who use ancient, sinister magic in pursuit of evil goals. They’re particularly important at Strixhaven because they like to recruit students who have great potential but don’t necessarily fit in the tidy boxes that bureaucracy loves so much. The Oriq recruiter is a member of this secret society whose purpose is to sneak into Strixhaven (hence their at-will disguise self and Deception skill), and befriend these disaffected students (so they have access to charm person and suggestion as well as Insight and Persuasion skill). That’s a pretty solid starting point, which then we can flesh out with numbers to make an interesting foe that’s pretty easy for the DM to use at the table and work into an adventure.”
You’ll be able to encounter these foes and a whole lot more when Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos hits shelves on December 7.
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