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D&D: Strixhaven Book Drops Subclasses, Adds Relationships

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Jul 27 2021
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D&D players prove that they hate fun and fear change: WotC has announced they’re dropping new subclass concepts from the upcoming Strixhaven book.

I’m not saying that Wizards of the Coast are the same kind of cowards who refuse to put Waluigi in Smash, after all, they’re just listening to feedback from the fans. But for those of you who responded “negatively” to the College of Strixhaven Mage subclasses, what is wrong with you? Do you hate fun? You know that inter-class balancing is not something that D&D does, right? Which is to say, in a recent announcement Wizards of the Coast confirmed that they will not be moving forward with the Colleges of Strixhaven subclasses introduced in a recent Unearthed Arcana.

In a nutshell, these were subclasses that corresponded to a narrative element–in this case, one of the main houses of Strixhaven’s wizarding academy–but that applied to a broad number of classes. You could be a Bard, Warlock, or Wizard, and still be a Silverquill Mage. It was a fantastic way to broaden the number of “character build archetypes” out there without introducing a ton of new content. A technique for fighting system bloat, while still making it feel like a fun release.


But, per an announcement from D&D lead rules developer Jeremy Crawford, the feedback they received from the most recent Unearthed Arcana was largely negative:

“The Unearthed Arcana playtest did the job we asked it to do. Occasionally, we put some very experimental things in front of D&D fans and ask them if they want to see more of it. In this case, the very simple answer was ‘No.’

We learned two really important things from this playtest that reinforced something we’ve been seeing from the D&D community going back to D&D Next. People love for D&D subclasses to speak to the distinctiveness of a particular class. 5E fans also want subclasses to be usable in as many settings as possible, since so many DMs homebrew their own settings. In this case, there was a bit of an uphill climb since the subclasses were so tied to a particular setting, that being the magical college of Strixhaven.”

Even so, Crawford pointed out that they were ready for the subclasses to go one way or the other, and in this case, those character options will be replaced with feats tied to the colleges instead, which is fine. But in spite of this development, Strixhaven still looks like it will be a ton of fun. Especially since this book seems aimed pretty firmly at the ‘Roleplaying pillar’ of D&D’s ‘three pillars’ of interaction (Combat, Roleplay, and Exploration). As Crawford explained, relationships are at the heart of the expansion:


“As we reflected on our own experience as university students, we looked at not only how much excitement there can be, but what a hot mess college life can be.  The relationships you can build can become really dear and affectionate, but they can also go the other direction, and you can end up with a frenemy who might end up causing you trouble.”

To that end, the book has rules for building up relationships with other students, which has an impact on the game, mechanically. You’ll find personality profiles for 18 different NPCs spread throughout the five colleges, which should be satisfying for all you Fire Emblem fans. When you meet these NPCs, you’ll find different relationship encounters like “improv festival” or “house party” or “competition” that gives you a chance to develop friendships, rivalries, and romances.

And with an adventure that promises to be played out in a shorter time, you’ll be able to run each year of four years as its own adventure that you can finish in about two-three sessions. Although in our experience, the official WotC estimates don’t account for actual playtime, so it’s really more like 4-5 sessions per “year” but even so, this still has a pretty well-defined beginning, middle, and end.

Curriculum of Chaos releases this Fall!

Author: J.R. Zambrano
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