I am currently running an irregular Dungeons and Dragons campaign which follows the Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos published adventures. Instead of using the setting as written within the setting book, I am converting it to my favorite setting: Eberron!
(This series of posts is SUPER spoilery. Don’t read this if you are going through as a player and haven’t yet, especially if you’re one of mine!)
If you’re looking for a basic run-down of this setting, the absolute best (and funniest) comes from Runesmith.
The factions of Eberron can have any place or interest in the campus you choose– but the campus is largely divided into the five colleges as factions. These five colleges are their own factions (and almost break down to two factions within each college) and don’t correlate to any other factions off campus distinctly. However, the brief run down is this:
- Lorehold would attract anyone interested in history. House Cannith, House Orien, House Deneith, the Aurum, and the Chamber would be interested in having faculty or students in this college.
- Prismari would attract anyone interested in the performing or creative arts– House Phiarlan has a particular interest in this college, but most others do not.
- Quandrix is the mathematical college of possibility which would especially attract artificers, including House Cannith, House Medani, and House Orien.
- Silverquill is the college of words; politicians, writers, diplomats, and theologians study here. While it would certainly be the favorite of House Sivis and House Ghallanda, most factions out in Eberron would want to have someone who can influence others.
- Witherbloom is an ideal college for any druids or anyone interested in necromancy– but the Gatekeepers and the Greensingers would be particularly interested; as would the Emerald Claw and the followers of the Blood of Vol. House Jorasco would be interested in the healing curriculum in particular.
It’s important to note that really any faction might have an interest in any of the schools, but those are some of the easiest connections to make.
Location: Not a Demiplane
The beauty of Strixhaven, along with Candlekeep (from Candlekeep Mysteries), is that it is a single location, able to be dropped into any setting. The real question is where?
Strixhaven could be a demiplane outside of Eberron which the player characters go to– but I hate that. While that could work for a campaign mostly set in the Forgotten Realms, or even Exandria, Eberron’s cosmology is pretty straightforward: it is not supposed to be connected to anywhere else.
There are a couple of theories to this, that the progenitor dragons created Eberron after the First World (described in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons); that they came from another plane, like the Forgotten Realms, and made Eberron distinctly separate because they didn’t want the gods and demons to play such a role– and other variations on this theory.
Regardless, Eberron is meant to be isolated. Even if travel from Eberron to elsewhere or from elsewhere to Eberron were possible, it should considered almost impossible and a one-way ticket if it was achieved. (At least, not without another round of near impossible challenges.)
You could use Strixhaven as a demiplane which has the ability to be a gate between Eberron and the material planes of other settings, but that would make the travel between far too easy. (If you’re looking for a route– I would actually suggest using Ravenloft, which could arguably be known as Mabar in Eberron, as the only route between. Providing the characters survive their trek through the mists…)
Location #1: Morgrave University, Sharn
One of the first legitimate locations you may place Strixhaven would be Sharn’s reknown Morgrave University.
One of the aspects of Sharn and Strixhaven which go together quite well is the intended diversity of the students and staff.
However, Sharn is intended to have a fairly specific layout; Morgrave University is intended to be in the upper towers. This doesn’t quite go with the expanse of Strixhaven. Also, Sharn is intended to be a big, gritty city setting, leaning into noir vibes. Strixhaven, is a very shiny place; while it is great to find it a home within Eberron, it doesn’t fit well into the University Towers district.
If you’re going to find a location which honors Strixhaven overall, even if you have to change other aspects, the three rules ought to be this:
- Strixhaven is a bright, magical place of wonder (akin to Hogwarts)
- Strixhaven is a place of diversity of students and staff (and magic!)
- Strixhaven is going to lean more into the Pulp aspects of Eberron than the Noir aspects.
Location #2: Aerenal
Looking outside of Khorvaire may lead you to think that the experts of arcane magic, the elves of Aerenal may be a good choice.
There isn’t even a map of any major location– you could arguably put Strixhaven anywhere! While Strixhaven will have to go through some changes regardless of where you put it, it’s nice to be able to put out the map of the location and leave it for your players to look over.
Aerenal is even a place where your player would find pulp adventures and find places of bright magical wonder– even their necromancy comes from the plane of light and life!
A minor flaw with the location would be that the elves likely wouldn’t complete their time at Strixhaven within four years– that sounds like too brief a time for those who live hundreds of years and prefer to master their spellwork. You could say that this would be a timeframe specifically implemented for the foreign exchange students, those who couldn’t afford to spend 20-50 years getting their undergraduate in magic.
However, the big kicker for this location is that it is not going to be particularly diverse. While you could say that there are a lot of foreign exchange students (using the fix from above), the predominate species on campus is going to be elves. While there are things that I am happy to change around to make Strixhaven work in a place, I want it to be a diverse place.
Location #3: Library of Korranberg, Zilargo
A land of high and wide magic, Zilargo is the home of the gnomes and the reknown Library of Korranberg.
This location is similar to Aerenal: we have no real map of Korranberg; it would be easy to insert high magical learning and pulp adventures– but, again, not a particularly diverse place as the home of the gnomes.
(Plus, I would recommend using Candlekeep as the Library of Korranberg instead.)
Location #4: Argonnessen (The Draconic Experiment)
The founders of Strixhaven are intended to be dragons, so you might be wondering if the draconic continent should be where you set Strixhaven.
Argonnessen is one of the locations backed by Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron setting. While this doesn’t mean it has to be here, it does mean there is a strong logic to it.
Again, no really mapped out location and plenty of expanses where a school might be located– especially a school created by dragons. The Strixhaven founders could very well be interested in spellcasters from across Eberron, especially those of Khorvaire.
As dragons are the true high magic sages of Eberron, they really could make Strixhaven into a place of wonder and pulp adventures (after all: dragons). The diversity mentioned in the sourcebook could easily be from two possibilities: first, that the dragons are performing an experiment in diversity, education, and magic in one location (cultivating each aspect of the place); second, that the dragons themselves regularly use other forms than their dragon forms– it appears very diverse, but a good portion of the faculty are actually dragons trying to make their students feel comfortable.
Location #5: Thelanis
The other location backed by Keith Baker, and actually preferred by him, is Thelanis.
Thelanis, a plane made up of demiplanes ruled by Archfey, would a location which would be isolated from much of the goings-on in Eberron. Again, the fey would be a great source of bright magical wonder, they could impose or create the facade of diversity, and they could lean into pulp adventures.
What I don’t like about the Thelanis location for Strixhaven is that it would become a place of stories. While that may work in some campaigns, that Strixhaven is a location which evokes the idea of magical education, that stories like Harry Potter are so ubiquitous that they play out regularly, it doesn’t follow its own reasoning that these stories are ubiquitous to Eberron. The reason only so many locations are listed here is that there are only a few cultures which cultivated magical education; these stories are not played out time and again in stories akin to lost children and hags. Karrnath would have almost no real reference for this; Breland barely would (Morgrave not being wholly focused on magic).
Additionally, this would mean:
Placing Strixhaven in Thelanis plays to the idea that the students and faculty can be extremely diverse and exotic—almost impossibly so. Giants, treants, sprites, sentient animals, talking statues; if you could imagine it in a story, you could find it at Strixhaven. A secondary aspect of this is the idea that many of the students aren’t, at the end of the day, REAL. Exploring Eberron talks about the idea of the “Supporting Cast” of Thelanis—lesser fey who are drafted to fill whatever purpose the story needs them to fill. Does this scene need a bully? An arrogant rival? The school can MAKE one for you. This applies to the teachers as well. Some could be greater fey with their own identities or former students who have chosen to remain, but there could definitely be teaching assistants, maintenance staff, even teachers who only exist as part of the story; you’ll never actually see Professor Greenroot except in his office or in the classroom, and he doesn’t really have any opinions on anything that’s not related to his classes. Speculating on who’s real and who’s a manifestations of the story would surely be a common pastime among students; when it comes down to it, can you be absolutely sure YOU are real?Keith Baker
While it may be an interesting idea to play at your table, and Baker does a good job at outlining how it could work within your world, I wouldn’t prefer to deal with archtypes of bullies, but with real bullies, to have some additional weight to what happens on campus for the real world.
Location #6: Arcanix, Aundair (My Location)
My personal favorite and canon for my Eberron is Arcanix in Aundair.
Aundair is the land of high arcane magic on Khorvaire; if there is going to be a place of wonderous high magic– it’s going to be the Harvard of Eberron. This is a place which is going to attract donations from old families and students from all over– especially after the Last War.
It would not be hard to imagine that over the past two centuries enrollment dropped drastically. During the Kingdom of Galifar’s reign, students came from all over: there were five big nations to pull a diverse student population from. Experiments tapped into manifest zones which were present and possibly even created ones which weren’t, bringing in even more diversity. While some of this diversity was maintained, the Last War meant that students from Breland, Thrane, Cyre, and Karrnath were either barred from entry or had to seek special dispensation from both nations to learn. (I would argue barred from entry– why would Aundair want to even possibly equip other nations with their high magic experiments and research?) With fewer students, less diversity, less gold rolling in the door. But the school kept going.
Now, with the Last War over, Arcanix can be used as a location to heal the freyed bonds. And, anyone who has ever been to an out-of-state or out-of-country university can tell you: you pay a much higher tuition rate. Arcanix would fling open its doors to draw in as many students from as many places as possible– bringing diversity, gold, and the need to keep up particularly wonderous appearances. While secrets would still be for Aundairian eyes only, the funding rolling in would more than worth the risk in peacetime.
Aundair, in being a high magic nation, would naturally lean more into the pulp, but still has plenty of room for the noir aspects of Eberron with now-international intrigue between students. Setting Strixhaven as Arcanix means that the name needs to change, the map needs to be understood as floating islands (except I use the university central campus as the “village” of Arcanix itself), and that the dragon-founders either weren’t dragons– or are secretly dragons. (After all, the Chamber is highly interested in the Draconic Prophecy; what better way to keep an eye on everything than to have an entire school dedicated to magical study, drawing dragonmarked students whenever it can with mysterious full scholarships?)
Aundair is even distinctly connected to Thelanis, with some noble houses known to have warlock bonds with archfey, so perhaps the fey are interested in the story of a school– even if it is not a demiplane of Thelanis. Perhaps they are interested (as I am) in a story of the power of education to equip the next generation against the coming threats and to cultivate friendships which go beyond the bounds of nation, healing wounds centuries in the making.
For this reason, I would argue, turning Strixhaven into Arcanix for Eberron creates a place where people might actually rise from the Last War, even as other adventures occur which may undermine the message.