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What Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos Teaches Us About Good Storytelling – Posts

Story seeds are a instrument for taking gamers out of your journey’s first act by way of to its epic encounter with the large dangerous. The adventures in Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos brilliantly mannequin story seeding—an essential talent for brand new and skilled Dungeon Masters alike. Let’s check out how you can get that climatic ending by inspecting the teachings from Strixhaven’s 4 adventures. Gamers, be warned, right here be spoilers for the 4 adventures present in Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos.

What’s story seeding?

Story seeding is when the DM leaves a path of breadcrumbs all through the story, main you from the preliminary plot hook by way of to the decision on the finish. It is the hints and clues as to the villain’s heinous plan. 

NPCs usually function one acquainted sort of story seed. A DM might weave a thread all through the story utilizing NPCs. As a participant, you may comply with a gang of bandits to cultists to the cult’s leaders, all the way in which to an evil entity masquerading as a benevolent energy in an effort to flee their everlasting jail.

NPCs aren’t the one story seeds, nevertheless. Mundane objects, magic gadgets, areas, organizations, creatures, and occasions can all perform as story seeds.

Welcome to Strixhaven: Story overview

Students walking across stone paths on a school campus

Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos is a marketing campaign sourcebook set within the magical faculty of Strixhaven. The ebook introduces completely different faculties the characters can be a part of, and presents methods for them to develop relationships, work jobs, and take exams. However as their magical educational careers progress, so do they uncover that there are risks lurking on campus.

The sourcebook contains 4 adventures performed out over the characters’ 4 years on the magical college:

The story informed all through these 4 adventures brilliantly teaches Dungeon Masters how you can plant and develop story seeds. Let’s take a better have a look at how this ebook fashions utilizing story seeds to attach seemingly unconnected adventures.

The seeds in ‘Campus Kerfuffle’

In 12 months one’s “Campus Kerfuffle,” the participant characters arrive on campus as fresh-faced 1st-level freshmen. The characters are innocently going by way of their primary school orientation when, instantly, a picket trunk decides it’s completed holding LARP costumes. The trunk transforms right into a mimic and assaults!

This fight is actually a enjoyable little bit of motion—who amongst us doesn’t need to have an abnormal orientation interrupted by an indignant trunk? But it surely additionally introduces the gamers to the primary essential story seed: a secular alchemical salve. Coating the trunk like a varnish, there’s nothing extraordinary concerning the salve besides its proximity to unexplained chaos on campus. The plot thickens when the characters proceed to come across the salve at each bizarre incidence. After the picket trunks, it reappears when tiny pet frogs flip into big berserk ones, a cauldron erupts indignant steam, and a picket owlbear prop turns menacing. This alchemical substance is current each single time.

What will we find out about story seeding from this story of chaotic furnishings?  

Recurrence, repetition, and redundancy 

First, we be taught to plant our story seeds in batches, not singles. That is essential in Dungeons & Dragons, as a result of it’s very easy for gamers to overlook a clue when the cube work in opposition to them. We’ve all been there, rolling a 1 on an essential skill examine! But when the characters fail when inspecting the mimic, all isn’t misplaced, as a result of the journey offers further alternatives.

In the event you current only a single clue, there’s all the time an opportunity the gamers might not notice the clue is, certainly, a clue. As Ian Flemming wrote within the James Bond novel Goldfinger, “As soon as is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time is enemy motion.” Whereas the gamers might miss the significance the primary time, after the second occurence, they’re prepared for enemy motion on the third encounter. Normally, I imply. That is D&D in any case.

Seed first, water second 

The second lesson within the occasions of “Campus Kerfuffle” is planting story seeds earlier than dishing out an excessive amount of data. The journey establishes the sample of the mysterious mundane substance earlier than the gamers know what’s going on or what makes it particular. Nevertheless, since they’ve already determined these things is noteworthy, when characters are despatched into Sedgemoor for an unrelated purpose, they’re able to make the subsequent connection. 

Sedgemoor is the swampy floor that surrounds the Witherbloom campus. It’s a wild wetland swarming with creatures that additionally has useful magical herbs. Because it occurs, the alchemical varnish is harvested from these grounds, and foul magic has not too long ago begun corrupting the placement. The corruption extends to the objects coated with the substance, inflicting these objects to go haywire! The characters additionally discover a journal of Murgaxor, which outlines his sinister experiments for draining life from this swamp, foreshadowing the nefarious villain to be unveiled in later adventures.

Typically, DMs distribute data earlier than gamers have acknowledged a sample and turn into able to fill the gaps of their data with new lore. When the gamers aren’t primed and prepared for the lore, it could simply slide off their brains into the void, sorely disappointing the DM who has spent hours writing it. Holding onto that valuable lore for just a bit whereas longer can guarantee your gamers know what to do with the brand new data.

A sprinkle, not a deluge

Third, we be taught to start dropping story seeds early within the journey, however with a lightweight hand. On the conclusion of 12 months one, gamers have unearthed the alchemical balm and linked it to Sedgemoor and somebody named Murgaxor. All these are story seeds sown within the early ranges whereas the characters are doing different issues—like sneaking right into a manor on a dare, as a result of school children might be school children.

The story seeds are sprinkled all through the journey in such a manner that ensures characters discover them with out overwhelming the remainder of the story. This provides the gamers time to breathe and benefit from the unfolding story.

Tracing the story seeds from kerfuffle to reckoning 

As the journey concludes 12 months one, the characters have solved the principle thriller at hand—why are these objects going berserk? They’re, nevertheless, left with quite a few strings left untied, story seeds planted for additional adventures. Let’s take a fast, high-level overview of the remaining three years to see how these seeds are planted and what they develop into.

An angry bullywug in wizard robes points menacinglyWhen the scholars return for 12 months two within the journey ”Hunt for Mage Tower,” a second substance begins reoccurring—this time, chitin. The chitin is often caught in a creature associated to a location close to Sedgemoor. Analysis finds a ebook picturing mage hunters, grotesque creatures with spider-like legs and a chitinous shell, who dwell within the close by swamp, drawn to the world by Murgaxor’s sinister experiments. 

In 12 months three’s journey, “The Magister’s Masquerade,” the story seeds shift barely, specializing in a sinister magical artifact—a magical orb which spreads a curse. It was not too long ago excavated by Dean Tullus in an archaeological expedition deep in Sedgemoor—the Ruins of Caerdoon. College students get sick all year long, all of whom ultimately could be traced again to contact with this orb.

Investigations present the same incidence 200 years in the past, and guess who was expelled again then? In the event you stated Murgaxor, the creator of the journal found within the first 12 months, you’d be appropriate! The orb additionally has a life-draining impact, just like Murgaxor’s poetic rants in stated journal. Ding! Ding! See these story seeds sprouting?

Lastly, after an epic struggle, 12 months 4 rolls round. “A Reckoning In Ruins” begins with some crates disappearing a stone’s throw from Sedgemoor. One factor results in one other, and the characters, intent on monitoring Murgaxor to his hideout, begin their investigations on the orb’s excavation web site. Discovering further proof confirming their suspicions, the characters depart with the data that Murgaxor is trying a life-draining ritual. The journey concludes with an enormous boss battle in Sedgemoor’s Ruins of Caerdoon, with the characters hopefully stopping the ritual.

Tying it collectively

All that stated, what can we take away from this? We see the authors of this journey plant seeds early on, which turn into essential leads. A handful of story seeds repeat all through the journey with slight twists, guaranteeing the path of seeds is not too delicate. That is essential as a result of, not like a novel, your gamers can simply miss your foreshadowing.

Secondly, the path of seeds that threads the bigger story collectively would not overwhelm the setting or the characters. It gently leads them as they meander by way of it. Lastly, the seeds are acceptable to the journey’s tier, with the thread tightening as stress rises. The early seeds are enjoyable and mysterious, whereas the later seeds are stuffed with stress because the stakes enhance. At that time, most of the earlier seeds have sprouted and brought root, main the gamers to the story’s climactic conclusion.

Alyssa (@alyssavisscher) regularly rambles on Twitter about D&D. She particularly enjoys analyzing its general construction from a beginner perspective, bringing bigger ideas to small, bite-sized items. She’s a mum or dad of 4, neurodivergent, disabled, and is impressively horrible at small speak.

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