Every month, my Patreon supporters select the topics for the articles I write. I only have time for one major Dragonmark article, and in a choice between Strixhaven, Fizban’s Treasury, and the role of the Astral Plane, Astral won out. So I’ll be exploring the Astral Plane in depth later this month. But while this will be a short take on the topic, I still wanted to address the question…
How would you add Strixhaven into your Eberron campaign?
At first glance, this seems like a question with an obvious answer. Eberron already has a famous university of magic—Arcanix in Aundair. The Library of Korranberg is another option; while not explicitly a school of magic, it is a famous institute of learning that canonically has a rivalry between its aligned colleges. In the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, the Starting Point: Morgrave University discusses the idea of a campaign where the exams may be greater threats than any monster. But none of these really feel right to me. Consider the following…
- Strixhaven is described as being very exotic in its makeup—”you’re as likely to meet a pixie, a dryad, a giant, a treant, or another fantastical creature on campus as you are a humanoid.” Beyond this, “it is unremarkable to meet someone who hails from a far-off land, since almost everyone on campus is from somewhere else.” Neither to these things especially fit Arcanix, which is primarily an Aundairian institution; and at Morgrave University, the presence of Flamewind the Sphinx is remarkable. Most students of Korranberg, Morgrave, or Arcanix are humanoids, and most are from the familiar nations of Khorvaire.
- Strixhaven is known to be founded by five dragons, and those dragons are still around; graduates can join the Dragonsguard, “an elite group of mages who work directly with the Founder Dragons.” The Dragons of Eberron certainly have the knowledge and power to do something like this, but on Khorvaire dragons are so secretive as to be nearly mythical. And to a certain degree, asserting that Arcanix was founded by dragons would undermine the concept that it’s a seat of humanoid innovation.
- Strixhaven is largely a self-contained setting that interacts little with the world around it. It’s driven by the tension between life and death, order and chaos—not the tension between Thrane and Aundair. Beyond this, the general level of common magic depicted is a higher than even that of Aundair. It’s an example of what the Five Nations could become, but it feels a little more wondrous than they are at the present. One of the things we’ve said about Arcanix is that player characters are remarkable, and that there are many professors at Arcanix who don’t actually have the full power of a wizard or a sorcerer, rather understanding magic in theory and working spells solely through rituals, like a magewright. Strixhaven is more of a chaotic place where powerful magic is constantly at play.
So, the Strixhaven book presents a host of rules and ideas that you can use piecemeal in a campaign set at Arcanix, Morgrave, or Korranberg. But personally, I wouldn’t just change Strixhaven’s name to “Arcanix” and use it as is. So if the question is how would I add STRIXHAVEN to my campaign—using it as it’s presented in the book—there’s two ideas that appeal to me.
A School of Dragons
The dragons of Argonnessen are the oldest surviving civilization in Eberron. Long ago they shared their arcane knowledge with other creatures. This ultimately resulted in the destruction of Xen’drik and is now known as kurash Ourelonastrix, “Aureon’s folly.” But what if a cabal of dragons wanted to try this again? What if these five Founders created a campus in the heart of Argonnessen, far from prying eyes, where hand-picked students and faculty from across Eberron and beyond it could delve into the deepest secrets of magic and philosophy? With this in mind, part of being a student at Strixhaven would be proving yourself worthy of this knowledge; your final exam would in part be an evaluation determining whether you should be allowed to take the knowledge that you’ve gained back to your homeland—whether you can be trusted to be a worthy steward of this knowledge.
One of the things I like about this approach is that it’s an easy way to add depth to the Chamber. the Colleges of Strixhaven aren’t known in the wider world, but they represent factions within the Chamber itself, and the five Founders can easily become the most influential members of the Chamber. The Dragonsguard become an elite order chosen to work directly with the Chamber as they oppose the Lords of Dust and work with the Prophecy. Whenever encountering Chamber agents, the DM can consider if they belong to any of the Colleges of Strixhaven, and reflect this in their abilities and actions. We’ve always said that the dragons of the Chambers are scholars and philosophers; the Colleges provide a quick set of philosophies to work with, though I wouldn’t say that they are the ONLY philosophies found within the Chamber.
As a school within Argonnessen, Strixhaven maintains the idea that “almost everyone on the campus is from somewhere else.” Likewise, it fits the idea that the students and faculty can include giants, awakened plants, or other exotic creatures; it’s a school for teaching members of ALL of the “lesser species,” not merely humanoids. Humanoid students could be drawn from anywhere on Eberron: you could have Qaltiar drow, Cold Sun lizardfolk, Akiak dwarves, Demesne tieflings, and similarly exotic choices. A central part of this idea is that this is an experiment—that the faculty carefully chooses students and wants to see if they’ll prove worthy of this knowledge. With this in mind, one question when creating your character is why were you chosen? Do you feel that there’s something remarkable about your character? Do you believe that you’re representing your nation, species, home town, or something else? Or are you mystified as to why you were selected? I really like the fact that this is a chance to bring together characters from very diverse cultures—a Riedran farmer, a Sulatar drow, a Carrion Tribes barbarian—and have the students learn about one another and find common ground even while mastering magic.
Faculty in Argonessen’s Strixhaven would likely include a significant number of dragons—younger than the founders and likely often seen in humanoid form, but still, dragons. On the other hand, faculty could also include former students. This could be a voluntary position, but I could easily see someone who was judged as unfit to return to their society with the knowledge they possessed and offered a choice: remain at Strixhaven and teach, or return home but with their arcane knowledge stripped from their mind. I would keep the Oracle as a humanoid, the embodiment of Strixhaven’s mission to share magic with non-dragons and tasked to ensure this power is not abused as it was following Aureon’s folly. Snarls could easily be an unusual form of manifest zone, possibly unique to Argonnessen just as wild zones are found on Sarlona. Star Arches are another question. While these could easily be draconic artifacts, part of the purpose of the arches is to be mysterious. One option would be to say that they are left over from the Age of Demons, and that even the dragons don’t know their origins—that some believe them to be creations of the Progenitors themselves, or “the bones of Siberys.” Another option is that they are relics of a fallen Draconic civilization. I’ve mentioned before that the degree to which the dragons fear the Daughter of Tiamat implies at least one devastating incident involving her release. With a hundred thousand years to work with, it’s entirely possible to imagine that draconic civilization has endured at least one massive collapse—that the Star Arches could be creations of Ourelonastrix and his peers, but that the dragons of the present day don’t understand them or know how to replicate them.
This concept of Strixhaven is somewhat similar to the city of Io’lokar, presented in Dragons of Eberron. Personally, I’ve never liked Io’lokar and don’t use it in my campaign. What I prefer about using Strixhaven in this way is the idea that it’s an experiment, constantly bringing in new students from across the world as opposed to just keeping a stable, stagnant population in isolation. With that in mind, I’d likely suggest that it’s a fairly RECENT experiment, at least as dragons measure time—no more than two or three centuries old. Among other things, this would hold to the idea that the Founders are still evaluating the experiment, and that the actions of the player characters could play an important role in this. Could the Conclave shut down Strixhaven? Could heroic characters inspire the dragons to share their knowledge more freely?
As a campus in Argonnessen, Strixhaven would be exotic and isolated, but still grounded in the material world. But there is another option I might use…
A School of Stories
Thelanis is sometimes said to embody the magic we wish was in the world. The layers of Thelanis and the Archfey embody iconic stories. So consider the story of a school of magic, a place of countless wonders that exists just around the corner from the reality we know. Everyone knows a story of a youth who didn’t fit in or didn’t meet expectations, who one day took a wrong turn and found themselves in a wondrous school where they had the chance to unlock both the secrets of magic and their own true self. With this in mind, I would place Strixhaven in Thelanis. One option would be to treat it as a Feyspire, placing it in the Moonlit Vale; however, I would be inclined to make it a distinct layer of Thelanis, because the story of Strixhaven generally stands on its own; it’s possible that students could get involved in the intrigues of the Moonlit Court, but it’s not an everyday occurrence.
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?
As with Strixhaven—Argonnessen, Strixhaven—Thelanis could draw its students from across Eberron. Unlike Argonnessen, the Strix-Thel isn’t an experiment and the students aren’t being chosen to represent their people; instead they’re being chosen for their stories, and the question to think about when creating your character is What is your story? This is a fairy tale about someone stumbling onto a school of magic. Are you a luckless urchin from the streets of Sharn? A privileged Aundairian prince who needs to learn a lesson in humility? The unnatural nature of Thelanis could add a further twist—you could take a leaf from Rip Van Winkle and add students or faculty from different points in the past. Perhaps there’s a young elf at Strixhaven who, it turns out, is from the as-yet unerradicated Line of Vol—or a conniving student from one of the war-mazes of Ohr Kaluun. In such a scenario, a key question would be if there’s any way for such students to return to their own time, or if they are the last remnants of civilizations long dead.
In developing Strixhaven-Thelanis, a key question is who are the archfey of the school? An obvious possibility is that the Founders are the Archfey who define Strixhaven. They may APPEAR to be dragons, but that’s a cosmetic detail. If this is the case, then the Founders might be involved in the ongoing intrigues of the Moonlit Court; perhaps four of the founders are associated with different seasons, while one remains aloof. On the other hand, it could be that the Oracle is the anchoring Archfey, and that the Founders are themselves part of the Supporting Cast—for all their supposed power and despite the many legends associated with them, they don’t actually EXIST until there’s a particular reason for them to exist. This ties to the question of whether the Dragonsguard actually exist. If the Founders are Archfey, the Dragonsguard could be their personal agents in endless, immortal intrigues and adventures within Thelanis. If the Oracle is the Archfey, the Dragonshguard themselves might not truly exist; they are also simply part of the story.
Part of the appeal of placing Strixhaven in Thelanis is to embrace the unreality of the situation, the fact that it is a story made real; you can embrace the tropes, because that’s ultimately what the school is. It’s likewise interesting to explore what it means to be real, mortal people in an environment that is only semi-real; it’s a bit of Harry Potter blended with The Truman Show. With this in mind, it’s easy to add the Snarls and Star Arches. They COULD have a deep and mysterious role. The Star Arches could be remnants of a shattered Archfey, or tied to the underling archtecture of Thelanis itself. If you want a truly epic story, the Snarls could be an early symptom of the fact that Thelanis itself is starting to unravel; perhaps the students must find a way to save the Faerie Court itself!
A secondary question with Strixhaven—Thelanis is what happens to the students who graduate? Why haven’t they transformed Eberron with their amazing mystic knowledge? Well, one advantage of the Thelanis approach is that there don’t have to be that many actual students; you can have all the supporting cast you need, but only a handful of students truly are protagonists who COULD finish their studies and return home. Another option is the Narnia approach: students stumble into Strixhaven from all across the world and can eventually become masters of magic, wielding powers far beyond the everyday magic of the Five Nations… but when those students return home, much of that power melts away. Should they return to Strixhaven, answering the call of the Founders in their hour of need, all those powers will return; but in Eberron itself, they may be more limited. This could give the interesting option of having adventurers meet a young NPC in Khorvaire who assures them that she’s one of the greatest archmages of all time, but who can’t even cast third level spells… until they’re all drawn to Thelanis, and her true powers return to her. If you take this approach, you might say, for example, that there’s quite a few Strixhaven alumni spread across Arcanix… but that the true treasure they retained from their time at the school was self-knowledge or a deeper understanding of the philosophies of the colleges as opposed to immense practical magics.
All this only begins to scratch the surface both of ways you could use Strixhaven or of the interesting stories one can tell in an academic campaign, but I did say at the start that this was going to be a “short” article… and with that in mind, I’m not going to expand too deeply on this concept in comments. For now, the Astral Plane awaits! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who help choose these topics and who make these articles possible.
A Thelanis beachhead in Argonnessen could have the best of both worlds!
Thanks for the insight, Keith.
The dragons could have intentionally built the “Io’strix” on an artificially maintained manifest zone precisely so they can ‘pull the plug’ and any students they don’t trust are immediately rendered powerless and ‘manageable’, with only true Dragonsguard graduates allowed to wield the ‘full’ magic.
A possibility that came into mind is that strixhaven is in the distant past of the age of giants?
Holy crap. That would be one hell of a gut wrenching ending to a campaign, especially if they don’t know Eberron lore.
“So anyway the next campaign is gonna be set 40k years later on a separate continent. “
“What happened to Xen’drik?”
Could be the finale of the campaign, mayhaps strixhaven houses the moonbreaker? And as the dragons rain down curse and fire upon them the goal is to survive.
Might make a ruin the party explore a bit more sorrowful.
In terms of the Oriq, the mage cult who are infiltrating strixhaven and obsessed obtaining magic at any cost, does a personal pet project by the lords of dust or the talons of tiamat to undermind Argonessen’s project sound like a reasonable enough story for them in Strix-Argonessen?
I was thinking the same, the Oriq are definitely cultists of some Overlord going off what they did in the MtG set. I like how you think!
Well, Strixhaven can be found anywhere in Eberron, you just have to think on how it could fit.
How would worship of magic-oriented gods like Aureon or the Shadow fit into either of these two visions of Strixhaven in Eberron?
It wouldn’t play a significant role. In Argonessen, the dragons don’t consider Aureon to be a deity; they consider him to be a historical individual, essentially a pioneering scientist. They might encourage students to study the wisdom of Ourelonastrix, but they wouldn’t encourage the worship of Aureon. Likewise, the Archfey of Thelanis have no particular interest in the religions of Eberron. I think religious debate is a storyline you could explore between the STUDENTS, with students from different cultures debating the role of the gods—the Cazhaak medusa extolling the Shadow, the Vassal from Sharn invoking Aureon, the Sulatar drow dismissing them both—but it wouldn’t be something built into the institutions of the school itself.
Wait, do you not use Thir either?
No, I use Thir. Under Thir, Ourelonastrix was the first Loredrake, and the first to ascend to Sovereign status. But that’s the point: under Thir, being the Sovereign of Lore is a JOB, and one any dragon can aspire to. Many of the faculty members at Strix’lokar likely believe they could be the next Aureon. So if they are trying the share the wisdom of the dragons with their students, they wouldn’t teach them to worship Aureon, because they know magic doesn’t come from Aureon; magic is SCIENCE, and if you’re the best scientist there is, you could BE the next Aureon. Yes, technically Thir considers the job of the Sovereigns to be guiding mortals, but at Strix’lokar, you’ve got a dragon teacher right there to guide you; you don’t need a Sovereign for that.
But then for deities, would the draconic pantheon play a part? Io, Garyx, Bahamut and co?
Why would they? Under Thir, those deities don’t deal with lesser creatures; that’s what the Sovereigns are for. Note that when the dragons shared the secrets of magic with the giants of Xen’drik, they DIDN’T teach them about the dragon deities.
Beyond any of that, the point of the school is that it’s an institute of arcane science. The faculty doesn’t care about your faith, and again, I LIKE the idea that a class of students could include a devout Seeker, a Vassal, a follower of the Silver Flame, even a Riedran who believes in the Path of Inspiration. I could imagine that Lorehold students and faculty would have academic discussions about religion and faith. But the purpose of the school isn’t to instill any sort of religious beliefs, it’s to teach you the principles of arcane science.
Are there any old prestige classes from 3.5 Eberron that you think would work well into either vision of Strixhaven, such as the dragon prophet from Magic of Eberron, or the Cataclysm Mage from the Explorer’s Handbook? I could see the dragon prophet fitting into the Argonnessen version of Strixhaven.
In Exploring Eberron’s section on Syrania, you introduce the University, which seems like a great candidate for a Strixhaven-like school for a lot of the reasons you discuss for both Argonessen and Thelanis. Do you see the University differently? What would your major considerations be setting Strixhaven there?
The University was in fact the FIRST place I thought of when considering where I’d put Strixhaven. But ultimately I abandoned it in favor of Thelanis. The University isn’t specifically a school of magic; it’s about general knowledge. But the primary reason comes from Strixhaven’s subtitle… “A curriculum of chaos.” I want a Strixhaven campaign to be wild and full of drama… while the defining aspect of Syrania is that it’s a place of peace. Quoting ExE, “the Throne of Knowledge maintains the University of Syrania, where chosen students can study an astonishing array of subjects with virtues of knowledge and the occasional guest dominion.” Its teachers are ANGELS, wise and peaceful. It’s not a place for wacky hijinks. While a school in Thelanis, on the other hand, isn’t only secondarily about the acquisition of knowledge, and primarily about the story of being at a magical school.
So the University is like Arcanix, Morgrave, Korranberg; it’s a great place for using some of the academic adventuring rules in Strixhaven, but it’s not where I’d place Strixhaven itself.
You could also lean into the Magic the Gathering multiverse and have Strixhaven be on its own alternate plane(t). To keep the NutraLoaf settings like Forgotten Realms from invading Eberron and ruining its flavor, say the ability to send someone OUT of Strixhaven is far more limited than the ability to bring someone IN. Gathering students from across various realities is something its recruiters can occasionally do. That is itself practically impossible, as only Kaya from the plane of Ravnica has thus far found a way to take a ‘passenger’ across the Blind Eternities*. The ability to send someone back home to their native plane depends on the passenger’s nativity to that plane. Once they’re back home, students find that much of what happens in Strixhaven tends to stay in Strixhaven, because the laws of magic vary and only somewhat translatable. For this reason, many students choose to stay.
*Somehow more infinite and yet more featureless than the astral plane. It takes far less than a second of exposure to the Blind Eternities to irrevocably shatter a conscious mortal mind.
“It’s longer than you think, Dad! Longer than you think!” – Stephen King, _The Jaunt_
Not to um, actually you, but the rules for pulling other people along is simple; as long as you can render them inanimate for the journey through the Blind Eternities, a planeswalker can pull them through. Of course, oldwalkers could pull whoever they wanted through, given the fact they were punching holes in reality rather than slipping through the gaps.
I think the ‘oldwalkers’ as you call them, are the players. They’re still there, outside of the MtG multiverse, but manipulating it. Probably isn’t intended canpn, but like the details of any ‘actually’ in a non-actual setting, I don’t worry about it. Literally having the “a wizard did it” trope available extends the license even farther. Ae long as there have been stories, people have remixed them.
Anyway, a Bag of Holding can hold a person for up to 10 minutes, so as long as the planeswalking takes less time, you could carry someone through TBE without exposing them. If they’re too big for the bag, polymorph them into a tiny animal with extremely slow respiration.
Oldwalkers were planeswalkers before an event called the Mending. Modern planeswalkers are “neowalkers”, who have much less power, whereas the oldwalkers could create universes.
Point is that despite planeswalking being almost by definition “a wizard did it”, there remain some rules to it. I do not know how extradimensional spaces like the bag of holding would handle being pulled into a place where there are no dimensions…
Given that moving non-planewalkers between planes was such a massive and complex issue that the Planar Gate completely changed everything in the modern MTG Lore and how many different schemes were needed to get Bolas’ plan to work, I assume that if he could have found a way to transport his extremely sturdy undead army in any other way, he would have. I doubt it was ever intended to be possible with as simple magic as an extradimensional space.
Lore serves the story, not the other way around. Unless you’re playing a planeswalking campaign, the mechanics don’t even matter; you just say that for unexplained reasons, getting to Strixhaven and back to your native plane is possible, but going to another Material plane isn’t because Elminster and Drizzt need to mind their own mess.
You’ve regularly made dragons view their “lessers” much as one would view small animals and how and individual mortal on its own might be liked in the same way as a pet or work animal. How about having Argonnessen Strixhaven be not so much an “experiment”, but more of a pageant?
“I taught an elf to fly”
“For ten minutes. My halfling on the otherhand can Levitate all day!”
The dog and pony show (halfling and elf show?) might produce useful results for the Chamber, much as pigs are still used to find truffles and dogs have and still do preform all manner of tasks. It would also explain the sheer variety of student origins: The exotic species and origins are themselves a novelty worthy of bragging rights: “My Halfling was an illiterate nomad when I found him, and I’ve already got him to use Magic Missile.”, “Look at my human. She’s a product of the finest ir’Kalain breeding and grooming.” or “I bet you don’t have a pixie!”
Meant “regularly said”.
This would also be an explanation for all the “dragon” themed spells and class abilities, which are normally a bit odd in Eberron. Humans regularly teach animals to imitate human behavior (“Speak!” “Shake!”), so perhaps these spells are the results of dragons teaching humanoids to imitate dragons?
I think this would alter the feeling of a Strixhaven campaign a lot in that so far Keith has been trying to give us locations that would really let the original material shine and such an interpretation would really change the dynamics?
Well, you ask why the graduates have not changed the words, well, maybe it is a fairy recent idea? This is the first decade to end and the first batch of graduates are out now.
For the school in Argonnessen do you imagine students volunteer to go there after receiving an invitation after being deemed a worthy prospect? Or would the chamber more likely abscond in the night with worthy prospects for them to wake up in this cosmopolitan university and not really having a choice? Both seem very interesting options but I can’t decide which I like more due to how much it changes the flavor if “the chosen few” were scouted and selected against their will.
Why not both? I could see a Chamber dragon who works undercover as a tutor at Arcanix, who identifies promises students and asks them “Would you like something more than this? An opportunity that will truly challenge you?”… only transporting them if they express interest (though definitely not revealing just what they are getting into). On the other hand, I can see the Riedran peasant being snatched without warning. That would be something to consider when creating your character… did you choose this path or was that choice made for you?
Thank you so much for this article by the way. It finally got past my mental block and allowed me to think of how to use Thelanis. I was so stuck on the fairy tales and trying to come up with a good list of fairy tales to include there. This made me realize that I could easily lean into realm of stories and essentially have different iconic movies and genres playing out within the plane. Wizard University hijinks, campy horror movie, a story asking if treants dream of wooden sheep etc.
If warforged could sleep, would they dream of iron defenders?
Speaking of dreams… there’s a plane for your more surreal or nightmarish sub-settings.
I took bits and pieces of the schooling mechanics and I’m implementing them into a Rekkenmark Academy campaign where students are being trained for the joint-military attempt at reclaiming Cyre from the Ghostbeasts, the Ghostbeasts come from the machinations of a Daelkyr Lord known simply as The Jester.
In my version of Eberron, the Gatekeepers knocked Xoriat out of terminus with Eberron by tethering it to Dal Quor, The Jester is the only Daelkyr Lord who can Travel this tether freely. Having interactions with the quori, he himself has learned to gain his own version of the Inspired. So the Ghostbeasts are kinda like his own hivemind.
I had an idea, where instead of Strixhaven being a single school, each college fits a diffrent university outlook from each of the Five Nations
Lorehold – Fits Morgrave like a glove.
Silverquil – Could have been a university based in Making (Cyre) influenced by Phairlan; with the rising sinical nature resulting from being displaced due to the mourning.
Prismari – If you tweak the expression and elements: could belong to Thrane akin to the silver pyromancers.
Quandrix – Would work for Arcanix in their understanding of arcane theory.
Witherbloom – Could be based in Atur Academy, more empasis on magic/alchemy and less druidic flavour – but their ties with the Blood of Vol works for their understandings of life and death
Certainly! Another idea I considered was that Strixhaven could be a NEW institution—throw out the Founder Dragons and say that it’s been established by the Five Nations as a symbol of piece and cooperation, with the colleges representing specialists of different nations. It’s mainly a question of the degree to which you’d have to change the flavor of the colleges to match the nations—and back to the point that I wouldn’t expect a school founded by the Five Nations to be staffed by giants, dryads, and similarly exotic creatures.
Do you think the five colleges of strixhaven could fit as arcane circles?
Out of curiosity, what is it about Io’lokar that you don’t like? If you could change one thing about how it’s presented, what would it be?
One of the basic principles of Eberron is that player characters are remarkable—that even a low level character with PC class levels is significant. We made an intentional design choice not to have powerful benevolent NPCs — that if there’s a problem, only the PCs can solve it. Oalian is a tree. Jaela Daran loses most of her power if she leaves Flamekeep. So I’m just not crazy about a city in which EVERYONE is a high-level character, where even the lowly clerk is a 15th level character. I get the principles—it’s a bottle, only epic characters are supposed to interact with it, no one wants to leave—but I still don’t LIKE it.
I prefer replacing it with Strixhaven where I can say that it’s a SCHOOL, not a city; where the most powerful residents are in fact dragons; and where it’s an experiment we may yet decide is a failure. If I was to use Io’lokar as is, I’d lower the overall character level. In my opinion, saying that the typical citizen is 4-6th level and that there are 12-13th level characters working in society would be more manageable, and would make it less ridiculously overpowered (and more on par with Aerenal or the Venomous Demesne).
With regard to “why do students haven’t changed the magic-wide Eberron into magic-high with their acquired knowledge that they could potentially teach outside of Strixhaven”…
If it is set in Thelanis… one of the common story is one of the passage of time varying differently. “Chaotic Time” is a feature of Thelanis according to ExE. Maybe people are pulled inside and the time passes so wildly differently that the first graduates will be arriving in Eberron in a few centuries. Characters could realize that by actually asking other Khorvarian denizen where they come from and realize that the 2nd year student isn’t aware of the Great War and the 3rd year Changeling student sought refuge in Strix-Thel at the onset of the silver crusade.
At first players would interact mostly with people of their year, or bizarre members of older years, so the opportunity for this reveal could occur later and create a subplot of “how can we actually get back to our time after graduation”. And one of the faculty could have actually be a graduate student… who did’nt really want to leave because, well, he was from Xen’drick…
[I may play a pathfinder Strength of Thousand/D&D Strixhaven inspired campaign set in Eberron, so I am really liking that we got an iFaq despite it not being the winner in the poll]
Certainly, the chaotic time is a key factor — as I suggest with the idea that you could have a student from the line of Vol there. But with Strix-Thel, you also have the advantage that while it may appear to be a bustling school filled with students, the majority of those students AREN’T REAL. Only a handful of students are actually mortals who can come and go; most of the “students” are set dressing and will never actually leave.
Fascinating stuff about Argonnessen! Your entry on the Star Arches in particular fascinated me, how they could be remnants from a fallen draconic civilization. I had the idea that they could be whatever is left of the ritual involved in Aureon’s folly, but that ritual obliterated the dragons of old (who are the only ones that knew how to produce it) that used this powerful magic. Perhaps several dragons had to stand beneath them and sing an incantation, or maybe they sacrificed themselves and have BECOME the star arches.