Are you a fan of the Harry Potter video games but new to tabletop gaming? We’ve found you the perfect game. Magic School Mystery is a tabletop RPG (role-playing game) for players who love crafting a story together. A headmaster or headmistress acts as the gamemaster and guides the young students through their time at a magical school (as created by the players). The students collect Answers to help them solve the mystery, learn spells, get in detention, and tell a story together.
Can you solve the mystery before the school year ends?
We decided to answer that question for ourselves with a team of MuggleNet staff members. Aly became the headmistress of Sowtail School and led players Amanda, Emily, Gayle, and Gretchen through a two-part session to solve the mystery of Professor Bane. Here’s what we each thought of the game.
Aly – The Headmistress
I took on the role of the headmistress for this campaign, and I really enjoyed bringing the story to life for the players. It was my first time playing as a gamemaster for an RPG, and I think Magic School Mystery is a good place to start for first-time players or gamemasters. It’s definitely not as complex as a game like Dungeons & Dragons, and I didn’t have to spend several days putting a campaign together. Even though we used the game’s base adventure, I had a lot of room to create my own version of the story for the rest of the players.
As I read through the instruction book, I found it was very straightforward in terms of set-up and character creation. After you pick up traction in the story, it seems to move like a choose-your-own-adventure game by giving the players several chapters or “scenes” to pick from. I like this feature because I think it gives first-time players an idea of how they can move through their game effectively when they might not know where to start otherwise. As the headmistress, I had to move a chapter along if the players found themselves halted.
The use of a single ten-sided die for every roll in this game is very different from how I’ve played other RPGs. Personally, I think it’s more fun if a game uses as much dice-rolling action as players can muster.
Overall, I’d say this is a great place to start if you want to get into the RPG world.
Amanda – RPG Expert
I’m definitely no stranger to tabletop games, but coming into Magic School Mystery, it was clear my experience wasn’t necessary. This game is definitely built with a new player in mind!
The part of this game that really stood out to me was its emphasis on narrative, not mechanics. While the focus on telling a story certainly makes it simple to get started, I really wish there had been more gameplay dynamics for me to interact with. I loved the opportunity to be creative, but I think I just had too much freedom.
Final thoughts: This game is such a fun way to spend time with your magic-loving friends, whether or not they’re RPG pros. If you’re a tabletop lover, like me? This might leave you yearning for less guessing and more rolling.
Emily – Returning to RPGs
I found Magic School Mystery a great way of getting into (or back into, in my case) role-playing games. The students are led through a thrilling Potter-esque mystery by the headmaster/headmistress while being able to make their own decisions and impact the way the story plays out. We had to follow clues, search for answers, and try not to get in too much trouble before we confronted our prime suspect. It was honestly half like being in a Harry Potter mystery and half Scooby-Doo and the gang – and I mean that in the best possible way.
Between adding cool details to your character, such as backstory and magical abilities, and being able to create your own spells, Magic School Mystery has all the elements of a great RPG without being too hard for a newcomer to understand and enjoy. It’s easy enough as a student player to just turn up with a ten-sided die, put together a character (mine was a blue-haired Muggle-born witch with rainbow socks and a wand with a mind of its own), and start gameplay. This game hooks you in and invests you in your character and the bonds you create between yourself and other players. If you’ve ever fantasized about who you’d be in the wizarding world and attending a wizarding school, then this is the game for you!
Gayle – RPG Newbie
I only started playing tabletop role-playing games very recently and have only ever played one-shots before, so I was still fairly new to role-playing tabletop games, myself. I'll be honest: I more enjoy watching these types of games than playing them, mostly because I never knew what I was doing and am not really good at making stuff up as the story goes. At first, while reading the handbook, I found myself getting a little lost as to what I was supposed to do, and it took 30 minutes into a session of the game to get used to what was going on. While playing it, I felt that I as a character had a bit too much freedom and kind of wished I could have used the dice more.
However, in my personal opinion, Magic School Mystery is a perfect way to get into tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons if you ever want to see what they are like. Playing it actually got me really excited to see how the story was going to go. As a huge fan of Harry Potter and fantasy in general, I found myself diving into a whole other world again, and I had an amazing time doing it. The character I was playing was a half-Muggle, half-wizard, and the whole game was diving into a mystery of a whole other magical world. Part of the reason I fell in love with the Harry Potter books as a child was that it gave me the opportunity to dive into a whole other world. This game is no different. If you are interested in or at least a bit curious about what tabletop role-playing is like, Magic School Mystery is a good way to start.
Gretchen – Casual RPG Player
I've been playing RPG games for a few years, so I'm going to be honest and say I didn't read the rule book for Magic School Mystery that closely (always trust your headmistress to guide you through). The game offers a really easy set-up for players, which I loved. I just needed to show up with a D10 and one of their character sheets with a name and backstory. After deciding to base my character on Lizzie Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, I was ready to go.
This game is a lot of fun if you're not obsessed with the mechanics of traditional RPGs, which I am certainly not. You get to make up your own spells in class, naming them whatever you want and designing them to do almost whatever you please. There are a few exceptions – you can't design spells that harm anyone, it has to fit your character narratively, and it must have a "whimsical limitation." I love that the spells are designed to give other characters a peek into who you are as a player, though it is somewhat challenging in that we didn't really know what spells would be helpful to make. My "Thus Polluted" smokescreen came in handy a lot, while making an NPC join our party with an "Ardent Admiration" potion never really seemed useful.
Overall, this game really was a lot of fun. We had the freedom to explore wherever we wanted (sometimes a little too much freedom, and the headmistress had to guide us), and Aly created awesome characters and stories for us. I'm currently in graduate school to become a school social worker, and therapeutic RPGs are of particular interest to me. I could absolutely see myself using this game with students. They'll be able to tap into their imaginations and work together to solve a mystery. I can't wait to get my copy of the official rules!
Overall, we each thought Magic School Mystery was a fun wizarding game that allowed players to be creative and whimsical. The simple structure and gameplay make it perfect for RPG newbies or parents looking to introduce their children to tabletop gaming.
You can back the game on Kickstarter to receive the rule book and other bonus goodies from the developers. Don’t miss your chance to bring home Magic School Mystery!
A copy of the rule book was provided by Magic School Mystery. All opinions belong to the reviewers.
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