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Review Roundup: Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

Now that Tasha's Cauldron of Everything has been out a bit, we wanted to take a look at the overall reactions to D&D's latest compilation of rule options, subclasses, DM advice, etc. So let's see how other sites rank the new book in comparison to our review.

tashacauldronofeverything.jpg

Please note that when a site did not provide a letter grade, we estimated the score using our best judgement.

Bell of Souls points out that character creation in the Player's Handbook leans into archetypal combinations of class and race so if you want to play something outside of that, “it’s kind of shooting myself in the foot.” BoS views TCoE as addressing what's been learned over the last six years in regard to what the community wants – players want character customization, DMs are favoring story-driven adventures over classic dungeon crawls, high-level play is less popular, and everybody wants tools for tweaking their options. It also views TCoE as updating game expectations by consciously incorporating options that are common today, like session zero, so they're fully a part of the D&D experience. BoS also likes changes to summoning spells because it standardizes and simplifies them and doesn't require arguments or 10 books. BoS's biggest complaint is that the rules are all optional. Since the new content makes the game better in their opinion and brings a modern sensibility to correct some old wrongs, labeling it all “optional” feels like a half measure. So an overall positive review of TCoE that criticizes it for playing things too safe with the “optional” label. Average Rating: B+

Much like Bell of Souls, the Daily Kos review is disappointed that TCoE doesn't go farther in addressing long-standing racism, colonialism, or bias in D&D. They like the character options, but not as much as they enjoyed Xanathar's Guide to Everything, and felt that the new rules for customizing racial ability modifiers was a bit anemic, comparing the latter to a four-piece chicken nuggets instead of a more “meaty” option. Overall, the Daily Kos gave it a B-.

Geek to Geek liked XGtE but repeatedly cites TCoE as being superior, saying that the former's downtime rules and such don't hold a candle to latter's material on group patrons or expanded sidekick options, just to name a few. It also praises TCoE for being more cohesive despite presenting a variety topics. I hadn't considered that in my review, but it's an excellent point – the theme of the book ties its content together better. They also geek out over the subclass options, comparing the Psi Warrior to Jedi. Like the other reviews, Geek to Geek likes the option for customizing racial ability scores and pushes back against “ridiculous internet trolls” who claim it's for an agenda. Instead, they argue that it gives players the freedom to create exactly the type of character they want without needing a homebrew option and with more standing if they have a “ruleswhip” DM. GtG's overall assessment is very positive, describing TCoE as expanding 5E overall whereas they felt that XGtE simply expanded the PHB. GtG ranks it as a 5 out of 5, or A+.

Geek Dad doesn't make you wait to find out what they think, calling it “an unexpected delight for players and DMs alike” upfront. Within the overall review it contains links to more specific breakdowns and reviews by class, which is a nice touch. Geek Dad similarly sections off with a spoiler shield the portion of the review that focuses on DM tools tso players don't read what they shouldn't. Geek Dad does warn DMs to talk to players before incorporating the magical prostheitcs because people can have differing views about using such things. Otherwise, Geek Dad labels TCoE as chock full of well-executed options for players and DMs. Average Rating: A+

The Inverse review, like the others, praises for TCoE the new customization options, yet it also spends time talking about the inherent rigidity of D&D and how fans of the older editions might dislike the flexibility. Mentioning that is reasonable, but it's odd that more time isn't spent on other parts of the book, like the group patrons or sidekicks. Overall though, Inverse labels the possible player options “awesome to imagine.” Average Rating: B

The review by A Pawn's Perspective is overall positive, with a few quibbles, such as the price. Otherwise, it praises TCoE as possibly surpassing XGtE in terms of content's quality. Subclasses, spells, and artifacts are considered exciting. In the end, APP's main complaints about TCoE are the aforementioned price complaint and the fact that the alternative cover doesn't match the others on a shelf. As such APP gives TCoE a four out of five stars rating. Average Rating: B+

Polygon has much more of a mixed view of TCoE, praising parts of it while also deeming other parts too thin. They like the subclass optiions, while also saying that some of them feel like D&D versions of Marvel characters. The DM's section is named the best part of the book, with special praise given to the part about setting clear expectations for the type of game the DM runs and how that defines what is good behavior. Polygon calls that the best such description they've seen and recommending that it be added to future printings of the PHB and Dungeon Master's Guide. The section on customizing racial abilities and addressing prior racial biases in the game is viewed as a failure in the Polygon review, but not because it's unnecessary. On the contrary, they feel that the options don't go far enough or do enough to address the issue. While they do agree that customizing one's game or character to do what feels right, the actual execution is considered weak and not achieving the goal of moving the game in a progressive direction. In the end Polygon considers to be a “great resource” but thinner than prior supplements. Average Rating: B-

Strange Assembly considers TCoE to be more a book for players, ranking the subclasses very well but less interested in the rest. However, since they believe most people will buy the book for the class options, that ranks the book well for SA. Unlike Polygon, SA feels that the social contract/session zero information has been included too many times so while they like it, it's not considered much of a plus. SA doesn't hate any of the other content. They just don't consider it exciting or outstanding. While SA thinks the subclasses are the strongest part of TCoE they especially like the options for artificers, barbarians, clerics, rangers, and warlocks, saying it's especially good and necessary for the ranger. Average Rating: B

While not every review gives a clearly quantifiable rating, the reviews are overall positive, with most of them in the range of an A or B grade (4 to 5 stars, if you prefer that scale). That averages to a B+ grade, making it a recommended supplement for D&D 5E.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels


Stormonu

Legend
My short review:

Tasha's is typical of late-edition fare, when content has reached the "been there, done that - let's try something new" bottom-of-the-barrel scraping. A lot of it is the sort of bad advice or options that DM's would have thrown out and not even considered at the start of the edition cycle, but since designers have apparently reached the point that inspired content has already been released in prior publications, what you find within is reaching out to those thin, untested branches from another tree. There's nothing really inspired in Tasha's, and the content only seems revolutionary because it's going against the established grain of good design and content.

In short:

Expect a new edition in the next two years.
 

dave2008

Legend
My short review:

Tasha's is typical of late-edition fare, when content has reached the "been there, done that - let's try something new" bottom-of-the-barrel scraping. A lot of it is the sort of bad advice or options that DM's would have thrown out and not even considered at the start of the edition cycle, but since designers have apparently reached the point that inspired content has already been released in prior publications, what you find within is reaching out to those thin, untested branches from another tree. There's nothing really inspired in Tasha's, and the content only seems revolutionary because it's going against the established grain of good design and content.
Interesting, most people seem to disagree with you. It is also interesting that you would mention it as "bottom-of-the-barrel" when there has been so little additional content for 5e that some think it has barely scratched the surface!
In short:

Expect a new edition in the next two years.
Not likely given how much could still be added to the game and how well it is still selling (probably the more important point), but you never know. Of course maybe you're being sarcastic.
 
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Warpiglet-7

Adventurer
I won’t touch the out of game concerns that apparently the book has been shaped by. Others can if they wish. I only mention it because some missteps seem to be directly linked to these issues.

for me it’s a mixed bag like most D&D non core books and a needed purchase for most players.

the art is great technically and if you like D&D characters wearing glasses you are in luck. If you like tieflings and weird stuff you will be doubly surprised and delighted. So while I think the art is top notch I don’t like the subjects much. Hard to find cool looking warriors in D&D books these days. it’s impossible to find medieval inspired knights and footmen. If you like sci-if looking characters wearing spectacles and tieflings you will feel differently. Not a bearded dwarf or cool looking human warrior in the bunch.

The feats in my opinion are very fun. You can come close to multiclassing via feats and 1/3 casters now. Warlock options are cool and options for invocations and feats make them fresh again.

If you are really experienced, the patrons and options might seem redundant. However I like the flavor and reminders myself.

I think it’s a good book overall with the caveat of that I don’t like the new direction of story focus and radical departure from any semblance of medieval fantasy. Ymmv.
 

Jeff Carpenter

Adventurer
I don't really trust "professional" reviews of rpg products I am sceptical that they probably got a review copy and are trying to stay in the good graces of the companies that feeds them these books. Add in a lot have affiliate links to the products and its hard to know what is business and what is truth in the age of social media.

I thought many of the subclasses were to niche, the page count was low, lots of recycled content, and the puzzles unispired "here solve this word jumble'.

Solid "C"
 


auburn2

Explorer
My short review:

Tasha's is typical of late-edition fare, when content has reached the "been there, done that - let's try something new" bottom-of-the-barrel scraping. A lot of it is the sort of bad advice or options that DM's would have thrown out and not even considered at the start of the edition cycle, but since designers have apparently reached the point that inspired content has already been released in prior publications, what you find within is reaching out to those thin, untested branches from another tree. There's nothing really inspired in Tasha's, and the content only seems revolutionary because it's going against the established grain of good design and conten
In short:

Expect a new edition in the next two years.
I get what you are saying and I see it as a possibility but to be honest with the popularity of 5e I don't think wizards is itching for a new edition, especially after the 4e debacle.

From a business model point of view they have to keep selling books, so yes they need new content and if there are not room for new rules I think there is a knee-jerk let's try a new edition. This is what happened with 2E and 4E, both largely failures. However I think they would be bettter served by shifting the focus from new rules to new worlds or new adventures. They need to sell games but whether that is the next new campaign or another rule book is not really that important.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
Interesting, most people seem to disagree with you. It is also interesting that you would mention it as "bottom-of-the-barrel" when there has been so little additional content for 5e that some think it has barely scratched the surface!
I think it depends on what type of content you're talking about. I definitely think there has not been that much new monsters, items, mechanics, etc. But we had a ton of new subclasse. I'm not a fan of the subclass system and I kind of agree with Polygon's review on that front; some of the options don't feel D&Desque. I definitely think the subclass approach is limited as your basically coming up with archetypes or concepts for a class and you can run out of those. Or at least run out of good ones.

So, they're at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to subclasses for me, but they haven't dived yet when it comes to other type of content.
 

auburn2

Explorer
I won’t touch the out of game concerns that apparently the book has been shaped by. Others can if they wish. I only mention it because some missteps seem to be directly linked to these issues.

for me it’s a mixed bag like most D&D non core books and a needed purchase for most players.

the art is great technically and if you like D&D characters wearing glasses you are in luck. If you like tieflings and weird stuff you will be doubly surprised and delighted. So while I think the art is top notch I don’t like the subjects much. Hard to find cool looking warriors in D&D books these days. it’s impossible to find medieval inspired knights and footmen. If you like sci-if looking characters wearing spectacles and tieflings you will feel differently. Not a bearded dwarf or cool looking human warrior in the bunch.

The feats in my opinion are very fun. You can come close to multiclassing via feats and 1/3 casters now. Warlock options are cool and options for invocations and feats make them fresh again.

If you are really experienced, the patrons and options might seem redundant. However I like the flavor and reminders myself.

I think it’s a good book overall with the caveat of that I don’t like the new direction of story focus and radical departure from any semblance of medieval fantasy. Ymmv.
Totally get what you are saying. On the other hand though I like a broader interprretation of the fantasy setting. I found the stereotypical knight in shining armor saving the princess to be rather flat. Not saying it isn't fun but not as fun as a walking cat-person for me.

Part of this is I have lived in the middle east and been around the world and I think a broader concept of middle age society as a result. The origian game was based on feudalistic western Eurpoe in the early middle, later in 1E it grew to the late middle ages but for the most part still very much Western Europe centric themes and ideas. That is ok, there is nothing wrong with that. The games designers were part of western civilization and that was during an era before the internet even.

When you look at the middle ages historically though there is much more flavor world wide. The Byzantine/Roman empire would not fit in that paradigm. Neither would Saladin and the turks. Yet there is just as much rich tradition and setting in what was going on these places, and in the early middle ages those cultures were more advanced too. That is what I know about because I lived there, visited museums there, talked to people there. I am sure the same exists in the far east (Japan, China Korea) ...but I don't know as much about those cultures or even I do know in an academic sense I don't think about them as much.
 


HawaiiSteveO

Explorer
I flipped through a friend's copy and was struck by very different look and tone (?) of it. Almost like it was for a different game?
In any case, glad I didn't buy it as not my jam, cool they are trying new things and there is clearly market for it.
There's loads of stuff out to choose from, I got material to play for the next 6+ months or so, and good stuff coming down the line (Level Up and Candlekeep book look great!) so no skin off my nose.
 

Warpiglet-7

Adventurer
Totally get what you are saying. On the other hand though I like a broader interprretation of the fantasy setting. I found the stereotypical knight in shining armor saving the princess to be rather flat. Not saying it isn't fun but not as fun as a walking cat-person for me.

Part of this is I have lived in the middle east and been around the world and I think a broader concept of middle age society as a result. The origian game was based on feudalistic western Eurpoe in the early middle, later in 1E it grew to the late middle ages but for the most part still very much Western Europe centric themes and ideas. That is ok, there is nothing wrong with that. The games designers were part of western civilization and that was during an era before the internet even.

When you look at the middle ages historically though there is much more flavor world wide. The Byzantine/Roman empire would not fit in that paradigm. Neither would Saladin and the turks. Yet there is just as much rich tradition and setting in what was going on these places, and in the early middle ages those cultures were more advanced too. That is what I know about because I lived there, visited museums there, talked to people there. I am sure the same exists in the far east (Japan, China Korea) ...but I don't know as much about those cultures or even I do know in an academic sense I don't think about them as much.
You are not wrong.

and I like the Roman Empire as a theme changed
For fantasy purposes of course and in my campaign I do have some semblance of Byzantine vs the “main” nation. Same faith but some big points of difference...

let me rephrase....I would like a little more pseudo history. I am not against hopping planes per se but would be nice to see some art that reflects the slightly less alien and slightly more traditional.

a mix. But tashas is mostly all in on the non traditional archetypes.

I like the system overall but think D&D is leaving me and my pals behind as a business or other decision. Doesn’t feel good but I have options. For example, it’s easy to get art one likes off the internet and as the game changes to merely keep or purchase what is liked.

I don’t want to go back to old editions but suppose OSRIC is there if absolutely need to scratch that itch...

the old modules also have lots of fun art and depictions to help frame our campaign aesthetic too...
 



dytrrnikl

Explorer
Do whatever is fun at our table. You don't need Tasha's Cauldron to do that. I see it like anything else released after the core game has been around for awhile: hey, here's some table rules we've been using for awhile or some table rules we've come across that seemed pretty interesting and compiled it for you under the guise of making it a bunch of optional rules. Have at!

That said, of the reviews mentioned, the one provided by Polygon is the one with which I mostly agree. I differ in there view that:
they feel that the options don't go far enough or do enough to address the issue.

I don't see the Tasha's treatment of races as necessary. My views on races in gaming have always been other than Humans (skin color or otherwise), NO race presented has anything to do with the real world views. But, that's me and by no means indicative of anyone else. So take my view with a grain of salt.
 




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