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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

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
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.
Emphasis added.

First, I think the business model is increasingly more about licensing their IP.

Second, I totally agree with with you that they should focus on adventure and setting content over more crunch. I'm much more excited about the Candlekeep book than I am Tashas. I've been wanting them to publish adventures that can be played in one or two sessions. Yawning Portal was nice, I enjoyed the nostalgia, but I'm excited that Candlekeep will be all new adventures. Let Goodman Games reprint the old stuff.

Third, I would like to see more books like Volos where they provide lore, lair, and variant information on monsters. I don't really need MORE monsters, but I would love more information about monsters. Not just lore and maps, which are great, but also crunchy stuff like suggested tactics and more variants--especially for social monsters, so you can better flesh out monster lairs and settlements.
 

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DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
You sure you would like a 6e better?! If it’s deeper in the direction they have taken, it will be more super ninjas with psionics and less Conan with bloody weapons!
I'm hopeful (I know, I know, WHY?! :rolleyes: ) that it will go the other direction. After all, if you want a super ninja with psionics... PLAY 5E! :p 🤪
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
I'm hopeful (I know, I know, WHY?! :rolleyes: ) that it will go the other direction. After all, if you want a super ninja with psionics... PLAY 5E! :p 🤪
. . . Do none of the earlier editions fit you better than 5e? Lots of people like 5e and don't want to buy the books for 6e but keep getting 5e options. IMO, it's better to use an existing resource instead of pushing for a new edition.
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
. . . Do none of the earlier editions fit you better than 5e? Lots of people like 5e and don't want to buy the books for 6e but keep getting 5e options. IMO, it's better to use an existing resource instead of pushing for a new edition.
Honestly, 1E (with some 2E flavor) was my favorite, but a lot of that could just be nostalgia from the great groups, being a bit younger, etc. It was far from perfect, and I think some of the design of 5E blended with some of AD&D would make the perfect version for me.

It is too much work to make the changes to either version to meet "in the middle". If I was rich, and had free time and money to hire others to help design a better version that I'd do on my own... it would be different. 🤷‍♂️

Some people crave the OSR version with THAC0 or tables and such. I'm fine with the "reversed" and simplified mechanics in many respects, but find 5E lacking in the details that made AD&D great IMO (admittedly, some of those details were wonky as all get out!).

I know 6E won't make an appearance until there is a different "feel" to the D&D version it brings about--and with 5E already filling a need, 6E will be something "different" by default. What exactly? No clue, but I am anxious to see--even if I am ultimately disappointed with it.
 



Jeff Carpenter

Adventurer
What recycled content? I mean, if you're referring to UAs: the whole point of UAs is to test the waters prior to publishing an official version. That's not recycled: that's the system working as intended! If you're referring to something else, possibly the Patrons section: I think taking a system from a specific setting and forming generic version for people who aren't interested in that setting is totally valid.

The artificer class was a reprint, multiple of the subclasses were reprits (off the top of my head, oath of glory, blade singer, spore druid), patron rules (as you mentioned), side kick rules, spells from SCAG, probably more.

So lots of the crunch.

I get that some people dont have those books and this version was more generic, but reprinting its reducing an already low page count with reused content. That is great as a buisness model, sell the same stuff twice, but not great as a consumer to pay twice.
 



Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
The artificer class was a reprint, multiple of the subclasses were reprits (off the top of my head, oath of glory, blade singer, spore druid), patron rules (as you mentioned), side kick rules, spells from SCAG, probably more.

So lots of the crunch.

I get that some people dont have those books and this version was more generic, but reprinting its reducing an already low page count with reused content. That is great as a buisness model, sell the same stuff twice, but not great as a consumer to pay twice.
All of the reprints are not from "general" books but were in setting books. So I don't really consider them duplicates, they were included for people that didn't purchase setting specific books.

I don't purchase setting books often so this was a good for me. 🤷‍♂️
 

Uta-napishti

Explorer
My take on Tashas:
Character Options: Solid mechanics, necessary & modern flexibility in backstories and builds, but there is for my taste too heavy a focus on building the eldritch/psi/cosmic spirit powered version of everything. Just try and find me a subclass that doesn't have some "magic floating spectral [whatever] appears" around it as "flavor"--you'll have to flip past most of this book. I heard on a podcast a year or two ago that WoTC always want to imagine what a class feature might "Look like" when they think about flavor. Well, two years later, and Tasha's and Theros come out, and every damn subclass has to fluoresce somehow. I'm personally not a fan of the more cartoon / class as superpower feel, but perhaps this makes room for the next book to swing back the other way a bit. B+
Group Patrons:
This is the real stuff! Applicable to any setting, campaign to add depth. Just makes everything better. A+
Spells:
Basically just reprints, and a couple of fixes (summoning) and a bare couple of Tashas' specials. Xanathars' was WAY stronger here. Biggest missed opportunity in a book focused on Wizardy stuff. You know what wizards care about? Spells! C
Magic Items:
Special spellbooks & Tatoos & Campaign driving Artifacts are the theme. It's focused, but not abundant. B
Art/Style:
The quality is quite good, but a touch esoteric to match the Tasha (read Lady Gaga) theme. The art featuring Tasha herself is all great actually, giving a far superior portrait of her as compared to other "Named" books. Tasha is FAR more present here than Volo or Mordenkainen were in their eponymous volumes and it's a good change. (rant warning) HOWEVER, A majority of all people pictured in the art have either glowing runes/tatoos or arcane/eldritch energy swirling out of their hands. I know this is a book about magic and such, so I forgive more than I would elsewhere, but I can only imagine the art director hosting regular conference calls to assign artists colors of arcane energies to avoid too many overlaps: "OK, so the bladesingers gonna have pink magic-swirl for the female elf and blue magi-crackle for the male elf, but the tiefling two pages later is an awesome Warlock, so he gets orange and blue magic-floof arching over him -- everybody ok with that?". There are palate cleansing rustic character portrayals of low level rangers and such, but they are badly outnumbered, and not the focus in the book. Diversity doesn't require cheesiness. "People of Color" refers to an honest and representative range of cultures and skin tones, not that every other portrait needs a prismatic rainbow aura. Hey WotC, let's put MORE distance, not less between D&D inspirational art, and the free-to-play-fantasy-elf browser game look, huh? B+
DM Tools (aside from Puzzles):
Strong, and helpful. I think this and the group patrons are the best part of the book. A
Puzzles:
Boy they put a TON of work into this section, and all I can say is, I wish the effort had been invested elsewhere. A valiant and unsuccessful effort to breath life into a previous pillar of the game. As roleplay has taken it's proper place in roleplaying, puzzles have faded. Back when puzzles were cool, was it because the players weren't very? At least there is a structured framework provided (Hints, Customization, Difficulty adjustment) that someone else might take to make fresh puzzles with, but for the love of god, don't bore your party with anything like these bland examples of letter/number/color substitution. Get a book of old riddles instead, or literally any collection of logic puzzles, or replace it all with a roleplaying encounter with a secret you must extract. Can anyone make puzzles interesting? Not WotC. C-
 

teitan

Legend
I would love to see an anniversary update that combines the PHB & DMG with XGtE & TCoE.
I think we will be getting something very similar rather than a 6e. Slight tweaks and updates with a simplified action economy and the best of subclasses and MAYBE Artificer as a core class. Some new races from the more popular ones. They might do a more robust version of the variant race rules from Tasha's in the DMG. I don't see a lot of big changes that would render old material incompatible. They've done pretty well at making conversion to 5e pretty simple and it's been a big part of their business that doesn't get talked about.

If 6e were to be anything more than that I don't think I would buy in. I am too old now to purchase all new books that are huge changes or completely different games from the previous edition. Over that.
 
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Azzy

KMF DM
I have to agree with others who say that the direction and feel of Tasha's just doesn't "feel" like the traditions of D&D. I admit I am grognard, and I love 2E (it is my favorite), Tasha's just seems a hodge podge of rules that try to take the game into some different realm/look/feel. Nothing wrong with that, but by definition Dungeons and Dragons evokes a Euro-centric/western fantasy. I think the art direction and overall feel would have been better served in a different 5e rules based campaign (Planescape/Steampunk etc.)
Huh? I'm a fellow grognard, but I don't think we bought the same book.
 


DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
Or play 1e (super-ninjas in OA, psionics in PHB) and you can even have your psionic super-ninjas fight aliens, robots, and Lovecraftian Elder Gods.
I'm sorry to disagree, but in 1E they would just be "ninjas", not "SUPER-ninjas"... ;)

And anyway, frankly your 1E experience might be different from mine, but pretty much everything in your statement goes against what 1E was IME. shrug
 

Dausuul

Legend
I'm sorry to disagree, but in 1E they would just be "ninjas", not "SUPER-ninjas"... ;)

And anyway, frankly your 1E experience might be different from mine, but pretty much everything in your statement goes against what 1E was IME. shrug
All that stuff was indisputably in the 1E books. Psionics was in the Player's Handbook. Your group simply chose not to use it. You don't have to use it in the 5E books either.
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
All that stuff was indisputably in the 1E books. Psionics was in the Player's Handbook. Your group simply chose not to use it. You don't have to use it in the 5E books either.
I know it is in the books--I still have them about 2 feet from where I am sitting. I'll even give you the page numbers to prove it (ninja: OA p. 19, psionics: PHB p. 110). :p

And we did use both ninja's and psionics. I don't recall any ninja PCs (or NPCs for that matter) having psionics--they are pretty rare, after all (the psionics, I mean, although ninja's aren't common ;) ). We certainly didn't have any "super" ninja's with psionics.

So, we didn't, as you say, "simply chose not to use it." We never had to deal with "aliens, robots, and Lovecraftian Elder Gods" however. :D

And yeah, I know I don't have to use it in 5E either--because I'm not! :eek: :rolleyes:
 

Azzy

KMF DM
I'm sorry to disagree, but in 1E they would just be "ninjas", not "SUPER-ninjas"... ;)

They could walk through walls and run on water, my good sir!

And anyway, frankly your 1E experience might be different from mine, but pretty much everything in your statement goes against what 1E was IME. shrug
Not really my experience (especially rarely using OA material, and never using 1e psionics), but I thought that Expedition to Barrier Peaks was a common experience, as were ilithids and gibbering mouthers. Granted, Jubilex (or actual Lovecraftian nightmares from Deities & Demigods) were far less common.

Also, that post was meant to be a good-natured jibe.
 



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