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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


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This is where I'm at. I see it called out in these reviews but it reminds me of the article I read that called Lord of the Rings both Racist and Fascist...I just cant get behind that.

Its Fantasy. If people wish to get bent out of shape over a perpetual war between Orcs and Elves...thats on them.
Or dark skinned elves.

That come in an inverted rainbow shading of Purple, Grey, Obsidian, Jet Black, Pale White, and Lavender.
 

turnip_farmer

Adventurer
How would WotC would go about making new rules presented in an optional sourcebook required...?

I also found that comment really odd. I'm not really sure what it would mean for a publisher to write 'this is a non-optional rule!' apart from making them sound very insecure.

I'm getting a little worried what happens if the DnD police find out I didn't allow half-elves or half-orcs in my current campaign....
 


I also found that comment really odd. I'm not really sure what it would mean for a publisher to write 'this is a non-optional rule!' apart from making them sound very insecure.

I'm getting a little worried what happens if the DnD police find out I didn't allow half-elves or half-orcs in my current campaign....
Well hopefully your not attached to any of your pets or that friendly Moose, that visits your back yard, for starters.

And heaven forbid if your Orcs and Drow are auto-evil.

Or your Custom Race Flamestrike Elf doesn't identify as an elf.

But watch out for the complaining bout +2/+2 Mountain Dwarves. Planeshift Hawk Avens are loved by all for their +2/+2 because they don't supposedly exist since they aren't in gospel approved books from WoTC.
 
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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
There's almost zero chance that we'll see an actual new edition of the game within that time frame. Quite frankly, I'd be surprised if we saw one within double that amount of time. While I'm curious to see whether the controversies that surrounded Dungeons & Dragons and Wizards this past year have any notable impact on the business, going by the previous several years being the most successful the game has ever experienced, I don't see any scenario where they decide that it's time to pack things up and move on to new pastures. The game is still uber popular and selling like hotcakes. Why would they table that?
Because the metric for success isn't whether or not D&D book sales are beating last year's numbers. It's whether or not the D&D team can show Hasbro that they're on a path toward $100+ million per year in profits, and book sales are never going to be what gets them there. Not even close.

The tail wags the dog now. D&D's reaching the threshold for what Hasbro considers to be worth their time depends on licensing first and foremost, which is why we've got Baldur's Gate III, a TV series, and a theatrical film all coming out in the near future. The books matter only insofar as they serve as a springboard to keep the brand in the public consciousness.

If/when we get a new edition is entirely a result of whether or not WotC thinks a new edition will help do that, not on the 5E Core Rulebooks' Amazon sales rankings.
 

BigZebra

Explorer
To grow revenue they need subscriptions. Their own online VTT/service. The playbook of 4e. Hasbro are noticing the growth potential and of course they want to capitalize. Would be stupid not to.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Because the metric for success isn't whether or not D&D book sales are beating last year's numbers. It's whether or not the D&D team can show Hasbro that they're on a path toward $100+ million per year in profits, and book sales are never going to be what gets them there. Not even close.
That link is to a post from 8 years ago, and it's referring to events that took place several years before that, in the runup to 4E. It has nothing to do with 5th Edition.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
That link is to a post from 8 years ago, and it's referring to events that took place several years before that, in the runup to 4E. It has nothing to do with 5th Edition.
I find it entirely plausible that Hasbro's position of wanting their brands to earn $100+ million per year, and that D&D is operating under that rubric, are still in effect today. Certainly, I've seen nothing to suggest otherwise.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
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

Depends on your DM, I suppose. But in the 80s we had fantasy characters exploring crashed space ships, transported to Wonderland, travelling in time to the old west, with rules supporting conversion for Boot Hill. It was a lot more gonzo in the early days. I mean, there were adventures where you'd come upon the filming of a Star Trek rip-off show.

As more systems came on the market, it was important for a product to find its niche, so you'd have a system for super heros, others for sci fi, etc. Today, I find a lot more emphasis on setting purity. But the settings tend to be kitchen sink gonzo in terms of high-magic, and Mos Eisley levels of diversity in intelligent bipedal species.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I find it entirely plausible that Hasbro's position of wanting their brands to earn $100+ million per year, and that D&D is operating under that rubric, are still in effect today. Certainly, I've seen nothing to suggest otherwise.
The whole reason 4E was so desperately trying to hit the $100 million mark was to justify their huge staff (50-75 people according to Dancey). If they failed, mass layoffs would follow.

And what happened? They failed. And mass layoffs followed. Over 4E's run, the D&D team got stripped to the bone. 5E was made by the handful who were left.

There is no reason at all to suppose that 5E is being held to the "core brand" standard. Would Hasbro like to see 5E hit $100 million? Of course. Will the axe fall if it doesn't? No--that axe fell years ago.
 
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Azzy

KMF DM
Those are typical Ninja Tropes though.
Heck, Ninja Gaiden's Ryu Hayabusa( DOA/Team Ninja version) has the ability to run across water in one of those games.
It's still the realm of the superhuman rather than that of the non-spellcasting classes of 1e. Beowulf (along with other legendary warriors) is attributed several superhuman feats, but the D&D fighter doesn't reflect those. So, appealing to tropes to excuse superhuman abilities for the ninja seems like an egregious stance.
 


Alzrius

The EN World kitten
The whole reason 4E was so desperately trying to hit the $100 million mark was to justify their huge staff (50-75 people according to Dancey). If they failed, mass layoffs would follow.

And what happened? They failed. And mass layoffs followed. Over 4E's run, the D&D team got stripped to the bone. 5E was made by the handful who were left.

There is no reason at all to suppose that 5E is being held to the "core brand" standard. Would Hasbro like to see 5E hit $100 million? Of course. Will the axe fall if it doesn't? No--that axe fell years ago.
That wasn't "the axe," in terms of the worst thing possible happening. The axe was, as Dancey described it, being...

mothballed - allowed to go dormant for some number of years until the company was ready to take them down off the shelf and try to revive them for a new generation of kids.

But what's more notable is what he says next:

Best case would have been a very small staff dedicated to just managing the brand and maybe handling some freelance pool doing minimal adventure content.

And that's essentially what 5E was working with when it started. While the picture seems rosier now, it's no coincidence that the early 5E adventures were put out by other companies under contract while WotC worked with a virtual skeleton crew. It was only after 5E blew up, due largely to external factors such as being a part of the smash-hit Stranger Things and "actual play" becoming huge (mostly Critical Role, but also Acquisitions Inc., etc.), that D&D's fortunes really started to rise. (Which isn't to say that 5E wasn't initially well-received when it came out in 2014; it was. It just wasn't the cultural touchstone those would make it).

In other words, what happened after 4E imploded was the "best case" scenario for what happened when they didn't hit core brand status; a major reduction in staff as the D&D team regrouped and tried again, rather than being put on ice for a decade or more. Given how things have turned around since then, my guess is that we're seeing something similar to what Dancey described regarding the pitch for the DDI, except instead of an online character-builder, rules-repository, and VTT, it's a blitz of multimedia licensing, one that ideally will lead to sustainable revenue streams (i.e. the TV series goes for multiple seasons, the movie kicks off a "cinematic universe," etc.), with the end result being that D&D hits "core brand" status in terms of what it can pull in on an annual basis.

If those efforts fail, it may be another cycle of reduction followed by a new edition, or it might be D&D being mothballed this time. We'll just have to wait and see (and, of course, hope that it doesn't fail).
 

I don't really think we will see a new edition any time soon. What I believe, however, is that we will something close to blend of the PHB/DGM 2.

As for TCoE
A lot of reprinted stuff (I have all books, even the settings save for Rick and Morty...) so I was not very impressed. But it does allow me to have one book to carry/ refer to get the info that I want. The puzzle part was not bad, but if you're in that kind of endeavor, try The crypt of Lyzandred the mad. You'll get a lot more than TCoE gave you.

Spells, patrons and organisations were good as were the side kicks. The racial options isn't my cup of tea (to stay polite) but the subclasses that were original were good. Over all, not as bad a book as I feared. Quite the contrary. I would recommend the book in a heart beat. Use the stuff you want, keep the rest in the nether.

And I am thinking to create a blend of 1ed with 5ed... this would mean less Borderland 3 and Battletech though...
 

Given how things have turned around since then, my guess is that we're seeing something similar to what Dancey described regarding the pitch for the DDI, except instead of an online character-builder, rules-repository, and VTT, it's a blitz of multimedia licensing, one that ideally will lead to sustainable revenue streams (i.e. the TV series goes for multiple seasons, the movie kicks off a "cinematic universe," etc.), with the end result being that D&D hits "core brand" status in terms of what it can pull in on an annual basis.

If those efforts fail, it may be another cycle of reduction followed by a new edition, or it might be D&D being mothballed this time. We'll just have to wait and see (and, of course, hope that it doesn't fail).
But circling back... how exactly would a new edition of the game help any of this? It's effectively starting over from scratch, and it carries risk of harm to the brand in the mainstream as now the company will effectively be asking all of those people who just bought into the game within the past two or three years to buy whole new core rulebooks in a market where the majority of gamers are already loathe to spend more money than what's necessary (i.e. the core three).

Hasbro isn't stupid. If they see the momentum continuing to climb with what's already out there -- which they clearly do since we now have a D&D movie and possibly TV show and all the licensing and marketing and everything you talked about -- they're going to continue to milk that for as long as they possibly can. From a business sense, introducing a whole new edition of the game is close to one of the dumbest things they could do right now.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
But circling back... how exactly would a new edition of the game help any of this? It's effectively starting over from scratch
You answered your own question, there.

When I said "If those efforts fail, it may be another cycle of reduction followed by a new edition," the operative phrase was "if those efforts fail." Specifically, if the big-budget multimedia licensing that they've been building up to doesn't turn into a sustained revenue stream the way they're clearly hoping it will, i.e. the D&D TV series flops, the theatrical film is a bomb, the next Baldur's Gate doesn't maintain a large player-base, etc. That's when the odds of seeing a new edition will skyrocket, and not before, because at that point Hasbro will be looking to start over from scratch (if they don't just shelve the brand for a generation first).

Should those failures come to pass, then while the D&D brand might still be profitable, it likely won't be profitable enough to hit "core brand" status (i.e. $100+ million in revenue per year), since its path toward that goal (i.e. the big-budget licensed productions) will have fallen through in terms of making sufficient return. In that case, there's no reason not to release a new edition; they won't know if it'll capture lightning in a bottle, but it might, whereas the current edition will have conclusively (to them) failed to do so.
 

Azzy

KMF DM
But circling back... how exactly would a new edition of the game help any of this? It's effectively starting over from scratch, and it carries risk of harm to the brand in the mainstream as now the company will effectively be asking all of those people who just bought into the game within the past two or three years to buy whole new core rulebooks in a market where the majority of gamers are already loathe to spend more money than what's necessary (i.e. the core three).

Hasbro isn't stupid. If they see the momentum continuing to climb with what's already out there -- which they clearly do since we now have a D&D movie and possibly TV show and all the licensing and marketing and everything you talked about -- they're going to continue to milk that for as long as they possibly can. From a business sense, introducing a whole new edition of the game is close to one of the dumbest things they could do right now.
Contrary to 3e D&D (and all subsequent editions of D&D), a new edition doesn't need to (or even should) be a reinvention of the rules. With many RPGs, a new edition is a refinement and consolidation of rules that are largely backwards compatible. Hopefully, 6e will go this route when is does happen.
 

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