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.

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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

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
Ah, gotcha. Thanks for the clarity.

That basically just reinforces my original position, which is that it will be quite some time before we see any chance of a new edition of the game. They're not going to just "half-ass" a brand new edition, so there's definitely going to be time involved in actually crafting, playtesting, editing, etc. which wouldn't even begin to happen until after there has been enough financial data to drive a decision from Hasbro, which would be based on the market failure of licensed projects which are still in very early stages of development.
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).
But is that really the likely outcome?

If the mass market licensing projects fall through, it's much more likely that Hasbro will see it as an indication that the game, while immensely popular as a game, just doesn't have the reach to break through to the wider audience required of a "core brand". I'd argue that it would be more likely they'd just kill any further efforts along those lines and just let the game be. I don't see a logical path from "the game is exponentially more popular than it has ever been so let's see if we can capitalize on that popularity to make a movie, a TV show, a toy line, and a breakfast cereal" and "the movie, TV show, toy line, and cereal flopped" to "it's 5th edition's fault, let's pump out 6th edition" or "it's 5th edition's fault, let's just end D&D for a few years".

But maybe that's just me? LOL
 

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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.
In all honesty, I don't see how other RPGs approach this coming into play at all since D&D effectively transcends the RPG space, a game that's creeping into "media empire" territory and is backed by a large corporation. The closest thing to it in the space is Pathfinder, which went the "whole new version that isn't backwards compatible" route that has splintered their fan base, something that Wizards has repeatedly indicated that they're not willing to do.

I agree that whenever they choose to move on to a new edition, they'll try to utilize this strategy to some degree so there's a degree of backward compatibility there, but my point wasn't that there would never be a 6th edition of the game but rather that it wouldn't be coming anytime soon because it wouldn't make any sense at all while the game is still printing money for them.
 

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