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Tasha's Cauldron of Everything: An In-Depth Review

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything is the latest optional rule book for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons but this “optional” book is very likely to become a must-have for most DMs and players. In fact, it's possible that it's the single more useful 5E supplement so far, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
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As the title indicates, the conceit of the book is that the famous Witch Queen Tasha, daughter of Baba Yaga, has overseen this publication and adds her own snarky notes, which I enjoyed. Xanathar's Guide to Everything and Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes did the same. As much as I loved those two supplements, I think I'm going to be using this one more. Your mileage may vary depending upon whether you prefer the subclasses in TCoE or Xanathar's Guide to Everything, but you'll see that this one is more expansive despite its slim 192-pages. TCoE comes in two editions—regular and a limited edition cover. Both are gorgeous, as is the interior art. TCoE lives up to its name by being packed full of customizations, subclasses, magic items, DM options, spells and a few creatures.

New Customizations​

The book opens with rules for customizing your character's origin. The initial announcement of this was met with controversy, but it's presented here as just another way to make the character you envision. Maybe your dwarf has previously worked so relentlessly as a miner that a +2 to Strength makes more sense or maybe they come from a line of dwarven scholars who know everything about enchanting metal and stones and have a +2 Intelligence bonus instead. The framework for customizing your PC's ability score increases, languages, and proficiencies is pretty simple and logical. So simple, you could have extrapolated from studying the PHB. Having it laid out saves time, though.

The same chapter also addresses changing skills and how to change a subclass. The later was a wise addition because some players will want to try out a new subclass after reading TCoE so addressing it right away makes sense. One of the many things TCoE does is bring options or modified options from Eberron to Forgotten Realms, or any setting.

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New Patrons​

One such option is the group patron concept. Group patrons can accomplish several things in a campaign:
  • Provide a reason why characters know each other and how the group game together
  • Set a tone for the campaign
  • Create an adventure framework – they're giving assignments
  • Make it easy for new characters to be added – they were recruited
  • Provide resources when needed
TCoE provides some categories for patrons. A DM can make their own, but the ones presented cover most possibilities. They overlap quite a bit with the ones in Eberron: Rising From the Last War, but because Eberron and the Realms are quite different in tone, the designers revised the patrons accordingly. The patron categories include academy, ancient being, aristocrat, criminal syndicate, guild (Acquisitions Inc. would qualify), military force, religious order, and sovereign. Each category explains how such a group patron would work, a chart with six options for subtypes, sample perks that could come with that type of group patron, a chart of six options for whom the group's contact is, information about the group's style for this type of patron, examples of roles within this type of group, and a chart of six quest ideas.

Even if your group isn't interested in having a group patron, this chapter is useful. The quest charts can be mined as adventure seeds. Also, the details are useful for making NPC groups in a campaign. Players also have the option of become patrons to another group. For this option it's recommended that the “Running a Business” downtime activity option from the DMG be used, but incorporating information as needed from the rest of the group patron chapter also makes sense.

New Spells​

After the subclasses, players might be most excited about the Magical Miscellany chapter. Oddly, this chapter left me cold. Nothing is wrong with it, and one spell definitely has interesting possibilities, but none of the 21 spells made me excited to try them. Is that because eight of them were summoning spells (Summon Fey, Summon Aberration, Summon Shadowspawn, etc.)? Maybe. My reaction is entirely subjective so you might love it.

I do like that five of those 21 spells are cantrips. The rest are a mix of first through ninth level spells with the majority being fourth level or less. Nineteen of the spells are available to wizards, and 11 are available for warlocks with the rest being more of a mix.

Unsurprisingly, three of the new spells are Tasha's custom spells. I actually expected more but with summoning spells taking up so many slots, that doesn't leave as many options. Tasha's Caustic Brew is a first-level spell that does acid damage. Tasha's Mind Whip is a second-level spell that does psychic damage. Tasha's Otherworldly Guise doesn't provide a disguise. Instead for one minute you can choose from options such as +2 AC, sprouting spectral wings and flying, immunity to certain damage, etc. The name is weird but the spell benefits are very useful.

Blade of Disaster is an odd spell. This 9th level spell causes a blade-shaped planar rift that can be used to make up to two melee attacks. Maybe I'm visualizing it incorrectly, but it just seems weird to me, though it does do a lot of damage—4d12 force damage plus on a critical hit, which occurs at 18 or above, an extra 8d12 damage for a total of 12d12 force damage.

Dream of the Blue Veil is an intriguing spell, designed to let the players try something new. The caster and up to eight other willing characters fall into a deep sleep for six hours, during which they have a vision of another world, like Oerth, Eberron, Toril, etc. If uninterrupted during the spell's duration, the vision ends with the characters seeing a blue veil. If they part it and walk through, they physically and mentally that other world. This way your players could have an adventure elsewhere without starting a new campaign. Incidentally, Sigil is mentioned several times in TCoE, along with the Blue Veil spell allowing transportation between worlds. Is that a tease for an upcoming Planescape reboot? I still say that should have been the first revived setting because it makes it easier to do the rest.

While TCoE does not contain a creature section like MToF did it does include some stat blocks as parts of other topics. For example, each of those summoning spells is accompanied by a stat block for the type of spirit summoned. None have a challenge rating.

After the new spells is a short but fun section on customizing spells to reflect your type of magic. The 10 themes listed cover a wide range of ideas, but your could always make your own.

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New Magic Items​

Next are 47 new magic items. Wisely, the artwork matches that of the magic item section in the DMG. Thirteen of the new “items” are magical tattoos. They're not the same as Eberron's dragonmarks but are a related concept. The higher level the spell, the larger the tattoo is, so an average-sized adventurer can't have too many.

It sounds like someone on the development team is a Doctor Who fan. The All-Purpose Tool is a magical screwdriver than can transform into a variety of tools. Very handy, even if it's not technically sonic. Baba Yaga's mortar and pestle is another magic item.

New Tools for DMs

I really like the dungeon master's tools section, which starts with a lengthy explanation of what is session zero, why can make a campaign more enjoyable, and the benefits of using it. Session zero provides the time and space to make sure everyone is on the same page for best results.

Next is an expanded version of sidekicks, first introduced in the D&D Essentials Kit. Originally designed for situations where a single person maybe playing with a DM, these are simplified characters—the only options are Expert, Spellcaster or Warrior. Here, they can go up to 20th level. While originally intended to give single-player games a bit of a boost, sidekicks are handy for a variety of reasons. A parent playing D&D with their child could play the kid's sidekick. Or maybe you want to play but only a simplified character. Whatever the reason, sidekicks are a great addition to the game. Any creature with a stat block and a CR of ½ or less is eligible to be a sidekick. That allows for a lot of cool possibilities.

Information on how to parlay with monsters follows. The various category types each get a chart to provide ideas for what sort of tribute/bribe they might prefer. It does always surprise me, though, that some people are surprised by the idea that not every monster encounter has to end in death, which this section also explains. I appreciate when players come up with creative solutions and grant the same XP as if they did kill the creature.

One of my favorite parts of the DM's Tools section is the environmental hazards. Some are natural, like carrying over the avalanche rules from Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, but spells as natural hazards are cool, too.

The bulk of this section, though, involve energy effects on a given area creating a supernatural region. For example, a bleed over of energy from the upper realms can create an area of blessed radiance or a realm could be haunted by other energy. Other options are far realm effects, otherworldly infestations, mirror zones, psychic resonance areas, and areas where unraveling magic is the effect. Each comes with a d100 chart providing options for the effects. It's definitely an intriguing option.

The section on enchanted springs also includes options for magic mushroom effects and a juvenile mimic. Don't let the diminutive term lull you into a false sense of confidence. It includes information on how a group of mimics can form a colony, which can then combine and cooperate to form the appearance of something huge, lulling people into their trap.

The last section is on puzzles—how to create them, how to run them, and a lot of ideas for them. If you like puzzles in your games, you'll like this section. Oddly, even though I like puzzles in real life, I've never enjoyed them in RPGs so this section wasn't my favorite, but that's for purely personal reasons. They did a good job with it so if you like puzzles or want to include puzzles in your games, this section will be useful.

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New Subclasses​

Lastly is the section most buyers are probably interested in—subclasses, plus one class. TCoE doesn't skimp—it has 29 subclasses. Delving into them deeply would make this review almost as long as the book itself, so let's look at some key points.
  • Artificers: As of TCoE the artificer officially makes its appearance outside of Eberron. In fact, TCoE includes a section on how to explain the artificer in every setting. Otherwise, the artificer presented in TCoE is an exact duplicate of the version in Eberron: Rising from the Last War, with two exceptions. This artificer has a larger spell list to incorporate the new spells from TCoE. The TCoE artificer also includes a new subclass—the armorer. Considering the other subclasses—alchemist, artillerist, battlesmith—an armorer makes sense. This type of artificer bonds with their armor, channeling their magic through it and making the armor into a sort of second skin. In terms of format, the armorer matches the others—spells at 3rd level, etc. Thanks to its spell options—magic missile, thunderwave, fire shield, etc.—the armorer has a sort of magical Iron Man feel.
  • Barbarians: Barbarians get Path of the Beast and Path of Wild Magic. Think Wolverine, sort of. They're in touch with their inner animal and specialize in unarmed attacks. Path of Wild Magic is related to the Feywild.
  • Bards: Bards get Colleges of Creation and Eloquence. If you play a bard because you like being the face for he group, Eloquence will be right up your alley—it gives you more options for Charisma-based abilities like Unfailing Inspiration. Bards also get more spell options regardless of their college, as do other casters. College of Creation is a bit more philosophical—these bards view creation as a work of art.
  • Clerics: Clerics get the domains Order, Peace, and Twilight. New class features include Harness Divine Power and Blessed Strikes. The latter replaces Divine Strike. Peace clerics aren't necessarily pacifists. They are focused on community so negotiating and presiding over treaties are among their areas of interest. Clerics of Twilight protect people from night horrors, among other things.
  • Druids: Druids get revised Circle of Spores, Circle of Stars and Circle of Wildfire. Spore druids can get extra health instead of Wild Shape. Wildfire feels a bit weird. Yes, some forests need fire to open pine cones for fresh plantings but the emphasis on destruction to create—yes, I get it philosophically, but it still seems like an tricky concept to make work. “Why is your druid burning down the forest?”
  • Fighters: Fighters can channel their mind as Psychic Warriors. Rune Knights use magical runes to grow until they're giant sized or harness the power of the frost rune, etc..
  • Monks: Monks get the Way of Mercy and the Way of the Astral Self. The former allows you to heal people with a strike. The latter means that they can punch you with extra astral arms.
  • Paladins: Paladins who take the Oath of the Watcher protect the material plane from threats like demons. Paladins with the Oath of Glory are focused on achieving great destinies and view everything as a test for their focus and fortitude.
  • Rangers: D&D fans have been complaining about the ranger since 5th Edition debuted. At this point, I'm not sure any ranger build these will make most fans happy, but they're trying. The Fey Wanderer walks between the mortal realm and the Feywild, providing new gifts. Swarm Keepers match their names, but the swarms aren't just insects. Twig blights and pixies are among the other options.
  • Rogues: Rogues can now choose between Phantom or Soul Knife. The latter lets them use psychic abilities to fight. Phantom rogues walk the line between the living and the dead.
  • Sorcerers: Sorcerers with the Aberrant Mind origin are influenced by an alien consciousness, which grants them psionic abilities. The Clockwork Soul origin has a mechanical orderliness. This option could be connected to Warforged, such having one as an ancestor.
  • Warlocks: I like the Warlock options the most. Pact of the Fathomless gets its power from deep ones—think the creature in the Trench in Aquaman. The warlock Pact of the Genie is so obvious, I'm shocked it took this long to make it. Did I mention that this warlock can bring their companions inside a magic lamp? You have to admit that's cool. Thematically, a pact with a genie makes perfect sense.
  • Wizards: Last time wizards got a raw deal with only one subclass. This time they get two—bladesinging and Order of Scribes. Bladesinging combines song and melee attacks, but it's firmly based in being a wizard rather than copying bards, despite superficial thematic overlap. Order of Scribes fits the stereotypical wizard archetype, and its Awakened Spellbook option is cool.

Should You Buy It?​

Should you get Tasha's Cauldron of Everything? Yes, unless you're an absolute purist who only wants PHB character options. Even if you love the subclasses in XGtE, some subclass in TCoE will interest you, and if you're a DM, it gives you a lot of ideas and options. They did a really good job with this one and packed a lot into its 192 pages. While not perfect (what is?), TCoE gives players and DMs a lot of good material.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels


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Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
Thanks for the review. I bought and read Tasha's. More options, under the DM control, is always welcomed. I really like this book. The 5e toolbox is now even more interesting for home-brewing DMs (and players) who are interested in creating unique fantasy settings. The sidekick rules mixed with the hazard section will be very useful to me for solo play and regular play.
 

G

Guest User

Guest
but, oh boy, it is really starting to feel bloated IMO. As this point, if 6E isn't in the works--it should be--time to move on. ;)
Take some Ex-lax, if you feel bloated ..don't purge the system, only to start the whole process over again. 🥬🚾

D&D, between Tasha's and Xanathar has added 35 feats. There are 40-ish feats in the PHB. By comparison, a single Complete Book of X, from 2e, might have had more kits contained within, then all 3 Character Creation facing books of 5e combined.

If you are bored, play something else....but I myself have no interest at this point, or in the foreseeable future, to the idea of creating 6e.

Bounded Accuracy is not going away, so a "Sixth Edition" D&D is the same car, but the fenders, hood, and paint job have been replaced for appearance parts.

I don't need to pay "new car prices" for a game, that will not be changed very much from what it is now.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
Take some Ex-lax, if you feel bloated ..don't purge the system, only to start the whole process over again. 🥬🚾

D&D, between Tasha's and Xanathar has added 35 feats. There are 40-ish feats in the PHB. By comparison, a single Complete Book of X, from 2e, might have had more kits contained within, then all 3 Character Creation facing books of 5e combined.

If you are bored, play something else....but I myself have no interest at this point, or in the foreseeable future, to the idea of creating 6e.

Bounded Accuracy is not going away, so a "Sixth Edition" D&D is the same car, but the fenders, hood, and paint job have been replaced for appearance parts.

I don't need to pay "new car prices" for a game, that will not be changed very much from what it is now.
I don't feel bloated, FYI, but the game is getting that way again...

So, yes, 2E had plenty of bloat and splat books! I never cared much for them, either. ;)

3E/3.5E got pretty bad as well. I can't say about 4E or Pathfinder as I never played them.

But 5E is heading down that road right now...

Anyway, creating 6E will take years so I am just saying at this point it should be in the works IMO. It might take another 5 years (or more) before it is ready.

Bounded Accuracy doesn't need to go anywhere (but it should be expanded IMO to a cap of 40, not 30, as you can easily get bigger numbers as it is thanks to things like expertise...). Otherwise, who knows what changes they will come up with?
 


BlivetWidget

Explorer
I really like the Master Scrivener feature but I'm very surprised it didn't get a quantity limitation - only a once per day limitation. Every other such feature says something like "the ___ disappears if you create another one or if you die." For the reusable cost of 1 sp per scroll, any Scribe wizard who's paying attention is going to have an entire library full of these things. Then on adventuring days, a handful of these scrolls means never having to spend low-level slots on stuff like Mage Armor, Detect Magic, Sleep, etc.

Does it also get around material cost limitations? It reads to me like this could be used to completely circumvent the cost of spells like Continual Flame, Arcane Lock, etc. You create the scroll by just touching the quill to the book. Casting from a scroll requires no material components. Am I missing something?

As I said, I like this, it just seems like it's too good to be true, making me suspect they did not think through the obvious implications.
 

Jeff Carpenter

Adventurer
I enjoyed reading (and I'm not done) Tasha's and here are fun options in there.

And yet....

I feel that this is the moment where 5e starts feeling bloated and power-creepy...
Well said. More sub classes for sub classes sake is what i get out of many of the options.

Did we need a wildmagic barbarian? Maybe in a setting book where it tied to the lore but its not a genre trope that was going unfilled.

Im all for 5.5 and a mid edition overhaul.
 


Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Did we need a wildmagic barbarian? Maybe in a setting book where it tied to the lore but its not a genre trope that was going unfilled.

Ironically, I needed a wildmagic barbarian for an NPC in one of my games (Yoon Suin).... buuuuut it's a pretty narrow niche, I'll give you that.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I've only skimmed it and ready a few sections on DnD Beyond, but I'm enjoying it. I'm not sure it will see the same heavy use as Xanathar's as I have house rules for retainers/followers, patrons, etc. But maybe my players will find the new subclass options. I thought the puzzle section was one of the best parts of the book and filled an actual gap in 5e, so I was happy to see that.

It is always interesting to read people's varied reactions to the 5e books. The crunch and fluff continue to hit my sweet spot. It has been the adventures that have been more hit or miss for me.
 




Crit

Explorer
Well said. More sub classes for sub classes sake is what i get out of many of the options.

Did we need a wildmagic barbarian? Maybe in a setting book where it tied to the lore but its not a genre trope that was going unfilled.

Im all for 5.5 and a mid edition overhaul.
"Need" is a strong word, but it is different and, in my opinion, a good choice to have available if it's what your character concept fits into. I was personally disinterested in Phantom Rogue, and some other subclasses, but I wouldn't say that they weren't niches worth filling. I'm extremely happy with Sorcerer and Artificer, for example. I feel like I'm getting more satisfaction than not, so that's my purchase justified in regards to subclasses. Aside from that, subclasses for subclasses' sake isn't a bad thing if the bulk of what we get still appeals to someone or is an idea we didn't have precedent for before.

I expect to dip into each part of TCoE's chapters a bunch going forward, as a player and as a DM. I more or less bought the book for the group, so I don't doubt for a second that this book is worth every penny for our purposes. It's not been out long, but even the race-attribute freedom has opened up a lot of ideas for us, and having it as an official rule is beneficial to the community. Some DMs wouldn't allow this kind of stuff if it wasn't in a book, but now it is. I could go on about Sidekicks, parleying, Summon spell benefits and whatnot, but it's not necessary.

I don't remember who said it, but this is Tasha's Cauldron of do whatever you want. As is, it now has rules that specifically open up freeing options for the broader community rather than just individual DMs take an axe to things.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Thanks for the deep review, it's very good, although I missed you mention the feats and alternate class features / free boosts.

I strongly object to your conclusion however:

Should You Buy It?​

Should you get Tasha's Cauldron of Everything? Yes, unless you're an absolute purist who only wants PHB character options. Even if you love the subclasses in XGtE, some subclass in TCoE will interest you, and if you're a DM, it gives you a lot of ideas and options. They did a really good job with this one and packed a lot into its 192 pages. While not perfect (what is?), TCoE gives players and DMs a lot of good material.

I am NOT a "purist" who only wants PHB options, in fact I do love XGtE and all its subclasses (even the reprints), but almost none of TCoE subclasses are up to the match, at least as far as I can tell from their UA previews, the Ranger's Fey Wanderer is probably the only good one. Almost all suclasses after XGtE just scraped the bottom of the barrel for goofy concepts (a Druid who burns stuff, a Paladin who cares only for his own self), or rehashed older ones. Mechanically it's always about damage, healing or advantage, almost zero new tactical ideas. I don't need more cantrips (and I always hated the SCAG ones), or damaging spells. The most promising parts of TCoE were the class alternate features and feats, and there are some goodies among a mix of bummers and overpowered stuff, but it's too little... as a player I don't buy a book if it feels like it would be useful only for a couple of characters.

Now, as a DM, which I am most of the time, TCoE does NOT give me a lot of ideas and options. First of all it gives me a lot of PROBLEMS I didn't have before if I let my players freely pick from it, especially the class free boosts and "flexibility" rules, so those are out of the question. Then... the book has a lot of stuff for beginners DM: session zero? Parley with monsters? Group patrons? Puzzles? That's stuff I've been managing for ages without the need of a book. New magic items might include some cool stuff but I can't judge without seeing them. The only section I find interesting is the one about environmental hazards, but sadly it appears to be a very short list. Now that's something I'd buy a whole book about!
 
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For me it's a terrible thing. It's "buy this book and earn the moral higher ground on your DM".
"Everything in this book is optional. Each group, guided by the DM, decides which of these options, if any, to incorporate into a campaign. You can use some, all, or none of them."

-Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, "It's All Optional", page 4.

If any of your players try to "earn the moral high ground", point them to that. It's basically the first thing in the book, immediately after the introduction and chapter descriptions. If a player continues in such behavior after that, well, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't allow such a disruptive player at my table.
 


Crit

Explorer
For me it's a terrible thing. It's "buy this book and earn the moral higher ground on your DM".
"Earn the moral high ground." Not to be rude, but what do you mean there? It's a DM-approved book that enables optional character building freedom and, like, 15 pages of weather. This sounds like you have a problem with your players, not the book.

I disagree with your other comment. Wildfire druid (as a concept) makes perfect sense. Wildfires are relevant to ecology, and therein eco-wizards, to say the least. Didn't you say that your take is based on UA? I wouldn't review the book that's supposed to revise something based on what it's revising. I'm sorry to hear that you dislike SCAG cantrips and don't want more cantrips, but may I ask why? They have a clear place in the game and community. Everyone I've met with a spell caster character has had one of those cantrips, and most builds I see online mention one or both too. Also, no tactics? I don't know what to say other than I disagree here too. You haven't read up on many of the subclasses like those for Fighter, Sorcerer, Artificer, Wizard, etc. The new feats, spells and cantrips often have additional effects that have tactical significance- Mind Sliver is an obvious go-to cantrip for setting up Save DC spells, and Booming Blade has always been valued for some level of battlefield control. Tasha's mind whip does similar, forcing enemies to prioritize their turn options. Summon spells are valuable too, giving spell casters one strong central companion rather than disposable weaker summons or none at all. Magic items were cool too, here.

I'm happy that you personally can handle monster parleys, group patrons, etc., but now there are official rules for it, making it accessible/standardized for the community as a whole. I would suggest finding a place to read TCoE online, or borrow the book from someone. I'm sure it'll be a less "terrible" thing for your group if you talk things out with them or something.
 


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