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.
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.


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.


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.


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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Thanks for the review.
For my part I'll stick with the PHB options, might just get the Bladesinger subclass through D&D Beyond.
This kind of books are cool for sure, but tend to become useless as soon as a new edition is released. I know that has been talking about future editions will be retro compatible with 5e, I believe it will be so.... until it is otherwise....

Lucas Yew

Art comment only: The bald guy looks like the last iteration of Mordenkainen I heard of; who might be the lady playing chess with him...?

Lucas Yew

Tasha of course. Note the chicken-foot mark on her face
Oooh, I missed that. By the way, is that mark a long established canon description of Igg..er, Tasha's visage?
The OP cut off the caption at the bottom, which states: "Tasha prepares to win another game of wizardly chess against her rival Mordenkainen."
Thanks for the missed information, I knew it was him on first sight (though if feels quite weird to have the older archmage D&D character get his "Gandalfy" looks seized by his intercosmic friend..ly(?) rival Elminster so had to settle down with some cool shaving)...

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...
Not sure "power-creepy" is the word I'd use for Tasha's. The problem seems to be the opposite. Most of it is pretty restrained, often to a fault. The subclasses on the whole, for example, are weak tea compared to what we saw in Xanathar's. A lot of the optional class features also kinda suck. (Looking at you, Favored Foe.)

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