Did Tasha Brew Up Something Good?
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is the next big expansion to D&D 5e. Not an adventure path or a subset of obscure rules, Tasha’s is a genuine update and expansion that will invariably change the way we play D&D at least a little bit. This time around we’re focused almost entirely on the classes and every class in Dungeons and Dragons has been dabbled with, fiddled with, and dare I say, improved. Grab some eye of newt and a big stirring spoon as we dive into Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and go through everything you need to know.
What’s in the Book?
Tasha’s is comparatively a little lite at 192 pages, it’s about 30 pages shy of Volo’s but on par with Xanathar’s. It’s priced accordingly and every place I looked was selling it for around $29.99 which is in line with the prices of the previous “expansion” books. What you’re getting mainly revolves around the classes, their archetypes, and new “optional rules” for each class that we’ll get to in a minute. Beyond that we do get a slew of new spells, feats, and some interesting DM resources in environmental encounters, rule guidelines for group patrons and a few puzzles for good measure. All told the book includes:
- Origin Customization Options.
- 30 “New” Class Archetypes.
- Optional Class Features for Each Class.
- 15 New Feats.
- Group Patron Rules.
- 21 “New” Spells.
- 47 New Magic Items, Including 10 Magical Tattoos.
- Session Zero Guidelines.
- Sidekick Rules and Classes.
- Parlaying with Monster Rules.
- Environmental Hazard Rules.
- 13 Puzzles.
Origin Customization Options
This is the feature that I think got the most players excited for the book and sadly I think it’s the feature that will be the most disappointing. Boiled down, these rules allow you to swap out most of the key features of your race with equivalent features, particularly their ability score increases. Do you want your dwarf to be smart and charismatic rather than tough and wise? Go for it. Really though, this feels more like the writers threw their hands up and shouted, “do whatever, I don’t care” rather than a proper character creation option. It feels lazy to me. I was hoping to fully represent characters like dragonborn-aasimar, or half elves, half dwarves. Instead I get to swap some ability points and proficiencies, woo.
30 “New” Class Archetypes
30 is a lot, and this is a breath of fresh air when it comes to character customization but the word “new” is in quotation marks for a reason. Every class archetype in Tasha’s came from unearthed arcanas or from previous setting books like the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica. So, while these archetypes are newly “official” they’re likely class archetypes you’ve seen or played before. I personally discovered that one of these “new” archetypes was an unearthed arcana patron I’d been playing for months. They’re still great archetypes though, even if they aren’t exactly “new”. Many of them have also been tweaked and shifted for the better as well, most notably the psionic dice for all the psionic classes was reworked into something that I expect will be less unique but far more balanced.
Optional Class Features for Each Class
Every class section in Tasha’s includes a set of “optional class options”. Boiled down, these are class buffs. Every spellcasting class got additional spells added to their spell lists, and the “weaker” classes got a ton of new and replacement features, most notably rangers. This more than anything is WotC implementing a soft “update patch” for all the classes, addressing some gaps and issues in some classes and reworking things that needed fixing. Because this is all left to “DM option” though, it creates a strange dichotomy.
Every DM is now going to have to choose between allowing these class upgrades or not. I don’t think the projected power level for most characters will change too much, but DMs you have been warned. Be prepared to accept and internalize these changes or be branded as a “mean DM”.
15 New Feats
This collection of new feats seems bent on destroying multiclassing as a good chunk of them allow you to “dip into” other classes and gain key features without the level dip. I also applaud finally rewarding a bit of “weapon specialization” with the Crusher, Piercer, and Slasher feats. The Gunner feat finally answers the firearms issue, and Poisoner finally allows for a viable poison build. Everything here seems designed to address a prior build problem, and that’s a good thing. Also, you can just be a chef now, which is absolutely adorable.
Group Patron Rules
Tasha’s introduces the concept of a “group patron”, which equates to the “main quest giver” for a campaign. Everything here is really a DM tool, but in a good way. It streamlines an aspect of many games that has previously been left to DMs entirely. It specifically spells out what the players can expect to gain from their aristocrat’s favor, or the good graces of the dark lord they serve. It’s quite nice to have these guidelines, especially for newer DMs. I expect a lot of veteran DMs will gloss over this section, but it’ll be a lifeline for rookies.
21 “New” Spells
The word “new” is in quotation marks again because 5 of these spells are the reprinted “sword cantrips” we saw back in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. The actual new spells largely consist of a TON of new summoning spells, which will make any aspiring summoner very happy. Overall, even with the reprints I’m extremely happy with this spell set and I anticipate casting a lot of them in the future. Especially Tasha’s Caustic Brew which is already competing as my favorite 1st level damage dealing spell.
47 New Magic Items, Including 10 Magical Tattoos
This collection has some magic items that were sorely needed, like the amulet of the devout and arcane grimoire that act as simple attack and damage bonus items for divine and arcane casters. You also get some ridiculous over the top artifacts like Baba Yaga’s Mortar and Pestle. The magical tattoos got a lot of attention and while they’re definitely stylish they don’t actually act all that different from regular magic items except they’re uniquely difficult to steal off you. Overall, I was very happy with this magic item set and a few of them will definitely be cropping up in my home brew games.
Session Zero Guidelines
This is another section I expect veteran DM’s will flip past but it can be very useful to a newbie. There’re no rules here exactly, instead this section is basically just a condensed collection of good advice for DMs starting up new campaigns. Simple stuff like setting up solid origins for the party coming together, limits on what the players want to deal with, and whether the players are looking for more combat, exploration, mystery, Etc.
Sidekick Rules and Classes
The idea of NPC sidekicks for the party is nothing new, but this section irons out all the wrinkles that come along with it. It introduces three “sidekick classes” that encompass a lot of the general archetypes and sets them up to progress alongside the party. These “classes” are fully functional but comparatively simple, allowing you to have fully functional NPC sidekicks without nearly as much work as you’d need designing a full character. I love this section, and plan on using it as soon as possible in my campaigns.
Parlaying with Monster Rules
A neat idea that streamlines the diplomatic option when it comes to random monsters. It can be tough to roleplay out diplomacy when you just threw a random monster at the party and this section gives you a bunch of routes to go for each of the creature type categories. Definitely not hard and fast rules but I like having this in my pocket if my players unexpectedly try talking to the owlbear instead of just attacking it.
Environmental Hazard Rules
Further evidence that we may be getting a Spelljammer book sometime soon, this collection of strange environments and their hazards covers a good chunk of potential locales. Each one presents a bunch of potential triggers that result in rolling on long tables that vary from simple weather changes, to combats, to reality warping magics. These random encounter tables have a lot of uses, I especially enjoyed the haunted “environment” and can’t wait to spring some of those encounters on my players.
Puzzles are tough. They should technically be a regular component of D&D but I find they’re comparatively rarely used. Puzzles are innately consumable (can’t run the same one twice) and they take a lot of work to build from scratch. These puzzles are clever, can be easily reworked into similar puzzles for reusability, and some even come with handouts. I found it odd to see them here, but one or two may be making their way into my future games.
What’s Good About the Book?
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is the update/expansion 5e desperately needed but in ways I didn’t expect. The “optional class features” function as a major system update that fixes what needed fixing and balanced the unbalanced (it even finally balanced rangers). The 30 class archetypes, 15 feats, 21 spells, and the optional class features themselves, are all about to collide with the 5e community to create countless new character options. This is the biggest expansion to your 5e character creation options since Volo’s. As a DM I’m excited to try out the environmental hazards and implement a new group patron, as a player my mind is brimming with new character ideas and concepts that simply wouldn’t be possible without this book.
What’s Bad About the Book?
There’s not a whole lot that’s actually “new” here, unless you’ve staunchly been avoiding unearthed arcana content the bulk of this book are the “finalized” versions of things we’ve had for months or even years. Moving from unearthed arcana is reasonable, but I groaned a bit when I discovered just how many archetypes and spells were reprints from earlier books just made “official” now with this printing. Also, the “customizing your origin” section felt very lazy. It can’t be used (satisfyingly anyway) to create half-races or anything custom beyond swapping ability points and proficiencies around. Finally, while the “optional class features” are technically new and exciting toys to play with, when you boil it down, they’re errata. These new features are the fixes to the classes through extensive playtesting, which is a good thing, but I’m not sure I enjoy buying a book to gain what is essentially FAQ and updates.
I have no doubt that Tasha’s contains the expansions we wanted and the updates we needed, but in many ways, it feels like a book-length FAQ. It fixes a lot of problems that 5e had and fills the gaps in character creation we’ve been missing. But a good chunk of the content is literally reprinted from earlier books, and a lot of the “new content” is just officially accepting the unearthed arcanas we’ve had for a long time. The feats, spells, and magic items make up for a lot of it though as they’re properly new and amazing content. Tasha’s is here to stay, and just like Volo and Xanathar before her, Tasha and her cauldron are now an indispensable book for playing 5th edition D&D. If you’re playing 5e, you’re going to need this book. I just wish it had been less lazy with the custom origins and had more new content instead of reprinted content so that I’d want this book as well as need it.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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