Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything Review
Despite the fact that I have been playing RPGs for almost two decades now, I never had the chance to review something before, so this article was something that I was really looking forward to writing. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is a book that was highly anticipated by many, myself included, for multiple reasons.
First things first, it has to be said that most things found within the book are not exactly new. The reason behind this is the in-some-ways beta testing that Wizards of the Coast runs on most things before releasing them as official modules or supplements for the game. Unearthed Arcana is a term that you might have seen now and then if you have played even a little bit of D&D and it is the name by which most new and experimental things go by. It is basically something a little bit more official than homebrew. Having said all of this though, just because there were a lot of things that we knew of before Tasha’s came out, doesn’t mean they stayed the same way.
A lot of things actually changed and in my opinion are now way more balanced than the way they were to begin with. Examples of those would be the several subclasses and new optional feats that certain classes got such as the Sorcerer and the Warlock. It seems like the period of time that all of the content that was being tested and made it into the final version of Tasha’s, was really worth it. The new Artificer class feels great and all the new options offered for all of the original classes are intuitive and fun.
On top of all the newly added things, something else that needs to be mentioned here is the fact that the Ranger class feels better than ever. A few changes (well, fixes is what I would call them) were brought with the Tasha’s supplement and they basically allow the Ranger to shine as a class on its own. Before this, if you are familiar with 3.5e rules, the Ranger class has always been somewhat a joke amongst players. That unfortunately carried over to the 5e edition as well and it made little sense to make a play a Ranger when a Fighter did everything they could, but better (with a few exceptions of course). Tasha’s is here to change that by making fundamental changes to the class that make it unique and actually interesting to play, which is a very welcome change especially considering many of us have wanted to play a Ranger character that felt good, for years now.
Generally, the addition of 22 new subclasses is quite a big deal.
Something that came with Tasha’s is an option for change in races. While the internet is busy discussing why WotC did not implement changes to the way we view (or even call) races in the game, I am going to keep on doing what I have always done with D&D; see it as a fantasy game that is all about having fun with friends and not focusing on things that I can easily change myself if needed, in order to make people feel comfortable and welcome at the table. I do not want to expand too much on this, but I simply find it silly to ask for the changes that some people are asking for. I am all for diversity and I actually love to implement it in both my stories and the way I play the game. Unfortunately, some people are pushing for things that make little to no sense since those things do not really help with what the end goal is, which is making the game feel better for everyone. In the end of the day, it is up to the people that play the game to actually push for more inclusivity and diversity on the tabletop. Each group of players is different and how the official books address a few things can be seen in many different ways. We can be overly critical of those things and bash them in public spaces (which I do not recommend), or we can be responsible for our own table and change them as we see fit.
So, on that note, I have to say I do not like the option given for race customization. Despite the fact that it is a somewhat interesting system, being able to make an Elf character that has different bonuses, it takes away from the fundamentals of D&D. Dungeons and Dragons is an RPG and as a DM or even a player, you are always free to do your own things. The game is literally based on you having fun improvising and roleplaying fantasy characters, so if you want to make dwarves tall or humans turquoise colored, that is up to you. If you and your friends are having fun, then go for it. I have yet to meet any playgroup that did something that extreme, but that is not the case here.
What I am talking about is that D&D, as a game, has certain fundamentals. They are elements made out of someone’s fantasy, that were put into a world that works in a certain way. Despite the fact that you are able to change it, those fundamentals are given as a way for you to understand and get a certain feel for the world that D&D presents to you. If you want to roleplay in your own fantasy land, again, you are more than welcome to, but in order for the game system to make sense to you when you first pick it up, it has to set some rules. Part of those rules is having the Elves get a certain bonus and the Dwarves getting a different kind of bonus. It is the way it is and making any fuss about this or suddenly even introducing a system where you can mix and match those, I feel is just a stretch in order to appease certain people.
I am just saying that, I would rather have more rules for more sub-races that some brilliant writer has created for the official D&D supplement book, rather than a bunch of pages explaining how I can make elves in my own special way. There are already hundreds if not thousands of books out there explaining how anyone can homebrew all of this and make it exciting as well as balanced in the worlds of D&D.
Some people might enjoy that part more than I did though, so just like with all other things in this article, that is just my opinion. I would be happy to hear anyone say that they used the custom race options given in Tasha’s and that they were happy with it.
Another great thing that Tasha’s brings is the group patrons which is a thing that was first introduced in the Eberron setting handbook. You can now have an organization for the adventuring party and expand on it with things such as guild halls, contracts or a shelter that the adventurers use as a resting place. This part of the book was quite fun to read since it provides a lot of material that any DM could use, be it that you are running an official D&D module or your own homebrewed setting. I have heard from quite a few fellow DMs and players that the organizations information could have been a bit more extensive, but honestly, I think it is more than enough and it sets good ground for inspiring creators to make more of their own.
With the group patrons of course comes the new group mechanic as well where things like group assistance are now an official rule that allow you to help your allies both in and out of combat. Before this, I know a lot of groups that had a homebrew rule that allowed players to help each other, giving advantage to rolls of other party members, as long as they roleplay it and have it make sense. It is nice to see Tasha’s touching on things like that and making them more official.
Next few pages introduce a bunch of new spells, items and even magic tattoos. Everything is interesting here, but what had my attention was the magic tattoos. If you know anything about Legend of the Five Rings and the Dragon Clan, you know how cool magic tattoo mechanics can be in RPGs, both mechanics-wise as well as lore-wise. If you are not familiar with L5R though, then all you need to know is that ink on skin can give magical powers. Yes, as simple as that. Tasha’s however, expands quite nicely on that and explains a lot of ways that the magic tattoos can be used in terms of both roleplay and mechanics. Most definitely a chapter that was very inspiring to read as a DM.
The book continues into chapters that talk about customizing the appearance of spells, the sidekicks, magic phenomena and then some puzzles. I would expand on each of those, but those are honestly all things that a lot of homebrewed content has expanded on so much that I did not feel the need to read Tasha’s in order to get excited for them.
Specifically, the appearance of spells has for many RPG systems been a thing that a lot of people change and play around with in order to make their campaign settings more personal. Signature spells are quite a thing in the world of D&D and it is not exactly a new thing. Sidekicks are somewhat the same. Tasha’s just made it a bit more official and introduced rules to make both the DM’s and the player’s life easier. Last but not least, the magic phenomena is just a nice addition to have for all DMs that like to randomize the things that happen in their games. If you do not like randomizing, it is most definitely a nice addition to have since it can inspire a DM and give ideas as to what to put in various parts of their campaign.
The puzzles, are just ok. I am a huge fan of puzzles and riddles in RPGs and unfortunately, Tasha’s kind of disappointed me on that part. Although they are very interesting, I found this section to be very small. This is actually the part I was excited for the most and I guess that this is also the reason why I was disappointed. Each of the puzzles has rules that allow you to scale their difficulty and there are also handouts that you can use in your games to make things more interactive. I would definitely love to see more of this. Maybe even a whole book that focuses on puzzles?
I really want to talk about the parts of the book that are for newer DMs; the session zero and the soft and hard limits. We have heard a lot of drama go down in the online RPG community in the last couple of years, with people not respecting boundaries and whatnot amongst other things. Honestly, we need to always remember that, even if a book does not specifically say it, respect and good manners on the table are both very important things. I love the idea of having a section in the book where the session zero is explained and some examples are given for new aspiring DMs to better understand how that works, but I completely disagree with the idea of having to state rules for soft and hard limits in an official book.
Do not get me wrong, I completely agree with the setting of limits before you even start playing an RPG, but the amount of limits, the way you do it and most importantly the way you communicate, all vary from one group to another. People are different and if we really want to advocate good manners and respect towards other on the table, that should not come from rules stated in an RPG supplement book. The only situation where I see those rules coming in handy is when you play with complete strangers that are all super afraid of communicating or extremely anti-social. If you need help with getting better at socializing, you should not have to read Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Dungeons and Dragons is one of my favorite things in the world and I love introducing it to people that know nothing about it or have never tried it before. I have experience playing with people that had all sorts of different behaviors and I honestly cannot recall any situation where I would need such hard-set rules in place in order to make things comfortable for everyone. If you are really worried about something like that, it is up to you, the DM, to approach each and every one of your players one by one and ask them what they feel comfortable with. Again, Tasha’s should not have to tell you that if you are planning on being the narrator and the go-to person for a full adventuring party consisted of other human beings.
Anyway, I feel like I expanded on those things way more than I told myself I was going to, but if you are going to write a review about a book that you have certain opinions on, you really cannot help but write everything down in the end.
As much as I love talking about the art in the things I review, I think not much needs to be said about the art found both outside and inside Tasha’s; it is simply stunning. The quality of the products that WotC brings out has always been bar-setting and what I like a lot about it is that they try to use art from artists with somewhat different styles, therefore allowing players to create a world in their minds that is very different from just one artist’s specific way of seeing things. Tasha’s art is no different and once again manages to have just about everyone I know talking about how good it looks.
Last but not least, I would like to mention that I first read Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything on Roll20 and I am honestly very happy I did. I ordered my hard copy as well but reading through it on Roll20 was way easier than I expected it to be. The fine folks over at Roll20 are putting in way more work than you can imagine, making things so comfortable and easy to use for both DMs and players. It sounds like an advertisement or sponsored content, but I will tell you that I already have more than 200 hours on Roll20 and have been playing on the platform ever since it got released.
Specifically for Tasha’s, it allows for the usual drag and drop to be done for all the new things that Tasha’s has introduced. On top of the access that you and your players get to the compendium (since there is the sharing of handbooks feature), there are also a few premade things that the Roll20 book comes with. There are for example the puzzles that all come with their own prepared handouts and there is also a new art pack that you can use for your games. Just like with all the previous modules that Roll20 has released, the prepped content is of great quality and saves the DM hours worth of preparation, allowing you to focus on other things that make the game even more fun for your players.
Tasha’s is easy to share with other players through your game’s settings on Roll20 and can also be added to any game you are already running as an addon in case you wish to use the interactive puzzles that come with it.
Thank you for taking the time to read my review for Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and I hope you found some good points in it that you can discuss with some of your RPG enthusiast friends. Be it that you agree or disagree with any of my points here, I hope you do get the book for yourself since it is an amazing product that helps enhance the game we all love to play.
RPGs are all about having a good time with others in a safe for everyone environment, so be it that we are critical or not about certain things, it is important to remember that in the end of the day we are all here to have a good time.
You can find Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything on Roll20.
Make sure you follow Roll20 on Twitter to stay updated with all upcoming modules and books that they release.
~Constantine “Kelfecil” Christakis
We would like to thank Roll20 for providing us with a copy of this online book for coverage purposes. As a non-commercial press team, it is our honor and our delight to be able to provide our opinion on it.