Review – Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (Dungeons & Dragons)

Dungeons & Dragons has continued its recent increased level of non-adventure output and so, happily, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is being added to the mix as of November 17, 2020. Tasha’s represent the biggest addition of new character options since the similarly-titled Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, with new options and subclasses for every single character class (including the artificer), plus new feats, spells, magic items, and GM advice. Just as with Xanathar’s, it’s a must-buy for any D&D 5E player.

Who is Tasha?

As we’ve seen before with D&D 5E books bearing a character’s name in the title, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything includes notes and asides from the titular Tasha. This might leave one wondering who, exactly, Tasha is.

Within the setting Tasha (short for Natasha, also known by various other names, most notably Iggwilv) is a wizard/witch who, in past presentations, authored a few vile tomes, consorted with demons, and the like. She originates from the Greyhawk campaign setting (one of the oldest campaign setting, but long ago superseded by the Forgotten Realms as the primary D&D setting). Primarily described in lesser-known material, she hasn’t really had a consistent story, but – as you might guess from the intro sentence to this paragraph – has definitely been on the evil side of things. This is, itself, not consistent with how she’s portrayed in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, where she is deliberately portrayed in a more ambiguous fashion – certainly not good, but not a force for cosmic evil. Her primary character traits, based on this portrayal, are snark and flippancy, as the function of her notes in the book is the make snarky and (sometimes) humorous comments about various types of characters, magic items, and the like.

However, Tasha’s most notable accomplishment was, from an out-of-setting perspective, having one of those old school D&D wizard spells with the character’s name in the title. So, starting in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition, there was the 2nd-level wizard spells Tasha’s Uncontrollable Hideous Laughter, to go along with the likes of Bigby’s Crushing Hand, Mordenkainen’s Disjunction, Evard’s Black Tentacles, and Leomund’s Tiny Hut. And she gets a couple more here in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.

Character Class Options

I’m going to tackle the new character class options and subclasses next because, let’s be serious, that’s what pretty much every D&D player is going to care about the most – it may only be 40% of the page count, but it’s substantially more than 40% of the value of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.

There are some consistencies across character classes. First, every class gets at least a one new subclass option (sorry, wizard). Second, every class gets optional abilities. I’m guessing that the “optional” part is just there for the benefit of grumpy Dungeon Masters, because every player is going to want to have them available. Every spellcasting class gets a few existing spells added onto its list (in addition to any new spells printed here for the first time). Most of these spells aren’t big additions, but I’ll note below where there is one. Every applicable class gets the option to swap out a class option already chosen – fighting style, cantrips, and such – every level where they get a stat increase. Most of the classes also get new options, where applicable (again, such as fighting style). Most classes just get some minor extra things to, like new ways to use channel divinity. And there are a handful of places – mostly in the ranger – where there are new class features that can replace existing class features.

Overall, there are a lot of potent options here in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, include a relative plethora of options that grant extra attacks or add damage to attacks every round. There’s a sub-theme of psionic options. The looks at each class below will mostly focus on early levels – I find that the vast majority of D&D play comes at earlier levels, and this review doesn’t have the space for an analysis of play above level 10. From this lens, I think there are particularly attractive options for the artificer, barbarian, cleric, ranger, and warlock.

Artificer – You can exclude artificer from all of those sweeping pronouncement about what every class gets, because this is mostly a re-presentation of the artificer base class as introduced in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. There is, however, one new subclass, the armorer. The armorer picks a suit of armor, likely as heavy as they can afford, because they gain heavy armor proficiency, can ignore armor Strength requirements, and it serves as a spellcasting focus. The armor also includes a weapon, and when attacking with it the armorer uses Intelligence for attack and damage bonuses. The armorer can switch back and forth between guardian armor and infiltrator armor. The guardian armor has a built-in melee weapon (1d8) that imposes penalties on enemies who don’t attack the armorer and can grant temporary hit points. The infiltrator armor has a built-in ranged weapon (2d6 on the first hit, 1d6 after that), increases speed by 5 feet, and negates the armor’s disadvantage to stealth checks. And it matters that you only get the bonus d6 damage on the first hit every round because at 5th level the armorer gets two attack twice. It’s the first of many powerhouse subclasses.

Barbarian – The barbarians “optional” bonuses are more skill proficiencies and getting to move as part of the bonus action to enter rage. There are two new subclasses, the Path of the Beast and the Path of Wild Magic. The Beast barbarian can transform, choosing one of several options each time. The third-level options enhance or negate attacks – healing when dealing damage, getting to attack twice, or increasing AC. The sixth-level options provide out-of-combat bonuses – a swim speed, a climb speed, or super-jumping. The structure is similar to the flexibility of the Path of the Totem Warrior. The third-level combat options aren’t quite as good as the Path of the the Berserker’s extra attack, but they’re still quite good and the sixth-level power is much better. Plus there’s a lot of versatility, which makes this a strong option for a class that already had strong options. The other Barbarian subclass is the Path of Wild Magic. Their primary power is that when entering rage they get a random wild magic effect. And this is the most generous wild magic table you’ll every see, because there are no entries of ‘nothing happens’ or ‘a cloud of butterflies emerges from your ears.’ Sometimes it does immediate damage, sometimes it grants a movement ability, sometimes there’s extra damage each round, sometimes there’s extra defense. There’s nothing here, however, that is that much better than the consistent, chosen benefits available with other barbarian paths. With the lack of control, the Wild Magic barbarian is probably weaker than other options.

Bard – In addition to new spells on the spell list (Mass healing word could be handy, if you’re playing that role in your party), the “optional” new bard feature is a minor one to allow the use of one of your inspiration dice to enhance a healing spell. The two new colleges are the College of Creation and the College of Eloquence. The Creation bard’s inspiration dice provide extra effects depending on how they’re used (e.g., granting temporary hit points when used on a saving throw), and they can create mundane items from nothing, so no more worrying that you forgot to bring enough torches. At 6th level the Creation bard gains a pet whatever-random-object-was-around, which can provide some help in combat (bonus actions to command it to attack). The Eloquence bard is simply good with words. They can be the ultimate face with the ability to ignore bad rolls on Persuasion and Deception checks, and at 6th level they can communicate regardless of language. Their other aspects are less exciting, at least to me, with the most notable being that starting at 6th level inspiration dice don’t go away when used if the enhanced roll still fails.

Cleric – The cleric’s “optional” new feature (in addition to a new few spells) is the ability to use channel divinity to recover expended spell slots, which is handy. Additionally, there’s a replacement feature available, which lets you do extra radiant damage with either cantrip or weapon attacks, which replaces the divine strike (extra weapon damage) or potent spellcasting (extra cantrip damage) features in the current domains. This isn’t a straight-up improvement, because the wisdom bonus to cantrip damage and the divine strike bonus to weapon damage both continue to increase, but – especially given my earlier comment on how little play is at high levels – this is probably just better for most characters who aren’t going to reach level 14. There are three new domains, Order, Peace, and Twilight. Order starts off well, gaining heavy armor proficiency and another skill proficiency, plus granting allies a reaction attack when you target them with a spell. It gets weaker after that, I think, focusing on controlling others. The 6th-level feature to make spellcasting a bonus action would be more exciting if I wanted to spend my spell slots on enchantment spells. The Peace cleric is a great support character, granting the entire party +1d4 to any roll once per turn per character, zipping around the battlefield ignoring opportunity attacks and delivering extra healing, and allowing characters to take damage for each other. The Twilight cleric is also a potent addition, gaining heavy armor and martial weapon proficiency, long range darkvision (that can be shared with the party), an initiative boost for one character in the party, and a sphere of temporary hit point generation – all by second level.

Druid – The druid’s new “optional” feature is the ability to spend a use of wild shape to summon a temporary familiar. There are two new druid circles – Stars and Wildfire (the Circle of Spores is also reprinted from the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica). The Stars druid can spam Guiding Bolt, and has multiple options when they assume their starry form (in place of wild shape). Most notably, the archer form allows them to make a radiant range spell attack as a bonus action every round, while the chalice form enhances all healing spells. Wildfire druids add multiple useful new spells to their list, including burning hands and cure wounds at 2nd level (and further fire damage and healing spells at higher levels). They can expend uses of wild shape to summon a wildfire spirit pet (bonus actions to command it to attack).

Fighter – The fighter picks up new “optional” options for its fighting style – blind fighting, interception, superior technique (a mini Battle Master), thrown weapons, and unarmed. Interception seems like the most interesting for a starting character, allowing the fighter to tank by reducing damage to adjacent allies. There are also more “optional” maneuvers for the Battle Master. There are two new martial archetypes, the Psi Warrior and Rune Knight. The Psi Warrior is another ‘gain dice to spend on stuff’ subclass, spending its dice to negate damage, increase damage, or move objects with their mind. At 7th level these options expand to include enhanced jumping and a ranged telekinetic attack. The Rune Knight adds enhancement runes to their items (two at third level, three at seventh). Most of the runes provide one static and one activated ability. Other than gaining darkvision (the stone rune), the runes are fairly situational or related to things that fighters don’t do that much (e.g., sleight of hand or animal handling). The best once-per-rest ability is probably the fire rune’s ability to restrain and cause fire damage. Fighter’s will also, however, like the ability to, a few times a day, become Large and deal an extra 1d6 damage on every melee hit. And, at 7th level, the Rune Knight gains the ability to force re-rolls of successful attacks.

Monk – The monk gains a mighty four new “optional” class features, including the only one that I wouldn’t really be enthused about letting into a campaign. That one is the dedicated weapon feature, which allows the monk to let any sort of normal weapon count as a monk weapon, with all the mechanical benefits that entails. I’m unenthusiastic about this one because it seems to really chip away at the feeling of distinctiveness of the monk – now the monk can just be another character swinging a longsword or shooting a bow. The other features let the monk attack as a bonus action after any expenditure of ki points (so you can make your off-hand attack when you take a non-attack ki action), spend ki points to heal, or spend ki points for a post-roll bonus on an attack roll. The two new monk subclasses are the Way of Mercy and the Way of the Astral Self. A Mercy monk gains skill proficiencies related to healing, can heal wounds by spending ki points or by sacrificing a flurry of blows attack, and can conversely spend ki points to do extra damage. Starting at 6th level the Mercy monk can cure or inflict certain conditions when using their healing hands or hands of harm. The Astral Self monk initially gains the ability to spend a ki point to summon astral arms, which can be used to make unarmed strikes with reach and using the character’s Wisdom bonus for attack and damage rolls. At 6th-level the Astral Self monk can spend a ki point to summon an astral mask, which grants better-than-darkvision, bonuses on Insight and Intimidation checks, and voice manipulation.

Paladin – Paladin’s gain additional spell options and a few more fighting styles, two shared with the fighter, and also the blessed warrior, which lets the paladin access cleric cantrips. Like the cleric, there’s an “optional” class feature feature to use channel divinity to regain expended spell slots. The paladin gains two new subclass options, the Oath of Glory and the Oath of the Watchers. The Glory paladin can channel to become really good at athletics and acrobatics, extra jumping, and more ability to push, pull, lift, carry, and so forth. Or they can channel after a divine strike to grant temporary hit points to their team. Personally, I like the 7th level feature’s enhanced walking speed, which also applies to anyone who starts their turn near you – but I don’t think it’s enough pizzazz to make the Glory paladin exciting. They are in similar company with the Watcher paladin. There, the third-level channel options are underwhelming things like bonuses to non-physical saving throws and extraplanar abjuration, but at 7th level they do grant their whole team an initiative bonus. That’s really nice, but I can’t get excited about a subclass where I have to wait so long for it to do something I want.

Ranger – Knowing that the ranger is widely (and correctly) considered the weakest of the character classes (“anything you can do, the fighter can do better,” or words to that effect), it’s hard for me to avoid see the “optional” class features here as something other than an effort at a revamped ranger (an unchained ranger, for you Pathfinder fans out there). Tired of that natural explorer class feature that mostly does nothing? Then you’ll be happy to replace it with more languages and a doubled proficiency bonus for one of your skills at first level, and then at sixth level a climb speed, swim speed, and 5 extra feet of speed generally. Don’t like having to pick a favored enemy so you can gain largely irrelevant bonuses to tracking them? How about getting the favored foe class feature, which triggers when you hit an enemy, allowing you to mark them and gain extra damage when you hit with subsequent attacks? Tired of waiting until 10th level to be able to hide out of combat? Perhaps you would like to instead turn invisible as a bonus action? How’s that for an upgrade? Plus, the Beast Master archetype from the core book get its own do-over, with a primal beast pet that beats the snot out of any ranger’s companion. And that’s on top of new features that allow a spellcasting focus, add old spells to the list, and more fighting styles (including the druidic warrior, granting access to druid cantrips). Of course, there are a couple of new archetypes, both of which add extra damage to your attacks (psychic damage in the case of the Fey Wanderer and piercing damage in the case of the Swarmkeeper). They Fey Wanderer also has the option to be the group’s “face,” gaining an additional skill proficiency and adding your Wisdom bonus to Charisma checks. Swarmkeepers, on the other hand, can use their swarms to fly. Regardless, however, the big boon for the rangers here is a do-over on some of their sad, sad base class features. Any DM who doesn’t let your poor ranger immediately switch to them is just mean.

Rogue The rogue gets a single “optional” feature (available at third level), which basically getting advantage on ranged attack rolls when the rogue doesn’t move. That’s pretty handy for those combats when the rogue is kind of stuck taking single crossbow shots while everyone else is mixing up a bunch of bonus attacks up in melee. The two rogue archetypes are the Phantom and (for fans of the X-Men character Psylocke) the Soulknife. The Phantom is, for me, conceptually off-putting, harnessing the souls of the dead, and not in a nice companionship sort of way. They gain an extra switchable skill proficiency, can inflict necrotic damage on a second target whenever they inflict sneak attack damage, and (much later) can capture the souls of the dying to inflict damage, interrogate, and so forth. The Soulknife gets one of Tasha’s best lines (“I also have the ability to manifest my thoughts in ways that cut people. I call this power … words.”), double attacks with psychic blades (although with low d6/d4 damage), and some psionic dice to help failed skill checks (spent dice are returned if the check still fails).

Sorcerer – Sorcerers “optionally” get the usual new/old spells, two new metamagic options (seeking and transmuted), and the ability to spend a sorcery point to re-roll. There are two new sorcerous origins, the Aberrant Mind and the Clockwork Soul. The Aberrant Mind is another psionic subclass, which you’ve probably noticed is something of a theme in Tasha’s Guide to Everything. Right away the Aberrant Mind gains telepathy. They can tag certain spells as psionic spells, and later cast them using sorcery points instead of spell slots. I love the Clockwork Soul for channeling Mechanus and modrons, and the first-level ability to negate advantage or disadvantage is nothing to sneeze at. At sixth level, the Clockwork Soul can create a damage prevention ward for themself and allies. Neither the Aberrant Mind nor the Clockwork Soul, however, gets particularly exciting new spells added to their spell list.

Warlock – Warlocks gain the usual ‘more spells, more options for class feature options.’ Although there is only one new pact boon (the Pact of the Talisman), there are seven new invocations (several only for the Pact of the Talisman). The Talisman can add 1d4 to failed rolls a few times a day, and my favorite new invocation is the Investment of the Chain Master (useable only if you have the Pact of the Chain) which juices up a familiar. There are two otherwordly patrons, the Fathomless and the Genie. The spell list for the Fathomless includes Thunderwave, and a 1st-level area-of-effect spell is always nice for the warlock. The Fathomless can also generate tentacles a few times a day, which then get to attack every round as a bonus action. Also, although I admit that I like it more than its great, the Fathomless can also breath underwater and gets a swim speed. At 6th level there’s resistance to cold damage and, more importantly, those tentacles now also come with a reaction to reduce incoming damage. All together, the Fathomless seems to me like a potent new warlock patron option. The Genie warlock has four sets of spell additions available, because they not only get the five from their patron being a genie but also another four from the type of genie. Again, there are a couple of options that include a 1st-level AOE. It’s not a new thing for the warlock, but it’s a solid foundation for the efreeti-type Genie warlock to get both burning hands and fireball. The Genie warlock also has a vessel (the lamp would be the classic, of course), and they can do cute things like hide in there (or at higher levels, hide the whole team) … but they’ll probably be most interested in the bonus damage to the first successful attack roll every turn (which would include spells that require attack rolls). Oh, and at sixth level you can fly a bit and gain damage resistance based on the type of genie you’re working with. Which, I think, makes two really strong warlock patron options.

Wizard – Wizards don’t get new “optional” features beyond the standard stuff everyone gets here, but they do get one new Arcane Tradition, the Order of Scribes (the Bladesinger was previously published in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide). The Order of the Scribe’s schtick is making their spellbook sentient, which allows for swapping spell damage types and (once per day) casting a ritual as a single action. At 6th level the spellbook’s mind can manifest, at which point it can sneak around, spy, and serve as an origin point for the wizard’s spells.

Chris’s Cauldron of Everything Else

Like I said, it’s the class options that count the most, so here’s the rest.

Feats – There are 15 new feats. I won’t detail all of them here, but my favorite options include being a chef (if you want to hand out hit-point-restoring treats to everyone) or adding a fighting style. There are a number of options that grant a couple of spells to cast once a day, but I guess I would prefer stat bonuses.

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything also includes rules for group patrons, but these are (like the artificer) a repeat from Eberron: Rising from the Last War.

Spells – There are fewer than 20 new spells, only 1 is a new cantrip (the other four are melee wizard repeats to go with the Bladesinger), there are only a few 1st/2nd level spells, and a lot of the higher level ones are different types of summon monster. These spells are heavily skewed towards wizards and warlock. The cantrip, mind sliver, is an obligatory psionic damage cantrip. Because this is Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, there are three new Tasha’s spells, including the first-level Tasha’s Caustic Brew and the second-level Tasha’s Mind Whip. Tasha’s Caustic Brew makes a line attack that can cause ongoing damage, has some weaknesses because it does not immediate damage and can be avoided entirely with a successful Dexterity save. Tasha’s Mind Whip requires a rare Intelligence save to avoid, and even when avoided there’s still some damage dealt. But maximizing the spell means not just getting the full damage, but also action-reduction on the opponent’s turn – and maximizing that means doing something like hitting a melee character who isn’t in melee right now (or else the limited character will still be able to attack). So both of those are a bit more situational that some players will like.

Magic Items – The magic items available include a lot of tattoos and several associated with Tasha (a cauldron, things relating to Baba Yaga, the Demonomicon of Iggwilv, the Crook of Rao, lots of books, that sort of thing). The tattoos are a cool addition, and even at the common/uncommon levels there are five of them available. The Demonomicon of Iggwilv (an artifact, like most of the magic items directly related to Tasha), is a spellbook that lets the bearer spend charges to cast Tasha’s Hideous Laughter (or some other planar-related things that are less amusing to this author), and helps with planar bindings, hurting fiends, learning about the Abyss, and the like. There’s a new tarokka deck, for those who like randomness in their artifacts. There are more than a half-dozen artifacts, all told. Notable and more readily available items include the amulet of the devout (bonus to spell attack rolls for a cleric or paladin) and the guardian emblem (allows clerics or paladins to negate critical hits).

DM Advice – The most noteworthy part of the DM advice section to me was help with using puzzles in games, including some sample puzzles. Puzzles can be really fun, but tuning puzzles to be interesting an appropriate challenge is a difficult task, so any help on that front is great. There are some exotic environmental hazards as well, if you’re a fan of random tables. The advice on session zero is good, although its inclusion in the umpteenth D&D supplement feels out of place with the prominence that session zero and things like lines and boundaries have taken on in the roleplaying community in recent years. With that said, better late than never is generally true. And, for many groups, a game like D&D – that is at its heart about fighting monsters, collecting treasure, and saving the day – is less in need of this as a big emphasis item than other games where the story can be much more personal and modern. Which isn’t to say that this it isn’t important to have for D&D; I just know that for some D&D groups my session zero is more like “can I get you people to have social interaction at all” than it is about what the limits of that social interaction are.

The Bottom Line

Once you get past the character options, the content in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything isn’t anything that will blow you away. But that’s not all that important because, ultimately, it’s the character options you’re buying this book for. And if you’re a D&D players, you will definitely want to buy this book. There are at least decent new options for everyone, and in particular I think that the artificer, barbarian, cleric, ranger, and warlock get potent new options. This is especially true for the ranger, who gets a serious re-vamp of the entire class.

Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy. Strange Assembly may earn commissions from affiliate links in this article.

One thought on “Review – Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (Dungeons & Dragons)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.