A Nerd Dad’s Review of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

Late last year, I picked up a copy of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, but with so much going on, I never got a chance to properly read through the book until last month (one year later 🤦🏽), which I now regret. What an excellent addition to the D&D canon.

Tasha, also known as Iggwilv, is a famous “witch” (more correctly an archmage) known as the Witch Queen in some sources. She is more of a chaotic character than the somewhat stodgy Mordenkainen, both her colleague and rival, and she has been known to consort with some demonic characters, but is not portrayed as evil either. One could draw some parallels with Liliana the planeswalker character from the Magic The Gathering series, but Tasha has a much longer history in the gaming world.1

The book is written from her perspective, and has some witty anecdotes from Tasha, and terrific artwork of Tasha herself. Mordenkainen never looked that good in heels. 😋

When I first bought the book, I wasn’t sure what to expect, apart from it seeming like a kind of “rules update” or reboot of some aspects of original Player’s Handbook. The book states off the bat that all the rules contained therein are entirely optional and meant to enhance the 5th-edition D&D experience, while also addressing some shortcomings with certain classes (rangers for example) or outmoded racial-character designs. But again, they are all optional.

Tasha’s focuses on four main areas, I feel:

  • Optional class options.
  • Spells and Magic items.
  • Additional tips and tools for world-building, including group patron options.
  • Custom background and character creation options

The first section struck me as the most immediately useful. My daughter, when she first played with me years ago, had a half-elf ranger with a beast master archetype. She loved that character, and her cougar companion, but as the adventures became more and more difficult, it was hard for her companion to keep up. This happened back before I (as the DM) knew about alternate house rules and such, so we played pretty closely to the book. Although she loved her animal companion, she couldn’t risk bringing it on adventures anymore, so she would often leave it in the care of NPCs and go off by herself.

But, using the new Tasha’s optional class features, the same animal companion gets a much needed improvement (as well as the rules for how to use it), and it properly scales with the character class.

In separate example, my elven forge cleric has Channel Divinity options that are seldom used in Adventurer’s League settings. Now, with the new Tasha’s options, I can choose to exercise that Channel Divinity option and regain spell slots (something clerics couldn’t previously do). Thus, he can stay on par with his wizard and druid party companions.

I also went back and made similar updates for my son’s Eberron halfling bard character, by allowing him to take some spell options he didn’t have previously through the Player’s Handbook. He enjoys his new Enlarge/Reduce spell.

For each character class, the optional updates from Tasha’s fall into two general types:

  1. Options that replace older, less desirable class features.
  2. Expanded options that you can chose to add alongside whatever you’re already playing.

The flexibility here is great, and works with D&D Beyond if you have purchased your book that way. Simply enable one or both of these options on the first page of your character creation:

I haven’t delved much into the magic items and spells, but I have seen a number of colleagues use them in Adventurer’s League games and my play-by-post group, and they seem pretty useful. The “summon” spells for each type of monster: celestial, fey, fiend, undead, etc. all seem pretty intriguing, and address some of the existing challenges of the classic summon spells. Other spells, like Tasha’s Mind Whip help fill a gap by allow more psychic magic options while staying roughly on par with other similar spells.

The custom background options in Tasha’s are also surprisingly useful in that they allow you to convert features of one background into another one using a simple conversion chart. This helps, for example, with my aforementioned elven forge cleric he may not necessarily spend his time in the woods, but perhaps in a more urbanized setting, so using a longbow seems a bit out of place for him, but perhaps a crossbow might. This gives plenty of options to customize the character the way you want, without negatively impacting the mechanics of the game or affecting character balancing.

All in all, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, just like the re-introduction of Tasha herself, gives 5th-edition Dungeons and Dragons a much needed breath of fresh air. I would be hesitant to call this 5.5th edition, but if heavily adopted, it does provide some far-reaching changes to a particular table. The flexibility of allowing DMs and players to adopt and implement the rules on an a la cart basis is an effective way to keep the classic look-and-feel of 5th edition, but also make updates where groups would like to see them. One can think of Tasha’s as an officially sanctioned set of house rules.

Having tried out the new rules, rather belatedly, my kids and I found some of them pretty handy, and look forward to trying other ones as the opportunities come up. Tasha is a welcome addition to the Dungeons and Dragons “Core Rulebooks”.

1 The trope of the independent, confident woman as a “bad girl” is kind of annoying in a way, and not limited to class TTRPG fantasy settings. You see it a lot in anime too. I won’t go into why I think it’s so prevalent, but suffice to say it’s nice to see women in fantasy settings standing on their own two feet, deciding their own fates and getting some representation. Tasha as a character still has a lot of baggage from older D&D versions and tropes, but it’s cool to see her get some updates as well.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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