Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything – A review

Every year, I buy myself a gift for my birthday, and this year I picked up Tasha’s Guide as a pre-order. Little did I know when I clicked the button to pay that I would have to wait an extra two-ish weeks for my book to arrive – apparently this is a thing that happens with Wizards of the Coast and I have to accept it.
A reason I probably won’t be pre-ordering anything again soon, unless there’s suddenly a Planescape or Spelljammer book coming out (Planejammer seems to be a thing people have started discussing recently, which could be fun…).

This is the third physical D&D 5e book I’ve actually bought – I spent a lot of time putting off buying physical books before eventually picking up the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide in 2018.
I’ve managed to run without any of the other books, or borrow copies when I need them, or use purely digital resources like DnD Beyond otherwise.
My biggest hope for Tasha’s is that it doesn’t have the blurry page printing errors that unfortunately my other books do.

Important update to the above – I’m now expecting the book just before Christmas. Not entirely sure why it’s delayed another few weeks again…

So this review will have to be based on the version I get to read digitally – luckily I have access to DnD Beyond, so I’m not stuck pirating content I should have access to. (Yay…)

First of all, every single one of Tasha’s little notes that I’ve read, I absolutely hate.

I don’t know why, just something about them seems to be written… Wrong? It feels like someone got hold of the book and wrote tweets about the content, and then someone edited them to make them sound like Tasha wrote them.

I didn’t much like the Volo comments, but they looked better. Mordenkainen was fine too. For some reason, these just don’t land with me.

Ok, next – player options.

Yes. I liked the variant class rules in Unearthed Arcana, I still like them.

The subclasses I’d need more time to digest, but I’ve built a couple in to pregenerated characters for my RPG Writer Workshop adventure.
Straight off the mark, I like the psionics subclasses and everything that feels good for planar games – wild magic and beast barbarians, astral monks, clockwork sorcerers and genie warlocks, all great.

Group patrons are a lot of fun, and I’m happy to see yet more Planescape references in there – however incorrect calling a Factol a ‘guildmaster’ might be.
I’m a little sad they only used ‘ancient beings’ as patrons and not other supernatural forces. I’ll be building some kind of ghost-dad patron in the near future I think.

Ok, now we’ve done the easy bit, let’s move on to why I bought the book in the first place – Dungeon Master options.

There’s a wealth of stuff in here to digest so I’ll break it down a bit.

Session Zero tools and ideas:
Including this means people will go looking for more, and I think that’s important. As a Dungeon Master, you shouldn’t stay entirely reliant on one source for your game creation.
That said, this covers a great amount of the information for a social contract and running a game that remains fun for everyone. I’d like to have seen them reference the different flavours of fantasy laid out in the Dungeon Master’s Guide as something the group could talk about along with technology level and how the party met.

Sidekicks:
Yes, this is a great way to build up options for a smaller group, introduce new players with easier rules for a character, and a way to throw a DMPC into a game without needing a lot of time to build one.
This is an evolution of stuff from the Essentials Kit, which I’ve not read, so I can’t really compare it. Apparently it’s a good step forward.
I like the look of how they work. I’ve seen a lot of stuff up on the DMsGuild for sidekicks, but again I haven’t seen much in the way of the supernatural other than undead and awakened animals. Time for more ghost-dad shenanigans!

Parley with monsters:
Rather than the option of a social encounter to avoid combat, this is more about planning ahead and researching monsters to know what they can be bargained with – even the less intelligent beasts.
It’s a great idea, I can see it going down well or badly, depending on the group playing.

Environmental hazards:
This one is actually huge and diverse, so I’m going to have to break it down further-

  • Supernatural regions:
    This is pretty fun. I like the idea of a haunted mansion bleeding out into the area around it, or portals to different planes having the same effect. Again, great for a Planescape game or certain kinds of adventure. I’ll be looking at these a bit more soon, I’m sure.
  • Magical phenomena:
    Ghost storms, ambrosia and emotions imprinting on an area. Again, I can see a lot of this benefiting certain flavours of game, and will be building around these in the future.
    Also includes the favourite ‘house is really a mimic’ idea that everyone seems to be thinking about the past few years.
  • Natural hazards:
    I’ve built more than a couple of these over the years so it’s nice to see that an official publication is finally addressing them. They’re sort of covered by traps and improvised damage in the DMG though, and a lot of this is the big hazards like avalanches and tidal waves that those rules don’t really fit. I like that they’re basically built off of existing spells though.

And that’s the book.
I’m a bit sad some of my favourite Unearthed Arcana content didn’t make the grade, and that the DM section isn’t a lot bigger. Magic items are nice, but there are other ways I might have gone with the magic tattoo rules.

Overall useful, now if only I could get my hands on a real copy and focus on gushing at the artwork!

And one more update – basically the day after sorting this, I got an email saying the book is shipped, so now it’s due the first few days in December, rather than three weeks after that.

Hooray, I guess?

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