Just about two weeks ago, I got a surprise knock on my door. I wasn’t expecting anything, but there on our porch was an unassuming little package, just waiting for me. I’d completely forgotten—but I’d actually preordered Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, the latest rules expansion for Dungeons and Dragons, 5th Edition.
This book has been a source of slight controversy for the better part of 2020, but after flipping through its pages last week, I’ve come to the conclusion that the controversy might be a little overplayed.
In fact, I think it’s going to be a great addition to D&D—and to our table! Here’s why.
First, though: A note to fellow buyers
I ordered my copy from Wizards of the Coast through Amazon, and this was my first time doing so. The book arrived without any actual packaging—it was just a book in a box that could have fit probably six copies, so it had gotten banged around a bit.
Not saying don’t order from them on Amazon; just be aware that this kind of thing can happen, and it’s not great if you’re after a mint-condition copy.
It’s also a lot smaller than I would have thought, especially for a book that purports to be “of everything.” When I first heard the book was coming out, I assumed it would be this massive encyclopedia of 5th ed. rules that meant I didn’t need any other books out at game time.
But it’s definitely more of an addition, much like previous books.
Now, let’s talk about this book’s major changes for D&D.
The biggest thing that people have been talking about with this book is just how much it changes—and from what I’ve seen at least, they’re not happy about it.
In particular, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything gives players the ability to mix and match their base stats, so if you’re playing a dwarf, you don’t have to take the base +2 Con; you can put that into any other stat you like.
There are a lot of people out there who think these changes will ruin the game, because now, it doesn’t matter what you play—so everyone is just going to play the races that get the biggest buffs. And to be honest, I do get that argument. Any time a game goes through major changes, it becomes frustrating for existing players for a while (looking at you, League of Legends rune pages).
But I think these changes will be good.
The thing I think people need to remember is that D&D is a sandbox game. The entire idea of it is that you can do whatever you want. So the way I see it, why would I get mad if someone added more sand to the box?
If anything, these changes (which the book outlines right at the beginning are optional, and it’s up to your table and your DM whether you use them) give players more to actually play around with and more flexibility in what they can do with their imaginations.
It actually reminds me a lot of how in games like FFXIV, you used to be locked into certain classes based on which race you chose, because your stats would line up with it (yes, that was actually a thing back before A Realm Reborn). Now that it’s unlocked, it’s actually not far off from a path many games today take: Letting players choose aesthetics, not necessities.
Now, stats weren’t the only thing to get unlocked.
Another change in this general unlocking included the fact that your alignment can pretty much be whatever you want; it’s no longer tied to your race. You know, all dwarves are lawful, tieflings are chaotic, that kind of thing. Not anymore.
This in particular is going to be good for new players, I think, and for those who struggle with role-playing based on a certain alignment.
I know that’s something I’ve always struggled with outside of a true neutral nature, and this will make it easier for me and for fellow inexperienced players to focus on playing the game—not worry about whether they’re doing it right.
And these changes are all explained really well, too.
All of this is based on the premise that your character is already exceptional by commoners’ standards—so it’s entirely reasonable to assume that you might be exceptional by your race’s standards, too.
It essentially reassigns what’s historically been labeled as a racial trait in the core handbook as a cultural trait, and allows for the fact that your character might not have grown up in what’s perceived as the standard culture.
And there’s other fun stuff in it, too.
Though the book was smaller than I expected, it packed a lot into the pages it had—including a reprint of the artificer class, which now has me super excited to try it out.
Technically, this class has been in the game since Eberron was introduced back in 2017, but the version in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is, for all intents and purposes, the class’ final evolution. It’s also the first printing for some of its subclasses outside of a playtest setting, including the armorer subclass—which is basically a form of medieval Iron Man.
Seriously. It has two types of armor you can switch between, and one of them shoots lightning lasers and the other one thunder-punches. I cannot wait to build one!
And that’s not the only thing new with subclasses.
The book actually introduces a slew of new subclasses for the game’s core classes, several of which I believe have graced playtests for a while now.
A few of my favourites so far? Wild magic for barbarians (because we definitely all needed them to be more out of control), a new feature for clerics that restores desperately needed spell slots through notoriously underused Channel Divinity, and a new style of monk that basically puts you into your own Avatar state.
Along with all that, too, the book introduces a new mechanic called Sudden Change that basically allows your character to have an epiphany that changes their entire being, and thereby take up a new subclass.
It’s actually a neat idea, especially for newer players, because it gives you the chance to try out different things and if you aren’t sure if you like your paladin’s oath, for example, you can ask for a story that forces your character into a different oath.
It also has new ideas for group synergy.
As much as D&D is a group game, it’s also a solo game at times, where it’s up to an individual to do things like pull the group together or solve a particular puzzle. And if you can’t do that, no one else is going to be able to. This new book introduces mechanics to solve that, thank goodness.
One of the new mechanics, group patrons, is essentially designed to override any problems a table has getting four seemingly random people to embark on the same adventure. Because well, if you’ve ever tried to force a dwarf and an elf to get along while they’re both drunk, you know how that can go.
The whole idea here is that you all share a patron, whether it’s a military force, your school, a wealthy aristocrat, what have you—and this person has already put your group together and sent you out, so you can skip the whole step of trying to put yourselves together in a tavern.
Another mechanic I really like is group assistance. From my understanding, it basically turns every party member into a bard; even if you’re not trained on something, you can work together with group members to give them an advantage on a skill roll. That’s going to save us a lot of trouble, I can tell you that right now!
I’m excited to dive more into Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, and start using some of the rules (though not the stat reassignment, I’ve been told) at our table. And I’m sure it won’t be long until I have an artificer to share with you guys, so stay tuned!