"Tasha's Cauldron of Everything" is a fifth edition rules expansion manual of Dungeons & Dragons, released to the world first on D&D Beyond and recently (November 17) also in physical format. While many feared the publication of this manual as the advent of the apocalypse that would rock D&D forever, we can all reassure that this will not happen.
Contents of the manual
The "Tasha's Cauldron of Everything" manual is narrated in the first person by the well-known archmage and contains both new material and already seen in other expansion or setting manuals:
- 22 new archetypes, divided among all classes, previously published in the form of AU. Some archetypes have been revisited, such as the Circle of Spores for the Druid.
- New character characterization options, including new Feats, new optional rules for character creation and for skills unlocked at each level.
- Rules for using Patrons of the whole party, a tool that can offer narrative tools and incipits for different adventures.
- 21 new spells
- 37 new magical items
- 10 magical tattoos
- An extensive introduction to Session Zero
- Tips for dealing with monsters instead of fighting them
- Sidekick Rules
- Rules for supernatural environments and natural calamities
Everything is optional
Let's start with a fundamental premise that the "Tasha's Cauldron of Everything" manual (hereinafter Tasha) tends to reiterate for all those who fear losing the Dungeons & Dragons they love so much: it's all optional. What does this mean? Nobody will force you to play a smart ogre or bodybuilder elf. You will never get a visit from the police for a fine on the stereotypes you want to play. I hope that this does not affect the reading of what, to all intents and purposes, can be considered an excellent "Xanathar 2".
Session Zero, table limits and House Rules
Although this section is contained in the final part of the manual, together with the tools for Dungeon Master, it is good to deal with it right away in order to have very clear ideas. Tasha's handbook strongly recommends that you complete Session Zero before venturing into the game world. This incredible opportunity should be used to address topics that the manual (and we Atlantean Seekers) believe are absolutely important as individual player expectations and limitations. Tasha particularly emphasizes limits, dividing them into two categories: soft and hard. Obviously the former will be limits that can be overcome a few times (and never randomly) while the latter must never be touched by the narration for any reason. This finally leads D&D to the recognition that the players at the table have feelings and experiences behind them, that others should not know, and that must be respected. As the manual itself says: if everyone isn't having fun, something is wrong.
Tasha also suggests using Session Zero to create characters together, assume they already know each other and have the party answer general background questions from the adventurers (how did you meet? Why travel together?). Session Zero should also be used to talk about House Rules chosen by the Dungeon Master. All in order to create a social contract accepted by all, which somewhat resizes the figure of the Master as the absolute master of the table. I would say that D&D has made great strides over the years in this regard and should be recognized.
Welcome new character creation!
We have come to perhaps the most controversial part of this manual, the one that had already caused scandal at the time of Ancestry & Culture, and that might make some of you turn up their noses. They have been added optional rules for character creation in such a way as to meet the taste of 100% of the players at the table.
Tasha's manual explains the reasoning thus, taking as an example the dwarves who have caused so much sensation: the bonus to the constitution of the dwarves applies to adventurers and heroes, the ones we usually play, because solitamente I'm this way. So if you want to play the classic dwarf adventurer, go ahead and have fun. But what if you don't want to play the stereotypical dwarf?
In that case you can take that +2 to Constitution and put it elsewhere until you have the character that best reflects your idea. The whole catch lies in this last sentence: you have to start from a concept, not from numbers.
The same can be said for languages and races. If your dwarf was raised by dragons, why shouldn't he know the draconic at the expense of the dwarf? The same can be said for skills, as some races grant them to the character. In this case, a very simple table has been created to follow (always with a 1: 1 ratio):
- A Perk in one skill can be swapped for another (Stealth with Survival)
- An armor perk can be exchanged for perk for a simple or martial weapon or tool
- A Perk with a simple weapon can be exchanged for another simple weapon or tool
- A proficiency with a martial weapon can be exchanged for a proficiency for a simple or martial weapon or tool
- A perk with one tool can be exchanged for proficiency in another tool or a simple weapon
But what if a player doesn't find the race that's right for him and wants to create one? Also in this case the manual comes to the rescue of the person at the table with the "Custom Lineage" and simple rules to follow that recall those of the Human Variant (so to speak):
- The character's type will be humanoid
- The size will be small or medium
- The speed will be 9 meters
- The character is entitled to put a +2 to the characteristic he wants
- The character is entitled to a Talent
- The character can choose whether to have Darkvision OR a perk of their choice in a skill
- The character speaks Common and a language to be agreed with the Dungeon Master
As we have seen, the normal creation of the character has not been changed but extended, adding new options that do not detract from the old ones.
Two words about the artificer
Until now, the architect was tied to particular settings and for this he needed to be extrapolated from the context. Tasha's manual recognizes the fact that the Artist assumes a particular connotation in each world and therefore can change in the aesthetics of skills and functions. What we are offered therefore is a class, complete with Archetypes, free from particular descriptions. The Artificer can cover different roles in combat and can do it very well. Being an additional class, we remind you, its approval must be decided and discussed during Session Zero (like everything in Tasha's manual).
New Archetypes for everyone (and the possibility to change them)
Also for the Archetypes there are very juicy news (too many to list them all) but also some optional rules for all the classes. First of all, Tasha suggests leaving the possibility to the players to change the skills in which to have competence. In order to be narratively coherent, he suggests giving this option during the stat increment.
The same is (unbelievably) true for Archetypes. Parties that choose this rule will have to both be careful and enjoy the possibility of change. Tasha's manual suggests two cases in which to change Archetype: the character has spent time training in other ways of his class and therefore through hard work he was able to change his skills; the character experiences an event that changes his powers / perspectives. So, my dear Paladins who don't follow the code and my dear Warlocks who anger their Patron, beware!
Probably one of the biggest innovations in terms of Archetypes is the introduction of psionic subclasses, each with completely different abilities and functions that go well with the starting class.
Reaching certain levels in your class unlocks skills, unrelated to Archetypes, and Tasha's manual suggests alternative skills for each class (with the master choosing to have them acquire both).
Among the many additions of Tasha there are also new fighting styles (finally winks also to the tanks) and new maneuvers for the Battlemaster, who finally comes to be a versatile Archetype. In this sense, builds are also suggested based on the role you want to play and the weapon used.
This is perhaps the section of the manual that I appreciated the most, as the addition of new Talents, combined with those of Xanathar, now offers a good range of possibilities for all classes. From those looking for combat efficiency to those who want Mastery without taking levels in another class, this is finally possible! The possibility of “Initiate” or “Adept” Talents for almost all available classes offer excellent alternatives to the multiclass.
Patron of the Party
Acquiring the precious lesson and the success of Eberron's manual, Tasha offers us the Patron of the party as an excellent tool to keep the characters together and as a starting point for adventures of various kinds. In the manual eight different types of Patron are proposed and explained, each with possible gains and developments with the party. For those who would like, there are also suggestions for "being your own patron".
While these tools may seem superfluous to more experienced Dungeon Masters, they can be great ways to keep a D&D party together and to justify perks, contacts, personal gains, etc ...
Another brilliant idea (and already abundantly in use at all parties) is the possibility of changing the appearance of the spells in order to customize them to the idea of the character. This allows you to be narratively coherent (without changing the rules related to spells) even having to cast spells that go beyond the concept of the character.
New "Cards" for companions and summons
One of the aspects that has been mostly put in order for this manual is the summoning of creatures and the animal companion of the ranger, with a personalized card (and scalable with the level of the spell) that now allows you to summon any type of creature the party allow in the campaign.
Magic objects and tattoos
Tasha's handbook adds several fantastic magical items, which many Dungeon Masters will be eager to include in their campaigns, but the thing that most catches my attention is the introduction of magical tattoos. Through a magic needle (each different) it will be possible to engrave ten types of tattoos on the skin of the character, going to enhance his skills, his appearance, his strength as if they were magical objects. This greatly affects the character's abilities (even defensive) on an aesthetic level, regardless of his class or his availability of spells.
The rules for the sidekicks of the party (especially in the case of playing two or three) easily allow the Dungeon Master to make up for certain shortcomings of a group, creating a character able to grow without having the complexity of a made PC and finished. Tasha's handbook suggests three types of Companions you can create: the expert (who specializes in skills), a spellcaster (who specializes in spells) and a fighter (who specializes in melee).
Dealing with monsters
This section is dedicated to those parties who do not want to beat or destroy everything that passes under their noses but who, perhaps, want to try to parliament and deal with this creature before moving on to violence. Tasha's handbook suggests, by creature type, some trade goods that characters may have to offer in exchange for the favor / support / mercy of the monster in question. While some are very high, it's not impossible that some more savvy parties prefer the lesser evil.
The thematic puzzles and riddles
The final part of the manual deals with puzzles and riddles, reopening the ancient diatribe about who should solve them? Tasha's answer in this regard is a fundamental one: it doesn't matter who solves them as long as the party has fun. Below we find example puzzles and riddles, so that a master can get an idea of how to make suggestions following the character's rolls and what to do in case a player understands the solution too soon.