5E D&D Players Gel through Group Patrons from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
All of the Dungeon Master’s Tools wrapped up with a deeper look at Natural Hazards but chapter four in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything holds many more terrific modules of content for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. The book’s second chapter revisits a concept introduced with Eberron: Rising from the Last War and explores Group Patrons for 5E D&D. So let’s get into it.
5E D&D is in great shape thanks to Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
A perspective emerged for me while diving into Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and being exposed to comments and takeaways from the 5E D&D community from platforms with large social media presences to individuals adding their voices to the conversation. No amount of rules can be presented through which even the most effortless following of them creates a better game tabletop roleplaying game experience. This sounds provocative and maybe it’s intended a little but I’ll explain and get to how it relates to group patrons.
“I wanted more,” sums up the attitude for a lot of commentary on Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. More DM resources. More guidance for running the game. More rules. The health of the game necessitates deeper complexity. Advocating creative solutions and problem solving is a half measure. Specificity encourages new DMs.
This is all hokum.
Every edition of D&D gets streamlined in some way over its predecessor even if only through economy of word use. When the current edition launched gamers everywhere lauded 5E D&D for the rulings over rules credo and accessibility. The popularity of the game exploded thanks in large part to live stream and actual play games in videos and podcasts along with social media commentary and a sort of cottage industry supported by crowdfunding and digital marketplaces. These are your sources of both examples for guidance and deeper rules complexity for 5E D&D. It’s the game’s job to entice players and inspire DMs and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything manages this with savvy.
This obligatory soapboxing about Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and 5E D&D in general serves as a preface for delving into group patrons in the book. I mentioned in a previous post how the book’s disclaimer mentions a hidden incantation within the pages and I believe the design decision to place such juicy material in the chapter immediately following character options is part of this magic. Group patrons occupy a middle space between Dungeon Masters and the rest of the players even before the material on new spells.
Group patrons represent a tool for creating party cohesion and campaign structure. Incorporating a group patron into a 5E D&D game creates a sort of special entity shared by everyone in the game. Individual characters can discover connections through their patron and before a campaign begins players can facilitate group dynamics. The content even includes guidance for a group interested in being their own patron.
Eight broad types of group patrons include inspirational details — with lots of optional charts and tables to generate ideas — with examples for perks, assignments and contacts available through each one. Discussing group patrons as a group (duh) during session zero or really anytime during an existing campaign can really energize players and adventuring parties. This is why I think it’s very cleverly placed in the book where readers naturally turn to after oohing and ahhing over all the new subclasses and other character options. Not only do group patrons give DMs a resource to help structure these things they offer players an opportunity to collaborate with each other and the DM. I like to imagine the concept of group patrons inspires lots of first time DMs for players captivated by the idea and encouraged by the framework they provide.
Group patrons from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
In broad strokes the eight example group patrons in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything cover a wide swath of concepts from the erudite to the crudite. If you’re looking for more detail to expand on any of these I’d recommend looking at sources like Renown in the DMG as well as Creating Nonplayer Characters in chapter four, Piety in Mythic Odysseys of Theros and guilds in Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica.
- Academy. An academic patron encompasses so many disciplines with a shared goal of pursuing knowledge. I love the relatability of this one but with the added fantasy flavor. For my taste I get scenario ideas from the fluff before getting to the Academy Quests section. I like how each of the group patrons touches on how varied character backgrounds can fit in contextually (academies need physical education teachers, groundskeepers and security too!).
- Ancient Being. How many of us haven’t adventured at the behest of an ancient being am I right? Strange Gifts alone are enough to convince me to bind my group to the designs of an ancient being of tremendous power and influence. I didn’t even realize this meant gaining Supernatural Gifts at 5th and 13th level when I wrote that, I just thought yeah, I want Strange Gifts!
- Aristocrat. Running a political campaign comes up fairly regularly in 5E D&D conversations and now I can point to this in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. This illustrates the point I made in the preface — no longwinded rules codex can provide a formula for a flawless game experience. But the seeds of your own creative ideas sure can. The type of aristocrat becomes the party’s baseline perspective for a campaign’s political situation so you’ve got a great opportunity to set the stage for intrigue, diplomacy and thrilling action.
- Criminal Syndicate. Let’s face it at the end of the day quite a few parties essentially become one of these organizations anyway. So lean into it and start the campaign embroiled in one already. Any of the group patrons could take a dark turn but this one I’d be extra careful about in my games. Hello Session Zero! There’s plenty of places I have no desire to go in my gaming. Wait a second now what’s this about Thought Thieves? Okay, I’m in.
- Guild. In the context of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything guilds are economic organizations of tradespeople and merchants. If I’m honest the first thing to pop into my mind is the furtive network of concierges in The Grand Budapest Hotel. This seems like the most mundane of the group patrons so far and this makes it stand out in a good way.
- Military Force. Obviously this one suggests more combat than other group patrons but this doesn’t mean it can’t include vibrant social interactions and engaging exploration scenarios. Military organizations typically follow a strict chain of command, which could be a problem for players who chafe under authority. But since you wisely discussed the upcoming campaign during your session zero and everyone agreed it sounds cool to play as a special military unit you should have no problem. Protip: Be honest with everyone during session zero — including yourself! If taking orders from a commanding officer doesn’t sound fun or you know you’ll rebel and disobey then there’s better group patrons for you. (Unless the group agrees it sounds fun to play a rambunctious pain in the ass group of soldiers.)
- Religious Order. I’ve got a feeling lots of DMs find this appealing because people love creating deities and pantheons in their worldbuilding. This creates a direct path to making this part of a setting come alive since these aren’t just adventurers with the same faith. They’re explicitly advancing the goals of a religious organization. I do appreciate how the text suggests the party might also be grifters swindling a wealthy congregation though.
- Sovereign. Classic. And in a totally unrelated coincidence I could not think of the word sovereignty earlier so researching this post brought a satisfying relief. The example types cleverly avoid hugely powerful figures in favor of leaders and aspirational rulers. I always used to wonder when I’d play games like Final Fantasy why if the sovereign of the world tasks the party with saving the universe why I had to pay to stay at the inn and get new armor and stuff.
- Being Your Own Patron. Creating and running an organization of their own is a scenario with which I have great familiarity. Players in my longtime Spelljammer campaign ran two businesses and anyone who’s played Waterdeep: Dragon Heist almost certainly experienced a party with some business interest in the city. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything points to the Running a Business downtime activity in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (funny how much useful and practical stuff is in there huh?) but for my taste you can’t do better than Acquisitions Incorporated for fun and fantastic guidance on running a business in your 5E D&D campaign.
There’s my take on group patrons in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and I threw in some commentary on the broader 5E D&D community and conversation for free too. If you’re a player who stopped reading after the first chapter I think you’ll discover a lot to inspire you in the rest of the book. This goes for DMs of any experience too. More often than not it’s the content that sparks your imagination rather than numbers and math to pave the way towards the most memorable 5E D&D experiences. Stay nerdy!
*Featured image — A group of wizards pledges themselves to their patron, Tasha, the Witch Queen as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]