Magical Phenomena Materialize from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons players received an adrenaline shot with Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything injecting a huge number of new subclasses and character options. Like its predecessor Xanathar’s Guide to Everything the latest sourcebook includes a wealth of material for Dungeon Masters too. The back half of the book segues into a resources blending concrete rules with guidance for incorporating fun and engaging content into 5E D&D games. Layering adventures and encounters with these elements brings new dynamics to campaigns and this time around I’m taking a closer look at Magical Phenomena. So let’s get into it.
Magical Phenomena for enchanting 5E D&D experiences
Magical Phenomena along with Natural Hazards and Supernatural Regions present exciting ways to engage and challenge 5E D&D characters both on their own and when combined with other elements like combat encounters, exploration or even each other. As Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything points out magic makes things unpredictable and phenomena caused by arcane disasters, extraplanar powers or other unexplained influences can manifest as anything from whimsy to peril. These three circumstances fall under the broader heading Environmental Hazards in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
These are the kinds of resources a DM can employ to spice things up and invite players to interact with each other and engage with the setting. All on their own these Magical Phenomena provide an awesome way to break state for adventurers. The joke about a 30 second fight lasting an hour of real time while a three day journey takes 30 seconds to narrate gets turned on its head when, say, a Necrotic Tempest sweeps across the landscape heading straight towards the party. Incidentally here’s a tip to try out the next time there’s travel or fast forward moment in a campaign — encourage players to describe something their characters experienced during the time.
All of the Magical Phenomena examples in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything shake things up in their own unique ways. Some pose serious threats of physical harm and others pose more cerebral dangers. Some of the effects manifest positive benefits and in at least one case create tremendous potential for extraordinary journeys.
Taken on their own these Magical Phenomena inspire DMs to evoke deep, rich fantasy elements. You won’t find complex and detailed rules for when and how to use such things and therein lies the beauty of this and other 5E D&D content. I appreciate how the designers trust players to manage the unquestionably limitless possibilities of a game. It’s been my experience if an adventuring party comes across something like an Enchanted Spring they’re either going to check it out or pass on by — no rules or tables and charts can compel players to act and react certain ways. Based on how much time players devote exploring, investigating and discussing innocuous things like opening a door I’m 100% confident the part of their story where the party discovers Primal Fruit becomes a memorable moment.
Layering Magical Phenomena on top of other content can revitalize and add new dimensions too. The 5E D&D space evolved quite a bit since way back when Rise of Tiamat was published as the only hardcover campaign adventure in 2014. Imagine adding a fresh coat of paint to further accentuate even the revisions since then with components like Magical Phenomena. Princes of the Apocalypse makes an even better example since one of the common criticisms I’ve encountered about this campaign is lackluster travel. (PotA is my favorite of the official campaigns. Fight me!)
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything presents seven examples of Magical Phenomena to shake up 5E D&D worlds with unpredictability. Here’s a brief summary of each.
Eldritch Storms. Four varieties of magical calamity manifest as Flaywind, Flame Storms, Necrotic Tempests and Thrym’s Howl. These remind me a lot of the hazards in Hellscapes and you definitely do not want to be caught exposed in one of these arcane storms.
Emotional Echoes. Far and away my favorite of the Magical Phenomena. This one is dripping player agency and thrusts engaged upon characters.
Enchanted Springs. Partaking mystical waters is a tried and true part of many adventures. Anything can happen from the benefits of bless to growing an animal tail or flowers springing from your head.
Magic Mushrooms. Like Enchanted Springs except weirder. If you’re a 5E D&D player and you’re reading this do yourself a favor and see what happens when you run into unusual things like this!
Mimic Colonies. This got the most hype when it was teased prior to the release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Check out the image above and tell me this doesn’t sell the sizzle all on its own.
Primal Fruit. Plenty of fun effects await adventurers who enjoy juicy magical fruit but imagine the effects on the local wildlife!
Unearthly Roads. Essentially a magical airport walkway cranked up to 11 this is a wonderful opportunity to literally fast forward a scenario while describing the disorienting and frankly incredible journey speeding past all around.
In between or during any ongoing adventures Magical Phenomena really spice things up. I’ve certainly invoked Magical Phenomena in games frequently and much to the delight of players (and myself!). Like a lot of material in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything it’s awesome to see pieces of content like this representing tips and tricks gleaned from the practical experience of the game. Longtime players hopefully feel rejuvenated for fun and fresh experiences like these while newer players can get excited to try these sorts of things for the first time. I love to imagine people who got the book for the character options becoming inspired to become new DMs because of this kind of stuff.
The question now comes to you. Have you incorporated things like Magical Phenomena in your 5E D&D games, or encountered them as an adventurer? What were the circumstances and most importantly how did these unusual effects affect your incredible story?