The follow up to 2017’s Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, on Nov. 17, 2020 fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons upcoming Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything must indeed possess powerful magic to contain so much stuff in 192 pages — the exact page count of its predecessor according to Jeremy Crawford, principal rules designer of the game. The product of 18 months work the book includes material for Dungeons Masters and players of 5E D&D alike. I had an opportunity to join the press briefing with Crawford and Greg Tito, communications and press relations director for D&D and let me tell you, sitting on this was really exciting. Reading and hearing what players speculated on and wanting to say, “You’re all right! It’s all in the book. All the character options and new stuff you’re guessing about are inside!” So let’s get into Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
A delightful conversation about 5E D&D
No sense burying the lead — all the options and fresh new modular content you thought might be in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is there. Subclasses for all the classes are in there. Alternate class features from the most popular Unearthed Arcana in the entirety of 5E D&D are in there. The artificer class is in there — including some tweaks, new infusions and the Armorer subclass that was loved by people, according to Crawford. The Aberrant Mind sorcerer, UA’s most highly rated content ever, is in there and so are many from the past year. Spell Versatility and new Beast Master Companions are in there and I know there’s untold numbers of players stoked to hear this. There’s new artwork for the Artillerist Artificer Specialist that was shared during the briefing too.Like XGtE the book explores the titular character’s wonderfully complex point of view in comments on the content throughout, with nods to Tasha’s history in her comments and captions. One clue about Tasha’s mysterious origin reveals itself on the cover. The tattoo on her cheek is a chicken leg, which Crawford explained is an “echo of the chicken-legged hut that Baba Yaga lives in.”
A bunch of subclasses and class features only chicken scratches the surface of the scope of material. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is organized into four chapters. While perusing the material in the book readers learn more about Tasha and the lore surrounding her. Tasha’s life has involved the fantastic since the very beginning of her origins in the fey realms. As she became a brilliant and powerful wizard her adventures took her to other planes and dimensions so she is unfazed by beings of any sort, least of all her frenemy Mordenkainen.
- Character options
- Spells and magic items
- Group patrons
- Tools for Dungeon Masters
Customizing your origin is an important part of the development of the book and something the design team seems particularly proud of, for good reason. Players love the idea of more personalized character origin stories. I use This Is Your Life stuff from XGtE all the time and TCoE builds on that tremendously. Like, seriously a lot. The design goal was tools for players to create truly unique characters with amazingly magical origins and backstories.
This includes modifying traits during character creation to better reflect the story players want to tell and offers a lineage template with fill-in-the-blanks tools to totally personalize characters. The Lineage System introduces a new way to approach creating and playing characters and adventures in 5E D&D, a responsibility the design team takes very seriously as stewards of the game. During the press briefing Crawford and Tito explained how TCoE is one of multiple books demonstrating a shift in how D&D handles things like race.
Other changes include the removal of negative racial modifiers for certain races from Volo’s Guide to Monsters via errata. Crawford explained how their original intention for races like kobold and orc was as Monstrous Adventurers, separate from standard character options. This is why those options are included in their own section in VGtM along with options considered more powerful than standard in some cases, like yuan-ti and to a lesser extent goblins. Because this context is lost through the way so many players engage with 5E D&D through online tools and resources like D&D Beyond, it became a pain point for players and TCoE will include updated versions. Hooray for kobold and orc enthusiasts!
The Lineage System offers tools to create characters not bound by a species archetype. I love the way Crawford explained how this modular piece of content interacts with existing 5E D&D material. The core game, what is presented in the Player’s Handbook and other sources, illustrates an archetypal adventuring character like an elf. Choosing this option for your character represents playing Elfie McElferson in other words — the exact kind of elf that comes to mind when you think of D&D elves. The Lineage System gives players and DMs tools to disentangle characters’ personal traits with cultural traits. And worry not! The path to customization is very smooth according to Crawford, who emphasized it is not complicated at all.
Along with the new class options and alternate features players can customize how each class feels. This includes something that worms its way into the mind of every edition of D&D sooner or later.
Psionics! The Aberrant Mind is just one of the psionic themed subclasses from UA. Along with a few others, these psionic subclasses use a modifed version of the playtest mechanics, which Crawford described as “evolved.” I’m pretty middle of the road when it comes to psionics, neither thrilled to use them or abhorred by their inclusion in the game but I’ve got to say I really dug that Psionic Talent die so I hope that’s what he meant.
During the press briefing they did not get too deep into new spells and magic items in TCoE but there are some tidbits to share. For starters Tasha adds new spells of her own design to D&D canon. Tasha’s caustic brew and Tasha’s otherworldly guise are two mentioned and I’m excited to see more. Spells named for the wizards who created them evokes a sense of mystery and wonder in all D&D players and after all her incredible excursions and magical experimentation I’m certain Tasha’s influence on 5E D&D will be immense.
Spellcasters can boost their power with new spell focus magic items too, which sounds awesome. There’s got to be a magical cauldron, right? One of the magic items Crawford talked about sounds totally awesome — the Tarokka Deck. Not like, any old prophetic card deck though. This is THE Tarokka Deck, an artifact capable of trapping spirits. Can I tell you I lost track of what they said for a moment because I was daydreaming about a Ghostbusters inspired 5E D&D campaign.
Sidekicks (remember them?) get expanded in TCoE too. Resources to create your own customized sidekicks sounds like a lot of fun new toys to play with. When asked what the most surprising thing about the book is, Crawford revealed there’s a sidekick class. You can play as a Warrior, Expert or Spellcaster, which offers a slimmed down experience for perhaps new players or those looking for less complexity. This sounds awesome to me. I’ve used the Sidekicks content from UA several times and it is terrific, so more of that and more ways to use it can’t go wrong.
More than that though Crawford was surprised by “how much liberty players have to customize.” The Lineage System, tons of new class options and alternate features, spells, feats (wow I didn’t even mention those!) all combine to create more levers and dials players and DMs can use to tailor our game experiences and tell the kinds of stories we want with exactly the kinds of characters we imagine.
“Our work on the game is a delightful conversation with the community that never ends,” as Crawford put it. With tremendous amounts of fun, cool sounding new content like they’re brewing up in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, I don’t doubt it.
Oh! Are you still here? One last thing I’ll mention is the section on Magical Environments includes Eldritch Storms, magical fruits and magical roads, a Mirror Realm and a Mimic Colony. Stay nerdy.