Well, it’s finally here! And like other complimentary books before it, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything offers just an overwhelming amount of content to expand upon what is already a pretty massive edition of Dungeons and Dragons. So, with that in mind, I am going to be breaking this up into several articles, each focusing on a different aspect of the book.
A lot of content in the book has previously appeared in either Unearthed Arcana or other sourcebooks, but for the sake of treating this as its own thing, I am going to talk about what’s in the book without referencing other materials. It’s very possible that you’ve only ever read the Player’s Handbook and this is your first complimentary book, so I don’t want this become overwhelming.
Who Is Tasha And Why Does She Have Her Own Book?
Before I jump into the subclasses, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the titular character. Tasha is an iconic Chaotic Evil NPC who has appeared in every edition of the game since AD&D 1st edition and has an incredibly rich lore. She also invented a spell that is a staple of the game, Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, and if you have a spell named after you, you’re probably pretty powerful. That said, she’s never had adventure or a book specifically revolve around her until now, so if you’re a lifelong fan of the game’s lore this is nice to see. She has a lot of small quotes sprinkled throughout the book as well, giving insight into who she is and that’s also a nice touch.
Artificer is a fairly new class to the world of Dungeons and Dragons. Unlike the staple classes, Artificer didn’t arrive until 3.5 as part of the Eberron campaign, and really hasn’t had its day in the sun until now. It was briefly part of Fourth Edition, but now finally feels like a complete class. Artificers are malleable class that more or less change depending upon your setting. They are the inventors and gunslingers of a fantasy world, and as such can add some needed flavor to your world.
This feels like a fun class at the lower levels and I like that the potions you create are part of what you do for its other class feature. This is a subclass for a role-player first and foremost because you create a random elixir based on a D6, rather than getting to choose the elixir you create. Making this a random creation is what I think ultimately separates this from being a fairly boring class to one that can be a lot of fun.
You’re Iron Man. There’s no way around it, that’s what this class is. From the way the book describes your armor upgrading to the Thunder Gauntlets, this is the Iron Man class. Armorers don’t get Fly as a spell option, however, which is the only thing about this class that isn’t very Iron Man, but I can see how that might have been overpowered. Still, as early as 3rd level you have access to Magic Missile and bonded armor, so yeah. Enjoy being Tony Stark.
When you absolutely, positively have to destroy everything in the room? Accept no substitutes! This is the obligatory glass cannon class, and everything about it just screams murder hobo. Most of your spells are high damage and all of the class features are make a cannon, make a gun, or make a cannon with a bigger boom. I can see this one being a lot of fun if you flavor the character like a Rocket Raccoon type. This is the Michael Bay class.
Maybe not my favorite of the subclasses in part because it is a support role that feels like it would better filled elsewhere. The class is built around creating a friendly robot that soaks up damage and acts as a distraction. So it’s the tank, but not really. Pretty underwhelming from a gameplay perspective, but as an NPC they have a tremendous amount of lore potential. You could maybe make one who acts as a caregiver for Warforged who no longer wish to fight or maybe the local blacksmith who is on the lam and harboring a secret past.
Artificers often struggle to find a place in the party composition, but there are some nice options here. I don’t know if there’s enough to make the class mainstream, but I think an artillerist could make for some exciting roleplay.
Do you like to scream real loud and lose your mind? Well, Barbarian is the class for you. Barbarians have always been the hit stuff and then hit it some more class, but in that there’s the eternal question: Why do you hit stuff so much? The Barbarian is clearly the class for the philosophical gamer.
Optional Class Features:
Primal Knowledge: You gain an extra proficiency. Eh, okay.
Instinctive Pounce: You get to move half your speed for free when you rage? That’s actually really, really great. When you’re raging, no one and nothing wants to be near you.
Path of the Beast: Did you ever want to be a Werewolf but without all the pesky curses? This is the path for you. No more wearing an entire bear skin to show you’re a Barbarian, now you keep that bear skin wrapped around your soul. I like this because it feels worth it to stay on this path for the entire game as each new feature offers natural growth. You start off as just having a familiar trait to a beast, but by the end you’re an actual force of nature leading a terrifying pack.
Path of Wild Magic: In theory this is a lot of fun and pure chaos. Every time you rage, you randomly roll on the wild magic table. The effects are:
1. Dry skin
2. You become Nightcrawler from the X-Men.
3. You create a Mr. Meeseeks.
4. Lightning shoots out of your chest.
5. Give me some personal space.
6. Strobe light dance party.
7. You become Poison Ivy but not really.
8. You get Mjolnir.
The problem here is that there’s not much more to it than that, and at later levels you end up getting to control the magic table to an extent, so eh. A good idea, but it doesn’t execute well.
You just get the two new paths, and it’s interesting because one could have been boring but winds up being very well thought out, and the other is an amazing concept that fails to deliver. If I were playing Path of Wild Magic, I would multiclass after the 3rd level because it only gets less exciting from there.
Bards are really having a moment in 5e in my opinion, and it’s been great to see all the subclasses that really expand upon what it means to be a Bard. I think the meme of the Bard being a pretty face and a sex maniac that tries to seduce or annoy anything that moves really diminishes what the class can actually be. At the end of the day, they are the lore keepers and the most competent members of the party, not necessarily excelling at any one thing in particular, but being able to hold their own at just about everything, with their subclass being a specialization of sorts.
Optional Class Features:
Additional Bard Spells: Increasing the available spells is fine, but given that Bard’s already have access to almost everything, it’s nothing to get excited over.
Magical Inspiration: If you heal with Bardic Inspiration, you get even more healing. Cool.
Bardic Versatility: Getting to swap out proficiencies or cantrips is okay, I guess, but I don’t see this as anything huge.
College of Creation: Anyone else see Kubo and the Two Strings? That’s what this is, and it’s pretty great. You can flavor this class any number of ways, you’re essentially singing the song of life; but where this class really shines is in the way that it fixes of the classes most glaring problems: The bardic inspiration dice. While Bardic Inspiration has always been fun and made sense thematically, more often than not it’s never felt essential or impactful. Now you have an immediate reason to use these dice and use them often. Very cool class.
College of Eloquence: I’m going to say something some folks may not like. I wouldn’t allow this in my game. It might not appear as such from a first glance, but this class can easily become campaign breaking. At 3rd level you have a lite version of Glibness which is an 8th level spell, and by 6th level you’re able to completely negate any language barrier, which when combined with your other class abilities makes you the perfect liar. Given how much of a headache that is for Dungeon Masters already, this just feels like it could be too much.
Again, just two subclasses, but College of Creation really brings something new and fun to the table while also giving a backdoor fix to the class.
Clerics are typically looked at as the defacto healers of any D&D game, but there’s so much more than that. I don’t mean that they’re the most devout worshipers of their faith and their presence in a game can lead to interesting moral decisions, I mean they swing heavy weapons and wield death spells like the terrifying maniacs that they are.
Optional Class Features:
Additional Cleric Spells: Neat.
Harness Divine Power: You can swap out a use of Channel Divinity to regain a spell slot. That’s…pretty useful, wow.
Cantrip Versatility: Swapping out a garbage cantrip for one you like better. Just don’t pick a garbage cantrip in the first place.
Blessed Strikes: A d8 of radiant damage every turn at 8th level is pretty on brand for a Cleric, but it replaces Divine Strike or Potent Spellcasting, so it’s nothing exciting.
Order Domain: Were you annoyed by the moral rigidity of Paladins but wanted more spells? Then why not choose the Order Domain? This entire class is dedicated to being super logical and then yelling at people. Not my cup of tea, but maybe you can make it at least as fun as reciting pi to the twentieth number.
Peace Domain: Sorry if I gave the impression that the Order Domain would be the worst thing about Clerics in this book, the Peace Domain is much worse. It’s a class whose specialties include singing We Are The World and signing peace treaties. Imagine a game where the Barbarian is about to rage, and you say “Now hold on, let me see if I can use my proficiency in Persuasion to see if I can buy the demon a root beer float instead. I succeed, fun game.” Again, this one isn’t for me, but you know, maybe it is for you.
Twilight Domain: Redemption! This class actually feels pretty cool and my immediate reaction to reading it was “The Midnight Sons! We beat up monsters!” I mean, the whole game involves beating up monsters, but this class has an entire philosophy attached to it. As the light fades into darkness, we shall be a beacon to blah blah what a terrible night for a curse I’m going to hit you with holy light now.
You can be an obnoxious rules lawyer as a class feature, a smug hippie, or Alucard from Hellsing. Choose wisely.
In every game I’ve ever played where a Druid was present, they were easily the most overpowered character, so it’s not like they really need a lot of help here. Still, depending on how roleplay heavy you get with the class, it can be a lot of fun to see exactly what the Druid seeks to protect and why.
Optional Class Features:
Additional Druid Spells: Sure.
Wild Companion: This feels situational at best. Wild Shape is sort of the staple for Druid, and using it to instead find a fey creature for a few hours doesn’t feel like a great trade every time.
Cantrip Versatility: “But I don’t like this cantrip anymore!”
Circle of Spores: You make zombies. By infecting people with spores. The entire class is just inflicting necrotic damage on people with spores and then reanimating their body like those clickers in The Last of Us. Just…what the hell, y’all?
Circle of Stars: Druids who worship the stars in a very non-Lovecraftian way, and eventually your worship leads you to become incorporeal. It’s definitely cool in theory and there’s a lot of roleplay potential here, but I’m still freaked out over the existence of Spore Druids.
Circle of Wildfire: Remember how I said Druids tend to be strongest members of the game? Well, this class is a great example of that. Thematically, I love this class. The Circle of Wildfire feels that in order for something good to grow, you must first cleanse the ground with fire. And for a Druid, this makes sense. In nature, sometimes forest fires are needed to get rid of deadwood and allow new life to grow. That’s awesome. Mechanically, this class is contending with Artillerist for most destructive and they might be winning. All your spells are fire based, you summon a friend who is always on fire, and if you die you immediately pop back up at half health. Presumably to set things on fire.
There’s no bad options with Druid, but I’m not sure how you play a Spore Druid if you’re not an evil character.
The most fightingest fighty class of them all is here to fight. Fighter is one of those classes that can be overlooked as being somewhat generic, but the more you delve into what they’re capable of the more you realize just how strong and versatile they are. You never realize how badly you wished you had a Fighter in the party until you don’t have one. When it comes to martial attacks, Barbarian may hit harder and Monk may hit more, but Fighters are the undisputed kings of martial combat with good reason.
Optional Class Features:
Fighting Style Options: There was too many to go through here, but this list absolutely needs to be seen when you’re designing any Fighter.
Martial Versatility: Nope. This is too far. This is stupid. At 4th level you can completely forget an entire fighting style and learn a new one? How does that even work?
Psi Warrior: They’re Jedi, I think? It’s a Fighter that uses a lot of telekinesis and they don’t get charmed or frightened. So, you swing a sword and throw stuff with your mind. That sounds a lot like a Jedi. If you play this in the Eberron setting and worship the Silver Flame, you are one hundred percent a Jedi.
Rune Knight: Sounds cooler than it is. The runes, while plentiful, don’t seem all that exciting. Mainly the class seems to revolve around you growing a few inches. This is a swing and a miss for me.
Psi Warrior could be fun, but Fighter seemed to get the short end of the stick in this book. Better options can be found in the Player’s Handbook.
I think what I love about the Monk class is the versatility it brings not just mechanically, but thematically. You could play any number of characters, but the common theme is this: You want to punch and kick and you want the flexibility to do both as often as possible. With Ki points, it genuinely feels a bit like using super powers as well. This is the class for Naruto fans.
Optional Class Features:
Dedicated Weapon: I kind of feel like this is overpowered and makes certain aspects of the Monk obsolete. Basically, any weapon can be a monk weapon now. I probably wouldn’t allow this in my game.
Ki-Fueled Attack: Extra attack. Monks already do this.
Quickened Healing: Spend Ki points to heal yourself. Useful.
Focused attack: If you miss an attack, you can spend Ki points to increase the attack roll. Situationally useful, but long term not worth it.
Way of Mercy: Give it up for Wizards of the Coast, they sure wanted to make as many terrifying subclasses as this could this time around. You know how Monks are all about inner peace and wisdom while they punch a hole into someone’s chest? Well, the Way of Mercy is just that except they believe the ultimate act of mercy is a swift death. And in the book, the one they show is wearing a plague doctors mask. In fact, getting a scary mask is one of the class features. The entire class is devoted to punching things to death or punching them back to life. They’re not invited to my birthday party.
Way of the Astral Self: You know how having a body sucks but being a ghost is rad as hell? That’s because you’ve joined the Way of the Astral Self. Your entire path here is to do your best to punch people as a ghost. Pretty great.
Either of these could be a lot of fun to play, but I feel they’re both very party specific. I wouldn’t just let one of these into the game without first considering the campaign and the other players.
Playing a Paladin has always meant trading storytelling for power mechanically. Unlike other classes where you can more or less do whatever you want, a Paladin has an oath baked into their power, and not staying with that oath can and should lead to devastating consequences. That said, I don’t think they’re exactly the stuffy party poopers they are typically portrayed as. It’s all about how you interpret the oath and how you choose to live by it.
Optional Class Features:
Additional Paladin Spells: Yes, we get it! More spells!
Harness Divine Power: Same as the Druid thing.
Martial Versatility: It was stupid with Fighters and it’s stupid here.
Oath of Glory: YES. This is probably my absolute favorite new subclass in the game. I know I said I wasn’t going to reference previous materials, but this was the class I’d been most excited for since it was announced as the Oath of Heroism back in Unearthed Arcana. There is limitless potential with this class as it addresses one of the fundamental flaws with Paladins in that the players feel the need to be preachers. With the Oath of Glory, you’re now all about actions over words. Talk is cheap, let’s see those hands. This is a Paladin that is less about being holier than thou and more about inspiring the masses as a living legend, and depending on who or what you worship, that can take any number of forms.
Oath of the Watchers: This more or less feels like a Netflix original series about demon hunters starring Nick Cage, but you know what? That’s fine. You’re a Paladin who is basically a bouncer for your material plane. At 15th level, you get the power of telling anyone who tries to charm you, “No! No you get out of here, you…you stinker! We do not do that! Bad!”
I love how different both of these feel from the typical Paladin, although I’m not sure I could play Oath of the Watchers with a straight face. I’d love to see one in a comedic game though.
Either fairly or unfairly, I’ve felt like Ranger has been mistreated for the majority of 5e. In theory, they should be amazing. They’re meant to be hunters, impossible to find and even harder to escape. They could have traps hidden anywhere, and once they’ve set their sights on you, it’s going to hurt. They bring to mind images of people like Aragorn, and who doesn’t want to play that? Except in reality, that’s not really been the case. If any class needs a boost from this book, it’s the Ranger.
Optional Class Features:
Deft Explorer: Just way, way too much to unpack here, but everything here is something the Ranger desperately needed and fits thematically. Having more proficiency, recovering exhaustion easier, faster movement; all of it is a yes.
Additional Ranger Spells: Uh-huh.
Fighting Style Options: What I said for Fighters about this applies here as well, do not skip this list.
Spellcasting Focus: That cool rock you found in the woods and kept can used to focus your spells. Yay.
Primal Awareness: A bunch of extra free spells that you should definitely have as a Ranger anyway.
Martial Versatility: For the third time, this is stupid.
Nature’s Veil: Yes, you don’t get this until level 10, but it’s really great. You just get to be invisible. It makes sense. You should be virtually invisible in the woods anyway.
Fey Wanderer: If I’m being perfectly honest, reading this class is the first time since 5e was created that I’ve been excited to play as a Ranger since I’ve started playing 5e. Thematically it’s really, really cool. You did something at some point to appease the Feywild, and now you gain an unfair edge on the competition, gaining all the benefits of being a fey creature, even eventually gaining the ability to summon fey creatures and slip in and out of the Feywild. You could create an amazing backstory using this class, and it feels like a fun flavor to add to most games.
Swarmkeeper: Yup, more terrifying classes. You summon and fight with a swarm of insects or birds, and just imagine being on the other end of that. There you are with your sword and your chain mail and being a perfectly normal player character, and here comes someone who is fighting with the power of ten thousand birds. To quote myself from earlier: What the hell, y’all?
Well, Ranger needed a boost and this was it. Swarmkeeper is a fun gimmick which may or may not work for you, and Fey Wanderer prevents the character from being boring if nothing else. And they really went all out on the additional features to help with this class.
If I’m being honest, Rogue has always been my favorite class to play, whether it was mechanically advantageous or not. When I was playing back in middle school, Rogue wasn’t even a class, it was Thief and it was at times convoluted, but I’ve always loved it because there’s something about the class that makes you feel like you need to be quicker and smarter than everyone else if you want to succeed. Being patient and waiting for your moment is a little more fun to me than just running head long at the problem or developing a dependence on magic, but those things can be fun as well.
Optional Class Feature:
Steady Aim: This is so, so good and it’s something that has been house ruled so many time that you might have thought it was already a rule. You can’t move, but you gain advantage on the next attack. So, yeah. You’re aiming. What a concept!
Phantom: I know what I said above, but the other side of the coin for the Rogue class is that it invites a certain amount of unnecessary edginess to the game sometimes, and woo boy is Phantom not doing this stereotype any favors. This entire class listens to My Chemical Romance and smokes clove cigarettes. If you think I’m exaggerating, I’m just going to names of the specific features of this class.
Whispers of the Dead, Wails from the Grave, Tokens of the Departed, Ghost Walk, and Death’s Friend. I had to double check that these weren’t song titles on an EP. In short, this class is all, “I’m a Rogue but also death is my only friend. I am haunted by those who have been lucky to shed this mortal coil, and things will be better when we’re all ghosts.” Mechanically it feels a bit like an assassin, so you’re not missing much if you skip this one.
Soulknife: Compared to the Psi Warrior from the Fighter class, this feels like a much more thought out way of incorporating psionics with a martial class. It’s almost impossible to read through this class and not think of Psylocke from the X-Men, especially if you’re a 90’s kid, because that’s exactly what this is. You make energy knives, you can communicate telepathically, you can shut down someone’s nervous system and maybe make them swallow their own tongue.
You know, just like Psylocke. I actually think there’s a lot of utility here with this build, but I think it would greatly benefit from added role play. Maybe you don’t want people to know you have a psionic advantage, or maybe people with psionics are hunted, but because you’re a Rogue you’re able to stay one step ahead of the hunters. This one could be very flavorful.
The Sorcerer class is always a lot of fun, and what it lacks in overall power compared to the Wizard class, it more than makes up for in getting to laugh at said class and say “Haha, you had to read books for ten years to use magic and I can just, like, do it.” In all seriousness, Sorcerer isn’t just a weaker, though cooler Wizard, it uses Metamagic, which is a feature that can bring a lot of versatility to your game. This can do a lot of things like increasing spell duration, doubling the range of a spell, or just making your fireball go boom even bigger. It’s not a class to sleep on.
Optional Class Features:
Additional Sorcerer Spells: Hey, did you know this game has more spells now?
Metamagic Options: I really like these. The new options are Seeking Spell and Transmuted Spell. Seeking Spell lets you spend your sorcery points to re-roll a spell attack, and Transmuted Spell allows you to change a damage type, which could potentially be game breaking.
Sorcerous Versatility: Hey, did you know this game lets you attone for your minor regrets?
Magical Guidance: “You failed that ability check.” “No, I didn’t. Because I’m MAGIC!”
Aberrant Mind: This one looks like a lot of fun. It’s another psionics attached to a class sort of a thing, but it’s more like “Cthulhu touched your mind while you were asleep and now you’re a tiny bit insane and you have some cosmic horror magic.” It’s a good a reason as any to explain suddenly having magic. It’s nothing special early on, but by the end of it you’re teleporting and warping space and time around your enemies and crushing them with little black holes. Fun!
Clockwork Soul: I absolutely love this as a concept, but in my game I don’t know if I’d allow it. The theme of the build is that you’re in tune with the perfect rhythm of the universe, and as such everything must be precise. Mechanically, it’s just controlling the dice, which to be honest, is not very fun. You decide things like if someone gets advantage of disadvantage, you basically pass all of your ability checks and saving throws at a certain level. It’s not great. Chance is a big part of this game, this feels like a step in the wrong direction. If you enjoy it, great, this isn’t for me.
Sorcerer doesn’t get an enormous boost here, but reading Aberrant Mind really made me want to make a Sorcerer.
I’ve kind of always felt like being a Warlock was a free pass to make extremely poor decisions in the game for the sake of making the story more exciting or interesting, because honestly? There’s no dumber decision than giving your soul to a demon in exchange for getting to use a d10 of force damage every turn as a cantrip.
Still, if you’re going to have a dark lord as a patron, you might as bargain for a sick new hooded cloak as well. Honestly, if you’re playing a Warlock I just assume you look like Yami from Yu-gi-Oh. Sorry, that’s hidden cost, there’s always something you don’t expect when selling your soul and this is it. I don’t care how great your powers are, don’t steal collectible cards from children.
Optional Class Features:
Additional Warlock Spells: Ooh yeah!
Pact Boon Option: Pact of the Talisman is about exciting as a mandatory fire drill, but it will help you look like a Yugi-Oh villain.
Eldritch Versatility: Not sure everyone needs to option to re-roll their character mid-game.
Eldritch Invocation Options: There’s just an absolute ton of new options. It’s a mixed bag at best, but give it a look.
The Fathomless: Tentacles. So, so many tentacles. This whole class is about making a pact with some sleeping old one hidden under the ocean, and now you slap everything and everyone with tentacles. Use this if you’re really into tentacles, but there’s not much else exciting here past the flavor.
Genie: Again, this one isn’t too exciting and it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of having a genie for a patron. You eventually get to cast a very limited version of Wish, which is nice, but this wouldn’t be my first choice.
This is the class we all know and love, or at least the one we all know. The class that gives you an excuse to do pretty much anything you can think of, and is the reason so many of us know the word Fireball. It’s not like this class isn’t the leading cause of headaches among dungeon masters already, so let’s get into it and what else they can do now besides everything.
Optional Class Features:
Additional Wizard Spells: More spells!
Cantrip Formulas: You can swap your cantrips!
Bladesong: Well, you did it. You proved that you can use your brain to sword fight. Intelligence modifiers will never die! It’s…fine? If you want to use a sword, this seems like the most awkward way of doing it.
Order of Scribes: Wizards use spell books sometimes. This one actually hugs them lovingly. Again, it’s fine, but it takes a long time to really become useful. Creating spell scrolls on the cheap and preventing death are pretty great though.
Conclusion: Wizards will always be a choice class in this game, but in a book about one of the most iconic wizards of all time, I wish they’d spent a little more time on these new subclasses.
All in all, there’s a lot of great stuff. Artificers finally get what feels like a proper introduction to the mainstream of Dungeons and Dragons, Rangers got a major overhaul, and there are a couple of genuinely fun looking subclasses to mess around with.
That’s it for now! The next article will focus on Feats!