Tasha’s Cauldron makes D&D a better game, but whiffs on race changes

There’s a new supplement for Dungeons & Dragons, titled Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The brand-new content — including new subclasses for virtually every class in the game, expanded rules for sidekicks, and a collection of in-fiction puzzles — is very, very good indeed. However, the overall package feels too thin. Not only is there a decent bit of material that’s been reprinted, the much-anticipated changes to the way the game handles race still leave something to be desired.

Tasha’s Cauldron is part of a series of newly styled D&D sourcebooks, which began with Volo’s Guide to Monsters in 2016, and also includes essential volumes like Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and Modenkainen’s Tome of Foes. Each one is narrated through marginal annotations from famous characters in the lore of D&D, with the goal of making them more readable for players and non-players alike. This time around, the voice of Tasha feels a bit out of place, as though a time traveler has returned to the Forgotten Realms with some spicy tweets to share. Ultimately, the marginalia didn’t detract from the other good bits inside.

The most interesting section for players comes in chapter one, which includes new subclasses for pretty much everyone — artificers, barbarians, bards, clerics, druids, fighters, monks, paladins, rangers, rogues, sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards. It also includes a full reprint of the artificer class, which made its first appearance in Eberron: Rising from the Last War in 2019.

While I would have liked more options for the artificer (which I’ll be playing for the first time in my home campaign), the other options on offer are exceptional. Multiclassing — taking on two or more classes to customize a character — has always been a limitation in modern D&D. Several of these new subclasses seem to integrate multiclassing into the structure of the character classes themselves, which both streamlines and accelerates the process of gaining levels and power. Still others feel like in-fiction riffs on Marvel superheroes, which is a fun addition to the lore. The entire section includes many wonderful additions to the game, and is required reading in my opinion for anyone rolling up a new character.

Image: Wylie Beckert/Wizards of the Coast

Chapter two is a boon for Dungeon Masters scrounging for story hooks. It introduces ideas for patrons that the adventuring party could work for, and in turn provides everyone at the table with opportunities for glory and intrigue over the course of multiple campaigns. If you were searching for a way to transition from a setting like Waterdeep, for instance, to the Underdark or the frozen plains of Icewind Dale, then patrons could be just the thing.

In addition to tons of new spells and magic items — de rigueur for any new splatbook these days — there’s also a hefty new section specifically for DMs. Here’s where the really good stuff is, in my opinion.

First up is a section on Session Zero, which is where those running the game have the opportunity to sit down with their players and discuss the social contract that will exist between them all during the game. It covers topics such as “lines and veils” as well as setting expectations for good behavior. It’s only a few pages long, but it’s one of the better discussions of the topic that I’ve ever seen in a mainstream role-playing game. Publisher Wizards of the Coast should do what it can to make sure this exact content makes its way into both the existing 5th edition of the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide — and also make it freely available online with all of its other introductory materials that it offers for new players.

Next up is a newly expanded set of rules for sidekicks. These demi-players made their first appearance in the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit, and serve a number of different functions at the table. My group will be using them to flesh out our small party of three players with a fourth character. That will give us a few more hit points and a dedicated healer, which should reduce the DM’s need to modify encounters that are traditionally designed for between four and five players.

But, as Tasha’s Cauldron makes mention of, sidekicks are also the perfect entree for new players who would like to ride along with their friends and be engaged in an existing campaign to see what D&D is all about. There are three different classes of sidekick included, plus rules for leveling them up — something absent from the Essentials Kit.

Finally, there’s a handy section at the back of the book filled with puzzles. It even includes clever hints you can give your players if they get stuck, and handouts to provide a visual element at the table.

My only real disappointment with the book is the way in which it handles optional rules for dealing with the concept of race. Earlier this year the publisher admitted that it had made missteps involving its portrayal of race in the past, and vowed to make changes to the structure of D&D to make it more welcoming and more flexible. Those changes, as detailed in Tasha’s Cauldron, are extremely weak. The guidance is, more or less, to ignore the rules for character creation and just do what feels right. That’s good advice for every player and every DM regardless of the situation, but it falls well short of establishing a progressive new precedent for the original role-playing game.

Overall, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is a great resource for everyone at the table, it’s just not as dense and full-featured as the supplements that have come before. You can order the book right now at your friendly local game store (where you’ll have access to a gorgeous alternate cover) and on Amazon. It will be available at retail starting Nov. 17, and available digitally for multiple platforms including D&D Beyond, Fantasy Grounds, and Roll20.

Correction: An earlier version of this story overlooked the addition of a new subclass for the artificer. We’ve updated this story to correct that.

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything will be released on Nov. 17. The book was reviewed using a final retail copy provided by Wizards of the Coast. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

  • $33
  • $50
  • 35% off

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This new Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook includes additional subclasses for virtually every character class in the game. There’s also improved rules for sidekicks, and lots of new tools for Dungeons Masters.

  • Amazon $33 (35% off)
  • Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

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