Berry Reviews Tasha's Cauldron of Everything
The Content I've Been Waiting For (Mostly)
If you don’t know my story of coming to TTRPGs, let me give you the Cliff’s notes version: in high school I was told that Magic the Gathering wasn’t for girls like me and in college I was told a Pathfinder campaign wasn’t for girls like me. I had always been interested in board games dealing with the magical and natural worlds and these games seemed like the natural next step for me. But the barrier to entry was too high. I was not about to put my emotional health on the line for the opportunity to play a game. Fast forward a decade or so, I found some amazing people who helped crack open the world of TTRPGs for me. It’s no surprise that many of these other people help make up the core of Variant Ventures.
My journey towards the world of TTRPG helped fuel my excitement for the 11/17/2020 release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. This content was promised to be one of the most inclusive and open source books for Dungeons and Dragons and offer more resources for new players to be comfortable joining the hobby! How exciting for the actual publishers to be working on content to bring new players of all background to the table!
While admittedly the content in TCOE did fall short of my high expectations, I am still happy this content was created. It is opening the door for new voices and future content! I hope others read Tasha’s and see the value in what the pages have to offer.
Chapter 1 - Character Options
Chapter 1 of TCOE provides some long needed upgrades to character builds for Dungeons and Dragons. I am open that this section did not include all of what I had hoped, but some character creations steps were made in the right direction. In particular, I am happy to see more open options for customizing your character’s origin.
On Page 7, Tasha’s outlines the ability to switch out ability score increases, languages and proficiency swaps. This can really help you customize you character experience. For example, perhaps you have halfling who was raised by dwarfs. This halfling may have increased strength and speaks Dwarfish given their background. The ability to customize the origin really can enhance your character creation and allow for you to tell a story truly unique to you.
Chapter 2 - Group Patrons
Chapter two offers us a look into a new way to bind a group together with a common goal: Group Patrons. The Patrons may offer: Group Assistance, Perks and/or Assignments. It is very possible you have already played around with Group Patrons in your adventuring party with less structure. Some examples include belonging to the same academy, guild or religious order. What I enjoy about this section is that it offers more organization to ideas I have floating around, such as compensation, research and training. In particular, the Aristocrat section (pg 89) outlines varied goals for different members of the noble class.
Chapter 3 - Magical Miscellany
Spells and magic are covered in Chapter Three: Magical Miscellany!
I have had the pleasure of taking a few of these with my sorcerer in Barovia to varied results (RIP to the commoner who wasn’t doing anything wrong! Oops!) But a few of these spells really stand out to me.
The Tasha’s Spells: Tasha’a Caustic Brew (pg 115), Tasha’s Mind Whip (pg 115) and Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise (pg 116), all give great respect to their namesake. I am personally a big fan of Mind Whip as to can deal 3d6 psychic damage and the target cannot take reactions until the end of it’s next turn, and who doesn’t love a spell that can be upcast? And I look forward to the protection afforded by Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise! My DM reads this blog, but I have a plan for this one in our home game!
But the spell that has be most excited doesn’t seem to get the love I believe it deserves- Dream of the Blue Veil (pg 106). This spell allows you to transport yourself and up to eight willing creatures to another world on the Material Plane. While some readers have cautioned against this, I see such potential for mixing campaigns and parties together to weave together lore of so many of our favorite settings. Depending on your table. or need, this spell also holds the potential of time travel.
It is worth taking this time to mention that use of any potentially campaign derailing spells should be talked about with your DM and party members prior to employing this kind of magic, Session 0 should be a continued discussion throughout the campaign and communication is essential to a great game experience!
The second part of this chapter focuses on new magical items and, my personal favorite, magical tattoos! Because if being an adventurer in a magical world isn’t badass enough, you can do so with new ink!
Chapter 4 - Dungeon Master's Tools
The final chapter of this tome is focused on the Dungeon Master’s Tools. Here we have guidance on holding a Session 0, character and party creation, the social contract at the table, hard and soft limits and game customization.
While I am so happy to see some of these topics covered in official WOTC material, I implore players and DM’s alike to look at a wider net of resources when playing TTRPGs. I welcome readers to look at some of the Variant Ventures articles on Trauma at the Table, RPG Consent Sheets, and Keeping It Comfortable at the Table.
The team at Variant Ventures also uses the TTRPG Safety Tool Kit, which is free and available to anyone looking to add additional safety tools to their table. If you take nothing else away from this source book, please revamp your session 0’s to include some of these ideas!
How the Variants Have Used TCOE
Stella- The chaotic evil artificer gnome first graced our party during a Halloween one-shot in 2019 with the Unearthed Arcana rule set. She quickly established herself as an essential, intelligent member of the party. Granted, the chaos that she left in her wake from some overpowered rule sets was WILD! After Tasha’s was released we worked to rebuild her, reign in her power and have her perform as a (almost) balanced member of the team (page 9).
Lycus- Rory fell in love with the Psi Warrior (pg 42) rule set and from that Lycus, his Gith, was born.
Edana- While having a pretty standard Way of the Four Elements Monk, I added flavor to Edana with her Eldritch Claw Tattoo (pg 126).
Karnik- After burning his second (or was it third?) body in a volcano, Karnik, Forge Domain Cleric, left the party and Karnik, Oath of Glory Paladin (pg 53) emerged!
Future Variant Hopes for TCOE
My hope for Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is for players, DMs and WOTC to use it as a building block for future official content. It is excellent to see a step in the right direction, as far as custom builds, new magic and safety content for players. Every person who wants to play deserves to see themselves reflected in the story and it is important to keep each other safe. As story tellers, we can often get caught up in what will make a good story, it is important to be reminded that the friendships at the table will always be more valuable that the stories we weave.
For other customization tools with Dungeons and Dragons, I encourage you to look at some third part content. An Elf and an Orc Had A Little Baby by V.J. Harris and Adam Hancock and Ancestry and Culture by Arcanist Press are two amazing supplements that have increased my enjoyment with character creation and my time at the table!
*Photo Credit: Variant Berry
Have you played with any of the new content from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything? Tell us about it!