Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything has dozens of Dungeon Master tools and all of them demand immediate attention. In the interest of making every DM’s life a little easier, we at Halfling Hobbies are highlighting some of the most important tools you need to know and even a few that might have slipped past you.
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Players can have more customization than ever
Customizable Origin is here. It’s official D&D canon that you can change the statistic pluses a race provides. The numbers have to stay the same, for example, a Half-Orc still can only gain a +2 to one stat even if it isn’t Strength anymore. The Wizards of the Coast recommend this option heartily if your player is taking an approach that goes against the normal archetype of the race. For example, the Rogue Half-Orc probably needs the bump in Dexterity more than strength.
In a truly fascinating turn of events, Wizards of the Coast has also offered a far more piecemeal approach to race building with Custom Lineage, separate from the above-mentioned feature. Custom Lineage lets the player and the DM work together to essentially build a new race in the mold of the Variant Human from the Player’s Handbook.
For brevity’s sake, the Variant Human allows a player to play a Human with one feat at level 1 as well as gain one tool proficiency, +1 to two different statistics, and one language of their choice. What they offer in this book is similar, but it isn’t limited to humans anymore. If you want to dump all the standard features for a Halfling and give them a feat, +2 to any statistic, and a limited number of proficiencies, you definitely can. They even have rules for customizing weapons and skill proficiencies that come with races like Elves and Dwarves
That’s not even getting into the 20+ subclasses, Martial Versatility, Cantrip Versatility, the ability to change subclasses, and the tsunami of individual spell options for players; each of which will have their own articles.
Battle Master Fighters receive some much-needed love
With new seven new Maneuvers and some guides to help new players build their characters, there is not a better time to be a Battle Master Fighter.
The Battle Master subclass of Fighter is considered one of the most versatile and adaptable subclasses in the game and that continues here. With new Reaction and Bonus action attacks, redirects, and grappling, the Battle Master is competitive with spell casters in raw options per turn.
There also seems to be an effort to make this subclass more interesting in roleplay while still being less dependent on ability scores. One of the Maneuvers bump social Charisma checks, one bumps Intelligence and Wisdom checks to gather information with Investigation and Insight, and one allows you to bump your Stealth checks. Even with only one decent score and a handful of proficiencies, a player could use these new Maneuvers to stretch a Battle Master to fill another role if there’s a gap in the party’s build.
The builds they provide are good building blocks for new players trying to navigate the million or so options. Varying from hard hitters, to support roles, to ranged strikers, to the gimmicky but mostly viable fist-fighter build called the Pugilist, this is a good place to start someone with no experience in the game.
Tasha’s Cauldron is bubbling over with artifacts, new magic items, and magical tattoos
The relatively small amount of artifacts found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide is fully supplemented here. From Baba Yaga’s Mortar and Pestle to the Demonicon of Iggwilv (another name for Tasha) to the Teeth of Dahlver-Nar, DMs can base entire campaigns around any one of these effect-dense and lore rich artifacts.
Many class-specific items join us with the release of this book. The standouts among these include Shards for Sorcerers and Spellbooks for Wizards. The Shards each activate a special effect when a meta-magic is used and they all originate from one of the other planes in D&D besides the Material Plane. Many spellbooks for Wizards are available with ready-made spells prepared for the Wizard upon attunement and each focuses on assisting a different school of magic.
The magical tattoos are a hybridization between racial abilities and magical items, and not just because they generally require attunement. The abilities provided fill very specific needs that players might have like tremendously improving armor class, a melee buff, advantage on stealth checks, or an area-of-effect attack. For DMs who want to make sure that a magical ability goes to only the player it is intended for, these are a great answer.
The Sidekicks system will take the work out of leveling up NPCs
If your players have ever had a long-running friendly NPC in your campaign or a pet that survived too many battles to stay the same stat block, the Sidekick upgrade system is what you need.
The logic is as follows: as the players level up and have a regular ally or tag-a-long they drag with them everywhere, the Sidekick should level up with them. Broadly speaking, the three Sidekick classes are stripped-down versions of player classes. The Spellcaster can be made in the mold of a Wizard, Cleric, Druid, Bard, or Warlock. It also casts spells using whatever spell casting stat is highest. The Expert (the Rogue class) focusing on helping players hit their targets, avoiding getting killed, and can perform even high-level skill checks. The Warrior gets to soak up damage and attack more times per turn. Each one of their ability sets is designed to provide a gentle incline in terms of power, while always making sure the players are flashier and more powerful in almost every way.
These upgrades are restricted to creatures with a ½ Challenge Rating, so players cannot upgrade a spellcasting friend who’s already able to cast 5th level spells. This works better for long-running allies rather than fast friends, who should already have these levels if they are anticipated to make frequent appearances.
This also works great for one-off NPCs, such as the one in my eBook, NPCs for RPGs. You can get 25 interesting and ready to use NPCs, complete with artwork, backstories and side quest for less than .40 cents each! Check out my eBook here!
Puzzles for players come premade, with handouts!
For the DMs that enjoy brain teasers, this book comes with puzzles pre-made. Most are number puzzles or ciphers, but there are a few situational puzzles that might be solved through the creative application of spells or abilities rather than the obvious solution.
Explicit instructions are laid out for the DM so they can walk through the steps without having to improvise much on the fly. However, several options are available for customization to make the puzzles easier and harder based on the player’s and character’s knowledge. The book also goes on to stress the need to use the knowledge that either the player or character has. The thinking goes that the objective of the puzzles is to get the players to work together and while roleplay is important but should not detract from the ability of the party to work together.
It does provide skill checks that players can roll to gain additional hints or information that informs the puzzle. The three difficulties of the puzzles (easy, medium, and hard) are informed by the number of hints that the writers of Tasha’s think the players may need.
Wizards of the Coast consolidates elements from Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, Eberron, and more
Wizards of the Coast is working to make it less expensive to get into this game, by pulling elements from expansions and non-essential books into one mainline core book.
Included from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide are the spells Lightning Lure, Green Flame Blade, Booming Blade, and Sword Burst.
The artificer, the new class released in the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, appears with new subclasses and optional upgrades.
The subclass for Bards known as the College of Eloquence from the Mythical Guide to Theros and the Bladesinging subclass for Wizard from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide also are included.
Summoning spirits is a really big deal now
Summoning existed in older editions of D&D but was greatly reduced for 5e due to the known problem of outnumbering your enemy 3-to-1. The solution Tasha’s provides is the ability to summon a single creature from another plane with highly thematic abilities and game statistics that are scalable. There isn’t one specific spell that covers all of this, but several individual spells for different creature types including Aberrations, Beasts, Celestials, Elementals, Fey, Fiends, Undead, and more.
Each creature from a different plane has distinct abilities and fighting styles. Some are scrappy and some are based around support, but they all hit reasonably hard. The Armor Class, Hit Points, damage, and Attack Rolls all scale based level of the spell cast and the level of the player/NPC. All of the spells are concentration and all have specific material components worth a certain amount of gold, so tell your players to keep their eyes peeled for good components.
Ranger 2.0 is now live! (It’s really more like 5.0 or 6.0, but who knows anymore)
The Ranger needs special attention in the book of new class features specifically because the changes are not ability augments or additions, but full replacements.
The Natural Explorer ability is replaced with Deft Explorer which gives expertise and 1st level and new abilities like a movement increase at 6th and a temporary health ability 10th level. Favored Foe, which used to focus on creature type, has been replaced by a new Hunter’s Mark-like ability that activates on a hit and scales with player level but requires concentration.
The 3rd Level ability Primeval Awareness and the 10th Level ability Hide in Plain Sight have been replaced by a series of once a day spells and the ability to turn invisible as a bonus action a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus respectively. In addition to all of that, the Ranger spell list has been expanded and it has gained the new fighting styles presented in Tasha’s.
The Ranger has been experimented with extensively over the last few years, not just by players but also by the Wizards of the Coast in various playtest PDFs released to fans, and has been seen as a failure to launch. Many players have been frustrated by its seeming lack of a role and unimpressive performance at mid-to-high levels.
Players negotiating with monsters just got a heck of a lot easier
Provided in the “Parlaying with Monsters” section, each type of creature is given a table of desires the DM can roll on to set the monster’s immediate objective. Once an objective is established in the mind of the DM, they can introduce that idea to the players through recommended checks provided in Tasha’s. The basic rule of thumb to determine a creature’s motives are Arcana or Religion for otherworldly creatures and History or Nature for creatures that live on the Material Plane, but you’ll have to buy the book for the specifics.
Every single part of this book is optional
It is easy to gloss over but on page 4, before the content even begins, it says in plain text:
“Everything in this book is optional. Each group, guided by the DM, decides which of these options, if any, to incorporate into a campaign.”
If you are a DM, new or old, and you’re either intimidated by them or they violate the delicate balance of your table, you are under no obligation to use the new rules. Remember, the DM is the ultimate adjudicator of the rules at their table, and it’s their job to make provide an environment where everyone can have fun. If you use parts of them and ignore the rest, that’s just as valid as using all of them or none of them. That’s the fun of D&D. It is what you make it!
Until next time,
May your game, have advantage my friends!
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