This is part II of a serial review of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (find part 1 here), where I go over the contents of WotC’s newest official sourcebook, offer my thoughts, and try to help you decide whether or not what Tasha’s has to offer fits your table.
In this article, I’ll bite into the biggest piece of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything: Character Options! There’s a lot to unfold here, so I’ll start by taking a look at the new options provided for the Artificer, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, and Druid.
For each class (except the artificer, as you’ll see below), I’ll go over the various new class features and subclasses Tasha’s provide, evaluating each in terms of theme, design, and power.
But, before we get too deep into it, I want to quickly discuss the new way Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything utilizes the proficiency bonus.
Proficiency Bonus Mechanic
One of the new concepts explored in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is using proficiency bonus as a measuring mechanic. Where you’d usually find phrases such as “equal to your Constitution modifer” or “equal to half your Bard level”, Tasha’s often uses “equal to your proficiency bonus” as a measurement instead – which is a mostly new concept.
First, the good.
I like that Tasha’s dares to expand the conventions of fifth edition D&D, as having more options for mechanical phrasing improves the variety of content and gives us new options when creating subclasses, feats, etc.
Before adding this new way to use the proficiency bonus, the rules would often use either ability modifiers (Strength, Charisma, etc.) or character/class levels. Using ability modifiers as measurements had the downside of tying a character’s power directly to an ability score, while using character/class level makes it so that a character start out with very few uses, but end up with a lot, which is often not what you want. We now have a middle road, as using proficiency bonus as a measurement keeps us at a balanced and consistent 2-6 scale, which is equal for all.
A good example of when this measurement is used well, is the variant feature ‘Harness Divine Power’, which allows paladins to “regain one expended spell slot, the level of which can be no higher than half your proficiency bonus (rounded up)”. Because paladins’ spellcasting is inferior to full spellcasters, it wouldn’t make sense for them to regain half their character levels (as Circle of the Land druids and Wizards can), so half proficiency bonus is a suitable alternative.
Now, on to the bad.
I am not a fan of all the ways this new measurement is implemented within Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. There’s already a lot of stuff for both players and DMs to remember (how many times can I use this feature or that feature), and adding to that with new mechanics should only be done when it makes more sense than the alternative.
Take for example the ‘Magic Awareness’-feature of the Path of Wild Magic barbarian. This feature uses proficiency bonus as a measurement for how often it can be used, although the Paladin’s Divine Sense feature, which is very similar, uses Charisma (+1) instead. Here I’d prefer consistency, and have the Magic Awareness feature use Constitution (+1) instead. The change in power is negligible (the feature isn’t particularly powerful to begin with), but using Constitution would be much more consistent with what’s already in the core rules.
All told, I’m a fan of getting new mechanical options, but think more care could have been taken to make sure they’re implemented properly and not overused just because it’s the new thing.
With that aside, let’s dive into some of the new class options we can find in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything!
Alright, I’ll be honest – I don’t care much for the artificer. It just isn’t my jam. Different strokes for different folks, and all that.
That said, I think it’s awesome that we get new character class options in fifth edition D&D and that the artificer will now be found in a more widely-used official sourcebook (it was previously printed in the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron).
Still, the artificer isn’t exactly new, and I don’t believe any huge changes have been made to it between its previous iteration and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Thus, I’ll advice you to read up on previous discussions of the artificer – I know there’s plenty to choose from!
It does get a new subclass, the Armorer, which seems like a cool martial subclass reminiscent of Iron Man, but again – my limited experience with the artificer makes it hard for me to review it properly.
The barbarian gets two Optional Class Features and two new Primal Paths in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Optional Class Features
- Primal Knowledge (3rd and 10th). An additional skill proficiency.
- Instinctive Pounce (7th level). Move half speed when entering rage at 7th
Neither of these optional class features are very powerful, but does make the barbarian a smidge more powerful, versatile, and mobile. I’m not certain it’s necessary, but including these features certainly won’t break your game – especially not if you are giving other characters optional class features as well.
Path of the Beast
This new Primal Path offers flavorful natural attack options, out-of-combat movement versatility, and extra damage boosts to both itself and allies at higher levels.
All told, the Path of the Beast is fairly powerful, but really shines with its versatility. It’s mostly solid design, except for the 14th-level feature, which seems overly convoluted and unnecessarily wordy.
Path of the Wild Magic
This new Primal Path provides additional versatility and some interesting combat options with Magic Awareness and Wild Surge, which creates a random magical effect when the barbarian rages. Later features allow the barbarian to bolster allies, use Wild Surge as a reaction, and more control over what Wild Surge they use.
I really like the Path of Wild Magic, as it makes the barbarian vastly more compelling and versatile – and I love a bit of randomness. The 6th-level feature – which allows it to give allies a d3 bonus to attack rolls and ability checks for 1 minute or restore spell slots several times per day – seems powerful, but the 10th and 14-level are much less so.
In summary, the barbarian gets some solid options and two subclasses that are both mechanically and thematically interesting and comparatively powerful. If you’re looking to play a barbarian, you’d be remiss to not have Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything on your shelf.
The bard gets three Optional Class Features and two new Bard Colleges in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Optional Class Features
- Additional Bard Spells. The bard’s spell list expands to also include spells such as command, mass healing word, heroes’ feast, and prismatic wall.
Most spells on this list should probably have been bard spells to begin with, so I’d definitely include this.
- Magical Inspiration. Bardic Inspiration can be applied to healing/damage from spells.
Gives a new, but not incredibly powerful, way to use Bardic Inspiration, which also seems quite balanced, as in it isn’t particularly powerful (although one could use it to abuse short resting and healing, but that’s something the DM can rule out quite easily).
- Bardic Versatility. The bard can replace a skill from the Expertise feature or a cantrip whenever they gain an ASI.
This is something I already allow players to do, so I wouldn’t be scared of including it.
College of Creation
This new bard college has a 3rd-level feature that enhances the bard’s Bardic Inspiration die by adding various effects when it is used, and also gains features that allows it to create or animate objects, and even use them as an ally in combat.
The College of Creation has some useful features and it’s 6th-level feature to animate an object to fight for it is no joke. Overall, however, I don’t find the College of Creation particularly interesting or powerful. Having an animated object fighting on your behalf looks fun, but in the end it’s just a sack of hit points with a baton, and not something that seems like it’d be particularly interesting to play around with.
College of Eloquence
This reprinted bard college can detract from enemies’ saving throws, reuse failed Bardic Inspiration dice, speak all languages, and give extra Bardic Inspiration dice.
We have already covered this subclass in our review of Mythic Odysseus of Theros (where it was first introduced), but it hasn’t grown any less powerful. It remains my (and my players’) favorite bard college overall.
In summary, think there’s good options for the bard here, but as I’m not particularly intrigued by the College of Creation, the most value comes from College of Eloquence, which is a reprint. The expanded spell list, though, should almost be an errata, as it never made any sense that bards couldn’t cast spells such as command or mirror image.
The cleric gets four Optional Class Features and three new Divine Domains in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Optional Class Features
- Additional Cleric Spells. Adds spells such as aura of vitality, aura of life, sunbeam, and power word heal to the cleric’s spell list.
The choices of spells on this expanded spell list make a lot of sense thematically, but are also a decent buff to the cleric, as they include many of the paladin’s exclusive auras, as well as powerful spells such as sunbeam and power word heal.
- Harness Divine Power. The cleric can regain ½ Proficiency bonus spell slots 1–3 per day.
This optional feature is a clear buff. I don’t see any reason why the cleric needs this added boost of power – unless all other character classes gain power boosts as well. I would have much rather seen the cleric gain buffs at higher levels, which is where it begins to fall off.
- Cantrip Versatility. The cleric can replace a cantrip whenever they gain an ASI.
Like with the bard, this seems just fine – and I’d allow it regardless.
- Blessed Strikes. Replaces Divine Strike/Potent Spellcasting, and lets the cleric deal 1d8 radiant damage once per turn when they hit with a cantrip or weapon attack.
I like that we’re trying to give clerics added versatility, but I don’t care much for the execution. This feature places itself halfway between Divine Strike (which lets the cleric deal an extra 1d8 with a hit once per turn, which increases to 2d8 at 14th level) and Potent Spellcasting (which added Wisdom modifier to damage dealt by cantrips). This means it won’t be a good replacement for Divine Strike (it’s a clear downgrade after 14th level) and while clerics that want to attack with weapons may want to substitute their Potent Spellcasting which this, they still end up with something that is weaker than Divine Strike. It seems it would have been better to just let clerics choose freely between Divine Strike and Potent Spellcasting (or give them both!), instead of adding this weird mix which tries to cater to all without satisfying anyone.
This reprinted (from Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica) divine domain grants heavy armor proficiency, a skill proficiency, and abilities that encourage buffing allies and allow the cleric to charm and immobilize enemies – and cast enchantment spells as bonus actions. In addition, the Order Domain also gains some powerful enchantment spells, including hold person and dominate person.
The Order Domain is a powerful addition to the cleric’s subclass list, and is probably one of the most powerful domains. It’s also robustly designed and has a strong theme.
This new divine domain gains skill proficiency, a nice bless-like-buff in Emboldening Bond, an AoE-heal, and features that prevent/reduce damage.
The Peace Domain is very sound thematically and has a lot of useful abilities. Its Emboldening Bond is very powerful and since it scales with proficiency bonus, I could definitely see this being a dipping subclass. Its another strong option that handily beats out several of the existing cleric domains.
This new divine domain gains 300 ft. darkvision(!) it can share with others, giving advantage on initiative rolls, an aura that heals and protects allies, and the ability to fly in dim light or darkness.
Another thematically sound subclass with some good options. While Twilight Aura is strong, the domain does seem overall a bit weaker than the other two cleric domains in the book. It should also be mentioned that having to roll temporary hit points on each character’s turn is quite cumbersome (and something you often forget) – I’d have much preferred that it simply gave temporary hit points equal to the cleric level instead.
The cleric gains some strong and interesting options in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and is definitely one of the classes that come out stronger if the DM implements them all. I think there are some poor design choices sprinkled in, however, but nothing that would prevent me from allowing these options.
The druid gains 3 Optional Class Features and 3 new Druid Circles.
Optional Class Features
- Additional Druid Spells. Adds a variety of fitting spells to the druid’s spell list, including elemental weapon, fire shield, and flesh to stone.
Yet again, this list only makes sense, and should probably just be an errata instead of an option.
- Wild Companion. Allows the druid to summon a familiar with their wild shape.
This makes sense and seems like a good, versatile addition to the druid’s wild shape. I like it.
- Cantrip Versatility. Allows the druid to replace cantrips when they gain ASIs.
As before, this is just fine and a good option.
Circle of Spores
This reprinted (featured in Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica) druid circle gains extra spells, a reaction that deals necrotic damage. and can create zombies. It can also use wild shape to gain temporary hit points, deal extra damage and, eventually, protect it from several conditions and critical hits.
I am a bit torn on this circle. On one hand, it does have something to offer, as it can gain a lot of temporary hit points and deal additional damage on weapon attacks and with spores. On the other hand, druids aren’t really built for melee combat, so even with a bit of extra damage and hit points, it will still feel inferior to true martial classes. I think the concept is cool, but I don’t think it is very well executed – most likely, a circle of spores druid won’t feel particularly strong or useful.
Circle of Stars
This new druid circle gains a star chart that allows it to cast guidance and guiding bolt, use Wild Shape to take on forms which it can use to deal additional radiant damage, heal more, and other benefits, as well as the ability to increase or reduce rolls of other creatures several times per day.
The Circle of Stars is thematically interesting and quite powerful. It also has the benefit of adding a lot of versatility to the druid’s combat arsenal, which it sorely needs. I could definitely see the Circle of Stars being the go-to choice for players who aren’t particularly excited about transforming into beasts.
Circle of Wildfire
This new druid circle gains extra spells (mostly fire spells), can summon a wildfire spirit that deals damage and offers utility, and use killed creatures to heal or damage other creatures.
The Circle of Wildfire revolves around the wildfire spirit, which offers some very powerful options. Aside from being near useless against creatures that are immune or resistant to fire (don’t bring it to Avernus!), this subclass is likely to be a powerful combatant. Not quite as strong or versatile as the Circle of Stars, but definitely has something to offer.
Overall, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything treats the druid well with some new optional class features (which I see no reason not to add), as well as a meh subclass (Circle of Spores), a good subclass (Circle of Wildfire), and a great subclass (Circle of Stars).
Coming Up Next...
Stay tuned for part 3 of this serial review, in which we take a closer look at more new character options from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Until then, let me know if you think I’m wrong about something, if there’s anything you would add, or something I’ve missed. And, don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list and follow us on Twitter or Facebook to receive updates, early access, and participate in giveaways!