This is part 3 of a serial review of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (find part 1 here and part 2 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 take another bite ofthe biggest piece of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything: Character Options! This time I’m covering the Fighter, Monk, Paladin, and Ranger.
For each class, I’ll go over the various new class features and subclasses Tasha’s provide, evaluating each in terms of theme, design, and power.
The fighter gains 2 new Class Options (which include 5 new fighting styles), 7 new Maneuvers options, and 2 new Martial Archetypes.
Optional Class Features
- Fighting Style Options. Blind fighting is what it sounds like, Interception can reduce damage to allies, Superior Technique gives a single Battle Master Maneuver, Thrown Weapon Fighting makes thrown weapons actually viable, and Unarmed Fighting increases unarmed damage and allows the fighter to deal automatic damage to a grappled opponent.
I love, love, love, that we get more fighting styles. It’s sorely needed! I can see most of these options being viable for different characters. Especially Thrown Weapon Fighting and Unarmed Fighting make certain character builds much more viable. I don’t know how often these will be picked over what’s already in the toolbox, but having more options certainly doesn’t hurt.
- Martial Versatility. Allows the character to change either a fighting style or a battle master maneuver.
This is a welcome addition, and not anything that will break the game – only make it more fun!
- Maneuver Options. There’s some cool options here. Especially Bait and Switch and Brace add some extra functionality to the fighter.
I don’t think any of these options are particularly powerful, so they probably won’t overshadow some of the more powerful maneuvers already available to the Battle Master. That being said, they do give the Battle Master a fair bit more versatility.
The Psi Warrior gains a lot of different abilities, most of which boil down to dealing extra force damage, moving things with its mind, and shielding itself and others from damage.
I like the concept here, but I am not a huge fan of the execution. Several of the abilities can be used once – except they can be used again by spending Psionic Energy dice. The Psi Warrior gains 2 x proficiency Psionic Energy dice, which are restored at long rest, but they can also regain one die as a bonus action each short rest. Hard to follow, yeah?
This just seems overly convoluted and requires the player to keep track of so many different resources – in addition to already keeping track of how often they use Second Wind, Action Surge, and Indomitable. You’re tempted to just roll up a wizard instead, just so there’s less bookkeeping.
I would have much preferred that they either gave the Psi Warrior:
- A) Psionic Energy dice equal to proficiency bonus (or use the Battle Master’s 4–6 range) and have them replenish on a short rest.
- B) 1 Psionic Energy dice/fighter level and have them replenish on a long rest.
And then, of course, have all features cost a flat 1 Psionic Energy Dice, instead of some of them having a free first use per day. That’d make bookkeeping a helluva lot easier.
The Rune Knight gains some ribbon proficiencies, several powerful runes it can imbue items with, the ability to increase in size, and a feature that forces enemies to reroll attack rolls.
The Rune Knight seems incredibly powerful at a glance, offering both a lot of versatility as well as some very powerful features. In many ways, this subclass does what the barbarian does, only with a lot more options to choose from.
There’s one thing I heavily dislike about the Rune Knight, however: the Rune Knight’s attack deals extra damage when it’s Large, except that it can only do so once per turn. This doesn’t make any logical sense (why can only one attack per turn benefit from being Large), deviates from existing ruling (enlarge/reduce), and is harder to keep track of. It would have been preferable to keep the die a 1d4 and have it apply on every attack, just as with enlarge/reduce. This way, the feature would have automatically become stronger as the fighter gained more attacks and would roughly come out to the same damage as the scaling die in the end.
The fighter gains a lot from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. A huge amount of new stuff, in fact! I think there’s a lot of goodies in here – particularly the new class options, fighting styles, and maneuvers. While the two subclasses seem fairly strong and interesting to play (the Rune Knight especially), I am not overly impressed with all of the design choices that have been made.
The monk gains 4 Optional Class Features and 2 new Monastic Traditions.
Optional Class Features
- Dedicated Weapon. Lets the monk use virtually any non-heavy, non-special weapon as a monk weapon.
This is a minor, but important change, that may mean a miniscule increase in damage and – more importantly – allow players to use whatever cool weapon they want with their monk.
- Ki-Fueled Attack, Quickened Healing, & Focused Aim. The monk can use ki to make attacks, increase their attack roll, or heal themselves.
Ki is already such a sparse resource for the monk, so giving it more ways to use it is nice, but not much of a power buff. And you could argue that the monk could do with a true power buff. That said, I’d recommend DMs allow these optional features, as they could come in handy.
Way of Mercy
The Way of Mercy monk gains proficiency in two skills, as well as several ways to deal damage, heal others, remove certain conditions, and revive creatures using their ki.
All told, I think this subclass is pretty underwhelming. If you want to both hit and heal people, pick a martial class with spell slots (paladin comes to mind), and if you want to deal damage, pick a class that deals damage (paladin comes to mind) – in fact, why not just play a paladin, as it is better than the Way of Mercy monk in virtually every way. In addition, I don’t think this subclass makes a whole lot of thematic sense either, so I’m overall not too impressed with this one.
Way of the Astral Self
The Way of the Astral Self monk can create astral arms that deal force damage and use Wisdom for most rolls, can give itself superior magical darkvision and advantage on certain checks, and finally give themselves some defensive and offensive capabilities.
I like that the Way of the Astral Self Monk relies a lot less on ki points than other Monastic Traditions (i.e. the Way of Mercy), as its main abilities cost only 1–2 ki points per encounter, which is relatively minor. Aside from its 6th level ability, which isn’t too impressive, it also gains a decent power boost, acquiring both defensive and offensive capabilities. I don’t know how fun it will actually be to play it, as most of its features only enhance what the monk already does, which makes it somewhat of a one-trick-pony (use Astral Self-abilities and start hitting stuff). But it’s a cool concept.
Overall, I’m not impressed with what the monk gets in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Already considered one of the weaker classes, Tasha’s doesn’t really do too much to change that or provide better options – though I can see the Way of the Astral Self being popular.
The paladin gets 4 Optional Class Features and 2 Sacred Oaths.
Optional Class Features
- Additional Paladin Spells. Not a huge list, but a few new spells (spirit shroud and summon celestial) are added to the paladin’s list, along with a few thematically sound spells.
As with the other additional spell features, these make good sense, and should probably be implemented.
- Fighting Style Options. Blessed Warrior learns cleric cantrips, Blind Fighting gains blindsight, and Interception can prevent damage.
I don’t know if they will be used often, but it is cool to have these options. I can see Blessed Warrior being popular, as having an offensive cantrip would help make the paladin much more versatile.
- Harness Divine Power. The paladin can restore spell slots equal to ½ proficiency a few times per long rest.
Yeah… I don’t know. I think the math is clunky, and I don’t really see why. The paladin is plenty strong already, as far as classes go. I don’t think this buff is necessary.
- Martial Versatility. Can replace fighting style when getting ASI’s.
I’m fine with this – added versatility is good.
Oath of Glory
The Oath of Glory paladin can become more athletic, deal out temporary hit points, have a speed aura, and can bolster allies’ defenses.
This Sacred Oath is a reprint from Mythic Odysseys of Theros, which I reviewed here, and it hasn’t gotten any more glorious. The Channel Divinity options are weak, the aura is insultingly bad, and while the later features are good, they don’t come around until before 15th and 20th level, so… Yeah, I’m not excited about this one.
Oath of the Watchers
The Oath of the Watchers paladin can bolster allies’ mental defenses, turn extraplanar creatures, has an aura that gives bonus to initiative, can rebuke creatures that attacks allies’ minds, and gains a powerful magic form at 20th level.
This oath is interesting, I think. Its spell list isn’t too impressive, with only counterspell and hold monster really standing out to me, and its channel divinity options are powerful, but situational. Depending on how important initiative is to the party, the aura can be quite powerful, and is certainly one of the better 7th-level features among Sacred Oaths. The later options are decent, although still situational. All told, I think it is a good subclass, that can be truly great in the right campaign.
In summary, the paladin is treated decently in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, gaining a lot of versatility and at least one viable new Sacred Oath option. There’s not too much new here, but the paladin isn’t exactly starved for content as it is.
The ranger gains 8(!) Optional Class FEatures and 2 new Ranger Archetypes.
Optional Class Features
- Deft Explorer. This feature, which replaces Natural Explorer, gives the ranger expertise in a skill and two languages at 1st level, faster movement, climbing speed, and swimming speed at 6th level, and the ability to reduce exhaustion and gain temporary hit points at 10th level.
Deft explorer replaces the ranger’s most problematic feature (Natural Explorer) with some generally useful benefits. You no longer have the sense of being a ranger from a specific environment, but instead become a universal expert at travelling. I think this is a good substitute, which has the added benefit of not completely trivializing survival mechanics, which Natural Explorer did.
- Favored Foe. Is basically hunter’s mark turned into a class feature, replacing Favored Enemy.
I like the idea of making hunter’s mark a class feature, but I dislike the way it is done here. It’s a weird band-aid solution that doesn’t really feel satisfying. Only dealing the damage once per turn is such a poor mechanic (it is both hard to remember and keep track of) and still having to maintain concentration on it doesn’t fix the real issue with hunter’s mark, which is that you can’t concentrate on other spells while using it.
I would have much preferred that they limited the uses to once per short rest, had it deal 1d4 or 1d6 extra damage on EVERY hit, and not require concentration. Is that strong? Sure, but the ranger isn’t exactly a powerhouse to begin with, so surely it’ll be fine.
- Additional Ranger Spells & Fighting Style Options. The ranger gains spells such as enhance ability, entangle, and greater restoration, as well as Blind Fighting, Druidic Warrior, and Thrown Weapon Fighting fighting styles.
As before, I’m fine with these choices and added versatility. Makes a lot of sense to me.
- Spellcasting Focus.
This is just an errata-style-change to let it use a druidic focus to cast spells.
- Primal Awareness. Basically just bonus spells for the ranger, giving it certain spells to speak/locate beasts and plants.
This is cool addition and a lot less clunky than Primeval Awareness, which it replaces.
- Martial Versatility. The ranger can swap fighting style when it gains an ASI.
Again, sure, bring it – makes sense.
- Nature’s Veil. The ranger can become magically invisible until the start of its next turn as a bonus action a few times a day.
While much better designed than the useless Hide in Plain Sight feature it replaces, this isn’t a very powerful substitute. I am also not a fan of the inherent magical nature of the feature – I like my rangers down to earth and more reliant on skills than magic.
The Fey Wanderer can deal extra psychic damage with attacks, learn some cool spells such as misty step and dispel magic, get a Charisma skill and a bonus to Charisma checks, defense against charm and fear, can summon fey, and can cast misty step freely a couple of times each day.
This subclass feels weak. Sure, it gets some good ribbon features, and an extra 1d4/1d6 psychic damage each turn isn’t too bad, but it otherwise isn’t very powerful or versatile when compared to the Monster Slayer and other ranger archetypes provided by Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
The Swarmkeeper can use a swarm to assist it in combat, learn some useful spells, gain a slow flying ability, and protect itself against damage.
Yeah, this one is just a bit weird. I don’t know if there is some canonical reference I’m missing, but I’m not sure I’m really feeling the theme. The abilities themselves are also somewhat lackluster. I’m not a huge fan.
Ranger, ranger, ranger… I don’t know what to do with you. And it seems that Wizards of the Coast don’t really know what to do either. Sure, we get some improvements in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, but not all the improvements we need, as Tasha’s doesn’t address all the ranger’s subpar or poorly designed features (the capstone Foe Slayer being one of them).
I also hate how many different types of bonus damage features the ranger now has to navigate:
- There’s the Fey Wanderer’s Dread Wanderer feature, which deals extra damage on all weapon attacks, but only once per target each turn.
- There’s the Swarmkeeper’s Gathered Swarm, which deals extra damage to any target once per turn.
- There’s the Horizon Walker’s Planar Warrior feature, which uses a bonus action each turn to deal extra damage on the next attack against one creature.
- There’s the spell hunter’s mark, which deals extra damage on all attacks against one target.
- There’s the optional Favored Foe class feature, which deals extra damage against one target, but only the first attack each turn.
You can get confused just reading that list, and then we haven’t even covered the Monster Slayer and Gloom Stalker, which also have similar features but with subtle differences. It’s just so wildly inconsistent and hard to keep track of and remember, especially if you play with different ranger archetypes.
In summary, WotC’s latest attempt at fixing the ranger once again falls short. At this point, you might as well just scrap the ranger entirely and start fresh, as these hotfixes are beginning to feel ridiculous. And stop with the dealing damage once per turn thing, please – it’s a step back from the sleek design fifth edition is otherwise known for.
Coming Up Next...
Stay tuned for part 4 of this serial review, in which we take a closer look at the Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard options provided by 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 if there’s 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!