Just in time for the holidays, the new spells are here! This week sees the release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, a new supplemental book from Renton-based Dungeons & Dragons masters Wizards of the Coast. And ohhhh boy it is a fun read—obviously, D&D players will get the most out of it, but any fantasy fan, writer, or casual nerd will find themselves gasping with pleasure as they flip through the book.
Among its best bits: a whole slew of new magic spells, a system for adorning your characters’ bodies with enchanted tattoos, guidance for creating new entire species, and puzzles puzzles puzzles galore. There’s also a section on running an effective Session Zero and finding new ways to have fun that will totally transform the way you run a game, whether it’s D&D or Pathfinder or even just sitting down for a couple rounds of Scrabble. There’s lots to appreciate on every page—including the lovely art—but here’s a few things that leaped out for me:
New subclasses for barbarians, druids, monks, wizards—just about every class gets fascinating new options with cool new tricks and spells and specializations. Bards get a new College of Eloquence, which will be great fun for players who like to talk their way into and out of trouble. Barbarians get a new Path of the Beast that lets you go wild with an animalistic transformation, a thrilling treat for werewolf fans and anyone who enjoys TF Tuesdays. Druids get a new Circle of Spores, providing magic based on fungal decay—arghhhhh it’s all just so extremely extremely cool.
Also great are the new patrons. The book suggests a wide range of figures who are wealthy, or powerful, or mysterious, or all three who might have a job for the party while also pushing their own sinister agenda. This has the potential to transform old campaigns and settings; if you’re getting bored of Waterdeep, for example, just flip open the book and throw an expertly-written Ancient Being into the mix.
The new tattoo magic is super fun, and the mechanics look quite clever. There are magic needles, you see, and when they’re used to create a design on a character’s skin, they imbue fabulous new powers. But if the character ever loses attunement, the ink disappears, transforming back into a needle to be used by someone else. I can’t wait to see D&D spell tattoos appearing on nerds’ skin IRL.
There’s also a section for adding sidekicks to your group—at last, you can port your cute feline Palico from Monster Hunter. There’s advice for parlaying with monsters, if your group would like to try to befriend a giant owlbear. And an aspect that’s not getting as much attention as I think it deserves is the Magical Phenomena section, which describes ways to incorporate Flame Storms, Necrotic Tempests, Primal Fruit, and Magic Springs into your world.
But the puzzles section—ohhhhh the puzzles. One of my biggest pain points with writing an adventure is coming up with fun fresh puzzles to menace players with, and this book has a slew of inspiration that will work for groups of varying interests and abilities. I love the letter-tile puzzle; there’s also a box with mysterious keyholes and symbols; and there’s a very fun wizard-workshop puzzle that feels just like something out of an old Sierra game.
And if you’re looking for more brain-benders, I can’t recommend highly enough the work of local DM Celeste Conowitch, whose Puzzle Master book is now available on the DMs Guild.
Every time Wizards announces some new supplemental book, I’m initially skeptical—D&D is already so vast, how much more magic do we need? And then inevitably, I find myself nodding along and imagining how these brilliant new ideas can be incorporated into future fantasy adventures. Well done, you beautiful nerds, well done indeed.