Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on November 18, 2020
I don't know about a lot of the other reviews, but my copy came in perfect shape, I don't much notice or care about the art quality, and I don't actually see people talking about what's actually in the book. I'm here to do a game content review. And it's great. Not just great, the game content is literally game changing.
I won't talk about the stuff that's in the marketing. My favorite class, Artificer, got a generalized reprint off of Rising from the Last War as well as patron concepts from the same book, and we got magic tattoos. If you've read the blurbs, you already know about these additions to 5e, so I'm here to give my list of the top 3 "Not Immediately Apparent" Reasons to buy Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.
1. The Revised Ranger and the Fable of Fantastic Feature Fenagling -- No point in burying the lead...that's right folks, the most hated 5e class has largely been rebalanced. At least, a critical door has been opened allowing an out for anyone who righteously hates the balance of the base Ranger. They didn't do a hard reprint of the class. What they did to Ranger, and to all the core classes, is eliminate some niche pain points by allowing players to choose additional and/or alternate core class features at certain levels.
It's obvious that this is Wizards of the Coast's compromise for in their refusal to fully reprint Rangers, because now Rangers are given the opportunity to completely overhaul themselves by completely replacing the most frustrating aspects of the class with more generally useful abilities. Even though they're more generalized, they're far from weak, and help the Ranger stand out as a unique class. A variant version of each of the core Ranger's abilities exist, and a variant form of pet on par with the Artificer Battle Smith's pet management now exist. I'm currently playing a Ranger, but dipped into another class because mid level Ranger is so underwhelming. This update makes me want to main Ranger again.
This will be the longest point I have to make, because the rebalance to the Ranger is the most heavily rebalanced of the classes. Yeah, they they leave the footnote that these changes are optional, but I really don't see why a reasonable DM with access to this content wouldn't allow them.
There are some other neat changes. Overall, a lot of classes/subclasses "suffered from specificity." They had hyper-specialized core abilities that had niche benefits. Most, if not all classes, have been given additional core options to better utilize their specialized features. Here are some examples beyond Ranger.
Don't like your Channel Divinity options as a Cleric? Use a charge of Channel Divinity to instead Harness Divine Power at 2nd level and gain a spell slot equal to 1/2 your PB (Proficiency Bonus) rounded up.
Don't care for the theming of a Wild Shape Druid? Use your charges of Wild Shape to summon a Familiar for a few hours for that tasty Help action and Fantasy drone scouting instead.
Feel like you got stuck with crap Cantrips as a Wizard? Suffer no longer with Cantrip Formulas, a level 3 feature allowing you to change a cantrip choice on a Long Rest.
This isn't everything, but there's frankly too much to include in a reasonably sized review. Suffice it to say that the book's entire class additions section orbits this point, and is the most critical reason to get the book.
2. Proficiency Bonus Scaling -- A huge change that has come with a lot of the subclasses and new features is scaling off of Proficiency Bonus, or PB. Numerous class abilities now have charges based on Proficiency bonus, making abilities that may normally seem underpowered more viable. An example of this was Unearthed Arcana's Unity Cleric, released in Tasha's as Peace Cleric. Their Level 1 ability, Emboldening Bond, had a single casting per Long Rest and lasted an hour in UA. Its buff was good, but not typically useful enough that an entire hour was necessary. They rebalanced it by giving it a number of charges equal to PB, and made it last 10 minutes, which greatly expands its viability as a core ability for that type of Cleric. A lot of the main rebalance features of the type mentioned in the above section benefit from this, and its a great mechanic.
3. Variation Viability -- A comparison frequently made in the competition between D&D 5e and Pathfinder is that Pathfinder's character customization is leagues better. I've never played Pathfinder, but I have read 2e core book extensively, and I have to agree that it's much more flexible.
This entire book, from the new racial design methods, core- and sub-class options, and feats, opens up the flexibility of character design dramatically. It is clearly an effort to take some of the rigidity out of the game while maintaining structure, and, I cannot stress this point enough, it truly does so masterfully.
Conclusion: Tasha's Cauldron easily feels like the most necessary of the supplements, while also feeling optional enough that you could live without it if you had to...except for maybe the Ranger updates. I'm a big fan of Eberron, but as a specific setting, that book, while excellent, won't appeal to everyone. This supplement is a must for any DM, and I hope that new DMs build their style off of some of the proposed changes bubbling within Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.