Learn About Tasha and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

The newest Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition book is Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, an expansion of both the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. It’s a welcome sight after a slew of adventure modules and setting guides. The minds and mouths of D&D 5e Dungeon Masters and Players alike are salivating for new content, whatever form it might take, and Tasha’s Cauldron appears as if it’s prepared to deliver. Content inside the book will include: 22 new subclasses (and 5 reprinted ones), alternate features for every class, the artificer (de-Eberronized), novel spells & magic items, group patrons, exciting tools for Dungeon Masters, and the usual beautiful art that arrives with all D&D products. November 17, 2020, the book’s release date, cannot arrive soon enough.

Wizards of the Coast took an interesting approach announcing this book’s release: influencers released tidbits of information across social media platforms like Twitter. It was a new strategy and I did enjoy listening to some of these people passionately ooze about Tasha’s Cauldron. However, this article seeks to explore the origins of who the titular character of the new product is and to gather what we can expect inside her cauldron in a single place.

Tasha’s Hideous History and Bright Future

Following the positive reception of Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, Wizards of the Coast decided to snatch another character from D&D’s grand legacy to head their next rules expansion: Tasha. So, who is Tasha? Is she a key character in the history of D&D? What is her story?

In universal D&D canon, Tasha began her story in the world of Oerth, where Greyhawk is set. The adopted daughter of the terrible witch Baba Yaga, Tasha’s upbringing was inspired by dark magic and teachings of doom & destruction. During her early years as a mage, she was supposedly called Natasha the Dark (though this is disputed). In her later years, she became known as Tasha, a reputable spellcaster who joined Greyhawk’s Company of Seven. She invented quite a few spells; some of them are available for use nowadays: Tasha’s hideous laughter and planar binding are two. Later in life, Tasha adopted the persona of Iggwilv, a demi-god of wizardry and evil. Surprisingly, though Iggwilv and Tasha are both quite old icons in D&D history, this new persona was retconned into Tasha’s past. Until 2007 and the publishing of Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, Tasha and Iggwilv were different people. In that book, history was altered and they became the same person.

That’s where everything becomes interesting and weird.

Iggwilv first debuted in the unique dungeon crawl adventure The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, published in 1982 by Gary Gygax. One of the co-founders of D&D, Gygax created the character of Iggwilv to serve as a powerful witch. He was said to be inspired by the Finnish epic Kelevala’s character Louhi, a “...shamanistic matriarch” and “...a powerful witch with a skill almost on par with that of Väinämöinen (the hero of the epic).” Iggwilv continued to appear in adventures and the lore of Greyhawk, becoming an archmage of power comparable (if not greater) than Mordenkainen and Elminister.

In Dragon #67 (a magazine dedicated to D&D), Tasha’s uncontrollable hideous laughter was included on a list spells for magic-users. This was the first mention of the wizard Tasha and, surprisingly, it was brought on by a young girl’s request — in crayon — to create a spell based on laughter. It wasn’t until almost 20 issues of Dragon passed by that Tasha was mentioned again. When she was brought up in Dragon #83, it was simply the addition of a complete spellbook of Tasha which contained a variety of spells related to communication. Examples include the aforementioned but renamed Tasha’s hideous laughter, message, and legend lore. In the same issue, an adventure including Natasha the Dark was present, although it’s unclear whether or not Tasha = Natasha the Dark was an intended connection of Gygax. Nevertheless, people picked it up and Tasha became Natasha the Dark.

Iggwilv continued to appear in module after module. Eventually, as expressed before in this article, Iggwilv was hinted to be Tasha in Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk. Initially, this connection was extremely unclear. Rumours in the module stated that Iggwilv joined the famous Company of Seven disguised as Tasha. Why? The answer is unknown. However, this hint led people to demand to know whether or not this innocent, child-requested creator of Tasha’s hideous laughter, Tasha, was indeed the vile demi-god sorceress Iggwilv. In the ultimate print issue of Dragon magazine (#359), an answer was finally given. “Tasha and Iggwilv were one and the same, and were also related to Baba Yaga's adopted daughter Natasha.”

That answered it: the icon who engineered the creation of Tasha’s hideous laughter, based on the request of a young girl, was a chaotic evil villainous mastermind. And somehow, the answer still muddied waters: many thought Tasha equaled Natasha the Dark, but now Natasha is simply related to Tasha? Oh, the confusion. However, that’s not where Iggwilv’s/Tasha’s/Natasha’s story ends, not at all.

The creators of fourth edition decided to include Iggwilv in the edition’s brand new setting: the Nentir Vale in the land of Nerath. This points of light setting drew connections between Iggwilv and the demon lord Graz’zt, turning them into lovers and rivals. One of the edition’s supplements, Demonomicon, was based on the evil demi-god’s in-universe work and includes pieces from her own writings (quite like what we see in today’s new books). Further adding to the identity crisis of Iggwilv, Dungeon #196 (a cousin to Dragon magazine) established that Natasha the Dark would become Iggwilv. This new line completely omitted her arc as Tasha. Then, a year later, in Dragon #414 (a digitized Dragon magazine), authors explored the various affairs, betrayals, and romances between Graz’zt and Iggwilv. In this history between the two D&D icons, it was confirmed that "she [Iggwilv] has been known by many names over the years: Natasha, Hura, then Tasha, and finally Iggwilv.” Another confirmation: Tasha = Natasha = Iggwilv and now = Hura. That’s where fourth edition left Tasha: a chaotic evil demi-god who uses magic and seduction to forward her plans. However, with her arrival to fifth edition, that past vision appears to be changing…

D&D’s newest book is Tasha’s Cauldron to Everything. In it, Tasha/Iggwilv will act as the narrator, as Volo, Xanathar, and Mordenkainen have in their respective D&D supplements. It would not be odd to have the Iggwilv of old narrate the book despite her clearly being evil in D&D’s past, we’ve already had Xanathar, an insane beholder, narrate. However, the Iggwilv we know will not be present in Tasha’s Cauldron.

Lead rules designer of D&D Jeremy Crawford refused to state that Tasha was a singular alignment, instead treating her like an amorphous being. She wasn’t chaotic evil, she was a brilliant wizard open to everything and anything. I like that.

In a recent interview, Crawford said:

“Tasha is a person who is unfazed by beings of many sorts—in addition to having consorted with darker beings, she also has consorted with, you know, beings of the upper plains. Basically, Tasha, in her brilliant curiosity, is untroubled by the various moral variations in the planes of existence. If there is knowledge to be learned and to power to possibly be gained, Tasha is unafraid to face it.”

Tasha’s story is moving forward and that’s fantastic. I’m glad that the days of mortals being a set alignment: lawful good, chaotic evil, etc are steadily fading away. Characters have personalities and flaws, bonds and ideals, goals and thoughts of their own. The world has an impact on them and their mindsets can change over time. With the old system of alignment, that was discouraged. Change wasn’t rewarded, it was punished. I think change in something as interesting as one’s moral view of the world is fantastic and a stellar way to develop a character in D&D, or any narrative-based game. I’m glad the fifth edition designers are taking a chance here with Tasha, and I’m excited to see what she has to say about her story in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.

What’s Inside Tasha’s Cauldron?

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is set to be the largest expansion of D&D’s rules for Players and Dungeon Masters since Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. There will be a wealth of content inside. This is what we know will be included.

Elle Osili-Wood excitedly discussed the official addition of sidekicks to D&D! Previously included in the “updated” starter adventure Dragons of Icespire Peak, sidekicks are NPCs who assist the PCs but don’t hog the spotlight. Meant to be usable by either Players or Dungeon Masters, sidekicks are customizable, easy-to-manage, and spectacular in one-on-one campaigns. They can round out the party, providing heals to a down-and-dirty pit fighter, protection for a feeble spellcaster, or danger sense to an aloof, heavy-armored cleric.

Gaurav Gulati eloquently laid out the reprinting of the group patron system. Originally placed in Eberron: Rising from the Last War, the group patron system gives the Dungeon Master limitless inspiration on quest-givers and plot-lines. It also provides Players with a common ally, something to tie all their characters together. For example, characters could all be working for a silver dragon who prefers to stay in the shadows, an agent of a powerful celestial from the Upper Planes, or a wealthy merchant who pays in land, not coin. If the tables in Eberron: Rising From the Last War are any indication, anyone with a knack for creativity is going to love this tool.

Mica Burton explored the inclusion of a new warlock subclass: the genie patron. Printed in Unearthed Arcana before its official addition to D&D, this warlock patron allows a character to form a pact with a genie. Pacts with each of the four genie varieties (djinn, efreeti, dao, and marid) are possible and every expanded spell list includes the wish spell! In addition, you can choose the vessel your patron is found in; it can be anything from the typical golden lamp to an urn or a chubby statuette. Xanathar’s added quite a few strong warlock options; will Tasha’s do the same?

Critical Bard sang of a new bard subclass: the College of Creation. As the genie patron, the College of Creation was included in Unearthed Arcana earlier this year. The subclass gives bard characters the opportunity to imbue allies, objects, and enemies with notes from the Song of Creation. It embraces all the facets of a bard: support, versatility, and raw creativity. From how it played in Unearthed Arcana, I do hope there are some tweaks to it mechanically. Its flavor is fantastic, pulling from some my favorite creation myths, those involving the universe starting with a song, but it appears mechanically weak.

Sam de Leve raved about the new magic items and magic tattoos Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything will bring. Unlike many of the magic items on the pages of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, it looks like Wizards of the Coast decided to break out the flavor and give stories and flair to magic items again. +1 weapons are great. but unique weapons with a history to them are far more interesting, especially if they’re mechanically enticing as well. A confirmed item is a spellbook that will look like a romance novel (Finally, romance novels exist in D&D canon.) to anyone reading it besides its owner. Alongside new magic items, magical tattoos will give characters the opportunity to make marks on themselves that will aid them in battles and social interactions. For example, magic-users can get tattoos that improve their unarmored AC.

Viva La Dirt League laid out a few of the new spells, focusing on the school of conjuration. They focused on the addition of new summoning spells that will allow characters to summon a wide variety of creatures to travel and fight alongside them. Spells include summon aberrant spirit, summon celestial spirit, and summon construct spirit. Even better, these spells give characters options within them. One cast, a wizard might summon a golem with summon construct spirit. The next cast, they might create a modron from Mechanus.

In addition to all of this, we know that:
  • The artificer will be in the book, updated to fit in any world and not just Eberron.
  • There will be at least one new subclass for each of the 13 classes.
  • There will be 22 brand new subclasses and 5 reprinted subclasses (Bladesinger Wizard, Oath of Glory Paladin, College of Eloquence Bard, Order Domain Cleric, and Circle of Spores Druid). The reprinted subclasses are from a variety of old books, many of them setting specific.
  • The long-awaited new class features will be present.
  • New origin stories for characters like magical origins will be in the book.
  • There will be psionic-themed subclasses.
  • There will be a new lineage system that allows players to customize their characters to a degree not previously available. This includes completely forgoing the racial traits outlined in the Player’s Handbook. Henceforth, the races from the Player’s Handbook will be known as “archetypal” versions of those races.
  • Negative racial modifiers given to orcs and kobolds in Volo’s will be removed.
  • There will be new spells, at least nine new conjuration ones. A few new Tasha spells will be present as well.
  • There will be new feats that give reasons to multiclass.
  • New Dungeon Master tools include: advice for running a session zero, talking with monsters, running puzzles (as well as puzzle examples), and supernatural environments and hazards.
  • The book will have 192 pages.
  • The book will have four chapters: Character Options, Spells & Magic Items, Group Patrons, and Dungeon Master Tools.
  • The book will be an entirely optional buy; nothing in it is required to play D&D.
  • There will be a standard cover and an alternate cover; the alternate cover will only be available in local gaming stores. The alternate cover features Tasha and Graz’zt.
When Tasha’s Cauldron to Everything releases this November, I’ll be grabbing a copy and letting all of you know my thoughts. At first glance, it appears to be a worthy addition to any D&D collection.

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