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I bought Tasha's Cauldron of Everything last month and have enjoyed it thoroughly. My question has to deal with the "Changing Your Subclass" rules found on page 8.

The first paragraph under that section heading says that characters can change their subclass when they would normally gain a new subclass feature.

The next subsection, "Training Time", goes on about how changing a subclass might take time, money, and/or a quest. How does this work with the previous paragraph's rule of only changing subclasses when a character gains a new subclass feature? For example, if the character needs time to train or complete a quest, I'm not sure how you could align that with gaining a new subclass feature.

The final subsection, "Sudden Change" says characters could have an immediate subclass change. Does this mean immediately when a character would gain a new subclass feature, or at any time at all?

These three sections almost seem like different rules altogether for changing subclasses. I get that the two subsections, "Training Time" and "Sudden Change", shouldn't be mixed. However, the rule about only changing a subclass when gaining a new subclass feature is under the main section heading. This makes me believe this rule should be applied to both of the subsections. If not, then I feel like this should have been its own separate subsection as well.

How exactly do the rules on changing your subclass from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything work? How do they interact with one another (or not)?


I'm fully aware that these are optional rules and that D&D generally has just guidelines. I've been DMing for a number of years now and have that understanding. However, I'm looking for a more rules-based interpretation. Saying that these could be used in any fashion I like doesn't really help me.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does my answer solve your problem well enough for a green check? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Dec 9 '20 at 15:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Patience young padawan :) \$\endgroup\$ – Orc's Plunder Feb 19 at 9:44
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"The DM might..."

These are not rules in the traditional sense. These are suggestions a DM might use to facilitate a subclass change in their game. Under "Training Time", we see (emphasis mine):

To change your subclass, your DM might require you to spend time devoted to the transition, [...]

The DM might also require an expenditure of money to pay for training, [...] This cost might be accompanied by a quest of some sort.

And under "Sudden Change", we see (emphasis mine):

Sometimes a character undergoes a dramatic transformation in their beliefs and abilities. When a character experiences a profound self-realization or faces an entity or a place of overwhelming power, beauty, or terror, the DM might allow an immediate subclass change.

These are not rules. These are suggestions to help a DM facilitate a subclass change, which is a pretty significant change. The idea here is to make the transition just as meaningful as where you came from and where you're going.

How would I personally work a subclass change?

I would ditch the limitation of "you can change your subclass when you would normally gain a new subclass feature."

The two methods offered give us distinct approaches for handling two different situations:

  • A character says they want to switch subclasses some time in the future.
  • A character says they want to switch subclasses very soon.

In either situation, I would work the subclass change at their next level up. In the first scenario, if they give me time to work in some plot, there is going to be some significant plot leading up to their next level up that will culminate in a change of subclass when they finally level up.

The second scenario is when I would use the "Sudden Change" guidance. If we are nearing a level up, and my player says "I want to change subclasses", I don't have time to work in significant plot build-up to the change, so I will opt for something like is suggested in this section at the next level up.

In either case, I am looking forward to the next level up, not the next subclass feature.

Waiting for a level up is how I would first express this to the player. If they felt that was too long to wait, I would of course see how we could work a transition even sooner.

What about rogues?

I present rogues as a use case for why I would break from the guidance given in the book. Rogue subclasses have a huge gap in features. Once a rogue gets their first subclass features at 3rd level, they don't get another until 9th level.

Say one of my players is a 5th level rogue and wants to change subclasses. I'm not waiting till 9th level to allow this. In this case, I would ignore the suggestion given in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything and still work the subclass change for their next level up.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As a DM, one should never force someone to stay with a character design that they aren't having fun with. +1 \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 2 '20 at 17:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Building off of @NautArch’s comment, I’d suggest that waiting until level-up can at times still be too long—either for the player or for the character. I often do this kind of thing just between sessions, regardless of level-up, or even in the middle, especially with an appropriately dramatic narrative (an angel redeeming a warlock, a paladin breaking his oath, etc.). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 2 '20 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ It can depend on what class you're talking about thematically, too, especially if the player wants to change but isn't upset about taking a little time for it (thus giving the DM time to plan something out and work into the story). A monk who wants to switch to a new school of martial arts makes a lot of sense for the Training option once they find a trainer, while a Cleric probably makes more sense by having some kind of dramatic event that realigns their beliefs and connections rather than a training effort. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Dec 3 '20 at 15:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ As with many of the optional rules in Tashas Cauldron of Everything this kind of flexibility towards players switching subclass is somthing that a lot of DMs have been homebrewing for years. Either as a way to help a player who feels they made a mistake, allow a player to take advantage of a newly released subclass that they like the look of, or because of a story reason that makes sense. The options presented in the answer make sense it In real terms it isn’t going to impact the game massively if you just let your players make the switch, as long as it isn’t regular. \$\endgroup\$ – Richard C Dec 29 '20 at 19:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 thanks for pointing out the big gap for Rogues. It made me think that as a DM I am going to rule that the subclass change can happen at 5th level and then every four levels after that (so there is parity), e.g. 5,9,13 and 17. \$\endgroup\$ – Orc's Plunder Feb 19 at 9:51
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Downtime and Collaboration

These are optional rules. As it says at the beginning of Chapter 1, one of the options featured in the chapter is (p. 7; emphasis mine):

  • Guidance on changing your subclass

And all of the explanations make it clear that how it works is up to the DM. For instance, under "Training Time", it says (p. 8):

To change your subclass, your DM might require you to spend time devoted to the transition, as you study the ways of the new specialization.

The DM and players can work together to decide exactly how this works. A player may indicate their desire to change their subclass, and the DM can then work this out with the player, explaining how they can spend their downtime re-training and practising so that when they reach level X, they complete their training and acquire the features of their new subclass.

Similarly, in the section on "Sudden Change", it says (p. 8):

When a character experiences a profound self-realization or faces an entity or a place of overwhelming power, beauty, or terror, the DM might allow an immediate subclass change.

So, on knowing the player's desires, the DM can arrange their story to include that "moment of epiphany" where the player's subclass immediately changes.

Ultimately, these rules are just guides on how the DM and player can work together to come up with a neat in-game reason for the character to change.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You should cite why the content is optional or to be viewed as guidelines. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Dec 2 '20 at 16:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I get that these are just guidelines but that doesn't really help me in any way. I'm looking for some other take on these rules besides my own. \$\endgroup\$ – One Eye Dec 2 '20 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OneEye Hence my suggestions about the player indicating to the DM beforehand about their desire to change sub-class so the DM can weave it into their adventures or just announce that all the player's downtime between now and their next level must be spent in training (finding an appropriate trainer could even be a quest in itself!). \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Dec 3 '20 at 9:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OneEye: Ultimately, TCoE itself only gives examples of ways you might adjudicate or allow the retraining of a subclass. If you do want to allow a player to change their subclass, but you're not sure when to allow it or when might be a good time to have it happen, there's the first suggestion: "With your DM’s approval, you can change your subclass when you would normally gain a new subclass feature." Then it suggests 2 ways you could have the actual transition work: gradual (costing time and/or money), or immediate. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 4 '20 at 5:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OneEye: If you want to just let it happen instantly - go for it. The text gives some examples of when the transition might be relatively immediate (not requiring further effort); one is of a Devotion paladin failing to protect good people from evil forces, and swearing Vengeance on the enemy as a result. If, instead, you think a switch should take more time/effort - e.g. needing training in a different way of fighting, or needing to practice with a school of magic before mastering it - there are suggested (loose) guidelines for that too. The specific details are always up to you, as the DM. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 4 '20 at 5:31
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When RAW are unclear, consider their impact on your fun

I believe that you should always attempt to understand the rules as written first. Looking at this section of TGtE, we find that...

There is an initial introductory paragraph under the section heading, and then two sections under subheadings. Textually / Structurally it would appear that the first paragraph contains the general rules, and then the two subheadings offer contrasting implementations. Thus, the design and layout of the rules imply that changing your subclass can occur only at level breaks when you gain a new subclass feature; that is a hard requirement for invoking this rule. Once the rule is in play, the GM then selects from two contrasting options for implementing it - will it cost resources ("Training time"; time, gold, a quest), or not ("Sudden change")?

Narratively, on the other hand, it might seem odd to say that a character can encounter "an entity or a place of overwhelming power, beauty, or terror" only at certain pre-determined level breaks. The three specific examples given of circumstances in which a GM might allow a "Sudden change" are all plot-driven, and there is certainly a disconnect with saying that such events matter only if they coincide with the steady progression in class ability measured by experience points. Here it appears that the circumstances around which a "Sudden change" is justified also argue for allowing the change at any level.

Finally, linguistically, immediate and sudden are similar words but have different meanings. "Immediate" is the opposite of a process that occurs over time. "Sudden" could be contrasting the time spent training, but "sudden" also has the connotation of unexpected or unplanned. If the subheading was called "Immediate change", it would clearly be contrasting only the "Training time", but still under the requirement of the change happening at certain predetermined levels. By describing the change as immediate but calling the process "Sudden change", the implication is that it could happen at any time.

Having exhausted our analysis of the rules themselves, we can conclude...that they are at least unclear if not contradictory. While I believe that one should make every effort to understand RAW first, when it is clear that multiple interpretations are possible, my next priority is assessing which interpretation best supports fun at my table.

The impact of permitting a subclass change at any point in time compared to one allowed at certain levels only largely depends on your play style. You may want to review "Know your players" (DMG 6). At one extreme would be if you had a table of "Optimizers", who "welcome any opportunity to demonstrate their characters' superiority." In this case, I would strongly recommend that you keep to a hard requirement of changing subclass only at subclass-defining level breaks, and that you impose the time and gold requirement of "Training time" as well (although not the quest). Anything less will invite these players to switch subclass solely for the mechanical advantages involved, and you will have things like them reasoning, "Now that I have magic item x or spell y, I get better synergy with subclass z, so I want to switch now." Granting a subclass change to one of them while disallowing it to another one is also likely to generate hard feelings.

On the other hand, if you have a table of "Storytellers", a change at any time is fine, as long as it connects to the character and plot arcs you are creating. Allowing the change to coincide with an important dramatic event can even reinforce the player's connection to their character concept. In this case, you are likely using "Story-based advancement" (DMG 261) anyway, so the events that justify their "Sudden change" are also likely to be level breaks as well - although you can safely ignore whether or not the new level comes with a subclass feature.

If your table is in between, or has a mix of different playstyles from different players, consider how imposing or relaxing the subclass feature level requirement will affect the fun of both the specific player involved, and the rest of the table.

Somewhat related: This question about a player who is not yet ready to make a subclass decision even though their character has leveled.

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