D&D 5E Let’s Read Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse.

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
As you all have likely heard by now, there is a new D&D book available as part of the D&D Rules Expansion Gift Set. A set of 3 books intended to be used as supplementary materials to the core trio of 5th edition rulebooks (the Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master's Guide, for those people who got to this page via a search engine or other means without context).

Two of the books in the gift set (Xanathar's Guide to Everything and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything) are reprints of the same books with updated errata and rules changes. The third book, Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse, despite having a similar name to a previous book (Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes) is not a direct reprint. While there are a multitude of recycled monsters and player races from 5 different books (in fact, nearly everything was originally found in some other book), WotC changed them in many ways. These changes, plus the fact you can’t buy the book outside of the gift set until May, have made it one of the more controversial books in the 5th Edition.

Personally, I bought the Alternate Cover Gift Set, mostly because it happened to be in stock at my FLGS, and I already have a collection of alt-cover books for 5e. The alt-covers for this set and the box they come in are gorgeous, if you are into that kind of thing. Unfortunately, my copy came with a printing error, making the stat block for Moloch hard to read. This may or may not be unique to my copy, as I wasn’t able to find any similar complaints after doing a quick internet search.

The main draw of this book is that it is a “sneak peek” into what to expect from the upcoming Revised Edition (or whatever name will be given to the rules update that is coming 2024ish). The monsters have overhauled stat blocks with different mechanics, and changed lore to better reflect their position in the D&D multiversal setting (as opposed to the worlds from which they originated from). Likewise, the player races have received new mechanics and lore, but I won’t be delving deep into those changes, as there are hundreds of pages worth of discussion covering the races on this forum alone. Instead this thread will be focused on the majority of the book, the monsters.

That out of the way, I will say I am a bit annoyed at a rule known as the “PHB+1” Rule. Popularized in the Adventurers League (The official format for organized D&D play, which you are likely to find a group for if you go to your local game store, given they are operating in these times of course), this rules philosophy stipulates that the mechanics for a character must be contained in no more than two books (with exceptions abound, to aggravate the situation further). This rule annoys me because of the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion. An official D&D PDF and supplement to the adventure Princes of the Apocalypse, that you can get for free, which contains previous iterations of a few of the races in this book, and a slew of spells not found in the PHB to complement them. While the races made it into Monsters of the Multiverse, their spells did not. Instead, those spells made it into the other books in this gift set! So, despite being able to buy the gift set and get the total package of spells + races and/or monsters to use said spells, and despite said spells being available for free in an official PDF for you to download come May for the people who only want to buy Monsters of the Multiverse when it becomes available outside of the gift set: The monsters and races in this book do not use the Elemental Evil Spells, even when they were originally designed to do so.

For the WotC staff that may eventually stumble upon this thread, I am blowing this a bit out of proportion (as demonstrated by the length of the previous paragraph), but seriously though I want to be able to use the Elemental Evil cantrips more often, they are flavorful and fun!

With over 250 monsters inside of the book, I will be talking about the monsters in the alphabetical groupings presented, and posting an index to jump directly to the monsters you want to read about as they get posted. Feel free to chime in between posts with your own musings, interpretations, and encounter ideas.

Book Abbreviations:
DMG: Dungeon Masters Guide
MM: Monster Manual
VGtM: Volo’s Guide to Monsters
MToF: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
PotA: Princes of the Apocalypse
ERftLW: Eberron: Rising from the Last War
MOot: Mythic Odysseys of Theros.
BG: DiA: Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus
OotA: Out of the Abyss
 
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Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
Links to Monsters!


Link to my conclusions.

Other handy links.

For the sake of discussion, and to prevent myself from having to re-link them multiple times over as responses, here is a series of videos where Jeremy Crawford discusses the changes in this book.

Why they changed they lore:

Why they changed the PC races (even though I’m not talking about it here):

Why they changed the spellcasters:

Why they changed the stats, and why CR is a weird mechanic:

@Alby87 posted a link to the Wild Beyond the Witchlight Designers Pack, which goes into more detail on the changes to monster stat blocks.

@Marandahir posted a list of all of the creature type changes in the book.

Matt Chapman wrote an article for Dragon+, which gives an overview of some of the changes.

@Saracenus posted a news article about D&D Beyond discontinuing digital sales of Volo's Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, in favor of supporting Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse.

@jasper posted a link explaining how the Adventurers League will be updating their characters and monsters to the new formats.
 
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Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.

Abishai. (Originally from MToF)​


With an appearance that could be described as “Dragonborn with more Dragon”, the Abishai are Tiamat’s personal devil legion. While they maintain loyalty to Tiamat, their nature as devils allows Asmodeus and the Archdevils to employ some factor of control over them, though such control is rarely exercised due to the inherent conflict of interests and inevitable backlash that will be brought about by it. After all, even if devils are backstabbers, they like to keep things orderly.

In typical D&D fashion, these devils are actually the transformed souls of people who earned favor from Tiamat in life. Evil patrons granting their followers transformations into more powerful forms is a recurring theme in D&D, allowing a quick path to power and a tangible reason to be evil in a world where an afterlife demonstratively exists. The fun part of this particular type of transformation (for DM’s of course, not the NPCs or players) is the fact it provides an easy way to recycle villains once they have been disposed of by the players. Even if the players do something particularly paranoid like destroy the body to prevent resurrection spells from working, the soul would still exist. Allowing for a cultist to come back in a bigger, meaner, and more dangerous form.

It is worth noting that the alignment in these statblocks now says “Typically Lawful Evil” instead of just “Lawful Evil”, officially allowing for and endorsing exceptions to their behavior should your story demand it. Redeeming the fallen is a common enough story beat in it’s own right, and it is possible that a soul somehow got misplaced in the Nine Hells, ending up in whatever ceremony was used for the transformation by mistake. The statblocks also remove the Magical Weapon ability, in favor of having their attacks deal different kinds of damage. It saves a bit of room, but it is unfortunate for any non-bear totem barbarians.

Abishai come in 5 different colors, one for each of the main chromatic dragons.

Black Abishai.

The assassins of the Abishai. They come with a special power to cast Darkness on a recharge of 6, and move it around with a bonus action. Bundled up with a bonus action hide, and the iconic Devil’s Sight to allow them to see through magical darkness, I’m sure you can see the obvious way to employ them even if their enemies can’t. One thing that can be possibly overlooked: All devils, including the other Abishai, have Devil’s Sight, allowing them to be team players despite the typical “lone wolf assassin” stereotype. Clocking in at CR 7 with a slew of devilish defenses and an all-but-guaranteed disadvantage on incoming attacks, it can be quite the hassle to take them out before they strike down their target. And even with all that bulk, they might not care about dying! Abishai who aren’t in the Nine Hells when they die simply dissolve and reappear at full strength back in the relative safety of Avernus.

Not too much was changed from their previous incarnation. Their Scimitar attack does force damage now, a byproduct of the Magical Weapons ability being removed.

Blue Abishai.

The wizards of the Abishai. This is our first look at the updated and streamlined spellcaster statblock. First change is the Wizard Tag. Monsters can now have explicit classes for anything that requires a class, such as magic items. Which means if a Blue Abishai isn’t killing you, you might be able to convince them into letting you copy one of their spells, in the classical deal with a devil fashion.

At CR 17, the Blue Abishai is an end-game skirmisher unit in combat, firing three Lighting Strikes per round from up to 120’ away. The Blue can also teleport 30’ with a bonus action at will, in conjunction with their innate 50’ of fly speed, they are incredibly hard to pin down. As if being able to hard-counter nearly every melee PC with just that combo alone wasn’t enough, by virtue of being a wizard, they have access to spells. Most notability Dispel Magic and Wall of Force, which should handily counter most flying PCs that dare to dogfight with them. Greater Invisibility also has a niche due to the fact that True Seeing only has a 120’ range, allowing the Blue to attack from maximum range and then fly back out to an area where it can’t suffer retaliation. Not all wizards are the main antagonist, some are just there for backup in an army, and the Blue Abishai fills the role of a battlemage snugly with just enough tricks and flavor to keep them from feeling too generic.

Outside of combat, their spells can help with subterfuge. Charm Person and Disguise Self could be used to set up some deals or get into spaces where they might not otherwise be welcome.

The changes to this statblock are a minor HP bump and a slew of changes regarding the spells. Their list was cut down to just 7 spells from a list of 24. In return, they received bonus action teleportation (which was a large chunk of their spells) and the ability to shoot lightning strikes at-will (the other large chunk of their list was just damage spells). Lost in the transition were the spells Mirror Image providing a non-insignificant amount of defense, Darkness for that sweet Devil’s Sight synergy, and their backup plan of Cold Damage for when something is resistant to Lightning Damage.

Speaking of their damage, their lightning strikes do 8d8 damage to three targets as an attack roll. This works out to be slightly higher damage spamming Cone of Cold every single turn of combat (according to WotC CR rules, where you calculate an AoE to hit three targets). While that is lower burst damage than using Chain Lightning, it works out to significantly more damage per combat thanks to their teleportation ability no longer being tied to a spell. Ultimately, outside of losing the cold damage coverage, the Blue Abishai should be a much bigger threat in combat with these changes.

Green Abishai.

The Abishai diplomatic core. Designed to be one you have the party talk to due to their spread of social skills. While they do sport a hefty CR 15, the most devastating thing they can do in combat is cast Mass Suggestion to send half your party packing home for 24 hours. Which is a pseudo-TPK situation in it’s own right. If you don’t feel like totally cheesing the fight (or perhaps you tried to do so, but the party made their saves) it’s main combat strategy is to get someone else to fight for them, which can be achieved with their Dominate Person and Confusion spells. That isn’t to say they have no combat ability on their own. When pressed into melee their claw attacks do significant damage and poison the target.

On the non-combat side of things, they do have detect thoughts, which can be a thorn in a PC’s attempts to make a deal with the devil.

The changes to this statblock are a few more hps, the removal of the longsword attack, and bumping up the claw attack.

Red Abishai.

The warlords of the Abishai. In combat, these things have a high CR 19, backed up with some hard hitting attacks. Their main two abilities are the power to make their allies strike with advantage, or inflict fear on their enemies. They also have a gimmick where they can try to mind control a dragon, but the dragon gets a saving throw, so good luck getting that to stick in the first place. Red abishai make for good enough leaders in mixed encounters, where you couldn’t otherwise employ the Devil’s Sight and Darkness gimmick. But you can’t help but feel a tad bit underwhelmed by them.

The Red Abishai doesn’t have much going for it outside of combat. Other than trying to take over the mind of a dragon, and a hefty intimidate score, they don’t actually have anything to back up their claims of being the best leaders out of the Abishai. The Green Abishai have way better leadership skills and powers.

The changes to the stat block include the standard smattering of more hp, and dropping the weapon attack in favor of making the claw attack more beefy.

White Abishai.

The barbarians of the Abishai. At CR 6 you would think them to be the least interesting of the Abishai, but their synergistic abilities of using Recklessness to grant advantage on all attacks they make or take, and a reaction power to move (which includes flying) or attack whenever they get hurt, prove to be quite intimidating when the devil can actually employ it’s resistances and immunities in a low tier game. Given that the White can make upwards of 4 attacks per round with advantage, it’s highly possible that it will land a crit against the players, which is quite a psychological blow, if not a fatal one. But the fun doesn’t stop there, in mid tier games they can be used as backup for the higher CR Abishai, especially the Black kind, where they can use both abuse the Devil’s Sight and Darkness combination.

Out of combat they are just big dumb muscle. You need a rock pushed or a door bashed down, no problem. Talking just isn’t their style, even with telepathy. That’s fine though, unlike the Red Abishai, which are supposed to be great leaders, White Abishai can just be violent brutes in the early game or fodder in the late game. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it

The White Abishai was given an additional attack for it’s Multiattack for it’s change. Allowing it more opportunity to land a crit at least.

Thoughts. Out of all the Abishai, the Red ones are the only ones I find disappointing. Their mechanics do not stack well with other Abishai, they have limited out of combat application despite their lore, and their only interesting gimmick isn’t likely to do anything in actual play.
 
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Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
That out of the way, I will say I am a bit annoyed at a rule known as the “PHB+1” Rule. Popularized in the Adventurers League (The official format for organized D&D play, which you are likely to find a group for if you go to your local game store, given they are operating in these times of course), this rules philosophy stipulates that the mechanics for a character must be contained in no more than two books (with exceptions abound, to aggravate the situation further).
Maybe you missed this: Saying Goodbye to the PH+1 Rule | Wizards of the Coast
 


You would have thought they could have come up with a better way than forcing fans to buy 2 redundant paper books just to get that one book early.
No one is forcing anyone to do anything. It's not like waiting 5 months to buy it is interminable - in fact I thought they might wait even longer. Even more so when 90% of it is re-printed material anyway...
 



No one is forcing anyone to do anything. It's not like waiting 5 months to buy it is interminable - in fact I thought they might wait even longer. Even more so when 90% of it is re-printed material anyway...
I am glad, and a bit surprised it is only 5 months (cause I wouldn't rebuy 2 books) but I also think that it should have only been 1 or 2 months at most.
 

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