D&D 5E Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse: An In-Depth Review

Every new D&D book comes with its own share of hype and debate. In the case of The D&D Rules Expansion Gift Set, it has also come with a lot of speculation.

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Thanks to comments made at the Future of D&D Panel, fans have a lot of questions. Reviewers are trying to “read the tea leaves” as to what changes to the previously-released books might indicate for the future of Dungeons & Dragons. Our latest data point is the new (but not so new) book Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse.

This is a quibble, but I think the D&D team missed an opportunity with the book's title. After all, the other two books in the set called Tasha's Cauldron of Everything and Xanathar's Guide to Everything, so why not use the simpler Mordenkainen's Monsters of the Multiverse? Personally, I think Mordenkainen's Monsters of Everywhere would be fun, but it appears the D&D team is leaning hard into the multiverse, probably to lay groundwork for the return of Planescape and/or Spelljammer later this year.

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What's in Monsters of the Multiverse?​

One of the misunderstandings concerning MPMotM is what it contains. As the table of contents leaks have demonstrated, MPMotM contains much more than Volo's Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. It contains creatures from VgtM, MToF, Princes of the Apocalypse, Eberron: Rising from the Last War, and Mystic Odysseys of Theros – but even that isn't accurate because MPMotM also includes the demon lords from Out of the Abyss, dinosaurs and other creatures from Tomb of Annihilation, a few creatures from Ghosts of Saltmarsh, and Zariel, Amnizu, and others from Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus. I also found a few carryovers from The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, though those creatures were straight reprints without changes.

Jeremy Crawford said they collected all of the creatures that could be found anywhere in the multiverse even if it's usually associated with a specific part, like the Feywild. So it contains Korred, who were in The Wild Beyond The Witchlight, but doesn't include Living Dolls from the same book. I could make a case for including the latter, but I guess they had to draw a line somewhere.

In terms of other creatures, whether animals, NPCs, or monsters, MPMotM contains 261 stat blocks. That's a substantial amount consolidated in one book for ease of DM use, but since the Monster Manual has about 500 stat blocks, I wish MPMotM did have more entries from the prior books. Then again, like most DMs, I always want more creature options.

In terms of player options, MPMotM has the character races from VGtM – Aasimar, Firbolg, Goliath, Kenku, Lizardfolk,Tabaxi, Triton – in addition to Aaracoka, Bugbear, Centaur, Changeling, Deep Gnome, Duergar, Eladrin, Fairy, Genasi (Air, Fire, Earth, Water), Githyanki, Githzerai, Goblin, Harengon, Hobgoblin, Kobold, Minotaur, Orc, Satyr, Sea Elf, Shadar-kai, Shifter, Tortle, and Yuan-ti for a total of 33 playable races not detailed in the Players Handbook.

I'm rather surprised it doesn't contain the Owlin. I'd say it was because Strixhaven: A Cirriculum of Chaos is based on a Magic the Gathering setting, but so is Mythic Odysseys of Theros, and content from it is included.

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Player Options​

MPMotM continues the ability score flexibility introduced in TCoE. This means that you can create the character you want without ability score disadvantages. If you prefer the classic ability score assignments, use can still use them.

While MPMotM has a lot more player race options, you might not want to toss your copy of VGtM. The older book has more flavor information on the races it contains. For example, the VGtM Aasimar entry has information on Aasimar as celestial champions, guides, hidden wanderers, conflicted souls, and sample Aasimar names, to name a few. The MPMotM has a much more limited introductory information.

The VGtM version also has variants like Protector Aasimar, Scourge Aasimar, and Fallen Aasimar. Instead, Aasimar players have Celestial Revelation once they reach 3rd level and can choose from Necrotic Shroud, Radiant Consumption, or Radiant Soul, which were options assigned to variant Aasimar in VGtM.

Those three abilities are mostly the same with a few tweaks. The VGtM versions lasted for one minute. The MPMotM versions last until the end of your next turn. Damage dealt by the celestial ability is equal to the player's proficiency bonus instead of being equal to their level.

Creature type, age, size, speed, darkvision, the light bearer ability, and celestial resistance are the same in both. Alignment is dropped in the new version because players can choose whatever alignment fits their character concept (and fits the campaign/DM directives).

The Aasimar Healing Hands ability changes. In VGtM, it only heals the creature you touch for the same number of hit points as the Aasimar's level and this ability recharges after a long rest. In the MPMotM version you roll a number of d4s equal to the Aasimar's proficiency bonus and heal for the result rolled. It still recharges after a long rest.

The Changeling can alter their appearance and voice but can't imitate someone they've never seen. The change is confined to creatures of small or medium size, and they don't get any abilities innate to the creature they're copying. Neither clothing nor equipment changes.

Shifters, by contrast, are the descendant of someone with full or partial lycanthropy. They can't fully change but instead can take on a bestial aspect like Beasthide (temporary hit points), Longtooth (fangs for attacking), Swiftstride (extra speed), or Wildhunt (advantage on Wisdom checks).

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The Bestiary​

MPMotM consists almost entirely of creature information, either configured as player options the bestiary. Very little explanation outside of that is provided. Instead, it directs readers to the Monster Manual for more detailed information on things like creature type, size, where they dwell, etc.

The small amount of material that is provided are things like explaining dinosaurs are all grouped together under that heading (instead of looking up all demons under “D” rather than their actual name as the Monster Manual does) and that if a class is listed in a monster's name or under it in parentheses then it's considered part of that class. When weapons and spellcasting behaves unusually, it explains that it's a feature of the creature and has no bearing on that weapon or spell elsewhere.

Detailing changes to every entry isn't feasible so I'm focusing on a handful of illustrative examples from the earliest versions that are updated. But first, a few overview points.

As with some of the more recent books, alignments have had “typically” added in front of them. That means if you prefer old-school assigned alignment versions of the creatures the alignment is there. If you want to change it, well, DMs have always had that option, and 5E in particularly has empowered DMs to change material as needed to tell their story. Having “typically” in front of the alignments is just a handy reminder of that.

The stat blocks for NPC professions get the “any alignment” designation. So do many of the stat block versions of species that are now player options in the front of the book, unless something in that version lends itself to an alignment. In that case then it gets the “typically” moniker. An example of this is the Shadar-kai. The stat block for the Shadar-kai Shadow Dancer is “any alignment” while the Shadar-kai Gloom Weaver and Shadar-kai Soul Monger stat blocks have “typically neutral evil.”

Speaking of stat blocks, the stat block layout is the same, but the information within the stat blocks have changed, usually with a focus on streamlining the spellcasting ability and making it easier for a DM to run them while also maintaining the creature's specific flavor. Occasionally hit points have changed, usually to increase. Challenge Rating (CR) values are largely the same.

MPMotM addresses the issue of DMs using CRs in less-than-optimal ways but not by changing the CR value. Instead, the creatures' actions have been recalibrated to make it easier for a DM to ensure the creature packs the right punch. In some cases, the body text that accompanies the creatures in the bestiary section is the same. In most cases the body text has between tweaked or rewritten to fit the new entry even if it substantially provides the same information. Here’s some examples:

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Example: Shadar-Kai Gloom​

In the case of the Shadar-kai Gloom Weaver, everything in its MPMotM stat block down to the Fey Ancestry entry matches the MToF entry exactly except for two items. “Typically” is added to the alignment and a Proficiency Bonus (+4) is provided next to its CR value. Its Misty Step Reaction is mostly the same, only instead of recharging after a short or long rest, now it recharges on a d6 roll that results in a natural 6, so in theory, it could be used more than once in a fight.

One of the universal changes made in MPMotM is that the spellcasting trait has been replaced by a spellcasting action. Instead of having a spell list and spell slots, creatures get a more focused list of spells with notations as to how many times a day they can cast them or if they're at-will spells. Their spell save DC and spellcasting ability is cited as well as a spell attack bonus, if relevant. If they don't need spell components to cast that is also noted.

In VGtM that means Shadar-kai Gloom Weavers had Chill Touch, Eldritch Blast, Minor Illusion and Prestidigitation as at-will spells and three 5th level spell slots that they could fill with some combination of Armor of Agathys, Blight, Darkness, Dream, Invisibility, Fear, Hypnotic Pattern, Major Image, Contact Other Plane, Vampiric Touch, and Witch Bolt. In the MPMotM version this is streamlined to being able to cast Arcane Eye, Mage Armor, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, and Speak With Dead at will. They can also cast Arcane Gate, Bane, Confusion, Darkness, Fear, Minor Image, and True Seeing once per day each.

Its martial attack, Shadow Spear, changes a little. The spell is still +8 to hit and 1d6+4 damage as the base piercing damage plus 26 points of necrotic damage, but it no longer inflicts different piercing damage if used as a two-handed weapon. Instead the spear returns to the Shadar-kai's hand immediately after making a ranged attack.

The Gloom Weaver still has a multiattack, but in the VGtM version they can make two spear attacks and one spell attack. In MPMotM they get three spear attacks per round and can substitute a spell for one of the spear attacks, giving DMs more flexibility without making it more complex.

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Example: Conjurer Wizard​

Most monsters in MPMotM get a multiattack of some kind. The exception is very low CR creatures. Sometimes the multiattack is specific. For example, in the Conjurer Wizard NPC stats, the multiattack is specific to their Arcane Burst ability, and they can do three Arcane Burst attacks per round. Arcane Burst can be used as a melee or ranged attack (120' range), and it does 3d10 + 3 force damage to one target.

The Conjurer Wizard still gets Benign Transportation, but it recharges now on a roll of 4-6 instead of after casting a conjuration spell of 1st level or higher, and it counts as a bonus action. Summon Elemental also changes from being a 5th level spell for the Conjurer Wizard. The old version had two 5th level spell slots. Now Summon Elemental is a bonus action that can be done once a day.

In lieu of spell slots the DM has to keep track of, the Conjurer Wizard gets Mage Hand, Dancing Lights, and Prestidigitation as at-will spells. Twice a day they can cast some combination of Fireball, Mage Armor, and Unseen Servant, and once a day they have a choice of Fly, Stinking Cloud, or Web.

The Conjurer Wizard has the same CR 6 rating in both entries. However, the new version gets more hit points (58/13d8) compared to VGtM version (40 HP/9d8).

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Example: Hobgoblin Devastator​

The Hobgoblin Devastator has the same amount of hit points and stats in both versions. It loses Arcane Advantage, which I think is a shame, but it was probably removed as part of the streamlining. It keeps Army Arcana, and gains multiattack in the form of two quarterstaff attacks or two Devastating Bolt attacks.

Instead of the earlier version, which had spells up to 4th level, Hobgoblin Devastators get Mage Hand and Prestidigitation at will and can cast Fireball, Fly, Fog Cloud, Gust of Wind, and Lightning Bolt at a rate of twice a day each. Additionally, instead of Magic Missile, they get the action Devastating Bolt, which does 4d8 + 3 force damage and knocks the target prone. Because it's not Magic Missile you do have to roll to hit with a +5, but Devastating Bolt can be performed twice a round so it's rather effective.

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Other Book Notes​

MPMotM uses some art recycled from prior books, along with new art, so the overall look isn't as uniform as some other recent books have been. Despite that, none of the styles are wildly different so it works. My only real artwork complaint is that the images for the demon lords are detailed but rather dark so you lose some of the intricacies.

The cover art by Grzegorz Rutkowski is nice, but I wish the design wasn't so dark so the detail was more visible. The cover has a foil treatment just like the editions of TCoE and XGtE in the set. The foil treatment distinguishes them from the cover art on the original books.

Entries that didn't have artwork in VGtM do get artwork in MPMotM, like the Warlock of the Great Old Ones and the Illusionist Wizard. The art for the NPC classes is especially evocative and attractive.

Speaking of the NPC class entries, many of them get a table to help customize the NPC further. For example, the Archdruid has a chart for favored shapes, the Archer has a table for specialized arrow fletching, and the Bard gets a list of performance types.

While the book's title is “Mordenkainen Presents...” it doesn't just have commentary notes from the wizard himself. Tasha also adds her opinions and some pages have dueling notes from the rivals. Mordenkainen's are a bit pompous (which I expected) and a little dull (which I didn't). Tasha's are more amusingly snarky, and she even points out that dealing with monsters doesn't always have to involve a fight; you can sometimes learn more by having a drink with them.

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Tasha's, Xanathar's & the DM Screen​

Of course, MPMotM isn't the only item in the D&D Rules Expansion Gift Set. It also comes with updated versions of TCoE and XGtE, and a DM's Screen. While I haven't done a line-by-line comparison the updated versus the original versions I did check key points. The only things I found updated were items previously marked for errata. The covers for these two books are the same as before only with a foil treatment.

The DM screen has new art. The interior layout is fairly standard with the usual information on conditions, what can be done on a player's turn, etc.

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Should You Buy It?​

I like MPMotM. Having the monsters consolidated in one book, though I wish it really did collect ALL of the creatures from the prior books. I especially like the abundance of player race options, and the changes to streamline creature attacks look good.

If you don't already own XGtE and TCoE, this Rule Expansion Gift Set is a no-brainer because it contains a wealth of information for both players and DMs. If you do already own one or both of those books, you might want to wait until MPMotM is released as a solo book this May.

How does it stack up in comparison to other D&D book releases?

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Final Score: B+​

MPMotM would have gotten an A if it had more material about how to use the creatures and/or their habitats, lifestyle, etc. Rating the whole set is a bit trickier because I could rate it on its weakest part or an average of all three books. The later would qualify as an A-, but when I think about how a few 2021 D&D books exceeded expectations, a B+ rating might be most fair. It's still a very good rating that reflects the abundance of player options and smart changes to existing monsters.

And like everyone else, I'm looking forward to hearing what D&D will be announcing next.
 
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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

Oh, so now reviewers have to instruct their readers on how to interpret the reviews? You can't just give one grade, you have to grade it six ways to Sunday for each different type of person who might be reading it?

"Well obviously if you don't like horror movies, the new film 'Scream' is going to be graded an F because it's a horror movie and you hate horror movies. Now if like horror movies, but prefer ones where there's a set killer that you know and there's no mystery attached regarding who the killer is... then the grade is a D+. Of course if you are a fan of the 'Saw' series, you'll find it's not exactly the torture porn you are used to, but the way the victims try to escape their deaths might be inspiring to you and there's a lot of blood, so we'll say C. And if you are an uber-fan of the 'Scream' films it's definitely an A- because it's not as good as the original 'Scream' but it's a damn good 'Scream' film... unless of course you just don't like the idea of reboots in general, in which case we'll drop it down to a B."

No one does that. Reviewers don't couch their remarks for the person who is reading it. And it is silly for any reader to expect that of a reviewer.

"Wait... I'm a fan of superhero movies! Why doesn't the reviewer take that into account when they review all these superhero movies and tell me they're bad? Why aren't they reviewing it specifically for ME?"
In this case, I would say whether or not you own the books it includes and/or reprints matters quite a bit to the letter grade. You have to wonder what metric the reviewer is actually using to arrive at their score.
 

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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
In this case, I would say whether or not you own the books it includes and/or reprints matters quite a bit to the letter grade. You have to wonder what metric the reviewer is actually using to arrive at their score.
I would say the metric is 'someone who is interested in buying the book'.

When a restaurant reviewer gives a grade to a steakhouse, they don't assume the person who cares about the review is a vegetarian and grade accordingly. They aren't going to bother saying in the review "This steakhouse is really good and a solid B+... unless of course if you are a vegetarian, in which case obviously this steakhouse is an 'F' because all their meals are meat." No one makes a review for the people who don't want the item being reviewed, because that is pointless. At some point it is the reader's responsibility to understand who the review is for.
 

In this case, I would say whether or not you own the books it includes and/or reprints matters quite a bit to the letter grade. You have to wonder what metric the reviewer is actually using to arrive at their score.
It does not seem reasonable to try and give a single letter grade to something that differs so much in value depending on if you already own the content or not.
 

teitan

Legend
Many of those things you found in other books were also reprinted in Tome of Foes and VOlo's while not exhaustively such The Demon Princes and Archdevils were updated in Tome of Foes. Your list of races for example also is mostly Tome of Foes or Volo races with broad reprints:

Aaracoka (Wildemount), Bugbear (Volo's, WIldemount, Eberron), Centaur (Theros, Ravnica), Changeling (eberron), Deep Gnome (Tome of Foes, SCAG), Duergar (Tome of Foes, SCAG), Eladrin (Tome of Foes), Fairy, Genasi (Air, Fire, Earth, Water) (SCAG, Wildemount, PotA), , Githyanki (Foes), Githzerai (Foes), Goblin (Volo, Ravnica, Wildemount), Harengon, Hobgoblin (Volo), Kobold(Volo), Minotaur (Ravnica, Theros), Orc (Volo, Eberron, Wildemount... everything), Satyr Theros), Sea Elf (Volo, Wildemount), Shadar-kai (Foes), Shifter (Eberron), Tortle (Wildemount), and Yuan-ti (Volo)

Now you say "in addition to the monsters from VGtM" while it seems to not acknowledge that the majority of the book is reprinting of Mordenkainen and Volo's plus that a lot of the races in Volo's were later reprinted in other books with incremental updates that were "official" and applied to across the board to all later iterations published later for these races as PCs so WOTC has been getting iterative in their changes making, subtly, each book ALMOST a must buy on a subliminal level. Your comment seems almost flippant regarding these being all reprints and mostly from the monster books.

It is cool that they are putting all these in one reference spot, unless you already own all the original books. Then it still seems pointless no matter how much grape jelly you smear on that salad.
 

kapars

Explorer
The leaked pages shown on the Nerd Immersion YouTube channel showed that the Aasimar transformations lasted for a full minute. It was in the paragraph above the 3 options. Did this change from when the leak occurred to the printing?
 


TheBanjoNerd

Gelatinous Dungeon Master
I actually always think of the proficiency bonus is the prime example. Mechanically the proficiency bonus is basically a +1/4 level bonus, adjusted in both presentation and due to wanting to start 5e characters at a lower power level than 4e did. A mechanic that was presented very differently from 4e but is much closer to its 4e counterpart than how we did things in any edition before 4e.
Wow, can't believe I never realized that!
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Wow, can't believe I never realized that!
It really shows how much of a difference presentation makes. You don't even notice it until you really start looking at it.

The second biggest mistake they made with 4e is also the thing I like the most about it. They left the whole game engine transparent and didn't try to hide any of the mechanics. Had they taken more effort to hide the game engine a bit they probably would have ended up with something more like Essentials out of the gate and I suspect more folks would have liked it. 5e pulls a lot of mechanics from 4e but hides them in a more subtle presentation and natural language text so you don't notice that they're there.

(The biggest mistake they made with 4e IMO was the GSL - a self-inflicted wound that killed the free support they would have had for the game among independent publishers. I personally think that more than anything else that bit of nonsense hurt the edition's uptake. The third biggest mistake was the hit point and damage calculations in the first Monster Manual - I know way too many people who still think that the biggest problem with 4e was that battles were a slog that took forever because of those mistakes.)
 

Erdric Dragin

Adventurer
The spellcasting changes are the worst. Further dumbing down of the game. Doesn't make anything easier for me. I have no caster level and no spell slots to toy with.

Twice a day they can cast some combination of Fireball, Mage Armor, and Unseen Servant, and once a day they have a choice of Fly, Stinking Cloud, or Web.

Now how the hell can I make that Fireball stronger by using a higher level slot if they freaking took slots off the spellcasting monster stats!?

3e had it best when the rules were the same for both PCs and monsters. Ugh. Can't stand WotC.
 

AdmundfortGeographer

Getting lost in fantasy maps
3e had it best when the rules were the same for both PCs and monsters. Ugh. Can't stand WotC.
This was the lowest point of the hobby, failing to live up to any promise. It is wonderful they have pivoted away from the misguided wish that there could be one system to rule them all and not have it fracture into a thousand pieces.
 






Voadam

Legend
I actually always think of the proficiency bonus is the prime example. Mechanically the proficiency bonus is basically a +1/4 level bonus, adjusted in both presentation and due to wanting to start 5e characters at a lower power level than 4e did. A mechanic that was presented very differently from 4e but is much closer to its 4e counterpart than how we did things in any edition before 4e.

I think it is closer to 3e than 4e.

In 5e things with proficiency bonus advance with levels. Things without proficiency bonus do not and are static. The differences of proficiency bonus or not increase over levels.

In 4e everything advances with levels. The differences between trained skill or good defenses and not trained skill or good defense are static across level advancement.

In 3e your strong saves advance fairly strongly and your weak saves fall far behind. If your skill points all go into the same class skills they progress strongly throughout all the levels while your other skills are static. The differences increase as levels advance.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The Changeling can alter their appearance and voice but can't imitate someone they've never seen. The change is confined to creatures of small or medium size, and they don't get any abilities innate to the creature they're copying. Neither clothing nor equipment changes.

so I wanted my fantasy space to be largely compatible with a sci-fi version of space but with magic.
That’s my biggest dislike for spelljammer, as well.

In my Space Fantasy! Setting, space is mostly filled with aether, which is a sort of gas that has to be refined to be flammable, is entirely clear, and can be breathed by basically any creature, though it isn’t as comfortable as the type of air you’re built for. This allows for Treasure Planet style ships alongside Star Wars style ships, for old pulp sci-fi style adventures on asteroids or moons with no normal atmosphere, etc, in a galaxy with star systems and black holes and nebulas and such.

Because I want a space opera with magic, not a history lesson on weird medieval theoretical cosmology.
 

3e had it best when the rules were the same for both PCs and monsters. Ugh. Can't stand WotC.
No. That looked terrific but was making the DM job unnecessarily hard. Also since PCs and NPCs are plaing a totally different game (one has to survive an adventure, the other one only has to survive a single encounter) slight differences actually make for a more believable game.
If wotc achieves that with the newer monster design is up to debate however.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
since PCs and NPCs are plaing a totally different game (one has to survive an adventure, the other one only has to survive a single encounter) slight differences actually make for a more believable game.
This has always been the key point to me. Without good guidance it's very easy to not respect the fact that they're also people in the same world and just like your PCs won't be at full strength in every encounter and have to think strategically about "going nova" on any single encounter, NPCs also shouldn't be at full strength and willing to go nova at the drop of a hat.

Honestly the way I'd like to see that approached is design NPCs/monsters to have "here's what they do in an encounter" as their standard abilities, and then include a block of "and here's some atypical things you can swap in or add to change things up or make the encounter harder". I've seen this approach used in a few different games and as a DM it makes things much easier for me if the monsters/NPCs are presented from that kind of perspective.
 

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