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

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I don't think it's getting mentioned enough that there are nautaloids on the bottom of the box or that there are nautaloids on the DM's screen. Guys. Gals. Otherwise. There are nautaloids on the box and the DM's screen.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I don't think it's getting mentioned enough that there are nautaloids on the bottom of the box or that there are nautaloids on the DM's screen. Guys. Gals. Otherwise. There are nautaloids on the box and the DM's screen.
I really hope they give us expanded vehicle stuff this year, including full monster stats for the nautaloid.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I really hope this isn’t the cameo appearance they mentioned.
If it is, it actually confirms Spelljammer, so there’s that.
Why would the Peasants be evil/commit injustices if all they did was revolt against severe oppression almost identical to slavery? If you were a peasant at that time wouldn’t you have done the same?
Given some of the comments in my thread where I was talking about my PC who is modeled in some ways after American colonial revolutionaries, I figure some folks are deeply into the “peace means the absence of conflict” mentality, wherein letting the king keep screwing the populace is better than liberty gained through conflict.
 

Mercador

Explorer
Also, not really important but I noticed they put a white page between each book. They didn't do that for the initial coreset.
 






For everybody lose their hits over the Spell-Like attacks and what not: a number of creatures that actually have attack spells that isn't part of their revised Spellcasting Trait lists whether or not said Spell Attack is either Melee Spell or Ranged Spell attacks.


For example: The Blue Abishai's Action, Lightning Strike, is listed as a Ranged Spell Attack.
The Alhoon's Chilling Grasp action is listed as a Melee Spell Attack.
A Choldrith's Bonus Action, Spectral Dagger, is identified as a Melee Spell Attack but it's damage typed as Force.

Which means, if you have a race that happens to have Magic Resistance, then it will kick in against those actions becaue the book specifically identifies them as spells.

Now some actions don't list it despite having an element damage type.

The Alhoon has an action called Mind Blast, it is not labeled as either Melee or Spell and does Psychic Damage.
A Drow Matron has, as shown from images on Twitter, the Divine Flame action.
Then we have a Derro Savant with Chromatic Beam which is listed as either.
And finally, the Duergar Xarrorn has the Fire Spray action.

So, the actions that are basically "Spell-Like" attacks, to me at least, seem to be a kind of Signature Attack or special attack that is more like a heavy hitting type deal or is a unique action of that statblock. From what I've seen, a majority of these, except the Chromatic Beam, requires a Recharge dice roll mechanic like we've seen before.

So, I see that as not totally a bad thing. A Duergar Xarron has a flamethrower and that is why Fire Spray can be understandable in not being seen as a "spell." YMMV in regard to other things such as the Divine Flame and similar ones.

So, I guess it could be worse.
 
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