Mordenkinen’s Tome of Foes is an excellent read, full of lore on the great conflicts that rage across the multiverse and finishes with a veritable gush of monsters for the Dungeon Master to play with. This manual will serve the needs of both Dungeon Master and Player alike with the edge of most use being to the DM, though there are new character options available in nearly every chapter.
I’ve obviously gushed, I like the book a lot. I’m sure there’s something here I will think of later that I feel is missing, or could have rounding things out a bit nicer, but everything I’ve read thus far has been really great. Granted, I’m a lore hound and this book has that in spades. I think the fashion in which they’ve presented this lore is very creative and I really hope they continue this trend. The book feels alive, it isn’t just a glut of dry information put out there for us. Great care was taken to make this manual fun and interactive. I actually enjoyed reading it! I continue to be impressed with the team behind this edition of the game.
Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes provides a ton of lore and over 140 monsters from across the D&D multiverse. While the character options are limited, those provided are excellent. The book really shines in the lore sections, looking at the major conflicts and providing details for those on each side. The monster half of the book is good with lots of challenging threats, even if some are reprints...
For D&D’s 5th Edition, Wizards of the Coast committed not to releasing books that players might have purchased before. They didn’t want to just do the same book they’d done two or three times previously but with new rules. Instead, they’re experimenting with format a little. And in this case, the experiment didn’t work.
Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is somewhat of a mess. It tries to be several things at the same time, attempting to be a monster book and a racial sourcebook for players and a DM’s book of lore and the book on demihuman deities, with multiple new subraces on top plus an introduction to the Raven Queen. And as a result, it does nothing particularly well. It wastes an entire chapter for no good reason and has lots of content you wouldn’t expect while omitting several things you would expect. While more demons, devils, and drow make sense and gith racial options fit perfectly, having this be the book with shadar-kai is unexpected, and the sea elves come out of nowhere. And I in no way anticipated this would be the halfling and gnome racial expansion book (let alone the third book I’d have with the svirfneblin write-up). And having well over a dozen pages of the book devoted to non-human deities is just a curious choice.
It really feels like they had half of a planar version of Volo’s Guide to Monsters and half of a book on the various PC races and just smooshed the two Word files together. Given the tagline I was really hoping to see more multiversal and planar conflict. Maybe more on the Modrons, and perhaps some details on angels and the good planar being’s conflict with the planes below. And it’s easy to imagine what a book on the player races could be with more room to work in feats, campaign setting variants, magic items, and more.
This is biggest selling feature of the book is the new monsters. More monsters is almost always a good thing. Tome of Foes is 135 pages of new monsters and some other stuff. Between this, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and the offerings from Kobold Press I think I’m good for 5th Edition monsters for, well, the rest of the edition.
If you’re running Out of the Abyss and want some quick extra lore on demon, duergar, and drow, then this book is a good choice. If you want more lore on pretty any other subjects on in this book, I’d direct you to the Dungeon Masters Guild. And if you want more monsters that can pose a challenge to your party, try the Tome of Beasts instead.
The Fifth Edition supplements that have been released so far look more like a Best of Dragon Magazine than a coherent supplement. Demihumans, Demons and Devils would be a more accurate title, I think, for this book with the Demihumans portion being something that should have been included with Xanathar's Guide to Everything.
Another issue is the forcing of cosmology and demihuman history upon all settings, even home settings. For example, the supplement retcons Corellon to be the father and creator of all elves, everywhere. Even in settings where he's never been heard of or where it makes no sense, Foes insists it's true anyway. It's just a D&D fact of the multiverse.
The most useful for me as a DM was the kind of thing that might appear in Dragon as "10 Cults for Your D&D Game". Each cult has some interesting features to differentiate them from Generic Cult that appears so often in D&D adventures. Despite the Cults being assigned to specific entities it's by far the most useful part in the whole book as almost every D&D game has some kind of mystical cult in it.
Any book that give me more monsters and Lore is a winner in my book. I don't pick it apart for theme and such, just base it on does it have enough stuff I like and will use in my game....this one does!
Mordenkainen's has fluff, it has monsters, it has lore and is full of stuff. Quality-wise this book is top notch. The monsters (while short) are welcome additions and seem to be good challengers for higher level play. The backstories are a pleasant read--with some good adventure hooks in here but also some fluff that will never see the light of day. The book isn't without its faults. The races chapters... well I have a gut feeling these were meant for Xanathar's Guide to Everything. It feels like cut material from that reference book-especially the halfling and gnome chapter. It is good content; it just seems to be misplaced. I would have loved too see these sections filled with inner plane material. They gave us a few new elementals--I want to hear those stories--those parts of the Multiverse. Tome of 'FOES'---some of these chapters are not so adversarial.
But I can't complain too much, the content is good--though pricey when bought retail. Still, it is a must own for any DM.
Not a fan of Mort. Wanted bad to befall him often. So this book just sealed it again. This is a planar monster manual and does not seem to have anything to do with Greyhawk. So if you are looking for Greyhawk material don't waste your money.
This is a thoroughly muddled tome. The Monster Manual part is excellent and I wish it were most of the book. But most of the demi-human [del]fluff[/del] lore doesn't belong in this book, being that they're mostly not foes, and is pretty much a waste of space and money for those who have created their own worlds. Really, if you shuffled the contents of this book with the contents of XGTE, with the fluff mostly in the latter, then you'd have two excellent books.
This book is more or less what it says on the cover - it's a big thick book covering some of the great conflicts of the multiverse, between demons & devils; between elves & drow; between dwarves & duergar; between githyanki & githzerai; between Englishmen & Scots; and between... um... gnomes & halflings.
The book is split, roughly, into two halves - the first 'half' consists of five chapters of lore, each covering one of the conflicts above; the second and larger 'half' gives many more monsters for the game.
Each of the chapters of lore follows the same format - an overview of the conflict; then a reasonably detailed look at one of the two factions, including details of culture, character, history, and religion; then a detailed look at the other side; and then a collection of game options and mostly-useful tables.
I found the lore in four of these five chapters to be functional but fairly dull - in most cases there was very little here that hadn't been covered before, often in much greater detail and often better. (And I find it rather telling that of all the lore presented here, only a tiny sidebar concerning the Blessing of Corellon has excited much discussion. While I understand why that has been discussed at length, it doesn't say too much for the rest that it's pretty much the only thing.) However, it serves as a good summary of the subject, and would be ideal for DM's who hadn't seen it before.
The only thing I found really poor was the handling of the deities - too often we were presented with a big table of between a dozen and a score of names (too many to remember), followed by slightly more detailed summaries of some of the deities. Additionally, those deities tended to be narrow variations on the underlying theme of the race, without a great deal of variety, followed by exactly one 'outcast' member of the pantheon - presumably to give an option for Evil PCs to follow.
Of the five lore chapters, the one that was best, and simultaneously worst, was the one dealing with the Elves and Drow. D&D has always had a bit of a fetish for elf-love, right back to OD&D days when they were unique in acting both as Fighting-Men and Magic-Users, able to switch between them between adventures, and it's something that seems to have touched every edition and almost every setting in some way. It seems that whenever the designers have some cool idea or bit of lore that they've thought of, and need somewhere to connect it to the game, their default option is to give it to the elves.
And so it is here. In addition to the much-discussed (but ultimately fairly innocuous) Blessing of Corellon, they've also taken the decision in this book to turn Shadar-Kai into an elven subrace, and recast the Raven Queen as their deity. Presumably, that is the reward for new bits of lore that gain the elusive 'traction' - if you're successful you get promoted to Elvendom. Yay!
On the other hand, this book does a good job of addressing the apparent disconnect between 4e's elf-like Eladrin and the more freeform examples we've seen in previous editions. Basically, there's a continuum from those who remain closest to Corellon versus those who became more elf-like. Good stuff.
Of course, that means that this chapter really does have something for everyone: there are the innocent but, crucially, nubile good-girl Elf maids; the bondage-themed bad-girl Drow; the moody goth-girl Shadar-Kai; and the nature-loving hippie-girl Eladrin. And, for those who would prefer their Elf maids to be Elf males, the Blessing of Corellon has you covered there, too.
One last thing on the lore-chapters of the book: one thing I really don't care for is this book's insistence that it represents The Truth of the multiverse - all elves everywhere are descended from Corellon, even on those worlds where he's unknown, and even where the lore of those worlds directly contradicts the origin here. I'm well aware that I can simply ignore it, and indeed will be doing just that, but "just ignore it" is frankly a rather poor solution for a problem they didn't need to create.
I don't have a great deal to say about the last chapter of this book. It's basically great - a big expansion of monsters, and in particular some higher-CR monsters. Good stuff.
The only criticism I might raise would be concerning the 16 pages given over to reprinting the two-page spreads of demon lords from "Out of the Abyss", and indeed the 12 pages given over to two-page spreads for archdevils. Not just these are extremely high-CR unique creatures and so of use in a very limited range of campaigns, and not just because of the extensive reprinting from OotA. But it also seemed rather excessive given that many of these individuals were also covered in chapter one, leading to repeating information within the same book!
I should note at this point that while I have spent most of this review highlighting my criticisms of the book, these are all niggles, rather than deal-breakers. I actually found this book to be better value than "Volo's Guide...", largely due to the longer selection of monsters (though the greater page-count helped also), and much better value than "Xanathar's Guide..."
As such, I would recommend this book, especially to a DM needing more monsters (especially high-CR monsters), and also especially to a newer DM for whom this lore would indeed be new. And, of course, if you can get it at a strong discount, all the better!
I really like the mixed-use formate of the non-core books. Volo's Guide to Monsters, Xanathar's Guide to Everything, and now Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes have all been excellent. Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes is my second favorite non-core book after Volo's Guide to Monsters. It is the only 5e hard-cover that I've read cover to cover as a novel. If you like lore and background information, you'll enjoy this book. Of course you don't have to use this lore if it doesn't fit your vision for your campaign, but most DMs and players will find it an enjoyable read that inspires their planning and play.
I won't comment on the Lore sections as that is not of use to me (it conflicts with my home-brew world, so I ignore it).
This book is useful to me for the monster section. Lots of ideas for adventure hooks. However, once again they've omitted physical descriptions of the monsters. This seems to be an unpopular opinion, but I find the monster books hard to use without this information. I often don't like simply showing pictures to my players (often, the pictures hugely contradict the tone of my campaign anyway). But reverse-engineering a picture (no matter how evocative it may be), trying to figure out what the artist felt were the key features of the monster (and remember what I said next time) is a real pain. I don't know how other DMs are doing this - perhaps they all show the picture? I've even had to Google this information from earlier edition materials or rival games. I shouln't have to do this! So I've had to mark down the book as a result.
Come on Wizards - a couple of sentences of description for each monster would surely be do-able.