Opening Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes

Unlike 4th Edition, 5th Edition D&D has had a much slower pace for book releases. While some fans grumble, the change has worked in WotC's favor, making each release an event, and interest is doubled for source books like Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes.

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While Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (MtoF) is a rich resource for both players and DMs with 144 monster stat blocks, new options for elves, dwarves, tieflings, halflings and gnomes, and a host of inspiration, it also reads a bit like a story that reveals the cosmology and pre-history of the D&D multiverse. That fulfills Mike Mearls’ goal of explaining the driving forces in the D&D multiverse so that a new player or DM would have a good sense of the world.

Much like Xanathar's Guide to Everything, MtoF uses the conceit of having been written by someone within the D&D multiverse – Mordenkainen, the legendary wizard from Greyhawk who believes in maintaining "the Balance" out of fear that any victor in the war between good, evil, law and chaos would become a tyrant. This allows the book to use epic conflicts as the organizing theme, and it's a good choice.

The first chapter explains the Blood War, the ongoing battle between demon and devils with details on the demon lords of the Abyss and the devils that rule the Nine Hells. It answers the common question, "Why don't evil beings join forces to conquer the multiverse" rather well, providing an excellent viewpoint for devils.

MtoF provides ways to customize NPC cults according to the associated demon or devil lord. Cambions, devils, demons, and tieflings also get customization options. The demon lords detailed in Rage of Demons are reprinted here for simplicity and to keep everything together, but they're modified with increased hit points and often higher damage attacks.

The primal history of the elves explains not just how Drow became outcasts, but why there are so many types of elves. Rather than make "they're evil" the motivation, it's a more complicated origin akin to Lolth and Corellon as parents who turn on each other, leaving their children to suffer for it. The origins of the Raven Queen, Eladrin and Shadar-Kai also tie into this epic conflict. If the upcoming D&D movie succeeds, this bit of history could make a good prequel.

Elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes and tieflings get various player options including charts for quirks, personality options, etc. and more details on the various deities and their relationships with their followers. If you ever wondered what an elf experiences during reverie and why, MtoF answers that along with the Drow counterpart, how elves punish crime and more.

A much talked about teaser for the book revealed the new ability, Corellon's Blessing. Because the creator of the elves can change into any shape, with the DM's approval, this ability allows an elf to change their gender once a day, after a long rest. Mechanically, it's a simple gift, but it led to some fan debates as to whether the "Player's Handbook +1" rule would limit players who wanted this ability to MtoF, preventing them from using it with the class options from Xanathar's Guide to Everything. While MtoF doesn't specify, the free PDF, Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes Primer, which is available on DriveThruRPG and the DM's Guild web sites, indicates that for official play, Corellon's Blessing, along with some deity choices for elves, dwarves, halflings and gnomes, are not limited by PHB+1.

After explaining their intertwined origins, sea elves, Shadar-Kai and Eladrin become player options in MToF with the latter gaining variant options of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter Eladrin. These options are subject to PHB+1 for official play. However, in a D&D Beyond interview designer Jeremy Crawford cautioned that the Eladrin listed in the monster section in the back of the book are not player options.

Much like the history of the elves, dwarves and their tragic fight with the duergar (now a player option) is another key piece of lore. Deities of both groups are explained, which makes sense since fealty to and hatred of Moradin is at the core of the split between the two. The sidebars on the effects of alcohol on dwarves and duergar are interesting and could be used to add depth to one's role-playing.

Gith also become player race options in MToF, but Giff do not. The latter are a hippo-headed, military race from Spelljammer with art that makes everyone who sees it want to play one. It would be relatively easy to homebrew an option using the monster stat block as a foundation.

Official play for the Githyanki and Githzerai requires that they be members of the Sha'sal Khou, a group of radicals seeking to reunite the two groups into one Gith species. Much like how organized play requires lawful evil characters to be members of the Zhentarim, this requirement gives the DM a way to rein in characters since Githyanki tend to be lawful evil.

Between the Gith entry and the duergar, there are numerous references to mind flayers and their long-gone empire, so it's a bit surprising that it's not detailed in the book. It would have been a logical addition. The creatures in the bestiary have higher challenge ratings to accommodate characters 10th level and above.

Considering the number of planar creatures in MToF, I suspect Sigil may be part of an upcoming release, with a revival of Spelljammer as a close second guess – especially since Mike Mearls noted in a recent video that Spelljammer ships cross planes instead of sailing through space.

The book's covers are well done, though the limited edition cover (my follow-up review displays that cover) by Vance Kelly is far more impressive in person. It's downright stunning, but photographs don't show off the metallics or details well whereas the mainstream release cover by Jason Rainville do.

My only real complaint about MToF is its length. At 256 pages, it's substantial but several parts could have been expanded further without the book feeling bloated. The options provided give players a lot to work with for character-based adventures. DMs will find a wealth of inspiration and creatures to challenge parties of any level. It's very much a success.
contributed by Beth Rimmels
 
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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

Remathilis

Legend
That is great for conventions and AL, but again, why are we printing books to please a small % of player base? Anyway, as stated, I don't mind the odd player combo to be reprinted (which is for that rule), but swathes of DM material irks me a lot. Especially when I buy a book about the ABYSS for the demons and demon lords and they reprint them AND change them (for the worst it seems). Just print NEW demon lords in Mordenkainen's. There are plenty of them! And some of the more interesting ones have never been statted out whilst others have MANY times (inc TWICE in this edition now) :(
Apples and oranges. The monsters aren't about the +1 rule, it's about helping the DM.

I much prefer having all the monsters from the various modules (that are generic rather than module specific) in one tome. I like having them all in one place rather than scattered over 6 APs. I'm annoyed more didn't get reprinted TBH; I don't want to buy and lug around Curse of Strahd just for mongelfolk stats. Put them in a new book with other monsters. I was never going to buy OotA for 20 pages of material (@$50.00) so now I have the demon lord stats.
 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend
Apples and oranges. The monsters aren't about the +1 rule, it's about helping the DM.

I much prefer having all the monsters from the various modules (that are generic rather than module specific) in one tome. I like having them all in one place rather than scattered over 6 APs. I'm annoyed more didn't get reprinted TBH; I don't want to buy and lug around Curse of Strahd just for mongelfolk stats. Put them in a new book with other monsters. I was never going to buy OotA for 20 pages of material (@$50.00) so now I have the demon lord stats.
And, to be fair, based on which APs saw material get reprinted, anybody who hasn't bought OotA or PotA by now isn't too likely to do so anytime soon.
 

I keep seeing posts stating AL is a small percentage of the player base... what's this based on? Actual league attendance (members signed up with unique member number?) and Cons? Game storenorth of Pittsburgh has 15-18 players every Wednesday on 3 tables which I've enjoyed while on work travel. +1 works for me!
 

Connorsrpg

Adventurer
Apples and oranges. The monsters aren't about the +1 rule, it's about helping the DM.

I much prefer having all the monsters from the various modules (that are generic rather than module specific) in one tome. I like having them all in one place rather than scattered over 6 APs. I'm annoyed more didn't get reprinted TBH; I don't want to buy and lug around Curse of Strahd just for mongelfolk stats. Put them in a new book with other monsters. I was never going to buy OotA for 20 pages of material (@$50.00) so now I have the demon lord stats.

Hey, I am with you there when it comes to common monsters. I get that. But I bought a book about the Abyss FOR the demon lords. Those demon lord reprints are now taking up room in a monster book that could have been devoted to those more common monsters! If you EVER need a demon lord you know where to go - the book with Abyss in its title. Now I have to remember the (new and latest versions) are now in Mordenkainen's. To me that is odd. I don't think a DM would be carrying around Out of the Abyss on the chance encounter you may come across a demon lord...

Again, I would much rather have seen more demons that would get used or some new lords.
 

guachi

Hero
You guys are driving my crazy. People keep talking about elves being able to change gender. That's not the ability they were given. They were given the ability to change sex. There's a difference.

Generally speaking, sex is biological. An elf can identify as male all day, every day. But he can change his sex every day from male to female.

Yes, I know people often use the words gender and sex interchangeably, but they are generally seen as having different uses. And in the case of elves, I think it's a useful distinction.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I can imagine all sorts of things and i am grown up enough to handle every scenario be it however explicit and twisted. But i am also convinced that D&D should not only be a game for all genders but also for a wide range of ages and people with ethics and moral which might be diverse from my own.

Oh really? Well guess what, the game typically plays so that being Good implies to kill a lot of people, as long as you see the label "evil" printed on the forehead. That to me, would be an atrocious ethics if applied to the real life in the real world. Is that because there is an agenda behind the game to push everyone's opinion to accept government-dictated wars against "evil countries"? That's just paranoia. There is no agenda, it's a just a game, and if you can't accept that sometimes in the game things are not fitting your moral taste, just change them at your own table or keep them separate from your own real life. If you can't even do that, don't play the game.
 

Hey, I am with you there when it comes to common monsters. I get that. But I bought a book about the Abyss FOR the demon lords. Those demon lord reprints are now taking up room in a monster book that could have been devoted to those more common monsters! If you EVER need a demon lord you know where to go - the book with Abyss in its title. Now I have to remember the (new and latest versions) are now in Mordenkainen's. To me that is odd. I don't think a DM would be carrying around Out of the Abyss on the chance encounter you may come across a demon lord...

Again, I would much rather have seen more demons that would get used or some new lords.
So you're going to force a DM who doesn't have OotA to pay a lot of money for an entire book for 18 pages of stat blocks for the Demon Princes - and for hundreds of pages of other stuff that is useless to that DM?

Remember - drow, kuo-toa, and svirfneblin were all first printed in adventures and then later reprinted in monster books as well. So this sort of reprinting of monster stats has been a long and hallowed tradition in D&D.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
That's just paranoia. There is no agenda, it's a just a game, and if you can't accept that sometimes in the game things are not fitting your moral taste, just change them at your own table or keep them separate from your own real life. If you can't even do that, don't play the game.


Address the logic of the post, not the person of the poster, please. Statements equivalent to, "Your position is equivalent to mental illness," are, in effect, and attack on the person, rather than the content, and you should stop doing that right now.
 

gyor

Legend
You guys are driving my crazy. People keep talking about elves being able to change gender. That's not the ability they were given. They were given the ability to change sex. There's a difference.

Generally speaking, sex is biological. An elf can identify as male all day, every day. But he can change his sex every day from male to female.

Yes, I know people often use the words gender and sex interchangeably, but they are generally seen as having different uses. And in the case of elves, I think it's a useful distinction.

Exactly, any race can be trans, you could have a trans Gith or Dragonborn or Goblin, its only Elves blessed by Corellon (and Changelings) that can physical sex however.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
PC race based almost exclusively rape? Cool
Harlot tables? Cool
Rampant nudity in the artwork? Cool
Kill everything to get their stuff? Cool
A class literally called an assassin? Cool
Demons? Devils? Cool
Gender fluid or trans acknowledgement? Come on man! I'm open minded, but keep the game for all ages! And think about people who have different moral standards!

Seriously? If someone's morals tells them that including a trans person is worse than including murder and rape, then I don't care what they think, to be honest. And I don't think the designers should factor their opinion at all, because they are bad people.
 
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